Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kaley, Chapman and Concussions

I had a dream the other night that I met Kaley Cucco (Penny from The Big Bang) and that I not only met her, but that she wanted to make out with me.

Which we did.

But Kathy caught us.

And wasn't mad.

"Hey, if there's someone out there dumb enough to make out with you, go for it," she said.

Anywhoha...

Back in the real world.

I'm not enamored with the Yankees trading for Aroldis Chapman the fireballing, alleged domestic-abuser from the Reds.

He's a great talent and will help them, but I'm not a hypocrite.

He's not been charged but they said he may have choked his girlfriend and immediately following their disagreement, he shot 8 holes in his garage. He's also had a couple of other run-ins.

There's an arrogance about Yankees fans, of course...

...We can fix him!

But the truth of the matter is I bust on the abusers and idiots on the Bills...

...so...gotta' stand with my convictions...

...not a fan of the move.

Wil Smith is running around talking about his movie, Concussions, which exposes the dark underbelly of the NFL (as if it isn't all underbelly).

It crossed my mind when I was dropping the boys off the other day at the Bills game.

Thousands gather to cheer as about 20 men line up and render one another's end of life as senseless (literally).

The harder they hit, the louder they cheer.

I've been screaming out about the NFL lying to the players for years and years...

...but there were a couple of times this year where the player defied advice and got himself ready to play.

It's a vicious cycle.

Really vicious.

Smith says that he can't watch a game anymore after finding out what he found out.

The NFL will spin it as a work of fiction.

Retired players stumbling around their houses will tell you differently.

You're a big girl or boy.

Make your own decision.

But stick to your convictions.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Star Wars

The movie has made a billion dollars already.

The highest grossing film in the first week.

The highest grossing film in it's second week.

The biggest Christmas Day score ever.

Ehhh...

...I've seen just one of the Star Wars films.

Don't ask me which one.

Jake made me go back about ten years ago.

I don't remember a minute of it.

And I don't mean to be dismissive. People seem to really like it.

I've just never really been interested.

Does that make me un-American?

Which one is the first?

Should I watch the sequels or the prequels first?

I just don't know!

And through the years people have talked about it to me. I've actually pretended to know what they were talking about.

George Lucas.

R2D2.

Jabba.

Who else?

Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, right?

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader?

See...I know enough to pretend...but I'm not sure I'll be heading to the theater.

The boys have been interested.

Howard Stern will crow about it.

But I'll most likely miss this one too.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Who You Voting For?

There was no way the topic was going to be ignored.

The subject of The Donald came up about halfway through the Christmas Party.

"He's gonna' make America great again," one of my nephews said.

I didn't want any part of it.

My goal for the upcoming year is to not get into any lengthy debates on social media...

...God help me if I have to argue with someone in public.

"Get away from me," I said.

But the truth of the matter is that I was born to argue...and a little while later...

The Donald...

...came up again.

"When he's the president he's gonna' throw everyone out who doesn't belong!"

I tried to explain the dynamics of a big city.

"In New York, you ride in a subway car with people from about 11 different countries," I said. "People don't fight. All of the different cultures mix."

"Not after Trump gets in! All white!!"

My brother-in-law is a funny guy. He can stir up laughter at a crash scene.

I laughed.

But as is prone to happen...

...someone gets mad at someone else's opinion.

Then soon enough someone is holding court to push an agenda on someone who wants no part of it.

The shouting was going on around the bar.

I moved off to the children's table.

Propped up my feet and listened.

"We're gonna' make America great again!"

"Bush sucked."

"Obama was worse!"

"They are all criminals!!"

"I like Bernie!!!"

"Hilary is going to jail!!!"

One of the kids showed me a stuffed animal.

At that point in the evening I might've voted for that fluffy red thing as the next prez.

"Seriously," my niece said later in the night. "I'm gonna' erase my Facebook account. I can't deal with all the political arguments."

The first good idea of the entire evening.

"Make America great again!" Someone shouted from the hallway.

Who are you voting for?

I don't care.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Recap

Pretty funny how a Christmas celebration goes when you're trying to feed about 40 people.

My beautiful wife said that we'd eat at 5:00 so I worked towards that goal. Of course, at about quarter to five about 20 little kids broke into the room where I was cooking and started playing in front of the oven.

You can't yell at someone else's kids and not feel like a dopey bastard...so I grabbed my wife:

"Get them the hell out. Three-thousand square feet and they gotta' stand on my feet."

They were gone.

I had the food ready at exactly 5:00.

Pasta, ham, turkey, brocoli, cheese & rice (thanks Lorie), stuffed peppers (thanks Mike), mashed potatoes (28 pounds of them!), rolls, salad.

Everything hot at once.

And the line shuffled along and I waited it out.

Then I grabbed a plate and headed up there.

"Damn, the food is good," I said as I was eating.

That's the way to know how it is when you cook it yourself.

Eat it. If it's good to you, it's good to them.

And it was.

I enjoyed my twenty minutes of sitting and then it's all about...

...putting the food away and cleaning the roasters.

(I feel for you, Pops, all those years of cooking!).

Again.

Kids in the way.

The little bastards can move!

And I don't know any of their names.

"Who's kid are you?" I asked one of them.

He punched me in the nuts.

I started cleaning up.

My nephew Matt chipped in.

We had it all in containers for the late arrivals to grab in a matter of minutes. I cleaned all the dishes and put as much away as I could.

"Where have you been?" My sister-in-law asked. "Sit and talk to us!"

I passed my wife somewhere along the way.

"How's it going?" she asked.

I laughed.

By the time the last guests had cleared out, the house was clean.

"We gotta' put the tables away," I said.

"Tomorrow," Kathy replied.

We put on an episode of Dexter.

By then I was in the mood to root for a serial killer.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

100 Years Ago

I love finding old newspapers because I marvel about what life was like back when.

Someone sent out a post about what life was like just 100 years ago and I was fascinated.

The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.

What will it be 100 years from now?

I guess we won't know, but it's fun to speculate.

The advancements being made every year...will it be possible to go to 150 or so?

Will people in 2115 look back and say:

They only lived to 75?

Only 14% of the homes had bathtubs.

They must have been some stinky bastards.

Most women only washed their hair once a month...they used Boras or egg yolks for shampoo.

Attractive.

The population of Las Vegas was 30.

I'm going to Vegas next month...every time I'm there I wonder about the waste of resources.

100 years ago there were only 30 people living there???

Coffee was 15 cents a pound.

We pay five bucks a cup in some places now!

The average U.S. worker made between two and four hundred dollars a year.

There are members of one political party who believe that it should still be that way!

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 MPH.

When the idiot in front of me at the E-Z Pass lane slows to 10 to exit it pisses me off to no end.

Only 8% of the homes had a telephone.

Now you get a smart phone for graduating pre-K.

Two out of every 10 people couldn't read or write.

Is that much higher now?

And my favorite stat of the 100 years ago report:

There were about 230 reported murders a year in the United States each year.

Perhaps all that we've learned has actually set us way back.

Can't wait to see what happens in the next 100!

Maybe I will know somehow.

Who the hell knows?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Shooting Pool

The Christmas Eve celebration turned when Sam decided that he wanted to shoot pool on the table where my brothers, father and a lot of friends played years and years before.

I recall the celebration the night before John's wedding when the 8-ball contest turned into a pool hockey game where we fired the balls at the pockets and tried to score. The other team played defense using only their hands, which sounds brutal enough, but the fun started if a ball left the table and you could tackle to try and gain possession.

That game never really caught on!

Well, the teams were set. Jake and Uncle Chuck against me and Sam.

Thank God they weren't filming it!

I played a lot of pool in college as we had a table set in a room that was too small to accommodate. We broke the front window of that place at least ten times as we tried to shoot. (Remember George).

Sam and Jake didn't actually even know how to hold the stick, but while Chuck was teaching Jake a little, I was stuck just listening to Sam peddle his trash.

(The kid can really talk a helluva' game).

We won the first game when Chuck, who had made nearly every ball that hit a pocket, scratched on the 8-ball.

"Rack 'em, losers!" I shouted, feeling as if I were back in college for a moment.

