Thursday, August 31, 2006


I was tagged by one of my favorite people, Rowena. How could a refuse such a lovely person? Besides, unlike so many, I like being tagged. It's a 'get-out-of-having-to-come-up-with-a-topic-free' card.

The three meme

1. Three things that scare me:
  • Failure
  • Success
  • My children getting serious illnesses or injuries

2. Three people that make me laugh
  • Jon Stewart
  • Steve Martin
  • Colin Mochrie

3. Three things I hate the most
  • Lima Beans
  • Being interrupted
  • People who think politics is a game to be won

4. Three things I don't understand
  • Bigotry
  • Personal Finance
  • Elvis Impersonators

5. Three things I'm doing right now
  • Blogging
  • Brushing my teeth
  • Scratching*

6. Three things I want to do before I die
  • Teach my grandchildren the fine art of the spit-take
  • Sail on Sydney Harbor
  • Make a crowd of thousands laugh and cheer

7. Three things I can do
  • Stack a deck of cards
  • Cook
  • Spit takes

8. Three ways to describe my personality
  • Thoughtful
  • Wacky
  • Loving

9. Three things I can't do
  • Dance
  • Hold grudges
  • Give Birth

10. Three things I think you should listen to

11. Three things you should never listen to
  • Pre-packaged pop
  • Loverboy's Greatest Hits
  • Anyone who sees the world in black and white.

12. Three things I'd like to learn
  • How to braid hair (for my daughter)
  • How to play the guitar
  • How to live debt-free

13. Three favourite foods
  • Breakfast: Spinach, bacon, onion & swiss cheese omelette, whole wheat toast.
  • Lunch: Turkey sub with lettuce, onion, provolone cheese and just a little bit of mayonnaise.
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken with a thin slice of ham and cheddar cheese on top, smothered in barbequeue sauce, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, and a beer.

14. Three beverages I drink regularly
  • Decaffeinated Coffee
  • Lemonade
  • Diet Coke w/lime

15. Three shows I watched as a kid
  • Rockford Files
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Love, American Style

16...Three people I'm tagging
  • Colleen
  • Heidi
  • Cadbury
  • Jennifer Aniston (I know that's four, but hey, it never hurts to ask, ya know?)

*Yes, down there. Well, it itches sometimes.


Updating on some of the stuff discussed on this here blog the past few weeks:


My nephew Ronald made his wrestling debut this past weekend, as GOLDENRON. He applied a fair amount of bronzer with gold glitters on his face and arms, wore a yellow beater T-shirt with one of STBEW's gold lame blouses over it, and a pair of his brother's USMC desert camo pants. He then spiked his hair, and wore gold wraparound sunglasses. All of this to get tossed out of the ring in about 35 seconds. We all gotta start somewhere.


The songs of the week list:


Sunday Bloody Sunday - U2
Sundays Will Never be the Same - Spanky and Our Gang
Sunday Morning Break-up – Christian Walz
Sunday Morning – Maroon 5
Gloomy Sunday – Billie Holliday
Every Day is Like Sunday - Morrisey
Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon
– Queen
Sunday Morning – Velvet Underground
Superbowl Sunday - Ozomatli


Monday Monday - The Mamas and the Papas
I don’t Like Mondays – The Boomtown Rats
Manic Monday – The Bangles
Blue Monday – New Order
Blue Monday – Huey Lewis and the News
Blue Monday, Blue Day – Foreigner


Tuesday’s Gone With the Wind – Lynrd Skynrd
Ruby Tuesday – Rolling Stondes
Tuesday Afternoon – Moody Blues
Tuesday’s Heartbreak – Stevie Wonder
Tuesday’s Dead – Cat Stevens

Wednesday Morning, 3am – Simon & Garfunkle


Thursday’s Child – David Bowie


Friday (I’m in Love) – the Cure
Friday Night – The Darkness
Friday On My Mind – The Easybeats


Another Saturday Night – Cat Stevens
Saturday Night – Bay City Rollers
Mister Saturday Night Special – Lynrd Skynrd
The Heart of a Saturday Night – Tom Waits
Saturday Night – Earth Wind & Fire
Sudbury Saturday Night – Stompin’ Tom Connors

As far as I can tell, all of these songs are distinct, even if they have the same title. And I'm trusting some of you on these (Sudbury Saturday Night? Dick Clark never had us dance to that one) Thanks to everyone who contributed. I thought about adding attributions to the list like I did before, but it's just too much damn work. You know who you are, and if you want me to post about how wonderful you are, let me know. I think yinz are all pretty nifty.

Right now, I'm compiling two lists: Songs of the Months, and Songs Around the Clock (songs that have time in their titles). I can already hear your brain cells clicking. Watch this space.


As for the Danza/Bonaduce talentless contest, Here's how the voting polled out:
  • Danny Bonaduce: Six Votes
  • Tony Danza: One vote
  • Abstain: One
  • Paris Hilton: Two votes, in a surprisingly strong write-in campaign.
Good thinking, and some well-thought-out arguments by all. In my opinion, however, the difference in actual talent level, likeability aside, is not as great as the difference in their positions in the Hollywood pecking order. Danza has done more with less than Bonaduce. It is so written.


