Archive for February, 2013

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.

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My Friend Sal

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

Sometimes

Posted: February 20, 2013 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah
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Sometimes I wonder why I am here instead of there.

Sometimes I want to get on my bike and pedal all day.

Sometimes I feel very cranky and can’t figure out how to stop it.

Sometimes I wonder why people care so much about the race and so little about each other.

Sometimes people treat me like I’m a complete idiot.

Sometimes people give me more credit than I deserve.

Sometimes I watch the Brady Bunch because I like seeing what a normal family is like.

Sometimes I’m obsessed with leaving a lasting legacy behind.

Sometimes I judge people by what they say.

Sometimes I judge people by what they do.

Sometimes I’m disappointed by people who ought to know better.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night scared to death.

Sometimes I wish I could do more for certain people.

Sometimes I wish I was never born.

Sometimes I wish I could live forever.

Sometimes I’m not a good listener.

Sometimes I say way too much.

Sometimes I can’t figure out how to get from point A to point B.

Sometimes I forget things that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Sometimes I remember things that should not be remembered.

Sometimes I wonder how my little space will be filled after I’m gone.

Sometimes music makes my insides move in crazy directions.

Sometimes when I tug at the hairs of my goatee everything moves a bit slower.

Sometimes I panic when the phone rings.

Sometimes I’m stuck. Just plain stuck.

Sometimes I think I’d better serve the world as a vigilante.

Sometimes my impatience with others makes me appear arrogant.

Sometimes I hate myself for having weaknesses.

Sometimes I obsess over not having the correct answers.

Sometimes others don’t understand my motives.

Sometimes I don’t understand theirs either.

Sometimes I stutter.

Sometimes I’m charming.

Sometimes you’ll think I’m being serious.

Sometimes you’ll assume I’m joking.

Sometimes I hate me.

Sometimes you’ll hate me.

Sometimes you won’t.

Sometimes I’ll care.

Sometimes I won’t.

Sometimes nothing matters.

Sometimes it all does.

Sometimes I’ll type words on the screen and wonder where they came from.

Sometimes I clench my teeth.

Sometimes I think it’s unfair that only twenty-five years ago I was 25 and twenty-five years from now I’ll be 75 and hardly remember the 25-year-old.

Sometimes I have a thought that is longer than the rest of them.

Sometimes I wonder how Barney was ever more popular than Sesame Street.

Sometimes this world sucks.

Sometimes it’s wonderful.

Sometimes what starts out as a good idea can get kind of boring.

Sometimes I need to stop.

Sometimes I don’t.

Sometimes I do.

A few random thoughts today:

I hate when I’m finished with my shower and then realize that I forgot to bring a towel into the bathroom with me. Sometimes I’ll just grab the clothes that I’ve just taken off and use them.

It snowed a bit here in the Northeast over the weekend.

My favorite station on Pandora for when I’m working from home is Acoustic New Age. Check it out sometime. I’m still looking for an app that tells Pandora that I’m still listening though.

When I die, I don’t want to be displayed in a freaking casket with people touching me (I hate being touched) and looking at my double chin and how my goatee doesn’t fill in as nicely as George Clooney’s did in some movie I saw him in. Just sprinkle me somewhere and slap my nameplate on a bench along the bike trail.

I have a NY Giants football card collection with cards dating back to 1948. There are at least nine albums up there in the closet. Kids don’t collect cards like they once did. I remember riding my bike down to Midi Mart or Frank’s Stationary with a pocket of change and then sniffing the fresh cardboard and stale gum. Ah, the scent of a… football card.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr. That’s my favorite quote.

If your kid is looking for a great African American figure to talk about in class during Black History Month, try the turn of the century cyclist, Marshall “Major” Taylor. He’s a world champion who most people have never heard about.

Hold on a second please. Where’s that bottle of water? I need a sip – just a sip. I didn’t think five minutes of typing would make me that thirsty.

