Friday, October 02, 2009

The focus of my trip to RI was a reunion of the Warwick Vets High School Chorale Tour of Yugoslavia from 1984 and this was an amazing weekend. My friend, Wayne picked me up at Greene Airport. It felt as if yesterday was the last time I had seen him and this was a feeling that went through the whole event.

I had the chance to relax at my sister's house before we got into the whole wake and funeral for Uncle Mike. The first real reunion activity was a social gathering as a pool hall and bar in nearby Cranston. We all caught up with each other and compared notes on the trip we shared together and our lives since. Only about half of those who went on the trip made it but that did not take away from the joy of seeing these friends again after so long.

Saturday morning was our rehearsal. It was the first time I had been back in Vets in decades and it was an overload of memories. Each step sparked another image from the past. I cold picture what I did on a certain area, who I had talked with and what we had said. The richness of these memories was amazing.

The backstage door to the main auditorium was ajar and I couldn't resist. All of the rehearsals, concerts, plays, stage crew meetings, drama club and times I ditched class hiding in the maintenance access room added up to the most time I had spent in any one room in the whole building. The floor creaked in all the same places and the sound was comforting. The same spotlights hung overhead and it actually looked as if they had replaced the wing curtains I tried throwing away in 1980 although the main curtains looked familiar as did the frayed ropes which opened and closed them.

I stood at center stage and looked down and what must have been some of the same tape markings that had been there when I played the Cowardly Lion, Charlie Brown and Sherlock Holmes. In my mind I ran through lines from each of the plays I had done on that stage. For old times sake I broke into the opening to a number from "you're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" which I had frozen on in front of hundreds of my classmates and remembered every word. It felt good to be there again.

I walked into what had been Uncle Mike's office. It had been changed into a piano practice room with six electric keyboards filling the space. As I stood in the doorway all I could see was Uncle Mike's desk. Covered with sheet music and in one corner a small cactus and a porcelain figure which bore a certain resemblance to the man behind the desk. This was also the room from where I had done the morning announcements all four years. I couldn't move past the threshold for fear my presence would dissipate the memories. I stood there and the tears started. I was missing Uncle Mike all over again.

Rehearsal was ready to begin and proved an even stranger experience. We were handed our music and took our places on the risers. I don't have the best posture while sitting and enjoy my life of slouching in my recliner at home and my throne sized executive chair at work. It wasn't until we were halfway through rehearsal before I noticed that simply out of habit, because I was there to sing and it was what Uncle Mike expected, that I was bolt upright seated on the edge of my seat. Habits that had been pummeled into my head 30 years ago came back like DNA encoding.

Also ingrained in our brains were the words and notes to each song. When we finished each time we all looked at each other in amazement that we seemed to sound just like we did "in the day".

All of my feeling of nostalgia were evaporated the moment the members of the current Vets Chorus entered the room to join us. They are little CHILDREN!!!! INFANTS!!!! I had seen my son grow through puberty, so seeing kids this age was nothing foreign to me. This was different! They were here in the same place I used to hang out. We all looked as if we still belonged there...not these children. We could never have been that small, that thin or that gawky. They were the interlopers! They were the new kids playing in our sandbox.

We all sang together and actually blended very well. The concert at the reunion was shaping up to being something special. I'll get into that in the next post. After rehearsal I found out my sister had been rushed to the hospital the previous evening with what would end up being kidney stones. I called her and told her that if she wanted to avoid spending time with me while I was in town she could have just told me.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Funerals suck. I think we can all agree on that. I had missed a number of important ones in the past few months but circumstances and borrowed money put me in the right place and time to be able to fly back to Rhode Island for Uncle Mike’s. I knew it was going to be an emotional one but I wasn’t quite expecting some of the emotions I went through.

As soon as we walked into the funeral home memories started flooding in. On the PA system they were playing our old Chorale recordings. All around the sitting rooms were photos from all stages of Uncle Mike’s life.

And then there were the people.

Old friends I had not seen in almost 30 years filled the room. We hugged, we caught up and we even laughed over old times. I think we also laughed at how old we had all gotten. As more and more came in it was a game to see if you were able to put the current face with the person you remembered from back in F-Wing. My ears perked up when I heard a familiar voice that hadn’t changed a bit, “Jimmy! Where’s Bevans!” I looked around following the same old, scratchy voice, “Why is Jimmy’s voice coming out of that old guy’s head?!”

Mrs. Brown, our accompanist, looked exactly as she did the last time I saw her in the late 80’s. I thought there must be a “Dorian Gray” portrait of her somewhere until a friend reminded me that she was probably using just as many cosmetics now as she did back then.

I was fine with all of these reunions and was glad that none of the grief bubbled to the surface as I had felt would come with this funeral until I glanced up and made eye contact with an old and special friend.

Jill and I had dated back in school and even after we broke up stayed friends and deepened that friendship. While we hadn’t talked in over 20 years we had reconnected on Facebook there was something about looking into her eyes. Across the room I felt as if we immediately felt and shared the grief of our loss of Uncle Mike. Also, in just that momentary glance, was all of the emotion that tied us together back when we walked the same halls, the sadness of a friendship lost over time and the joy of being together again.

All that took place in 3 seconds; the time it took me to look up, stand up and plow my way across the room and sweep my arms around her. And then we cried. As I hugged her tighter I could feel my sobs shaking against hers. “Damn you”, I said “I was fine till you got here!” We laughed, dried our tears and, after she went through the receiving line, caught up with each others lives.

The receiving line? Oh, yeah the real reason for being there.

Uncle Mike looked exactly as I remembered him. I held my tears pretty much in check, although with a huge lump in my throat holding them back. Just like with the other reunions happening in that room it was good to reconnect with the rest of the Kroian family. They all were very appreciative of my having come all the way from Florida.

There was this one moment that happened just as I was preparing to leave which shows how deep the influence Mike had on me. As I stood at the casket before I left, one of the old Chorale songs was playing. With the familiar tune playing and Uncle Mike there before me more and more memories came into focus. I could see his hands massaging the sound and his face either emoting or wincing. Suddenly, I starting singing along. I caught myself before others noticed but it was enough to make me smile at the memories.

The funeral the next day was a traditional Armenian service. The funeral procession was one of the few which came close to equaling the size of my father's as we wound our way from Warwick to Providence and back to the cemetery in West Greenwich. The weather held out with a bright sun and gentle autumn breeze as we filed past leaving flowers on the tomb cover as we left Uncle Mike at his final resting place.

Because there had been a years time to prepare for this, the family seemed able to deal easier with the loss. Added to that the reunion feel to seeing old friends at every turn took much of the sting out of this funeral and the Yugoslav reunion was a perfect coda to the whole things.

But that is tomorrow's blog.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It has been two days since I got back from my trip to Rhode Island. I have gnawed my way through the loaf of Portuguese sweet bread, one of the three cans on Narragansett Beer, a quart of coffee milk and my New York System hot weenie meat sauce is simmering on the stove. It was quite a trip.

The reason I had not posted soon is due how emotionally overwhelming this trip was. This may actually take more than one post to cover everything about the trip; let me start with the reasons for the trip.

Originally, it was supposed to be John and I going home to show him off to family before he goes into the Navy tagged onto a reunion of the 1984 Warwick Vets High School Chorale Yugoslavian Tour. Then Julie happened, money got tight and I couldn’t afford to bring John. Then it looked as if I wouldn’t even be able to attend the reunion; as of two weeks ago; I was ready to throw in the towel.

Then Uncle Mike died.

Mike Kroian was the director of the Chorale but his influence went way beyond simply his hunching over a music stand and waving his arms at us. For the 9 years I was actively associated with the Chorale and since, Uncle Mike had taught me “life lessons”.

