Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Green Car


Back in the summer we headed off to Yankee Stadium to wave goodbye to Derek Jeter as we watched the 27-Time World Champion Greatest Franchise in the History of Organized American Sports.

It was a great trip.

My nephew Johnny was along for the ride and a couple of great conversations that prompted him into sending me the photo that is included.

As you will note, Johnny wrote about my 'Green Car' and he signed my name as 'Clifford Clifford'.

Both funny items.

Johnny had been standing next to me when the confused hotel clerk looked at my I.D. but somehow came to this conclusion:

"So," she asked, "Do I have this right? Is your name 'Clifford Clifford?'"

Johnny laughed straight in her face.

Which caused me to laugh straight in her face.

Which caused Sam to laugh straight in her face.

Which eventually caused my beautiful wife to step in and take over because we were laughing in the face of the poor, confused clerk.

Johnny has called me, 'Clifford Clifford' ever since that moment.

The 'green car' comment also originated on that trip because evidently I'm the only person in the family who believes that my car is not blue.

"What color is your car?" that clerk had asked prior to screwing up my name.

"Green," I said.

"It's blue!" Everyone told me.

Yet.

The first time I admit I'm wrong will, well, be the first time.

I still think the car is more green than blue.

Since July we have yanked total strangers out of their lives to ask the question:

"What color is that car?"

Every single one of them...so far...has said 'blue'.

I won't stop until someone agrees that it's green!

'Cause it's green!

So, Johnny sent that photo to me this week.

That's a move that his Dad would certainly make.

Never let them forget a mistake, was straight out of Jeff's playbook.

It brought a smile to my face on a cold day.

Clifford

Clifford.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Curveballs

Life is hard.

I'm actually working on a book with that title.

I've often tried to tell my kids that just when you think things are breaking your way...

...life interferes.

This past weekend was fairly typical. I finished up paperwork for the week on Saturday and then actually wrote a few pages in Life Is Hard and then I set out to take it easy a little.

Dinner with Kathy and the boys.

Spread some ice melt.

A couple of movies.

Touch base with other family members.

Easy.

When I woke on Sunday morning, however, I had a pain in my right ankle.

"What the hell is going on?" I wondered.

Still, Matt was home for the weekend. The boys were watching sports and bantering back and forth. I really wanted lasagna.

I put the sauce on.

The ankle felt worse.

I stayed off it.

It swelled up.

By 7 p.m., I was crawling.

I literally could not stand up.

Sam retrieved my crutches.

"What happened?" My beautiful wife asked.

I didn't have an answer.

Curveball, I thought.

Monday and Tuesday were back-to-back days on crutches.

I still had no idea why.

I watched Quincy both days.

"Don't try to put your work boots on and go in!" Kathy scolded.

But this time...it wasn't possible.

And it really scared me a lot.

No matter how much we think we are set up for a nice long run of something good...

...life steps in.

And says, 'Not so fast.'

Someone once told me that God might insert such time-outs.

To allow for rest.

The verdict was inflamed tendons in my feet.

Why?

Who Knows?

Life Is Hard.

You get the breaking pitch when you're expecting the heater.

I never could hit the curveball.

Every once in awhile I damaged the ones straight over the plate.

But damn the curve.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

D.B. of the Week - Keith Olbermann


Penn State students tweeted out a photo showing that they raised $13 million for pediatric cancer research.

In their tweet they wrote:

WE ARE!!!!

As is their custom of doing so...As in WE ARE PENN STATE!

Did anyone know that Penn State had some trouble a few years back because one of their former coaches was molesting boys on campus and their beloved coach Joe Pa may or may not have tried to cover it up?

(I crushed them here as a University. I wasn't happy with the perceived idea that football was bigger than what was going on. To shove it under the carpet was just about unforgivable to me).

But life moves on.

And the kids who tweeted out their fundraising efforts were proud of the work they did.

And they should be.

Except where there are good deeds there are D.B.'s.

Keith Olbermann, the know-it-all-moral-compass-of-the-world, who got outraged because people were dressed as Ray Rice for Halloween and made a video about how wrong that was because he's so freaking high and mighty, answered the Penn State tweet as such:

WE ARE!

...Pitiful.

Olbermann wrote 'Pitiful.'

Yeah.

What a disgrace to raise $13 million for pediatric cancer research!

And people were immediately defending Olbermann's right to free speech.

Here's the lesson again, folks...

...he is free to speak it...he's not free of hearing about something that was:

Lazy.

Petty.

Childish.

Stupid.

Unfunny.

And

Dopey.

Olbermann considers himself the watchdog of everything.

He's the guy who compared Derek Jeter to a mediocre baseball player who was undeserving of the adoration that Jeter was getting as baseball said goodbye.

He's also the guy who votes someone as the worst person of the world...every single day.

He's closed-minded.

He aggravates everyone.

He's always miserable on Twitter as he tries to tell everyone how smart he is and how stupid they are.

So, my turn.

Keith Olbermann is D.B. of the Week.

And while Penn State certainly made mistakes back when everything was happening...

...raising funds for sick children is not worthy of anyone's ridicule.

Even if you are the self-proclaimed smartest human being to ever walk the planet.

D.B.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Loving America

During the Super Bowl a commercial came on with This Land Is Your Land playing as the background music.

My beautiful wife sang along.

(You haven't lived until you've heard my wife sing along - think, Edith Bunker).

Anywhoha...

I said:

"Beautiful commercial, but this is actually a protest song."

My wife looked at me strangely. Obviously the lyrics and the beautiful photos they were showing don't bring up thoughts of protest, but that certainly was the inspiration for the song written by Woody Guthrie.

Can someone love the country and yet speak critically of something that we, as a country, have done?

You don't actually believe that the United States has never done anything questionable, do you?

I guess that the answer to those two questions kind of brings a whole lot about this past week to light.

How do you love America?

Exactly like Rudy Guiliani does?

