Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy Old Years That Gave All Those Happy New Years

As the year comes to an end it brings about reflective thoughts. We wish everyone, "Happy New Year" which is a good thought about an unknown situation. The New Year always symbolizes a new beginning, a fresh start. Actually it is only a continuation of wherever we find ourselves as we live our lives. I find myself this year not so much focusing on what the future might bring but what all those "New Years" that have come and gone have brought to me. This seems proper I think to focus on what has actually happened rather than on what one might hope might happen.

Being in a reflexive state I find myself going back to the beginning. By the luck of the draw, or the Grace of God, I was born into a terrific family. Not only was my Mother and Father great people who loved me but I had a ready made extended family. While it was only my brother and me there were great Uncles, Aunts Grandparents and most of all cousins of all ages that were more like brothers and sisters. We all lived within a mile of each other so everyone saw everyone almost each day. They tell me we were poor but I never knew it. There was always plenty to eat, lots of people around making a lot of noise mostly by laughing and of course arguing. The ethnicity was Italian so there was always a lot of hugging, fighting and making up. But most of all a lot of food. The whole situation was like a great cocoon with me the baby safely inside of it protected by the whole neighborhood since most were friends or friends of friends, more like family. What a great feeling, having a family which is there always for each other.

A neighborhood means so much to a kid growing up. My first neighborhood was Corona, providing the cocoon referred to above. We moved from Corona to Queensborough Hill, Flushing when I was about five years old but the Corona I knew never really moved out of me. I suddenly found myself in this new place, The Hill, with no one around that I knew. I rode my tricycle up the block and met a guy whose name was Eugene but everyone called him Babe, maybe after Babe Ruth whom he resembled or because he was the baby in his family, the third son born maybe a decade after his two older brothers. I made a lot of other friends but Babe and I are still friends after some seventy-two years. Quickly The Hill became mine. Ethnically it was different from Corona. I met a lot of Irish and they were quieter than my Italian family but they had a sense of humor that was just as quick and funny. Their food was different but it was good, my introduction to how "others" lived. Babe's mother was a real lady, genteel but his father gave a rough and tumble appearance, like he could handle himself in a brawl. Babe's two older brothers had a reputation that kept Babe safe and sound not that he needed their protection but having two older brothers in reserve just in case wasn't too bad. For WW II, one joined the Army the other the Navy, an original Intrepid gunner. Needless to say they saw plenty of action as did my uncles, and cousins. The Hill was the best place to grow up as it was a melting pot of German, Irish and Italian. We had no Blacks, Negros as they were referred to then, nor did we have more than one or two Jewish families. Our loss but that loss was made up when I went to Flushing High School. Flushing High gave me what could be called the best, although I had other bests, four years of my life. Great teachers, students and a real melting pot where I met people of all persuasions and color and grew to love them all, except of course crazy George and his gang, but I digress.

When I hit my twenties I met a great girl. She was gorgeous, smart, dressed up always and best of all laughed at all my jokes. I ran and ran after her until she finally caught me. She was Puerto Rican which was great because it exposed me to more of what other people were like, besides she had that hot Latin blood, know what I mean(?). We got married and started our own family which in effect replaced the families of my youth since many had moved a distance away and we didn't stay in close contact. We had what could be considered a mid-sized family for our block had two families living next door to each other that had over twenty kids between them, around the corner was a family with eight or nine and a little down the block one family had nine girls so our family of seven was not considered all that large. The neighborhood was awash with children laughing and playing a little like Corona and The Hill. My children have given me happiness beyond description. When they were growing up I used to like to say we had six animals and one girl to those who would inquire. My girl is always there supporting me now and in the past. She was there when her mother, my love, could no longer take care of herself. We talk almost every day. My sons try not to show emotion which I guess is my fault. They too were there when their mother lost her hold on anything. There was the Respite group which they all financed. My son the lawyer helped me through many hurdles which could have cost a fortune. My first and second son walked me through all the hurdles when my house burned down. Listen, the importance of family can't be stressed and that includes my daughter-in-laws
who always jumped to the forefront when needed. Let me put it this way, when they were young they couldn't have survived without me and their mother, my love. Now in my later years I don't think I could survive without them.

There are so many things I could write about but I started this I wanted to say that my life has been a series of "Happy New Years" even if I didn't think so at the time. But for all that I might have wished for my "Happy New Years", none could beat what I have experienced through being born into such a great family, growing up in neighborhoods which gave a feeling of family, and having a family coming out of a great love between a young girl and her guy. Whatever you may be hoping for this coming year be sure you grab on to what is most important and if you have a family grab it, hug it, love it and never let it go.          

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Magic of Christmas

Somehow it didn't seem like Christmas to him. The music was all around him playing Christmas songs and carols. The people were out shopping. The stores were crowded and strangely enough most were exhibiting good cheer. There was a nip in the air and just a smell of snow to come. The Christmas lights were shedding all the reds, yellows and icicle lights on each block. He was feeling pretty good physically yet, in his heart, in his soul something was missing. He guessed it was the excitement that was felt about Christmas when he was young. There were different stages of his youth that reflected different feeling of excitement.

Up to eight or nine years of age the feeling of Christmas held the magic of this old bearded guy in a red suit who was going to reward you with a gift mysteriously leaving it under the tree while everyone was asleep. It wasn't so much what you were getting rather it was the game of mystery, of the unknown. You could try to stay awake and surprise him but eventually you fell asleep. Then with a start you'd wake up in the middle of the night and run down a flight to see your present under the tree. What a wonder! What a surprise! What was even better was getting something you never dreamed of but once it was there you knew it was what you wanted all the time but never had the ingenuity to think of it. One Christmas his brother got a Charlie McCarthy and he got a Mortimer Snerd. This drove him to the library to study ventriloquism. Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd were the dummies, he preferred to think of them as side kicks, to Edgar Bergen, a famous ventriloquist who had a fabulously successful  radio show called The Chase and Sanborn hour. He never got the idea of how to throw his voice but it was a year of fun trying. One Christmas he found a sturdy cardboard representation of an Airplane cockpit. He was enthralled with the idea of flying but soon had to give up the notion of becoming a Pilot. He was afraid of heights.

He grew out of the magic of Santa Claus and lost some of the magic and excitement of the season. Soon he was caught up in the family aspect of Christmas and the magic came back to him. Counting his aunts, uncles, cousins, mother father and brother there must of been always forty or fifty people around to celebrate the holidays. There was always plenty of food. On Christmas Eve we Catholics couldn't eat in between meals nor could we eat meat. The Dinner with relatives was full of fish, marinara sauce for the spaghetti and plenty of wine, coffee and soda. Some would go to Midnight Mass which was always jammed packed. The ushers would dress up in their Sunday best as would the faithful, sometimes the ushers dressed in tuxedos. It was a solemn high mass but you could feel the good joy of all present. Almost all were waiting for the mass to be over so they could return to the houses like his which had a feast waiting for them. Everyone ate and drank and laughed until early morning. Getting to bed at three and for those who didn't make midnight mass, going to the 12:15, last Christmas Day mass would be followed by going over a realative's house for more eating, drinking and merry making.

For one reason or another this too faded, he liked to blame the automobile claiming it separated families, nobody was in walking distance of anybody anymore. Besides many of the relatives aged, became infirm and passed on. He then found the magic of Christmas in what he called the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Christ and the saving of the world through the incarnation. His Church wanted this true meaning emphasized, but their emphasis was too solemn. This magic brought too many tears if followed so he concentrated on the person of Jesus, His mother and Father here on earth. He found magic in their love and good nature. Mary, just a kid, a teenager, accepting this Angel's word that God somehow was going to work miracles through her. Joseph, not rejecting or stoning Mary for being pregnant outside of marriage, rather taking her into his home and raising her kid as his own. Much of what he did followed dreams in which he was instructed to do these things. What a guy! Imagine if you had a dream that instructed you to do something quite extraordinary, you'd pass it off as some hallucination. Joseph rather helped changed the whole world by accepting the challenges set before him with faith and hope. Then of course was the magic of Christmas, Jesus Himself. This little defenseless babe who would grow up to challenge the authorities of his time and the time to come. Jesus, who loved a party; loved the downtrodden; didn't mind associating with thieves, prostitutes and tax collectors because he apparently found them more exciting than the hypocrites who were heading the Jewish faith and Government. Jesus who was always full of love. This was magic. But as this magic of Christmas wore on it became more of everyday life for him and the specialness of Christmas faded.