I showed up for his summer rehearsals having no idea what involvement with the Chorus and Chorale would mean for me. While I could carry a tune I could barely read music and had nothing near to level of ability those in the rest of the practice room had. However, Mike Kroian took me in.

All around me were people like me; artistic, expressive and, at one level or another, talented kids. They all called the director “Uncle Mike” as if it were a family. As I continued to attend rehearsals I heard a new language; the F-Wing Language. Strange words like “Zubar” and “Ah-Fa-Bo” were common place and I wanted to learn them all.

I’m always amazed that Paul McCartney can tell you the first words he said to John Lennon at the church fair where he met John Lennon. I don’t know how it happened but within days I was sharing a locker with Jay Kingston; a junior who would be an important part of my life for many years before a rift not unlike that which destroyed the Beatles.

In the midst of all this was Uncle Mike. Trying to sum up all of my experiences or finding the most poignant is like picking your favorite child. I remember when he was livid with me for oversleeping on the Yugoslavian tour and missing our first concert there. I remember the look in his eyes when he finally, in my senior year, let me join the Chorale even though my voice wasn’t really at its best. It was my last chance and he knew how hard I had worked each year and how much it meant to me. I remember a drive in his two seat MG. It was just him and me and he shared his own problems growing up with an illness and how he overcame it. With him it was polio and mine was asthma. I took his example as inspiration and it gave me the determination I would need later in life.

He took me places on this planet I never dreamed I would see. I stood with him at the tomb of David Ben Gurion and looked out onto the Negev desert. At the Diaspora Museum he talked about the Armenian Holocaust and I felt his ethnic pride. I danced beside him in a pub in Austria and heard him laugh with that beaming smile. Those and thousands of other memories; some good and some bad, because life isn’t always perfect, will stay with me forever. I can still feel his large hand resting on my shoulder. I can hear his voice booming at me for doing something wrong….again. I can hear his laughter. The excitement in his voice sharing a letter from college from alum, Mike Cheney. I can see those hands moving in front of me as the coerced a particular sound and intonation during a performance as if he could reach into me and mold it. I can also feel the last hug I got from him on a visit home 5 years ago.

That’s as best I can do to try to sum all of the emotions and memories I have of Uncle Mike. It’s inadequate, I know because those memories are a deeply rooted part of me. Those memories of all my time in F-Wing went into making me who I am today and I have no possible way of fathoming how different a person I would be if I had never met him.

In my next post I’ll talk about the funeral itself.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Since moving to Florida my political activism has been dormant. However, in recent months, the spark has been reignited. If my life had taken a different road I am sure I would be working in DC right now so I have to find a way to do something when I feel moved to do so.

First was this email to Senator Jon Kyl (R) Arizona who made statements after the President's health care speech which were nothing more than a twisting of the truth and I felt moved to call him on it. Here is what I sent to him:


As you can see from my information, I am not a constituent of yours. I have never been fortunate enough to visit Arizona but would like to one day. I am simply a good American; yes, Liberal Democrat, who, even though I can disagree with someone can still have respect for them as a person and their position. I am not writing to lash out and hope I do not come off as "extremist"; I only heard something you said today, felt it was incorrect and wished to share my point of view.

I have been active in politics since a youngster; having a long family history of involvement; however, I have never sent a letter like this. I feel that the issue of Health Care Reform is so important that I must begin doing more and this email is one step in that direction.

I heard you respond to President Obama's comments last night about "calling out" those misrepresent what is in the plan. Your said that this did not sound like bipartisanship. Here is where we disagree, Senator.

These words, as I read them:

"And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than to improve it. I won’t stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what’s in this plan, we will call you out. "

The President first says if someone brings him a "serious" proposal he will listen. However, the recent history of blatant disinformation, and mean spirited disinformation will not be tolerated. Bring something to the table with substance and not something silly like "death boards". How is this a bad thing? This is the first time, in a long time of my following politics, that I have seen such a clarion call for you folks in Washington to do the job you were sent to Washington to do.

I grew up in Rhode Island watching John O. Pastore and Claiborne Pell. You might be able to tag me with a "homegrown Liberal Democrat" tag; but, politics aside, can you imagine how such long serving, text book examples of what a legislator should be, would react to some of the divisive rhetoric being slung these days. I, honestly, think they would be embarrassed by some of their colleagues.

I am not saying you are one of those, sir. I respect your work on victim's rights and, as I said at the onset, I respect you as a senator. I hope you will take this in the spirit it is given; in hopes of continued open debate.

And then there was Representative Joe Wilson (R) South Carolina. Yes.....HIM. In all honestly, his outburst did some good. There was a loophole on some of the legislation when it came to illegal aliens and it was a good thing the question was raised. I took issue with how he did it but it wasn't until he kept refusing to apologize to his colleagues in the House, whom he actually insulted more than the President with his outburst, by trying to make correlations to some grumbling by members of the House during an address by President Bush and whining that there was some sort of double standard. Here is what I sent to him.


I am writing to let you know how I feel over the aftermath of your outburst during the President's address of 9/9. While I applaud and respect your quick response in apologizing directly to the President I completely disagree with your statements that you will not apologize to the House as a body. I worked for 4 years as an aide to a member of the RI State House of Representatives and am familiar with the general rules of decorum. I have also done some cursory research on the actual rules of decorum for the US House. From what I can find, you are clearly in violation of section 370 which specifically states "a member could not call the President 'a liar'".

You outburst, while inappropriate, has brought a spotlight on the question of immigrants health coverage. While you and I might disagree on the President's plan we could agree that this wording was, at the very least, ambiguous. Your words may have a positive impact after all.

This does not, however, detract from the act itself. I would urge you, strongly, to reconsider. To continue to take the route of the image of a martyr, it will continue to lessen your image in the eyes of the public at large. If you were to apologize rather than be reprimanded by the House, you would strengthen your image as a thoughtful and patriotic legislator who simply made an emotional mistake.

Well, that's my opinion, anyway. All my best to you either way.

I haven't heard from either of them but I feel sated and I miss being in the think of things.

Well, that's my opinion, anyway. All my best to you either way.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More proof of genetics; a recent text messaging session between me and my son.

John: Guess what I'm watching

Me: I'm almost afraid to ask

John: Roughnecks

Me: Download or DVD?

John: Watching at Tate's Comics

Me: Kewl! Showoff and tell em you know Mojo

John: I already did!

Me: That's my boy!

To translate to the non-geeks reading this; "Roughnecks" is a CGI animated version of "Starshiptroopers" which aired a few years ago. A friend of mine, Mojo, was one of the animators. I have been accused of being a name dropper and my son just showed he has the same active gene.

I could hardly be any more proud!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I just came back from watching the shuttle Discovery liftoff and am just as amazed as I was the first time I saw a launch in person. This is one of the few advantages of living in Florida. I live 90 miles south of Kennedy Space Center and have only missed two launches in the 14 years I've been here. Night launches are a special experience themselves.

This time I decided to head right down to the ocean side beach to watch the launch. I was pleasantly surprised to find a good sized crowd had gathered by ten minuets before liftoff.

Well, I was happy with most of those present. Here we were, on a beautiful Atlantic beat close to midnight with the moon streaming its way through a thin veil of clouds left over from a stormy day with open pockets of clear sky sparkling with stars. There were idiots with flashlights! What kind of moron takes a midnight stroll on the beach with a goddamn flashlight?! Slack-jawed tourists without an ounce of romanticism in their blood; that's who! There was one little pre-teen toe head who came close to getting his flashlight embedded somewhere very uncomfortable if he hadn't stopped his lighthouse impression; continually spinning in a circle which brough his AA beacon aimed right into my eyes every 15 seconds.

