Dying to Play the Choking Game.

Image  —  Posted: March 17, 2014 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

Alex_1BURLINGTON CT – Alex took his last natural breath on October 12, 2013. It was a Saturday night, just before shower time, when the 14-year-old made a critical miscalculation. His mom, Brandi, can painfully recall how she found her son in his bedroom at their home in Burlington, CT: his positioning on the floor; how he must have thought that he would have control; the way he was slouched against his dresser; and the tension of the belt.

It did not immediately seem clear, but it all falls into place now. The signs were there. Alex died while playing the Choking Game, a dangerous practice of tweens and teens in which they self-strangulate in order to achieve a brief high. It is often referred to as the Good Kids’ High.

TYPICAL PROFILE (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Unlike other risk-taking behaviors, self-choking often occurs across the spectrum of adolescents. 9-16 is the most common age and it is predominantly male participants who are the fatal victims, although younger and older adolescents along with females are involved.

When you lose a child, hindsight can be as vicious as a recurring nightmare. Alex’s mom can remember a mark on his neck that resembled a hickey. “It almost looked like it could have been a scrape caused by the heel of a shoe,” Brandi remembers.”

Alex was an active kid. He played in wooded areas. He played with others on trampolines. Kids collide. Kids get scrapes and bruises. “I did see signs, but I didn’t know they were signs until I read more about this. Then it all made sense… the mark on his neck.” Brandi cannot hold back the tears. “If I had known of these signs, maybe I could have intervened.”

FACTS OF THE CHOKING GAME (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Youth who might participate range in age from 7-21 and it is especially common in middle school-aged children. Survey data indicate boys and girls are equally likely to participate in groups but boys are more likely to attempt it alone. The goal is a desired ‘floaty’, ‘tingling’, ‘high’ sensation. However, not all participants are seeking a ‘high’; some participate as a pastime, out of curiosity, or because of peer pressure. Many do not perceive a risk when engaging in this practice.

Brandi thinks about the shape of the mark on his neck: Could it have looked like a belt buckle? She thinks about the increased requests for Ibuprofen: Why so many headaches? He was sometimes irritable and crabby: But aren’t most teens? “This was not the first time he had done it,” she says.

Brandi remembers a time when she called Alex from his room for some help. She now believes that she interrupted him in the middle of it. “He came out… and he must have just begun getting that rush to his head because he seemed woozy and dazed. If I had known about this (the Choking Game) back then – even if I didn’t think he was doing it – I could have talked to him about it.”

FACTS OF THE CHOKING GAME (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) The object of the ‘game’ is asphyxiation, to apply pressure restricting oxygen and/or blood flow to the brain. This is accomplished via several methods. Diminishing oxygen to the brain produces a sensation or ‘high’ and the beginning of permanent cell death. When the victim is rendered unconscious, the pressure is released and the secondary ‘high’ of the oxygen/blood rushing to the brain is achieved. If the victim is alone,  there is no one to release the pressure upon unconsciousness and the victim’s own body weight continues to tighten the ligature usually resulting in death.

“We talked to Alex about drugs, sex, and alcohol. He didn’t take crazy risks. He was afraid of getting into trouble. He was more risky about being sneaky with things that wouldn’t hurt him, like playing video games andunnamedrbg staying out past curfew,” Brandi adds.”

“We had an awesome family dinner. We were laughing and talking about an upcoming Halloween party. He was a funny kid, always making people laugh. He was a good student looking forward to studying Electrical at Oliver Wolcott Tech. He loved to fish and couldn’t wait to move to our new house on the lake.” As she talks, her tears are so heavy that they sometimes miss her face, landing directly on her sweatshirt or the floor. “Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday, and in another sense it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve seen or heard my sweet Alex.”

METHODS (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Bear-hug Chest Compression (group), Palms to Chest Compression (group) , Choke-hold neck Compression (group), Hyperventilation combined with any of the previously mentioned (group), Palms to Carotid Neck Compression (group and solo), Hyperventilation with Thumb Blow (solo), Thumb Blow (solo), Ligature (solo).