And, as I predicted yesterday, it begins:


Wednesday, August 30, 2006


From today's MSNBC webpage:

What went wrong?

Howzabout the obvious? They arrested the wrong guy.

Howzabout the big picture? You, as what is tragically called a news organization, think we care about this.

Howzabout reality? We, as a news audience, apparently do.

It's not news. It's pornography. In the worst sense.

Bring on the faux self-analysis. Nothing will change as long as news organizations spend more time chasing ratings and less time being disinterested investigators.

I think I'm going to be sick.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Gonna Fly Now

I played a Bach 180 series ‘Stradivarius’ trumpet in high school and college. It was an excellent horn. Medium large bore (.467, if I’m not mistaken). Nice, full tone, quick response, designed primarily for concert and orchestra, but could hold its own in a jazz band.

My mother made me buy it. It’s not the horn I wanted.

I had a Shulke 3C mouthpiece. It was a medium cup, really, the perfect mouthpiece for my embouchure.

I hated it.

I wanted a Holton ST308, with a Jet-Tone MF3 Mouthpiece.

Because that’s what Maynard played.

When I was growing up, there were two people that I considered heroes whose mannerisms I tried to copy.

In baseball, it was Roberto Clemente.

In music, it was Maynard Ferguson.

In baseball, I stood way back in the batters’ box, almost on the back line. My bat stood straight up, tip never wavering, my hands almost touching my right shoulder. I would step into the pitch, with a level, inside-out swing.

Too bad I kept missing the ball.

I had somewhat more success imitating Maynard. And he was easy to imitate.

He held his horn like a gun—his left thumb was placed correctly, but rather than inseting the pinky finger into the third valve slide and resting the other three lightly under the upper tubing, he would wrap the valves between thumb and index finger, and hold the valves like a handle.

And before he would cut loose with another amazing, above-the-stanza solo, he would point the bell of his horn straight up, as if funneling the music of the heavens into it. And he would bring it down, down, down, until it was almost resting on his chest, but arch his back so that it would still be pointing straight out into the audience. The higher he played, the lower he dipped. If he hadn't been a trumpet player, he could have been an excellent limbo dancer.

So that’s the way I played. Hell, that’s the way we all played. At least, that’s the way we all stood. None of us played like Maynard. No one played like Maynard, except Maynard.

And no, he wasn’t really a big name in music. He was sort of big band, sort of jazz, all Maynard. But what he did few could do. My father told me about seeing Maynard near the beginnig of his career, with Stan Kenton’s band. He told me about a review he read in the paper in Pittsburgh.

“The reviewer said Ferguson was an exceptional lead trumpet player,” my dad said, “but then he went on to say that the way he played, he’d blow his lips out in a few years.”

That review was back in the 1950’s. Dad told me this in 1975.

And he toured. And toured. And toured. In fact, ‘touring with Maynard’ was sort of a rite of passage for untold hundreds of musicians for the last thirty years or so.

No, he wasn’t the best technican. There’s others who could play in his range. Bill Chase, Lin Biviano, Allen Vizzutti, Doc Severnson—all could be considered his peers, or even superior in their playing.

But they couldn’t capture my attention like Maynard.

His ‘biggest hit’—if it could be called that—w as his cover of ‘Gonna Fly Now,’ Bill Conti’s theme from the movie ‘Rocky.’ Conti’s version hit number one on the Billboard charts in 1977. Maynard’s version, released at just about the same time, made the top 30, and it was better. But it wasn’t even his best work. His versions of 'MaArthur Park,' and 'Chameleon' show much more of what he was capable of, both as a musician and band, leader, as do his covers of ‘Birdland’ and ‘Stella by Starlight,’ and so many others.

Maynard was still playing as late as July, when he was at the Blue Note in NYC. The last time I saw him was I think back in 1990, when he was playing a festival nearby. He wasn’t bending back the way he used to, but he still had the style, and the chops, he always had.

And even though I haven't really listened to his music for thirty years, I’ll miss him.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Maximizing One's Potential

**Update 6:39 am 8/25/06: So far, the polling looks like this: Bonaduce: 3, Undecided: 1, Abstain: 1. I've added a little bit more information about Danny, corrected an error on Tony and put some links in as well. Vote early! Vote often!***

Thanks to everyone who helped me with the 'Songs of the Week," project from my previous post. I was planning on reposting the entire thing with links and attributions, but I've been having some troubles with the fershlugginer HTML codes, so maybe it will appear somewhere down the line.

And an extra-special thanks and a deep bow from the waist to the estimable Madame X and her amazing hootie-hoo, wherefrom she pulled "Thursday's Child" by David Bowie to complete the list.

No, I don't know what a hootie-hoo is, either. But knowing X, it's probably something naughty.

But enough about music. Today, I'm asking for your opinions on an issue that's been bothering me for some time. It stems from a conversation I'm having with my friend Jim. It's a conversation that's been going on for the better part of five years. Because it's one of those kinds of know the type: Wherein we talk for hours, arguing passionately back and forth, changing and revising positions, speaking from the depths of our souls over an item so trivial, yet so profound, that even though I've had almost no contact with Jim for the past three years, If I picked up the phone and said three words to him about the subject, we would be able to continue on as if those years never existed.