I ignored the gathering rabble and stepped closer to the water's edge. With the warm wind blowing, the roar of the waves and the smell of the ocean my thoughts went to Ted Kennedy. Somehow, it seemed the right place to be today to watch the launch. I had been thinking over the past few days how much I wanted to be back home. To be able to pay my respects at the Kennedy Library. Even more, the thoughts of the road not taken and how other choices in my life would have put me at the funeral in DC.

The ocean always makes me homesick. When I was growing up I felt as if the ocean was mine. From my bedroom window I could see the water. The seawall at Oakland Beach was my refuge. Whenever I needed a place to go to clear my head or to sort through my thoughts, I went to the water. Beach sand frozen solid in February or soft and warm in August I would go anytime. I closed my eyes and, for a moment, I could imagine myself standing on the rock jutting into Buttonwoods Cove.

And then that little bastard started playing lighthouse again!

Liftoff was closing in and I was inspired to share the moment with someone. I called my friend Bismo and caught him as he was just racing in his door to turn on his TV. He out his phone on speaker and cranked the volume on his TV so he had as close a feeling to being there as he could all the way from New England. I could hear the commentator count off the seconds and announce, "We have ignition!" But I really didn't need him to know that.

At the very edge of the horizon it looked as if the sun were coming up. The clouds just over the cape began to glow as they reflected the light from the shuttle engines. It got brighter and brighter until the golden streak of the shuttle itself began to rise. Like a bright torch being carried across the sky the bright glow streamed up and to the east.

Still brilliantly strong and clearly visible for longer than I've seen any launch. The longer I could see it, the more adrenalin I could feel entering my blood stream and my breath shortened. On the other end of the phone the coverage on Bismo's TV ended so I continued play by play for him. The glow against the clouds continued until the shuttle left the atmosphere. As if I were watching a close up image, I could see the boosters fall away as the shuttle continued further away. Then the shuttle became a bright star in the night sky.

And then it was gone.

The tourists left. The snot nosed living lighthouse returned to his dad's vacation condo. The roar of the waves returned and the beach was mine again.

The only way this experience could have been better would have been to actually be on board the shuttle itself. I stayed on the beach a while longer talking with Bismo. Not to bad a way to spend an evening.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I remember the first moment I ever met Red Barrows. It was also the first time I met their family dog, Franco. I'm not sure which one scared me more.

Harry Barrows was a friend of mine in high school. We both belonged to the chorus and eventually came the time for me to visit his house for the first time. We walked through the door and I immediately heard a bellowing bark of his dog Franco and the sound of it made me freeze in my tracks. I sounded like a cross between an angry bison and a very hungry bear.

And then I saw him.

Franco was a German Shepard but he looked as if he had some hidden Great Dane or horse DNA. And then one or two sniffs and a scratch behind the ears and he was my best friend. Every time I entered the Barrows home I was welcomed by Franco like one of the family.

Red was just like that.

As I made my first introductions to Franco and learned he wouldn't chew my head off I heard Red bark from his corner in the living room. Hunkered down in his chair in the corner he looked like a well dressed Gollum in a flannel shirt with his craggy face with pointed chin and beady eyes glaring in my direction.

And then I heard him.

"Close the goddamn door before the dog gets out!"

But, just like Franco, once we got to know each other he always welcomed me like a member of the family. In many ways he filled some fatherly position in my life after my father died. I had grown closer to Harry but I probably called on Red for assistance when my car broke down as often as I called Harry and he was always there for me. He always helped me but I can also see him shaking his head at me at the same time in that fatherly, "I love you but you're an idiot" kind of way. Every time I looked deep in those beady eyes I saw love and respect.

Last week Red passed away. Just a few years ago I stood with him and Harry in a cold November wind at Ma Barrow's grave. Just like then my financial situation kept me away from a funeral. Harry always says its nothing I have to worry about and I know that all the years of friendship make up for not being at some silly service. I also know that I will make it to that cemetery again and pay my respects to Red. But it will never be the same; it is as if I missed my own parent's funeral. I will, however, always have my memories of Red.

My favorite story is one about Red and my father. They were both police officers in neighboring jurisdictions. There was a city park which, to get to, you had to go through part of the neighboring town. They would meet together and patrol the park. This was in the days of the land cruiser car made of steel which weighed as much as a tank. One evening, Red and my dad found one of these tanks parked off the road. A convertible with its top down and various pieces of clothing draped over the fenders and trunk. The occupants were hunkered down deep in the back seat deeply involved with each other.

Red and my dad crept up on the car, one on either side coming up on the rear fenders. In silence, they removed the clothing from the car. One of them kneeled down and took out his large steel cased flashlights and pulled them back ready to swing. The other returned to the patrol car with his hand at the ready on the switch for the lights and siren

On the count of three they let loose; banging loudly on the fender as the siren wailed and emergency lights flashed. Red would howl telling the story, "The two heads popped up looking like they just had the shit scared out of them! They jumped around, half naked looking for their clothes! I never saw two people get dressed so quick in my life!"

I will miss Red. I don't believe in heaven but I do like the romantic image of Red and my dad laughing together again like they did that night.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

I have learned my first joke in another language.

My friend, Edison, told me that in Spanish speaking countries Arnold Schwarzenegger is known as "Chocha-negger".

I took Spanish I three times in high school and college almost 30 years ago and I GOT THE JOKE!

For the uninitiated "chocha" is Spanish slang for vagina; less delicately put, it is the Spanish version of the word "pussy". It doesn't make sense if you actually translate it but it works. It was a simple and prefect pun and I got the joke in the other language.

I had never thought before that puns would work in other languages. I guess that's simple ignorance and a certain Anglo superiority. I have listen to and written jokes all my life. My father brought me a love of humor and my mother brought me love of the English language. I cut my comedic teeth on George Carlin as he turned words and phrases on their ear into some of the funniest things I had ever heard.

Now, to not only hear a joke in another language but a joke actually told in another language is like watching the Marx Brothers again for the first time.

Thanks, Edison!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Julie bonded out of jail. I'm not sure how but she called late Tuesday night after she got out. Yes! She actually had the nerve to call. My phone was turned down so I didn't hear the call come in just a voice mail message. I do want to talk to her; it won't be the most pleasant conversation of m,y life, but I do want to eventually talk to her.

I had the opportunity Monday evening to take the girls out to get something to eat. They are not living under the best of conditions right now; they are staying with their paternal grandmother in a house with no running water and no electricity. The Department for Children and Families has been called in and has interviewed the whole family and are working on a resolution.

After we got dinner we made a run through Wally World to get some much needed supplies before returning to their grandmother's. Before I left I had a discussion with the 7 year old, Nicky. She told me how, on the night when I last loaned money to her mother that they left where we were and what her mother actually did with the money.

You have to picture this adorable 7 year old girl standing there telling me this; she was so embarrassed and mortified by her mother that she couldn't actually say the words but had to spell it out, "She went to buy P-I-L-L-S".

I can understand a person having a habit. I am slapping myself in the head for seeing but not acknowledging some of the signs. What I do not forgive is her using her children as she has. I've seen all the shows on TV about addicts and the lengths they go to but it pales in comparison to being a part of that person's life and realizing how you had been used.

So, in honor of that self realization I offer this tribute.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Today, my son is a man!

John turned 18 today. I could go all Hallmark on what that means to me but, if you're a regular reader, you know all the "I never had this experience with my father" rants I could start.

To my surprise, his mother did not have a master plan for the day or any big blow out in the works. So, I got there in time to take him out to lunch. To cement my place in his life as the parent who gives the cool presents I gave him something completely useless considering he is going into the Navy in a few months; a full sized, hand made Captain America shield replica.