During game two I found that I couldn't hit the long shots, but the real fun came as I tried to break. Chuck's hands were close to the rack and I tried to hammer the ball and scare him as he was pulling the rack away.

I miscued.

Two games later, the roles were reversed.

In an effort to vacate quickly I picked up the rack and swung my head up...

...straight into the light.

Sam laughed for a half an hour.

In the end, the boys started making shots.

I started to hit the long shots.

And...

...listen very carefully, Chuck...

...We whipped their asses...

3 games to 2!

I think ESPN is gonna' run the tape back one of these nights.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

There's an awful lot of work for one day's events, isn't there?

I helped clean around the house...including three bathrooms.

(The boys had a pubic hair rug going in their stall).

And while I was doing it, and as I was trying to stand up without yelping, I thought:

"Merry Christmas!"

And these days there are a lot of people griping about "They" and "Them" attacking their rights to say "Merry Christmas" and I continue to marvel at the beauty of it all.

"Merry Christmas!"

Christmas has been weird for me over the last 6 years.

The party has been smaller.

A bit of sadness surely creeps in.

When you're thinking about love and family and togetherness it's only natural to think of those who aren't celebrating with you.

But the feeling certainly hasn't changed all that much.

I feel the closeness.

I appreciate all that I do have.

The aches and pains go away a little...

...and despite all there is to do...

...I appreciate my beautiful wife and adoring kids and unbelievable Mom and Kathy's Mom & Dad and great siblings and siblings-in-law and the nieces, nephews...

...and my friends...

...and my doggies.

God Gave Me Everything I want.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Basket Case for Christmas

We all know by now that I'm an enemy of clutter.

And things that knock me out of routine.

And change.

Well, I have learned to relax...

...but just a little bit.

I could feel the breakdown coming.

A couple of weeks ago the hot tub quit.

We didn't fix it right away as we tried to diagnose the problem, first...take the logical way.

I got to sleep through that.

Then...the computer froze while I was writing reports one afternoon.

Not good.

We searched for a new computer as I massaged the old one through numerous startups and unplanned shut downs.

Then the presents started being wrapped.

Things laying around the house.

Outside of their usual places.

"Hold on," I kept telling myself. "Christmas is coming."

And then it happened.

During the middle of an important report...

...the computer went pffft.

Completely.

I did what we all do in a moment of crisis around here:

"KATHY!"

She was speaking calmly.

She might have even smiled.

The crap running around my head had nothing to do with candy canes or stockings.

"Just relax," Kathy tried. "We'll get around this. We can get it completely straightened out tomorrow."

The problem being that for guys like me and my son, Jake...

...tomorrow sucks!

Now!!!

But.

I think I survived the meltdown fairly well.

I even slept an hour or two.

Merry Christmas to All!!!!

(I'll get there).

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Birthday Dad

Spent a lot of the day yesterday thinking of Dad.

He was always ready for his birthday even though he'd always tell us to stay home...

...then he'd tell us not to get him any presents.

We'd get him presents anyway.

Life is a real test, you know?

You spend your life close to your family and then you spend years just missing them when they go.

But it doesn't have to be my Dad's birthday to think of the lessons learned.

He taught all of us the things that we needed to cope.

Work ethic.

Sense of humor.

A touch of craziness.

The big heart.

When we start swapping stories we always come to the same conclusion:

Dad was one of a kind.

On his birthday those stories just enter my mind.

One by one.

And life is rough.

But I have a feeling that I'll laugh a little thinking of Dad again today.

And tomorrow.

And the next day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Steven Wright Quotes

The comic Steven Wright has an amazing mind.

I intend to live forever...so far, so good.

And when the thoughts are set out there one-by-one they seem simple enough, but the majority of us don't think that way.

Eagles may soar, but Eagles don't get sucked into jet engines.

And every once in awhile I'll have a thought like that...but he is prolific at putting them all down.

My mechanic told me, "I couldn't repair your brakes, but I made your horn louder."

If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

The sooner you fall behind the more time you'll have to catch up.

And given a little thought all of the witty phrases make sense.

The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.

We've all been there...the butter is too rigid...we tear up the roll.

If at first you don't succeed, sky diving is not for you.

And I think of all the great comic minds.

I cringe when I think that George Carlin would be asked to apologize for some of the things he might have said along the way.

It's important to not silence the minds of the stand-up comics out there in the world who see things from another point of view that isn't accessible to everyone all the time.

If Barbie is so popular why do you have to buy her friends?

What happens if you get half scared to death twice?

Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?

The problem with the gene pool is that there's no lifeguard.

Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don't have film.

The great mind of Steven Wright.

I think I'll make my kids catch an old stand-up special.

The monotone delivery.

And line after line of brilliance.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Stumbled upon this from the book: That Person's Tao Te Ching by William Martin.

Just a beautiful thought.

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children

to strive for extraordinary lives.

Such striving may seem admirable,

but it is a way of foolishness.

Help them instead to find the wonder

and the marvel of an ordinary life.

Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.

Show them how to cry

When pets and people die.

Show them the infinite pleasure

in the touch of a hand.

And make the ordinary come alive for them

The extraordinary will take care of itself.


On Saturday night I felt a great amount of angst given all that was left to do to 'get ready for Christmas' and I think that we all struggle with that sort of feeling inside.

And then we don't enjoy it like we had planned.

I'm a task-driven man...sometimes to the detriment to all that is going on.

Going to enjoy the ordinary this season...

...the extraordinary is all around me.



Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tom Scime

A couple of weeks back I contacted a friend - Mike - and asked him if he'd like to have lunch. He said that he couldn't make it because he was in the hospital with his Dad - Tom - who was pretty sick.

Tom was fast approaching his 92nd birthday.

"Ah, man," I said. "Hang in there. If there's anything you need!"

Mike and his family hung in there.

Until this past Sunday when Tom, surrounded by family at the hospital, in the 4th quarter of the Bills game, breathed his last.

Just two weeks short of turning 92...

...Tom passed away.

And I am sad for my friend and the rest of his huge family because no matter how old one gets to be...

...saying goodbye is sad.

Yet I was also sad for me!

You see, I grew to know Tom a little bit over that past 15 years or so because he was often on some of the same sites that I was on...

...doing safety inspections for hardworking guys across Western New York.

Tom kept on doing them until he was 90!

At first I was 'Mike's friend' to him.

Then he got to know me as 'Cliff.'

Then he'd call me for a favor or two. I'd help him with a safety plan for a friend he met.

He called me one day just before he finally retired for good.

"Cliff, I have a couple of clients who are going to need help. I can't climb the damn ladders anymore."

I laughed.

At 90, he seemed angry with the fact that his ladder-climbing days were sadly behind him, once and for all.

"I'll help you if I can," I said.

"I hope you can get them," he answered. "I enjoy how you do the job."

That was one of the highlights of my safety career!

Tom was retired OSHA.

He had the respect of the working guys all over town.

He raised a fine family.

He didn't ever complain when he was out there in the rain, or cold.

And the guys who worked with him...respected him.

"Thanks, Tom," I said. "It'd be tough to follow your act."

He laughed.

"I can give them your name and tell them to call you. I want them to be all right after I retire."

"Certainly," I said.

He was afraid of letting anyone down.

I went to the wake this past Thursday.

The room was filled.

The photos of the family that Tom built were flashing by on a small screen in the far corner.

Tom with his wife.

Tom with his kids.

Tom holding his grandchildren.

I made my way to Mike and shook his hand.

I didn't know anyone else, but I felt bad for all of them.

But no one was down in the dumps in that room.

Everyone was smiling.

Talking.

Laughing.

Saying goodbye.

To a good man.

"That's a great life," I whispered to Tom as he laid in the front of the room.

"Rest in peace, buddy."

"You kicked life's ass."


Saturday, December 19, 2015

No Food!

So...finally got the prep work done for the colonoscopy...

...which was a beautiful thing.

First off, Kathy went to the pharmacy to retrieve the medicine needed and she laughed as she handed it to me.

"A twenty-four hour fast?"

And of course, I knew that would be the difficult part of it.

Twenty-four hours without food???