I'm calling the issue "Maximizing One's Potential," because the original title of the discussion, if it ever had one, would have been: "Which C-list celebrity has done more with less talent?"

Our contestants:
Tony Danza.

Tony stared out as a boxer, who wasn't good enough in the ring, so he got a job as an actor. His first big break was the wonderful 1970's sitcom Taxi, where he played a guy named Tony, who was a boxer, who wasn't good enough for the ring, so he got a job as a taxi driver. From there, he went to the 1980's sitcom Who's the Boss, where he played a guy named Tony, who was a baseball player, who wasn't good enough for the diamond, so he got a job as a housekeeper.

After a mere two decades, he figured to stretch himself artistically, so in the 1997 "Tony Danza Show," he doesn't play an athlete named Tony. Nope, this is where Tony Stretches his chops, and plays...a sportswriter named Tony. Currently, he's a talk show host, where he plays a former athlete/actor named, wait. It's just a talk show. Called? The Tony Danza Show! He probably thought: 'What the heck. I already have the name copyrighted.'

What's with this guy? Is he really so dense that if he got a script and didn't see any lines for someone named 'Tony,' he wouldn't know what to say?

To be fair, not every single character he plays is named Tony. A couple of times he's played a guy named "Tommy,' and once, no lie, he played a guy named 'Pony.' Maybe his handlers convinced him that they were just misspellings.

Contestant Number Two:
Danny Bonaduce
Danny doesn't have the Curriculum Vitae of Tony, but if anything he's blessed with even more anti-talent than Mr. Danza. Plus he's nowhere near as likeable.

*Danny began his career as the worldly-wise eleven-year-old bass player on the 1960's Partridge Family, then disappeared off the radar screen for a blissful decade. He would occasionally surface, being seing studying karate with Chuck Norris, or showing up on police blotters as a stoner vagrant. He's managed to kick his habits (probably a showy backwards roundhouse, with a needless haiiii-ya! thrown in for good measure), wrote a book on how much it sucks to be him, and got a bunch of jobs as a loudmouth radio jock, which led him to a few gigs as a loudmouth TV 'personality.' He's now having marital difficulties with his wife Gretchen, who married him seven hours into their first date, and who agreed to make the birth of their first child into a 'reality' TV series. Ever the sane, sober thinker, Danny decided the best way to deal with his crumbling marraige was to put it on TV.

So that's the competition. On the one hand, we've got a guy with precious little talent, who's been able to make a career out of being his dumb, likeable self, versus another guy, who doesn't even have that, yet still manages to get a couple hundred thousand hits on google.

Who's done more with less? You be the judge.

Oh, and in case your wondering, I'd probably trade places with either one.


*** For what it's worth: I think that if Hollywood was an overloaded life raft, Danny Bonaduce would be jettisoned first. Perhaps even before the luggage. I think Tony might actually stay on the raft longer than Paris Hilton's little yappy dog.***

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Updated 7:36 pm 8/21/06

Picked the kids up from camp today. They were happy to see me, but they're exhausted.


The bus got in a half-hour late, in other words: right on time. No one ever expects the bus from camp to arrive on time, do they?

So while I was waiting, I listened to the radio, and "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" comes on. I wondered if this was planned by some DJ who thought it was cool to play a Sunday song on a Sunday.*

More likely, it was just plopped there by the Indiscriminate Song Selector used by some stations to make it seem like there's someone in the soulless bowels of Corporate Radio who actually gives a shit about the music.

One time, I heard "Psycho Killer" played right after "Strawberry Fields Forever." Think about it.


I started thinking about songs with days in them. I tried to think of at least one title for each day. I haven't come up with all of them yet, and some days have more than one song.

I'm sure there's more out there. Can you come up with any? I'd say no fair Googling to come up with song titles, but I have no way of enforcing that. However, it is fair to Google the names of songs you know to confirm the artist (and also that it's really the name of the song. After all, the real name of Simon & Garfunkle's "Feeling Groovy" is "The 59th Street Bridge Song."***), or to find out the artists name if you don't know it.

Here's the list so far:

  • "Sunday, Bloody Sunday"-U2
  • "Sunday's Will Never Be the Same" -Spanky and Our Gang***
  • “Sunday Morning” - Maroon 5 (thanx, Åsa!)
  • “Sunday morning break-up” - Christian Walz (thanx, Åsa!)
  • "Gloomy Sunday" - Billie Holliday (thanx again, Åsa!)
  • "Every Day is Like Sunday" - Morrisey (thanx, Dear Lovey Heart!)

Which led me to remember:
  • "Blue Monday" -Huey Lewis & the News
  • "Blue Monday, Blue Day" - Foreigner


  • "Wednesday Morning, 3AM" - Simon & Garfunkle!


  • "Friday (I'm in Love)" -The Cure
  • "Friday Night" - The Darkness (thanx, Heidi!)

