Saturday, May 31, 2014

JCM - Writing About Choices

We all have choices in life. In fact, most of what happens to us is a direct result of the choices we make. Very rarely does the world reach out and grab us and pull us asunder. Many times we do that to ourselves. I've always loved this Mellencamp song. It has a great beat and he sings it in full voice, allowing you to see the action as it plays out, but in the end it's a powerful song about choices and doing things we instantly question.

Hotdogs & Hamburgers

Drivin´ down on a dry summer´s day
Old Route 66 and I was just a kid
Met a pretty little Indian girl
Along the way
Get her into my car
And tried to give her a kiss
I´ll give you beads and wampum
Whatever it takes, girl
To make you trade.
She jumped into the back seat
And she kinda flipped her lid
She said, "you´re trying to get somethin´ for nothin'"
"Like the pilgrims in the olden days"

We rode for a while
Till the sun went away
And I realized it was a sort of an honor
Bein´around this girl
I felt embarrassed
Of what I tried to do earlier that day
She was the saddest girl, I ever knew
She told me stories about the Indian nations
And how the white man stole their lives away
And although she kinda liked me
She could never tust me
And when the sun comes up
We´d go our different ways

Now everybody has got the choice
Between hotdogs and hamburgers
Every one of us has got to choose
Between right and wrong
And givin´ up or holdin´ on

So I dropped her off
At some railroad crossing in Texas
An old Indian man was waiting there
He smiled and thanked me
But he saw right through me
I could tell, he didn´t like me
For my kind, he didn´t care
Because to him, I was the white man
The one who sold him something
That he already owned
And it was like he´d been ridin´ in the
Car right there with us
And I felt ashamed of my actions
And the way the west was really won

So I drove down the highway
Till I came to Los Angeles
To the town of the angels
The best, this country can do
I got down on my knees
And I ask for forgiveness
I said, "Lord, forgive us
For we know not, what we do"

Friday, May 30, 2014

4-Day Work Weeks

It isn't worth it, folks.

I hate 4-day work weeks.

Perhaps it's just my line of work. I have a number of clients, therefore, a whole bunch of bosses and when there is one less day of work a week the demands become greater.

Everyone still wants the same amount of work done.

Not to mention that it absolutely devastates my sense of routine which is important for me to function properly. You can't make me change my ways in mid-stream.

So there's one day left...please pray for me to make it through, folks.

My mother is also down for a couple of weeks as she is having her second hip replacement.

What a remarkable lady.

I swung by the hospital a mere 3 hours after she emerged from recovery. She was already smiling and laughing. She was talking about the food (they gave her cooked carrots which she hates more than any other food in the world - I share her sentiment).

We talked about the books we were reading.

We swapped stories about our dogs.

She swore that this time she would do the extra exercises they gave her because she wants to be walking absolutely perfectly when she heads to Yankee Stadium to watch the 27-Time World Champion Greatest Franchise in the History of Organized American Sports.

She needs to look good for the Captain.

Mom can't wait to say goodbye to Jeter as he finishes up his playing career. She swears if she has a chance to talk to him she'll tell him all about the dog, Jeter, who has been like another child to her.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend a lot of time there on Thursday afternoon, but I will most certainly make time to head back tomorrow and Saturday as they get her up and around for rehab work.

It was the best part of my day.

Actually, the best part of the whole freaking four-day work week.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

This Is Buffalo?


There was a moment on Wednesday afternoon when I stood in the center of one construction site and spun in a three-quarter circle and caught glimpses of at least five construction sites.

Holy shit, I thought. Am I in Buffalo?

And I know I am because I visit at least 8 sites every single day, and it's been that way for over 6 months now.

We're playing like a big city.

And it's good to see because the union halls are empty. The open shop contractors are busy. There are cranes all over the freaking place, and the buildings are going up.

I've worked in the construction field all of my adult life. I started by pouring concrete and jack-hammering concrete. Through the years I've felt extremely comfortable wearing a hard hat and having profanity-laced conversations with guys who work really hard.

And climb really high.

And burn the hell up in the summer and freeze their asses off in the winter.

Guys who eat off the roach coach and go to the bathroom in a filthy box that is shared with 50 or 100 other guys.

And everyone is working now.

Of course, it will be wonderful when it's all built and other people can visit the buildings that have taken months and months to put together.

I probably won't even walk into the places again. Lord knows I won't step foot into the Ralph when this round of county money is spent.

I probably won't visit there again until they tear it down so they can buy a new place.

(The NFL doesn't pay taxes or cheerleaders).

Yet you wonder.

Is Buffalo making strides?

Just go down to where the Aud was and spin in a circle.

You'll see a lot of hard working guys...

...doing their best to make someone else rich.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Learn to Live

And you've got to learn to live with what you can't rise above - Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love

The first time I heard that line I knew it was exceptional.

The longer you go in life the more factual it becomes.

There are just so many things that can truly tear you down. There are times when you take faith in people and are surprised by the things they do.

And the options are simple, really.

Learn to live with the disappointment...

...or....

Let it tear you down.

I think about that line a lot because there are so many things in this life that will make you shake your head.

Sometimes people just behave like you wouldn't expect them to behave, and while the disappointment is something you can feel...you really can't do much about it.

So, you learn to live.

I'm not quite sure why this line has been stuck in my head for the past couple of days, but it has been, and while there's an optimism involved I always thought it was a mostly pessimistic view of things, but the years pass and you digest a lot of things that you didn't want to have to swallow in this life, and it becomes less pessimistic...

...and more realistic.

It's the way it goes.

There will certainly be a number of things that are just what they are.

"It is what it is."

And you beat your head trying to change it, but all you end up with is a sore head.

Bruce is right.

You've got to learn

He chose the words carefully.

Rise above the disappointment if you can.

If you can't.

Learn to live with it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Grape Ape Makes An Appearance


Was sitting around on Sunday night...relaxed from a dish of pasta...waiting for the birthday celebration to start...when I saw a photo of a golf course on Twitter.

"Damn. I want to golf," I thought.

So I posted that sentiment of Facebook and Pops said, "Me too."

I tried to round up a couple of more Apes, but they were already scheduled elsewhere. Then I got a tee time.

We were in. Just a twosome.

Now, full disclosure here.

My legs are a real mess. I have two MRI's and four x-rays scheduled for next week. I've had a bone scan and nerve tests. It's really painful to walk.

"Can you go?" Pops asked.

"I go to work. Can it be worse than that? We have a cart."

As soon as we confirmed everything I started to feel the excitement. I woke up on Monday morning with a feeling of dread and then it hit me:

"I'm going golfing!"

My first shot was nothing to brag about but it was down the middle. Pops' was in the cow pasture across the street.

And we went from there.

We were severely hacking over the first three holes, but the sun was shining and the conversation was good.

"We'll find it," I said.

Pops approached the tee on four and took a mighty swing when he turned back to look at me I laughed:

"The first Grape Ape of the season," I said.