Of course, many people have gone through the procedure and it is nothing whatsoever to whine about...

...but this is me we're talking about!

And food!!

I love food!!

Thankfully, I had a huge plate of Chicken and Sausage Riggies from Rico's in Syracuse the night before the fast began.

A little breakfast and then the fast.

All day long my so-called friends taunted me with photos of my favorite foods.

The friends who were around me told me about their big lunches.

A couple of others unwrapped candy and popped it into their mouths, first asking me if I'd like a piece.

What do you do in such a situation?

I decided to have fun.

I ran a couple of notices on Facebook whining about how feint I was feeling.

That elicited even more taunting.

I laughed at each and every post.

What the hell?

You gotta' go through crap in life (literally) why not laugh a little?

Yet I also thought about the procedure and the lives that it has saved.

No one actually wants to do it, right?

(Never heard anyone brag about scheduling their appointment)

But preventative medicine is a good idea.

Even if you can't drink another ounce of liquid...

...even if you have to go a day without food.

Over 50?

Get it done!

I'm almost through with it all.

Then some food is going to take a real beating somewhere today!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Banned During Bills Games

It all started when I was out of town for the Bills-Patriots match-up about a month ago.

The Bills lost, but somehow the game was less painful for my boys because I wasn't there chiding them (Hi Kim) as the game went along.

So...

...the next week I asked them:

"Would you like me to watch the first half of the game in my room, or down here with my family?" I asked.

"Watch both halves up there," Sam and Jake said, in unison.

"That hurts," I said. "We need to spend quality time together."

"We'll be all right."

And it all goes back to our pre-season predictions.

Sam had the Bills at 12-4.

Matt said 11-5.

Jake went with 10-6.

I said 8-8.

The Bills are currently at 6 wins and 7 losses and somehow...

...it's all my fault!

This past Sunday the mood was extremely dour around Camp Clifford.

The Bills lost a close game to a bad Philadelphia team.

Immediately following the game all three kids went away for more than an hour.

"Not one word," Sam said when he returned to the living area.

"What did I do?"

"You were right and I was wrong," he mocked. "That's all you want me to say."

I considered his hurt feelings.

"Next year is their year," I said. "For sure."

"You see!! That's why no one wants you around when they play!!!"

I laughed.

The Bills have not qualified for the playoffs in 15 years.

It's soon to be 16.

"Seriously," I said. "I have to be wrong one year, right?"

"Please! Just stop!"

Bills-Redskins next week.

I have a feeling it'll be just me and Melky.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

D.B. of the Week: Rajan Rondo

Rondo is a professional basketball player for the Sacramento Kings.

He got a beef with a ref during the course of the game.

The referee, Billy Kennedy, had long been rumored to be gay.

Rondo called him a "mother-$%$$ Fa##ot."

He repeated it on the court just in case not everyone had heard him.

Then he denied saying it.

Before he admitted he said it.

Even though he didn't mean it.

And that's what I hate most about a situation like this:

Rondo issued an apology of sorts:

"My actions during the game were out of frustration and emotion, period! They absolutely do not reflect my feelings toward the LBGT community. I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone."

Okay, let's take that apart.

Is he forgiven because he was emotional during a game?

His words do not reflect his feelings for the LBGT community?

So...he has no prejudice whatsoever?

He did not mean to disrespect or offend Kennedy?

Of course he did!

He knew the words would hurt the man!!

That's why he said it!!!

He wanted to hurt him!!!!

How did the NBA react?

Rondo was suspended for one game.

Remember when the Clippers refused to play because their owner made racial slurs?

Where's the defense for Kennedy?

And I get that the word was thrown around a lot for years and years and years.

I know that 'sticks and stones will hurt my bones but words can never hurt me' but that isn't the way it is anymore.

Rondo should know that.

But he wanted to win D.B. of the Week.

I'm awarding it to him.

I don't mean to offend.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pete Rose Should Be Banned

This argument drives me crazy.

Yes, Pete Rose was the hit leader and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame based on his playing career, but there's more to it than that.

He is banned from being involved in baseball because he BET ON BASEBALL AND HE ACCEPTED THE LIFETIME BAN.

Rose lied and then lied a little more and then lied a lot after that.

I suppose that is what you do when you're caught, but through the years he has let out a little bit more of the truth each time that he has been cornered.

He recently explained that he bet on every single game that he managed when working as the Reds field manager.

He was betting on games that he had major influence in.

He throws ten grand against the team and then he puts a stiff on the mound.

That is conduct unworthy of greatness.

O.J. Simpson belongs in the football Hall of Fame as well, based on his in-game performance, but I am a strong opponent of those who don't want to kick him out based on the fact that he cut the heads off of two people.

He is not a Hall of Famer!

He doesn't belong on the Buffalo Bills Ring of Honor!

Baseball has a lot of Hall of Fame Players who are still alive.

They vote on who joins their club.

They don't want Rose in there with them.

They won't let Bonds or Clemens or A-Rod in.

They better not let David Ortiz in when he retires either.

And the argument that you always here is:

"Ty Cobb was a mad racist and a bad guy."

Well...

...kick him out too.

The Hall of Fame is about being great for your sport.

Don Mattingly was my all-time favorite player. He had 5 to 7 great years...Hall-worthy years...but he will not get in because he was merely good after that.

I'm okay with it! Even though he's a great guy and was an exceptional teammate and captain.

Those who are elected to the Hall should be the greatest of the great.

Put the criminals in another wing.

Here's Pete's plaque:

Pete Rose:

All-time hits leader. He lied. He cheated. He disgraced the sport and then lied about it some more. When asked to apologize to the game, he told more lies. He was a singles-hitting, hustling, great player who lied and cheated and compromised the game for years and years.

Is he okay with that summation?

Then put him in.

But please...

...enough about it.

Tired of hearing it!



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dexter

Sam was a big fan of the television series Dexter.

He kept begging me to watch the series about the serial killer who only goes after the bad guys.

I had tried the series a couple of times but only got a few episodes in.

"It's weird," I announced.

We watched House for a long time.

I loved House. The writing was great. The acting was superb and the sarcasm was sharp.

But all good things...

...we finished it.

"What's next?" Kathy asked.

"DEXTER!!!!" Sam screamed.

So...we tried it again.

And this time we are going to make it all the way through.

The Sopranos started off the series idea of rooting for the bad guy. There was no better character than Tony Soprano. Tony was killing people and we were all rooting for him to get away with it!

(R.I.P. Gandolfini - my favorite actor of all-time).

But, back to Dexter.

He preys on the bad guys.

He shows little emotion.

He needs things neat and orderly.

He guards his things!

People think he's a whack-job in his daily life.

"You got a little Dexter in you," my beautiful wife announced halfway through an episode.

"Am I more House or more Dexter?"

"Little of both."

But I do like the series. Television these days is really well done.

Who needs to rent movies anymore?

There are episodes after episodes of great drama just a flick of the button away.

"You like it, right?" Sam asked.

"Yeah. I'm rooting for a serial killer. It's great fun."

What a world we've created.

Monday, December 14, 2015

33 In a Row - 1971-'72 Lakers


On Friday night the Golden State Warriors were behind the Boston Celtics with just a few minutes left.

I'm not much of a basketball fan these days, but I was a little interested because of the winning streak the Warriors were on. They had won 23 in a row to open the season and 27 straight dating back to the end of last year.

Could they break the record set by the West-Goodrich-Wilt Lakers of my childhood?

As I watched the end of the game a couple of things re-entered my mind.

Like crying when the Lakers finally lost to the Bucks to end that streak when I was a mere 7 years old.

I hated Kareem Abdul Jabbar for a long time because of that game.

But I got back into the present day.

The Celtics had a chance to win before the end of regulation. Sam and Jake entered the room to watch Boston's last ditch attempt fail.

Then we watched the overtime.

Both teams looked tired.

The announcers out of Boston were brutal.

Overtime ended in another tie.

Did I want to see the Lakers record challenged?

Was I actually rooting for the Warriors?

Wilt was the first sports star that I loved.

Dad took us to one of the games during that 33-game winning streak. I was seated mere feet from Wilt as he sat on the bench in a lopsided win over the Braves.