  • "Another Saturday Night" -Cat Stevens
  • "Saturday Night" -Bay City Rollers***
  • "Mister Saturday Night Special" -Lynrd Skynrd
  • "Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting"- Elton John
  • "The Heart of a Saturday Night" -Tom Waits
  • "Saturday Night" - Earth Wind & Fire (thanx, Dear Lovey Heart!)

As you can see, Saturday's got a commanding lead. Understood, since it is the most anticipated evening of the week. But there's got to be more Friday songs than that. And someone, somewhere must have written about Wednesdays and Thursdays. Dontcha think?

If ya got any songs, let me know. I'll put them in here, and attribute them to your brain.

And if you're even thinking about contributing "Everybody's Working for the Weekend" by Loverboy, don't.


*You know the type--the sort that plays the Doors' "Riders of the Storm" everytime it rains.**
**OK--so maybe they don't do that anymore. They did it in the 1980's.***
***No, I'm not an old fart.****
****Am not.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Two by Four

Went out to dinner with Taylor last night. We went to a joint that specializes in cajun/barbeque cooking, and blues music, where we ate cornbread, crawdads, spicy chicken, and listened to bagpipers.*

Had a great time.

And had a better time after we got home. I don't kiss and least not on this blog. If you want to get an approximation of what happened, read one of Madame X's stories, and replace the word 'spank' with 'kiss.'

Or, occasionally, 'chocolate.'

At any rate, that's not what I'm blogging about tonight.

I thought I'd do the meme that the lovely X posted the other day.

2 moments in your life you’d like to erase
  1. February 2, 1977
  2. July 14, 1978
And if I could only choose one of them, I would erase the first. In a heartbeat.

4 moments I like to relieve
  1. My son was about nine months old. My wife was working evenings, so I was in charge. I had given him his evening bottle, and sitting with him on the couch. He was mostly holding the bottle on his own, but sometimes he would wrap his little hand around my finger, so we were sort of holding it together. He finished it, and I burped him, and then he snuggled back down into my arms and looked up at me with his big blue eyes, and I looked down at him and smiled. We watched each other for a few moments, and then he closed his eyes and went to sleep in my arms.
  2. January 12, 1975. Super Bowl Icks. That's what I called it (it was IX). My Dad, my brother, and I watched the Steelers beat the Vikings 16-6, in what, I admit now, was a less-than-spectacular game, but until this point in their history, the Steelers had been a horrible team, not only never winning a championship, but barely ever having a winning season. My brother and I had been Steelers fans since 1969**, but my dad had been a sufferin' Steeler fan since the 1930's. It was great to share this experience with him.
  3. January 1991: I was on vacation with my family at Disneyworld, staying in one of those condos right around Pleasure Island. The second night there, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers were going to be playing a free concert. The Bluesbreakers! So many rock-n-roll legends began their careers with them. At the time, their guitarist was Coco Montoya (listen to his icy-hot playing on the song 'Sensitive Kind' sometime). There were only about 300 people there to listen, but I didn't mind, I was right up front digging the music. After their first set, they just sort of hung out next to the stage--no security or anything, so I went up and talked to this man who was so instrumental in the careers of Eric Clapton, John McVie, Mick Taylor, and so many others. "Why are you playing at Disney World?" I asked him. He lit a cigarette and looked at me. "They asked us, didn't they?" was his reply.
  4. March, 1996: Mike & Ana's wedding. Mike, Steve, Rick and I all worked together in Public Television for about three years. Our careers took us out of each other's orbits, but we always got together for weddings. Mike was the last to get married. Mike's 'after-reception-reception' was held in an empty apartment in Mike's building. It was decorated with balloons, cardboard cutouts of Star Trek and Star Wars characters, and pinatas. It was just the four of us and our wives. All but one of the marriages ended,*** but that was a fun, fun evening.

2 places you wouldn’t want to go again
  1. Trenton NJ
  2. Carey NC

4 places you can’t wait to visit/visit again
  1. Toronto
  2. Jamaica
  3. Helsinki
  4. San Diego

2 foods you can’t stand
  1. Lima Beans
  2. A weak, runny mixture of ground beaf, red kidney beans, tomatoes, and .5 grams of seasoning my mother had the temerity to call 'Chili.'
4 foods you love
  1. My Chili (I was a competition Chili cook in another life)
  2. My Guacamole
  3. North Carolina Pig Pickin
  4. Chocolate Milkshakes

2 current songs that make you change the station
I don't listen to stations that play bad music, so here are my two songs that are the musical equivilent of Ipecac:
  1. 'More than a Feeling,' Boston
  2. 'Lyin' Eyes,' the Eagles

4 current songs you play over and over
Again, my listening choices mix new and old, so I'll just list the four most-played songs from my itunes' "Recently Played" list:
  1. "As Is" by Ani diFranco (quite possibly the best love song ever written)
  2. "Lick or Split" by Calvin Owens (BB King's former bandleader, a blues masterpiece that starts with a muted trumpet and desultory bass line, and ends eight minutes later with a full-blown blues orchestra with a screaming Hammond B3 laying down a solid wall of pain. Tasty.)
  3. "Toothbrush and my Table" by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. An amazing talent, and quite sexy. She'll never make it big in this business. Thank God
  4. "Can't Run But" by Paul Simon

2 books you’d never finish/read again
  1. Clemente, by David Maraniss. I idolized Roberto Clemente as a kid. Reading this book reminded me of how great he was as a player, and how much greater a man he was. His death tore me apart in 1972. I'm glad I read it, to be reminded once again about this man, but his death still hurts.
  2. John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom books. I read the first three before the fourth came out. I remember standing in line at the bookstore in the early 1990's with "Rabbit at Rest" in my hand, and thinking why the hell am I doing this again? I put the book back.