Or more like Woody Guthrie did?

Does a rock star, a folk star, or a Hollywood star actually hate the country if he or she speaks out about something that may not be right?

Are politicians dirt bags if they sympathize with another nation?

Is it are you 'with us or against us'?

Back during the Viet Nam years there was the term 'conscientious objector.'

People gathered and assembled and protested.

Other people hated them for it.

Three minute commercials showing the mountains, the fields of grain, a Ford truck, and a barbecue certainly highlights everything nicely...but what if the backdrop to the Woody commercial was different?

Drone strikes...corporate greed...real images of war...mind-numbing poverty...drugs...and murder after murder after murder.

I don't believe that people who take a stand against something are bad Americans.

In fact, the idea that we can complain and piss and moan and whine is exactly what is best about the country. We have a collective voice that sort of keeps things in check.

Those in power know what the people of this country believe.

But they don't always rule in context of those beliefs.

If you believe that they do...good for you...blind faith is comfortable...but they don't.

My boys posed the question to me the other day:

"Why do the people of ISIS hate us so much?"

"Millions and millions of reasons," I said. "Through the years millions of their people have died in wars with America."

"But we were right to fight them," Jake said.

"Maybe," I answered. "But they feel differently."

And in those four words perhaps there is room for the protests, the conscientious objector, and the wavering feelings of patriotism:

But they feel differently.

America is about the differences.

A huge cauldron of different ideas, philosophies, loves and dislikes.

The inability to appreciate the differences in thought is what will cause the breakdown someday.

There's plenty of room for American pride.

I hope we all feel it in healthy levels.

I pray that we all continue to have reason to feel so great about our nation.

But not acknowledging what Woody Guthrie was protesting about when he wrote that beautiful song...

...is really short-sighted.

Here's a verse you may not have heard:

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people
By the relief office I seen my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking that freedom highway
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.


Woody Guthrie.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pitchers & Catchers

Every February I get a little excited watching professional baseball players have a catch in Florida and Arizona.

The garbage of football is behind us until they promote their draft endlessly in April.

(Will someone tell ESPN that they won't play another down of football for 7 months?)

By the way, what ever happened to the deflated football, or the NFL fixing their domestic violence problems?

They'll get back to us.

It's baseball's turn!!

Yet my excitement is tempered a bit this year.

First...because I'm frozen.

Second...Jeter isn't there playing catch.

I keep trying to imagine the Yankees taking the field without him coming to the plate.

Time waits for no one.

Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Ford, Reggie, Guidry, Mattingly, Rivera, O'Neill, Pettite, Posada, Bernie...

...they all left.

Now Derek is gone.

Also, the Yankees are underdogs again.

That's what happens when your core of players gets old. It's tough to replace them on the fly.

Yet the sport can't afford for the Yankees not to be relevant...so they are trying to mix and match and find a way to compete.

I don't have a problem with any of that.

I trust that they'll be interesting.

And they will be interesting this spring for one reason...

...stupid A-Rod is still there.

I have no interest in his apologies...written, verbal, etched in stone or shouted from a mountain top.

He's out of chances to explain.

I wish he'd go away.

Most Yankee fans feel the same way.

But not my son, Sam.

"I'm rooting for him," Sam said. "Because everyone hates him so much. I hope he hits some 30 homers. I feel bad for him."

My son's compassion aside...

...at least they're playing catch.

Maybe there's still hope for a thaw.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Meat

What the hell is going on?

Swung by the grocery store on Saturday morning and my heart was set on improving our meat inventory at home so that we can make decent dinners on the fly.

Every single piece of meat that I picked up made me say something like this:

"Holy shit!"

The hamburger was expensive.

The chicken breasts were outrageous.

I saw a woman digging around in an area where they keep the hams.

"Anything you don't have to re-mortgage the house to get?" I asked.

"These are less than a dollar a pound," she said.

"What???"

We both dug through the bin, looking for a good one.

I grabbed a size-able one...less than $8 bucks!...B-I-N-G-O!!

"Oh," the woman said. "Best if used by February 18."

What was the date?

"That's three days ago," she said. "But it might be all right."

Might???

And still, with the price of everything else, I thought about it!

I could make it for dinner.

What's three days when it comes to spoiled meat?

The woman threw the one she picked out back into the bin.

Mine soon followed.

"Turkey it is!" I said.

"They have a loan center at the front of the store," she said.

We both laughed.

And people are supposed to get by on less than $10 an hour?

Anyone ever wonder why there's so much despair?

I grabbed a turkey breast, thinking of my Dad again:

"We're gonna' eat first," he'd say. "Worry about the rest later."

Thankfully I don't have to do that, on a daily basis, but a whole lot of people do.

A whole lot of people do.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Rover Loves Freezing, Honestly!"

A story made the rounds on Saturday.

There was video, on social media, of a dog roaming around a back yard. The German Shepherd was on a chain, tied to his dog house.

Outside all day.

Less than zero degrees.

So.

A whole bunch of concerned folks reached out...to the police...and made a huge stink about what they considered to be abuse.

The cops eventually responded.

Now, people live how they want to live. After 50 years on this planet I'm painfully aware of that. But, man, don't mess with dogs!

I get out of bed nice and early every morning.

Before I even hit the shower I turn back to the electric blanket.

I turn it on again so that my dog gets a burst of warmth before staring her day.

I'm on the side of Bring the $%Cing dog in the house!!!

The cops had a look around.

They decided that the dog had a big coat and the freaking dog house was insulated. Never mind that the dog can't turn around in it to get comfortable. They figured that the dog wasn't all that upset about his living conditions.

Yet the cries continued.

If they're gonna' leave the dog outside like that then they shouldn't have a dog!

How do they know that the dog likes to be outside????

Why even have a dog????

BUT...

...as is ever-entertaining in the comment section of anything, there was an alternate side.

Dogs are animals! They come from wolves!! They belong outside!!!

