Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 - A Year In Review

I’ve kind of mentioned that 2017 was a year of chaos for me.

I hate chaos!

All good on the family front, which is the most important thing. We got up and went to work every day. We found a way to get along, despite the fact that neither of us felt very well, physically. Despite the fact that I spent a lot of time on a massage table, didn’t golf, and rested more than I ever have (after work - see tomorrow)...

...I felt worse.

Kathy also suffered as day after day on her feet, as a nurse, had her ending the year asking:

“Where’s my cane?”

Yet, there’s still a satisfying aspect to both of our chosen jobs. We work in a field where we are helping other people. I try to keep them safe, and Kathy tries to get them healthy. You have to enjoy what you do, and neither of us has lost that spark.

Can we get healthier?

I listen to the docs. I try to stretch. It’s a frustrating battle, but as I’m fond of saying:

“I don’t have cancer.”

America felt chaotic to me.

I wonder why.

So many battles every day. We have certainly slipped into separate corners where there’s no give and take. It bothers me greatly when bad behavior on one side is harshly criticized, but quickly dismissed when its “your” guy.

You don’t like wasteful government, or lax use of emails, or too much golfing, or lies, or swamp-dwellers?

Then stick to those convictions...

...don’t just blow it off.

For the first time, at the start of a year, I fear what might be coming for all of us. I try not to let things I can’t control take control, but it’s absolutely impossible to not be drawn in.

I’m going to try my best to stay about the chaos here. I don’t want to waste my energy arguing about it.

2018 will be more politically peaceful for me. I guarantee it. I’m concerned about a lot, but sounding off while discussing it on social media feels an awful lot like pissing in the wind.

I’m worried about war, shootings, nastiness, an unsteady administration, and civil unrest...

...but I’m not bringing it in, and letting it change my mood.

In 2017, listened to a lot of music, read a lot of books, wrote a ton...

...the go-to answers.

I want to do more in that regard.

I saw U2 for the first time.

I felt pain when learning Tom Petty died.

I put a book out, and it felt great...I’m at the point where anything I release needs to fit in to what I’ve been trying to say and The big D does.

More to come.

The writing has always made things more orderly.

Yet, I often cringe when I see people write things like:

“Good riddance to 2017!”

We lived it.

It may not have been ideal, but more than hating what happened, we are still here to look ahead to what MIGHT happen.

“Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive...if you can.”

I want the chaos out.

I’m skeptical about things calming down out there in the big bad world...

...but inside.

Inside it can be controlled!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

New York Minute

This was a weird work week.

Not only is the week between Christmas and New Year’s odd because people take it off, but the brutal cold shut down things even further.

I don’t know how to down rate the capacity. I like going 100 miles an hour.

Weird thing is that I had a New York City trip set up.

In and out in one day. Flight out at 6:30. Flight back at 5:30.

Woke up at 2:35...

...sick!

Nothing earth-shattering but the first day of a cold perhaps?

Perfect!

So, I’m going from a laid-back week, with a coming cold into the biggest city in the world.

New York is an odd place. I remember going there for the first time. My Dad had tried to explain how massive it is. When I called him from the city he said, “So?”

I said: “Why didn’t you tell me how big it is?”

And I’ve been there a hundred times and every single time I think:

“Man, this place is big.”

So many people. So much of a hassle. Driving is absolutely crazy. Watching people is fascinating.

For instance:

I was set to fly Home out of Gate C-15 at LaGuardia.

By the time I got to C-1, I saw about 20 NYPD officers.

“Uh-oh.”

Yet, they were smiling.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Husband and wife got into a little battle,” the young-looking cop said. “Wife popped the husband and ran down the stairs. We can’t find her.”

Speaking of cops, they were everywhere.

On the GWB, on the Deegan, near Yankee Stadium, by CitiField.

“This will be the safest place in the world this week,” the shuttle bus driver told me.

His name was Diego. He wasn’t born here, but has been here for 7 years.

“I love New York,” he said. “You?”

“I do,” I said. “But I always forget that I have to pick up the pace when I get here.”

He laughed.

“Yeah, can’t lollygag around here. Gotta’ step it up.”

And I survived.

A long wait as our plane got back to Buffalo.

“Welcome to Buffalo,” the captain said. “It’s windy and it’s, um, 4 degrees.”

Good to be home!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Irv Weinstein

Hard to believe that it’s been nearly 20 years since Irv Weinstein retired from doing the nightly news here in Buffalo.

Irv passed away earlier this week.

I immediately thought of the USA Hockey win over Russia in 1980. I was watching the game on tape delay on Irv’s channel.

Game was tied at two.

“USA stuns Russia!” Irv told me during the commercial break.

Other than that...

...he was the perfect newsman for this town.

He was with Tom Jolls and Rick Azar for years.

Everyone watched Channel 7 back then.

We all wanted to hear about the fires, the criminals and that’s where we got our news back then. Guys and gals who read the news were trusted...

...we didn’t hear or believe that it was actually fake information.

And, so, Irv was the toast of the town. He was the most recognized man not counting the sports stars. By all accounts he was a good guy and he represented the city well.

He was a little guy, with big glasses, big ears...

...not exactly a media darling.

But he was a star.

Of course, Irv suffered later in life...’

...he passed away at the age of 87, but he was afflicted with ALS and he broke down slowly.

He handled it with grace, according to all who spoke to him throughout his years in California.

As a kid, growing up there are people you admire in the media...

...Irv was one of those guys.

He was influential...

...that’s a pretty good word to get to when your life is over and people are talking about you.

RIP to a Buffalo legend.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Misunderstood Patriots

I should hate them like everyone else does.

Especially here in Buffalo.

But I don’t.

I’ve always enjoyed watching Brady play QB and Belichick humors me. The precision. The attention to detail, and the no-nonsense approach to work are all favorable to me.

I also rather enjoy that they’re hated.

Yet, the calls that went in their favor over the last two weeks were horrendous.

Which isn’t their fault!

There’s no conspiracy. The game wasn’t given to them on Sunday, for sure. It was still tied! They outscored the Bills 24-3 in the second half.

And don’t tell me about momentum. Didn’t the Falcons have momentum last February?

But, here’s the thing:

I was rooting for the Bills on Sunday.

My poor boys have zero recollection of a playoff game!

They hate Brady and Hoodie with everything in their hearts.

Or do they?

“You can have five years of Brady for 2 number one picks. Do you do it?”

They both said ‘Yes.’

But back to the NFL and their stupid rules.

Replay is crushing play in 3 of the major sports. Reviews were set up to correct bad calls. Now we have hockey goals being called back because a toe is over the line on offsides. A shortstop is holding the tag on a runner (long after he’s called safe) and when the runner’s foot comes up as he’s cleaning the damn dirt off...

...and football...

...is borderline ridiculous. The ball was rolling in his hands? The tip of the ball looked like it touched the ground?

The sport is so damn fast. The players are so freaking big. The refs are old and slow.

Perfect deal.

The Patriots play a lot of big games and are absolutely hated all over the country. If one of the bad calls goes their way (or two) it’s a mess!

The Bills got screwed.

The Steelers got screwed.

You know who else got screwed?

Brady.

Suspended 4 games and forever labeled a cheater on air in a ball that he should’ve never seen before the game started (but did because Rex Ryan over-inflated them for fun when he coached the Jets).

So, the game is ridiculous.

And the sport needs a group to hate, besides the ‘kneeling son of a bitches.’

And the gift keeps on giving.

James Harrison is now a Patriot.

How’s that feel Steelers fans?

Will the Bills shock the world???

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Taking Stock

It's just so weird that the end of the year stuff makes me think of what needs to be different in the coming year.

It shouldn't make a difference, right?

Time is a man-made deal and to come up with a list of things that you'd like to change or do different just because the year changes from 2017 to 2018...

...well, it's kinda' weird.

Yet we all seem to do it!

The gym memberships go through the roof for January and by February 1...

...they lapse and people are left wondering:

"Why the hell did I think I was going to change?"

And the truth of the matter is that people really don't change.

I was talking with my father-in-law on Christmas and we unfortunately got around to talking about his brother, who passed away last week.

"Getting older is rough," he said. "A few months ago, my brother called me all excited because he was able to make bubbles."

"What?" I asked.

"He had prostate cancer. He went a long while not being able to get any pressure behind his leaks. He was happy when he was able to finally make some bubbles in the toilet."

I laughed.

But my father-in-law wasn't just joking.

"You gotta' get straightened out," he said. "You're too young to be struggling with your damn legs."

"I know, but what can I do. I gotta' go to work. I'm battling it."

He nodded.

He understands the situation.

"I'm just telling you, it doesn't slow down and you sure as hell don't feel better as you go along."

"My, aren't you full of sunshine," I said.

He laughed.

Yet, he's right, of course.

At least I can still make bubbles.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Fun

There was a moment, as we gathered at my Mom’s for Christmas Eve, when booming laughter filled the room.

Jake was holding court, doing a comedy sketch about the gift exchange game we were playing.

It’s been years since so much laughter filled that space, and by the time Jim set up Dean Martin singing beautifully, I was thankful.

“This music makes me think we’re in a movie from the 20’s where we are racing away from a bank robbery,” Jake said.

More laughter.

On Christmas morning the boys gathered in their usual spot beside the tree. They were in same positions as they’ve been for years and years.