I read back about that team.

Pat Riley, who was a bench player on that team, talked about the $8 a day the players got to buy their food on the road.

Eight dollars a day!!!

My ticket for that game in 1971 was $7.50!

I remember Dad talking about how expensive the tickets were!

Riley also explained that players were responsible for cleaning their own uniforms after a game and that he did it by entering the shower still dressed. Then he would bag up the soaked uni and take it to the hotel room and put it on the radiator so it would dry before the next game.

They used to play back-to-back-to back nights.

They don't do that anymore because the union put a stop to it to save the players.

Riley went on to explain that Wilt wouldn't always wash his uniform and that opposing players hated him for it.

The Warriors pulled out the game on Friday night.

"They're gonna' be undefeated until they play the Cavs on Christmas," Sam announced.

"Who do they play next?" I asked.

"The Bucks, tomorrow," Jake said. "They should beat them."

My mind went back to 7-year old me.

Lakers versus Bucks.

Back to today:

Warriors versus Bucks.

"I don't want them to get to 34 in a row," I said. "I don't want them to break Wilt and West's record."

They didn't.

The Bucks ended the streak on Saturday night!

Some memories are meant to last forever, I guess.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

65 Degrees in Buffalo on December 13

So they passed a climate control bill that 195 countries signed up for, huh?

Strange that it is being announced on the weekend when it's 65 degrees in Buffalo just a handful of days before Christmas.

People who don't believe much in climate change will say that the warm temps have nothing to do with it...

...but last year when it was snowing in feet...they said:

"What about global warming?"

I have a tendency to listen to the science dudes because they seem a tad more informed about it than me, but the argument is tired and not even a little interesting anymore.

It would stand to reason to me that the activities of humans, in the last 100 years or so, would cause disruptions of some sort...but I struggled to pass Earth Science because I wasn't much interested as a 9th grader.

My interests are about the same now.

Yet what will happen to the Earth in my children's time or in their children's time?

I won't know!

So.

I'll enjoy the 65 degree day.

"Going golfing," Millie texted me on Saturday.

I thought about it for 10 seconds...then remembered that everything hurt all week long and that I'd sworn to the doc that I would stay off my feet all weekend.

Golfing...in December...in Buffalo.

Perhaps it won't be all bad as the planet heats up.

Everyone can get a few rounds in before all of our faces melt off.

The other thing that the warm weather has done, however, is kind of dull the excitement of Christmas. I spent most of the month of December in California one year and I recall how disappointing it was to think about Santa not being able to use his sleigh.

What the hell do they tell the kids out there?

Reindeer and sleighs don't seem to be much of a fit when it's 85 and sunny.

Anywhoha...

Think of it all this way:

One day without snow now takes one day off the length of winter.

I think back to last February and the fact that every single day was well below 10 degrees.

I recall feeling absolute disdain about having to leave the house.

Long underwear.

Four layers.

I may wear shorts tomorrow.

Global warming is so cool.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Elf on the Shelf

Thank God we didn't have the stupid Elf on the Shelf deal when our kids were little.

My beautiful wife would've had a question for me every single day:

"Where the hell is the elf?"

We are on an eternal Easter Egg hunt around here on most every day between Kathy and Sam...

...they lose everything!

"Have you seen my phone?"

"Did you move the dog medicine?"

"Where are my car keys?"


So...I thought about just writing about the Elf on the Shelf and what it might be doing to the psyche of kids who are afraid that a stuffed toy is working as a spy and torturing them on a daily basis.

But then I saw something else:

A meme that said:

"When I was a kid I didn't need an elf on the shelf to motivate me to behave during Christmas time. I had a belt on the shelf that motivated me to behave the whole year through!"

Naturally I had to go to the comment section to read such gems of wisdom as this:

"My parents believed in whacking me with a belt to get in line and I turned out fine! My kids know when they're in trouble by the welts I leave on their asses! They don't need an elf!"

Really?

I just don't get it!

We know enough about human behavior to understand that hitting someone doesn't actually help them!

That's fear you are getting back...not respect.

Think about this as well...where else are we allowed to whack someone to get a point across?

Should we be allowed to beat our boss to get his attention?

How about we belt the spouse to get them to keep their car keys in the same spot every day?

Wouldn't work, right?

We'd be arrested.

How about whipping the dog to house train him?

Ask Michael Vick about that form of discipline.

Why can we hit the kids then?

I don't get it!

The old 'My Dad beat the hell out of me and I'm fine' argument doesn't work out either.

That generation drove around loaded too...

...we are supposed to evolve.

My boys respect us.

We didn't use an elf.

We didn't beat them, either.

We very rarely scream at them to get a point across.

You need to hit your kids to get their respect?

There are other tools in the tool box.

The elf thing is supposed to be fun.

Intimidation just isn't the perfect motivating tool.

Is it?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bruce Tickets

Started to get slightly annoyed when I saw the first article about the scalpers who grab up all the Springsteen tickets way before they go on sale to the general public.

Got even more agitated thinking about the fact that the tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Friday when I am usually limping up a freaking ladder somewhere.

Thought about the angst that I've battled each and every time a new tour is announced.

During the Born in the USA days the calls shut down the switchboard on the East Coast.

So.

I took a deep breath and figured out something...

...I haven't ever missed a show that I wanted to go to...

...and I haven't sat in the upper deck in about 30 years.

We will get there!!!

But I was still annoyed when I contacted the First Niagara Center on Thursday afternoon.

Me: Will you be selling tickets at the window on Friday morning?

Douche: Yes. But you need a handbill.

Me: How do I get a handbill?

Douche: There aren't any left.

Me: When did they become available?

Douche: I'm not sure.

Me: What the $%#&?

Douche: You can still come down and try to get tickets.

Me: That's what I asked you.

Douche: But you'll be behind the people who have handbills.

Me: Will there be tickets left after they buy theirs?

Douche: Probably not.

Me: Are you purposely f&*#ing with me?

Douche:


Douche was gone.

So...

...wish us luck.

Friggin' Bruce.

Why doesn't he comp me a couple after all these years?

I only need about 30.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

D.B.'s of the Week - Trump, Baker and Obama

We have three D.B.'s of the week.

Let's sort it out...you can make your own decision as to who deserved the award.

1). Dusty Baker:

I'm a huge baseball fan. We all know that. Yet baseball is not free of idiotic people. Just because you can throw a ball 104 mph doesn't mean you don't act like an idiot sometimes.

There is an allegation out there against Aroldis Chapman, the great pitcher for the Reds. It seems that Chapman is under investigation for the alleged choking of his wife, or girlfriend. He then allegedly discharged about a dozen bullets in his garage. The fight was not reported to MLB until Chapman was nearly traded to the Dodgers.

When the news of the alleged beat-down hit the wire people got in line to talk about it. Dusty Baker, who has been around baseball for 40-some years chimed in by saying that "not all abusers wear pants" which means that the woman in the Chapman choking situation was somewhat to blame for the event.

That's a D.B. move.

Yet Baker couldn't simply win the award, although he and Chapman both deserved it...

...because.

2). Obama

We had reactions to the shooting in California by radicals.

Obama, who has to try and keep an even keel, got on television and asked Americans to show tolerance to the Muslim population.

That might actually be the right move, but I am tossing a D.B. in the President's direction because...can't we get a little mad after an event like that?

Do all we ever get after such an event - which is akin to a declaration of war - is a speech about tolerance?

People are pissed.

At least condemn the action and talk about how there is some suspicion there.

Geez.

I'm all for tolerance, but preaching a peaceful pose isn't always the move.

Yet.

3). Trump

I can't even begin to acknowledge Trump's response.

Mexicans are rapists.

Muslims are murderers.

It's simply not that simple, simpleton.

We didn't hear a single thing about banning white guys after the other 300 mass shootings conducted by white terror people.

You can't paint an entire race of people...or an entire religion with the same brush.

You just can't.

You can't change the constitution to fit your needs either.

Remember the 2nd amendment?

That one can't be touched, right - well neither can the first amendment.

It smacks of rounding up the Jewish people in Germany or putting the Japanese Americans in camps during World War II.