Mind your own business. It's his dog!

(And of course)

YOUR (sic) AN IDIOT!!

('YOUR AN IDIOT' makes me laugh every single time).

I'm biased.

Growing up our dogs were treated as family members.

I've carried on the tradition.

Our dogs are running outside to pee...and we're waiting at the door when they get back in. Their electric blankets are on. They can sit on any couch in the joint. We put chicken broth on their dry food.

And in return...

...they really, really, really love us.

I kinda' thought that was the point.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reading the News

Seems like the only story these days is the weather.

"How cold is it gonna' be? What's the wind chill? Weather storm warning or advisory?"

Relentless.

But there has been some news.

Like the mother of four shot to death in Vegas by a teenager who was supposedly part of a road rage incident.

The story goes:

Incident

Mom goes home and gets son and his gun.

They look for the guy, find him, retreat.

Guy comes after her and there's a gunfight.

She's killed.

That's just an awful story, and one that sort of illustrates what happens these days. People don't fistfight. People just don't flip others off. It goes straight to a gunfight.

Sad.

Speaking of sad, what's up with Rudy Guliani?

He goes off on the current sitting president and really says something that is nasty and sort of arbitrary. He 'doesn't think Obama loves America'?

He should've stopped his sentence with 'doesn't think.'

And whatever.

Be critical.

I was appalled at the guy who threw a shoe at George W. (who I wasn't a fan of). Come on! It's the sitting president!

No respect at all?

And make a point, oh wonderful mayor!

How is Obama supposed to answer such a comment?

"I DO love America?"

I've never been a Rudy fan. He sits there at every Yankee game, in the first row, trying to make patriotic with his NYPD and Fire Department hat.

We get it, Rudy. You were the mayor.

Long before these inane comments I wanted him to go away.

I hate getting into such a discussion because there's no winning it, but it really is pretty lame to go off on the president of the country based on something he feels or doesn't feel. How the hell does Rudy even comprehend such a thing?

Not big on that story at all.

The American sniper story is also going on.

I have been reading a lot (see weather note above) and some of the books I've read have dealt with mental illness on epic levels.

People hearing voices.

Folks being violent for the simple reason that they can't control impulses.

It's too sad to comprehend.

It appears the guy who killed the American sniper was really quite out of touch. Chris Kyle even sent a text saying something along those lines in the moments before the guy killed him.

One question:

Why is that guy handed a gun at a range?

I'm going back to the weather.

I don't understand the news.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Spreading the Hate

People will post the following:

"Don't be a hater."

I don't care what the subject is, there are haters everywhere who want to chime in and...

...spread hate.

Check out this little exchange:


That's an exchange between a professional football player and a hater. (Some people may even refer to Mr. Batten as a troll.

Kapernick was trying to share part of his day with the fans and the guy jumped on him.

Check the number of re-tweets and favorites the guy received for making a snarky comment.

Fairly disgusting.

It pissed off the quarterback.

He didn't ignore it.


Quite a response.

In fact, you can almost see how he was seething...one tweet after another...written in absolute rage.

It's the new version of road rage.

To be truthful, I wasn't really thrilled with Kapernick's response.

He didn't take the high road.

He bashed the guy.

Demeaned him.

The line that sort of bothered me was:

Get Better at life!

Now some might say that the guy had it coming to him.

The guy was probably thrilled that he got Kapernick to answer him at all.

All of it stinks.

(What's more...I love when someone throws out the "are you illiterate?" line and then craps all over what he's trying to say...run on sentences, poor grammar, nonsensical garbage).

What's the big deal, you ask? It's just a football player and a dope.

Well...it's everywhere!

Twitter, Facebook, blogs....

...everyone is just bashing.

No one is even trying to be clever.

Yeah, yeah...I write a D.B. of the Week...but at least I try and make a point!

There are people who sit on their couch...chase a celebrity...and just hammer them.

Then there are celebrities who hammer back...more hate!

Just ugly.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

D.B. of the Week - Mother Nature!

That bitch!

I can't think of anyone other than Mother Nature to give the award of D.B. of the Week...

...and like all past winners...

She really deserves it.

I had a trip to Kansas City planned for early in the week and I'm not gonna' lie to you...

...as the dates got closer I was looking at the weather report.

Buffalo has been frozen solid for months now. I just wanted a few degrees more.

"Would you check the Kansas City weather," I asked Sam.

"36 degrees," he said. "It was as high as 50 just a few days ago."

Ahh...

Sweet warmth!

I flew out Sunday night. The walk from the car to the terminal was mind-numbing.

"You Bitch!" I yelled.

But I made it.

I boarded the plane.

I would get a little more warmth.

I was listening to the i-pod as we approached. Bob Dylan was in my ear.

"Prepare for landing," the pilot said.

I looked out the side window.

Landing????

It was pure white.

"Silly question," I said. "But where's the ground?"

The guy next to me laughed.

"Blinding snowstorm. He'll be good to get this one down."

That was comforting.

When the wheels finally touched the ground a cheer went up.

"Welcome to Kansas City. It's snowing and it's currently 8 degrees."

I really hate you, Mother Nature.

The entire trip was spent in extreme cold.

The only comforting thing?

It was even colder in Buffalo.

My work trip was a net gain of about 6 degrees.

Can I get in trouble for bashing Mother Nature?

Who cares?

She's D.B. of the Week.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jon Stewart Is Leaving????

Back when Counting On A Miracle came out I was invited to BookExpo America in Chicago. I will remember those two days for a number of reasons:

1). The publisher had a wall-length shot of the cover of the book - my son Jake is the cover art - and when I saw that shot, I sat down in a chair and just stared at it. I'd written something that was a wall-length poster in a hall in Chicago!

2). I sold every copy of the book on the first day of the event. I was then able to head out early on Sunday and make my way to Wrigley Field where I watched the Cubs beat the Pirates 2-1.

and

3). I met Jon Stewart.

