Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Littlest Angel

There are events in life which occur with such resounding force that the shock waves are felt for decades. The ripple effect of these events can be felt by those who where never present or even born when the event occurred. December 14, 1970 is the date of one of those events in my life and that of my family.

Its the day my brother died.

He was 1 month, 26 days old.

Derek was born in mid-October during the brilliance and splendor of Autumn in New England. I remember going to visit my mother and Derek in the hospital the day after he was born. My aunt and I drove over to Saint Margaret's hospital in Dorchester braving a chilly fall rain. As we made our way to the maternity ward we stopped at the gift shop. I begged her to buy a little doll dressed in baby-boy-blue, for my new brother. After what probably seemed like hours of groveling to her, she relented. I can't recall presenting him with my gift, but it became a fixture in his crib, at our home.

A new baby adds spice to a home, sometimes mild and sweet and at other times hot, unbearably hot. My mother was born high strung. If she were in school today she would be diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, PTSD or one of the myriad of other afflictions, abbreviated with letters. The month following Derek's birth was a mish-mash of highs and lows. The tenor of the household mirrored my mother's mood.

I can remember her crying uncontrollably, while smoking at the kitchen table while Derek was lying on the couch, surrounded by pillows.

I can remember sitting with my mother on the front steps of our apartment in Hyde Park. It was a warm Fall day and the trees were shedding their leaves. She allowed me to hold my brother while she watched, tentatively. I remember the smell of crisp fallen leaves while I cradled his tiny head.

I remember my mother and I laughing uncontrollably while I "helped" her change his diaper. He peed all over the two of us.

I remember my father (who was usually no where to be found) and mother fighting loudly, while I rubbed my brothers head while he lay in his crib.

The night of December 13, 1970 was a typical night in my childhood home. My mother downstairs smoking cigarettes and drinking tea. My sisters playing in their room. My brother Mark and I jumping on our beds in our room. Mark and I took Derek out of his crib and put him on my bed. We jumped around him while he lay in the middle. He didn't cry, he just seemed content watching us. We assumed he enjoyed the gentle jostling.

The next few days were a blur.

Who knows what traumas we block out of our minds. If we knew then they wouldn't be blocked, but open for examination. Some memories are best hidden from our consciousness.

I don't remember much about the day my brother died. I recall sadness, grief. I recall standing across the street from my house with the snow lightly falling, telling a schoolmate from my kindergarten class about my brother. I recall my mother promising me that they would bury my gift, the baby-boy-blue doll with him, so he wouldn't be alone. My mother brought me a flower from his funeral. We pressed it in plastic, and put it in an encyclopedia. From then, through my high school years, I would come across it when looking up something beginning with an "S" or a "T" and think of him.

My mother was never the same. From mid-October to December 14th every year until the day she died was torturous. She blamed herself for his death. The morning he died she got him from his crib for his morning feeding. She tried to get him to latch on, but he just wouldn't take her breast. She tried again and noticed that he was cold, motionless. He was gone.

"Crib Death" we were always told. When my mother passed in 1999 we found Derek's death certificate amongst her belongings. Cause of death: acute cardiac failure, emaciation.


That explained the years of autumnal depression. The years of self loathing and self destruction. I, myself, thought I played a role in his passing. For decades I thought that maybe that night we were jumping on my bed that we hurt him, somehow. It was no ones fault. Our frolicking on the bed had nothing to do with it. My mother gave him everything she had, unfortunately she barely had enough to care for herself. The well had run dry.

Christmas time was always bittersweet. Ghosts of Christmas past were not friendly specters guiding my mother toward redemption, but haunting reminders of inadequacies and failure. Someway, somehow, my mother was able to emotionally detach immediately the day after the anniversary of Derek's death each year and get ready for Christmas. I don't know how she did it, but she was always able to pull off Christmas without her emotions getting in the way of our enjoyment of the holiday. As the years went by her grief became more and more transparent until it got to the point where she was paralyzed by her loss and unable to find any joy in the season

The year Derek died and for many years following, there was a Christmas special on TV titled "The Littlest Angel". It was the story about a boy (played by Johnny Whitaker, Jodie on "Family Affair") who dies and goes to Heaven, but is allowed to go back to earth to get his cherished treasure box, so he may give it as a gift to the Christ child on Christmas. Each Christmas I imagined that Derek was the "littlest angel" and gave his favorite toy, his doll dressed in baby-boy-blue, to baby Jesus.