Perhaps that might be the answer...but Trump is really abrasive to millions of sensible people.

And at the same time he's a trash-talking hero to millions of others.

All of this is so mind-boggling to me...

...that I can't even decide who the biggest D.B. of the Week is.

What do you decide?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Beer Mile

We caught the new Vacation movie a couple of weeks ago, and while it was nowhere near the level of the original there were a couple of laughs in it.

I actually laughed out loud when Christina Applegate went back to college and tried to complete the obstacle course after chugging a pitcher of beer.

There are days when I long for the college days, but I would be asleep on someone's couch by about ten-thirty...so I could appreciate it.

Well, lo and behold there's a story about a real life runner.

You see it?

81-year-old Elvira Montes of Austin, Texas actually finished a 12-ounce beer and then completed a 400-meter lap.

She had to drink and run the lap four times.

She did it all in a matter of 20:24.

Not bad.

Completing a beer mile at the age of 81?

What is even better about the story is that Elvira beat her daughter's time in the event, by 50 seconds, and her son-in-law couldn't even finish the course.

Elvira admitted that the beer-drinking was the roughest part of it all but she actually chugged the first one before deciding to sip them a little more casually on the rest of the laps around.

I'm pretty sure that she could beat me in the event.

And the fun part?

Looking at the time of the winners in such an event.

The woman who won, Erin O'Mara set a record by finishing the course in 06:08.

That's quick.

The men's winner was Lewis Kent who got it all done in 04:47.

People are running a mile in less than 5 minutes these days?

While drinking four beers?

Wow.

Now that's real talent.

Four beers and a mile?

You'd have to time me with a calendar.

I'd be doing what Christina Applegate did.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Everything I Know Update

There was a moment in mid-October when it hit me that I'd actually be able to finish the book that I was working on:

Everything I Know.

That's because I reached a point in the writing where the characters took over and pointed me in the direction of the ending.

Writing is a really weird thing.

I'll show you the black notebook on this one sometime, when the box set of everything someday comes out.

Little snippets of thoughts written as I drive down the street.

Conversations that stick in my head...meaning nothing to the guy who is on the other end of the talk...and me.

There's still work to do, of course, but last weekend I sat down with the book on the Notepad and read it through as if I were just picking the book off the shelf at Barnes & Noble.

And I liked it.

Reading along like that is weird, as well, because there are sentences in there that surprise.

Whoa. Where did that come from?

I imagine that sounds strange to someone who knows that I'm the only one with access to the story.

(My beautiful wife and adorable children aren't breaking into the file and adding literary sentences).

Yet a lot of writing is done in a place where your brain doesn't actually normally reside.

All strange, I know!

I sent the book off to a few faithful readers and searched for their feedback.

I appreciate that they humor me by reading something that isn't there yet...and all of my usual readers add something to the story. A new reader added one thought to the book:

Is it going to slow down after the climactic part 200 pages in?

That was the sentence I needed.

It pointed everyone in the direction needed to finish it.

And I know that no one knows what the hell I'm talking about there, but you will soon enough, I hope.

He had force-fed me the ending with a simple sentence.

I've always said that the best part of doing this has nothing to do with anyone saying, "I loved it."

Or any money that it raises.

It's all in the excitement of reaching the final stage.

Knowing that it survived all the doubt, aggravation, long sessions, and scribbled notes.

"You're working on something?" My son asked me the other day. "When do you do that? I've never seen you working on it."

Well.

I'm always working on it.

I'm shooting for a March 8 finish.

Wish me, Sal, Elaine, Valerie, Jenna, Tyler and Max a lot of luck.

We're getting there.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Are You An Angel?

I saw a homeless man on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo.

I had just pulled my car to the side of the road and I was digging through an ashtray filled with coins as I watched the dirty, old man push his shopping cart from one garbage can to another.

The man appeared to be about ten years older than me.

I sipped my $4 coffee and watched as he struggled with discarded pizza boxes, plastic grocery bags and God knows what else. He came out of the trash can with a Pepsi can that had been squeezed a little too tightly.

He spent a couple of minutes with the can between his gloved-covered hands in an effort to get the can back to some sort of cylindrical state so that he could turn it in for a nickel.

We have a garage filled with garbage bags that hold cans that my kids are too lazy to take to the store.

I grabbed a couple of the quarters to feed the meter and then I considered my wallet.

I extracted a ten-dollar bill.

The man was about fifty feet away as I slipped the quarters into the meter and locked my car with the remote button.

He looked at me.

I looked at him.

He wasn't going to ask me for even a nickel.

He didn't have to.

I had him covered.

When I got close to him it occurred to me that he was actually closer to my own age.

He also looked like he was of Italian descent.

"Good morning," I said.

"Morning," he answered, but his eyes darted to the sidewalk and then to the next garbage can.

"Here," I said.

I extended the folded ten toward him.

"No, no, no," he said.

"Take it, 'Have a good day'," I said.

He accepted the bill.

He finally looked down and his eyes widened when he saw that it wasn't just a single.

"Who are you?" He asked.

"Just wanted to say, 'Have a Good Day'," I said.

"Are you an angel?" He asked.

"Now I can eat," he added.

He actually said:

'Now I can eat'!!!!

"Thank you," he softly said, but I was already moving away from him. I was doing it quickly, however, and not because he scared me or because I didn't want to be near him...

...but because I could tell that he felt a little bit ashamed.

I could see the shame in his eyes. I heard it in his voice when he asked me if I was an angel.

For a minute I felt so badly for him and I actually wanted to know why he was where he was, but instead I walked away.

"Thank you," he called again.

I will never know that man's story, but I'm ashamed that we live in a country where so many men like him are simply discarded.

I know, I know...

...He should become the C.E.O. of something through hard work...

...but it doesn't work that way for everyone.

God Bless Him.

And the millions like him.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Happy Birthday to Corinne!


There's the Queen Team photo from this year.

Corinne was honored once again this past year.

She doesn't much talk about the honors or the awards.

Just let's the work do the talking.

And, of course, it's her birthday today.

People all across the land will rise up and wish her a great day.

I'm looking forward to a nice brunch...

...and a lot of laughs.

So.

To the Queen!

Happy Birthday!

Thank you for bringing laughter to our boys!

Jeff said it best:

"We both love you all!"

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Bruce Will Fix It!


My phone really started blowing up on Friday late morning.

I try to throw the cell phone on the floor on the passenger side so that I'm not tempted to pick it up as I drive...

...but there were a whole bunch of text messages coming through.

I pulled to the side of the road, expecting that something bad was happening, either at home or on one of the jobs.

But it was quite the opposite.

Springsteen announced his tour plans for the first three months of 2016.


Check that out.

Buffalo, Rochester, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Albany.

Damn!

We could get a large limo van and travel from city to city in an endless quest to meet Bruce.

I could get my big friend, a college roommate, a gypsy woman and maybe a girl we pick up at Starbucks!

We could figure out what has gone wrong in our lives from what we believed would happen back in the early 80's when we started going to Bruce concerts.

Hey!

That sounds like the plot to an award winning book.

Dogs on Main Street!

Can't wait!

I don't know how many of the dates I can grab tickets for, but I tell you, I stopped thinking about terrorist attacks and mass shootings.

Bruuuuuuuuuuccccccccccceeeeeee!

Who's in?

If my text messages are any indication it sounds like everyone!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Whack Jobs

My dogs stick their heads out the window as we drive down the road to get the paper each morning.

Every once in awhile there's a man walking down the street and Paris barks at him.

He looks at the dogs and waves as if he were a four-year-old.

It's an odd thing, actually, because the man is a huge, physically-imposing man who appears to transform into a happy little boy.

I probably wouldn't have considered it troublesome until I actually met the man in the gas station/convenience store.

"I like your dogs," he said.

When I looked into the man's eyes it was readily apparent that the elevator didn't go all the way to the top.

But still, we chatted.

(He may have been wondering the same thing).

When he turned and left the cashier looked to me.

"Stay away from that guy, he's a complete 'whack job'."

I sorta' laughed, but she wasn't kidding around.

"You see all these shootings," she said. "If I heard that he was someday arrested for it I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised."