Let me set the scene.

I had just finished selling all the books on Saturday. I was exhausted from telling the story and I was extremely sick of the suit and especially the shoes I was wearing. I ducked down a hallway in the massive place and I sat with my back against the wall. I took the damn shoes off and closed my eyes for a minute.

I'm not sure if I sensed the movement or what, but I opened my eyes to see a man walking straight at me. He was about 50 yards away but my brain registered it quickly.

That's Jon Stewart!

I was scrambling to stand up and put my shoes on as Stewart was bearing down on me.

He was just a few feet away when he extended his hand, undoubtedly knowing that I was in a panic because I'd recognized him. I shook his hand quickly, still trying to step into my shoes.

He took it all in quickly, but then at the top of his voice he yelled:

"Where in the %&*k is the bathroom?"

I laughed.

I think I tried to tell him how much my Dad loved his show.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he said. "I really gotta' piss."

I laughed again and pointed him in the direction of the Men's room.

"How the %^&K big is this place?" He yelled out.

We stopped shaking hands somewhere along the way and he headed away from me.

"It was good to meet you!" He called over his shoulder.

He was shorter than I would've thought. He had the same funny tone. He had made me laugh.

I remember calling my Dad and telling him about it.

Dad watched Jon Stewart each night.

A lot of people did.

I'd catch his clips now and again and I always thought the show was cleverly done. A way to watch the news without feeling too bitter about it.

Of course, there are people who hate Jon Stewart for how his politics line up.

Perhaps he did have a bigger agenda.

I think he really does like going for the laugh.

Either way, he revolutionized the news.

And he's a funny dude.

You can't take that from him.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

To Kill A Mockingbird

At the start of the year Sam was watching a college basketball game. I was in the room, watching a little, and reading a little from the paperback I'd brought along.

"You read a lot," he said.

"How many books do you read a year?" He asked.

"A lot," I said. "Watch the game."

Because it's hard to read when someone is talking directly at you and the book was getting good.

"You should count 'em," Sam said.

So I have.

Ten in January.

On numbers five and six in February.

(Paperback and on the phone).

And the numbers are high so far because of the garbage weather and because I've been on stupid airplanes and in friggin' airports.

But I did a real good thing along the way.

I threw a classic in here and there.

I re-read Travels With Charley by Steinbeck and then, spurred by the fact that there is gonna' be a follow-up, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

And that's the thing about books, folks...

...I'd read them as a young man.

They're completely different now.

I'd forgotten about how good each book was.

In Charley, Steinbeck is the guy who is lost.

In Mockingbird, everyone in society was lost.

Both books had started me on my way as a writer...and I hadn't even known it.

I remember feeling so angry when I read To Kill A Mockingbird the first time.

How could people treat blacks that way?

We need to change the damn world!

As an older gent...there's a shake of the head.

A bunch of sentences, a book, a series of books...

...none of it really matters.

But it does!

I'm not the kid who thinks a single book can change the world, but I'm not the cynic who thinks...'Why bother?' either....

Lee and Steinbeck wrote timeless classics.

Brilliant, brilliant words...one after another...that did change the world around them.

"I have no idea how you can read so much," Sam said. "Don't you get bored?"

I know that Sam had just finished Of Mice & Men in one of his classes.

"Did you get bored reading that?"

"No. It was pretty good," he said. "It just takes a long time to do."

Yep.

Sometimes it takes time to find the worth in something.

When's the last time you read To Kill A Mockingbird?

Do yourself a favor and pick it up again.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Better Call Saul

It's like putting on your favorite pair of old shoes.

The characters slip right on.

Saul still makes you laugh.

The bad guys make you cringe.

"The writing is so good," Sam said to me. "How do they do that?"

Certainly there's no short answer to that question. I debated telling him about character development and the hours and hours it takes after you begin asking:

'What if?'

The show starts at 10 p.m. - last week it was on Sunday and Monday nights.

Sam and Jake watched the show first.

I made sure they taped it for me.

When I woke up on Monday morning there was a text there from Sam.

"Wait until you see who's there at the end!" He wrote.

I smiled.

When I got home from work Sam sat beside me as I watched the first show. He told me when the good lines were coming up. He stared at me as the episode went to black to gauge my surprise at the ending.

"Oh boy."

We talked about the possibilities.

The battle of choosing good over evil.

Where would those writers take us in the next episode, or the one after that, or the one after that?

I mentioned to Sam that writing well and making up something that people connect with is the greatest feeling in the world.

Sam sorta' dropped out of the conversation, but it kept rattling around in my head.

You know when it's good.

You know exactly what the character is going to do before he does it.

You're making up the words that come out of their mouths, but you really don't have a choice.

You put them in the moment...

...and their words just come out.

Years and years ago I wrote Waldorf & Juli.

I still say that if I saw Juli walking down the street now I would recognize her.

She was alive.

And it's weird, but you sorta' miss them when they're gone.

I can't imagine writing on the scale of what Vince Gilligan is doing...

...but it's gotta' be the same.

The exercise is no different.

Set Saul and Mike in a room.

The scene will write itself.

Catch the show.

Just great stuff.

Thank God they're still allowing storytellers to tell stories.

I was a little nervous there when all of entertainment seemed to be heading the way of reality bullshit.

We still need talented writers.

Go get 'em Saul.

err....Vince.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Whole Wide World

I suppose that we all have the urge to call something the absolute worst or the greatest ever.

People do it all the time.

Kids say G.O.A.T.

The Greatest of All Time.

I hear it about Michael Jordan and it makes my skin crawl a little.

I say it to my dogs all the time:

"Who's the greatest dog in the whole wide world?

You have to emphasize 'whole wide' to make it even more effective.

Order a pizza sometime...the box that it comes in will proclaim it...the 'best pizza in town'.

So I don't throw around the labels lightly.

My dogs are the greatest in the 'whole wide' world.