Brandi has learned a lot about the “Choking Game” since that horrific night five months ago. She has heard from other kids in the area who have also “played” the “game” – some of them knew Alex – and they thank her for talking openly about his death. It has caused some of them to stop. She is sure that there are others in his peer groups who are also taking the same dangerous risks. “A lot of parents I’ve met online – who have lost children from the choking game – had children 13 or 14 (years-old). Many of the circumstances are eerily similar. Many of their death certificates are improperly recorded.”

“I love my son and I miss him so much. I can’t imagine anyone else having to go through this. I’ve met many parents who have lost kids. I belong to a group of a great bunch of mom’s who are unfortunately on the same journey. You don’t realize how many people are living and going through the pain of losing a child… until you are there. Don’t take things for granted. Take in every moment you can with your kids. Just talk to them. They don’t understand consequences. They need to be afraid. They don’t think anything is going to happen to them.”

CONSEQUENCES (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Unconsciousness can occur in a matter of seconds. Within three minutes of continued strangulation, basic functions such as memory, balance, and the central nervous system start to fail. Death occurs shortly after. Other consequences include bruises and concussions, broken bones, seizures, brain damage, memory loss, retinal hemorrhaging, and stroke.

Brandi hopes that other parents will have conversations with their children about the dangers of the Choking Game. She documents some of her thoughts about life without Alex on her Facebook page: meetings and discussions with other grieving parents; incidences of her one-year-old son kissing and holding pictures of his older brother; and remembrances of her ‘Sweet Angel.”

Brandi delays her tears, “I can picture Alex… saying, ‘Crap, what did I just do? Oh my God, what did I just do? Mom, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to do this. I should have listened to you when you told me to think before I do something.’”

“Do you know what I mean? I could ‘feel’ him saying that to me,” She continues, tears forming again, voice quivering, “‘I’m sorry Mom, I didn’t know.’”

“Your kids may already know about the game and could be talking about it. It’s too late for me, but not for you. I urge parents to educate themselves and know the signs. This is not a game and children need to know the risks. If it can happen to Alex, it can happen to them.”

The Internet has many resources for those wanting more information about the Choking Game. The following links are a good starting point. Please take the time to explore them.

Set up by families of Choking Game victims, G.A.S.P. is a global nonprofit campaign that fights the “game” through education.

The Choking Game: Games Adolescents Shouldn’t Play is G.A.S.P.’s short film that parents and children should watch together.

Operation: PARENTS Turn on the Lights – Choking Game is a video that is disturbing, informative, and shocking. The clips are pulled directly from the web and may be too graphic for minors. The final segment shows a teen explaining how the Choking Game is played.

The DB Foundation Inc, also provides valuable information.

Hi Friends.

My new home for Conversation Youth Sports (formerly A Sporting Dad’s View) is:

The Central Connecticut Post

Besides youth sports, I’ll be writing about the little bits and pieces of life that are sometimes overlooked or quickly forgotten.

I hope that you’ll share my column with your friends and family.

Thanks!

Ron

Image  —  Posted: March 28, 2013 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

The Boy (my fifteen-year-old) discovered lacrosse at a very late age. He was eleven. He was able to play two years in the local youth league.

He’s a freshman in high school now. He’s already played football and has wrestled at this level. He’s working out with some friends and getting ready for lacrosse tryouts.

I have no idea if he’ll get a spot on the team. I just like the fact that he’s got a goal in mind and is going to fight hard to achieve it.

I like the fact that every coach he’s had in high school so far has encouraged his players to play other high school sports.

The CIAC, which governs middle school and high school sports in Connecticut, includes the following philosophy in its handbook:

SPECIALIZATION OF SPORTS AT AN EARLY AGE

Specialization in one sport during the middle level and high school years, to the exclusion of most others, and too often at the expense of other equally valuable and wholesome activities, is at variance with the basic philosophical premise of American education, which seeks to produce well-rounded individuals with interests and abilities in many areas. Students should be discouraged from devoting all their energies and time to a single sport, but rather should be encouraged to allow themselves the experience of more than one sport. Boards of education should advocate and enact policies which encourage students to seek broadly based athletic experiences as well as broadly based academic programs. The school athletics program as well as community based athletic programs must be kept in perspective as providing experiences of many kinds for our youth.