How they had grown and changed, but still our little boys.

They tossed a gift back to me.

“You know you’re cooked when your first gift is a pair of compression socks,” I said.

Yet I was excited!

My feet swell up especially when I fly.

One of the gifts came with a card featuring Clarence Clemons. (I miss the Big Man). I knew it was going to be a good gift and it was.

A Springsteen on Broadway shirt.

And I kept looking out to see what everyone else got. Kathy did all the heavy lifting.

“Put the wrappers in the garbage bag,” I said.

“He doesn’t care what happens,” Sam said. “As long as the room stays clean.”

The more things change...

...it’s not lost on me that we are blessed.

Every moment together, laughing, caring and sharing is important...

...so I stored every second of it.

Because sometimes the laughter stops for a little while...

...and we have to get it back.

I hope Santa was good to you too!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Love

Last December I ran into a guy on a job.

I’ve known the guy for about 20 years. I saw him once a week. We always had warm words for one another as I checked his job for safety problems and he always, promptly, fixed whatever it was I pointed out.

A real professional relationship.

Of course, we talked as well. We’d tell each other about our kids, complain a little about our wives and commiserate about our own health and long days on our feet. He was always sympathetic to my limping around.

Last December he broke some news.

“I have brain cancer. I’m going to be out of commission for a little while.”

The thing about this guy is that he has hands that are the size of a catcher’s mitt, and when he shook your hand, it stayed shook for about an hour.

We shook hands that day.

“I’m sorry you’re going through it,” I said.’

“I’m good. My daughter is getting married in September and I have a cruise booked for next October.”

His children mean the world to him. He loves to hit the waters with his wife.

“I’m walking her down the aisle.”

I saw him on and off in early 2017.

Then I heard that he was in the hospital for a long stretch and couldn’t have visitors.

I sent a card.

How very inadequate that felt!

In July, I went to what had been his former job.

He was there.

He’d lost about 60 pounds, and all his hair.

I tried not to show shock. Even his eyebrows were gone.

But we started our greeting with a handshake.

And man, the grip was every bit as strong.

I laughed, and then pulled him in for a hug.

“My daughter was in a panic,” he said. “She wanted to move the wedding up. I told her ‘no f***ing way! September!”

“And you still have a cruise in October,” I said.

“Might not make that one,” he said.

I saw his photo in the paper last Sunday.

In the obits.

There would be no service, as per his wishes.

It made me sick.

Until I saw a mutual friend.

“I went to his daughter’s wedding,” the friend said. “He strutted his daughter down the aisle, and when he shook the groom’s hand, the groom grimaced.”

I laughed.

“He went on the cruise too. Had to hire a nurse to go along, but spent two weeks at sea with his wife. He’d been in the Navy. Loved the water. That’s where they’ll spread his ashes.”

I left the trailer, shaking my head.

Thought of Christmas.

And this blog.

Life is a roller coaster.

It’s filled with dips and violent turns.

Hang on tight.

Keep your feet and legs inside the cart.

And enjoy the ride.

Just enjoy the ride.

May God be with you.

May love be in your heart.

Merry Christmas to All!

And R.I.P. Mike.

You did it.

Time for A Little Peace

It’s been a pretty trying year.

It’s kind of been a little chaotic, hasn’t it?

And some of it is on me, I suppose. I’ve watched, read and listened to way too much about the political storm that has dominated the landscape.

I’ve actually tried to not pay attention...

...but it’s a daily disaster, actually.

The tweets come in, and everyone responds. For the next 8 hours there are denials, “He didn’t mean that”, and follow up tweets.

Back in January I mentioned:

“We can’t sustain this.”

But here we are.

A new normal, I suppose, but it’s been an odd year for me personally because so much about my personal and professional life is about control.

I just want to know that things are going to be all right.

Peace of mind, I suppose.

And Christmas has always been about peace to me.

People are nicer.

You see people who you love.

You laugh a little.

Things seem all right.

Yet, there was bad news on the horizon...

...as Trump went off to Florida where there are less handlers.

A number of tweets came through on Saturday evening...

...tweets that were meant to undermine the FBI because the investigation continues.

So, will there be peace?

Certainly!!!

We’ll block it out...

...we’ll be America!

Family, food, laughs...

...it’ll be all right, right?

Just skip the tweets!

Find a little peace.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

So Much to Do??

I don’t do a whole lot in the way of gathering the presents.

I certainly contribute financially, but I can’t remember the last year I headed to the store to pick out gifts.

I kind of miss it.

I used to get something for everyone.

Then it came down to just getting something for Kathy. I had tried buying all of her gifts, but really screwed up when it came to picking out clothes. She’d return most of them.

So, I got demoted.

Then I figured out that the boys liked to go to sporting events so I’d just buy them tickets.

You know what you miss out on when you don’t have to shop anymore?

Crowds, traffic, driving in the snow, endless Christmas songs (Santa Baby), not knowing what to get, not knowing how to wrap.

And I’m not cooking this year.

Normally we have Christmas at our house...

...this year it’s at my sister-in-laws.

So, pretty laid back.

But Kathy kinda’ broke some bad news at the last minute.

“I’m scheduled to work on Saturday and Sunday. You’re going to have to get a few gifts for some people.”

What’s that about?

Are you kidding?

I’m thinking lottery tickets.

That’s all they have at the stores I usually visit.

Yet, I plan on having some fun with it.

But I can tell you one thing...

...I’m not wrapping them.

I have to draw the line somewhere, don’t I?

Good luck getting ready!

Hope it’s your best Christmas ever!

Friday, December 22, 2017

”Break Your Ass”

For the last three days I’ve been doing OSHA training for about 75 working guys, all total. I’ve known most of them for years, but I always begin the class by talking about my time as a union laborer.

I distinctly recall my first day as a laborer. Dad was driving me to a job I knew nothing about. I’d always been a writer. A guy who read books in every free moment. A guy who was starting college and was going to write great novels and not have to get my hands dirty.

“You’re the boss’ son,” Dad said. “Break your ass every day. Don’t ever let anyone say that you didn’t earn every nickel.”

I recall that first day too. I’d been on a jackhammer. I was covered in dirt, dust and sweat at the end of the day. Every muscle ached.

“How’d it go?” Dad asked.

“It was awesome.”

34 years later...

...still in construction.

Now standing before the guys who ache every day.

And I was aching.

Legs buzzing, back just an absolute mess. Standing in front of the room talking for long stretches is as crippling as that jackhammer had been.

(I did write the novels though!)

Yet, I thought of it all in the context of the tax bill passing and Dad’s birthday.

(God I miss him).

And I know what he would have said about the huge money grab by the one-percenters.

“Lazy bastards will get what’s coming to them. Just keep your head down and keep going. Don’t ever give them a reason to question your effort.”

Well, Dad, I felt downhearted.

It’s not supposed to be this way.

We weren’t supposed to look down our noses at those less fortunate. The guys standing before me, covered in dirt and sweat are supposed to have a shot.

They’re breaking their asses.

It’s not supposed to be taken from them.

And I bring a lot of laughter when I talk about my days in the field. Dad always loved the time when I was rolling a trash tote filled with drywall debris to the end of a ramp leading to the dumpster.

Dad and 8 other suits were walking by.

“Hi Dad!” I yelled out, taking my eyes off where I was.

I ended up following the tote straight into the dumpster...

...right over the top.

“You dumb bastard,” Dad said, when we got in the car that night...

...and then we laughed about it for 30 years.

Well, Dad...your birthday is here...you aren’t.

Wait a minute.

Yeah, you are.

We’re all still breaking our asses.

Hope it’s enough.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Up On Banker’s Hill

They’re partying in rich man’s land for Christmas.

It’s always absolutely blown my mind that the rich have persuaded the middle to blame the poor for money problems.

83% of the tax cut is going to the top 1% of the population.

That’s not me saying that. It’s the experts sharing their review of the bill.

“The Dow is setting records!” Donald Trump

“We need to pass this cut to help the stagnant economy,” also Donald Trump.

Which is it?

If the rich are already breaking records. If corporate profits are at an all-time high...

...why?

Why are they getting massive amounts of money?

There are a number of people who voted on the bill who stand to make millions off the passage of the bill.

Rich people getting richer.

You’ll hear plenty of that...

...you’ll even hear people who will really suffer because of this...

....defend it.

I went to a calculator that they had set up for this. I put in my info and it showed that for the next 5 or 6 years I will get a small reduction in my taxes.

And then I’ll pay more, while the deductions for the millionaires and billionaires remain.

Then they’ll chase social security.

“Fiscal responsibility!” Ryan will exclaim. As they finish that one off they’ll talk about the deficit.

The same deficit that they just guaranteed by raiding the treasury.

You know who they won’t talk about for Christmas?

The people who will suffer.

13 million will lose healthcare.

Wages will remain stagnant ‘cause not a dime will trickle down.

That’s a pipe dream.

It will all be spent on bonuses and cranking up the stocks.

We have never seen Trump’s taxes.

We won’t see them now.

‘Cause he just profited in a bigly, bigly way.

“What do you have to lose?” Trump asked poor people on the campaign trail.

Plenty.

Apple will get a $47 billion break.

Goldman Sachs will get about a trillion dollar break.