He had hammered it straight and a long ways away.

Now, I'm not saying that either of us completely found our games, but I picked up 5 pars along the way and he missed three foot putts that would've bagged him a couple of birdies at least.

There was a fried baloney for me at the turn. Pops had the diet Italian Sausage with peppers and onions, and by the end I felt absolutely nothing in my completely numb legs.

But hey...it was a perfect four hours.

Just perfect.

Monday, May 26, 2014

21 Already - Happy Birthday Matt


You see the kid in that photo?

He's 21 today.

Damn.

That was fast.

And Matt has done what he's supposed to do. He's been a Momma's Boy, clumsy, sometimes irritating, occasionally lazy, wimpy, loyal to sports teams who are losers, a Momma's boy, my main foil when I want to argue...did I say Momma's Boy?

Yeah...big-time Momma's Boy.

Yet he's always worked hard when he had to. He's done his best, and most of all he's a good person.

And now he's a freaking man in some circles. Legally, he's a full-fledged adult.

As a parent that seems really weird because you can remember every single moment, you know?

(Here you go, Matt, all your secrets out).

As a toddler he shit his pants when my beautiful wife wasn't around. I certainly didn't want to change him, but I had to.

He basically walked into a wall for stitches.

He swallowed a huge piece of roast beef and swallowed it without chewing because his teeth hurt and he was afraid that I'd give him hell if he didn't eat all of his dinner. He had to get it extracted at Women & Children's Hospital and the surgeon took a photo of the beef and showed it to me, laughing as he said:

"Not a tooth mark on it. Bright boy you got there."

But he is a bright boy.

Just this weekend I was out at my mother's for a visit. She had a note that Matt wrote for her about not being able to finish mowing the lawn because the mower had quit. My Mom saved the note because he ended it with a flourish:

"I love you, Grandma."

And so there's a feeling of having done our job. We were able to provide for him (like you wouldn't believe) and he has a good thing going.

I still haven't let up on him, either...but we all know that he's primed to do some good things if he keeps working hard, and he will.

So, Happy Birthday to Matt.

You were truly a goofy kid.

And now you're a goofy man, I suppose.

And we're all proud of you.

But the Bills, Sabres, Pelicans and A's still suck.

And if the garage isn't clean 24 hours after your party I'm going to beat you over the head with one of your brothers.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Voice In Your Head

Started reading the Untethered Soul and while I'm not big on the self-help books I did like chapter one where it told me that the voice in my head that is shouting out tasks all day is basically being piloted by a real asshole.

The voice is always critical, always doubtful, and rarely ever encouraging.

I thought that was an interesting concept so I started paying more attention to the directions she was giving.

(Given the above descriptions you just have to assume the voice is a 'she').

And it was true.

Many of the negative things that were getting in could be dismissed with a loud 'shut-up' to the creeping voice that was doubtful, cynical, and not trusting.

It leads to some weird scenarios however as half my day I'm stumbling around mouthing 'shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, shut the f%&^k up!' now.

But it does make sense.

If we can stop the down thoughts from controlling where we go and what we do we will certainly be happier. Now to stop the other negative stuff from bouncing around in there, but how do you turn a deaf ear to:

1). Donald Sterling and that whole sordid tale. He won't pay his fine. Now his wife can have the team. Where is the girlfriend.

With Magic?

2). Ray Rice and his then-girlfriend, now-wife who he punched unconscious and then dragged her from the hotel by the hair. That dopey girl appeared beside him at his news conference and apologized for making him punch her lights out. She got him mad, I guess, and she shouldn't do that.

I hope they both go away.

3). The gunman in California (I suppose-there were plenty more to choose from) who legally purchased guns and shot out the window of his BMW, picking off people because he couldn't get laid, evidently. That was the most eye-catching of the gun deaths this week (4,106 so far this year, folks), but we don't need to do anything at all about that societal problem because our forefathers thought it would be a nice idea to slaughter our fellow citizens.

The cops interviewed him before the slaughter. They thought he was a good dude.

4). Judge Judy on prime-time! My buddy shot me a text with her annual salary for doing the show. It's pretty well up there. I don't care. In fact, I've always wished they never disclosed the pay of the sports stars because when you break it down and think about it, it kind of sours how you feel about what they're doing. I wish I had a nickel for every time I'd yell at A-Fraud..."For that $ you should homer every time up."

But J.J. does homer every single time. Go get 'em!

5). The sun is shining! Okay, so the voice in my head let a good thought in, but with the shining sun I suddenly need to think about all the things that need to be done. I chased the kids out to pick weeds and then followed behind them and filled a bushel basket with weeds they missed as I heard the bouncing basketball. I painted the back stairs where the dogs hit the head because it was filthy and peeling. Speaking of which, the asshole voice in my head told me about the missing piece of siding, the chipping paint on the garage, and the messy garage.

I wish she'd shut the hell up.

The voice in my head.

I mean.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Big House On the Hill

The Yanks were playing a double-header last week and a lifelong pal who also grew up on Shirley Road sent me the following text:

"Bah, I miss the big house on the hill on days like today."

He didn't really have to describe it for me, but he did.

"Cukes and tomatoes and basketball and foose and beers and Yankees."

I wrote back:

"We were blessed."

Then I added, don't forget my Dad screaming "Bah!" every three minutes.

"He loved those days," my buddy said.

And truer words have never been spoken.

My father loved to be the master of ceremonies at those types of days. He'd cook enough food for every neighborhood child and adult. We'd chase each other around, playing spirited games of hoops, drinking beer as young adults, and fighting, laughing...

...just loving, I guess.

Memorial Day Weekend always had a wrinkle in it too because that was when we had to plant the massive garden. As adults it was rough because we didn't want to plop on the ground and plant the tomatoes and cukes, but when we did Dad would stand there and tell us some of the old stories.

"Remember when you threw the cucumber seeds in the manure patch to get rid of them?" he'd ask me every year as an adult.

We never had more cukes than that year. I guess I thought I was hiding them.

"We were blessed," continued to play over and over in my head all week as a result of my few minute texting exchange.

"I miss those days something awful," my buddy said.

And I think of it now as I try to raise my kids in much the same way, but it's different. Friends don't come around here much because evidently this generation doesn't need to just hang out and watch double-headers on lazy, warm days.

And to try and get my kids to plant a garden?

Wouldn't happen.

I wonder how they would've fared with my Dad at the helm.

They would've been on their toes to be sure.

They also would've been eternally blessed.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Gow School Awards Ceremony

It's a true honor that the Gow School bestows in Jeff's memory each and every year. This year two students, Todd Smith and Joseph Cendrowski were honored for showing a 'positive attitude and humor, no matter the circumstance'.

It's the perfect award to be presented to honor Jeff.