Of course, that was months ago, but I thought about it in the context of what has happened around the country in 2015.

And you know what stinks?

He can legally get the weaponry he needs to carry out the tragedy.

He just can.

And I know...I know...he can get the guns illegally too...but why should it be easy for him?

And here in New York State it isn't easy.

And yeah, I can get a gun too and so can the cashier and we can all shoot it out if it comes to that...

...but I think about all the 'whack jobs' running around out there.

You think of it.

Do you know people who are a little short in the brain and even more importantly the heart and soul department?

Can you call to mind a few dozen people who wouldn't be a surprise on the evening news?

Do you know anyone who is preparing for the end of times?

Some political candidates say that we should all call the cops every single time we suspect someone of being dangerous.

I hate to think of the switchboard at the police precinct if we all do that.

And yet...

...there are serious mental health issues all around us.

Back in the 1980's we closed down the mental health facilities.

We made people who are suffering from mental health issues homeless.

They don't care about the laws when they're lost in the wilderness of their own minds.

Worse yet?

There are millions of people bent on making Americans suffer.

They are already here.

They came without weapons.

Because they can buy them here...and kill American citizens with them.

And they can do it without check and millions will defend their rights to amass their weaponry.

Scary.

No wonder Paris barks.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sitting Ducks

Another mass shooting.

We're sitting ducks.

Do you care about the circumstances anymore?

Are you shocked when you get the update?

Do you really do the 'thoughts and prayers' or just tweet it?

I don't even want to hear about these shootings anymore.

I made a huge mistake by tweeting the following thing:

"Our society is a nightmare."

A guy who roots for the gun in such situations tried to bait me into saying anything that was anti-gun.

I wished him a good day.

You know what he blamed it on?

Regulations that make it tough for good citizens to actually get guns.

Maybe he is the one who is right.

I don't know.

I just don't freaking know anything anymore.

But this one is at a home for the disabled, right?

So.

Churches.

Movie Theaters.

High Schools.

Colleges.

Grammar Schools.

Armed Forces Bases.

Every Street Corner in America.

It makes me appreciate each day, however, when the wife and kids walk through the door.

They survived the war zone...

...that is now our streets.


I'm never more happy than when my ducks are sitting at home.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Who's Next?

Frankly, I'm amazed.

Donald Trump is still out in the lead in the field of GOP candidates for president.

You gotta' give him credit, somehow.

Despite the fact that leaders in his own party want nothing to do with him, he continues to build momentum.

Which is absolutely remarkable.

Considering:

1). He said John McCain isn't a hero because he likes his war veterans not taken prisoner.

He got away with that one by saying that he never said it.

2). He called Mexicans rapists.

Now I know how he got away with this one...people who are voting for him...agree with him. It would make sense that an entire race of people can't be labeled as violent rapists...but:

3). He ranted against Muslims and the Syrian refugees saying that the Muslims were actually numbered in the thousands and cheering in New Jersey when the towers went down.

There's no footage of such a demonstration.

But he's got his team 'looking for footage' but he claims that the technology wasn't quite up to snuff way back in 2001.

All news footage is gone from those long ago days...apparently.

4). He made fun of a reporter with a physical disability.

Trump really stepped over the line here, holding his hand up and babbling incoherently in a clear imitation of a reporter who has a physical defect.

The man who 'tells it like it is' then said that he had no idea that the reporter had a physical ailment and that he'd never batter someone who had an ailment.

Despite the fact that he said 'You should see this guy' before holding his hand up in a crippled fashion and doing a dance on stage.

5). He has trashed the Bush family, Obama, Hillary, Ben Carson, Fiorina, Huckabee, Chris Christie, and every other single person he has had the pleasure to talk about.

He does this as a petulant third-grader who is running for class president and makes no apologies.

It's funny.

Unfortunately it may be unbecoming for the top office in the land.

Will he do imitations of world leaders?

I can imagine his Kim Jong or Putin dances.

6). He berated a female reporter who asked him why he referred to some women as pigs. He's had a long-standing battle with women and women's rights.

Despite the fact that his news footage only goes back to 2002 or so there is plenty of footage of him berating nearly every woman on the planet.

Anywhoha...

Let's do the tally:

He pissed off:

1). War Veterans
2). Women
3). People with Disabilities
4). The Hispanic Population of America
5). The Muslim population of America
6). His own political party
7). The other political party

Who's next?

But here's the thing:

He's still in the lead!!!

God help us all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

There Used to Be a Ballpark


Received a text with a couple of photos attached on Thanksgiving morning.

My buddy Jeff attached the photos of the old campsite where we spent a lot of our weekend days and nights when we were between the ages of 16 and 22 or so.

That's the hoop.

There was also a shot of some names carved in a tree where the girls raided the site and wrote messages to us.

Damn! No girls allowed!!

Jeff was taking his grandson back to the campsite to show him around!

Yeah.

Grandson!!

And it's a strange thing about photos.

Some of them are worth a million words.

I immediately had about eleven memories pop into my head.

That site was the first place where I drank beer.

Number 11...

That was a place where I heard about one of my buddies hook-up with his first girlfriend. I was shocked I tell you!

We used to play hide and seek in the woods.

We had b.b. gun wars.

(I still have a small mark on my right wrist where Lauber shot me).

I recalled childhood buddy Dan Alff being back there and tossing rocks at a streetlight.

(Dan never made it to adulthood as he died in an accident - he was alive in my memory).

The food we ate!

We'd have buffet breakfasts and four-course dinners.

There was always someone standing in front of the pot-bellied stove.

And we laughed.

When someone was down in the dumps the others would jump on him:

"Al feels neglected!"

We joked about getting the gout if we didn't cook the chicken just right.

About half the guys who went camping back then do have the gout now...maybe there was something to it!

The photo didn't make me sad...quite the opposite...it made me realize how special my teenage years were.

I loved all of those guys.

And then I thought about Jeffy's grandson.

The property is still in the family.

Perhaps 15 years from now there will be kids back in that spot again.

And the hoop will be re-attached, and the fire pit will be burning again.

And the laughs will echo through the trees to the church and all through those woods.

And the ballpark will be alive again.

Monday, November 30, 2015

You're Missing A Good Game, Ref!


It's truly rare these days that a football game gets played without some sort of controversy due to a poor call by a ref.

The same old words are spoken.

"We shouldn't be in a position where one call costs us the game."

"The NFL is issuing an apology."

"The play is not reviewable."


Blah, blah, blah, blah.

The team that loses the game bellyaches that they would have won had the refs got this right or that right. The team that wins says, 'Stop your bitching it's a tough game to call.'

So.

Let me chime in.

1). It is a difficult game to call.

The players are moving at breakneck speed on the field. The refs are middle-aged men. The cameras can slow everything down for the fan at home. Therefore you have men, on the field, making a split-second decision that a viewer sees eleven times from twelve different angles.

The refs actually have no chance there.

2). The rules suck.

No one actually knows the rules.

Quick:

What is a catch if you're a wide receiver as opposed to a defender?

What constitutes being out-of-bounds, or in the end zone?

When is a fumble a fumble or a pass?

When is a fumble a fumble or an incomplete catch?

What the hell is a 'football move' after making a catch?

Why can't the ground cause a fumble?

Why does a knee count two times more than an elbow?

No one knows!

Most games now have a bumbling expert in the booth saying, 'Geez, guys, I don't know,' after every close play.

3). The refs are frightened out of their minds.

We were watching a game the other day. The runner got close to the end zone. There were only 4 people on the screen. The runner, the tackler, and two refs.

The play ended.

One ref looked to the other.

They were less than a foot away!

Neither ref made a signal.

Then they conferred.

Then they made a grand gesture of nodding their heads.

Then they signaled touchdown.

Ten minutes later the video review showed that the runner was down two yards before crossing the marker.

4). There's No Consistency

'They're calling it tight.'

'That was an unintentional face-mask.'

'He didn't really mean to hit the punter.'

'You can't touch him after five yards, but he just barely touched him there.'

All of the jumbled rules makes it impossible for a ref to make a call with any sort of consistency. The only thing they constantly do is call the block in the back on a kickoff.