Thank God he fought for the little guy, huh?

The champagne is flowing up on Banker’s Hill.

Congrats to the oppressed billionaires out there!

I hear your private jet fuel is now a write-off.

Good luck America.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Get Lucky Now and Then

This is a tough work week...

...everyone is distracted.

Christmas brings a lot of extra work to get ready for a couple of days of fun.

I had a half a mind to make it an easier week, but one of my contractors called me and begged me to do a 10-hour training class for his employees.

“Let’s do it after Christmas,” I said.

The guy called me every morning for a week. Finally, I got sick of his voice.

“Fine! We’ll do it!”

Over the last year or so I’ve been setting my alarm a half an hour early. I wake up and try my best to get my legs working before I put them on the floor. It also gives me a little time to plan.

I didn’t want to get up on Tuesday. I thought about doing the training and I was kinda’ irritated, but then I thought of something:

Springsteen on Broadway Tickets were on sale at 10:00.

I’d failed in my efforts to get them twice.

Yet, there was a promise. Pops had received an email saying that he was going to get a code.

I got out of bed before my half hour warmup was even up!

I filled the client in on my plan to get tickets.

“They’re going to watch a video from 9:55 to 10:15. I have to get Bruce tickets.”

He laughed.

The code arrived an hour early. I was at the computer and on the site.

What show should I pick?

You know what month I hate????

Yeah. March. I dread every March because I lost my brother early in that dreaded month.

It was time to change the narrative.

I was going to NOT dread March this year.

I chose March 3rd and waited.

The clock wound down.

I entered the access code and held my breath.

A new clock presented itself.

I had 6 minutes to enter the payment information, and my hands were shaking. I had it done with three minutes to spare....

...and a message flashed that told me:

“You’re going to Broadway!”

I returned to the class with both arms raised high. The class gathered laughed.

 (Everyone knows about the Cliff-Bruce Bromance).

We took March back.

And I’m not going to Broadway with just my beautiful wife...

...Jeff and Pops and all the others I’ve seen Bruce with, through the years, will be there.

Sometimes you get lucky.

It pays to get up.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Thoughts of Christmas Past

The parties at Grandma & Grandpa Fuzzy’s House on Christmas Eve were epic.

Grandma made pizza (among so many other dishes).

I swear, I can still taste the pizza with anchovies.

And the party was sort of different because everyone came by in waves. The Schryvers, The Bantles, The Switalas, The Gallegos, The Georges...other Fuzzy family members.

Coming and going, eating and laughing.

Grandpa held court in the living room and we all stopped by his chair. Then we’d hop across the street and hang with Uncle Herb and Aunt Rosalie. Our cousins were like bonus siblings.

“Who’s going to Midnight Mass?”

As youngsters John an I often served mass. Just a few weeeks back we had a laugh remembering the time that John had way too much pizza at Grandma’s and threw up on the priest’s shoes. Father Weiss was furious!

Christmas Day celebrations were even more boisterous. I can still see Mom and Dad working together to get the mountains and mountains of food ready...

...and there were always too many presents for all of us.

I’ve been thinking about that as we get ready for another Christmas at Camp Clifford.

We go to Mom’s on Christmas Eve now.

Life has changed those parties for all of us, but Corinne makes sure that we all laugh a lot, and we eat plenty...

...Christmas Day is spent at home...usually... (we’re heading to my sister-in-laws  and brother-in-law’s this year.

Food, family, laughter and fun.

And it’s odd, but you know who’ll also be along for the ride?

Yeah.

Everyone who ever showed up at any of the parties in the past...

...I’ll see the memories reflected in the eyes of my brothers and sisters...

...and our children will be there, taking it all in, and filing it all away.

So, they can carry it on years and years from now.

Damn!

Wish I had that pizza recipe.

All these years later and none of us quite got the Grandma Fuzzy pizza down.

What I’d do for one more slice...

...one hour back in that crowded kitchen.

Christmas is less than a week away!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Last Time

A guy on Twitter posted the following:

“There was a time when you and your friends went out to play, for the last time, and none of you actually knew it.”

Pulls at the heartstrings, right?

I instantly thought about the baseball games we used to play in my parents backyard. We used to play with a tennis ball. A hit into the pool was a homerun. Kids came from all over to play.

The games ended when our power (mostly Renaldo’s power) had us hitting bombs off the house...which was a long ways away.

Regardless, there was a final game...

...and none of us were aware.

Things change, but it doesn’t mean we can’t miss them!

I thought of it again as the tree went up.

Our kids used to pull us out of bed by 5:00 when they were aware that Santa was due.

Those were rough mornings, especially after a little egg nog, but now...

...I miss it.

There had been a last time there.

And I read through the comments on the thread.

“One day your mother put you down and never picked you up again.”

That’s also true...

...we go through “last times” all the time and we don’t know it.

That’s why every time counts.

The sadness didn’t last long...

...because even though there was a last time that we played tennis ball baseball in my parents backyard...

...I smiled...

...’cause we played the hell out of it.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Tree Is Up!

December 16th is actually a little early for us.

Thing is, it’s the same tree that we’ve been putting up for about 15 years or so.

It never actually looks great, and we had a little thought to getting a new one. Sam wouldn’t hear of it.

“That tree has to make it all the way through all of our childhoods.”

So, we dug the tree out, and stood it up.

“You two are decorating it,” I said.

I checked out as they were discussing it.

A couple of hours later I popped back to check their progress. The Yankees ornaments were in place.

“Slight problem,” Sam said.

“What?”

He flipped a switch and the lights only would around the top third of the tree.

“It’s impossible to untangle them.”

“They can be untangled,” I said. “It takes time.”

“Well, the way we see it,” Sam said, pointing to Jake. “Is that WE can’t untangle them. It appears to be a job for Mom.”

And normally I would agree. I don’t have a lot of patience, but later on, as I was just watching a show, I said:

“Give me the lights.”

“Can’t be done,” Sam said.

It was a tangled mess.

My patience was tried.

There was a moment when Melky got tangled up in a section of lights that had already been straightened out.

But, I eventually did it.

So we have lights and ornaments on an old, worn tree.

“Perfect,” Sam said.

“It’s lopsided,” I said.

“Yep. Perfect.”

Ten days and it’ll come down.

We aren’t much for ceremony, but you know what?

It’s Christmas!

Fun, family, food, and Thank the Lord.

Lopsided works too.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Weather Outside Is F*****g Frightful

I was in Syracuse all through the day on Friday, but I had an eye on the weather reports for Buffalo.

Winter Weather Advisory

The three worst words in the English language, if you ask me.

I hate winter.

The freezing fingers, the long underwear, slipping on ice, did I mention the cold...

...and the worst part...

Driving in a weather advisory.

It’s 154 miles from door to door.

I started counting back early on into the trip, but I’d also mentioned that if things got bad I would bail and find a hotel.

100 miles left...

...I texted Home and asked about the weather. (Wasn’t texting and driving).

“Not bad,” was the answer.

Rochester, Batavia...all behind me...still clear.

I had 22 miles to do when I saw my first snowflake.

It was 6:09 p.m.

By 6:15, I was driving at 6 m.p.h., following the lights of the truck in front of me. Unable to see AT ALL!!!

In the next 45 minutes I traveled 7 miles.

I also prayed, sang “The Weather Outside Is F*****g Frightful” and nearly cried.

“I don’t want to die in a snowstorm!” I said to the inside of the car.

At 7:15 my beautiful wife texted:

“Stop at Tim Horton’s and grabbed me a frozen lemonade, please.” She wrote.

A f*****g frozen f*****g lemonade?

I came through the door at 7:41.

One hour and 32 minutes for 22 miles.

I’m not moving the car until Monday.

Why do we live here?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Fun While It Lasted

Welp.

They’re coming for the Internet.

Yesterday’s vote means that your service provider can slow things down, certain sites may now have a fee attached.

You paying for Facebook?

Me neither.

I caught the first five minutes of a speech from the blobiating orange dude (all I could take of the snorting, sniffling, heavy breathing and slurring).

“Regulations. Gotta’ get rid of all the heavy regulations.”

Sure.

What could go wrong?

Remember when the banking industry had those pesky regulations relaxed?

You know why you need regulations?

One word.

Greed.

You know what the net neutrality argument is all about?

One word.

(See above).

Who knows?

Maybe we just take a deep breath and see how it all works out. I don’t know if too many people who were thinking:

“Damn, the internet access is really cool, I hope someone can figure out a way to charge us for it.”

I also don’t know anyone who was thinking:

“Damn! We need to start taking care of the rich dudes!!”

But maybe it’ll all work out...

...and maybe it won’t.

Most of us won’t know one way or another...

...’cause only those who got their taxes cut will be able to surf the Net.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Keaton

By now you’ve probably seen the heartbreaking video of the young boy from Nashville who had been bullied.

I read a lot about it, but hesitated when it came to actually watching the video. I knew it would be sad, and man, it is.

Keaton is talking to the camera about children who are making fun of him because of how he looks. He wonders why. He tries so hard to figure it out.

His tears really pull at your heart strings.

About halfway through it, however, I started thinking about how Keaton wouldn’t be getting his wish.

Anti-bullying???

Seems like a lost cause to me.

Go to a comments section on anything political...

...that’ll cure you of thinking we can possibly be nice to one another.