4 books you have read more than once
  1. Thud! by Terry Pratchett
  2. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
  3. Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
  4. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs
Sense a trend? I could list another twenty-two or so books here. As soon as I finish a Discworld novel, I immediately re-read it. The first time, I enjoy the story. The second time, I enjoy the writing.


*No, really. There was a funeral down the street, where the pipers played. They stopped off afterwards for a pint or two. The blues trio that was playing asked if they wanted to sit in. They might have been joking. Too bad if they were. Which led me to ask the following question: How can you tell if a bagpiper's playing badly?

**1-13, under Rookie Head Coach Chuck Noll. Do you remember the name of their starting quarterback? Nope. Terry Bradshaw was drafted the next year. In '69, their QB was the legendary Dick Shiner. That's right, Dick Shiner. More than a name--a hobby.

***Mike's was the most famous. He later appeared on an episode of Oprah as a 'loser in love.'

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Poster Boy

Senator Ted Stevens* was right. The internet is not a truck.

If it was, I wouldn't be able to go to Australia.

Yup. The internet is a series of tubes, and one of my internets goes all the way Down Under, and pops up at the blog of a young woman named Rowena. I have no idea how I came upon her blog, but when I did, I read a wonderful post about sex and sexuality. As I was reading it, I thought, 'this is something that someday, my daughter will need to know.'

Because, although it scares me a bit, I am aware that someone, sometime, will look at my daughter, and think the 2012-ish equivilent to 'hot diggity!'

So, I've got it saved, and when the time comes, I'll have a reference to work from.

Because my daughter could do much worse than grow up to be like Rowena.
Who is the editor of an Australian magazine called Poster, which is
"an Australian based and produced publication, at the forefront of urban progressive life, presenting a collaboration of Australia`s most innovative leaders in, photography, writing and design. It is designed to be the choice for the discerning, sophisticated audience."**

And I'm in it.

Yup, the ol' Balloon Pirate is doing his best to shape Australia's discerning, sophisticated, progressive urban reader.

And I'm doing it in unfashionable socks.

Wait 'til my sister-in-law hears about this.

Okay, okay, all it is is just a quote or two from me about blogging. But still, how many of them will know that I wrote it while wearing 'Jeffs?'

Thanks, Ro. Ya make me feel good.


*Senator from Alaska, the longest-serving Republican in the US Senate, and, in matters regarding the internet, about as savvy as your Crazy Uncle Larry. Unfortunately, in his position as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, he has considerable influence in the debate on net neutrality.

**click the link, fool.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Camp Week

There's two big trunks in my dining room, filled with towels and toothpaste, hairbrushes and raincoats, flashlights and sunscreen, and ziploc bags, each with a clean shirt, shorts, socks, and undies. One bag for each day at camp, plus one. If this year is anything like last year, at least half the bags will never be opened.

This will be the second year at camp for my kids. Last year they had a good enough time, although my son was more homesick than my daughter. For the first few weeks back home, he was adamant he would not go back this year.

Of course, after my daughter faceplanted on a tree when she went sledding one winter, she vowed never to sled again. That didn't last long either.

By November, he was already talking about what he was going to do this year.

We grow and we learn.

But of course, there's always questions.

"What if they don't like me? What if I don't make any friends?"

This wasn't coming from my kids. This was from STBEW.* The camp had put a call out this spring, looking for volunteers to help staff the camp. I showed the letter to her, and she decided to see if they could use her help. They could.

I love my kids. Having a week without them is a bit difficult. A week without STBEW around? Not so difficult.

I laughed. I thought she was kidding. She wasn't.

"You'll be fine," I said. "You're quite capable, and very likeable."

"No I'm not."

"Yes, you are," I replied. "If you weren't so damned likeable, you wouldn't have gotten away with half the shit you pulled."

Well, I have to give her credit for voicing her fears.

When I was a kid, my parents had no fear. None. At least, that's what I thought. That's what they showed me. Everything was done with confidence. I thought adults knew everything, and could do anything.

When I was about 12 or 13, I was watching my Dad in his workshop. He was building an attachment to the laundry chute. He cut a piece of wood to the wrong size. "Well, that just proves your Old Man ain't perfect," he said.

That was news to me.

It wasn't until much later that I discovered the truth. Discovered may not be the right word. I realized the truth. My parents grew up in the teeth of the Depression, in southwestern Pennsylvania. For many years of her childhood, my mother's toilet was a stream that ran behind the shack where she lived. Her bathtub and kitchen sink were slightly upstream. My dad went to school in Pittsburgh with a false last name, because in those days being Polish wasn't the best thing to be in that town.