When he married and had children the magic of Christmas returned through their eyes. But too soon they grew and spread their wings as all must do and the togetherness of Christmas became fragmented. He always wanted to have a special Christmas with just his wife and him but time didn't allow it as he thought it could be. She fell ill and their last years together did allow them to have special Christmases, not like they show in the movies but only as can be experienced in real life for those who love. She passed and although his holidays are filled with children, grandchildren and friends there is an emptiness to the season. Gone is his youth when he believed in the fat old elf who knew just the right things to bring him. Gone is his family who once lived within walking distance and bring their cheer and love that can only be shared by a united family.
The religious feeling has slipped as midnight mass no longer holds the specialness it once did. It has become apparent that if there is a magic to Christmas that is holy this magic can not be held only to one season as it was meant for all seasons which in itself makes the other seasons more magic while it lessens the magic for Christmas. And most of all she is gone. Unfortunately one never knows the treasure one has until it is taken away from him. What he does have is his memories and, God willing, no one will be able to take them away from him.   


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

He Wanted Her Remembered

One lives a life that is full of accomplishments and failures, high points and low. For most of us no matter how long we live very shortly after we pass we are forgotten and it is as though we had never lived, with the only remembrances, a cemetery plot with a stone that has our name and a few short references. He was feeling that this was happening to her. Her birthday was coming up in a very short time as was the day that she died only a month later with seventy-two years passing in between those two events. Her life was really two lives, one before she contacted her illness that lasted fifty-seven years and one after diagnoses of her progressive illness that lasted fifteen years. He felt she was fading out of the collective recollection of those who were close to her, who loved her and she loved back. He hated the idea that she was becoming irrelevant while he was still alive yet he couldn't really fault those who were forgetting her or whose recollection of her was becoming hazy and all they knew was her last fifteen years of life.

He realized that even he who loved her and still did, was starting to forget the things that were her very essence. He was forgetting her very fragrance. Each of us has a certain smell, some odious some a sweet fragrance, about them. He remembered she had a fragrance about her that he loved yet he couldn't remember the exact aroma itself. She was super intelligent. When she was in High School she got great grades, was honor English, and graduated with the chance of a college scholarship but couldn't go as she had to get a job and help out her family. She was a successful, Gal Friday, something that is called Executive Assistant these days. She spoke three languages fluently and had command of another. She had physical beauty to the extent that she was gorgeous and caught all the guys eyes. She had a laugh that lit up the room. She was a top notch dancer. She really didn't sweat, she glowed, REALLY. When she got older she ran a house that included her brood of seven children and all their friends. Her legs that used to catch all the guys eyes while she danced developed varicose veins because of carrying seven children in eight years. She was vain enough to voice displeasure over the viscosity but she wouldn't trade any of her children to get those smooth legs again. Later in life she returned to college to get her AA degree, graduated with honors. She was all these things and more.

Her last fifteen years on this earth is what many will remember about her, especially her grandchildren as that is all they really know about her through their personal experience. She was in a slow but steady physical and mental decline. Her behavior was becoming erratic as first her memory declined until she could no longer know who she or the people around her were. Finally she had to be placed in a nursing home where her physical health declined in the later years to a degree that she was wheel chair bound. At the end she was in a Wheel Chair that was more like a bed, she couldn't speak, eat or move. The dancing genius lasted only a few years in the Nursing home. In the beginning, the staff would tell him when he came to visit, that at exercise time they did some dancing and she "still had the moves". But at her end she was immobile and struck dumb not even being able to laugh yet somehow she still lit up the room as he wheeled her in. Her beautiful fragrance degenerated at times into noxious smells emanating from her declining body that once was the goal of every guy she met to hold.

He wanted her remembered, especially by the grandchildren but not only the declining days. Yet who was left that could describe her beautiful, vivacious life and person she was for the first fifty-seven years. He wanted, the grandchildren especially, to remember her as smiling, smelling sweetly, intelligent and full of laughter, a person who accomplished great things in her life time albeit not great enough for the world to notice, but he was sure that God took notice and somewhere she was dancing, laughing and having the time of her life.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dec. 7, 1941 A Day That Will Live In Infamy

Where were you on that fateful day? The day that certainly changed the world as we knew or as we were to come to know it. There was a war raging in Europe conducted by a mad man who had controlled Germany and had the the Axis with Italy, and Japan, Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. The United States was sitting on the sidelines waiting to see when it would or could jump into the European battle. But the USA's time line was no longer left up to the Americans to make the decision as Japan launched a surprise attack on our Naval base destroying most of our Navy killing about 2,400 of our people. So with one master stroke by Japan we were in the middle of a war on two fronts, the European Theatre of Operations and the Pacific Theatre of Operations. The fighting would go on for almost four years and the aftereffects forever.

The Japanese society forever changed from a war-like, cruel one, with women who were sub-servant to the men to a gentler almost loving society with women who desired and became westernized like the "round eyes". Europe took advantage of the Marshal Plan to become economically powerful with Germany leading the way. Who were some of the enemies of the United States became allies as the heavy boot of Marxist Russia came down heavily on their necks. Because of the war many young male citizens were drafted sapping the strength of the home work force. Women were drafted into the jobs of the men, "Rosie The Riveta" was born and women never were to return exclusively to be masters of the home rather they remained in the workforce demanding equality of everything. The women are still demanding everything and forcing change in all aspects of our lives from the workplace to the bedroom. All these changes and more were brought about and still evolving because of that fateful day.

 But this started with the question, where were YOU on that fateful day (?). Many who experienced that day are no longer with us and most of the living weren't with us some seventy years ago and have their own days and wars such as The Korean War, The Vietnam War and 9/11 which started the War on Terror. As for me I was seven going to be eight in two months and had finished Sunday lunch of Spaghetti and Meatballs, sitting in the backyard of the Saviolas with my friend Frankie and his kid brother. As I remember it was a sunny not particularly cold day and I had overheard my parents discussing what they had just heard over the radio that the Japs (that's what we called them then, remember they were our enemies), had just bombed the heck out of us in a far away place we owned called Hawaii. We were at war and we kids played war games where we, the Americans, beat our enemies everytime. All the grownups wore serious expressions on very grave faces for they knew that the draft that had been in effect for a while was going to become more intense and that our young brothers, and children were going to die in defense of our country. I don't remember much more than that, being in Queens Borough Hill, Flushing, at home on that day. I remember some of the other things about that time though.

My favorite Uncle had to leave for Fort Totten for basic training a few months earlier because our country was preparing to defend ourselves for an oncoming war. He was at the bottom of the stairs to our finished basement and I was on the top I called out his name, he turned and I jumped the whole flight and he caught me hugging me tightly and laughing. We kissed and he left. He did return from many battles safe and sound but never the same man.

The Monday following, Dec. 8, 1941, I had to go to school of course, PS 120. I was on a bathroom pass visit when I ran into a fellow schoolmate who was six months older than I. We talked about being Japped (Already there were derogatory names being attached to our enemies, the Germans were Heinies like behinds, the Italians had enough derogatory names so I don't remember any new ones coming up). We wondered what we would do if the Japs were to invade. I remember that we thought they were small so we'd just beat them up the way Joe Louis beat up all the heavyweight contenders he faced.

