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!