Of course, I am only skimming the surface here.

The game is a freaking mess, actually.

The rules are confusing and they are arbitrary.

The losing teams fans cry about the refs.

The winning teams fans say 'Don't cry, they sucked for both teams.'

The league apologizes.

Says that they'll look into changing the rule after the season.

And yet.

Everyone keeps watching.

Because they're betting.

And they have a fantasy team.

And there's nothing better to do on a Sunday.

Face it.

Football blows.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Still Laughing

There's a great temptation, when we are all together, to go through the greatest hits of the Fazzolari family.

I told the story of meeting a women with Tourette's at the doctor's office.

The poor lady.

We laughed at how startled I was when she screamed in mid-sentence.

Jim told the story about Dad removing a turkey from the oven. The turkey and the pan came flying out and Dad slipped in the grease and hit the ground.

"I broke my ass cooking it," Dad said.

We laugh at the memory of it all.

And it's funny, but you never know when the next big laugh is coming.

We are all big personalities and there's a lot of back and forth.

John told a joke that had all of us shaking our heads and laughing.

Then Jim stole the show with a unique performance that had the people around him in tears of laughter.

And yet.

There was a new entrant.

Jake's line:

"It's a Thanksgiving miracle," brought the house down.

(Jim will have to tell you the complete story).

But the sound of laughter rang through the house.

For a long time.

Full of turkey and settling in around the football game, we were all on the verge of just going to sleep.

When Carrie started to laugh again.

She was simply laughing at something that happened just twenty minutes before.

We didn't have to rehash Jim eating 70 brussel sprouts to win a $1 bet.

(He gagged on each one as he downed the last 15 or so and I have not touched a brussel sprout since, but I did pay him the dollar).

Laughter is great.

Later that night, Kathy who had missed a lot of it asked why we were all laughing so much.

Making memories, I thought.

I told her about Jake imitating Jim announcing a football play.

She laughed.

The Fazzolari laugh meter is still high.

And that's a lot to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Loose Meat

Visited the state of Iowa this past week.

It's funny but the response I get when I mention that is:

Why?

or

How bad is it?

Well.

There's not a lot going on there.

I took a trip from Kansas City to Ankeny which is about 3 hours by rental car. I added satellite radio to my car charge because I didn't want to be scanning from station to station and I figured that the drive might be a tad boring.

It is.

Miles of endless nothing.

A few cows. Watch out for deer signs and just field after field after field with the farmer's daughter type homes about a half mile from the road.

"You should try a loose meat sandwich," my buddy texted me.

I thought of the old Roseanne show and Tom Arnold (a famous guy from Iowa) talking about how great they are.

I don't normally scan the area too closely when I'm in an unfamiliar state and since my drinking days are over I'm no longer looking for the best bar when I'm on the road.

But loose meat?

I made a mental note to look around.

Good old Pops was ready with some of the locations.

He evidently had time to look up the menu at Jethro's Pork Chop Grill and told me about the Maid-Rite stores that sold the loose meat.

I googled each.

For dinner I had a loose meat type sandwich with a side of rattlesnake pasta.

(No, it's not real rattlesnake - it was a mac and cheese type dish with jalapenos and some other spices mixed in).

Good stuff.

But I was still curious about the Maid-Rite phenomenon.

I visited the job and was at the site until nearly lunch time.

I visited Google and the Maid-Rite was within a couple of miles.

Loose Meat Here I come!

The place was busy. It was also clean and well-lit and the red and white interior gave it an old-time diner feel. There were about 40 loose meat choices but I thought I'd go with the original.

I ordered two.

And much like it's name it's just loose hamburger meat on a standard hamburger bun.

I went with everything on it.

Onion, pickle and mustard.

Damn!

Those went down quick!

I kept looking at the menu.

I had a three hour drive left.

Miles of endless nothing.

I returned to the counter.

"They're good," the lady said, "aren't they?"

"Better give me one more."

She laughed.

"I can eat about 6 at a time," she said.

Loose Meat in Iowa.

Tom Arnold was right!

Friday, November 27, 2015

People Who Don't Look Like You

Hanging around in an airport has always been somewhat torturous as the chairs are hard plastic, the food is of the fast variety, there's a lot of walking involved and there are freaking people everywhere!

Freaking people!!

And now that most of them are looking down as they walk, or talking on phones, they can be a tad irritating.

But on a recent trip I was seated in one of the chairs in an isolated area.

I had the i-pod on and therefore I couldn't hear any of the irritating sounds.

I could only watch.

People come in all sorts of interesting shapes and sizes.

Big ones.

Little ones.

Tall ones and short ones.

They are a variety of colors as well.

White, black, brown, beige, off-white, off-brown, red.

They all dress wildly differently.

There's the sweatpants and tee-shirt crowd (of which I am a proud member).

Then there are the business guys.

(They are strangely irritating to me...they talk into their ear pieces, they seem too dolled up to be real guys, and they have way too much fake confidence).

There are girls in yoga pants.

(Some who should be and some who shouldn't).

Women in pant suits and dresses.

Different packaging, I suppose.

And everyone seems intent on getting something done.

Here in America.

Sometimes I turn the i-pod off and listen.

The man from Asia talking in a language I don't have a chance of getting.

A woman from Mexico talking way faster than I can even imagine.

Different traditions.

Unique cultural backgrounds.

I do suppose that being in a crowd of people should make me feel queasy. It seems that any corner I walk around could be the corner that leads to my destruction.

But I'm not afraid.

Not on the plane or at the counter.

Not on the shuttle bus or at the rental car corner.

I kind of enjoy seeing the people who don't look like me mingling.

My agenda has little bearing on them.

Their agenda doesn't really concern me.

Are there reasons why I might fear those who seem different?

Perhaps.

It just never really dawned on me because I think most people are peace-loving, hard-working and tolerant.

I could be wrong.

It might be the very destruction of me.

But I don't care much.

Life would be boring if we all thought and looked the same.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Thanksgiving Story

Stumbled across this message that was written for Thanksgiving Day:

Easy to forget.

Hard to remember.



A Thanksgiving Remembrance - Submitted by Anonymous


My paternal grandmother lived with us.

She would sit in the porch swing and I would stand behind her and brush her beautiful long gray hair.

As I brushed her hair she would tell me her two favorite stories from the Bible. The only thing better was when she would have me snuggle up close to her in the swing as she read to me.

As I child, I surmised that they were just good stories but now as a mother and grandmother I realize she had an ulterior motive - she was teaching me a most valuable lesson - a lesson about kindness and thankfulness.

She often added to the story of the Good Samaritan, "You never pass someone in need even if their skin is not the color of yours." And, "You should never pick and choose who you will be kind to, you just be kind," she would enumerate over and over.

This same instruction came with Manners and Etiquette:

"Know what to do and do it. If you do the same right thing often enough it will become second nature to you." "That way," she would instruct, "You will always know what to do and feel confident doing it."

Sounded complicated as a child but as I grew older I realized what I did automatically, others my age struggled with.

This tutoring soon gave me the understanding that the Kindness lessons and the Manners lessons were synonymous. They both really were practicing the Golden Rule.

Which is simply put:

"Treat others, as you want to be treated and never forget any kindness extended to you."

I also learned as a child growing up that my mother always had a slip of paper fastened to the inside of a cabinet door in the kitchen. It was near the sink where mother was more apt to see it.

At the top of the page were written the words:

"Lest I forget."

There was never a kindness extended to her or our family that was not found listed on her paper.

In November of each year she would in some way once again let the person or persons involved know how grateful she was for their kindness.

Mother often quoted the reminder to us, "Don't remember the kindness you do for another, but never forget kindness done for you."

I am reminded even more of the lessons learned as a child and even some days I find myself missing that spot on grandma's lap and the peace that came with her loving arms around me.

May we each give thanks and remember all kindness given to us.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Birthday Mom!

I love going to breakfast with my Mom.

I've been to hundreds of breakfast outings with my mother and much like going to breakfast with my wife...I could probably order for her.

And then we talk about everything.

Books we've read, people in and around North Collins, kids, siblings, Dad, the dogs...

...anything and everything.