Keaton garnered a lot of attention from sports stars and movie stars. A lot of very positive messages, and just when you think it’s a real feel good story...

...someone went to Keaton’s mom’s Facebook page.

The rebel flag was prominently featured and soon enough...

...get this...

...people started to bully Keaton’s mother.

And if Keaton’s mother was showing racists tendencies...

...well, the story would fade fast.

Yet, the pain that the kid is feeling in that video is hard to ignore.

I started the week with a “We Can Do Better” Post.

Can we?

Hang in there, Keaton.

It’s not as bad as it’s going to get.

Hope the kid finds some peace, and I really, really hope that it’s a tipping point...

...somehow...

And that when people are thinking of being really nasty to someone else that they see Keaton’s crying eyes.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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 at all anymore.

I’ll take the dogs to the corner to grab the paper, but after that, I’m in.

So, I have to get a few commercial aggravations off my chest.

I hate the one where the woman congratulates a man (her husband, I presume) for loading the dishwasher, and then she inspects his work.

“Nope, nuh-na, nada, not even close,” she says as the poor bastard stands there looking like a dope.

The commercial is for dish detergent and the narrator tells us that you can now put any dirty dish in there...

...without getting dressed down by the bitchiness of a condescending wife.

Seriously, look at the poor guy. He does everything but cry.

By the time she removed dish two on me I might have said:

“Stick those dishes...”

But the dilly-dilly beer commercial is funny.

Guy breaks out of a dungeon and buys beer on his escape, but returns.

“What’d I miss?” He asks the others being held captive.

Kinda’ funny.

Yet, the one that gets me and my beautiful wife laughing the most is the Jennifer Aniston dry eye one.

She’s deadly serious, explaining that she’s ashamed to tell her friends that she suffers (yeah, suffers) from dry eye.

I love her, of course. She’s a beautiful woman and a fine actress...

...but come on!

Suffering?

Poor Jen!

Damn dry eyes have her running into marble tables in her mansion, or on a yacht, I presume.

While we all have our crosses to bear...

...well, every time it comes on I’ll say:

“I pray she’s okay.”

“Maybe we can donate somewhere,” Kathy answers.

It’s been a tough go for Jen.

She used to play the suffering woman in the romantic comedies.

“I can’t find love!”

I’d imagine she could get a million guys to sign up for the chance to keep her happy.

Anywhoha...

I feel a little better.

Got some commercial angst off my chest...

...now can we do something about Randy Jackson judging the dog show one?

30 seconds of “I just don’t see it, dog,” is kinda’ annoying!

I’d cry if my eyes weren’t so dry.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Winter Wonderland

It was mentioned that there was a chance that heavy snow might visit the area at the precise time that the Bills game was set to start.

My cousin very generously passed on his tickets for the game to my boys and their buddy.

“You’re out of your minds,” I said, as the snow began to fly.

“It’ll be fun,” they said.

Before kickoff, Jake sent a text:

“I’d come home if the rest of them agreed.”

Then I didn’t hear anymore...

...and I had the game on television.

I could hardly see it.

Had zero idea what yardline they were on.

For the longest time I figured that it would end 0-0.

By the time it was all over, about 4 hours had passed. The boys talked about how cold it was, but were happy with the win.

“How much would they have to pay you to get you to sit outside in that to watch football?” I asked Kathy.

“A lot,” she said.

“A thousand bucks?” I asked.’

“I still probably wouldn’t do it,” she said.

Over a foot of snow fell.

The wind was whipping.

“I probably wouldn’t either,” I said.

I used to go every week!

They’re home again next week...

...Bills-Dolphins.

How exciting!




Monday, December 11, 2017

We Can Be Better

We have a problem.

Our standards have been lowered, lowered and lowered to the point where we are on the verge of allowing a man who is being dogged by accusations of child molestation to be elected to the senate.

There are people arguing for him!

I read an interview with a man from Alabama who said that there are plenty of parents in that state who would be honored to have their daughter receive the attention of a man as powerful as Roy Moore.

Seriously!

We can do a whole lot better.

And there’s way too much of the “What about him?” Argument.

Mention that 20 women have said that Trump assaulted them and you get a “What about Bill Clinton?”

And vice-versa.

Here’s the thing:

How about this?

There’s credible information that you’re a creep, you’re gone.

Does that work?

Moore was actually endorsed!!!!

“The accusations are troubling,” the White House said.

What they didn’t say is that a child molester is better than a liberal...

...but that’s exactly what they are saying.

I’m tired of it.

Your guy is guilty...

...our guy deserves a fair trial.

When I was a kid we actually looked up to the leaders.

A senator!

The president!!

Those were the best of the best.

Brilliant, courageous, worried about all of us.

“The system is corrupt,” Trump said at the rally where he endorsed the child molester.

Ya’ think???

And you won’t hear me arguing for those who got booted from their jobs these past few weeks.

You’re a powerful guy hitting on interns?

Adios!

You grab people, or show them your thing.

Goodbye.

5,10, 15, 20 women stand up and tell their story about what a creep you are?

Well, you get what you get.

Our best people should be leading us.

Fire the bastards.

All of them.

We can be better.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Judge & Jury

A couple of years ago, Jake was trying to tell me that the Yankees had no future.

“It’s going to be ten lean years,” he predicted.

I laughed.

“They’re the Yankees,” I said. “They always have a future.”

Last year they were one game away from the World Series and much of that was because their rookie star (who should’ve won the MVP) hit more than 50 homers.

But he didn’t lead the majors in homers.

So, on Saturday, they went and got the guy who did lead the majors in homers.

Giancarlo Stanton is a superstar.

Welcome aboard.

The future looks bright!

And there will be a whole lot of crying because they will be spending a lot of money for Stanton over the next ten years.

Here’s the thing:

They got him for a song!

Miami had to trade him...

...everyone knew it.

They had deals in place with St. Louis and San Francisco but Stanton wouldn’t approve the deals.

Miami was like a wounded animal...

...the Yankees swooped in.

And now they’re absolutely loaded with talent.

Judge, Stanton, Sanchez and Bird is a modern day murderers row.

I have a feeling that I’m going to be really obnoxious about it over the next few years.

Say it with me:

The Greatest Franchise in the History of Organized American Sports...

...strikes again.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Full Circle

Received a call on Thursday night.

It’s weird to get calls now. I actually don’t care to talk on the phone. It’s so much easier to text, but I took the call because it was from an old friend who I don’t speak to very often.

“I got the book yesterday,” she said. “I finished it today!”

“That’s good, right?” I asked.

“It’s amazing!” She said. “I’ve never read a book that fast. It usually takes me a month.”

I laughed.

“Well, it took me longer than that to write it,” I said.

“When I started it, I wondered what is “The big D” and I was going to wonder if I liked it, but I ended up writing down some phrases that I really liked!”

She read some of the phrases back to me.

Then we started talking about the characters. She asked me who I had based one of the lead characters on.

“No one, actually,” I said. “He was completely made up.”

We talked about the plot and the fact that the book is set in Iowa.

I mentioned that most of the story popped into my head in about three hours.

“I had a notebook with me on a long drive. By the time the drive was over I knew what I wanted to do.”

That made her laugh.

“That’s so weird,” she said.

And it IS weird, but what can I say? It’s all part of the writing gig.

Yet I wanted to keep the conversation going.

I truly enjoy hearing from all of the readers.

“What did you think of this?”

“What did you think of that?”

And it’s not about fishing for compliments. You just really want to hear if the reader got the trick that you were trying to play.

Did they see behind the curtain?

And the neat part is often times what I thought about it when I was writing it isn’t what they were thinking as they read it.

That’s really awesome!

“Well, I thought that Angela was really important to what Aaron was doing.”

“I never thought about that,” I said.

“Oh come on! It was as plain as day!!”

And then I laugh...

...and think about it some more.

“You should write more about them.”

I get that a lot.

That’s the greatest of all compliments because that particular reader wants more.

I was actually back in Iowa last week.

“I’m looking for Angela,” I texted to one friend who’d also read the book.

“I’d know her if I saw her!” My friend texted back. “I’d love to meet her!!”

That made me smile.

Angela isn’t really alive.

Or is she?

She’s alive in my mind...

...and in the mind of the reader.

How cool is that?

All from a three-hour car ride.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Sufferin’ Sucatash

Never mind that the decision was extremely controversial, and may result in even more chaos in a part of the world where chaos is rampant...

...the end of Trump’s speech got a whole lot of attention.

I was listening on the radio as I drove to a job.

“What the hell?”

I thought that my radio was going bad.

Was he slurring his words?

I didn’t think much about it until my day was over and I visited Twitter.

The end of the speech was bigger news than the fact that Jerusalem was going to be home to an embassy.

The White House said that it was dry mouth...

...yet I’ve had dry mouth during a speech. It never resulted in the heavy breathing that was unbelievably evident for long stretches of the speech...

...and the sniffling was back.

Every three words there was a deep sniffle.

Others were saying that his dentures fell out.

Does he wear dentures?

Fake teeth AND fake hair?

Once more there were rumors of possible drug use.

Tweet after tweet spoke of a cocaine or speed habit.

I’m sure the drug test will come the day after we see the tax returns.

Yet then the discussion got even more dire.