The objective of the greatest possible personal growth of the student is best served by a varied program of activities, academic and athletic, which keeps proper perspective on the total development of the youngster from adolescence to adulthood, and which allows the student to do and be other things as well. School boards, school administrators, athletic directors, coaches, community recreation personnel and the parents of the student-athlete all have the responsibility of insuring that the student is afforded opportunities in several areas.

The formative years should be a time of growing in mind and body, a time of expanding horizons and outlook, not of specialization and narrowing of interests.

Common sense, right? What type of coach would think he or she had the right to preach anything other than those exact words?

Folks, they are out there. They are at every level of youth sports and planted in almost every town in this state. And it disgusts me. It should disgust you as well.

This is one of thousands of articles on the subject that you can access with a simple search.

So, why am I whining about this today? I just finished telling you how The Boy has been encouraged to play a different sport every season. I just quoted the CIAC handbook. I think I noticed most of your heads nodding in agreement when I suggested it was a common sense approach.

Well, I’m pushing the keys ten times harder than normal today because I just had a discussion with a high school athlete whose coach is pounding him with requests that completely ignore the advice that is clearly printed out for every single middle and high school coach to see.

And one would assume that such advice is clearly printed for all to see because it is expected that each coach will show good judgment by following it.

So, what can be done? It’s almost impossible for the CIAC to know what each and every coach is saying to each and every athlete.

That leaves it up to you – you, the parent of that child. If your son or daughter mentions over a bowl of Wheaties that Coach Jones is upset that he or she wants to play another sport, you have an obligation to that child to have a conversation with that coach – or with your school’s Athletic Director, or with your town’s Superintendant of schools.

If it’s happening at the pre-high school level, you should immediately contact the league president or your town’s recreation department. It is a despicable act of selfishness and poor judgment for ANY coach or league to dictate or insinuate the sports that your child should be playing outside of that sport’s normal season.

Hear me now: If your child wants to play one sport exclusively and you have no issues with it, that’s your decision. But it should never be because you or your child are being pushed or coerced by a coach.

That kid I was talking about? He’s good at his sport. He has just decided that he’s got too many more years of high school left to feel like he is being bullied into playing or training for that one sport year round. He told his coach he was going to do what he wanted to do.

I hope he follows through. It would be a shame if he missed out on being able to enjoy another sport. Of course he is fifteen-years-old already. What is it with kids these days? They just can’t seem to make up their minds.

Like every other person in the world, for my 40th birthday, I assembled a list of my 300 favorite songs.

Now, with only nine months until my 50th, it needs to be revamped and probably trimmed a bit. Just glancing at it today I can see 20 or so songs that have lost their magical powers over me.

I’ll give an example of a few songs that will be sent to the song heap: On Bended Knee, Don’t You Want Me, and One in a Million.

I’m always amazed how certain songs, after years of being twisted off the dial by us, can eventually jump onto our laps like an old blanket and seem to cuddle with our auditory senses uninvited. Sometimes we even ask them to stay. One such song for me is, Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads. I hated that song 10 – 20 - 25 years ago. 

There are so many interesting trends within my list. One could probably write an indepth analysis of my personality based on it. My darker side is most definealty a product of those songs that have never made it to the radio.

This list is not to be argued with for the mere fact that it is mine. In the intro below, I explained a little about the process and which songs were eligible.

December 31, 2003

My 40th Birthday

While compiling this list of my All-time Favorite Songs, something became very apparent to me.  Some of the music is just downright awful.   Many of the songs are probably considered as poor examples of American contemporary music.  As you will soon see, critical acclaim was not a prerequisite for making this list.

I began to realize that most of these songs are timeless to me because of the special places they take me whenever I hear them: 186 Surrey Drive and dancing around the living room with my mother, listening to Casey Kasem’s Countdown every New Year’s Eve, or on the way to Moose Meadow for a family camping trip.  Still, others serve as markers along the twisting paths that have converged to this very point of my life.

Some of you might think that it is somewhat odd, marking important life events with music.  But I know that I’m not alone in this practice.  Perhaps some of your own memories occasionally rotate around the inside of your head while a scratchy 45 spins background music.