Mariano Rivera was the G.O.A.T. of relief pitchers.

Springsteen is the greatest entertainer in the history of the world.

Chamberlin was the greatest basketball player ever.

So...

...I rarely do it.

"This is the worst winter I've ever been a part of," I said to my beautiful wife.

"Pretty bad," she said.

She wasn't quite yet ready to proclaim it.

"85 inches of snow in November. We haven't seen temperatures over 30 all month. Every other day we are under an advisory of sorts. Cold, blowing, freezing, sliding off the road, slipping on the ice."

"We're just getting older. Seems worse."

Perhaps.

Maybe it is just like Jordan.

Maybe we're saying it enough and people are just repeating it.

Like replaying his game-winning shot to win the title against the Jazz. A play he pushed off on.

He was about 8 for 40 in the game.

Yet I look out the window.

Blowing snow.

Freezing temps.

Yep.

I'm saying it.

It's been the worst winter in the whole wide world.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pick On Someone Else


Everyone goes through it.

A week in the barrel.

Sometimes it seems as if God is up there saying, "I'm gonna' see how much this dork can handle."

The flu is not a big deal.

I've grown up a little and I whine about it now only because I want to aggravate people about whining about it.

I got that on Monday.

I was still feeling lousy on Thursday, but the work was already scheduled out. I had planned a busy day.

To Jamestown for a couple of meetings and then a quick stop home to write reports and pick up my bag for a trip to Syracuse.

"Tough trip in this weather," the all-knowing Pops texted me.

He jinxed me.

The bastard jinxed me!

I visited the sites as the mind-numbing cold kicked in.

I got back into my car and answered my ringing cell phone. I was blowing into my hands as I tried to answer. It was someone sitting in an office somewhere, probably too warm from the little portable heater under her desk.

"Wow! You sound awful."

"What do you want?" I asked.

The topic of conversation went way over my head...something about a lawyer...an accident...all about 5 years ago.

"Send me an email," I said. "I don't know what you're talking about. I'm freezing!"

The office girl laughed.

I threw the phone down and made my way home.

I heard the tire pop.

Actually, I saw it.

A little poof of air.

"What the hell was that?" I asked.

I was going 65 at the time.

I knew what the hell was that about two seconds later.

And this is where the fun begins.

Because I am mechanically-illiterate.

I knew I had as much chance of changing the tire in a snowstorm, on the Thruway, as I did in taking over Jeter's shortstop position next year.

No chance.

I didn't even try.

I pulled to the side of the road and waited.

Not sure what I was waiting for, but I looked to the roof of the car.

"Really? You're gonna' keep kicking the crap out of me this week? Are you bored?"

A county plow truck moved to the side of the road.

The driver got out.

"You have a spare?"

"Perhaps."

"Is it in the back or under the car?"

"No idea."

He was such a nice guy.

A hardworking, not-mechanically-illiterate, good guy.

He looked under the car.

"You have a spare down there."

I'm not sure if he was waiting for me to retrieve it, but that wasn't happening.

"Hang tight," he said.

He disappeared into his truck. I went back to reading the sports page. He came back a moment later.

"I can send someone here to change the tire. It'll cost you about $75 or you can change it yourself. You'll get 50 miles out of that donut."

"Not if I put it on I won't," I said.

He laughed.

A little while later another not-mechanically-illiterate guy showed up.

I drove home on the donut.

I bought a new tire.

On to Syracuse!

(Thanks for the jinx, Pops).

Friday, February 13, 2015

Heavy Is the Head

So in case you haven't heard...

...I've had the flu.

Yeah, I'm a wimp.

I tell everyone I know.

Suffering in silence is stupid.

Yet, make no mistake, I've suffered.

It's one thing to have the flu and rest until it's gone. It's a whole 'nother thing to dress up in layers and go out to the Artic that exists outside my front freaking door.

Whatever.

I was complaining a little to a guy on one of the job sites...I was also mentioning the heavy work load...

(A real whinefest).

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, he said.

We both laughed for a long while.

Great comeback to a whiner!


What is wrong with people?

I know we're closing in on Valentine's Day so I thought I'd give you a love story.

Can you imagine?

The poor guy has lived 60 years...and he ends up getting his scrotum twisted off because he broke up with his girl?

She got two years in jail.

A year for each testy.

The thing about it is that there are so many strange stories out there every single day.

I think I can find four or five of these types of crazy stories all across this great land.

Every day!

You think that guy was whining?

I'd rather have the flu, that's for sure.

Hope you all stay healthy out there.

The thing about your health...even for short events...is that you really, really, really miss it when it's not around.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

D.B. of the Week - Brian 'Forest Gump' Williams


The D.B. of the week award has taken on a life of it's own.

I often get nominations.

People make suggestions all week long.

Usually I just wait...

...and the no-doubt D.B. of the Week emerges.

Brian Williams won it easily this week.

And every single time I write the recap I think to myself:

"This is the D.B. of the year!"

Yet there will be another.

Brian Williams is actually probably begging for the next D.B. to step up.

Like many others, I listened to Brian Williams on the talk shows. He would show up on Letterman or Howard and he'd tell his stories.

He seemed like a honest dude!

There were often funny quips in all of his stories.

So what the hell happened?

Well, it appears he got caught up in something that made him look better, stronger, braver and smarter than he actually is...

...and he just went with it.

Like a whole bunch of others who think they're above reproach, Williams figured he could tell that story forever, and the world would just nod their heads in amazement.

He's been telling the same story for 12 years!

Why wouldn't we believe him?

He even probably believed it too.

What an odd story.

I can certainly understand the men in the armed forces who are angry with Williams.

They should be!

As for the rest of us?

People believe what they want to believe when it makes no sense at all.

We believed him!

He ran with it!!

I don't really hand out the D.B. of the week award.

People step up and claim it.

Brian Williams deserves his award.

What a doozy!