Was he suffering a health episode?

There’s nothing interesting about watching someone suffer from a medical emergency, but transparency from the White House is extremely doubtful right about now.

One medical doctor made an even more crazy diagnosis by saying that he looked as if he were faking an episode.

Faking?

Is that possible?

Well, we’ve certainly seen fake news, fake middle class tax cuts, fake patriotism, fake compassion, fake religion.

Why not a fake medical emergency to bail out of the fake presidency?

Perhaps that’s the way out in what is looking like a real mess.

Stay tuned.

They’re swearing that none of this is fake...

...and the hair is real too.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

I Used to Be Cool

Was driving in Ankeny, Iowa when I got in line at a red light behind a F-150 Pickup truck. The bumper sticker on the driver’s side rear:

“I Used to Be Cool.”

I laughed.

“So did I,” I thought.

My beautiful wife wasn’t with me, but I could almost hear her voice saying:

“You were never cool.”

And I probably wasn’t.

We all like to think we were the greatest back in the day.

When I’m recalling sports that I played with my buddies I always pretend that I was much more of a strong presence than I actually was. A specific game might enter the conversation and I’ll say:

“I think I had 20 points and 18 rebounds in that one.”

They’ll laugh.

Or worse...

...remind me that I spent that particular game parked on the bench.

Yet, that’s the thing about looking back. We tell ourselves a lot of stories, and shame on you if you aren’t cool in all of them.

“The girls loved me,” I’ll often say to Kathy.

“No they didn’t.”

I spent a lot of years tellin my kids that I played in the NBA under the name of Jerry West.

How cool is that?

They believed me for a little while.

“I was a medic in Nam,” is another one of my little gems in an attempt to rewrite history.

“You were six!” Sam finally figured out.

So, I might get that bumper sticker.

I DID used to be cool.

I’m not anymore.

“I was an elite athlete,” I mentioned to my boy’s friend, Ben, right after I served him a little food.

“I can definitely see that,” he said.

Smart kid.

He knows I control the food now...

...and what’s cooler than that?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Happy Birthday to Corinne

My sister Corinne has a huge heart.

Every time I think of her I smile.

Through the years we’ve shared so much.

We’ve laughed really hard.

We’ve grieved together.

The worst part about grieving with someone is that your hurt is their hurt and their hurt is your hurt. You want to help them through it all, but you can’t.

Yet, Corinne’s strength has definitely given me strength.

So, Happy Birthday!!!

Of course, our favorite thing to do now is to get together and eat a little bit.

Corinne, Chuck, me and Sam is a classic outing, and the food just flies around as we laugh our way through the meal.

What’s weird about watching your siblings add another year is that they’re always the same age in your mind.

45 years ago we were Co-conspirators in getting up hours before we were supposed to on Christmas morning.

I’m thinking Corinne was about ten then.

She’s stuck right there in my mind.

I’ll always be a younger brother to her...

...and we’ve always gotten along famously.

Happy Birthday!

We’ll go out and catch a bite...

...or a couple hundred bites, actually.

We love Corinne!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Gronk

People who cheer for anything and everything Buffalo have already been conflicted.

Gronk plays for the Patriots, but he’s from the Buffalo area.

There are people who want to like him because he’s from Buffalo, but hate him because he plays for the hated team, and there are people who want to hate him, but kind of like him.

Gronk took care of all of that on Sunday with an epically stupid play in Sunday’s game.

The Pats were laying their usual beatdown on the Bills when late in the game The Greatest QB of All-Time threw a ball towards Gronk and Bills defender Tre White.

It was a jump ball and White came down with it, which aggravated Gronk. White was flat on his stomach when Gronk jumped on him.

That’s not a little thing.

Gronk weighs about 290 pounds.

White’s head bounced off the turf and concussion was immediately mentioned.

After the game Gronk apologized, sort of. Hoodie apologized, calling it ‘bullshit’and Bills fans were out for blood.

It was a really dumb thing to do.

Gronk should be suspended.

He probably won’t.

(Word came down that he got 1 game...should’ve been more).

Three weeks from now the teams play again...

.:.next year Gronk will be back in Orchard Park.

He will also be back to visit his hometown, I imagine.

He better watch the cook if he heads to Duffs to order wings.

Buffalo doesn’t forget their enemies...

...and Gronk is number one on the Most Hated  list.

Even Brady would beat him in a popularity contest.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Retirement Age

I recall a job I had back in 1988.

I was a union laborer, working in New Haven, Connecticut. My labor partner, Lonnie, was 60 years old.

He looked older.

He’d spent his days with a shovel in his hands. He had huge, calloused hands, and he tried, many times, to slow down a little.

“You’re working us out of a job,” He’d say. “Pace yourself.”

I distinctly recall one day in January.

The wind was howling, snow was flying, and I was so damn cold that my teeth were chattering.

Lonnie and I were stripping concrete forms following a pour earlier in the week.

“Two damn years,” Lonnie said, leaning on his crowbar. “Then I retire.”

“38 years for me,” I answered.

He laughed.

Lonnie would be about 90 now.

I hope he is still kicking somewhere, enjoying his 29th year of retirement.

There are rumors that the retirement age will now be raised to 70.

Many people will never be able to hang up their work clothes.

A lot of people start doing the math in their 50’s or so.

Thousands of days, giving your all, stack up behind you.

Cut to a few weeks ago.

It was about 6:30 in the morning.

One of the regulars met me at the door to the convenient store. (We’re two of the last people on Earth who buy the newspaper before we start our day).

“Go first,” he said. “I’m retired. You’re still hustling.”

“I hope you’re enjoying your retirement,” I said.

“Eh, not really,” he said. “I had to work so long that my body isn’t worth a shit now. I wanted to golf and fish and hunt, but I can barely move.”

I didn’t know what to say to that.

“Golden years, my ass,” he said.

Social security raided.

Childcare denied.

Orrin Hatch explained that paying for a sick child of a working class poor couple wasn’t in the best interest of the country. He made a reference to them getting off their asses!

Yep!

Start working at, say, five years of age...

...count down the 70 years until you retire!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

So Now What?

Woke to the news that the senate jammed a tax reform bill through.

My handling of financial matters has never been a strong suit. If I have a little money in my pocket, I don’t much think about net worth, or future dealings.

I have no idea how the stock market works, and wouldn’t truly feel comfortable gambling that way. It is gambling of sorts, right?

So, when I hear that Wall Street has had a robust day it doesn’t mean a damn thing to me.

Yet what I do know is that if tax money goes to the top, it isn’t coming back down.

Trickle down is horseshit.

Given the choice of forking money over to the worker bees, or buying a summer home, it will be the summer home every time!

(For full disclosure, I have had a fairly stress-free life money-wise, but I have been up and out of my bed and off to work since about the age of 12. I work for a stable, employee-owned company and have been treated fairly).

Yet, there are millions who have truly suffered...

...they’re also getting up and going to work, but are in a dead-end world, and it’s a lifelong struggle.

Here’s the important part...

...they deserve to live a life. They deserve cost of living raises. Their time is worth money. They don’t deserve to be left behind.

It’s funny, but I was watching ‘Christmas Vacation’ last week. It boils down to Clark Griswold waiting on his bonus.

His boss decides to forego bonuses to make the bottom line look better.

In the end, he is shamed to have kept the money and shattered the dreams of his employees.

Not sure that movie can be made to be believable now.

“Tough shit, you’re lucky you have a job,” might be how it ends in 2017.

And that’s a shame.

Forty years ago you could make a life with one parent working. Children went to college without taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans. There was a possibility of retiring. An illness wasn’t a death sentence, or a guaranteed trip to the poor house.

There was compassion for those who were deemed less fortunate!

Those days are gone, and the election was a cry from middle America.

WE NEED HELP!

Those three words were shouted from all corners of the richest nation on the planet.

So, the tax brackets have been redone, and initial reports are that the upper tier will get relief.

Corporations will benefit with the promise that jobs and pay raises are going to pour back in from wherever they went.

America will be great again...

...and we will owe it all to trickle down economics.

Sounds great, right?

(Full disclosure part two...

...I nearly threw up when I heard the news that this is how we’re going to attack our problems).

I really miss compassion.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Lock Him Up!

Guess it wasn’t a hoax.

I’ve been following along, and to be perfectly honest, the only thing that would surprise me, at this point, is if Trump isn’t charged.

Sorry if you fell for it, but he’s been a thug for a long, long time.

He lies without ever feeling bad about it, and in the end, he will find out that all the people he was conspiring with are going to line up to tell on him.

John Flynn did the flip thing on Friday.

Think back to the campaign trail.

Flynn and Trump, arm-in-arm, chanting lock her up...

...as they were conspiring with a foreign country to rob our democracy of a free election.

Scary stuff.

When they were chanting, “Lock her up,” I recall thinking that it was an awful thing to be doing. The whole presidential race aside, it was a horrible thing to do during any election.

We were headed that way.

Elections have been getting progressively nastier through the years. The civil discord that we see in our society has been a direct result of how vile the elections were becoming.

For fun, just go back and look at Reagan and George H.W. Bush having a debate and speaking about immigration.

They were rivals.

They both wanted to be president. There was no love lost...but they were civil to one another. They didn’t come up with nicknames for each other. They didn’t make threats to put each other in prison, or ask their base to use their second amendment rights on their opponent.