They worked very hard, and with almost no guidance, were able to build a very comfortable upper-middle-class life for themselves. There was a lot to be admired there. However, one thing was given short shrift: emotions. Especially, the one that dominated my mother's life: fear.

Mom was afraid of everything. But she never talked about it, never admitted it, never dealt with it. It was so prevalent in everything that happened, that I never even noticed it. Like some low-level mechanical hum in an office building, after a while it's only really noticed when it's gone.

Even her love was filled with fear. So much so, that it has taken me quite a while to untangle the two emotions. And it's taking me some time to work through it.

So, I pay attention to my fears. I do my best to examine what it is that frightens me in situations. If there's a good reason to be afraid in a situation, then maybe it's not the right place for me to be.

I still have fears. I let my kids know this. But I also show them that I don't let my fears run my life. I work at doing things that need to be done, even if I'm afraid of doing them.

STBEW left for camp this morning. The kids go tomorrow. They'll have fun. My son spent his week last year in a bit of fear. I don't think it will be as prevalent for him this year.

I hope my ex-wife's first year at camp goes well for her.


*STBEW=Soon To Be Ex-Wife

Friday, August 11, 2006

And the Winner Is...

My ex-wife.* Sorry.

But she came up with the best name. Not necessarily the most creative name, or even the most original rasslin' name, but the best name for Ronald as a rassler.

After all, she's known him a lot longer than you guys have.

So as he steps into the ring, he will be introduced as:


You guys came up with some great ideas.

The top five:

  1. Ronaldo Power, by Guy Wonders
  2. Ron Havoc, Weeone
  3. Ron-cho Libre, Heidi the Hick
  4. Rorschach Ronald, Madame X
  5. The Golden Nipple, me (hey, I gotta be honest)
  • (dis)Honourable mention: The Gay Haircut, Daniel
Thanks to all of you.


*Or more correctly, my soon-to-be-ex-wife. Hence, the acronym STBEW.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Name that Rassler!

My nephew Ronald is pursuing his dream. He wants to be a rassler.

He says wrestler. But we know better.

This is not singlets-and-
earpieces Dan Gable-style Olympic wrestling. This is Hulk Hogan
/Goldberg/Marc Henry style rasslin'.

Which pays better. Eventually. For some.

He's joined a local circuit, is working out, plus he's going to Rasslin' school, where he gets the snot knocked out of him on a regular basis.* But he keeps going back.

And he's getting big. He's put about ten pounds of muscle on. He's 6'1", and about 190 right now.

In two weeks, he'll get his debut. It's not going to be a one-on-one match, though. That's for more experienced wrestle--er rasslers.

No, he'll be taking part in a Royal Rumble. Well, the local version of it, at least.

He'll be one of thirty guys going into a ring. And he'll be one of twenty-nine guys who get thrown out of it. The only question is how soon. They'll tell him that in a week or so. I'm guessing it will be in the first five. Hell, he's only 18.

But he still gets to be introduced. So he gets to have a name.

A rasslin' name.

And he gets to wear a costume. If he gets someone to make one for him.

However, creativity's not his strong suit, so he's asked me for help. He's looking for something that will stand out.

Here's some of my suggestions:

  • Since his name's Ronald, I thought we could go with Captain Ron. Pros: Easy costume--knee breeches, a vest and an eyepatch is really all he needs. Perhaps a cutlass. Cons: Possible trademark infringement.
  • Going with the name thing, I thought about putting him in deep red tights and a cape, giving him a perm and having him grow a porn moustache and calling him Burgundy Ron. Pros: memorable play on words, easy costume. Cons: still a chance of copyright infringement, and towheaded 18-year-olds really aren't the best facial hair growers.
  • And my favorite: The Golden Nipple (Once he gets excited, it's hard to get him down)

Those are mine. Got any suggestions? I'd love to hear them.

Cuz right now The Golden Nipple's sort of the winner by default.

Here's his stats:
Name: Ronald (not necessary to be included, but helpful to know)
Age: 18
Height: 6' 1"
Weight: 190-ish
Hair: light blonde, relatively short
Eyes: blue
Skin: fair

And just so you know: I'm sort of goofing around here, but it's what he wants to do. He's pursing his dream, and I'm proud of him for it.


*By this I don't mean they're hitting him--they're working him hard--strength, flexibility, and gymnastics. Plus a few piledrivers as well.

Monday, August 07, 2006

What the Hell is That?

So I was checking out the forecast on for the upcoming week when I spy the image over there on the right.

What the hell is that all about?

I stared at it for a good 40 seconds, and then called a colleague over to look at it, to see if she could make out what was being pushed by this ad.

She looks at it for a few seconds, and says: "It's some sort of drug."

Gee. Ya think?

I had that much figured out on my own already.

But what the hell drug advertises itself with Abe Lincoln and a gopher waiting for you to drive them in your sidecar?

OK, let me rephrase that: what legally prescribed non-recreational drug would use such an advertisement?

Turns out it's for a sleeping pill.

But it's an interesting testament to where we are as a society with ads. This is a fourth-level ad--one that makes you actively search for the product being sold, and then makes you try to figure out what the pitch is.