The we brought it inside and showed it off to his mother. She rolled her eyes. I got the exact reactions out of the both of them I for which I had hoped. I have always had the philosophy that you can buy clothes and essential things any day of the week; Christmas and birthdays are for FUN gifts.

We then headed out to a local Army/Navy surplus store so I could give him a gift of a gesture on my part. I had gone in looking for the Blue Service Star lapel pin but the dolts who worked there had no idea what I was talking about even tough hanging right beside all the ribbons and medals they had on display was a bumper sticker version.

For those who might be as ignorant an the orangutans running the cash register, the Service Star Banner first came into use during World War I; each blue signifies an immediate family member who is serving in the military during a time of armed conflict. A gold star signifies a family member who had died in the line of duty.

My son has never really been sure how much I support his decision to join the military and I wanted to use the occasion of his becoming an adult to present an outward sign that I love and respect him very much. I also gave him the history lesson and warned him that in his job of Ordinance Technician not to drop any of the ordinance because I wanted to keep my banner a blue banner.

We then went out to lunch for his favorite food; hot wings. We sat an talked and as we did he did seem to become an adult right in front of me. A realization came over me as well; this was not only my son but my friend. He is a funny, witty, intelligent and damned good looking guy that I enjoy hanging out with. I could have been sitting in that wing joint with any number of the bums I hang out with and it would have been the same scene. But I was here with my son and it was one of the best moments in my life.

With this being his 18th birthday, let me commit to record his and my favorite story about the moment of his birth. It was at the exact moment of his birth. He had just slid his way into this world, he took his first breath, he cried, the doctor cleaned him off, I cut the cord, the doctor took him from me and with hands under each little arm held him up for his mother to see...


After leaving the humid warmth of the womb the cold conditioned hospital air slapped into his little body shocking the kidneys and sending a perfect stream aimed directly at his mother's mid-torso.

I don't think I've ever been more proud of my son; he came into the world doing a sight gag!

Happy Birthday, son!

Friday, July 17, 2009

I really thought I was done blogging about Julie. I really thought it was over.

Then the phone rang and it was a collect call from the Martin County Jail.

I almost stumbled over myself to get to my computer to look her up and sure enough; there she was in the glare of the booking flood lights resplendent in her jail jumpsuit and the vacant and dazed look of someone who had spent the past two hurs being shuffled from cruiser to holding cell.

It's not often when the universe turns in my favor but in those rare occasions when it does happen; its a glorious thing.

Four forgery charges, improper use of identification and credit card fraud.

The phone continued to ring and I continued to refuse the call. I found out later than I can't take collect calls on my cell phone but it didn't matter; there was no way in hell I was going to accept her call. She wants money for bail. The ironic part is that the amount she needed was exactly how much I had blown on her in our first year of dating.

Can she be so stupid that she would think she could come to me again? Could she think I was so stupid that I would fall for her bullshit again? How many times did she think she could trample on me and be able to come back for more?

I am not the kind of person who holds a grudge; I've even mended fences with my ex-wife for crying out loud, but I am reveling in the anger I am feeling. While I still refuse each call from the jail I am looking forward to actually confronting her face to face some day. She lied to me to my face. She used her children as pawns to get what she wanted. I sit and rethink everything we did together and everything said to each other since first meeting in the summer of 2007 and I wonder which ones were legitimate and which ones were a grift.

So I continue to sit and listen to the phone ring. Each call goes to voice mail and I eventually listen to them. Each one starts off with the automated collect call system announcing the call and then a three second audio snippet of her in jail. I can hear the echo o her voice on the linoleum, cinder block and glass; an echo which never stops and they never get right on TV. Some are plaintive, some are pleading, some are stern and some are tear-filled.

With each call I get a little more of my self respect back.

And it feels good for a change.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I have recently gotten a Facebook account and through all of the silly little quizzes there was one on "The 5 Things Which Scare Me The Most". Mine were; roller coasters, heights, Alzheimer's, death and dragonflies.

When I was little I had a child's fear of roller coasters. At around the age of 12 my brother in law, who had taken a psychology course, and instantly thought himself Freud, decided he would "cure" me of my fear. He offered to take me to a local kiddie amusement park where he would go with me on the little bunny hop roller coaster there.

"I'll be right with you. I'll show you how safe it is and that there's nothing to be afraid of".

I trusted him and went along.

We sat side by side on the car waiting for it to start. "See, no problem, right?"

"Sure", I said, white knuckled holding onto the safety bar for dear life.. Adrenalin pumping through my veins as the anticipation grew.

Then the car shook as the chain underneath began to tug at the car. The car was also shaking because just at that moment my brother in law was climbing out leaving me alone to face my fear. As the car pulled away I looked back incrediously at him waving from the safe and stable platform.

I started screaming and didn't stop until halfway back to the parking lot. I don't know what I yelled at him; if I said I hated him or actually called him a son of a bitch. I do know all he said was, "Oh, grow up!"

Through my adolescence, summers which should have been spent on trill rides at Rocky Point Park were now limited to the Merry Go Round, kiddie car rides and the most daring ride I would venture, the Tile A Whirl. To this day I can not even watch the shows about roller coasters on the Discovery Channel without hyperventilating.

The only time I got on a roller coaster recently was on a trip to Disney with friends. My son was growing and I knew he would soon be asking me to go on these rides. I figured I could trust Disney and we chose Space Mountain.

Thanks to years of watching "The Wonderful World of Disney" I knew what to expect. However, the universe decided to screw with me a little. As I was making my way through the staging area there was a problem with the ride and they shut it down for a few minutes. Whenever they do that they turn on these flood lights with make a usually obscured ride completely visible. I did not need to see all of the scaffolding and the actual size of the entire ride.

All was fine and we got into our cars. As the car made it to the top of the first hill I knew what was coming and clamped my eyes shut tightly. I didn't want to see a thing. And, just like my ride on the bunny hop coaster, I started screaming. This was 20 years later and I now had a louder voice and much larger vocabulary. As we got off the ride I was horse from all my yelling and my friend came up to me and said, "You know, they usually don't allow that kind of language at Disney!" We quickly exited the ride before any of the other guests could complain about my sailor-like soliloquy.

Since then, I have gone on many virtual reality ride which give me the same scare as a roller coaster. However, I keep having to remind myself of the mechanics and special effects that are actually holding me only a few feet off the ground and that there is no reason to scream like a school girl. I also lve the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney; although I still clamp my eyes shut at the very end during the drop.

A fear of heights is something I actually talked myself into. I had no problem with heights as a youngster until I can clearly remember acting out one time in the back seat of my parents car as we were driving over the Jamestown Bridge which straddled Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. The original bridge has a center span with an open grate section about halfway across. As your car sped across ypu could look down and see the water underneath. I threw myself into the part of a scared little kid to either entertain my parents or get their attention. Each time we drove across the bridge I went into the same over-dramatized fit of fear. Eventually I forgot that it was play acting and I began ot actually get scared as we drove across. Any time I got into a high building my adrenalin would race as I imagined falling the same way I did as I pictured myself falling through the steel grate of the bridge.

Alzheimer's and death itself seem to go hand in hand. I fear the loss of control and memory that comes with Alzheimer's. My only hope is that continued research with lessen its affects by the time I reach my "golden years". The thing I fear most about death is the moment itself. I have a very low tolerance for pain and there are very few ways of dying that don't involve some major aspect of discomfort.