So, Flynn is going to sing like a canary.

And it will most likely get worse before it gets better.

Can the nation survive this?

I don’t know.

I really don’t.

Will those who voted for Trump swallow hard and move to the right side of things if Mueller proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt that Donald and his band of dopes took Putin’s bait and sold out the democracy to gain power?

That’s the question that needs to be answered.

If this administration is guilty (and it appears that way) will we respond as we should?

Will his base abandon their support, or will they dig in and fight for him?

I’d like to be optimistic...

...but shortly after Flynn pleaded guilty....

...the White House dug in, saying that Flynn was operating on his own, and that he got his clearance under Obama (Before he left, Obama explicitly told Trump that Flynn was compromised. Trump denied it and appointed him NSA).

Then Kushner was implicated.

How will Donald deny his Son-in-Law?

Or Junior?

This is an absolute mess, people, and I don’t know about you, but I’m a little scared.

Now...

...lock him up.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Santa Baby

I’m not the most festive of people when it comes to Christmas music.

Give me a couple of spins of Bruce doing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve and that’ll do it.

I like a few others:

“Father Christmas”, Bowie and Bing doing “Little Drummer Boy” (or Bob Seger) and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by Mellencamp.

Okay...so I like a few.

Problem is, I don’t like them in November, and I don’t like one Christmas song after another...

...and there are some I hate!

“Dashing through the snow,” ugh!

I stopped for a couple of hot dogs on Thursday for lunch.

Thought it would be nice to spend twenty minutes eating instead of trying to eat when I drive to another job...

...and it was one bad Christmas song after another...

And that damn, “Santa Baby” song got stuck in my brain.

For the next three hours I was trying so hard not to hear it in my head!

I went to a meeting.

As the guy was talking to me I was thinking:

“Santa Baby, coming down the chimney tonight.”

STOP!

He asked me what I thought.

“Santa Baby!”

Over and over.

Just those two damn words!

I stopped for a water on the way home.

“Tomorrow is December first,” one clerk said to the other.

“I’m so excited,” the other girl mentioned. “I love Christmas.”

They both looked at me.

“Santa Baby!” I thought. “Santa Baby. Santa Baby. F***ing Baby.”

“You looking forward to Christmas?” Girl one asked.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “The music really gets me in the mood.”

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Reckoning

If I’m still home at 7 a.m., I normally watch Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie to get some news (fake or not fake).

I was stunned by yesterday’s news.

Lauer got fired.

Caught up in the sexual harassment triangle.

I immediately wondered if it was a quick trigger. Did he get fired for simple remarks? Was he a serial problem child?

They didn’t say much early on, and I got into a chat with my text buddy.

“I worry about not being able to joke around anymore,” I said.

“Men have been acting like idiots for centuries. The tide has turned.”

“There’s a line that can never be crossed,” I answered. “If you don’t know the line, you’re probably a scumbag.”

I thought of a dinner with a coworker years ago. A fun filled laughfest where we all spent time making fun of one another.

She eventually gave me her phone number so I could text business opportunities. I immediately sent a text:

“What are you wearing?”

She was sitting across from me at the restaurant. We all laughed. She called me an idiot.

Yet, but what if, for some reason, there was a falling out?

Could that sort of text, completely out of context, bring trouble?

I suppose that it could!

Yet, it’s not too hard to break it down:

Be respectful!

Don’t show someone your junk if she hasn’t asked to see it!

Don’t use threats, or power, or any other garbage to intimidate, scare, or humiliate someone.

Be human, for crying out loud!

Later on, news of the accusations came out.

It doesn’t appear that there was a great misunderstanding, and in the court of public opinion, Lauer was strung up.

Why?

So respected.

Rich, on television every day.

Married with children...

...all up in smoke.

For what?

Just for the love of being a dope.

The list is getting longer and longer, isn’t it?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Proud People

I’ve worked with a number of Native Americans as there are a number of men of that particular heritage in the ironworker field.

One of my favorite people of all-time was my buddy Kimball. He taught me so much about life because he caught me between the ages of 25-35 and he tried to get me to aim my arrows instead of just firing them all over the place.

Kimball died way too young, but I think of him a lot, and I know that hundreds of his buddies do too. I saw one such buddy the other day. Another Native American ironworker.

“Cliffy!” He called out.

I was walking with a few management guys and one laughed and said:

“That Indian Dude is calling your name.”

I headed over and we exchanged two hand slaps and a hug.

“How you doing?” He asked.

“I’m good,” I said. “Are you tying off when you get off the ground?”

“You know I’m not,” he said, with a laugh.

“Yeah, yeah, only the weak fall,” I teased.

“Thinning the herd!”

I hoped he was joking, but I wasn’t sure.

Hardworking dude.

We swapped a bunch of office gossip, and after a few more hand slaps and some promises to stay in touch, I walked away, and back to the supervision guys in the white hats.

“You spend time on the reservation?” One of the guys said.

“He’s a great guy,” I said. “I used to stop for beers with him back in the day.”

“Fire water,” the other guy said, and they both laughed.

I walked away.

And I thought of Kimball again yesterday when The Bloviating Orange Mess made a Pocahontas joke in front of a gathering of Native Americans who were supposed to be honored yesterday.

Kimball would’ve been pissed!

So, I was pissed.

And then I stopped reading about it.

I walked away from the guys on the site who were being prejudiced idiots...

...sucks when you have to turn off the news for the same reason.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Flynn Flipped, Sexiest Man of the Year and Moore!

So, John Flynn’s lawyers are no longer speaking with Donald Trump’s lawyers, which might signal that Flynn has now flipped and may be singing like a canary.

What that leads to is anyone’s guess.

Uncharted territory.

There was also a story circulating about a tape that further compromises Donald. Was he caught with an underage girl? Did he pull a Ray Rice?

Many have supposedly seen the tape, including Tom Arnold.

Will it all come out soon?

Stay tuned.

What is true is that Trump made a claim, on Friday night that Time Magazine contacted to let him know that he’d probably be ‘person of the year’, but since it involved an interview and a photo shoot, probably wasn’t enough because he’s busy...

...then Time came out and said that the claim was inaccurate!

Kind of like People calling me to let me know that I was most likely going to win ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ but I’m too damn busy.

Was it just a distraction?

Donald doubled down on Sunday morning.

He explained that the Democrat who is running against accused pedophile Ray Moore is a bad choice as a senator.

The alleged pedophile would be tougher on crime.

Can you actually believe that this is our leadership?

Fake man of the year?

A pedophile winning an election?

Blackmail and video??

On to tax reform!!!!

The poor, oppressed billionaires have really suffered!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Curtiss Hotel

It was a project that took an awfully long time.

The owners were promising that the Curtiss Hotel would one day be a luxury hotel, but when those projects begin, it is hard to visualize.

I visited the site plenty of times. It was a good project that seemed to take forever. As it gets close to being done, I often move onto the next big one, never actually seeing the finished product. I still have not been back to 716, the Pegula Project next to the hockey arena. That job was a particular pain in the ass.

Yet, on Saturday night we booked an evening away at the Curtiss Hotel.

The place was jumping.

People were heading in and heading to the rooftop lounge. There was also a bar on the ground floor. When we were checking in there were a half dozen young girls in the lobby, wrapped in towels.

They’d just got out of the hot spring pool that went from inside the building to the outside. We were certainly down for that experience.

Mind you, my day started with lobster for lunch with my brother, sister, brother-in-Law for Mom’s Birthday. We ate well, and then the waitress explained that there was no bill.

My sister, Carrie Lynn, had called the restaurant and paid the bill!

Went for an hour massage after that...

...got my legs back!

Then the hot springs.

The hotel room was great too, but there was something going on with the toilet. Every time I got near it, it made a noise.

“The toilet seat is heated,” Kathy explained.

Yet there was also a remote control thingy on the wall.

“What’s up with this thing?” I asked.

The instructions read:

‘Front, Rear, Drying.’

“It washes and dries you,” Kathy said.

“Are you freaking kidding me?”

We shall leave all discussions about who did and didn’t use this particular feature, but it was certainly available.

The shower?

There were at least 6 shower heads.

It was amazing that I was able to turn the damn thing on, but I tell you this...

...if the toilet doesn’t clean you...

...the shower freaking does!

I almost hit the deck when the water hit me!

We watched NetFlix, turned on the lights and opened the curtains by using an I-pad that was next to the bed.

Someone pulled our car up to the front entrance, and since we booked the room using hotel points that I had to either use or lose...

...the bill for our stay came to:

$0.00

“This has been a good day,” I said.

It was crazy to see the finished hotel.

I got away cheap...

...I think...

...I may be buying a new toilet.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Families

Social media is a double-edged sword.

For every stupid tweet or post that is meant to inflame...

...there is a great shot of someone showing love in some fashion.

Thanksgiving is a good day to peek in on the lives of your friends, because it shows them with their families.

I like to check out the shots of the food, the sharing, and the laughter.

My brother Jim did all the work for us. He had way too much food again, but everything was perfect, and there’s no shame in leftovers...

...especially when it’s Mom’s stuffing!

“We don’t eat like we used to,” I mentioned to Jim, and we missed Carrie and Corinne and of course, Jeff and Dad, but we shared and laughed a lot.