I work in advertising, although none of my clients would ever have the balls to use a campaign like this. Most of them are afraid of advertising. They go at it very timidly. They may make noises about how they want something different, but after a few go-rounds, it's always the same script.

As a joke, I once wrote a fill-in-the-blank piece of copy, because I was so sick of doing the same freaking commercial over and over again. Remember Mad Libs? Remember how much fun it was, sitting around with a guy asking you to choose verbs, nouns, and adjectives, and then he'd read a story with those words plugged in?

OK--it was pretty much the Worst Party Game Ever. But now you remember.

The copy I wrote was essentially that. It started out--as all bad ad copy does, with those words of doom: 'Quality and Value is what you get when you [VERB][PRODUCT] at [PLACE]!"

It went on like that, thirty seconds of dreck, with prompts for adjectives, people's names, and addresses.

We all thought it was hilarious. I put a copy up on the bulletin board so we could all get a laugh.

Within a week, three salesmen had filled out copies for client scripts.

I took the copy down.

This was about five years ago. At least once a month, an Ad Exec stops by and asks for a copy of 'the script' for their client.

I gotta hit the sack. Abe and Punxatawny Phil are calling my name.


A Phrase I Wish I Had Never Heard My Ex-Wife Utter

"It's a hickey."

STBEW had come over to watch the kids because I had a meeting. I noticed these marks on her neck, and had asked her what they were. It wasn't until the words were leaving my lips that I even considered that they might


Hickeys? Jeebus.

What's worse, she took this as an opportunity to divulge a bit more about me. The following is the conversation we had as I drove her back to her apartment. Anything in italics was not spoken aloud.

"I think we broke up this morning."

"Oh?" I don't care.

"He was getting too close."

"Oh." Don't care don't care.

"He wants to know where I am all the time."

"Ah." Make it stop please make it stop.

"I just need my space."

"Hmm." Space? You need space? This is, by my count, the third guy you've been with since you left me. One was a toothless black man. One was a kid younger than our oldest son. And you're just now thinking you need space?

I don't know why I married her.

Oh, yeah. The sex. It was toe-curling.*

I feel awkward about all this. It's truly none of my business if she's with someone or not. Or with two or three people. What I'm fighting is the urge to tell her things. So I blog about them.

Here's what I didn't tell her: "It worries me that you constantly need to be with someone. I think it's another part of a mental illness that manifested itself partly in your addictions to drugs and alcohol. I think that you're never going to get healthy until you address those issues.

"And I don't care that you're having sex with other men. I don't even care if it's kinky. Lord knows you do it well. But for cripe's sake...a hickey? You're 46, not 16."

There. I feel better now.


*In case you're wondering, yes, even the ones I no longer have curled.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Welcome Back.

Me, that is.

You've been right there, waiting patiently for the next pearl of wisdom to spew forth from my well-worn keyboard.

Yeah, right.

But back I am, in the familiar Swillburg surroundings of sanctimonious Smugtown.

Pretty peppy prose, eh, pal?*

It was great visiting my brother. Especially since he has central air and an inground pool, and we were there right during the teeth of the heatwave. I tell ya, sitting around in 100 degree heat and 100 percent humidity is much easier to tolerate if you know that you can take three steps this way and plunge headfirst into cool water, or take three steps that way and be sitting in a 75 degree living room.

My kids had a blast. Two-thirds of my brother's children are really sweet kids. The third one (the eldest daughter) has issues, but she's always at least civil to my kids.

And their friends are nice too. As are my brother's friends.

My 48-year-old brother is the captian of his volleyball team**, and he had two of them over to swim on Tuesday. One's a 6'7" civil engineer, and the other's a corporate manager for a regional drugstore chain. One's 24, the other's 23. One's a gangly, balding dude, and the other's going to go back to school, and is going to pay for it by being a Hooter's Girl, and will probably pay for her tuition her first week.

And at least one of them has a huuge crush on my bro. And it ain't the engineer.

It was interesting to see the family dynamics of a person who is, for all intents and purposes, my clone. We were born from the same parents less than two years apart, so our genetic, familial and societal influences are, statistically speaking, identical. Yet, his life and mine are vastly different.

His life is far from idyllic. His oldest tries to run the family through selfish rage and violence, and everyone in the household is afraid of her. Child number two gets the brunt of the anger that should be directed at the oldest sister, and tries very hard to be the perfect daughter. The youngest spends as much time as possible at her friends house. His wife, a prison nurse, is a recovering alcoholic. I could easily see how to fix his life. I am proud that I didn't even attempt it, although I do confess I was sorely tempted to give advice. But I didn't. I merely enjoyed their company and loved them all.

I'm also proud of they way I've managed my childrens' summer vacation. A week of inactivity followed by eleven days in Vegas. Another week, then a week with me at my brothers. Ten days home, then another week at camp. One final week plus a holiday, then it's back to school!

Hope your summer's going well.


*bonus points to anyone who can tell me what movie that line's from...
**sound scarily, disturbingly familiar?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

First Date

Her name was Lori.

She was a junior. I was a sophomore. Well, we would be when school started in the fall.

I asked her out to see Young Frankenstien. I managed to put my arm around the back of her seat in the theater.