In August of 1999, when I received the news of my mother's death my thoughts immediately turned to Derek.

I imagined him welcoming my mother into heaven.

I imagined her sense of relief when he forgave her for not having enough to give.

I was comforted by the thought of them being together again.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I hate facial hair. I have grown a beard a few times over the past 30 years, but never kept it past three weeks. It gets itchy, food gets caught in it and I look like an old man or at least, an older man. While shaving last week I started out with my usual routine. I shave the sides first starting at the right ear, down the right cheek to the right corner of my mouth. My 6 year old son Matt was brushing his teeth while I was shaving. When he saw my partially shaved face he screeched "Yoooouk!"; foamy toothpaste flew from his mouth. When I went to finish the job he pleaded for me to leave the goatee ala Kevin Youkilis, gold glove first baseman for the Boston Red Sox. I carefully shaved the other side and trimmed my neck into a respectable goatee. He was elated. "Dad, your not Youk, you're Varitek" referring to the Boston Catcher Jason Vairtek who also sports a goatee albeit less cro-magnon than the neanderthal-like Youkilis. As I patted down my freshly shaved cheeks and admired my manly growth he blurted out "You're Youk-a-tek!!!" and laughed with a blend of self amusement and derision. I gave him a big, juicy kiss on the cheek making sure I rubbed my growth back and forth across his cheek. He laughed at first, then complained that it itched. "Wait till mom feels this", I explained as I knew she wouldn't like it at all.

Today is day ten of the "Youkatek" and its getting more Youk than Tek by the day. Tonight the Red Sox take the field in LA in their quest of winning a third World Series title in six seasons. I'll try to sport the Youkatek till they get knocked out of the playoff or until they bring home another title. Until then its itch, itch...scratch, scratch.

And probably no sex.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Frozen In Time

My wife often says "I wish the kids would never grow up; I wish they'd stay this age forever". I'm paraphrasing, but the sentiment is that time is flying by and she wishes that she could remember them at this age as vividly in twenty years, as she does now.

Twenty years from now I'll miss Peter's squeaky, testosterone-less professions of undying love or Matthew's full lipped kisses every time we part, for more than a few minutes. Its hard to imagine that there won't be a time when we don't have to carry the boys from our bed to their bed, half asleep, stumbling over toys and shoes in the dark. But I differ from my wife. I can't wait for the next age. I relish every minute of whats happening in my kids life now, but am just as excited for the next big thing. I can't wait for the day Matt can walk to school by himself. I will jump for joy when Pete can pour his own bowl of cereal, eat it without making a mess and put his bowl in the sink.

My cousin Sue's daughter Meagan passed away six years ago. For the past four years the family has put on a golf tournament in her memory. They raise anywhere from $3000 to $4000 per outing and the proceeds go toward research on childhood leukemia, which was what cause her death. She unknowingly had the disease and she died suddenly; the details are too heart wrenching for words. She was three when she passed and each year at the tournament there are pictures of her displayed at the check in, on buttons or on fliers advertising the tournament. Everyone who attends the tournament is getting older, greyer, taller, skinnier, balder, but there is Meagan, as cute as ever, never aging, forever young, smiling a mischievous smile, frozen in time. I had a brother who died at 1 1/2 months old. We have few pictures of him, but it's the same; he'll always be an infant(read here).

Close your eyes and think about the following people: your mother, your best friend from childhood, your first boyfriend/girlfriend, your spouse...what image do you see? We usually revert either back to our earliest memories of that person or the last time you saw that person. Either way, its an image that's frozen in time, a snapshot that's indelibly marked in your memory. What will my snapshot be of my boys? Will it be the day they were born. The day Matt played in his first baseball game? The day of Pete's dance recital? A day of the two of them at the beach or skating in the backyard? Or will it be them as teenagers or young men or middle aged men playing with their kids.

Will I miss the view of Peter coming out of the bedroom with his shirt on backwards smiling proudly that he dressed himself? Will I long for the days that Matt wants nothing more than to cuddle into the crook of my arm while watching the Red Sox? Of course. But I am grateful that we can add to the "snapshots". I look forward to what pictures we can add to the photo album.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Auntie Rosie

My family buried my Aunt Rosie 24 years ago today. The day we buried her was a typical early spring day in New England, cold, windy, moisture in the air. She was 44. The age I am now.