The memory of all the past Thanksgiving celebrations are right there too.

And it’s so much fun to see the smiling faces of friends from all across the country.

Hanging with spouses, children, grandchildren.

Just living.

That’s what all the work is for.

And, of course, you feel for those who don’t have such connections, but Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for what you do have...

...not what you don’t.

Or what you lost.

Life can be great.

Especially cause I still have a little stuffing left!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mom

In the new book, The big D, (available through Amazon.com, or by messaging me your address), I wrote about The Carpenters, and how the Mom in the story loved their music.

I thank Mom (and Dad) for introducing me to all sorts of artists.

Mom also brought reading into my life. We still trade books.

On Thanksgiving Day, the first thing she said to me was:

“I’m reading the new book. It’s a great story so far.”

She reads a lot...

...so that’s a great compliment.

And conversation has always been easy with Mom.

We talk about everything from sports, to politics, the past, present and future.

On her birthday today there will be Lobster!

She loves it...

...and a bunch of us will take her out...

...share some more laughter.

Happy Birthday to my Mommy!

Thank you for all you’ve done, and all the love!

Every time I finish a book she should also take a bow because I’d have never been an author without her.

Not a chance!

(Shoutout to JC too. Happy Birthday, buddy).

Friday, November 24, 2017

Manson Is Dead

He got 83 years.

Isn’t that a kick in the head?

All those days for a man who was basically the face of evil for all of my life.

I was just a kid when all those murders went down. I actually remember a little of the news coverage...

...just snippets on the news and my parents talking about it.

They kept us away from it. You could do that back then.

I wonder how such a massacre would be covered these days. Certainly we have grown accustomed to some of the violence.

Manson was no more of a monster than the guy in Vegas, was he?

But I also wonder how many books, movies and films have been made about Manson.

I’ve seen plenty.

I’ve read all about it.

Still shakes me a bit.

Manson and Helter Skelter are synonymous.

He was a failed musician.

A failed prophet.

A complete nightmare...

...and he had a following.

When you read the books or watch the films you’re struck by the men and women who got trapped into a way of thinking, and did things that they would not normally do.

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

Could someone like Manson come around again?

I think so.

I believe that some people are following the lead of men who aren’t worthy...

...right now!

It’s funny, but when you look back you wonder how...

...how did Manson get a following?

How did Hitler take over Germany?

How do people get brain-washed into believing something that they know is wrong?

It’s not so far-fetched to me now.

See ya’, Charlie.

Hope you packed your short pants.

It’s gonna’ be hot where you’re going.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving 🦃 🍽

What’s not to like about Thanksgiving?

Food.

Nap.

Family.

We have plenty to be thankful for here at Camp Clifford.

We’ve had another productive year. We’re still here. We still all get along.

We could certainly use better legs around here, but we keep battling...

...and that’s worthy of being thankful.

I hope that your day is filled with laughter...

...good food...

...and kind thoughts.

Seems there’s way too much fighting these days.

Americans arguing with other Americans about what does or doesn’t make us great.

You know what would be really great?

Just being grateful for what we have.

Don’t worry or feel bad about what don’t have...

...feel great about what you do.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Birthday John

“We played king of the mountain out on the end.

The world came charging up the hill and we were women and men.”

I have a lot of trouble listening to Springsteen sing “Blood Brothers.”

It came on E-Street Radio the other day, though, and I thought of my brothers.

I listen to my boys play now...

...they can all make each other laugh.

Every once in awhile they get pissed at each other.

“Let ‘em Go. They’re all right,” I’ll say to Kathy.

“They’re screaming at each other.”

“So what,” I’ll answer. “They’ll be fine.”

And they will. They’re really tight.

Like I am, with all of my siblings.

Yet, life came charging up that hill.

It does for all of us.

Today is John’s Birthday.

My first, best buddy.

We did play king of the mountain (he won).

We had boxing matches (he won).

Ran foot races (he won).

And did so many other things together.

Day after day, year after year...

“I’ll be moving through the dark...

...with you in my heart...

...my blood brother.”

Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

What If He Throws 7 Picks?

My boys were fired up!

The Bills has laid two eggs in a row, but there was hope!

They were starting Nate Peterman...

...a guy who’d throw it down the field instead of tossing screen passes.

Jake was soundly for the idea.

Sam was against it, but by game time was leading the “Nate! Nate!! Nate!!!” Cheers.

I just wanted to see the kid do okay.

He didn’t.

He threw an interception on his third play.

 “It wasn’t his fault,” Jake said.

And it wasn’t.

“What if he throws 7 picks?” I asked.

Both boys looked at me with fire in their eyes.

Three plays later he had #2.

I didn’t see the third or fourth.

When the kid threw his fifth I was truly feeling bad for him.

Historically awful.

I thought about it in the context of being a Dad.

If that kid were my kid, why would I say?

Turns out my kids were fine with it.

“It blows to be a Buffalo sports fan,” Jake said.

“We can still go 11-5,” Sam reminded.

Poor Peterman.

Poor Jake.

Poor Sam.

Poor Buffalo!

You gotta’ believe.

Also, poor Pops. He went all the way out to L.A. for the game. When it was 37-7 I texted him and asked if he was having fun.

I can’t print his answer.

Monday, November 20, 2017

I Don’t Understand

Roy Moore was said to have stalked teenage girls. He wasn’t even allowed into a mall because he was creeping out too many of them.

He called one of them (according to her) when she was in her high school trig class.

Story after story about his bad behavior, but he wants to be a senator so that he can bring about change and make sure that people follow the laws of God.

And there’s plenty of people on his side!

I heard one guy try to explain it away by saying that one of the girls was 14, but was nearly 15 and the age of consent in Alabama is 16.

So?

He didn’t miss it by much????

He was in his 30’s!

He was, allegedly, trying to pick up children!!

For sex!!!

Isn’t that enough?

People are coming out of the woodwork to talk about what a creep Moore was.

Fake news, the Democrats and the GOP in Washington are setting him up!

What an amazing conspiracy, huh?

And a couple of weeks ago I wondered aloud how anyone could possibly vote for the guy with such a shadow hanging over his past life.

That Facebook post turned into a liberal/conservative argument, so I took it down.

Senseless.

And here’s the thing:

Moore is likely going to win.

He’s behind in the polls, but people, who might be ashamed of how they’re going to cast their vote, are lying.

“I’d rather vote for a pedophile than a Democrat.”

That comment when around and around on Twitter.

I don’t understand.

What can he possibly bring to the job that would allow you to forget what those women, who were just children at the time, are saying?

A 32-year-old man chasing a 14-year-old girl isn’t normal.

Certainly it isn’t worthy of a seat in the senate, is it?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Signing Books

Recently, I purchased an autographed copy of a John Green book, "Turtles All the Way Down."

John Green isn't a long name. His autograph is just a 'J' and a 'G'.

Must've taken him all of a second.

I was signing copies of the new book on Saturday morning. I like to add something to the signature. I don't want it to be a yearbook signature, but something!

A couple of words. Then signing my name. My handwriting has never been great, but you can see all the letters in my name.

And I bring it all up because signing books is one of the neat parts of actually writing a book. I like to think of the person reading it.

Hoping it makes a little bit of a difference, or entertains, or brings an emotion.

The other thing is that I am a person who is constantly driven to do the next thing. The next job, the next book, the next, next, next, next...

...drives me crazy.

I was in the middle of signing a number of them, and I was addressing one to a good friend.

"Hope she likes it," went through my brain, and then I actually picked up the book...

...looked at the cover and the story recap....

...thought of the thousands of books I've read in my life.

Remembered my personal mantra:

"Write something that means something to someone."

I can't explain how much different my day is when I am in the middle of a good book.

It's in the back of my mind all day...

....I can't wait to get back to it.

Hope I wrote one of those this time around.

At least I took a moment to acknowledge that I finished it.

On to the next!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Taxman Cometh

Two members of Congress got into a shouting match on Thursday.

Hatch versus Brown.

It was pretty ugly.

The argument was over who the tax cut (the most massive, awesome, tax cut in maybe ever) would benefit the most.

It's being hailed as a tax cut for everyone, but under further scrutiny, it appears that it will benefit the highest 1%.

Shocking!

But the good news is that those who save millions...will kickstart the economy...

...and share their money with the struggling middle class and the poorest among us (who may actually get a tax hike).

So, how to pay for this, because we don't want to add to the deficit...

...so, let's roll that healthcare thingy into it.

I can imagine it.

"Tax hike on the poor, take away their healthcare, stop paying teachers who pay for students supplies out of pocket, fix the estate tax so Ivanka and the two creepy sons keep the money that I've never paid taxes on (cause I'm smart), give the middle class some out front, take it from them on the back end, and most importantly, pretend that everyone is getting a raise, and that we're doing it out of the goodness of our hearts."

"That might work! Why would anyone ever think we'd lie????"

And it passed in the house, but may get exposed in the senate.

What can we do about it?

NOTHING!!!!

I spoke to an accountant about it on Friday.

"Shell game," he said. "It's funny listening to them talk about taxes. They don't know a damn thing!"

Which is heartwarming.

So, I'll wait.

Go see my taxman.

Drop everything off and go home and wait. He'll call me a week or so later, and say the same thing he always says:

"Are you sitting down?"