My favorite Uncle fought in the Pacific, amphibious Tanks. His letters were like photostats with many lines crossed out. My Grandmother, his mother lived with us and she was led to believe he was in California all this time. My Grandmother was born in 1875 to a poor family and had very little schooling. My Mom would intercept the V-Mail before her mother could get it. Then my mom would re-write the letter, put it in an envelope and mail it. When it came back she'd open it in front of my grandmother and read it to her. My grandmother never suspected the deception and never worried that her son would be killed. My father was too old to go in but many of my cousins saw action, one was seriously wounded, almost killed and carries the bullets around in him today, another received a battlefield commission and accommodation for bravery in action, another saw a lot of action and came out as crazy as he was before he went in. There were many windows that hung stars  and the gold ones signified a lost son, a fallen warrior.

Yes Dec. 7, 1941 for us Americans a day that will live in infamy but also a day that brought good changes.

We helped stop the mad man in Europe, gave Japan a second better life and gave women a chance to become freer and  independent. I'm not sure that was a good thing. (Only joking) We weren't all good though. We treated our Japanese citizens deplorably shipping them off to camps and causing them much hardships. I don't remember the Italians or Germans being subjected to any of that type of thing even though German Town, around 86 Street in New York City, had trouble with the Bund and such. Peculiar though it may be but all the killing, all the hatred, all the tears wrought on the world because of WW II, more good than bad came out of it all. The problem is that the world in general hasn't yet learned that hatred is destructive and only love can bring civilization to the brink of peace on earth to men of good will.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1, 1901

He was born December 1, 1901 into a large Italian family living in a suburb of Bari, Italy. Even though the family was extra large and out of necessity of the times and circumstances it was filled with love. He grew up loving Soccer and going to school until he was twelve which was OK for the times. His teachers were strict and demanding but they were also kind and forgiving. He learned the Piston Bugle. He had a good voice and sang quite a bit. As all Italians, he knew and loved the operas of Puccini and Verdi. His father was shoe maker, not a repairer but a maker of shoes. He could have learned the trade as did most of his brothers but it was something he was not drawn to. He worked at odd jobs and in his father's little shop but he knew he had to branch out and find himself. This was difficult period for him since he was naturally shy and did not make new friends easily. But by the time he reached his nineteenth birthday he decided to leave his beloved town and join some family that had immigrated to The United States. This was something he dreaded doing, going to a strange place that didn't speak his language or have his customs. He decided he had to go and so he sailed in the lowest deck possible of a tramp steamer to the good old USA to start a new life. Even though he was going to meet his family this took a lot of intestinal fortitude. The year was 1920 and the people in the USA were not so gentle towards the influx of Italians.

He settled in Waterbury, Connecticut near an older sister. He worked in the mills. The area had an influx of Polish immigrants and the Italians and The Poles got along very well as they shared the same problems of becoming integrated in a new society. He was a good looking guy about  5'10", 145 pounds and full head of hair and a good sense of humor. The Polish girls were particularly attracted to his Italian good looks. It was a time when young men bet upon their virility in ways not done today. There was always good natured jabbing about who could eat the most. The Polish guys were big six footers, big boned and muscular. He was slim, in good shape but not threatening. Once a week the Polish guys would put up their champion eater and the Italians would put up this young, good looking slim fellow. The one condition was that they would eat Italian Heroes comprised of what the Italians wanted. They filled it with heavy Provolone, Salami and hot peppers and the contest would start. He would always win which the big bad Polish guys could never understand. Right after the contest he'd walk home for lunch. When the Polish girls heard of his prowess they were more attracted to him. His ability at dance, especially the Tango also helped the girls to be attracted to him. They'd walk to the dances and cut through the local cemetery on the way home. Times were good but somehow he wasn't getting any closer to finding himself. Then He and his family moved to New York City.

He liked the feel of Corona, Queens, a borough of New York City. Corona in the 1920's was considered the country. In a way it reminded him of Bari with the trees, open streets, parks and the rail road running through it. He picked up odd jobs, one being in the large Sunkist, bakery in Long Island City. But he couldn't take the heat of the ovens and one day fainted. He knew he had to find something else. He met a friend of his from Bari who was making it big in the furniture business. He took him on board and he started to learn how to be a furniture finisher. He found a talent to be able to mix and match colors, to smooth the wood, to really put the finishing touches on the raw furniture. He then learned how to re-finish furniture. He realized he had a talent that few had for he could do it all. He found himself in demand. He was at a good trade and getting paid $30 a week so he turned his mind to settling down and raising a family. Around 1925 or so he met a young Italian-American girl who he liked immediately. She had the physical attributes that drew Italian men of that day and she was beautiful, came from a good family AND knew how to cook.

There was no cutting through a cemetery after dates with this girl. The chaperon was her youngest brother and he was brought off with a penny or maybe a nickel. They married in 1929 and had their first son exactly nine months later which had some relatives counting on their fingers. The good jobs however were becoming rarer even for a man in demand such as he was in the Furniture Industry because the Great Depression was only beginning and wouldn't end until the start of World War Two, Dec. 7, 1941. His wife had to contribute and she went to work as a crochet beader and he managed to pick up jobs so they never went hungry but times were tough. Through this they had their second son in 1934.

No matter how tough times were he worked, long hard hours as did his wife. He was always there for the family which included his mother-in-law who lived with them and was treated with the respect and love he had for his own mother. His wife was a little more like a modern woman than he would have liked but he appreciated her drive and ambition. Due to her drive they managed to buy a house in Flushing, Queens, even though he didn't have a steady job but with her working and borrowing from a brother, the one who chaperoned them, they purchased the house. The cost was $6,500 and needed a thousand down and mortgage payments that seem silly now but then, in 1939 were humongous. They didn't have a car so he used the garage to do work in that he would pick up to supplement any income they had. He always worked even when he had a job and he got a vacation, he'd work his vacation. At night after supper he'd go in the garage and re-finish some furniture somebody was paying to re-finish. He was a perfect role model for any boy growing up but his kids were stupid and didn't realize this. He was Italian, knew very little about baseball, had an accent, really didn't know the American experience like their Uncles and Cousins. Kids can be real stupid sometimes and the realization of all the good things do not come until maybe it is too late.

As WW II came to an end the economy came to a boom. He was able to enjoy life a little more as he made more money working less. He entered a couple of business' which weren't grand successes but were good enough to make life better. The family was getting older and while he never fully understood his sons, especially his younger one, he loved them and enjoyed watching them mature into grown men. He was tight lipped about showing his emotions but he was always there for them. When the younger one went into the army he drove him to the Railroad station and as his son was about to depart he hugged and kissed him. The son was sure he saw a tear or two form in his eyes. Just think of it, he was only nineteen when he sailed from his home in Italy to take up a new life in a strange country. Yet he felt distress about his son going into the Army even though he was in his twenty's.

The years started to slip by. He and his wife were taking some trips to California, Florida and such places. They formed a Canasta club with two couples who were Aunts and Uncles. There he showed humor that was hidden from most. His younger son did explore this part of his father's character and found that he had a helluva sense of humor but rarely showed it although he laughed a lot at other people's jokes. When his younger son got married he came to visit always with his tool box so he could fix what his son left undone. He never complained but he wondered aloud to his wife what was wrong with his son who seemed to have no talent for fixing anything.

He was going to retire at his sixty-fifth birthday. That day he went to the bathroom and passed a lot of blood. Examinations revealed  colon cancer. In 1966 this diagnoses was a death notice. There was an operation which was followed by two good years but then a relapse which gave two years of pain with the last nine months that could be called torture until he finally bid this world goodbye in Jan. 1972 at the age of sixty-nine. Nothing but good things were ever said about this man. He was not a great man by the way we define great but in many ways he was better than great. This was a good man who enjoyed life showing great courage, humor and love. He was steadfast to his beliefs which meant being true to family first. He was always there for his wife, sons and whoever needed help in the family. He loved his wife but never in an overly mushy way. He loved his sons but never in a showy way. He just managed to be there for them whenever he was needed doing the best he could. These traits are hard to come by in today's world. The world was a better place when he was in it and a lesser place since he left it        .