I recall the moment we heard she had passed. My mother answered the phone. She didn't say a word, but I could tell by the growing contortions to her face that someone we loved was gone. She dropped the phone to the floor. "Rosie's dead" she struggled to say and started crying uncontrollably. My mother never cried. Hardened by divorce, poverty and infirmity she was a rock. She rarely showed emotion and when she did it was usually anger. Her anger was never usually directed at one person she was just angry at everyone and everything. When she did show another emotion like love, surprise, affection or disappointment it was palpable and visceral. Watching her cry was heart wrenching. I too rarely cry. My stoicism similarly born out of a feeling of hopelessness and resignation. As I stood there watching her wail I felt like I was watching a movie about someone hearing about a loved one dying. I became an emotional sponge, soaking in my mother's grief, but unable to feel my own.

I often refer to my mother, grandmother and aunt as my "Holy Trinity". Being a good Catholic boy and a son of Irish descendants I knew from a young age that Saint Patrick used the three leafed Shamrock to teach the pagan Celts the symbolism of the Holy Trinity:the father, son and holy ghost. These three women made up for the lack of a father and gave me all the support and love I needed to make up for many of the holes in my life. My mother gave me strength and perseverance. My grandmother taught me the value of unconditional love and to the appreciation of life's little things. My Auntie Rosie gave me everything else.

Rosemary C. Norton was the first born of John Norton and Cecilia (Mc Lean) Norton. She was the oldest of five children. Her father, "shuffled off to Buffalo", as my grandmother used to say because he literally left his family and went to Buffalo, leaving her to help her mother raise her brothers and sisters. I don't know much else about her childhood growing up in the Mission Hill section of Boston. According to my mother she was very intelligent, artistic, but kind of shy and a loner. Her and I were thrust into very similar roles being the oldest child in a broken home. She probably bore more responsibility than she should have which caused her to become controlling and cautious.

My earliest memories of her are of me sitting in her lap and listening to her read to me. I also remember driving in her car watching her sip coffee and smoke cigarettes. I also remember calling her when my parents were having knock down, drag out, fights. She would reassure me on the phone while my siblings and I would huddle in my room with the door closed.

When my parents divorced she moved in with us. Knowing that my mother was not in any shape mentally to be raising five kids she slept on the couch, in our beds or in a chair for a good part of five years, until we moved 100 miles west from Boston to Northampton. During her time with us she did everything a parent would do and more. She helped us with school work. She drove us to appointments. She comforted us when we woke up from a nightmare. She took us on adventures to Plimouth Plantation, the Museum of Science, Walden Pond and many long car rides around Eastern Massachusetts usually ending up at some Antiques shop or the "Dover Country Store". When I was ten she and my Uncle Mac took my younger brother Mark and I on a two week long trip out west to California, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. We camped, stayed in hotels, visited National Parks and big cities; things I never could have done with a single mother of five. She helped me study every day for two months prior to me taking and passing the entrance exam to the prestigious Boston Latin. We were her kids and she was as much a mother to us as our own mom.

I vividly remember the day my mother got the phone call telling her that we got accepted into a subsidized housing project in Northampton. The first thought running through my mind within seconds of my mother getting of the phone was "what are we going to do without Auntie Rosie". We found out a few months later. Within a year of moving my mother was once again overwhelmed. My mother had a new support system in her sister Carol who lived one town over and her brother Joe and his wife Feno who also lived nearby, but it wasn't the same. Rosie kept my mother in line as well as the rest of us. She had a way of making you not want to disappoint her without making you feel guilty. With out Rosie around my mother spiraled ot of control leaving us hanging in the wind.

After we moved west she did her best to visit as often as possible. Her monthly visits eventually became bi-monthly visits, which became quarterly visits which became holiday visits. She had spent a lifetime bearing responsibility for others mistakes and now she needed time for herself. She explored interests like horticulture; she was president of the American Begonia Society. She traveled around New England particularly up to Maine. She studied meditation and was an avid reader.

The week before she passed she visited us in Northampton. My mother had suffered a burst brain aneurysm a year earlier and was up to help her run some errands and checking for things she needed. She had an eventful visit filled with catching my brother Mark in a compromising situation with a girl, in-fighting between my siblings and me being in various states of inebriation. She was not happy with "her kids", but when she left that Sunday there were no hard feelings. We all gave her big hugs and kisses and chased her car like little kids as she drove out of the parking lot, waving wildly. That was the last time we saw her alive.