This list has taken me almost two years to compile and edit.  It’s been expanded, deleted, revised, and tweaked over and over again.  And yet its body captivates and intrigues me with every viewing.

Why did I choose three-hundred songs?  Believe it or not, the list once weighed-in at about 350.  Three-hundred became the magic number when the process of eliminating songs began to feel as though I was losing bits and pieces of my musical soul.

Of course this list, much like our own personalities, is always evolving and could inevitably take a slightly different form depending on any number of circumstances.  Music is especially unique in its ability to be pleasing one moment and irritating the next.

The only criterion for making this list was that each song had to have been at least a blip on the popular music screen.  I didn’t want a list of obscure or unrecognizable songs that only I knew or appreciated.  That’s another project for another time.  So, check out the list and see if any of my songs would be included with your all-time favorites.

Without further delay, here is the soundtrack of my life.

I’m Not in Love 10 cc 1975
Dancing Queen Abba 1977
How Long Ace 1975
The One That You Love Air Supply 1980
Sweat Dreams Air Supply 1982
Undercover Angel Alan O’Day 1977
Lonely People America 1975
Lonely Boy Andrew Gold 1977
Obsession Animotion 1985
Sweet Love Anita Baker 1986
Body & Soul Anita Baker 1994
Only Time Will Tell Asia 1982
Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head B.J. Thomas 1969
How Come, How Long Babyface & Stevie Wonder 1997
Manic Monday Bangles 1986
I Write The Songs Barry Manilow 1975
This One’s For You Barry Manilow 1976
Copacabana Barry Manilow 1978
Penny Lane Beatles 1967
Hey Jude Beatles 1968
Let It Be Beatles 1970
The Long And Winding Road Beatles 1970
Love So Right Bee Gees 1976
Night Fever Bee Gees 1978
Tragedy Bee Gees 1979
Too Much Heaven Bee Gees 1978
Stay The Night Ben Orr 1986
Wind Beneath My Wings Bette Midler 1989
She’s Always A Woman Billy Joel 1977
Pressure Billy Joel 1982
Allentown Billy Joel 1983
With You I’m Born Again Billy Preston & Syreeta 1980
In the Dark Billy Squire 1981
Rapture Blondie 1981
When I Die Blood, Sweat & Tears 1969
Billy Don’t Be a Hero Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods 1974
Butterfly Kisses Bob Carlisle 1997
Don’t Worry, Be Happy Bobby McFarrin
I Can’t Make You Love Me Bonnie Raitt 1991
Amanda Boston 1986
On Bended Knee Boyz II Men 1994
Anytime Brian McKnight
Love Is Brian McKnight/Vanessa Williams 1993
The Way It Is Bruce Hornsby 1986
Hungry Heart Bruce Springsteen 1980
Kung-Fu Fighting Carl Douglas 1974
Jazzman Carol King 1974
Close To You Carpenters 1970
Let’s Go Cars 1979
Drive Cars 1984
Wild World Cat Stevens 1971
Oh Very Young Cat Stevens 1974
Through The Fire Chaka Khan
Does Anybody Really Know What Time Chicago 1970
Colour My World Chicago 1971
Fool (If You Think It’s Over) Chris Rea 1978
Sailing Christopher Cross 1980
Time After Time Cindi Lauper 1984
Clocks Coldplay 2003
Easy Commodores 1977
Sail On Commodores 1979
Where The Boys Are Connie Francis 1961
Too Hot Cool & the Gang 1980
Southern Cross Crosby, Stills & Nash 1982
(I Just) Died In Your Arms Cutting Crew 1987
Same Old Lang Syne Dan Fogelberg 1981
Please Come To Boston Dave Loggins 1974
We Just Disagree Dave Mason 1977
You Light Up My Life Debby Boone 1977
Desert Moon Dennis DeYoung 1984
Missing You Diana Ross 1985
Walk On By Dionne Warwick 1964
Dirty Laundry Don Henley 1982
Boys Of Summer Don Henley 1985
Sunset Grill Don Henley 1985
The Day The Music Died Don McLean 1971
What A Beautiful World (IGY) Donald Fagen 1982
Minute By Minute Doobie Brothers 1979
Touch Me Doors 1969
A Little Bit More Dr. Hook 1976
Lyin’ Eyes Eagles 1975
Hotel California Eagles 1977
Reasons Earth, Wind & Fire 1975