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jesus and The Centurion

The Gospels according to Matthew (8:5-13) and Luke (7:1-10) tell of Jesus entering Capernaum a Town a little outside of Jerusalem, and being met by a Roman Centurion asking Jesus to cure his servant, slave in Luke's Gospel, and Jesus eventually effects a cure after they talk a bit. There is some differences in the retelling of the story but it is clear it is the same Centurion and the same miracle. In both Gospels Jesus is asked to cure and he  is going to go to the Centurion's house but the Centurion is well aware of the Jewish customs and it would be considered unclean for Jesus to enter under the Centurion's roof. So the Centurion says, "I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.", he goes on to say he understands the position of being in power and as he controls those under him he knows Jesus controls the elements surrounding good and evil. Jesus is amazed at the man's faith and says "Go, as as you have believed let it be done.", Jesus then remarks at the sign of such great faith. The Centurion's words echo down through the centuries as they are said at Communion in The Catholic Mass every day, "I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Say the word and my soul shall be healed.".

Most of us in the Christian faith have heard this story many times and we are always reminded of what great faith this Roman Solider had and how faith can work wonders. There is so much more to this story though and it revolves around the Centurion. He was a representative of the greatest power on earth at the time, a victor living in a conquered land. He had many men under his command. He was a Roman, a warrior, and they were not humble nor were they very kind to the captives. Usually the Romans lorded their strength over those they dominated. It was the way of the ancient world. Yet here was a guy concerned over his servant, slave. This was unusual in and of itself but it showed him to be a loving, humane person. He had heard of Jesus as Jesus was well into his ministry. Many who had heard disregarded the news as another fad, another one of those Jewish things that was good for the people to hang onto, the opiate of the dominated. But somehow he was a man of faith. He was a friend to the Jews he knew, Luke says he helped build a synagogue for them. Apparently a man of compassion. Then he shows great concern for Jesus' reputation when he says I am not worthy for you to come to my home. It was apparent Jesus was going into his home but he didn't want Jesus to be beset with criticism for entering a Gentile's home and be called unclean. This guy was very unusual to say the least.

The Centurion probably had fought in many battles. One didn't get put in charge of a garrison unless you earned it. I will admit Israel wasn't the plum of assignments but it was an outpost where a Roman soldier could live very well and usually did taking the good out of the mouths of the Israelis. To show compassion, love and concern in those days was considered a sign of weakness, yet this Centurion showed all of this. This is why Jesus had such great respect and I think love for him. Jesus granted his request, I believe not only because of his great faith but because he saw in this Roman conqueror what he wanted to see in everyone, love, compassion, concern, justice in his dealings with others and of course faith.

We do not hear of this Centurion after this episode so we don't know if he became a follower of "The Way"
nor do we know if he went on to greater Roman glory or died at an early age. This much I do know, he certainly must be one of the many unknown Saints who are eating at the banquet of Angels at this very moment.           

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Invisible Hand (Not Economics)

Has your life ever been in a situation where it seemed that no matter what you did you had no control over what was happening to you? You had plans. You had goals. You had a sense of where you wanted to be sometime in the future. Yet somehow whenever you were making progress towards your planned ends something occurred that set you off in a different direction. At the end of the journey be it short, a few weeks, a year, many years where you ended up was not where you intended to be. It was not really what you would have envisioned in your perfect world but somehow for the time and place you have found yourself it was the best of all worlds, all things considered. Let me make this clear, it could be for a specific one time thing or something that has life changing effect upon you.

This young man, many years ago, was drafted into the Army with the hope that he would stay at Fort Dix and be near his girl and perhaps get into the Army Band. Within two weeks he was sent to Columbus Ga. for Basic Training. Georgia was as far away from New York as far as he was concerned, no weekends home, no sweet kisses to get him through the week. He wondered how this could happen. When the Cadre went to process him they didn't find his papers. A phone call to Jersey informed them he was sent there by mistake but rather than ship him back they would mail his papers and he'd be assigned to Georgia. He took his first eight weeks and came home on leave but he had to go back to take his second eight. He was not a happy camper. For the young two years is a very long time and for young love two years is an eternity. Two weeks into his second half of Basic he got called up to audition for the band as it seems that most of the band were short timers and they would need replacements quickly. He was accepted into the Band and completed his second half of basic. Because the Division was assured of staying in Georgia at least for the next year and a half and he being in the Band which did not require going out on maneuvers for weeks at a time he could get married and live off post.  They did get married. They did live off post. They started a family. The kisses were sweeter than wine. All this because his papers got lost and he was sent mistakenly a thousand miles away from where he wanted to be. Everything certainly looked messed up. But that invisible hand guided him over the uncontrollable.

This couple had their house destroyed by a disaster. At the time plans were in the works for their lives to take a turn but not with the disaster that destroyed their house. It seemed that they had lost control of their lives. But they remained as calm as they could and suddenly certain things began to fall in place. Someone they knew helped them get temporary housing which wasn't what they had before but wasn't so bad. They were planning on building an extension onto their offspring's house and had it almost approved but then some people threw a fly in the ointment causing the ruling board to place certain restrictions and requirements on them which did not make this construction feasible. An affordable house became available in the vicinity they wanted. Suddenly everything was looking a little brighter. This story hasn't ended yet but if the invisible hand
is left to its devices I am sure a lot more pleasant surprises will happen.

In her middle 50's she lost her husband. Late troubles had put some sort of blight on their marriage but they were going to stick it out. So she found herself basically alone. She had children and grandchildren but none could lighten the load. This was her experience and she was adrift in the sea of life hoping she wouldn't drown. She met someone she had known  previously who had experienced a loss too. They fell in love and married and had more than a decade of happiness. This would not have happened unless the invisible hand was gently pushing them together through a series of life's moments. The second marriage ended when he became gravely ill and passed on. But I am sure because of her previous experiences she was what he needed in his time of peril. Her story isn't over but the invisible hand hasn't let her know exactly where she is headed but if she gently relinquishes control the hand will guide her to the right situation.

They were adjusting to what seemed to them a comfortable existence. She was slowly coming to the conclusion that flying solo was going to be her choice in life. He was coming off the loss of his wife after a very draining and long illness. He figured that at his time of life going it alone wasn't such a bad idea.  Over a few years they got interested in the social media and both established a Facebook page. One day she noticed his name and realized this was a guy she knew almost a quarter a century ago when she was just a young gal in her early thirty's and he was an older man in his fifties. They were friendly for a time so she got in touch with him through Facebook. When he first received the notice he didn't recognize the name so he checked her Facebook profile and realized she was the same young lady that used to spend some lunch times with him. He responded. They met for lunch. They met again and though it seemed so foolish considering the age difference they kept meeting. Soon it became apparent to them that flying solo wasn't really the way to go. Without realizing it the invisible hand was pushing them together into a loving relationship. So without questioning, without fully realizing it they went with the flow. There is no question in their minds that they are in love but where the invisible hand will finally lead them is unknown and that's OK too. Why question everything? Why not just enjoy the ride and let whatever is happening happen.  

Adam Smith in his "The Wealth of Nations" used the metaphor of the invisible hand to say that if you  \leave the markets alone they will channel self interest towards socially desirable ends. I believe that is so but the problem is we humans never leave anything alone. Somehow we have to step in and control everything usually to our own self interests and gain. I am not saying we should not plan or have goals rather that when our plans and goals seem to be getting all upset perhaps we should release the reins a bit and let the invisible hand nudge us towards what is best. I am not going to suggest I know without a doubt what or who this invisible hand is, maybe it is a super power we call God, or maybe it is the collective good will inherent in all of us if we let it come out, or maybe it is nothing. There are many people throughout the world that seemingly have nothing but "BAD" in their lives. But instinctively, not that I really know, I feel that through all their misery and pain the invisible hand is moving them from freedom from the chains inflicted upon them from those who want to do only evil.

In the end we will never really know if good does seek all of us. I have the true feeling that it does and it nudges us always towards freedom from harm only some times we don't get there but it doesn't mean it isn't working.       