When I was a youngster, maybe around 9 or 10, I was swimming at the city pond with my cousins; amongst them my cousin, Tommy. As we walked around the pond we came across a swarm of dragonflies. I couldn't remember ever seeing them before and was leery of the over sized insects. Tommy saw this and offered this tidbit of information; that dragonflies were also known as "sewing needles, not just because they looked like sewing needles but because when they stung you the would do it over and over again like a needle on a sewing machine". To drive home the point he poked into his forearm over and over again with a maniacal grin on his face. Needless to say, I was horrified and did everything I could to stay away from dragonflies.

Flash forward to 1994 when I was working at the local newspaper. I was in the break room with my supervisor when a dragonfly made its way inside the building. As we stood there talking this gigantic demon bug slapped itself over and over again into the low hanging florescent light fixture a mere foot above our heads. As it banged into the light and swung back again I would duck over and over to avoid coming into contact fearing the never ending attack of the Sewing Needle.

"What the hell are you doing?" My supervisor asked as she stood motionless in the direct flight path of this dangerous bug with a look on her face as if she was watching some addled mental patient.

"That dragonfly!" I gasped as I ducked from another kamikaze flight dove towards me. "Watch out for it!" I warned her.

"Think about it, Jack", she said as if she were explaining the wheel to primitive man. "Dragon house FLY. It's a harmless bug. It won't hurt you." She sighed, shook her head and walked away. Well,at least she didn't laugh.

Since then I have done research and know, on an intellectual level, that they are completely harmless, I still have to stop myself from diving for cover when ever I see one and I almost bit my tongue off to stop myself from screaming outloud during the opening credits of "Men In Black".

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To continue the Julie Saga....

I thought things were finally over and done. She had made her choices and I didn't wait for any phone calls; I moved on. But, just like always, just after a few weeks; just when I finally stopped thinking about her, she called me.

I stared down at the caller ID on my phone and froze. Part of me longed for this call and another part of me dreaded it. But, I took it. She wanted to get together to talk. I knew I had a big enough emotional scab and that I wouldn't be completely vulnerable and might actually stand up for myself for once.

We ended up at a park along the river and she had brought along one of her daughter; my favorite. We started talking and I didn't give her much slack. I told her exactly how much she had hurt me.

I also let her know exactly how I felt that time I had gone to her house and confronted the Knuckledragger. I asked her if I caused them to have a less than friendly night. She said it had led to a big fight that night. I answered, "Aw, too bad".

But of course, the entire reason for meeting was her asking me for money. Honestly, I fought it for a while.My budget was tight that week and I really couldn't afford to load even $5. I even pointed out that she had picked the worst possible day to ask as it was the day when I would have been headed to Shore Leave and that SHE was the reason I had not been able to afford to go over the past two years.

But she said it was because she had no electricity and she had the 4 girls. Like a bad card table, I folded. As I rolled the possibility around in me head I also asked THE question. I didn't want to and could see all of my friends lined up in front of me yelling, "DON'T SAY IT!" But I asked if her meeting with me was about more than the money; if it was also about us. She said yes. She said she had made a mistake with the Knuckledragger; that he was abusive and hit her and that he was out of the picture and had been gone from the house for weeks.

I gave her the money and sat back waiting. To my surprise and relief she did try calling me on the day she told me she would have the money to repay me. All the time in that park by the river we talked about trust. We talked about how damaged the trust was between us. I told her how much of a limb I was being put on my loaning the money. I was in a meeting when she called and didn't get to call her back right away. Since the Knuckledragger was gone I figured I would simply drive up to her place and see her and the girls.

I knocked on the door and waited as I hears scrambling around inside. Suddenly, one of the girls called out, "Mom! Dad! There's someone at the door!"


OK, I thought, he ex-had finally grown a pair and came down to help out since things had gotten so bad. That made sense. Well, you probably have already guessed that it wasn't her ex but the Knuckledragger who walked out of the bedroom.

I think I felt blood vessels in my head burst.

She rambled on about him "only stopping by" and some excuse about the money. I really didn't hear it. I didn't even bother to get into it with her. I mostly did that because of the girls. I have always believed that you don't fight in front of children and this would be a doozey. SO, I excused myself and simply walked away saying, "Call when you know what's happening".

As I drove home I cried and screamed. I was angry at her and I was angry at myself. How could I be so god damned stupid? When I got home I mixed an ample amount of rum with Coke Zero and proceeded to get smashed. My head couldn't process any more and my emotions were burned to a crisp; the rum seemed to sooth all of that and was probably the only way I was able to sleep that night.

I guess I can look on this as a learning experience. I hope I can move on from this without too much damage. I hope I can be open hearted enough to the next woman without second guessing every move she makes or looking for double meaning behind each word she says.

I guess I just have to be sure the next one isn't a heartless and manipulative bitch.

Oh, wait...does that mean I haven't exactly gotten over it all yet?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ok; so, Julie. What about an update on her. Well, I guess the universe was waiting for the final chapter on that one to play itself out before I got around to updating you here. And, boy, what a final chapter. I think the fact that I didn't post before now says a lot about who I felt deep down. On some level I must have known that the relationship was wrong but didn't want to admit it to myself while everyone else around me could see all the warning signs.

But...I'm getting ahead of myself.

When I last mentioned her on here in January she was on her way back from Michigan. I don't recall now our first discussions but she did admit that she had done wrong in the way she handled things and felt very sorry. She said that as soon as she got there she knew she had made a mistake and took this long to see it. We talked for some time and both agreed that we should take it slow.

Most of my point of vew on that had come from one of my sisters. When Julie had called me from the road I called my sister who had been through two abusive relationships. I figured she would have the insight I needed to know where Julie was coming from emotionally and what I could do to make things work the best. My sister advised me to simply remain friends; nothing more than holding hands, in anything, for the first year. She also said, and these words would come back to haunt me, that she is not going to "feel as if she deserves the kind of relationship you are willing to give her". All of it wonderful advice. The only problem is I didn't listen to her.

We did take things slow. I held back more than I usually do; letting her make the first move on a number of fronts and never once used the "L" word. My approach, as it turned out was only half right and would eventually bite me in the ass.

Things were going fine through the spring and I was getting all kinds of unsolicited positive reinforcement of how our relationship was working. Out of the blue she would say how happy she was and how committed to the relationship she was. Her 4 year old, as toddlers will do, started hyphenating my name to "Jack-Daddy" and we both smiled at this. Things were going well.

Or so it seemed.

On one Saturday we attended my company cookout as a family unit and everything was sunny and beautiful. We were both a little tired out on Sunday, so we didn't get together. On that Monday I texted her and she said she was in bed with a bad migraine and that her mother was coming up to help with the girls and there was no need for me to make the trip. Sensible, I thought; and, knowing how bad migraines can be, I let her have her rest. Tuesday, no word. I figured she still needed rest. When I heard nothing on Wednesday, I called her mother to see what she had heard.

"We think you should know what is going on", is how her mother began the conversation.

Apparently, she had met this guy, the son of a neighbor, who had just gotten out of jail and had moved in and been staying there since Monday. I stammered a few words and thanked her for letting me know. I had to see this for myself so as soon as I was done with work I headed to her place. I had no idea what I was getting myself in for and kept trying to talk myself out of it.

"Guy just got out of jail", I thought to myself. "He's her age and probably built. What the fuck am I thinking?! I'm going to confront someone like him? I've never been in a his shoulders....if he's going to throw a punch he'll pivot his shoulders ahead of a punch....then DUCK! At least I'd miss the first punch!" All of this rolled through my head as I drove through the rain to get there. Yeah, just for dramatic affect, it was storming!

I pull up and the girls are in the yard playing and one of them says.,"We're getting ready to go out to dinner with mommy's new friend!" Lovely...confirmation.

But, wait!