Fantasy Earth, Wind & Fire 1977
After The Love Has Gone Earth, Wind & Fire 1979
Let’s Groove Earth, Wind & Fire 1981
Can’t Get It Out Of My Head ELO 1975
Mr. Blue Sky ELO 1977
Telephone Line ELO 1977
Your Song Elton John 1971
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Elton John 1973
Blue Eyes Elton John 1982
Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) Elton John 1982
I Believe In Love Elton John 1995
In The Ghetto Elvis 1969
After The Lovin’ Engelbert Humperdinck 1976
Love Is The Answer England Dan & John Ford Coley 1979
Tears in Heaven Eric Clapton
(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep Fifth Dimension 1972
Stand Or Fall Fixx 1982
Dreams Fleetwood Mac 1977
Sara Fleetwood Mac 1980
Hold Me Fleetwood Mac 1982
Float On Floaters 1977
Waiting For A Girl Like You Foreigner 1981
Walk Like A Man Four Seasons 1963
Rag Doll Four Seasons 1964
It Was A Very Good Year Frank Sinatra 1965
That’s Life Frank Sinatra 1966
Sweetheart Frankie & The Knockouts 1981
My Eyes Adored You Frankie Valli 1975
Grease Frankie Valli 1978
I’ve Found Someone Of My Own Free Movement 1971
Summertime Fresh Prince 1991
Misunderstanding Genesis 1980
Lonely Man On The Corner Genesis
This Masquerade George Benson 1976
Alone Again (Naturally) Gilbert O’Sullivan 1972
Midnight Train to Georgia Gladys Knight 1973
 Neither One Of Us Gladys Knight 1973
The Way We Were Gladys Knight 1975
Cuts Both Ways Gloria Estafan 1989
Just The Two Of Us Grover Washington Jr. 1981
Sara Smile Hall & Oates 1976
Adult Education Hall & Oates 1984
She’s Gone Hall & Oates 1976
Taxi Driver Harry Chapin 1972
Cats In The Cradle Harry Chapin 1974
You And Me Against The World Helen Reddy 1974
Don’t You Want Me Human League 1982
Centerfold J. Giels Band 1981
I’ll Be There Jackson Five 1970
Just Once James Ingram 1981
One Hundred Ways James Ingram 1982
Fire And Rain James Taylor 1970
Thunder Island Jay Ferguson 1977
Jane Jefferson Starship 1980
Do What You Do Jermaine Jackson 1985
Baker Street Jerry Raferty 1978
Is She Really Going Out With Him Joe Jackson 1979
Breakin’ Us In Two Joe Jackson 1982
Life’s Been Good Joe Walsh 1978
Imagine John Lennon 1971
Starting Over John Lennon 1980
Nobody Told Me John Lennon 1984
Welcome Back John Sebastian 1976
Just Another Day John Secada 1992
Gold John Stewart 1979
I Ain’t Missing You John Waite 1984
Chances Are Johnny Mathis 1957
Wonderful! Wonderful! Johnny Mathis 1957
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams 1978
Light My Fire Jose Feliciano 1968
Who’s Crying Now Journey 1981
World’s Apart (Seperate Ways) Journey 1983
Valotte Julian Lennon 1984
Carry On Wayward Son Kansas 1977
Dust In The Wind Kansas 1978
Constant Craving kd lang 1992
Return To Pooh Corner Kenny Loggins & Amy Grant 1994
She Believes in Me Kenny Rogers 1979
Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes 1980
Beth Kiss 1976
I Was Made For Loving You Kiss 1979
One In A Million Larry Graham 1980
Stairway To Heaven Led Zeppelin 1970
When I Need You Leo Sayer 1977
Somewhere Out There Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram 1987
All Night Long Lionel Richie 1983
Hello Lionel Ritchie 1984
Happy Anniversary Little River Band 1978
Reminicing Little River Band 1978
Brandy Looking Glass 1972
What A Wonderful World Louis Armstrong 1968
Superstar/Until You Come Back To Me Luther Vandross 1983
Don’t Want To Be A Fool Luther Vandross 1991
California Dreamin’ Mamas and The Papas 1966
Monday Monday Mamas and The Papas 1966
Blinded By The Light Manfred Mann 1977
Let’s Just Kiss and Say Goodbye Manhattans 1976
Sexual Healing Marvin Gaye
Morning After Maureen McGovern 1973
Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad Meatloaf 1978
Don’t Cry Out Loud Melissa Manchester 1979
Who Can It Be Now Men At Work 1982
Got To Be There Michael Jackson 1971
Bluer Than Blue Michael Johnson 1978