That was as far as I got with any woman until after Graduate School.

Lori was my first crush. She was quite beautiful...tall, great legs, blonde hair, a winning smile...a wholesome, all-American girl. She was also the daughter of my Mom's best friend. They had a cabin on a lake, and we spent many weekends up there. Many, many weekends. With Lori. In her bikini.

That year, our family hosted a foreign exchange student from South America. He came to live with us about two weeks after my first date. His name was Gabriel. He had olive skin, long, wavy black hair, smoked cigarettes, and played guitar.

Chick magnet.

On his first weekend in the U.S., we went up to the lake for a sort of welcoming party. It was our family, Lori's family, and a few other families from our church with kids approximately Gabe was charming and gracious, and at the end of the evening, as we were leaving, he kissed Lori goodbye.

On the lips.

Oh. My. God.

For him it was nothing, a societal convention from his part of the world. But in our buttoned up little Methodist corner, this was a bit shocking.

For me of the raging unrequited hormones, it was the end of the world.

With a bit of embarrassed laughter and explanations, things were sorted out between Gabe, Lori, and the rest of the people of the world. But I died a little inside. He kissed a girl. Made it look so natural. He kissed Lori.

That was the end of that.

Lori got married in 1980, and had one son, who's trying to make it as a baseball player. He plays for the local team here, at one of the lowest levels of professional baseball. Lori and her husband stopped by yesterday for a visit.

She's a very nice-looking middle-aged woman. Her husband is a very pleasant man. My brother and Lori spent most of the visit chatting about high school. Well, not really. They would play this game where one would mention somebody's name, and the other would recite information about where they are now, who they married, who they divorced, and what went right or wrong in their lives.

I was so bored.

It was interesting to see her. It reinforced what I already knew...that the life inside my head was often only tangentally related to actual events. The Lori in my head was just a person-sized imagining of what I thought I wanted.

We went to see their son play last night. He struck out in the bottom of the eleventh to end the game.

I'm so glad he's actually pursuing what he wants. Whether he succeeds or fails, at least it's real.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sock It To Me.

"Those are old man socks."

My Sister-in-Law was critiquing my footwear. I was wearing khaki shorts, a T-shirt with a cartoon moose on it with the caption 'Grab life by the antlers,' black sneakers, and white crew socks.

I was not dressed stylishly, I'll give you that, but I never would have thought that the biggest fashion faux pas was the cotton around my ankles. As far as I was concerned, as long as they weren't knee-high black rayon, I was fine.

Apparently, I was wrong.

"I tell your brother the same thing all the time," she went on. I looked over at my brother. He was wearing a T-Shirt that proclaimed the University of North Carolina Tar Heels as Champions of the 2004 NCAA tournament, a hat that celebrated the Pittsburgh Steelers as the winners of Super Bowl Extra Large, blue shorts that had yet to declare any sort of sporting affiliation, and sandals without socks--perhaps his way of avoiding the argument.

He was also wearing an expression that seemed to say: "She tells me lots of things."

I like my Sister-in-Law well enough, but quite honestly, a 40-something prison nurse should not be the final arbiter of things sartorial.

So I appealed to a higher court, which was quite easy to find: my brother has three teenaged daughters.

Sarah, 17, was chatting with friends on the computer. I decided to frame the question in a way that would be most likely to get a favorable response. "Your mother thinks these are old man socks," I told her. "What do you think?"

Not a moment's hesistation. "Oh, yeah!" She said, looking with horror upon the abomination that is the white crew sock. "You need to be wearing ankle socks."

Unbelievable. Not that I had fallen out of fashion--but that there was such a thing as sock fashion.

And I hate ankle socks. I've worn them, and could never escape the feeling that I needed to pull them up.

"Too bad," I told her. Yeah, I know she could care less about what I wore, but I felt I needed to state my case. "I've seen trends come and go. I've seen clothes go from hideous to trendy and back, and then be dragged out again as retro. Do you know why I wear old man socks? Because I'm an old man. And that's what you really want."

She looked doubtful, so I went in for the kill. "There are men my age who wear ankle socks. Do you know what they're called?"

She shrugged that she didn't. I leaned forward, eyes blazing.


Sarah's eyes widened in horror. "I'll bet you any sort of money you want that David Hasselhoff wears ankle socks! Do you want me to be David Hasselhoff? Do you want to have to explain to your friends when they come over why David Hasselhoff has his ankle-socked feet up on your coffee table? Do you want your Dad to be David Hasselhoff?"

I held up my foot again. "What do you think about my socks now?"

"Fine! They're fine!" was her panicked reaction.

"And if your Dad wears them?

"Great! I'll love them!"

I nodded, satisfied. "Damn straight."

I suppose some may think that I might have gone a little bit overboard on the poor girl. And I suppose their might be some lingering psychological damage, but it was a chance I was willing to take. When kids (and some adults) begin to question the fashion choices of mid-forties guys, it behooves them to consider the alternatives.

Hell, I'm not that old, anyhow.

Now, please excuse me. My brother's recorded a bunch of episodes of Simon and Simon, and I don't want to keep him waiting.