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Things My Mother Told Me

Many, many years ago when science and schooling was not for everyone Mothers had their own version of the scientific approach that would cure you or at least stop you from destroying yourself. Now I appreciate the fact that today's Mother or Father for that matter might scoff at some of the remedies offered by the Moms of my generation or before but in some cases they still hold up as cures or stoppage of compulsive, destructive behavior. Here a few I remember and I better commit them to paper before I forget.

Feed a cold and starve a fever. So when I got a cold or a chill my Mom would make such things as Egg Nogs, soup and plenty of bread. Bread was considered a staple of life back in the day. Of course if I had a fever then the fluids, primarily water and coco, would be fed into me. Now if I had a cold and fever at the same time she just fed me and had me wash it down with plenty of water.

I really liked butter. One day my Mom found me eating butter with a spoon. She instinctively felt this was wrong so she told me that if I continued doing that I'd get the mumps. I reminded her that I already had the mumps but she said that didn't matter if I continued to eat butter like that.

I really liked sugar. One day she caught me eating a tablespoon of sugar and she told me if I continued to eat sugar like that worms would enter my mouth and eat holes in my teeth and travel to my brain. Naturally I stopped eating sugar by the spoonful.

One day as my Mother was kneading dough for some pie she caught me eating the raw dough. She told me if I ate raw dough it would grow in my stomach into a big ball of dough and block my bowels causing great pain until it was corrected. You got it right, I stopped eating raw dough.

When she was making meat balls one day she saw me eating pieces of raw chop meat. She told me that could lead to tape worms that could grow to great lengths in my stomach. I stopped purloining pieces of raw chop meat after that. Much later I paid a pretty price for Steak tartare in a pricey French restaurant. However today many warn against eating raw meat. I guess Mom knew what she was talking about.

Now this may be classified as an old wives tale and I may have heard this from a Nun, Priest or maybe Mom. If you don't leave that thing alone it'll fall off, you'll have hair on the palms of your hands and you'll go blind. They were all wrong.

The Stork brought you. This was hard for me to take Mom's word on this, sort of like Santa Claus, they both had to come in through the chimney and we only had a fake fireplace. When I was about twelve or so my Mom asked me one day if she had to explain about the Stork or did I know already. I let her know I knew about the Stork AND Santa Claus. She looked relieved that we didn't have to explore this conversation any further.

I used to complain about going to bed before the rest of the family since I was convinced there was a green monster under my bed. Mom kept saying there wasn't but how could I believe a woman who kept threatening that the Boogie Man was going to get me if I wasn't a good boy.

The biggest threat Mom could give me was that she was going to tell my Father. My Father was a gentle man who hit me only once when I was about four and while I never consciously remembered it, it must have stuck in my sub-conscious since all he ever had to do was look at me in that certain way and I'd stop doing whatever I was doing or saying. But as I got older it became obvious to me that his idea of a grown man and my Mother's were two different things. One weekday night I arrived home around three-thirty in the morning. As I opened the door my Mom met me, all five foot one of her and she was steaming, and I was a little drunk. She gave me a few slaps and threatened that when we got upstairs "Your Father would be waiting and he was steaming since he had to get up in a few hours.". As I ascended the stairs with her banging me in the back threatening what my Father was going to do to me and we reach the second landing I could hear a noise that sounded like snoring. You got it right my Father was in a deep sleep and the next day when we saw each other he never brought it up. However my Mother, when he was out of ear shot, reiterated the threat that my Father was ready to kill me. After that I gave my Mother the respect of listening to the threat but unless I saw "that look" from my Father I continued doing whatever I wanted much to Mom's regret.

There are many more things Mom told me that worked for the good such as "You should marry that girl even though she's Puerto Rican and not Italian", "Give it some thought before you give up the Trumpet, you may regret it if you do.", "Another child? Are you crazy? Are you trying to kill her?", "A half a loaf is better than none", spoken like a true Great Depression survivor. She really was a great Mom, always made sure we had on clean underwear and we had plenty to eat and a clean house and lots of laughs. She really enjoyed laughing. She is missed even if some of her sayings were outlandish.

Television In Its Infancy

Back in the day when Television was very young so was I. Very few had seen TV outside of the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940. But after WWII TV was out on the market. We didn't get our first TV until 1950, a RCA 16 inch screen. The size was the biggest at that time except for projections. Around 1948 I was invited to see a Yankee baseball game on a 10 or 12 inch screen. It goes without saying everything was in black and white. We were used to listening to baseball games on the radio where the announcers were very descriptive but on TV the announcers said very little. They let the pictures speak for themselves. I remember being invited to see Willie Pep fight Sandy saddler for the Featherweight championship. A terrific fight which Pep won although his face looked as though it went through a meat grinder after 15 rounds.

Come 1950 my parents brought the brand new, large screen, RCA into the house. We had CBS, NBC, Dumont, ABC, Channels 2,4,5,and 7. I think we had the New York Daily news local station on Channel 11. Channel 13 was a new jersey station that we received with a lot of snow in the picture. There wasn't public TV in those days and the privately owned station had a weak signal. Channel 13 broadcast a lot of kid shows. Broadcasting didn't start until 8 or 9 in the morning. Before the broadcasting day started there was just a test pattern on the screen and a loud noise. The day started and ended with a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner". The Broadcasting day was over about midnight.

Wrestling was a very popular thing back then with Antonino Rocca, Gene (Mr. America) Stanley, Lord Leslie Carlton from New York during the middle of the week with the weekend, Saturday, broadcasting from Chicago featuring, Buddy Rodgers and Chief Don Eagle who by the way sported a Mohawk coiffure.
Tuesday evening belonged to Mr. Television, Milton Berle. Channel 5, Dumont, was a network owned by a maker of TV sets. Some of their early programming featured Jackie Gleason, Morey Amsterdam and Art  Carney but eventually they went out of the business of broadcasting and eventually manufacturing. Dumont lost out to the giants in both fields but for a while they put up a good fight. John Cameron Swayze was a news-broadcaster of some fame until he gave it up to become the spokesperson of Timex watches. He had the early evening news around 6PM. By 11PM the main part of the broadcasting day was over but they had a fifteen minute wrap-up with a news program which I remember being anchored by John K. M. McCaffery on CBS. Then a few days a week there was program called "The Continental" voiced over by an Italian character actor with a very sexy contintental voice, this ran for fifteen minutes. The Contintental was never seen and the view point was his as he opened the door to his apartment greeting a very sexy looking young woman. They have a glass of Champagne and he'd light her cigarrete and they would kiss and then I think she would leave, without being explicit it was very sexy, in fact I used some of his lines on some dates I went out with.  Eventually CBS installed a late night movie with Leroy Anderson's "The Syncopated Clock" as the theme song and called the show "The Late Show". NBC under the tutelage of Pat Weaver tried something very new, a variety, comedy show called "Broadway Open House" that had comedian Jerry Lester hosting it for three nights a week and Morey Amsterdam for two. I think the show was on from 11PM to 1AM. Morey left and Jerry Lester took over for five nights. Andy Williams got his start on the Amsterdam segments (I think) and Morey wowed them with his cello and his "Yuk A Puck" humor. Lester had a dumb (really not so dumb) blonde called Dagmar, a gimmick with bean bags and a nerdy looking conductor called Milton Delugg, who wrote among other things "Orange Colored Sky" which was recorded by Nat King Cole among many. This was really the start of "The Tonight Show", Steve Allen came a few years later but "Broadway Open House" was the brainchild and it started in 1950.

It was a slower time back then. No cable new on 24 hours a day seven days a week. The newspapers were still our main source for news and details of the world's happennings. We didn't have computers or iPods, or Tablets or Kindles but we survived very nicely, thank you. Our music was sweeter and I think more poetic and slightly askew with the thought of romance and love. We don't live in the past but we shouldn't forget it because the past is the foundation of where we are at today. Sometimes it is good to reflect. By the way, cable was started so that those who lived on the out-skirts of major towns could receive the regular TV programming of the day. The regular signal couldn't service them.

I want to end with the lyrcs of Orange Colored Sky" and suggest you Utube Nat King Cole's rendition and maybe Broadway Open House for some good entertainment and music.