Keep Forgettin’ Michael McDonald 1982
Taken In Mike + The Mechanics 1985
Lovin’ You Minnie Ripperton 1975
Tuesday Afternoon Moody Blues 1967
Nights In White Satin Moody Blues 1972
Only The Lonely Motels 1983
Broken Wings Mr. Mister 1985
Heartlight Neil Diamond 1982
Southern Man Neil Young 1970
Old Man Neil Young 1972
Mr. Bojangles Nitty Gritty Dirt Band 1971
Don’t Speak No Doubt 1996
Backstabbers O’Jays 1972
Use Ta Be My Little Girl O’Jays 1978
Get Here Oleta Adams 1991
The Night Chicago Died Paper Lace 1974
Come To Me Patti Austin & James Ingram 1983
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey Paul McCartney 1971
Band On The Run Paul McCartney 1974
Let Em In Paul McCartney 1976
Silly Love Songs Paul McCartney 1976
Still Crazy Paul Simon 1975
Can You Stop The Rain Peabo Bryson 1991
Next Time I Fall in Love Peter Cetera & Amy Grant 1986
Puff The Magic Dragon Peter, Paul & Mary 1963
In The Air Phil Collins 1981
Wish You Were Here Pink Floyd 1975
Roxanne Police 1978
King Of Pain Police 1983
I’ll Stand By You Pretenders 1994
Around The World In A Day Prince 1985
Pop Life Prince 1985
Diamonds and Pearls Prince 1992
Bohemian Rhapsody Queen 1976
Somebody To Love Queen 1977
Another One Bites The Dust Queen 1980
Short People Randy Newman 1978
Just When I Needed You Most Randy Vanwarmer 1979
Jack And Jill Raydio 1978
Scar Tissue Red Hot Chili Peppers 1999
Take Me All The Way Red Hot Chili Peppers
If I Could Regina Belle
Everybody Hurts REM
Garden Party Ricky Nelson 1972
Rock and Roll Heaven Righteous Brothers 1974
Big Log Robert Plant
Killing Me Softly Roberta Flack 1973
The Closer I Get To You Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway 1972
Where Is The Love? Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway 1972
Maggie May Rod Stewart 1971
Tonight’s The Night Rod Stewart 1976
Young Turks Rod Stewart 1981
The Last Farewell Roger Wittaker
Emotional Rescue Rolling Stones 1980
Waiting on a Friend Rolling Stones 1982
Sympathy For The Devil Rolling Stones
Ain’t Nobody Rufus With Chaka Khan
Escape (The Pina Colada Song) Rupert Holmes 1979
Tom Sawyer Rush
A Change is Gonna Come Sam Cooke
I’ve Gotta Be Me Sammy Davis Jr. 1969
Candy Man Sammy Davis Jr. 1972
Winning Santana 1981
Hold On Santana 1982
Never Gonna Let You Go Sergio Mendez
Wildflower Skylark 1973
Tainted Love Soft Cell 1982
Could it be I’m Falling in Love Spinners 1973
Tempted Squeeze
Afternoon Delight Starland Vocal Band 1976
Dirty Work Steely Dan 1972
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number Steely Dan 1974
Deacon Blues Steely Dan 1977
FM Steely Dan
Oh, Sherrie Steve Perry 1984
Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around Stevie Nicks With Tom Petty 1981
Leather and Lace Stevie Nicks/Don Henley 1981
Living For The City Stevie Wonder 1973
Sir Duke Stevie Wonder 1976
That Girl Stevie Wonder 1982
These Three Words Stevie Wonder 1991
If You Really Love Me Stevie Wonder 1971
Fortress Around Your Heart Sting 1985
You Are Everything Stylistics 1971
You Make Me Feel Brand New Stylistics 1974
Best of Times Styx 1981
Mr. Roboto Styx 1983
Come Sail Away Styx
Fooling Yourself Styx
The Logical Song Supertramp 1979
Seasons in the Sun Terri Jacks 1974
Voices Carry ‘Til Tuesday 1985
Private Dancer Tina Turner 1985
Jenny 867-5309 Tommy Tutone 1982
Tie A Yellow Ribbon Tony Orlando & Dawn 1973
Hold The Line Toto 1978
99 Toto 1979
Roseanna Toto 1982
I Won’t Hold You Back Toto 1983
Meet Virginia Train 1999
Drops Of Jupiter Train 2001
Don’t Want To Wait Anymore Tubes
New Year’s Day U2 1983
Sunday Bloody Sunday U2 1983
In The Name Of Love U2 1984
One U2 1992
Walk On U2 2002
One Headlight Wallflowers 1997
Careless Whisper Wham! 1985
Greatest Love Of All Whitney Houston 1986
Always On My Mind Willie Nelson 1982
Owner of a Lonely Heart Yes 1983
Born to Run Bruce Springsteen