I was honored to present the award and unlike other years I was composed and ready to enjoy the other awards that were presented and shake the hands of the staff. They are beautiful people who enjoyed seeing Jeff each day. As I made my way to the stage a young man approached:

"Mr. Fazzolari, can I have a moment?" he asked.

He then proceeded to tell me that Jeff was one of the first people he met at the Gow School.

"I was in the 8th grade then. I'm graduating this year. I've missed him every single day."

"Me too," I said.

"And I thank you for writing the book. I've read it about 7 times."

We hugged.


I presented the award and scanned the crowd as they listened. There is no way to express the gratitude I felt as I gazed out at their smiling faces.


Joseph posed for the photo as my beautiful cousin, Carol snapped the picture.

(I'm a handsome bastard).

More than anything else Carol wanted to see the plaque by the kitchen. We headed over.


As I headed away I sat behind the wheel thinking and talking to my bro.

"Did you hear us?" the voice in my head asked.

I stopped at the Mobil Station just down the road from the school. I looked to the sky, hoping for a sign. Then I thought about perhaps finding a wheat penny with my change from buying my can of Copenhagen.


No such luck.

"That's okay," I thought. "I think you heard us."

I picked up the can of snuff.


I saw it as a bit of a sign.

The expiration date is June 22nd.

Jeff's birthday.

Coincidence?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Out to Stud

I don't know much about the horse racing game. My buddies have dragged me to betting on the races every once in awhile, but I never won much.

Before the Derby one such pal sent me a text asking me if I'd like to bet with him. He just knew that California Chrome was going to win.

I like a good bet.

"I'm in," I texted back.

A little while later he told me we won.

We didn't bother to let it ride on the second race that might determine the Triple Crown.

We forgot.

But there's one more leg, right...before the unlikely horse captures the Triple Crown.

"When's the next race?" I asked.

"I have no idea."

So there we are.

Yet I also heard something else about California Chrome.

If he wins the Triple Crown he will be a true target. People from all over the world will pay thousands and thousands of dollars for his offspring.

How do I get in on that deal?

I have some pretty good kids.

Can I go out to stud?

They say that they prance the attractive horse chicks around to get him excited before he does the deed with the ones that they bring to him.

That's kind of cool, right?

Sort of cruel as well.

But I'm thinking it's a pretty decent way to earn some special money and spend the old retirement days.

Does the horse get sick of that task?

Here's hoping he wins so that he can enjoy those special moments, again and again and again.

Here's hoping that we place the bet.

I gotta' find out more about being a human stud.

Seems like a good gig.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Students At Frontier High School


My fellow author buddy, Jeff Schober, who is a teacher at Frontier High School has me by every once in awhile to do a little talk and read from my book In Real Life.

On Tuesday, I swung by on a quick break to hold court for one of his classes.

I love when Jeff calls me for a number of different reasons:

1). We get a chance to spend a few moments talking about writing and the horror stories about the publishing companies. We don't spend much time on the publishing end of it...we both enjoy the writing process too much to gripe about it for more than a moment.

2). I get to meet his students. Jeff's class is always ready to listen and we share a few moments together. I love getting the look from students who are interested in the process and since I love attention...we all benefit. That's a good-looking class there, right? They were great!

3). I get to go back to my roots a little. There's always a question about what made me interested in writing and I get to talk about the love of reading. My beautiful wife and tremendous kids aren't all that fascinated with the right word choice...so talking about the early books is great.

4). I get to read from In Real Life. Jeff introduced me by telling the class that he read the book in one sitting. That's a great compliment for any writer and I was always proud of the work I did on that book. It never got enough play because the book was released on September 10, 2001. There were a few problems with that release date including what happened the next day, and the fact that Jake got sick just a few weeks later.

So it was a forgotten book.

I read the chapter The Ugliest Girl of All-Time. It's a sweet story about young love. It's a story that always made me proud for having written it.

As I read it I laughed at my own word choices.

Which may sound a little weird, but I had not remembered it all that well. It had been at least a few years since I read it.

The story ended just as the bell rang to end the class so I didn't get much time to say thanks to Jeff or the class.

But I'm grateful to all who were there.

And that's why you write, people!

It's all summed up in a half-hour window of being able to talk about writing!

I'm thinking of mentioning it to the wife and kids but I already know their response:

"You're a geek!"

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Standing Still

Confession time.

There are a ton of female singers out there who really catch my ear. I was in a store the other day and Anne Murray was playing over the loudspeakers and I said to the late teen girl checking out my groceries that 'I love this song.'

She crinkled her nose.

But I do love Anne Murray and Carly Simon and Natalie Maines and Natalie Merchant and Jan Arden. Yet the one who makes me really stop and go 'wow' is Jewel...with a few of her songs. Her voice is so sexy. Her writing is terrific. She just doesn't seem to put out a whole lot. This is my favorite from her. Great imagery in this one and when she crows, 'Do you want me?' in that melodic chant it's crazy...just crazy. Great song.



"Standing Still - Jewel"

Cutting through the darkest night are my two headlights
Trying to keep it clear, but I'm losing it here
To the twilight
There's a dead end to my left
There's a burning bush to my right
You aren't in sight
You aren't in sight

Do you want me
Like I want you?
Or am I standing still
Beneath the darkened sky
Or am I standing still
With the scenery flying by
Or am I standing still
Out of the corner of my eye
Was that you
Passing me by

Mother's on the stoop
Boys in souped up coupes
On this hot summer night
Between fight and flight
Is the blind man's sight
And a choice that's right
I roll the window down
Feel like I'm
I'm gonna drown
In this strange town
Feel broken down
I feel broken down
Do you need me
Like I need you

Or am I standing still
Beneath the darkened sky
Or am I standing still
With the scenery flying by
Or am I standing still
Out of the corner of my eye
Was that you
Passing me by

A sweet sorrow is
The call tomorrow
A sweet sorrow is
The call tomorrow

Do you love me
Like I love you?

Or am I standing still
Beneath the darkened sky
Or am I standing still
With the scenery flying by
Or am I standing still
Out of the corner
Of my eye
Was that you
Passing me by?

Are you passing me by?
Passing me by
Do you want me?
Passing me by

Do you need me
Like I need you too
And do you want me
Like I want you?
Passing me by

Are you passing me by
Or am I standing still?

Monday, May 19, 2014

The King


My buddy Gag shot me a text with the above photo attached and I had one simple response.

I laughed.

I laughed because that's my buddy Michael in the photo and he is sharing a prom dance with a pretty young girl.

Of course he is.

Because he's the King.

Michael is a great guy.

He's battling MD with everything he has and with unbelievable love and support from a tremendous family, but you'd never really know it because:

There's Michael at a Phillies or Flyers game.

Or there's Michael at the Run for the Kids at Disney.

Or there's Michael just hanging out in beautiful South Jersey sharing a moment with his Mom and Dad.

Yet you know why I laughed?

'Cause Michael is always surrounded by the pretty girls.

And he's always smiling.

Why the heck wouldn't he be?

So.