This year I may have to sit down before he starts talking because after listening to this group govern...

...there may be trouble ahead...

...unless you're a one percenter.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Week In Review

1). Geez, raise your hand if you haven't sexually assaulted someone.

What kills me about it is:

It's fine if the guy is R/D or it's horrifying if he's D/R.

Make up your mind!

You're either horrified by it or you don't care. I've said it before, I was shocked that Bill Clinton and Trump both did not lose their base...

...accusations didn't seem to matter.

On the other hand, Cosby, Weinstein and Spacey are cooked, and Louis C.K. might be too.

Franken and Stallone on Thursday...

...who gets lit up on Friday??

2). Big story in Buffalo as Tyrod lost his job as starting QB. The family was split on it. I agreed with Jake in thinking, "Why not?"

Kathy and Sam were against the move so we touched base with Matt.

"Stupid," he said.

So, there you have it. Jake and me are on the right side of it because no matter what the sports subject is, Matt is always on the wrong side. He's a Bills, Sabres, A's and Pelicans fan.

Yeah.

Pelicans.

He's zero for everything.

3). Thanksgiving next week.

Hard to believe.

It's been a year filled with chaos.

I don't think that my life has changed all that much, but I'm thinking that one scandal after another, the hurricanes, the mass shootings.

Ugh!

I said, "Damn, we need a quiet week!"

It wasn't this past week as there are fights over everything, the Attorney General was embarrassing, the senator to-be was calling children in their trig cases. The sitting senator has fish lips...

...everyone is fighting!

And the Bills are starting a new QB.

Let's all just rest a little, huh?

One quiet week?

Next week?

Say a little thanks and appreciate things.

Yeah.

Good luck with that!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Quick Stop

At least a couple of times a week I'll swing by the Dollar General store to grab a few things.

Melky and Paris like their dog bones, Sam likes the bags of popcorn and Kathy likes the small 100 Grand bars.

A quick stop to break up the day a little, and make the people around here a little more comfortable.

On Tuesday, at one such Dollar General Store a 53-year-old man was shot, by a guy who had an arsenal of weapons, and seemed intent on killing a whole bunch of people that he didn't know.

I've stopped at that particular store a few times as it was right beside one of the active jobs.

The store is less than 8 miles from my home.

The guy who got shot was 53...

...maybe he just stopped in to make his family's day a little better.

And thankfully the Cheektowaga police department intervened and saved lives. The guy had vests, additional guns...all the stuff necessary to kill.

Struck me down sad the more I thought about it.

In these shootings we hear about the victims. The media shows us little snippets of their lives, but they all blend together.

Faces of the Dead at Five.

But I started to put myself in the shoes of the shot 53-year-old guy.

It wasn't me that I was scared for.

Ever since I got married and had kids it was no longer about me...

...but my imagination ran wild and I thought of not coming through the door because some cowardly, miserable, deranged bastard had to pretend he was playing Call of Duty in real life.

My dogs are so fired up when I walk through the door.

My beautiful wife and kids certainly have their moments of aggravation with my routines and demands...

...but I bring the popcorn and 10 Grand Bars around...

...more than I aggravate.

And I thought about a quick stop and a sudden end because we can't figure out how the hell to live...

...and some son-of-a-bitch...

...ah man.

I stopped imagining because I couldn't think about my kids being in pain or being short-changed because someone has a fetish with a gun and a two cent brain.

We gotta' be able to make this better, don't we?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Streaker

The guy who ran on the field at the Ralph or Rich Stadium or New ERA or the cap or whatever the hell they call it...

...was the best Buffalo performer of the week.

The Bills got absolutely hammered (as they usually do in November) and late in the game the guy ran out Buck naked.

He went about 90 yards, got into the end zone (the Bills hadn't yet) and then tried to head back out. He was tackled hard.

Of course, I didn't see it on television, but his run was captured on video and flashed on all the social media outlets.

He was roundly congratulated for his efforts, but as per usual I took some time to think about his motivations.

His name isn't important, but he's 29 years old. He's also in good shape and has tattoos. I'm not sure how endowed he is.

I saw the g-rated video.

But, at 29, I wondered what sort of profession he was in. I'm not sure, but I think my boss and my company might frown on my participation in such an event.

Wife?

Kids?

I doubt he'd take such a jaunt if his immediate family was in the stands.

How about his Mom?

He probably has a Mom, right?

"Looked like fun," Sam said. "I'd do it."

"I'd kill you," I said.

And for the record, all of my kids are afraid of their own shadows. I don't think any of them could make such a run.

"I thought it was you," someone chided me on Facebook (Hi Kim).

"I wouldn't make it 5 yards," I answered. "They'd be taking me out on the cart."

The man was led into Orchard Park Court yesterday.

Criminal Trespass and Public Lewdness.

That's gotta be good on the resume.

He probably won't be allowed back into Rich Stadium again.

Banned for life!

Lucky bastard!!

If they really wanted to punish him they should make him go every week...

...no clothes for him.

Make him sit there on that frozen bench bare-assed.

He'd be the last streaker ever if that were his punishment.

That place is cold!!

Go Bills!!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Weekends

They're becoming routine.

I feel so beat up by the end of each week that most of what I do is in an effort to just get off my feet.

I limp into each weekend all worn out and hope to find some relaxation for the tired mind and body, and in an effort to do that I've found that I've turned into my Grandma and My Dad.

My job is to now make sure that everyone has something to eat.

"I can make you some eggs," I'll say to the first person I see.

Because I also get up hours before anyone else.

Sunday was the day of the big dinner.

Jake was home from school, Sam was kicking around and Kathy and Mom were heading to Bingo. I planned on sleeping until 7:00 (which is considered sleeping in) and then getting what I need for steak, and shrimp scampi over linguine.

There was a hiccup though.

I woke up at 5:00!

So, by the time everyone else woke up I'd already eaten two meals and was ready for bed.

The Bills were on, so the kids took the big television and Melky and I went to sleep. I was up by halftime and headed down to a deathly quiet living room.

"How's it going?" I asked.

"It's not funny," Sam said.

So, the Bills had pooped all over their day.

Ah well.

I had dinner to make!

I also had plenty of time, so in short spurts I marinated the steaks, got the shrimp scampi sauce ready, and finally got the text from Kathy:

"We're on the last game."

Which is my cue to get everything on plates.

And this is where the thoughts of Dad and Grandma kick in.

You don't need anyone to say, "This is good."

You just watch the plates empty.

And you're eating yourself so you know when it tastes right.

That's where you get your inspiration for the week, I guess.

A quiet weekend, an hour of getring things ready and a nice, relaxed dinner with the family.

"Back to work tomorrow," Kathy said.

"Yep."

Everything barking a little less, but it's getting colder now...

...time to start thinking of what I can make next weekend.

What else is there?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Putin Says He Didn't Do It

So, we're all good now, right?

Judge Judy often says:

"If it doesn't make sense than it's not true!"

She often yells it.

Let's try and grasp the Russia "Hoax".

"The F.B.I. Is lying. So is the C.I.A."

The New York Times and Washington Post?

"Fake news...run by liberals."

The Clintons and Obama?

"Liars!"

Comey, Brennan, Clapper???

"Political hacks!!"

Mueller?

A lifelong Republican is now a shill for Hillary because they sold uranium to Russia?

Speaking of Russia...

..."never had anything to do with them!!"

Campaign manager indicted and charged for making deals with Russia.

Papadopolus?

"Never heard of him!"

Kushner and Flynn...

..."hardly know the bastards."

But Putin???

The KGB spy????

"Seems like a straight-up guy. I believe him. We could all be great friends!"

Does that make sense to you???

If you voted for him...

...do you still believe that it's all a witch hunt?

If so, one more piece of advice from Judge Judy.

"Put on your listening ears!"

And, as per usual, I'm aggravated that I'm even writing this post today, but I really have a horribly nagging feeling.

This is gonna' end badly, isn't it???

How badly, I guess, depends on whether or not we can find someone trustworthy to save us.

I don't think that will be Putin.

Do you?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Wild Hair

My son, Sam, has a lot of hair.

He's not sure what to do with it, but he likes to wear it a whole lot longer than I might like...

...if I had a choice.

The thing is, my hair has been pretty much gone for a long time. I was in my 20's when I had this exchange with a pretty, young girl who was cutting my hair.

"Will I be bald or grey?" I asked.

"It'll be a good race," she said.

And it was.

The little hair I have left is grey.

The thing is, I mentioned to Sam that I had the same crazy hair back in the day.

I actually had a whole lot of angst about how I should wear it. I'd part it in the middle. I'd try to tamp it down. I wore it long. I tried it short.

I didn't know what I should be doing.

So sometimes I looked ridiculous.

And then it fell out, and all my problems were solved.

Sam has endured a lot of teasing lately.

He kind of rolls with it.

"I have great hair," he mentioned to me when I said something to him.

Then I showed him a photo of 18-year-old me.

"It falls out," I said.

Sam glanced at the photo.

"Well, at least I've never looked THAT ridiculous."

"I like shorter hair," I said.

"What choice do you have?"

Touché

Happy Birthday, To One of the Dopes

The funny thing about your kids getting older is that as a parent, you have all the goods. Today Matt is 25 years old (I’m pretty sure - w...