I was doing Joe’s laundry. He’s on the fourth floor. The laundry room is located on the first floor. It was my first time. Not my first time doing laundry – just my first time doing Joe’s laundry. 

I was already jacked on caffeine from my own water bottle full of coffee (I put my coffee in a water bottle when I’m in motion) and then the cup that he had forced me to get while picking up his breakfast. 

Yeah, I was jItTeRy – just a bit. 

The laundry room was huge – lots of room to place a basket, jug of laundry soap, and small box of dryer sheets while the machines did their washing and drying. I put the jug and the box inside the small round basket and placed them on the long table-shelf towards the back of the room. 

Joe was still on his way down. We were on our way to Dunkin Donuts because Joe likes to watch the people there. It didn’t take me long to figure out that it was mostly the female people he enjoyed watching. I was taught never to argue with my elders so I watched them as well. 

Joe wanted to get me another cup of coffee. He wanted me to have a large one. So we drank our coffees and we watched people. I watched all of them – both sexes – I swear I did. I used the bathroom four times in between. Damn you peer pressure. 

For a 76-year-old with thick lenses, Joe could follow the movement of a body for a good quarter-mile before it disappeared into a building. He was damn good. 

Finally it was time to get back to the laundry. It was a short ride and a short walk to the elevator. Joe was tired out though. He sat on a bench on the first floor while I went to get the laundry. 

Even before opening the laundry room door I could see that the basket, and the jug, and the little box where no longer on the table-shelf. Being wasted on caffeine and on my way to losing my mind as it is, I figured maybe – just maybe I’d taken them back up. 

First I looked inside every recycling bin in the room – about six of them. I checked the trash as well because old people can hold grudges. Maybe Joe had cut one of them off on the way to a washer one morning. Maybe that person had waited for months until a new guy slipped up and left the goods out in the open. It happens more than you’d think. 

I took his laundry out, folded it, and headed out to find him. He was gone. Jesus, I was hoping they hadn’t kidnapped him as well. Old people have gangs too. And they might not remember to take their meds but they’ll remember being disrespected in a laundry room. 

So he was either gagged and bound in the back of a van on the way to Trenton or he was waiting for me up to the fourth floor. 

The elevator door opened and a woman with a walker cut me off to get the spot near the buttons. I like pushing the buttons too but have become more and more aware of the bacteria that they carry so I didn’t throw any elbows. 

But on the little bench of her walker was a round basket. It was filled with a jug of laundry soap and a small box of dryer sheets. Inside the basket was also her change purse and a plastic cup of water.

I said, “I must be losing my mind. I went to do laundry and now my basket, my jug of laundry soap, and box of dryer sheets are missing.” And I looked down at her basket. My first instinct was to kick the walker out from under her and grab Joe’s things. But she was from the 3rd floor. Her gang of stealing thugs could have been waiting for her. 