A week later, sometime after midnight my Uncle and grandmother found my Aunt in her chair complaining of a severe headache. She had headaches for years, but chalked it up to stress. After my mother's stroke, she paid more attention to her pains and even had scheduled an appointment for a thorough check up. She died later that day.

Very few days have gone by in the past 24 years that I don't think about Auntie Rosie. Whether it be the smell of coffee and cigarettes, a little blue car putting down the road(she drove a Renualt), a pastel colored sunset or the sound of my wife reading to my kids, I think of her.

In August 2002, on the three year anniversary of my mother's death, I was restless. I was drinking heavily. My wife was expecting my firstborn. I had recently had huge marital problems. I was lost and in need of direction. I thought deeply about my "Holy Trinity", the people I could always turn to when I was in trouble. I went out that day and got a shamrock tattooed to my left shoulder to honor them. As I sat in the chair and the artist went to work I started to softly cry. "Are you OK. Do you need me to stop" the dude asked, thinking I was in pain. "No man, its fine. Just thinking about some loved ones".

Friday, March 27, 2009


The past few months I've had a consistent morning routine. Wake up. Lay in bed. Wait for my wife to bring me some coffee. Watch "Morning Joe" on MSNBC. Channel surf when Joe's right wing rhetoric gets too much to bear. More often than not I watch the music video channels for a song or two then tune back in to hear about the fiscal crisis and other political banter. Occasionally the kids, one or both, make their way down the hallway to my bedroom and crawl into bed with me for a bit until they get bored then head out to the living room to watch cartoons. The other morning I switched from Joe to VH1 and there was Lady Gaga. She was writhing around by the pool, petting a dog, playing poker, practically 69 ing a dude all while wearing a skin tight one piece bathing suit, guessed it...camel toe.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm no prude. I'm all for glimpses of female anything. As a kid I couldn't wait for the Boston Sunday Globe to be delivered, mostly for the sports section and funnies, but also for the flyers. Every department store flyer had a section were there would be a "lady" modeling some underwear, bras or stockings. I would study these pictures trying to make out any shape or form that I could trying to picture what was underneath. There wasn't much to go on as I'm sure they airbrushed any detail out of those photos, but occasionally you could see the outline of a nipple or if really lucky something outlined down in the nether regions.

As I lay in bed the other morning I was thoroughly enjoying the fine art work and direction of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" video (see here). So was my 6 year old son. He was staring at the screen, blankly. I could almost see the surge of hormones coursing through his system as he was studying the screen. I immediately switched back to MSNBC and with that he jumped up and left the room. I then switched back to VH1, not for my own enjoyment, but to really study this video putting myself in the mind of a six year old. The video ended and a new one started. "Beyonce" wearing a skin tight leotard with two other girls dancing around singing about "all the single ladies". More crotch shots.

I turned 16 in 1981, the year MTV made it on to our televisions by way of a new communication medium known as cable television. Not every community got cable right away. I had cousin's who lived in a neighboring town who got cable a few years before I did in early 1982. While visiting their house for a Sunday afternoon dinner I lay on the couch all afternoon watching corny, grainy, jumbled videos of musical acts like Styx, The Rolling Stones and Queen all had videos that mainly showed the band jamming away or playing out some ridiculously contrived skit that loosely went along with the theme of the song, or not. A few years later Madonna brought sex into the equation. Even when she was writhing around with a lion, moaning and groaning about having sex like a virgin, she was covered up albeit in some sexy garb, but covered up nonetheless.

No T. No A. No CT (and I don't mean Connecticut!).

When WhiteSnake came out with "Here I Go Again", model girlfriend of David Coverdale, Tawney Kittean draped herself over the hood of his car in various seductive poses, but never gave us a glimpse of what was underneath her flowing dress. It was hot, sexy and worthy of putting in the spank vault for another time, but quite tame. "Hot For Teacher", "Cradle Of Love", "California Girls", "Cherry Pie" were all sexy videos from the '80's that titillated without actually showing the actual tit. No camel toe in sight.

Moving into the '90's Chris Isaak's "Wicked Games" video had a teen aged Helena Christianson writhing around on the beach, showing some ass cheeks and snuggling with a much older Chris was the epitome of the sexy video. The buxom (and I mean that in a good way) Mariah Carey came on the scene in the '90's and upped the sexy ante a bit with videos like "Honey", but was still wholesome enough to let the kids watch. The 90's also brought us Brittany in her catholic school girl outfit asking the be "hit" one more time. Dirty, yep. Sexy, no doubt. Camel toe, no.