I bow to the King.

Congrats, buddy.

Glad you had a great time.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

RIP Ben

It's too much for our human brains to comprehend.

And it really is, folks.

Ben Sauer lost his battle this week here in Buffalo. He was a cute boy who's battle was waged in the entire community. His mother and father shared the death of their boy with the world.

And man, it's heartbreaking, and something that I could barely look at every time it popped up on Facebook or in the news.

This past week my son stood up straight and tall and posed for photos for his prom. We don't talk about it much, but his precious life was threatened at a very young age. Back then I can only remember asking:

"Why?"

Why is a life given and then threatened, or stripped away?

What lesson can there possibly be in such heartbreak?

But the reason why Ben's short life has had such an impact on our lives is simple to understand, really.

It's about love.

The tremendous love between parents and their children.

The earth-shaking love between a child and his siblings. Or a 49-year-old man and his brothers and sisters.

The powerful love that shows itself when a community of people reaches out and supports...and shares...and cares...and tries hard to wrap their arms around those who are suffering.

There's a real beauty there.

Perhaps the greatest beauty that we can muster through eyes that are hindered simply by being human.

There is no understanding it.

It makes no sense.

So many days I simply look up and shake my head and still wonder 'why'.

On bad days I shout 'WHY?!' knowing that the answer is off in my future when my time is up.

The funeral service for beautiful Ben was covered by the news and printed in the newspaper. There are a lot of families who have suffered the same fate in relative anonymity. Their pain is just as real. Their void is never truly filled. The empty spaces are just that.

Empty.

And Ben's family will push forward as so many families are forced to do.

I am praying now for them because it isn't easy to pick up the pieces and their lives will never be the same, but the beauty is there.

I only pray that they remain open to the beauty.

Under the photo of Ben on Facebook there is a comments section, of course, and the folks all across the land chime in. That's the world we live in now. Thankfully most of the comments are testaments to the beauty that resides in the hearts of so many great people.

We are inundated with stories of bad behavior, but when I see that I often think:

"What about the millions of good people who didn't behave badly yesterday?"

That's the real news.

Yet one guy felt it necessary to post this:

"Where's your God? Why didn't He save Ben? Why did He give him cancer?"

I didn't post an answer to such an inane comment, but if I had it may have gone something like this:

God is in the people who are surrounding Ben.

God is in the tears of those who weep.

God is in the beauty that fights back against the evil.

God is in the love.

We will never know why as we wage the war down here. We will not figure it out by fighting back against a God that we don't fully understand, but one thing is certain:

God is in the love that we feel.

That's where He was.

That's where He resides.

In the hearts of those who are left to carry on.

I pray for Ben, but I also pray for those searching for answers.

Celebrate your life.

Just Wondering


That woman was a star actress in around 1910.

I bring it up because we went to the movies last night and saw the new Seth Rogan movie, Neighbors. It was funny, to be sure, and certainly wasn't meant to change the world, but I kept thinking of this woman as an actress and a true star.

That situation has certainly disintegrated, huh?

In the new movie there was a scene where the lead actress had some milk problems after recently giving birth. It was unbelievably crude while being pretty funny, actually.

And I'm certainly not a prude.

I love a good comedy, but I was cringing a bit at this one...and there have been a whole lot more that have made me cringe a little too.

And I'm not complaining. It's all sort of gone that way. The comedy has to be over the top gross to be funny, I guess.

I just kept thinking of the photo of this woman.

You can't even see her ankles.

She looks so elegant.

The milk scene was certainly a tad less elegant.

It just makes you wonder, you know?

I think about the fact that like all Dads I want the kids to grow up and treat women with great respect, but selling that respect was probably a little easier back about 100 years ago. Yet women were certainly looked at as something less back than as subordinates, I suppose.

You wonder if there has been progress made.

No big debate here...just wondering.

Couldn't help but think about the photo.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Prom

So, Jake went to the prom last night.

Yeah...Jake. My child who's still supposed to be about 6 years old.

He's prom age.

A buddy asked about his date and I honestly didn't know. I knew there was angst leading up to all of it and I heard a couple of names tossed about. Kathy is deeply involved, of course, but I figured it was best to stay clear.

Because I vividly remember my junior prom:

Here it is.

I'm not changing any names, so live with it. It's been 33 years!

I was a very skinny, very scared, very sarcastic kid with a whole bunch of close friends. The problem with the prom was we thought it to be a major, life-changing event and we just had to go with the girls that we "loved."

Quickly.

I was supposed to go with Kellie. My greatest friend in the world, (the back-stabbing bastard) Jeff was supposed to go with Carolyn. Al was supposed to go with Pam...and on and on and on.

There were a lot of 'supposed to's' in other words.

I was real scared about the lineup. I asked Kellie early on and she was making me wait. So, a sense of panic set in. There was some thought that one of the prettiest of all girls, Lisa, would go with me, but I didn't believe it. I considered her way the hell out of my league. I thought about asking Ruey, who was a tremendous friend to me, but there was so much competition there.

So I panicked.

I called my greatest friend, my bosom buddy, the guy who would beat up the school to defend my honor, and I whined like a little bitch (meaning it in the dog sense of the word).

"I know," he said. "I'm having trouble getting Carolyn to say 'yes' too."

So, I begged him to call Kellie and tell her to go with me.

My buddy (the rotten bastard) would do anything for me.

He called her.

(God, I can remember her phone number).

I tried calling him to see what was going on.

The line was busy.

(Yeah, a busy line. I had to wait...those were the days kids).

I tried Kellie's number...busy.

A full half hour later Jeffy called me back.

"What did she say?" I asked.

"Yeah. She's not going with you."

"Why not?"

"I'm taking her, as a friend. The hell with the high drama. Let's just all go as friends."

I laughed and told Jeff it sounded like a grand idea.

Then I hung up and wept like that little bitch that was referenced above.

But the pressure was on.

The very next day another (believe it or not) good-looking, fun, 'in-crowd' girl floated the idea that she'd go with me. I was thrilled to ask Kris.

But it was an absolute mess.

At the prom Jeff was looking at Carolyn and Dave. I was looking at Jeff and Kellie. Al was with Ruth, and we rode together.

The whole night was an absolute disaster at the outset.

A lot of hurt feelings.

Last night, Kathy asked me if I remembered the night of my junior prom.

My initial thought was:

"Yeah, me, Al and Jeff had a couple of beers. The girls were long gone early in the evening."

And that was exactly what happened.

Despite the fact that my rat bastard best friend took the girl of my 16 year old dreams away from me...

...it didn't matter one bit.

We still had fun and made a great memory.

Friday, May 16, 2014

He's Got AIDS!

The Donald Sterling interviews are actually cruel, don't you think?

The embattled Clippers owner was interviewed by Anderson Cooper the other day and it was actually painful to listen to. Donald is a bitter old man and he just can't figure out how bashing a race of people is truly his fault and he was digging deep looking for excuses.