I was walking along, minding my business,
When out of an orange-colored sky,
Flash! Bam! Alakazam!
Wonderful you came by.

I was humming a tune, drinking in sunshine,
When out of that orange-colored view
Flash! Bam! Alakazam!
I got a look at you.

One look and I yelled "Timber"
"Watch out for flying glass"
Cause the ceiling fell in and the bottom fell out,
I went into a spin and I started to shout,
"I've been hit, This is it, This is it,I've been hit!"

I was walking along, minding my business,
When love came and hit me in the eye,
Flash! Bam! Alakazam!
Out of an orange-colored sky.

One look and I yelled "Timber"
"Watch out for flying glass"
Cause the ceiling fell in and the bottom fell out,
I went into a spin and I started to shout,
"I've been hit, this is it, this is it,I've been hit!"

I was walking along, minding my business,
When love came and hit me in the eye
Flash! Bam! Alakazam!
Out of an orange-colored, purple-striped, pretty green polka-dot sky
Flash! Bam! Alakazam! and goodbye

Young Love, Ageless & Pure

All one has to do is read history books, the Bible, or any chronology of the world to find out there were injustices abounding, people suffering and the rich and powerful taking advantage of those that didn't have the means of power. There were wars and to the victors went the spoils. The wealth of the defeated nation was plundered, the women raped and many of the young and healthy taken into slavery. All of this persisted and still persists today but there was a time when this didn't exist for me. The time was as I was emerging from my feeling of captivity of being a young child completely depended upon my parents into an emerging adult. I had gone through it all, elementary and high school. I had my first job. I was meeting different people outside of my neighborhood cocoon and they included beautiful young women. It was a time when youth did spring eternal. It was a time when things were a bit easier, smoother and much gentler. Everything was for the first time and it all tasted sweeter. One never gave thought of what might happen ten or twenty years from "now" because we all had many years ahead of us. The experience was for today and what might follow we would deal with as the events led us to the happenings.

The guys would talk about the girls but they would keep the discussion on a very high level for the ones who were considered to be "good" girls. There was always mystery connected with the female gender. What they did in preparation for the workweek necessitated them staying home on Sunday nights. Every month there was a reason they didn't feel well or had cramps or whatever. The guys would make crude jokes about this but down deep they didn't want to know any details. Down deep the guys wanted to keep the  feminine mystique as something to be discovered as one unraveled any mystery, a step at a time.

Love in this time was as romantic as love could be starting out with loving from afar but melting under the close association of two healthy young bodies. This love was never brought down to the level of the streets. This love was held in high regard and romanticized to the utmost in popular song by the singing artists of the day as they either listened or danced the slow touching dances of the day such as the Fox Trot. Some of the love songs of the day were "Suddenly Its Spring", "I'd Love To Get You On A Slow Boat To China",
Moonlight Becomes You" among many that had the right words of suddenly falling in love or forlorn love sung by the crooners such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Dick Haymes.

Nat (King) Cole was a jazz pianist turned singer that epitomizes the smooth, gentle style of the day for us young lovers. His smooth voice offered such hits as "Mona Lisa", "Unforgettable", "My Funny Valentine" among hundreds of hits but the one I think could give you an idea of the time and frame of mind I am referring to is "Its Only A Paper Moon". It is about a guy (not a girl not back then) who is trying to tell his girl how much she means to him. The guy uses many metaphors but what he is saying in the mushiest, craziest of terms is that if anything is make believe it would stop being so if only she'd believe in him. His plea is without her love, everything would be worthless even the whole world and it is implied he would be devastated. There is nothing in this song pleading for her love that says he wants to bed her down or  he holds her in disdain. This song is about everything love should be about in a romantic way, which somehow in today's world the idea seems lost which is a pity.

I invite you to read the following lyrics of "Paper Moon" and then go to UTube to listen to Nat (King) Cole's rendition of it and close your eyes and step back into a time when the world was younger, romantic and in many ways nicer.  

Say it's only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea,
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me.

Say it is only a canvas sky
Hanging over a muslin tree,
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me.

Without your love,
It's a honky-tonk parade.
Without your love,
It's a melody played in a penny arcade.

It's a barnum and bailey world,
Just as phony as it can be,
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me.

Without your love,
It's a honky-tonk parade.
Without your love,
It's a melody played in a penny arcade.

It's a barnum and bailey world
Just as phony as it can be,
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blind Dates (The Seeing Kind)

The other day I was thinking about the times I went on what is called  "Blind Dates". For the uninitiated a "Blind Date" isn't about going on a social outing with an unseeing person, rather it is about going out with a person you've never met before because a friend of yours is going out with someone he or she knows that has someone that for one reason or another can't, at the moment, get a date of their own and has to be fixed up with a person of the opposite or same sex to experience a social evening. The hope of those who arrange such things are varied. The person who already has a date and is asked to fix up a date's friend wants to be in a position that makes his date vulnerable to their desires, be it sexual or sexually connected. The person who accepts this offer to go out with someone they have never met before also has varied reasons but is treading upon very dangerous grounds. There have been times when "Blind Dates" have been good and even developed into lasting relationships. However the chances of something not so good happening is far greater. Many times the one who accepts this invitation ends up asking themselves, "What the hell was I thinking? I swear to God I thought the evening would never end!".

I was sixteen when my friend Jimmie told me he asked a girl out from our class but she had a sister who was a couple of years younger that had to accompany her by the requests of their parents. I figured what the hell, I knew Jimmies date and if her sister was as nice as she was what could go wrong, so I said OK, even though I felt uncomfortable about the whole thing since this was my first real date. We went to the movies. Since we didn't have a driver's license we took a bus. After the movie we went to Jahn's an ice-cream shoppe and had Sundaes. We took them home and didn't even get a kiss goodnight which I can understand since after we left their house we didn't say a word to each other other than would you like to stop at Jahn's(?). The four of us barely uttered a word the whole night. Funny but in school there was no feeling of being up-tight but on this Friday night the four of us were tongue tied. I can only speak for me but I imagine we all felt a great relief when the evening finally came to an end. I swore I would never do this again.

The next year my best friend Wuzzy, first name Eddie but no one ever called him that, was madly in love with this girl we had met at Kissena Park. He was granted his first date only if he could provide her friend with a date. What could I do? I put aside my first inclination to tell Wuzzy to shove it and said OK. After all, he was my best friend, wasn't he? So we went to a movie in Jamaica called The Valencia, a great old movie house which was showing the hit horror movie, "The Thing", with James Arness in the starring role. It was crowded and we sat in the second or third row in the orchestra which had us real up close for all the scary scenes. Before I go any further I should tell you I was surprised when I picked my date up. This was the first time we met. This was the first time, and I believe the only time I ever went out with an Albino. She had, I don't know, ash blond hair, blue eyes, the whitest skin I ever saw and the lips that were pink and luscious. Today I think girls pay to have lips like that. I was tempted to ask questions like, "What do you do when you get sunburned?", but I managed to contain myself and not stare. The four of us seemed to be having a good time. Anyhow, back to the movie. The picture was getting scary and Wuzzy was making out. I kept thinking of her luscious lips while at the same time afraid to make a move for fear of bruising her. She kept moving closer so I put my arm around her which prompted her to turn her head to me and her lips were parted and luscious so I did what I felt I must do, kissed her and made out. I remember very little about the movie, "The Thing". However, Wuzzy didn't need my presence anymore for he and his girl to get comfortable so I never saw my Albino with the luscious lips again.

A few years later my friend Jimmie entered my life again. He once more needed someone to go out with his date's sister. We were going to see "The House of Wax" at the Meadows, a three D horror movie with Vincent Price and Charles Bronson, another scary movie. Jimmie did say this would be a big favor and I figured she was not so good looking or something, but what the hell, he was my friend, wasn't he? We picked up the girls and right away I noticed she had a slight disfigurement, a hare-lip. It wasn't really bad but it wasn't really good. Again, I had questions which I had to restrain from asking. Again I had to restrain myself from staring. I stared to perspire since I felt bad but in no way was I going to kiss this girl or ask her out again. I have very little recollection of the movie or how the date ended but I swore I would never do this thing again!