Forest would be proud.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Joke

Bob's Scrotum



The best story of the year doesn't give the proper praise and credit for this painful, but understandable story as told by a loving wife...

The pastor asked if anyone in the congregation would like to express praise for answered prayers.

Suzie Smith stood and walked to the podium.

She said, "I have a praise. Two months ago, my husband, Bob, had a terrible bicycle wreck and his scrotum was completely crushed. The pain was excruciating and the doctors didn't know if they could help him."


You could hear a muffled gasp from the men in the congregation as they imagine the pain that poor Bob must have experienced.


"Bob was unable to hold me or the children," she went on, "and every move caused him terrible pain. We prayed as the doctors performed a delicate operation, and it turned out they were able to piece together the crushed remnants of Bob's scrotum, and wrap wire around it to hold it in place."


Again, the men in the congregation cringed and squirmed uncomfortably as they imagined the horrible surgery performed on Bob.


"Now," she announced in a quivering voice, "thank the Lord, Bob is out of the hospital and the doctors say that with time, his scrotum should recover completely."


All the men sighed with unified relief.

The pastor rose and tentatively asked if anyone else had something to say.

A man stood up and walked slowly to the podium.

He said, "Hi, I'm Bob."

The entire congregation held its breath.

"I just want to tell my wife, the word is sternum."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

American Sniper

It all started way back in the 2nd grade for me.

Sister: The Fifth Commandment is 'Thou Shalt Not Kill'.

2nd Grade Me: (hand raised high) What about during war? Is that a sin?

Sister: That's different.

2nd Grade Me: God says it's okay?

Sister: (staring) We'll talk about it later.

I haven't seen the movie American Sniper.

Not sure I will.

I know that folks are jumping in line to see it, but I really do not enjoy war movies.

I've never seen Saving Private Ryan, or Apocalypse Now, or on and on and on and on.

And it's not just an anti-war rant of a peace-loving, bleeding heart. I'm not all that calculated about it.

I just can't fathom the exercise.

Kill or be killed.

I ask too many questions to just buy into such a scenario.

I always have.

I don't think of an entire country of people as _____________ (insert ethnic slur here).

I'm not of the mind that we need to blow them off the map!

Or make a parking lot!

And even if I were somehow able to justify it in my questioning mind, I can't see being entertained by a shot taking off a head of someone.

And I'm sure the movie is well done.

Bradley Cooper...Clint Eastwood.

I know that the Sniper was a real live person, who was confused by his job, but went through hell and back for his country.

I admire that kind of guy. I hate that he suffered such an internal struggle, and many men have been in that spot.

Confused.

I certainly respect the man who stands in that kill or killed position for the people who live in freedom and just aren't of mind to do such a thing.

I'm not being self-righteous here, either!

Just never could get my mind around the concept of war.

Coincidentally I was at a VFW lodge last week and the famous photo of American soldiers raising the flag in World War II was posted on the wall of the place.

I stared at that photo for a long-time.

The Greatest Generation.

The caption read.

It's hard to look at that photo and not feel proud of those men who defended the country.

Subsequent wars have been confusing.

Are they about money?

The combatants are confused.

The enemy is hiding.

The rules of engagement are blurry.

I'm sure that American Sniper would confuse me even further.

It all started way back in the 2nd grade for me.

Still waiting for that nun to get back at me.

The other side feels justified too.

We know it has to be done.

All of it feels wrong.

Just too confusing to be entertained.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Grey, Cold & Snowy Is No Way to Go Through Life

February is the shortest month.

Here in Buffalo it feels as if it's 400 days long.

Winter Weather Advisory!

The walk to the car results in three separate slips that nearly bring you to the turf.

Scrape the freaking windshield. Clean off the roof.

I really know why the older folk get the hell out from November until April.

Yet the other cruel thing about February is that we are still a couple of months away from baseball starting. I don't care that pitchers and catchers are reporting in a couple of weeks. I won't be watching them practice. I want the games to start!

And stupid football is over with.

The NCAA's don't have their tournament until March.

Grey.

Cold.

Snowy.

Oh, I know!

I will start gathering my tax information...that'll be fun!

Someone will eventually ask me today about how the weekend went.

"I moved the car twice. I picked up milk and bread and pop from the store! I watched 48 Hours, the last Gandolfini movie and read most of two books. How about you?"

That's February.

Then again the Sabres have won 2 of their last 3.

Never mind that they have been eliminated from playoff consideration just 50 games in...

...winning 2 of 3 and 3 of 30 is great stuff!

Just kidding.

Look.

I'm trying here.

Looking for entertainment.

Thank God the month is only 28 days.

It's supposed to snow through the day.

Colder tomorrow.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Ahhh, Whitney

I have a confession.

I really loved Whitney Houston back in the day.

You see I was in college when she broke through. Listening to Springsteen, of course, but my best female buddies - Lisa and Lorraine - were huge Whitney Houston fans.

I'd pretend that I hated it...

...but man, she had such a great voice.

And she was beautiful.

We all watched that train slowly crash.

Her death, three years ago, was met with a huge shake of our collective heads.

The media kept saying:

If only someone knew the depths of her struggles.

Of course, her death brought her entire family into the light.

Everyone kept talking about her poor daughter, Bobbi.

How could the kid go on?

Would she make the same sort of mistakes that her mother made?

Could Bobby Brown somehow save his own daughter?

The news that broke last week was just too preposterous to even digest.

Bobbi was face down in a tub?

She had suffered the exact same fate?

At 21 years old?

Twitter exploded.

There were so many sick, twisted lines about how the family needed to start taking showers.

Others spoke about not caring one bit about the tragic lives that some celebrities live.

But man, that's a really, really sad story.

The media is handling it with their usual sensitivity.

When will Bobby pull the plug?

The talking heads will gather and speak about how 'if we only knew.'

I suppose there will come a moment when I'm reading the story where an image of Whitney will pop into my head.