Then came the 2000's.

The video world has became a virtual Cameltoepia. Cisco's "Thong Song" (see here) seems tame compared to Christina Aguilera's "Dirty" (see here). "Dirty" seems tame to NERD's "Lap Dance" (see here). The 2000's leave nothing to the imagination. Raw, hardcore, unadulterated, its a Cameltopia. No need to scour the flyers for found porn. No need for binoculars at the beach. Glimpses of thong underwear peeking out at you from the top of some low rider jeans are no big deal anymore. Kids today just have to tune in to their favorite music video channel to have all their curiosities met. It's only a matter of time when full frontal nudity will be the norm then there will be nothing left to the imagination.

I clicked over to VH1 this morning to find a 50 year old Madonna, sporting a leotard, spreading her legs and shaking her money maker. A long way from her "like a virgin" days. I clicked right back over to "Morning Joe" and the kids wern't even in the room.

Some things are best left to the imagination.

(Click here for a cornucopia of Cameltoepia, Maxim's 20 Hottest Music Video's)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Póg mo thóin!

Last year I posted a piece that was semi-optimistic about the situation in Northern Ireland titled "26 + 6 = 1" (read here).

What a difference a year makes.

Two British Soldiers were murdered Saturday March 7th and a police officer, Stephen Carroll, was shot down March 9th by two separate splinter groups of the supposedly disarmed IRA (read here). People of the "north" need to brace themselves for a long summer of curfews, harassment and violence. Although people on both sides are condemning the violence this was bound to happen. As long as an occupying force continues to occupy the animosity never leaves (lesson to US: get out of Iraq ASAP). No one living on the Island of Ireland, Catholic or Protestant, Unionist or Republican thought the peace would be lasting.

There is a line in the movie "The Departed" where Matt Damon's character turns to his girlfriend when discussing their relationship and says "If we're not going to make it it'll have to be you that gets out. I'm fucking Irish, I'll deal with something being wrong the rest of my life". This sums up the Irish psyche as much as any quote I've ever heard. There is a somber, resignation about the human condition that is ingrained in every person boastful of their Irish heritage. If it wasn't an Irishman that came up with the saying "The more things change, the more they stay the same" I'd be genuinely shocked.

How do the Irish deal with their jaded and skeptical outlook on life? Living life to its fullest, living life like there's no tomorrow and by finding humor in the darkest of situations. "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die" is the mantra many Irish live by.

My wife sent me this joke today.

*An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub
and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but
serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone.*

*An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more.
This happens yet again. The next evening the man again orders and drinks
three beers at a time, several times. Soon the entire town is whispering
about the Man Who Orders Three Beers.*

*Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the
town. "I don't mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you
always order three beers?"*

*"Tis odd, isn't it?" the man replies. "You see, I have two brothers, and
one went to America, and the other to Australia . We promised each other
that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of
keeping up the family bond."*

*The bartender and the whole town were pleased with this answer, and soon
the Man Who Orders Three Beers became a local celebrity and source of pride
to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch
him drink.*

*Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender
pours them with a heavy heart. This continues for the rest of the evening.
He orders only two beers. The word flies around town. Prayers are offered
for the soul of one of the brothers.*

*The next day, the bartender says to the man, "Folks around here, me first
of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You
know-the two beers and all"*

*The man ponders this for a moment, then replies, "You'll be happy to hear
that my two brothers are alive and well. It's just that I, meself, have
decided to give up drinking for Lent."*

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dear Blogspot...

Dear Blogspot,
You may have noticed recently that we've been growing apart. I don't visit as often. I've neglected my readers. I've stopped reading other bloggers stuff. I just wanted you to know that I still love you, but things have changed.

I have found someone else.

Her name is Facebook.

She is fresh, attractive and non- judgemental. I don't feel any pressure to log on to her page. She has connected me with dozens of old friends with whom I can instantly reminisce about old times, instead of sitting around for hours trying to conjure up memories and hunt and peck them down on my keyboard. Many of the people I've shared with you on my webpage at Blogspot have now come to life over at Facebook. With you, those old friends just sit there, static, waiting for someone to read about them, occasionally. On Facebook old friends come alive. I can see that Sheryl from summer camp back in the '80's just "went for a hike". I can read that an ex-co worker "just put on a pot of coffee". I can see that a friend from the old neighborhood has kids that are uglier than THEY were at that age. Facebook is instant gratification. It's cocaine. You on the other hand are like an old, drunk, uncle, telling the same stories over and over and over.