A little while later a friend of mine at the place I worked told me that he was madly in love with a girl who wouldn't go out with him unless her girl friend would be there so he was asking me to go out with Stella. The Blind Dates I had were still imprinted in my memory banks and I stoutly refused until he pulled the friend card so what could I do (?), so I said OK, he was my friend wasn't he? This time we went to a nice little cabaret called The Holiday Inn on Northern Boulevard for some dancing and drinks The girls were to meet us there. As they walked in I saw a statuesque black haired good looking girl come into the place with a short dumpy, shall I say fat, girl along with her. My friend got up to greet them. I was hoping against hope but when he kissed the good looking girl I knew I had again won the prize. As Stella got closer it became apparent that she also had a bit of fuzz on her upper lip. We settled down into the booth and ordered drinks and danced some. The more I drank the better Stella looked because I noticed two enormous good points about her which I really couldn't overlook which I had a weakness for and which I blame this weakness on my mother breast feeding me. The night was over early and I did kiss Stella goodnight but when I woke the next day with the largest headache I ever had, I swore no more of this type of thing!

The last "Blind Date" I had came when my friend Tony told me He had this beautiful girl he wanted to date who had a sister who was also beautiful and their parents wouldn't let them out on dates by themselves. I had come full circle. We got to their house and met the parents who let us know they expected us to be gentlemen. Tony was correct both girls were beautiful. My girl's name was Triny, short for Trinidad. She was perfect in all respects, intelligent, witty, laughed at my jokes, easy to talk to. We were going to a nice night spot called The Riviera in Port Washington. There was only a slight glitch, remember this was about 1954 and times were a bit different. Her family was from Trinidad and they were Black. The question was how would she be greeted at the club, would there be any problems with any patrons? Remember in 1954 there was a lot of racism not so well hidden and we were in a lily white neighborhood. So I made up my mind, anybody says or does anything to hurt this beautiful young lady I'd beat the s**t out of them. We arrived at the club and was greeted with no incident. Some people stared as we danced and I explained to Triny that was because she was so beautiful. We ate, drank danced and had the time of our lives. Tony made out furiously with his girl but I restrained myself because I felt she had to be treated with respect.

Unfortunately, I never saw Triny again as I got involved with a girl named Georgette but soon after fell in love with Sarita, my hot little Puerto Ricana so I couldn't return to my beautiful Black Blind Date. Sarita did cause me to fix up my friend Tommy with one of her girl friends and that turned out to be a disaster. That's another story for another time.

Anyway, for those of you out there who may have an offer of a "Blind Date" I would suggest to you to try it and maybe you'll like it. While my "Blind Dates" were adventurous they have given me memories. The last one even helped me over what-ever prejudice I may have had due to my environment and remember so fondly a girl named Trinidad.        

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Success Is How You Define It!

They were sitting at a bar having an after work drink. Dan was telling Al, his closest friend that he was at wits end. He seemed to hit the ceiling in his quest for a better position at B&A. His work performance was excellent but for some reason that didn't matter anymore. "The real movers and shakers in the place all seemed to have a very active social life" Dan was saying. Al asked him what that meant, "After all Dan, if it means that you and your wife have to socialize a little more what's so hard about that?".

"The socialization that they are talking about doesn't include their wives. They go out together and screw around without their wives. Those who are invited go with them and they all end up as cheaters", Dan explained. "On top of all that it is expected that you join in the wine, women and song games or you are a wuss and no one wants a wuss on their team. The thinking is a stick in the mud type of guy won't take care of the big spenders that the Corporation has and needs. They spend big bucks and are expected to be taken care of'. That means you have to go out to big restaurants, strip clubs and employ big time prostitutes. You are also expected to take part in the festivities. When you don't do that sort of thing the big time customers shun you and you are considered a drag on the business."

Even though Al and Dan  were the closest of friends their friendship was only a few years old. They shared a lot of time together but that involved sports, going to Broadway shows with their wives and such but they never shared thoughts about things of this nature that they we discussing now. Al asked, "Have you ever thought about going along with the prevailing thought in order to get ahead?".

"I just couldn't do that sort of thing. I am so against it I have thought about resigning but this type of behavior is rampant in the business I'm in."

"You have to pardon me but I know it isn't your religious morals that are holding you back. Just what is it that keeps you from joining the crowd and becoming successful while you are having a good time?", Al asked.

"You don't have to be religious to be moral.", Dan countered. "Besides more than morals and the question of whether the practice of debauchery is good or bad business isn't the ruling factor in my decision to avoid this whole thing." Al asked, "Then what is it that's holding you back?". Dan responded:

"Strange as it may seem, I am in love with my wife and I have no desire to cheat on her as I would hope she has no desire to cheat on me. I have no intention on becoming a monk but I do have the intention on living a life with the woman I love until death parts us and in that lifetime there will be no lies or playing around. I want to be able to have children and look them in the eye and let them know that their father loved their mother and them. That it was that love that drove him to make decisions that hopefully led to a good family and a life with no regrets.".

Al, looked at his watch and noted that his train would be leaving the station in ten minutes. He drained his drink and said, "Dan, it appears to me that you really have no problems. You're a guy who is in love with his wife. That is a good thing. You are making a fairly good salary. Maybe you'll never be a Senior Vice President but so what? What you have is more solid than that. You can build a lifetime on what you have What you seek in business can tumble down like a house of cards. Hold on to your love and forget about what they call, "success" since "success" is what you define your as your goals and whether or not you've obtained them.Look buddy, I've got to catch a train. Talk to you later.".

Dan looked at Al rushing off to catch his train. He finished his drink slowly and left the bar. He thought about their conversation on the ride to his station. He got off in Hicksville, got into his car and drove home. As he walked into his home he chuckled as he yelled out, as they do in situation comedies, "Hey Honey I'm home.". His wife was home from her job already and met in the foyer where he grabbed her in his arms and gave her the greatest kiss she ever got from him. He said "Let's eat later. She answered, "Why, what are we going to do now?" To which he replied, as he led her to their bedroom, "Just come with me and let me surprise you.".

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Matters Most?

One could say his life resembled the day which was going through a nor'easter, dark, dank and very wet. A day better spent indoors out of the elements. The winds were high and blustery shaking many of the leaves from the trees. The trees themselves seemed to be fighting the wind. The wind battling to make them bare while the trees wanted to hold on to their Autumnal glory. The time was approaching very quickly when the trees would no longer have the strength to hold on and all the leaves would fall to the ground leaving them bare. Then they would fall into their winter slumber which would include the earth being blanketed by snow. Above the blanket of snow would be cold and frosty while below the snow would be a protective warmth allowing slumber until the Summer's sun would call the earth to wake up and bloom again.

She had left him after a bitter battle which he never wanted. It seemed as if she provoked the situation. They were just talking and going over their life together when she asked him, "If you had to do it all over again, would you?". He laughed and tried to change the subject but she persisted and demanded that he respond seriously to her question. She told him she wouldn't be angry or hurt if he said something not to her liking but she just wanted to know how he felt about their life together. She knew that he would have lived a completely different life if they hadn't hooked up. He certainly didn't want responsibility and didn't have any trouble getting female companionship. He liked to party, a lot! He wanted to pursue a career in music but knew that it wouldn't really sustain a true relationship. She knew he had buckled down, went to school, got a real job and lived a life which he liked to refer to contemptuously as "respectful". He kept trying to get her off the subject but she started to get angry and he finally said, "YES, I would have done it differently. I would have had fun and lived a life I loved!". This led to an exchange of very bitter words and she stormed out of the house in tears saying they were going to split up never to see each other again.