21 years old.

The biggest star on the planet.

So beautiful.

So full of life.

Isolation and despair attacks from all angles.

That poor girl.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Belinda Jenner


The most surprising thing about Bruce Jenner's transformation to Belinda Jenner is that he once was an Olympic athlete who was more of a man than every other man from every other country everywhere.

He was on the Wheaties box.

Every guy wished they were as strong, as quick, as durable as him.

And now, at 65 years of age...

...Bruce Jenner appears intent on becoming a woman.

It's not my business to care, of course, and I suppose that he is free to live her life any way that he wants to, but did she always have these sort of feelings back when he was competing?

That's a confusing sentence, right?

I'm wondering what the kids might think.

Bruce/Belinda has six children, or so, right?

A couple of marriages.

That whole sordid existence with the Kardashians.

What in the hell is going on?

I didn't follow much of it.

I probably wouldn't know Bruce Jenner if he knocked on our front door.

I never followed the Olympics much.

I sure as hell never saw an episode of that reality show.

I don't know how or why he is going to become she, and as a heterosexual male here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, I'm a little confused by all of it.

Was this something that Bruce knew forever and ever?

There are people who believe that he was born that way.

There are others who argue that it is an environmental issue and a choice.

Some believe that he does not have the right to live how she wants to.

I don't know anything about any of it...and it certainly doesn't bother me.

I hope that Belinda is happy.

I sincerely wish him nothing but good luck on her journey.

Because it is HIS/HER journey.

To each her own.

Yet it's a tad shocking...and I don't believe that I'm bias in saying such a thing.

I remember way back in 1983. I was with my Dad and my brother, John in San Francisco, California. We witnessed the gay pride parade back then. We watched from way up on high, in the hotel we were working on, on Mission Street in the heart of the city.

What we saw back then was sort of shocking to us.

We were just small town people and the gay movement was just beginning to take hold.

I remember the puzzled look on Dad's face, but he also seemed to be pondering the differences.

Some of the costumes were outrageous.

We laughed at the gay man dressed as a nun.

We shook our heads at some of the signs and displays.

Dad said one thing that day I won't ever forget:

"It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round."

That's about it, I suppose.

From an Olympic athlete to elderly woman.

Who woulda' thunk it?

Friday, February 6, 2015

I'm Gonna' Hunt Him Down


It's been 6 years since the 27-Time World Champion Greatest Franchise in the history of organized sports, the Yankees, won the World Series.

Back then, during the middle of the summer, I ran into a crew of workers on a job site. We started talking baseball and I guaranteed one guy from Boston that the Yankees would win it all.

"If they don't you have to do our training in a dress," Mr. Boston said.

"And if they do, you're wearing one," I answered.

We even shook on it.

Of course, the Yankees beat the hapless Phillies, but I certainly forgot about the bet.

Come February I stood before the room and looked out at the crowd.

There he was.

Bright red dress, pearls, eye liner and lipstick...

...with a full beard.

I believe I said:

"What the $%C&?"

The crowd roared.

So, I rather enjoy the guys I hang around with at that early February training.

But this year the guy who once wore the gown will pay.

He put that Boston Suck Sux license plate on my car.

I saw it instantly.

I didn't have a screwdriver to take it off.

He drove past me and howled out the window.

So I drove 100 miles with it on the back of my car.

I wanted to throw up.

I prayed no one I knew saw me.

There will be payback.

All of them are looking for their training certification.

One of them isn't getting it.

Freaking Bahstawn.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

D.B. of the Week - The King D.B. Checks In - Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong is the original D.B.

We all remember, right?

I believed he was a loser 10 years before the rest of the world caught on.

I remember watching him speak on a tape about all the great things he'd done and in the middle of a room where everyone was inspired by his greatness I remember thinking:

He's a lying D.B.

Well.

He was, is and always will be, evidently.

Seems Lance was out drinking with his new girlfriend (He captured another, despite the fact that he demolished all the others he claimed to love) and they left the party with Lance behind the wheel.

There were a couple of cars side-swiped by the bike driver (apparently cars are more difficult to navigate) and the girl (Anna Hansen) went to the home of one of the victims and claimed to have been driving.

Then her and D.B. (still behind the wheel) fled the scene before the cops could get there.

Lying.

There's been a lot of questions about lies and deception in the last few weeks.

New England got their Super Bowl, but the majority of the country believes there have been lies.

Perhaps.

It's never good.

It usually comes out.

My family knows that I'm a lousy liar.

I usually laugh when I get busted.

Sometimes I'll try and lie so outrageously that the person before me will laugh.

As Judge Judy says:

"You don't need a good memory if you're telling the truth."

I don't much care for lying.

I will most likely be soured on New England if there is concrete proof of absolute cheating (the air in the ball doesn't upset me though).

But Lance?

He's a D.B.

He hit a couple of cars.

Perhaps he had a few cocktails.

The story would've been ugly had he been busted on the scene.

He would've looked bad.

So he chose deception...again.

And once more, he looks worse.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Legitimate Question

Monday morning was rough.

The football game kept me up an hour past my usual bed time.

The snow was flying as I tucked myself in on Sunday night and the weather report wasn't good.

I opened the door at about 5:45 to let the dogs out and Melky didn't want to go, and Paris was covered in snow as she darted towards the backyard. The cold was numbing.

This sucks, I thought.

But what is to be done?

Howl at the moon?

I cleared my car, started it and ran back to the house.

The school closing list was running across the bottom of the television.

The boys school wasn't listed.

I heard them moving around.

I turned the small heater on (thanks Renaldo) and shoveled a little away from the door. I took Melky and Paris out to get the paper and when I returned the boys were standing in the Yankee room...preparing for the bus ride.

"Did you come back to tell us we don't have to go if we don't want to?" Sam asked.

"No! Why would I do that?" I asked. "My job is to make sure you get educated, get a job someday, and get the hell out of my house."