I walk in and there is a guy sitting on the couch just glaring up at me. Julie come in and pushes me out the door so we can talk. She proceeds to tell me it is the girls' father; he came down unexpectedly for an upcoming birthdays. I asked her why one of the girls said "mommy's friend", to which she responded incredulously and said she'd have to talk to her about that. I stepped back, believing what she was saying and told her to let the dust settle and let me know what was happening about the party the coming weekend.

I kept getting text messages saying how confusing things were and that we would talk soon. Then came the day of the party. They showed up at the park and the entire family and this guy pile out of the van. I immediately notice that Julie has hickeys all over her neck.

The fog begins to lift.

As she is unloading the van she says, "Maybe I should introduce you two."

To hold on to the benefit of the doubt and also give her some rope to hang herself, I say, "Oh, we met at the last Christmas party."

She averts her eyes, "Not really."

We had to get the party set up and as soon as I could I pulled her aside to talk. "I don't know where to start", she said.

"Maybe you can start with that skin condition on your neck!"

That's how most of the conversation went. She would say, "I guess I really fucked up this time" and I would simply respond, "Ya' think?!" She said that we seemed to be settling down too fast. I asked her what part about living to seperate houses two counties apart constituted settling down. I told her how,against all advice from friends, that I was holding out all hope for our relationship. Then she repeated the same words my sister had said months earlier; "I didn't think I deserve the relationship you were giving me". I guess I owe my sister a BIG apology!

The kids were circling and it got more difficult to talk. She then told me that she may be going to jail for 30 days due to some bad checks. I told her that would certainly give her some time to think things out and decide what she wanted. As it grew more and more difficult to talk we agreed to get together later, afte rthe girls had gone to bed. Of course, she blew that off later and, again, I didn't hear from her for days.

In the mean time I decided to do some fact checking. I called the county clerk and found there was no record of her appearing in court. I called the sheriff's office and found there was no current bad check case involving her. So, I finally decided to go to her house to see what was going on.

When I got there she again herded me outside to talk. As we started to talk the Knuckledragger, as I like to call her "new friend", came walking over and stood there glaring at me.

I stopped in mid-sentence with Julie and looked at him, "Excuse us, please, we're talking."

He rolled his shoulders back, set his jaw and deepened his stare, "Excuse you?"

"Yeah, this is between her and me".

"Well, she's with me now".

"Fine, but this is a private conversation between her and me".

"Oh, really",I was watching his shoulders VERY closely, "At the party did you say she was the whore you always knew she was. That she should be with you because your paycheck is bigger than mine. That I just got out of jail and am no good. That she only reason she is with me is because I'm better built than you? Didn't you call her a whore?"

Each statement hit me like a sock in the gut. I'd been in situations in my life when someone had stepped in and took control, set things in motion around me and spread gossip and lies all to have the upper hand. I took a deep breath and decided, not this time.

"Look, pal; first off, I would never call her anything like that. My paycheck ain't all that big. I have no idea why you were and jail, and while I haven't been in for anywhere near as long as you, I was in jail three times; so, I have no place to talk about anyone else ever being in jail. Do I have some issues with my body image? Yes. Do I wish I was built like you? Yes. Most important of all; on the graves of my dead parents, on the souls of these four children and," holding out my hand, "my hand to yours, I would never, ever say any of those things."

As I said each of these truths I watched him melt. The animal rage left his eyes, his shoulders slumped and he took my hand in his. Then, in an almost comical moment, at the exact same synchronized movement we both turned and looked at Julie. She stood there, silent, like a deer in headlights. Before she could stammer an answer a car plowed into the parking lot and she herded the girls inside. The Knuckledragger followed and they stayed inside for a few minuets. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall.

She finally came out and said, "My mother said those things to him after you left."

"Oh, wait!" I said, still keeping a hold on my control of this moment of my life, "That would be your mother, the one who told me the truth about what was going on here?"

"I just know that's what she said."

"Can you ever tell the truth?!"

In righteous indignation she spun around and said, "Of course I can tell the truth!"

That was enough for me for one night. "Look", I said turning for my car, "You have lots of stuff to figure out with him and you have lots of stuff to figure out for yourself. If you ever think you have it all figured out, give me a call".

And I left.

Oh, but wait! While that should be the end of the story there is more! However, my hands are getting tired writing all of this at once. The final installment of Final Chapter:Walking Tall next time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I almost always try to post something on my birthday. This year coincided with my son's high school graduation; it made for quite the weekend.

I was up early on the 30th in order to arrive early enough to play chauffeur for my step son Jimmy, his girlfriend and John's girlfriend's mother and brother. Not that I minded but it meant getting up at 5AM. This will be an important fact as the weekend goes on.

It was nice to have interaction again with Jimmy. He has had a tough adolescence and I always feel as thought I carry part of the guilt due to what happened to my marriage to his mother. We had the opportunity during the day to talk some of that out.

I sat with my ex and the rest of the family which gave her and I time to talk. We talked, laughed and gossiped about family and friends. It is good to know that we can be friends after all we have been through.

And then there was the star of the day, John. Each move he made during the ceremony I flashed back to what I was thinking and feeling 29 years ago. As if it were yesterday, I could see and hear everything around me at the Warwick Musical Theater. The excited nervousness of each conversation around me. The way we looked at each other almost as if it were the last time. The smug smile I had on my face as I pulled my diploma from Ed Miley's hands, walked a few steps, crouched down in a "Chorale victory - Yessss" and then leapt over the three steps off the stage in a single bound.

15 years earlier, as Jimmy went off to his first day at school, me, John and their mother stood on the curb watching him drive off for his first day of school. My ex was weeping while I smiled at waved goodbye looking forward to 6 hours of peace and quiet. Now, I was the weeping parent as my son strode across the stage and took his diploma.

Afterwards there was a party where he was piled on with gifts. We had originally planned on heading off for our next day at Disney but we ended up at a 10:30 showing of "Up". Never one to miss seeing a Pixar movie, I had no problem with the change in plans. Not even considering that I had been up since 5AM. It was until just recently, when I went to see the movie again, that I realized that I had fallen asleep not 15 minutes into the movie. John swears I didn't snore.

We got to my place in Jensen Beach around 2AM and got as much sleep as we could for our next day at Disney. More on that in tomorrow's post.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Just some random thoughts. Sorry, no big updates yet.

I'm really tired of Michael Jackson being lionized and almost deified. Have we forgotten what happened in 1988? A friend of mine reminded me that "He was cleaed of all charges. They never proved he did anything"

My answer:
"Yeah, and I've never eaten a cheesburger!"

She had no answer to that.

I didn't get to see Trek in IMAX. They had "Transformers" instead. There was no way in hell I was going to pay $10 for "Transformers". I will gladly use one of my free passes to see the effects and Megan Fox on the big screen or just wait till it hits Netflix and I've finished my "Really Bad Bruce Willis Movie" Movie Marathon before I watch it. Maybe JJ Abhams can go a She-Ra re-boot next!

I did go see "UP"in 3-D. Amazing! Pixar continues to be the gold stabndard when it comes to CGI moves and now for 3-D as well.

And, I owe my son an apology. After his graduation we went to see "Up". This was after being up since 5AM and in a dark room with comfortable seating. I was there with John, his friends, girlfriend and her mother. After watching the movie again at a show where I was well rested all I can say is...I hope I didn't snore at all.

Finally, am I the only one who is feaked out the Bernie Madoff looks like Washington?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

That's right; I've been lapse in posting again. A lot has happened in the past two months. Julie came back into my life. I've moved. John graduated and is enlisted in the Navy. Julie dumped me. I was offline for about two weeks.

What? Julie?! Last thing I had posted here she was in Michigan and our relationship was already a thing of the past. I could get heavily into that but I'll save that for another post. OK, maybe a couple of posts.