AND so he was left on this cold, dark, dank and very wet day alone looking out the window at the starkness of the day feeling like his life was over. No matter what was said in the heat of the battle he loved her more than life itself and he never would have done it any differently because life without her wasn't worth living. She was gone over three hours without a word. The day remained dark and his life as well. At least it stopped raining. The clouds were breaking up a bit and the sun was starting to peak through shedding its life giving light onto the earth. He heard the door opening and she stood in the doorway with the Sun shining behind her. Her eyes were red from crying. He rose and they just stared at each other for a moment. He put his finger to her lips as he spoke, "Baby, I wouldn't change a thing. You are my life, without you I am nothing.". She removed his finger from her lips and said "I love you.". Then the sun broke out in the heavens and they embraced with their mouths hungrily meeting. The front door was closed as they headed for the bedroom.     

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let Me Vent Part II

I just don't get it. I know quite a few guys who depend on their Social Security along with a small pension who really like Eric Cantor and his ilk. Yet they complain that with the rise in the cost of Medicare Part B to a premium of $96 and change and a deductible of $162 things are getting tougher and tougher from a financial viewpoint. Yet Eric doesn't want to bring taxes on the most wealthy back up 3 percentage points while at the same time he wants to cut more from Federal spending and guess what (?) the cuts are going to come from places like Medicare, Medicaid and any other place he can find that the poorest among us live. No cuts for the military industrial complex or the oil companies either. What the hell do they like about this guy? I think they are masochists and like to vote against themselves because they enjoy pain.

The members of Congress, Senators and Representatives alike keep talking about "THE AMERICAN PEOPLE", what they want and what they think. How the hell can a guy who represents only his State or District have the audacity to speak for all of us? All he knows is what the American people in his area say because they elected him but there is more to the American People than what a guy like John Boehner or Eric Cantor represent. By the way the Democrats are guilty of this also. This I am sure of "THE AMERICAN PEOPLE" would like to eat three square meals a day, have a house they won't lose to foreclosure and a Congress full of people who truly care about them who will try to make things better without first putting their priorities ahead of "THE AMERICAN PEOPLE"!

I think it is about time to realize it takes more than getting any college degree to insure getting a job. For too long the colleges have been grinding out meaningless degrees that have no place in today's society. There are many jobs that are going unfilled in the scientific areas, technical areas and in the arts. Yet our colleges allow the students to float through with a Sociology degree even though demand for social workers are falling and low paying. The colleges do this so they can satisfy Momma & Daddy that their children are getting an education, albeit a useless one because they learn nothing of value. The graduates have no intention of using what they learned in the real world they just wanted a degree even if it took 6 or 7 years for a four year one. The length of time is also because the colleges allow the students to take truncated terms of 13 credits instead of 18 per term while allowing them to promiscuously change majors causing them to need courses they haven't taken. The colleges really don't care that the student is building up a massive burden of college loans they may never really be able to pay. However, these loans can't be discharged even through bankruptcy. Our colleges are like a mob who extorts money and doesn't really care about those who will call it my Alma Mater.

I know Herman Cain was a good business man who made his mark in this world. BUT how can anyone believe this guy could be the President of this good old USA? I don't know if he came from humble beginnings but if he did he certainly forgot what it was like because everything he says seems to want to step on the neck of the poor while giving breaks to the rich under the guise that this is what creates jobs. He is among the few (I hope) who believe the poor should pay more taxes because they don't pay enough. He seemed to indicate that without health insurance a person should die. Money does come into play when one is sick Do you think Steve Jobs could've made four more years after his diagnoses of pancreatic cancer if he didn't have the money to afford the medial treatments available to him? Even with heath insurance you and I have couldn't get what he got in medical attention. But Herman Cain seems to think it is tough luck for those who have not. He also didn't want to comment on the brouhaha the Mormon thing about Romney not being a Christian caused. So why should this be something we should concern ourselves with anyway? Every leader should have said that it doesn't matter if you are an atheist or believer all that matters is if you can be a good President with good policies. Mr. Cain along with the other panel members of the Republican debate never spoke up when the audience booed the gay solider. Doesn't all this say something about Herman Cain, about all of them?

It is about time the Yankees recognize the fact that their major stars like A-Rod, Tiexeria, Jeter are getting old, real old. The bodies are breaking down and the reflexes are slower. The contracts are horrendous but they hierarchy have to make some important decisions about replacing them rather than just hoping they will show flashes of glories past. Back in the 1990s Gene Michael and Bucky Showater were brought in to run the Yanks while the Boss sat his suspension out. They laid the foundation for the great teams of the '90s into the early 2000s. The Steinbrenner boys better bring in some good sound baseball men to run the show again. I think Brian Cashman needs help especially to keep the Boys who own the team away from making horrendous decisions like the A-Rod and Rafel Soriono ones.


Friday, October 7, 2011

For The Good Times

He couldn't believe it was over. They had been married for twenty years, had two wonderful children and seemingly lived a good life together. Sure there were times they argued, didn't everyone? But they never went to bed angry. Finances were never really good until some of the projects he started took root. Suddenly, they didn't have to live pay check to paycheck. They weren't rich but it sure felt like it. They could  go out to eat, take in a few shows and have an occasional vacation. No they weren't rich but at times in comparison to what they had it sure felt like it. They laughed, made love and lived what he felt was the good life. Then one day, out of the blue, she goes into the room where he was watching a ball game on television and tells him, Max, I don't really know how to tell you this so I am just going to say it, I don't love you anymore and I'm not sure I ever did.". His first reaction was to laugh because he thought she was kidding, but then he noticed she wasn't laughing. She was dead serious. He was dumbfounded and couldn't utter a sound as she turned and left the room. That was just the beginning.

Over the next year and a half he tried everything to get things back together again but the more he tried the more distant she became until she left their bedroom and slept in the basement. She kept changing her reasons why after twenty some odd years she wanted them to lead separate lives. There didn't seem to be any other guy but she kept going out over the weekends with her girl friends hitting local bars. She was becoming a cougar and he believed if there was really no one else she must be cracking up, menopause madness or a complete mental breakdown. She became indifferent to her children. When she wanted to stay out late she didn't care if he was home or not she was going out late. Perhaps she knew he wouldn't leave his kids to fend for themselves but it looked like she just didn't care. The only thing she seemed to care about was herself and the hell with everyone else. There was no compromise to be had. Divorce was the only option and it seemed if she could wreck him financially she would without even batting an eyelash. She would fight for custody because it meant more money for child support. She was relentless. The divorce proceedings seemed to put the last knife into whatever they had left from their years of marriage and loving almost turning into hate. Finally they came to an agreement and the divorce was finalized.

The last night she was to stay in their house was terrible. It was like standing watch at someone's death bed and hearing the death rattle becoming noisier and noisier. They barely looked at each other knowing this was the last time they could even think of themselves as husband and wife. She went downstairs to finish packing her clothes and called a cab. He retained custody of the kids as they chose to stay with him over her as they were old enough to realize this situation was brought about by her without any consideration as to how it would all affect them. They were in their rooms silently crying for they too felt the heaviness of death around them, the death of a family. He had on Music Choice, the Country and Western station, playing Ray Price's
"For The Good Times". She came up from the basement just as it was starting to play.

Don't look so sad
I know it's over
But life goes on
And this old world
Will keep on turning
Let's just be glad
We had some time to spend together
There's no need to watch the bridges
That we're burning

Lay your head,
Upon my pillow
Hold your warm and tender body
Close to mine
Hear the whisper of the raindrops
Blowing soft, against the window
And make believe you love me,
One more time,
For the good times

I'll get along
You'll find another
And I'll be here
If you should find,
You ever need me
Don't say a word 
About tomorrow, or forever
There'll be time enough for sadness
When you leave me

Lay your head
Upon my pillow
Hold your warm and tender body
Close to mine
Hear the whisper of the raindrops
Blowing soft against the window
And make believe you love me
One more time
For the good times

As the lyrics softly flooded the room they took a minute to look at each other and remember the good times for there were good times. Then a horn blew, the taxi was outside. She picked up her suitcase, looked around for the last time and caught a glimpse of her children peeking out from their bedroom doors. Her husband's eyes were pleading. The horn from the taxi blew again and without a word she turned and left. The tears in everyone's eyes were for the good times.