"Do you want to go to work?" Sam asked.

"No, but I have to," I said.

Sam thought about it for a split-second.

"Why don't we all just go back to bed?" he asked.

We all laughed.

It certainly was a great question.

I thought about it as I moved slowly behind other drivers who also wished they were back in bed.

Ahh, winter in Buffalo.

It's terrific!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Super Bowl Review

Katy Perry is hot...but she lip-synched it all.

Doesn't that take a little away from it?

And what about actually playing music and being a true musical act?

Sorry, when the palm trees sing, that isn't music.

And what was that noise in the middle when the special surprise guest was announced?

But she is good-looking.

As for the game:

Here are some observations.

1). Russell Wilson said God won the game against the Packers. Did he lose the one against the Pats this week?

I don't mind spiritual belief. I have plenty myself, but saying that God made you throw 4 picks in one half so He could lift you in the 2nd half is kinda' silly.

Right?

2). And isn't Wilson's class sort of diminished by the antics of the idiots he plays with?

Sorry, Marshawn isn't funny. He's a turd.

Sherman is taunting the opponent in the middle of a game?

Brady should've pointed at the scoreboard at the end.

And Baldwin pretends to crap on the ball after his one and only catch?

Classless in Seattle.

They're a tough team to like.

3). And of course, everyone hates New England too.

Bill and Tom are really, really hated in Buffalo. I'm also hated, by association, because I don't hate them. I actually think they're pretty great to watch.

Did they cheat?

Brady picked apart that D.

He didn't panic.

They had no running game. The pass rush was fierce and he broke the record for most completions in a Super Bowl game.

If they did cheat with under-inflated footballs they certainly didn't have to.

They're good.

4). What's up with the sad commercials?

Holy cow.

They had millions and millions watching and one commercial after another was designed to make everyone cry.

I didn't see a lot of funny.

I'm still a little sad.

5). My opinion hasn't changed.

The NFL sucks.

Some of it still appears scripted to me.

They butchered everything...from the punch in the elevator right on down to horrific calls that cost some teams their entire seasons.

They don't know what a fumble is.

They can't figure out their own rules.

The NFL is tax-exempt.

They don't pay their cheerleaders.

They toss their former players away.

And yet...

...everyone watched.

Ah well.

I got my square money back.

Broke even.

I aggravated a whole bunch of people.

I had a good year.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Small Town Life

There's a real tendency, when one is attending a wake, to review things.

The feelings of nostalgia sweep in quickly.

Over the weekend we attended two wakes.

One for a lifelong friend who was almost a family member.

The other for a beloved aunt who played a huge part in the formative years.

At the wake there were remembrances of lives well lived, of course, but the conversation drifted to the old North Collins days.

Life was certainly different.

The entire town was like home to me and a whole bunch of other kids.

"I could walk into your home and open the fridge, without question," I said to Tracy (A beautiful friend who I've known since she was about a year old).

"We always knew who was making sauce on Sunday. I'd stand at the big pot of sauce with your brother and we'd dip bread in and eat it for about an hour."

My siblings would join me at Grandma and Grandpa's.

"Grandma is making marinara!"

Would ring through our house at 10:30 in the morning and we'd be seated at Grandma's table by noon.

I also distinctly recall leaving school some days and heading over for pasta.

It was that way for years and years and years.

"All of our parents were friends," Tracy said. "So all the kids were welcome in everybody else's home."

We both said, at the same time:

"It's not like that anymore."

"We never locked our doors," Tracy said.

I laughed.

I distinctly recall walking in their home, checking each bedroom and figuring out that no one was there.

"Your Dad used to wash my car when I pulled it into the driveway!"

I often try and explain it to my kids.

We hardly know our neighbors now.

We don't go to other people's homes to hang out.

My kids talk to their friends over a line, or type them messages on a phone.

No one is just walking into anyone's home anymore.

"We had it good," Tracy said.

I couldn't agree more.

I wouldn't have changed a thing.

My Aunt Mary Lou watched all of us a lot of days. We treated her just as we would our own parents.

We respected our friends moms and dads.

I can't say that my kid's friends aren't respectful, and I do feed them every chance I get.

My home is welcome to them...

...they just don't stop by very often..

Sunday, February 1, 2015

I'm Just Sitting There!

Here's a thought to all the people I don't know:

Stop running into me at red lights!

I was waiting for Dan Patrick to enlighten me with his Super Bowl pick. I had just glanced up to see if the damn light was still red...I had been waiting for a while...and bam!

I eased the car to the side of the road, put my hazard lights on, and got out. A woman was making her way towards me. We each asked a question.

"Are you all right?" She asked.

"What the %$C* are you doing?" I asked.

Then I saw that she was shaking a little.

"I'm fine," I said.

We both looked at our cars.

Hers was hammered.

Mine showed a few marks on the bumper.

I calmed down extremely quickly and she explained that she was sliding on the icy road.

"I'm so sick of driving in this weather," she said.

Well I'm kinda' tired of getting smashed while sitting in a vehicle I'm not even moving, I thought.

We exchanged info and we talked a moment about our lives. Her car was new to her. She had just had it detailed. Now her husband was gonna' yell.

We both agreed that we hated snow.

The cop showed up and checked in on our happy little scene.

He seemed surprised to see that we were both chatting amicably.

Before the hour was out the woman's insurance agent had contacted me. He told me that the woman was adamant about making sure all was well.

I knew the routine.

Sore back.

Sore neck.

When I returned home my children were full of sympathy.

"Drive much?" Sam asked.

"I wasn't moving!" I said.

"It had to be your fault," Jake chimed in.

And it went on like that for a little while.

But, folks, I'm serious!

Stop freaking hitting me!!

4 times in a row!

That's the 4th accident in the last 5 years that I've been in where my car wasn't moving!!

"You have a 'Kick-me' sign," my extremely witty brother-in-law texted.

It appears that way.

"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...