We catch up on everything over coffee and eggs.

Today is Mom's birthday, and if you see her, make sure she knows how special you want her day to be. If you don't see her today...give her a call.

Because she's one amazing lady.

Mom has seen it all through the years.

Kids who drove her crazy.

A husband who loved her like mad...and left way too early.

Grand kids who think she's really funny.

What amazes me the most as we share breakfast or as she eats pasta, or lobster or steak...

...is that she always searches for the best in someone...

...or the funny in the story.

I've said it before...

...no one I've ever met worked harder than my mother.

What's even better than that is that she works hard to find the good.

The story can be really bad, but Mom looks around it and puts a positive spin on it.

People love to be around people who see the world that way.

And I think about that every single day.

There's no way that a blog post can sum it all up for you.

But there's nothing I want more today than for everyone to reach out and make her day a little bit better...

...Because she does that every single day.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

We love you!



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Syrian Refugees

I have to be out of my freaking mind to even attempt to make sense of this topic.

In fact, I kind of think that it should be out of my hands...

...and your hands...

We elect officials to make these sorts of decisions and eventually that decision will be made.

And one side or the other will bitch about it.

But since everyone is bitching about it...

...Off we go!

There are people in Syria who are running for their lives.

That can't really be disputed.

They no longer have homes. Some have children. A parent trying to keep a child safe is desperate. If they stay in the country that they lived in...

...they may starve, meet a violent end, or worse, be tortured before either of the first two things happens.

Other nations are making the decision to allow these fleeing refugees into their country...

...or not.

Here in the United States we have often been a place that is a safe haven in such circumstances.

A lot of people are now saying:

F%^K That Noise! We have enough problems!!

Those are the facts.

A lot of people are sticking with the idea that the United States of America should aspire to be the place where people are welcome.

Will the terrorists infiltrate the fleeing refugees, enter our country and terrorize our citizens?

Maybe.

We have suffering vets, homeless people right here.

We have enough problems!

We have people who can't put enough food on their own table.

We don't need to offer any more handouts!

Yet what needs to be answered here is this?

Do we still want to be known as the nation that offers comfort to those who are suffering?

Or will we bury our collective heads in the sand and close the doors?

For those who say, over and over again that this is a Christian nation...is that the Christian thing to do?

(Some are arguing that we have to shut out the refugees while also crying about other people saying 'Holiday Tree' - you can't do both!).

It's not an easy question.

It's causing arguments all over this great country.

Did you notice I used 'great' in the above sentence with country?

What has made America great?

I'm of the opinion that not all nations are great.

America's people make it great.

America aspiring to be more makes it great.

We can shut it all down.

We can certainly turn our back.

It may make us safer.

It may also make us less than great.

I'm not touching it.

I have an opinion.

I'm sure you do too.

But you know what really makes me sad?

We can't even have a truly civil conversation about it.

And a lot of people are suffering because of that.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Remember When

Went to a 50th birthday party over the weekend.

J.C. is nearly there.

Had a great time seeing old friends...

...and I mean old friends.

The kid who had the party was at my 5th birthday party...so the type of party has changed a little bit.

Just a little bit.

We went from birthday cake and ice cream to wild beer-filled parties to...

...the party on Saturday night.

I had a few beers.

Something I rarely do.

We played Family Feud.

(And I let my buddy's sister win because I'm a nice guy).

At 9:20 I yawned mightily...not because the company wasn't great but because it felt like it was 2 in the morning.

We had cake.

And the stories started flowing...

"Remember when this idiot..."

All of the greatest hits came falling out of the closet.

"We were lucky we didn't get killed..."

We put a lot of those stories into the context of our parents and then our own children.

And the people we'd lost along the way.

It's strange, but people who were not in the room were definitely in the room.

We told stories about a buddy who struck a deer while test-driving a sports car.

We laughed about my brother Jeff doing about twenty different things.

We talked about John's Dad and my Dad.

We toasted one another...

...and we toasted all of those birthdays that have passed.

And it certainly occurred to me...

...we weren't just telling stories...

We were still living our lives.

I stopped yawning.

My beautiful wife (who was working a couple of long shifts back-to-back) called me:

"What're you doing? It's nearly 11 o'clock!"

"Laughing," I said.

Some of the talk was about what we're going to do when we stop working so hard.

I'd be okay with doing a lot of what we all did on Saturday night...

...old friends...a couple of drinks...

...and inviting friends who couldn't make it...

...right into the room with us.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Happy Birthday John

There are moments that you remember when it comes to siblings.

Growing up, my brother John and I were always together. Being 11 months apart will do that for you.

I sometimes listen in as my sons debate things back and forth and there's nothing more comforting than to hear them battle back and forth and then laugh.

Nothing feels better than blood on blood.

I recall listening to Springsteen early on and I discovered some of the brilliance of the writing, with my siblings.We were all amazed that Bruce was talking about a lot of the things we were talking about.

We could all see this scenario play out in a close family.

Thankfully none of us were ever trying to escape the law and none of us were of the mindset to commit such a crime, but the family message was clear.

I recall listening to the song early on with my siblings.

Amazing twist.

We all knew that we'd do much the same thing as Joe Roberts does here.

We'd watch the tail-lights disappear.


This is a favorite of John's.

Happy Birthday, brother!


Highway Patrolman - Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska record.

My name is Joe Roberts I work for the state
I'm a sergeant out of Perrineville barracks number Eight
I always done an honest job as honest as I could
I got a brother named Franky and Franky ain't no good

Now ever since we was young kids it's been the same come down
I get a call over the radio Franky's in trouble downtown
Well if it was any other man, I'd put him straight away
But when it's your brother sometimes you look the other way

Me and Franky laughin' and drinkin' nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin' like any brother would
Man turns his back on his family well he just ain't no good

Well Franky went in the army back in 1965 I got a farm deferment settled down took Maria for my wife
But them wheat prices kept on droppin' till it was like we were gettin' robbed
Franky came home in '68 and me I took this job

Yea we're laughin' and drinkin' nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin', teach him how to walk that line
Man turns his back on his family he ain't no friend of mine

The night was like any other, I got a call 'bout quarter to nine
There was trouble in a roadhouse out on the Michigan line
There was a kid lyin' on the floor lookin' bad, bleedin' hard from his head.
There was a girl cryin' at a table and it was Frank they said
Well I went out and I jumped in my car and I hit the lights
I must of done a hundred and ten through Michigan county that night

It was out at the crossroads down round Willow bank
Seen a Buick with Ohio plates and behind the wheel was Frank
Well I chased him through them county roads till a sign said Canadian border five miles from here
I pulled over the side of the highway and watched his taillights disappear

Me and Franky laughin' and drinkin' nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin' like any brother would
Man turns his back on his family well he just ain't no good

Friday, November 20, 2015

4 Years - For Uncle Jim - Miss You Buddy

For Uncle Jim

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

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

But loving...

...always very loving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncle Jim was always able to stay the course.

How’d he do it?

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

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

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

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

He loved them for every second of their lives.

Then there was his love of food:

Tripe, calamari, pork chops, pasta and peas, pasta and beans, pork chops, marinara, pasta and broccoli, pork chops, linguine and clams and pork chops.

Are you catching a theme?

And Italian Sausage.

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

Every time we showed up the container that Uncle Jim brought to bring his share of the sausage home in, got bigger. This year he had about an 80-gallon cooler.

We would work, eat, have a few beers and laugh.

And the love of family extended through the sadness.

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

Uncle Jim was there for all of us.

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

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

I know he does.

We talked about it.

Uncle Jim also used faith in God above to fashion his great personality.

His personality traits should be studied at the greatest universities in the world and taught to the general public.

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

And there was more love.

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

And he really meant it.

We should all love our spouses in such a manner.

And there was more family.

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

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

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

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

He didn’t feel sorry for himself.

He never put it on someone else.

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

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

We don’t have to feel the separation because he is with us.

He always will be with us.

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

Uncle Jim wasn’t just a good guy.

He was a great man.

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

Dilly Dilly

If the wintry blast of this weekend is any indication, I’m going to be watching a lot of television. I don’t want to drive on snowy roads ...