First, let me tell you about two phone calls I received today.

Today is Father's Day and my son called me. While that may not seem like a big deal the fact that my son did this, the fact that I have seen more birthdays and Fathers Days than me and my father is significant. My father didn't live to see me graduate. Every day I have with him from here on are virgin territory for me as a father. I am trying to walk that line between being parent and best friend. I think it's going pretty good so far. As things like a job and girlfriend put me lower on his list of things to do I worry that time and distance will erode our relationship. But that all melts away the moment I get a phone call or text from him.

And I love getting text messages from him. They a random and silly. He will send me a joke. Tell me about a movie or TV show he is watching. It is the intimacy of it that I love. To know he has taken the time to tap out a message and the thought it takes to be brief and right to the point shows that I do mean something to him.

Yeah, I think I'm doing OK so far and look forward to what each new day brings.

There is an old friend of mine, Buddy, who I have not been in touch with since moving down here. Through a mutual friend we were finally able to get in touch with each other. For the past few years we have been a mere few hours from each other. Our history goes back to High School and a connection of fandom and that our fathers worked together in the police department. Time and miles do their damage and it is always good to reconnect. We've emailed a couple times and talked on the phone making plans to try to meet up. Then, today, I got a call from him out of the blue.

He was going through a rough patch as life gave him a few major kicks in the nards and he was feeling down. He said that he called me, not to bitch and moan about the bad stuff he was going through, because he knew that I would be able to cheer him up. He said that through all the years he knew me and all of the shit storms I had been through that I has the ability to come through it with a smile and that he admired me for it.

I was floored.

For all the Hallmark sentimentality I say I live by I have never before have someone turned it back on me. People in my life do seem to acknowledge that they enjoy me being in their lives and that I add something to our relationship I have never had someone like him actually say something like he did. It humbled me and made me feel very good.

To out this in a Hallmark kind of mode; do just like Buddy did. Take time to tell those people in your life how much they mean to you. It might just improve their day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Today I almost died.

Seriously. with anything involving me, there was a humorous turn to the whole thing; but, yes....I almost died today.

I was just taking the second bite of a leftover St. Patrick's Day corned beef sandwich when I felt a chunk of meat slide past my tongue and down my throat. Covered in mustard and fatty grease I figured it would happily slosh its way to my stomach.

But it didn't.

I felt it stop just behind my Adam's Apple. I swallowed once, then again a little harder. Nothing happened. I felt sweat break out immediately and a pounding headache. It was just past the epiglottis and in the esophagus; so, I could breathe although in gagging breaths. Without a word to my friend sitting with me I bolted out the door to the mens' room. I tried dislodging it myself. Still, no luck.

My next thought was that I needed help in dislodging it and security was the next best chance. You'd have to know what some of our security team looks like to really appreciate the added panic this brought. All the way there I kept praying I would get one of the guards capable enough to use the Heimlich Maneuver on me and not one of the guards whose highest level of physical exertion was pushing a pen. To my relief I got to the security desk to find the 6 foot tall frame of our large and very healthy young black security guard.

Remembering what I had learned about the Heimlich I stood in front of the desk making the choking handsign; flailing my hands back and forth from my throat.

"Hey, Jack. What's up?" He asked, not even really looking up from his desk.

"Choking!" I croaked.



Since I didn't want to make a mess on the lobby floor I went out the door with the guard behind me. As I braced myself he wrapped his arms around me and placed his balled fist below my sternum.

Knowing the force he would have to exert, just as he tightened his hug around me he leaned over and asked, "You ready?" I nodded and with what seemed like no effort on his part I was lifted almost a half foot off the ground. Because the food was past the tracheae the forced air did nothing to move the blockage.

"Go to the clinic and I'll call 911!"

I made it to the clinic and they rushed me into an exam room. First they tried a few blows to my back; no luck. Then one of the nurses there handed me a cup of water. I was afraid that if I tried that a gag reflex could force the meat up and block of my airway. With the paramedics en route I decided to wait for the guys with the tools to take care of it more effectively. I took deep, slow breaths and tried to calm myself; there was no need to let panic take over. I was breathing which beat the alternative.

In the time it took the paramedics to arrive the recptionist, a friend of mine, had pulled my chart. She looked at it and said, Jack, it says here that you're 44. That isn't right, is it?"

The nurse took a look over her shoulder and said, "Look at his date of birth. He's 46; almost 47......well," With a wink "Maybe!"

I had a life threatening piece of meat stuck in my throat and she was making jokes!

Just as the paramedics stepped through the front door of the clinic I felt the piece of meat slip loose and I could breathe easily again. They didn't even have to touch me. Fifteen minuets of panic and pain; not the best way to spend a lunch break but, again, it did beat the alternative.

A friend of mine and I were talking about it afterwards and I asked, "Of all the 2,000 that work there would it have been really sad or really funny that I would die on the job?!"

Neither of us could really answer it!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Recently, I had to attend and was pall bearer at the funeral for the parent of a friend. We were close and was a very sad occasion. Added to that, it was a Catholic service. For those who have never had to endure one, a Catholic funeral almost makes you envy the dead person.

In the funeral procession from the church to the cemetery I called my friend Bismo. We have long had a connection of Blues music and "The Blues Brothers. I asked him to enter into the same agreement John Belushi and Danny Ackroyd made to each other that which ever one survived the other would play The Ventures "2,000 Pound Bee" at the funeral. We agreed.

Then, I kept thinking. I do not want my funeral to be a sob fest. Even if I were to die tomorrow in some freakish accident, I would only want my friends to gather to remember me, tell stories about me, sing and laugh. To that end, I am currently working on my own "Funeral Burn". The first song will be Paul McCartney's "Dance Tonight". I like the irony of such an upbeat song at a funeral. I also have Parliment's "Give Up the Funk", J. Geils Band "Love Stinks" along with lots of Sinatra, blues, Al Yankovich, Alan Sherman....well, you get the idea.

I picture a keg set up next to the casket. In the casket I would by lying in repose dressed in jeans, Hawaiian shirt with my "Village Idiot" t-shirt underneath, a cigar clamped in my teeth and my Elvis shades on. I want something that, with a combined effect, would make my sisters just stand there shaking their heads and sighing.

While not a binding contract for my funeral, I would suggest to anyone who attends and finds anything different than this to simply stand up and start singing the theme to "The Muppett Show". You would have my eternal thanks.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I kept these quick notes during the Superbowl commercials today.

The Trailer for "GI Joe" looks interesting...much better than I had thought in another "reboot" movie season.

Jason Statham's Audi commercial was better than any movie he has made since the original "Transporter".

Pepsi - "Forever Young" Perefect for us baby boomers. The "I'm good" was laugh out loud funny.

Free Doritos had a good punchline

Bridgestone tires with Mr and Mrs Potatohead could have only been funnier if it had been the people who voiced them for "Toy Story". The ad on the moon was very, but did they really have to put the disclaimer "not to try this on your own"?

Castrol's grease monkeys was very funny. You can never go wrong with monkeys!

"Land of the Lost" looked OK, I just hope it isn't "Bewitched 2"

Go Daddy....can't say much wrong with Danika Patrick in a shower!

Pedigree's pet adoption drive was cute.

Each of the Budweiser commercials were as good as ever.

Star Trek.....I so hope this movie is good. was a well written narrative.

I was disappointed the Pixar hadn't produced a new trailer for "Up".

NBC had some great promos. Jay Leno promo was cute. The Thursday night LMAO promo was VERY funny. Monday night's karaoke was great.

I love the cgi Cheetos cheetah.