Remember what Peter Parker’s uncle told him. And remember that if Peter hadn’t let that bad guy go, poor Uncle Ben would still be alive today.

At 49, I still feel like I’m a work in progress. Is that bad?

I can’t stand how impatient some of those investors on Shark Tank get. Sometimes Mark Cuban will say, “I’m a basketball guy so I’m giving you 24 seconds to make up your mind.” Holy cow! It takes me longer than that to punch in my four numbers at the ATM to get twenty bucks, let alone decide my entire future.

A brand new friend of mine emailed a wonderful poem to me last week. It’s called, Please Hear What I Am Not Saying. It’s about the masks we sometimes wear and the words we sometimes speak and how we are often just begging to be heard – to be seen – to be helped.

I’ve been writing a weekly column dedicated to issues surrounding youth sports for about a year and a half. There are a growing number of parents who are unhappy with how some of their community’s programs are being run. Most parents are worried about the repercussions that their child might ultimately suffer if they become one of those parents and express their concerns.

A Sporting Dad’s View covers many of these important topics. Take a click over and check it out. I’d love to hear what you are doing in your town to address some of these issues. And what would you think of a forum where an outside group would come in and meet with an organization’s board members, coaches, and parents with the mission of creating an environment where every child can thrive?

Yes Pandora, I’m STILL listening. Where’s that bottle of water? I need another swig.

Thirty Years Ago

Posted: February 8, 2013 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

I became a father for the first time on this day in 1983.

It was a little more than seven months after walking across the stage and being handed my high school diploma. Except the padded maroon holder we all received was empty. We were a day short of the state requirements and would have to return for one more day if we wanted to fill it with a document.

I know of one classmate   from that group with a son who is slightly older than mine. There could be others but I’m thinking I’m top five in that category.

And damn if I didn’t grow up in a hurry. I went from stocking shelves at Washington Discount to cleaning a paint factory in Avon.

I went from playing hockey on Pine Lake and Atari football to inhaling toxic fumes and working with some of the biggest drug users I’d ever been around.

One fond memory is of using my parent’s house for a New Year’s Eve Party. I found one coworker searching my parent’s bedroom for a razor blade. He was so high he barely understood my pleas for him to go back down to the party. He was the last to leave. I tried to fight him for his keys. He got away. He was stopped in front of the Police Department on the way home and couldn’t drive for a year. Back at work, I took the blame. They had fed him his drug, and I was vilified.

Another party took place at a coworker’s home. It was a get together to watch a boxing match. We all had that passion in common. The house was kind of bare. I noticed a nice family portrait on the wall. Two young kids and the mom and dad. An hour later the portrait was missing. I saw it later in the next room as dad and others were snorting lines of cocaine off it with a rolled up dollar bill. I said, “No thanks.” If my heart is going to explode I’d rather have my family point to a Big Mac as the culprit.

I’d gone all through high school without using drugs. I was the outcast among my friends because of it. I stayed off to the side. A lot of them are pretty screwed up now. I hated a lot of them. Some were bullies. Some were phonies. Some kids from high school who I never even talked to are among my favorite people now.

Maybe some don’t remember that they were jerks back then. I bet a lot of them do and have put it behind them. That’s cool. I found a person who was relentless as far as bullying me. I doubt that he’s forgotten.

I’d love to hear an apology. I know, I know – it was a long time ago but we teach our kids about bullying at a very young age. They know it’s wrong. And yes, I’ve moved on. But some things are not meant to be forgotten. They have all contributed to who we are today.

My goal as a father has always been to spend as much time as possible with my children. They were my safe house.

And that’s how it was with my very first born. My favorite memories with him were running around the baseball field in Orleans, MA and kicking a ball back and forth. We’ve done a thousand things together but for some reason I’m transported to my happy place with that one. And then we’d walk to the playground afterwards and chase each other around.

He was the first to meet the Daddy Monster. That was me with a blanket over my head. I’d be on my knees crawling towards him repeating,” I’m the Daddy Monster and I’m going to get you.” The second child in line will remember that as well.