He tried to elicit sympathy by telling a story about his grand kid being passed by as they were handing out candy because the kid supposedly said:

"We don't give candy to racists."

I'm skeptical as to whether or not that happened. I'm thinking a lawyer fed him that story for sympathy.

Then Cooper asked him about Magic Johnson (and I have a theory here...more later). When told what a champion of black people Johnson has been Sterling blurted out:

"He's got AIDS!"

As if this was supposed to make Magic the bad guy.

Yet I see Donald's point. Magic is a beloved figure and a sympathetic one as well, but Donald's point is that Magic did speak of being very liberal with his sexual conquests and that he shouldn't be a role model for kids.

But Donald shouldn't be speaking at all.

If there is anyone out there that loves the guy they need to get him away from the media.

Yet there was one interesting point as far as I was concerned.

I don't think Sterling hates black people. I think he hates one black person:

Magic.

I think he felt like Magic was a threat to take away his young girl. I caught a slight feeling that perhaps there was a bit more to the girl's relationship with Magic and perhaps that was why he was so filled with hate.

Yet when you're 81 years old do you really give a crap about anything anymore?

And what I mean by that is, are you really afraid of what anyone is going to do to you?

He's a billionaire old man who has had people kissing his ass for years and tolerating his bad behavior. Can he really, truly care?

Now that's not to say that he won't fight for all of it.

He's not going to give up his team without a fight, but he will lose eventually. Once he is forced to leave his health just may crumble as Joe Paterno's did, but before he leaves I think he's going to take a lot of roundhouse swings:

At Magic

because that's who he hates.

He's just thoroughly confused about everything else.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Reminiscing

I had a meeting on Tuesday afternoon with an old ironworker who I've known professionally for more than 25 years.

I just can't believe I have been roaming around the construction areas for that long.

In any regard we both know just about every single person who's worn a hardhat around Western New York, and we had a chance to exchange:

"Remember when," stories.

And we laughed a lot.

"Remember when you guys were doing a job at the salt mine in Mt. Morris," I began. "The job was about a mile away from the job trailers and I just skipped the visit to the trailers and walked right to the job. Tommy was the foreman and after I reviewed everything he asked me if I'd been to the job trailer.

'You gotta' go,' he said. 'The prettiest girl I've ever seen works there.'

"I was skeptical. I figured I'd see the anti-prettiest girl in the world, but I couldn't pass up the chance. I drove to the trailers and had my hand on the doorknob when it opened suddenly.

The girl in question was standing a mere six inches from me...and Tommy hadn't been lying. The girl looked at me. I looked at her, and she said 'Can I help you?'

I said, 'hummana-hummana-hummana' and almost fell over backwards. The girl just started laughing.

Without an understandable word from me I shared a long laugh with the prettiest girl in the world."

(And then I met my wife, of course, and the point was moot - she was no Kathy Fazzolari)

We swapped story after story.

All the long, hard work days had suddenly been transformed into beautiful memories and thoughts of how great it had once been.

"The construction field used to be a blast," my buddy said. "We all worked hard, drank hard and broke every damn rule there was."

It was true.

"We made a lot more money in those days too, relatively speaking."

And it was true.

"Then insurance and lawyers and greed got in the way," he said. "Now it just sucks."

And that is mostly true.

We talked about fallen friends, and lost jobs as well.

As I stood up to leave I said the truest words I'd spoken all day:

"That was the most fun I've had in construction in the last 5 years."

On the very next job I met the guy who had been my very first foreman back on my very first real construction job when I almost single-handily built the McKinley Mall.

We shook hands. Aldo is an off-the-boat-Italian. He has long since retired.

He remembered me.

"You were the dumbest son-of-a-bitch I ever met," he said.

We laughed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Just A Kiss

ESPN went all in on the Michael Sam reaction to being drafted in the NFL.

As I've said many times before, I don't think it's much of an issue. Sam seems like a fine young man and he is a talented football player as he was drafted.

I wasn't drafted. I'm an unsigned free agent, by the way, free to the highest bidder.

Yet the replay of Sam's reaction was played all over the place, including the kiss he shared with his partner as they both cried.

And you know what?

I cringed a little.

And I felt a little bad about doing it, but as I thought about it a bit more it began to make sense to me.

When Blake Bortles kisses his girlfriend I'm okay with that because his girlfriend is a very attractive female and I happen to know what it's like to kiss an attractive female.

Why wouldn't I cringe when I see a man kiss a man?

And I don't feel bad about the fact that I cringed.

I think it's going to take more for some of us to get used to seeing such demonstrations of gay love.

Maybe that is one of the very societal barriers that Sam will attack.

I don't know when I'll ever feel comfortable with it, and that's not to say that he can't live his life anyway he pleases.

I'm not his judge.

But it was cringe-worthy for me and I'm sure a number of others, because we have never seen such a thing.

ESPN made sure that everyone saw it, by the way.

I do wish Sam luck in his life and in his bid to make the team. I think it is an important barrier to break down, but I also read something a little while ago that surprised me:

Less than 10% of the population is gay.

That seemed mind-boggling to me because there are a lot of gay characters in movies, on television, and in the news.

90% of the population isn't gay.

And while hatred is not okay in any form...

...there may be a transition period necessary...

so we all get used to it in every day society.

After all, it was just a kiss between two people who have chosen to share their love.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Reading the News

It's funny what sort of story catches my eye and makes me stop to read it.

Years ago it was all about the newspaper, and while I am religious about buying a copy of the paper every morning, I must admit that most of the stories I read now are off the Twitter feed.

And there's no shortage of material there.

What types of stories do I read, you ask?

1). Anything with a dog in it. Yep. There was a great story out of New Jersey this week about a family who lost their dog during the hurricane. They finally, after months and months, headed to a shelter to replace their beloved dog, and there he was in the cage! Saved!! That's a great story.

2). Old rock stars talking stories. I love to hear why they wrote the songs I listened to when I was a kid. I love to hear about their writing process. I enjoy seeing what they're up to now as fat, bald, middle-aged men. A few weeks ago I read a story about Peter Frampton and it was reported that the girl who he wrote "Baby I Love Your Way," about turned out to be named in the restraining order he had to take out on her. That's solid info!

3). Old Yankee Stories - See above...love to catch-up with the old idols. Sometimes it isn't all great news. Jim Leyritz, who hit a bomb in the '96 World Series to beat the hapless Braves, was on trial for vehicular manslaughter. Chad Curtis, who played left field on the '98 team is in prison for child endangerment. Yet even those stories fascinate me...how do you fall like that? What brings you that far down?

4). Any Springsteen, Steinbeck, Elvis, John Lennon stories...they all had such storied careers. Anything to get at the root of their lives. I read article after article about the 60's rock scene too. It blows my mind that old those old English dudes were hanging out together getting blasted as they took the world by storm. They were kids who had no idea they were going to become legends.