She looked at me and said in her Italian accent, “Wella. I tella everybody that the backa shelfa is fora anybody to take-ah. Ita meansa thata you do not want it.” 

“Oh, I said,” thinking that I could probably fight off a gang of old people if she wanted to get tough about it. “But I didn’t know about that rule. I’m new here. I didn’t see a sign. Why is there not a sign?” 

She continued, “Ima very sorry. Everyone knowsa the rulesa here.” 

“You need a sign or something,” I said as the door opened at the 3rd floor. There was nobody in sight. She was working alone. Then she gave in, “Ima sorry. Here you are-ah. Justa remember the rules-ah. 

She took her water and purse and pushed her walker out of the door. 

Joe was sitting on the bench in front of me as the door opened again on the 4th floor. I plopped the basket down next to him – flustered – sweating caffeine. 

“Joe, you will not believe this story.” I explained it to him. About the basket, the table-shelf, and the old lady with the walker. 

“Ohhh yeahhhh. Sure,” Joe said. “I’ve gotten some great stuff off that table. I got some cans of soup, a radio, and some nice clothes. It’s the rule. If you don’t want something you put it on the table for anyone else to take.” 

“But a sign,” I said. “There is no sign. Why is there not a sign? And besides, it was a laundry basket, in a laundry room. It was filled with laundry equipment. The dryer was still running.”

Joe laughed, “I should have told you about the rule. And I am going to go down there later and ask to have a sign put up.”

So, just a warning to the uninitiated: Beware the rules of the common areas.

My Friend Sal

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah
Tags: , ,

While just as fascinating as it is complicated – the human body was designed to kill us and it eventually will.

How else to explain a pump that can stop at any moment – with only a slim chance of being restarted? Or the mind that flits so far astay it can never find its way back?

How else to explain a skull not thick enough to survive a windshield or a mind not strong enough to will it away from a drink before that ride?

And how else to explain an oxygen-rich river on the verge of bursting its weak vessel wall – or a mutant cell hiding and then exploding into the body like a poisonous grenade?

Yet sometimes the body and mind will take its owner on a long journey – far away from birth. Sometimes luck, or God, or a hundred other dips and turns lead it past ninety – and lead it well.

Sal’s body and mind has led him past his 94th birthday.

There’s been some luck involved, like making it out of a World War alive. His body and his mind held up famously through it all. He is a bit disappointed that it took his country and his state so long to thank him with a small ceremony, certificate, and picture with a politician.

He wishes it had been sooner so that those who weren’t lucky enough to make it into their late-80’s could have also enjoyed the extra attention. But it’s a lovely picture because even at this stage of his life, Sal has a smile that flickers in your mind for the entire day.

His wife isn’t quite as lucky as Sal though. He kept her at home for as long as possible. He finally had to give her up to a place that could tend to her day and night. Alzheimer’s can be as sneaky as a gray hair – sparse at first – even unnoticeable until one morning the whole cluster gangs up on you and changes the view you were once used to.

Sal can do almost everything on his own although he is a bit unsteady and has only been out of the hospital one full weekend after six weeks of treatment for a heart issue. He was lucky at the time of the episode that he was near his phone.

I was lucky on this bright Monday morning when Sal pulled an eighty-year-old Universal coffee percolator from the back of the counter. His mother-in-law once worked at the New Britain company that made them. He scoffed at the sight of the new Keureg that sparkled fancy and new across the counter. We were going to have a real man’s cup of coffee.

Sal is an Italian guy who grew up in a Polish neighborhood. He learned early on that everyone is basically the same inside so he doesn’t care much about the differences on the outside. He said the Japanese soldiers, all those years before, weren’t much different from him or his buddies. They were following orders. The enemy wanted to be back with family – safe and sound just as they did.

He doesn’t think a two-party political system will ever solve our problems – too much gridlock. He doesn’t need a cell phone or a computer either. He’s gotten this far without them. The house is equipped with Wi-Fi for his son and daughter-in-law but she’s also a jigsaw puzzle fanatic and he seems to appreciate the balance between high-tech and no-tech. 

Sal cannot wait until I’m back to see him again. I’m anxious for my return visit as well. We were both in need of each other at exactly the same time. And somehow we were matched-up together. Just lucky I guess.