You know that we first got together I was upfront with you. I told you that I wanted to have a place to write some stuff and archieve thoughts. I made you no promises except only to write when things were fresh, relevant and interesting. Lately you have been smothering me. I feel obligated to you when I am too young and active to be tied down. I need to be free and do what I want. I hope you understand. I know what you are going to say. "Facebook is just a fling. She'll rock your world, then leave you after she's had her fun." Maybe so. But I have to do this for me.

It's not you... it's me.

I still love you. I'm just not "in love" with you anymore.

I hope we can still be friends.

Your friend,

PS: Maybe this is just a phase. Please don't hate me.

PPS: I know that Facebook is pretty open about things, so maybe the three of us can go out some time? ;)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Six Years

My oldest son Matt turns six at 10:24 this evening. With maybe the exception of my own birthday, March 9, 2003 is the most important date in my life.

I am not going to wax poetic about the virtues of fatherhood. Fatherhood is what it is. Its a mostly thankless job wherein the rewards are few and far between.

Some might guess that having an absent father is why the day is so important. Wrong again. Although me not having a father around definitely impacted every aspect of my upbringing (read here), not having him around may have been for the best. He was not the most stable, nor upstanding individual (criminal, actually).

If its not love of fatherhood or being the "dad I never had", then what could it be?

I have led a semi-charmed kind of life. The first twenty were tough. Real tough. The next eighteen were lived with complete onanistic abandon (read here, here and here, and here). My first twenty years I bore responsibilities no kid should have to bear. (If you are a regular reader you've heard some of the horror stories, if new read here, here and here) I helped raise my brothers and sisters when my mother had checked out emotionally first and physically later on. When I had enough, I overcompensated and focused on my own needs to the point that no one else mattered. Not even my wife, who had helped me transition from adolescence to adulthood and helped spur me along to independence.

The driving force behind my self-absorption was my competency. I am one of those people to whom everything comes easy.

I have never had problems making friends. Girls, no problem. I maintained straight A's through fifth grade (except penmanship; you can't BS penmanship) and once I realized that I could get B's by simply listening in class, I rarely did any studying and only homework when necessary. I am good at all sports. I didn't pick up a golf club till I was 30 except for an occasional bucket at the driving range and within a year of playing I was shooting in the eighties. I have had some of the best jobs just fall into my lap. Summer camp counselor, after school coordinator, youth sports director, right up to my current job. Never the best paying, but jobs where the quality of life is so good that friends making three times as much have been enviable. I lived the "life of Reily" until March 9, 2003, because I could.

On March 9, 2003 it was the first time in eighteen years that I turned my focus outward. It was time to disengage the pause button and start the process of reciprocity. I welcomed the responsibility before me, but more than that, I welcomed the challenge. I honestly wasn't personally challenged by something since studying for a passing the entrance exam to Boston Latin (a prestigious Boston "exam" school) when I was in sixth grade (unfortunately I got my acceptance letter forwarded to me after we moved 100 west of Boston, to Northampton Mass, that summer).

I'm not complaining. The fact that things come easy for me makes life with kids easier than most. I have an extremely flexible job which allows me more time with my kids than any dad I know and most moms. My modest upbringing taught me to not want for much materially, so we live within our means. Life is as good as it was before Matt, but in a different way. I feel better about myself. I feel like I am part of something bigger than myself. Being challenged as a parent every day is more rewarding to me than scoring playoff tickets, getting on an exclusive golf course or being the last one standing after a night of drinking. I would love to get World Series tickets, play Pebble Beach or binge drink in Vegas, but I don't have time right now. I have more important things to do.

"An idle brain is the devil's workshop" is an old English proverb. After a successful eighteen year run the workshop is closed.

Thanks Lori and Matthew for changing my life...for the better.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Reports Of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Alright, none of you thought I was dead, but I was closer than you'd think. The month of February was one of the most stressful months I've had in the past 20 years. I was in jeopardy of losing my job. My brother Mark was reported as a missing person. My kids were deathly ill. I watched my family's retirement money shrink down to pre 2000 levels. There were a few times in February that I thought I was having a stroke. Racing thoughts, heart palpitations, tingling of the extremities. I haven't had that much anxiety since I took a white shit (read here about my white shit). Don't laugh. You take a white shit and see if you don't feel like you've lost your mind.