5). Horrific Crimes - I hate that I do this and I've really tried to be better about it, but I read those types of sensational stories. I have a NY Post app on my phone and when I'm bored I flip through the stories they write. It's amazing what people do to people. It really is.

What do I try and stay away from?

1). Horrific Crimes

2). Political back-stabbing.

3). Gun talk - either way. My head is going to explode on that topic.

4). Tim Tebow - Enough!

5). Self-Serving, pat yourself on the back celebrity bullshit pieces - we get it. Your life is grand.

But the reading is the important part.

Sam will turn to me and say:

"Why do you know that?"

"I read it," I'll answer.

Yet the trick is knowing what to read.

And it's one of the greatest pleasures of my life.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Best Available

Wow, wasn't that exciting?

The NFL (they don't pay taxes) draft is in the history books.

What did we learn?

1). Every team GM says the following things:

"We had him rated higher on our boards."

So, their second round picks 'they' had him rated as a first-rounder. Their 3rd round guy was a 2nd rounder...and so on and so forth.

"We took the best available player."

My God! I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard that.

"We think his off-field issues are behind him. He's done a lot of growing up since his last arrest."

Uh, yeah. He'll be fine.

"This draft makes us stronger and faster and ready to compete for a Super Bowl."

You were 6-10 last year and haven't made the playoffs for 14 years. Let's temper it a bit, huh?

2). We have a gay draftee.

I'm not quite sure why this was such a big deal. We have probably had gay players drafted before, but this is the first guy who has a shot at the NFL (They don't pay their cheerleaders) who has said he's gay.

Whatever, right?

Wrong. The Twitter feed was alive with hate as Michael Sam cried. What a world.

3). The draft program was rated higher than any of the baseball, basketball, or hockey games going on that very night or the following day.

The NFL (they black-out games in county paid for stadiums) owns the sports world. Literally. ESPN runs an hour long show, every day, talking about a sport that is played a mere 16 weeks a year...and people eat it up! They can still draw the highest ratings on any given day talking about Tim Tebow for an hour and he's just an usher at his church.

It blows my mind.

4). The Bills did wonderful!!!!!!

I really laugh at my kids. Each year I try and get them to commit to who they want the Bills to take each year based on the needs.

This year it was all about tight end.

But the Bills traded up and grabbed a wide receiver in a questionable move because they gave up next year's first-round pick.

(It can only work if their current QB is good and there's evidence that he stinks).

Yet every pick was roundly cheered in my house.

Andre Reed could've stepped to the podium and made the final announcement:

"With their third round pick the Bills choose, Elmer Fudd."

And the cheers would've went up here.

So what did I take out of it?

I watched three minutes of it...actually caught the Bills first pick strictly by accident...

It's all a crap shoot.

They all greatly improved their teams.

They all had them rated higher.

The off-field issue guys have 'grown up a lot' in the last three weeks.

and

The best available guy was who they got.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us;

when adversity takes the place of prosperity;

when friends desert us;

when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate

the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” ―Washington Irving


That about says it all, doesn't it. There is surely no stronger bond than a good mother to a child.

I have felt the force of that bond throughout my entire life, in the way that my Mom loved all of us. I was thoroughly amazed to understand that she knew everything about each one of us and that she did her job, day in and day out...just battling.

"How many loads of laundry a week did you do?" I asked her recently.

"The machine was never off," she said. "Only when we slept."

And I get a lot of things straight from my mother. The work obsession was always traced back to Dad, but as I've grown older I've come to realize that she was pushing him! Mom was the one who showed us about working hard.

Just a tremendous woman! I know what Washington Irving was speaking about!!

As for my beautiful wife:

I laugh at the way she defends her little cubbies!

They cling to her every single day...and she makes sure that they are on the right track in everything they do, and she is showing them the same work ethic...

...it still remains to be seen if they will follow her path.

But I have been blessed.

I've felt the power of strong Mommy's all my life.

Happy Mother's Day!


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Happy Birthday, C.C.


For a lot of years now Chris Colantino, who is celebrating his 50th birthday today, would send me photos. Some of them showed my head on the body of something basically disgusting.

I swear I meet people that I known only on Facebook and they say:

"Geez, you're not gross. From what Chris and Pops and others do to you, you'd think you were 700 pounds."

So, keep doing it, in a roundabout way, you're making me look good.

Anywhoha...

Back to the birthday boy.

I've been writing for a long time now...and the frustrating part of writing was not having it exactly as I wanted and under my control, in regard to putting it together and signing it and sending it out. Besides, I thought a few of my covers lacked punch.

So I wanted a new cover artist.

And I thought of Chris.

So...he got a cover art assignment based on the fact that he sent me tremendous pictures of me in compromising positions with a grossly inflated weight and a ridiculous slant on grotesque.

There's a lesson there, kids:

You never know who's watching.

And I knew he'd do a terrific job because I sensed a thoroughness to his work.

And man, he was thorough!

When Chris sat down and started working the ideas just jumped at me...he'd send shot after shot after shot as he worked it through his mind.

I loved all of them.

He wasn't set.

He studied the artwork that Springsteen uses for his records...there was the wall of sound concept...there were shots with the exact font that the Springsteen people use.

In other words...

...he did more than what was expected...

...and the result was a tremendous cover.

He should be proud.

He worked himself into a regular gig.

But he's got the tough job...all I have to do is write 'em.

Happy Birthday, buddy.

Come and get your books!

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Sock Story

The other day I had a hole in my sock that was driving me crazy.

It was in the perfect position to allow my big toe to be exposed and since it was tucked into my work boot, I sort of just let it go because taking off the boot, fixing the sock and then re-lacing the boot would be a pain in the ass.

But the damn toe just kept finding the hole in the fabric and I found myself thinking about it.

In sort of a literary way.

I thought about the hole in the sock being a symbol for things in life that stick in the old craw and won't shake loose no matter how hard you try.

"That's bullshit," I said.

I took off the shoe and turned the sock a little bit so that I wouldn't have to bother with it. The hole would still be there, mind you, but it would shift location and not cause a problem.

I went to two sites before the damn thing struck my mind again.

Somehow the sock had shifted and the big piggy was sticking out back through the hole.

Back to the literary mind:

Perhaps when we don't take care of a problem and just try to mask it, we make things worse. We can shift things around all we want, but unless we address the issue at hand, we're going to find ourselves back in the same place.

"Absolute bullshit!" I called out.

I took the boot off again. This time I examined the hole...it was really just a tiny hole.

There are so many little aggravations in life and if we hold onto a thought for too long it becomes bigger than it actually is.

I thought about lecturing my toe to stay clear of the opening. It didn't seem to matter which way I turned the sock; the stupid little hole would be right there.

I thought of my Dad actually confusing the piss out of me as a real young boy:

"Your socks are on the wrong feet," he said.

Then he guffawed as I made the switch.

Was there more to the hole in my sock than what was advertised?