Kissy-kissy time was great too. I’d pin him on his back and kiss his face until he was so tired from laughing and asking me to stop that he’d take a nice long nap.

My first child. My oldest son. It’s his 30th birthday today. I hope he learned a bit about being a man from me. I hope he remembers when he was the kid that could make me feel normal by sitting on my lap and watching Thundercats.

There might be two feet of snow between us today but I hope he knows he’s on my mind. Not only today but every single one of them since I first held him.

You do a lot of weird things when you are preoccupied with your troubles. I’ve become rather forgetful.

Earlier, I’d written another fine youth sports column, got ready to send it in, then remembered that they had cut their freelancer’s budget and weren’t paying me anymore.

Then I started making an egg omelet for lunch. I fried up the onions and mushrooms. I put the cheese on the egg. Then I folded it in half. Perfect again – except I’d forgotten to add the onions and mushrooms beforehand. Very difficult to pry folded eggs and melted cheese open.

So, I ate. And let the dog outside. I went upstairs and got dressed for a meeting. It wasn’t until I was a bit up the street and saw the damn dog flying out from behind the house that I realized I’d forgotten something. Yes, my phone. I forgot to grab my phone. Good thing we have the dog.

If Sting is the King of Pain, I’m the King Scatter Brain. Seriously. I think I had six kids at one point in my life. I’m not saying that I lost one – there were always so many of them around and having been involved with so many women – I don’t know.

Maybe I shouldn’t have even mentioned anything. We always had six bikes in the shed though. And then one morning there were five. I never did get a good answer regarding its whereabouts.

But I’ve always been forgetful when it came to names. Especially kid’s names. When I coached them, I basically remembered them by whether they were respectful or not. Every kid was buddy or dude or hey you.

“Nice hit Buddy. Make sure you run through first base next time.”

“Dude, if you want to pick your freaking nose you can go behind the dugout and do it.”

“Yo – hey you – #7, I want you moving on every pitch Buddy. Got it? What? Yeah I know your name. But this is baseball. You want a name? You’re Mickey Freaking Mantle, #7. How’s that for a name?”

At least in football you have an excuse because you can’t see their darling little faces. But you can cheat. The kids have their names written on tape across the front of their helmets – at least until the season starts. As long as they were close enough for me to read, I was OK.

“Big kid, run over here so you can hear me. Yeah… Timmy – next time catch the ball with your hands and not your shoulder pad. And write your name bigger.”

When it came to the parents, there wasn’t a freaking chance in Hell of me knowing a name or which kid they belonged to.

They’d approach me, “Hey Coach, so what can I do to help my Tristan overcome his problem?”

How is it fair that they can call me Coach? Shouldn’t I be able to reply with, “Well Parent, Tristan stinks. He’s freaking eight years old. I’ll play him as much as any other kid and either he’ll get better someday or he’ll always stink. At that point he can either use his spare time to master the flute or try lacrosse or fishing.”

Wow, look at ME. Seems like I slipped a little of my youth sports philosophy in there. The great thing about an unsponsored blog is you get to say freaking this and freaking that and nobody can say a word.

So I’ll keep… what the heck was I just talking about?

Well, I have an announcement to make and I don’t care what the rest of the civilized world thinks. I’m rejoining the board of the Farmington Valley MudHogs Youth Football and Cheerleading League. Yup – it came to me in a dream. I’m going to focus on the 5-7 year-olds who are playing flag football.

How in the heck does anyone coach a team in that age group and let Johnny run the ball five times a game while Joey does nothing but block? I’ll be fixing that.

So, before I forget, I’m heading outside to pull the snow blower out and get it ready for the snow. It’s storm Charlotte. My dad was married to an unbelievable woman of the same name. THAT name, I will never forget. She left us way too soon.

Remember to keep track of your kids this weekend. Stupid, avoidable accidents happen during weather events like this way too often.

Be smart. Remember to use common sense.