The Heroes NFL promo ROCKED! with the guy working under the backside of the moose was very good and hot home with yours truly. was funny although Ed McMahon looks as if they rolled him out of the home.

The Coke Zero take off on the Mean Joe Green classic commercial was just as classic.

I was annoyed by the GE commercial using the blatantly lifted voice of Ray Bolger as the scarecrow from "The Wizard of Oz" for some creepy looking electronic CGI scarecrow.

The Hulu spot with Alec Baldwin was fantastic. Attention grabbing and funny.

Pepsi must have thought that the "MacGruber" skit from SNL was funny.....they were wrong.

My choice for best commercial; Hulu.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It has been a week since the inauguration of President Obama. It has taken me this long to digest my feelings on the day.

First of all, Justice John Robert. DAYYYYMMMMMMMM! What a dumbass. I have had that oath memorized since 4th grade. Obama, a Harvard Professor, I am sure also had it memorized for just as long. As he stood there, hand raised, you could see in his eyes that Obama was thinking, "Don't make me slap you with this hand!"

I was slightly disappointed in the speech which was more like a State of the Union than an Inaugural. Inaugurals are supposed to be the president's vision for his administration. It is supposed to be filled with allusions and a painting of words not a detail of plans; there will be plenty of time to get into all of that once you're actually in the Oval Office.

Granted, Obama has allot of hope and hype built up around him but he has given much better speeches. Political junkies like me can either quote large sections or, at least, sing along with Kennedy's Inaugural. When Kennedy's tenor voice yelled out that day for everyone listening to join him in the challenges ahead you were ready to jump to your feet and hit the ground running. This speech ended with the trite and boring "...and God bless the United States of America."

There were good spots and it reads on the page better than he delivered. Possibly he was nervous. Who wouldn't be standing in front of 2.5 million people? Missing from this speech was his "Sunday morning preacher" cadences; he seemed to be rushing through the whole thing.

Repetition and sets of three on a theme are basics in good speech writing. There are examples in this speech:

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

There are beats and moments for emphasis which are built into these phrases, yet the plowed through each phrase as if it were one complete sentence.

The slams on the previous administration were just enough; he paid respect to W in his opening but made it clear there's a new sheriff in town.

My favorite section; which again reads better on the page than Obama's express delivery was:

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

We are not just entitled to "the pursuit" of happiness but "full measure of happiness".


The one thing which is VERY apparent is that we have a President who KNOWS how to deliver a speech which does not sound like a used car sales pitch.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My first venture into Miami since moving here…and I got lost.

I finally worked out getting together with my son for the first time since July. On the drive down there I decided that we wouldn’t do the usual; go to lunch and a movie where we just stare at a screen for two hours and not really talk with each other. Recently, on the Travel Channel, Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” did a show from Miami where he visited a very interesting looking Creole restaurant called Chef Creole.

When I arrived, after busting John’s chops about “how much he had grown since the last time I saw him”, I offered the idea and he agreed. We looked it up on the internet and printed out directions. It looked as if the restaurant wasn’t all too far from Jackie Gleason’s grave, which I have always wanted to visit since moving here, so we planned an afternoon’s mini-roadtrip.

Of course, it’s all in the details. A quick read of the directions pointed us towards the Florida Turnpike and, as we quickly read, towards exit 6. Confidant that I was familiar with where we were headed we drove off with appetites ready for a spicy lunch and an afternoon of male bonding. Turns out we got plenty of time for both as the restaurant was off exit 6 of Interstate 95 and not the Turnpike which meant we had gone almost 50 miles south of where we wanted to be. This was quite evident when we stopped for directions and this guy looked at me as if I were asking for direction to some place on the far side of the planet.

After turning ourselves around and snaking our way from one side of Miami to the other we found Chef Creole. A small, open air place which serves deli/fast food style but offers some fantastic tasting food. John had an amazing pork dish and I had stewed conch. My plate was loaded with humongous pieces of conch floating in a spice loaded bath.


Oops, wrong food show. Bourdain would kill me!

Of course, all of the extra driving time gave us a chance to catch up. In the car we talked about family issues, plans for after graduation, movies, comic books and every thing else…just another day between father and son.

One of the best things about our relationship is that he can make me laugh. Not just a chuckle and “Awwwww, ain’t he cute”, as when he was little. This is an outright, gut busting belly laugh. He has inherited the family sense of humor and irony. He also has my twisted way of looking at things. He knows that something he finds hilarious, but that will only make his friends and girlfriend only shake their heads, he knows he can share with me and we can laugh together like idiots.

Genetics is a wonderful thing!

As I have possibly mentioned before, the extended absence led to me obsessing over whether or not time had done damage to our relationship and that he was pulling away from me. From the moment we hugged at the door it was as if not even a moment had passed.

ME? Obsess??? Nooooooooooooooooooooo.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

I just watched the concert at the Lincoln Memorial. While it was a great show (How could you beat Garth Brooks leading all those people in "Shout!") the best part of the show for me was watching this little girl.

She is the daughter of the new Director of the VA, Gen. Eric Shinseki. This little girl was zonked out and sound asleep through 90% of the concert. While music blared and the crowd cheered she slept. The only movement from her during the show was when she was shuffled from one parents' shoulder to another about halfway through the show.

20 years from now people will be asking her where she was during this moment in history. If I were her parents, I'd be sure to have a copy of footage from the concert always at the ready.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sometimes, things that happen in my life are too funny NOT to be real. The following could not have been written any better by Neil Simon or Woody Allen.

Where I sit at work, I have one good friend, Frannie, whom I have know for 5 years and directly behind me if Brittany. She is 19 and knockdown gorgeous. She also is a very sweet girl and fun to talk with. As always, in between calls we were talking when she turns to me and says the following:

"Jack, if you had a 19 year old daughter what is the oldest guy you would want her to date?"

As I looked over at my "good friend", Frannie, I could see her shoulders jumping up and down as she fought to laugh quietly to herself.

Apparently, I thought, she had no idea who she was talking to. "Well," I said when I finally was able to come up with an answer, "Personally, I'd have to say 46, Why, are you asking?!"

Frannie then laughed out loud. I then proceeded to give Brittany a brief history of my recent dating luck when "Dr. Phil" waled by. I had Brittany tell her what she had asked me.

Dr. Phil almost fell on the floor laughing. I had brought her in on this because I thought she'd enjoy the laugh. That's when the laugh turned on me.

Brittany went on to explain that she was thinking of a slightly older guy she knew and of a scene in something she had see on TV where these 40-ish women are talking about going out clubbing when they turn to the one in the group who apparently has an older husband and she says, "No, I can't go. His doctor is releasing him from the hospital and I have to go pick him up."

Dr. Phil had promised to be using this against me many times in the future.

It's good to have friends!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Years is usually a time to recap and look ahead. This year seems to be the perfect year to do that with. I sit here alone as my son has opted to stay and work at his fast food job. I am not actually sitting, as more hunched over the computer as my back problem has flared up again and I walk around all day doing my Igor impression.

To add to this I just got off the phone with Julie.

pause while you shake your head

Just like always, just when I stop thinking about her she comes back. All of those conversations I had practices months ago were lost although I very clearly let her know that her leaving had an affect on me. She DID say she was sorry; which I guess is something. My strongest moment in the conversation was when she mentioned her daughters and I said, "Well, I DID certainly miss the girls." Followed by a long silence.

She has been having more problems with her ex (gee, what a shock, eh?) and is moving back here to Florida. We closed the conversation saying we would talk more when she got settled.

I really don't know what will happen when we do talk. I know every one reading this would probably like to slap me upside the head just in case. But just so you don't think I'll be standing there with the door wide open for her again, I found this little gem which fits perfectly with most of the relationships in my life.