Was it a symbol of some sort of frustration in my daily routine?

Would my beautiful wife darn it when I got home?

Didn't they darn socks in the olden days?

Don't you picture the old-time wife as a basic servant to a man, waiting on him hand and foot.

Rubbing his temples as he returns home after a trying day.

Just comforting the man as he rests?

My wife wasn't going to darn my sock.

As a matter of fact, it's sitting in the bottom of my Yankee trash can as I type this.

I stuck my finger into the small rip and pulled it apart, laughing wildly as it's sock life ended.

I could almost hear the relief in the sounds of the tear.

"Thank God," the sock sighed. "I don't have to go on those friggin' swollen toes no more. Besides, he had me on the wrong feet."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Your Eyes On the Prize


It's so easy to lose sight of where you want to go.

There are so many temptations in a free society.

Things that'll knock you off the track.

If you love dogs you have to love that photo, right?

But even if you don't.

I often think about people who roll aimlessly through their days, getting pushed back and forth, not knowing what they want or why they want it.

And I do think it's getting easier to get distracted in this day and age.

There are so many choices.

But I'm not lecturing anyone.

We all should be able to spend our days like we want to, but do you really know what you want?

Those two dogs do.

And one of them is going to emerge from the water without the prize.

That happens from time-to-time as well.

But I'd rather lose the prize trying than not even feeling the thrill of chasing it.

It's so easy to lose sight of where you want to go.

Keep your eye on the ball.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Original Post from September, 2010

I felt like running this one again.

You Gotta' Like the Picture Today


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

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

They must have admired her intelligence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe it isn't right.

Maybe there should be an outcry.

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

Uh, oh, did I spill the beans there?

Dedicated to Gag, Pops, JC, Jeffy and Millie - for some reason this original post was popular with you guys.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Frat House Memories

The Gannon University alumni news magazine came in the mail on Saturday and I flipped through it quickly, stopping on the story of the TKE house being turned into a lab for forensics for the study of criminal justice.

I hope they don't use the blue light in the basement of that place.

And the mind is a funny thing because when you see, even a photo of a place where you hung out, you remember.

The price to get into the Friday Night TKE party was two bucks. You were handed a cup and allowed to drink as much as you wanted.

We very rarely could come up with the two bucks, but I had a lot of friends around there so I didn't have to pay. One evening I was in the basement when a guy tapped me on the shoulder. He showed me a ledger that said this:

"Fuzzy - NP"

"Yeah?" I asked.

"That means, 'Fuzzy - not-paid'," he said.

My roommate Fluffy, who was a member, didn't miss a beat:

"That means, 'Fuzzy - not-paying'".

But there were so many more evenings. My brother John and a few friends visited me one time and John was in a discussion with one of the members of the frat who wanted all the Fuzzy's in attendance to leave.

"Let's get Fluffy and Rosie to break the tie," I said. "If they choose the frat over us we'll leave peacefully."

Five minutes later the guy who asked the question was on the floor with both of my buddies standing over him.

We were able to stay.

There was a beach party where a friend of ours was shown the door because his swim trunks were too tight and in his drunken state...

...forget that one.

I can recall a member of the frat standing on the bar singing the Police's King of Pain.

I remember drinking beers with Rosie and Terry and Gag and Lisa and George and Gema and Gorf and Luke and Chris Miller.

So many damn beers!

And then, almost as soon as I finished reading the article and jogging down memory lane I received a text.

It was the photo of the house. Miller sent me the text.

He'd read the same article.

"Isn't it crazy how quickly it went?" I asked.

And I know that Matt is now running around in the same sort of filthy houses now, doing the same sort of stupid things, thinking that those days will last forever.

But as I read Chris' response it occurred to me that time hadn't really stood still, and I think of that all the time.

If my 18-year-old self could look ahead to the nearly 50-year-old guy would he accept the deal?

"What are you looking at?" Sam asked as he hopped into the room with the two dogs following.

I most certainly would've embraced the deal.

But I can still pine for the good old days, right?


Monday, May 5, 2014

JCM Does One

Mellencamp is due for another record. I so enjoyed the last one...No Better than This...and it was done simply...just him and the guitar mostly, or so it appeared...like this song for the strong lyrics as well as the sound of the narrator actually heading down the road. Gonna' see him in July...always a good show.


Coming Down the Road by John Mellencamp

Well I heard the bells of freedom once
As I was coming down the road
Coming down the road
And I followed that echo wherever it would go
As I was coming down the road
But there always seemed to be trouble in my path
I found my hands tied behind my back
As I was coming down the road
Coming down the road

Well I heard the truth call my name
As I was coming down the road
Coming down the road
And I followed that voice to the valley below
As I was coming down the road
And it took me down a path where I was lost all the time
I found some truth but it could never be mine
As I was coming down the road
Coming down the road

And I saw myself for a second as I really am
As I was coming down the road
And I had to look away in disbelief I suppose
As I was coming down the road
I caught a glimpse of myself as others see me
And I wasn’t the fella that I thought I’d be
As I was coming down the road
Coming down the road

I saw you out my window
As you were walking alone
Coming down the road
And I raised my hand as if to say hello
As I was coming down the road
But you didn’t wave back
You just walked on by
Alone by yourself
Till the day you die
And I guess the truth and freedom before us all are lies
Somewhere down the road
Somewhere down the road

Sunday, May 4, 2014

It Might Be the Phone

I must admit.

There was a bit of panic involved.

My phone was vibrating and I couldn't see it to answer it.

The screen was completely black.

What do you do in such situations?

Yeah...push at every single button. I was turning up the volume in an effort to get a picture back.

And the phone had been showing signs. Every now and again it would fade out on me.

It wasn't even blinking back now.

It took me six frantic minutes to get the picture back and hold it long enough to return the call, but it was going to be a rough day.

Our phones have become way too important.

And I suppose that's the way someone wants it to be, but I answer e-mails. It's the only phone number any of my clients have for me. The customers are texting addresses now. I need the GPS to find said addresses. I have MLB.Com to get alerts when the Yankees are practicing. I check my baseball stats on there. The pictures! Oh my God, what if I lose my photos? And my apps. I have a slot machine game that I need to update every day and Sam is working on the Family Guy stuff with me.

Please God!

Not my phone!!

So, I stopped into the local Verizon store and seven kids came rushing at me.

"Can I help you?" each one of them asked.

I had hit it at the right time. The place wasn't busy. I had my pick of the sales people.

So...

...I picked the prettiest one and she grabbed my phone and played around for it for a moment.

"Yeah," she said. "It's like, cooked."

(Don't always go for pretty, kids).

A much less pretty guy grabbed it from her hand, asked me for the phone number, consulted an I-pad at his hip and said:

"You have a warranty. We can replace it for free."

"Free?" I asked. "Like...in nothing? No free phone and $400 shipping charge?"

He laughed.

The pretty one drifted away.

(She had been of such help).

"Or you can upgrade for $150 and a change in data plans."

"I'll take free," I said. "Where is it?"

"Oh, we have to mail it to you. You should have it on Monday."

I thought of the weekend without my phone. There were Family Guy upgrades to handle and I needed to set my baseball lineups.

"Best we can do. You can walk out of here with the upgrade today."

Bastards.

But I held fast.

"Send me the free one," I said.

As I left the store I thought about the fact that had I went for the upgrade they would've changed my data plan, and the damn phone might've cost me $200 a month.

I also thought of my brother John who, as we were growing up, used to say the same thing every time the house phone rang:

"Get that. It might be the phone."

They got us, people.

We are slaves to our damn phones.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Tough Guys

They don't make them like they used to.

Now don't get me wrong here.

I'm not saying I'm a tough guy.

I have never been in a fight and most likely will spend my whole life never throwing a punch in anger, but my Mom and Dad instilled a toughness in all of us. Despite the physical pain I've been in over the last couple of years I won't even consider shutting it down...and some of the guys in the construction field really respect me for that as I limp around.

But I grew up thinking that's the way it should go down.

A few years ago an iron worker buddy of mine was watching basketball at my house. We ate some big steaks and as we settled in to drink beer and watch the games he asked me for a bag of ice. He rolled up his pants leg to expose a knee that was swollen to five times it's normal size. I had watched him walk the iron the day before.

"What the hell?" I asked.

"Stubbed it the other day," he said as he applied the ice.

"Dude, you gotta' go to the doctors," I said. "Fill out an accident report."

He gave me a two-word answer...the second word was "it".

He never filed an accident report. I wonder how long it took for his knee to work properly.

And in this day and age that's amazing...there's a lawyer on the television advertising free money. In New York State, you get it too! You can take three years off if you want to!

But the other day another guy took toughness to a whole new level. He got lucky, mind you, but man!

I got the call and heard the name of the guy who'd fallen...I've known the guy for 20 years...I was worried for him, but in the back of my mind I wondered if I'd find him back at work when I pulled up.

The guy had been working 14' up installing steel deck.

(This is an OSHA-compliant procedure by the way, for any interested people).

His partner lifted the 32' sheet as the wind gusted. The wrong guy picked up the sheet. If they had picked it from the other side the wind wouldn't have lifted the sheet and tossed the guy to the deck below.

"As I was going down I noticed that I couldn't grab the steel beam so I tucked the shoulder and rolled. WWF-Style."

He had visited the medical center because he'd been bleeding profusely from somewhere.

"A piece of welding rod got stuck in my elbow," he said. "I'm good though. I didn't take the aspirin they offered, but I had to take the Band-Aid."

He was looking away from me back to the steel above.

"I gotta' get back to work," he said.

I was smiling.

"There's still a few tough guys left like me and you," he said.

I was smiling even more.

There was no sense in telling him to be a bit more careful. He knew what had happened was of a fluky nature.

He went back up to his position. 14' above the deck. He lifted a piece of deck and set it in place to weld it. He pulled a welding rod from his bag and gave me a quick head nod before his welding mask fell down into position.

Friday, May 2, 2014

May First

There's a different feel to each month, isn't there?

May brings the promise of warm weather and bright sunny days. Lord knows that is welcome this year. It's been sort of a miserable spring which followed a horrific winter.

But enough with the weather report.

May First is one of those days.

It's my nephew James' birthday and it's crazy because when he celebrates a birthday I recall the actual day of his birth and the feelings of happiness realizing that my brother Jim was blessed with living proof.

And James has grown to be a complex kid with a whole lot of energy and a long list of real strengths. Happy Birthday, buddy! Have a great year.

It's also my cousin Mary Ann's birthday and anyone who's ever had the pleasure of meeting Mary Ann has met a truly beautiful woman of strength and grace. Life itself put her through hell over the last few years, but five minutes after seeing her, you're laughing along with her. A wonderful, wonderful person. Happy Birthday, cuz!

Yet I also think of Aunt Stella who died on May First. She was the tough mother of my crazy Gasport cousins and Lord knows what sort of hell they put her through, but she cooked and cleaned and laughed and fought and she's missed. She lived every day. I sent my cousin a quick text to let him know we were thinking of her.

So, you see, May First is a stepping off point so to speak and since it brings in the new month...there's a hope springs eternal type of spirit to it.

And hopefully it does bring the sunny days.

Coincidentally I had a long trip today and I listened to the Howard Stern Town Hall discussion with Billy Joel.

It was simply awesome.

Billy talked about all of his songs and brought all of us into the room as he was writing them.

I'm truly fascinated with that level of talent and that type of discussion.

And I was a bit frenzied with work and thoughts of things that needed to be done.

Billy solved that little problem for me by talking about his great song Vienna.

He sang the lines beautifully:

Dream on, but don't imagine that they'll all come true.

And

Slow down, you can afford to lose a day or two.

Billy explained that he wrote it after watching people trying to cram so much into their days that they forget to breathe. The chorus:

Vienna waits for you

Popped into his head when he saw an older lady in Vienna sweeping the streets and was lectured by his Dad who told him that there was still value in her days and that in Vienna all life was valued.

A great May First thought.

So, as it rains...slow down if you need to, recall the value of each day...and jump onto spring a little.

Vienna waits for you.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Adios, Sucker

So, we've been watching The Following.

You know that one?

It has Kevin Bacon in it and a whole bunch of other angry, basically incompetent FBI guys who are trying to catch a guy who has a cult-like following of people who will kill for him.

There's a lot going on.

The other night the cult leader had two characters kneel across from one another:

Father against Son.

One had to kill the other or they were both gonna' be shot to death.

"That's a pretty easy decision," I said to my beautiful wife, "huh?"

"Oh, no doubt," she said.

"Here's a tougher one," I said. "What about me and you being forced to kneel there?" I asked.

"Oh, I'd stab the shit out of you," she said.

"Really! You wouldn't just look lovingly into my eyes until he shot both of us for not being capable of doing it to each other?"

"Oh, hell no," she said. "I have to be around for the kids."

And there we have it.

For the 2nd time in a week she has expressed the belief that I'm fairly disposable in the grand scheme of things.

"They won't give you the insurance money if you kill me," I said.

"Well, I'll explain the situation to them. I'd be under duress. They'd understand."

"And what if they don't and they deny payment?"

I had stumped her for a moment.

"Well, that'd be unfortunate, of course, but I suppose I'd have to find me a rich guy who's on the verge of collapse."

The show was winding down.

The violence of the show is almost unbearable.

As a matter of fact, I suddenly think that perhaps I'm going to have to start monitoring the shows that my beautiful wife is watching.

Damn.

She'd grab that knife without hesitation, people.

My beautiful wife.

Indeed.

"He Wants to Hang 'Em All"

Every day there's something nasty. So sick of the nasty. Sometimes the nastiness is passed off as a joke. Other times it's locke...