Even though we here in New England got hammered with a 12 inch snowstorm, March came in like a lamb for me. My skating rink is back from the dead. I turned 44 on the first and got some great gifts. My troubles have subsided to manageable levels. St. Paddy's will be here soon which means spring is just around the corner. That means coaching baseball, watching baseball, playing golf, feeling alive again. Things are looking up.

When I started this blog thing I knew that it would Eb and flow. I hemmed and hawed for months whether to start a blog because I knew I wouldn't be able to be as prolific as I wished (ala my cuz, Suldog) due to my busy life. I realistically thought I could post once per week. That's been my average over the past two years. Some months I posted a dozen times and others I've posted once. I promised in my first post that I wouldn't write for the sake of writing, so my posts will be frequent when I have time and energy and be non existent when life is being lived instead of being written about. When I disappear for a week or a month it's most likely because I'm living life.

I AM alive and kicking!

Friday, February 13, 2009


Doldrums, cabin fever, a case of the blah's...whatever you want to call it...I've got it. I've got an employee who is a complete douche bag. Even a couple of 50 degree days haven't lightened my mood; it just pisses me off more that my rink is melting. I have had zero creativity, drive or need to socialize, so blogging has been non-existent. I am hopping in my SUV Saturday after Matt's hockey practice to visit my brother and sister in North Carolina. Me and the fam will be making it a leisurely trip stopping in D.C. and N.Y.C. I might even get in a round of golf with my bro. Maybe wallking some fairways and getting on the open road will get me back on track. Until then...BLAHHHH!!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Snow Game

(Seven years ago the New England Patriots made an improbable run to win their first of three Super Bowl championships. With a backup quarterback, a rag tag offense and punishing defense they defied the odds makers and beat the "greatest show on turf" St. Louis Rams, featuring the now leader of the Arizona Cardinals, Kurt Warner. Their Super Bowl run started in a snowy evening in Foxboro Massachusetts.) This piece was originally published 9/7/07.

January 19, 2002.

The Snow Game.

The greatest football game in New England football history.

I was there.

The New England Patriots have played bigger games (as of the date of this writing they have played in 5 Super Bowls), they have played in closer games, had games with more controversy (1976 playoffs vs Raiders, sno-blower-gate) and they have played games in worse weather conditions. There has never been a single game in their history that could compare with this games combination of magnitude, atmosphere, suspense and exhilaration.

The Pats had a season that was typical of those since Bob Kraft had bought the team in the early 90's, competitive, hopeful, but missing some unknown key ingredient. The one difference between this team and the others in recent history was that they were peaking. They had earned a home playoff game and in every possible scenario it would be their only home playoff game thus making this game the last game played in the drab, dismal Schaefer... Sullivan...Foxboro Stadium. As horrible as it was a venue, it held a vault of beer soaked memories that could never be replaced by a state of the art stadium. Going to Foxboro Stadium was like going to a football game in the town of Bedrock circa 2500 BC. Touch football in the rock strewn, gravel parking lot. The smell of meat cooking on ridiculously huge grill fires. Drunken fights at 11:00 AM, two hours before kick off. Blood and beer.

The week leading up to the game my buddy Billy and I had been scouring the net for tickets to the game. Billy is a hard drinking , hard living guy who bought his father's roofing business back in the 90's and was my golf partner. He had bought season tickets back when Kraft bought the team, but had sold them recently to a vendor of his. We had gone to lots of games together, but were on a mission from God to go to this game. We wanted to experience one last game like cavemen, drunk, eating meat and watching fights. On Friday afternoon I found some tickets for $200 a piece and immediately called Billy, excitedly. He had already gotten us tickets from a vendor, for free.


Saturday we got on the road at 11 AM. packed with beer and a crock pot full of meatballs and sausage. The game was an 8PM start, but we had a plan. Drink. Check into our hotel we booked knowing it was going to be a late, drunken evening. Spend the afternoon in Providence drinking. Get on our cold weather gear and head to the game. Things pretty much held to plan.

During our ride down the Mass Pike the snow had already started falling as predicted, but was not yet sticking to the frozen pavement. It wisped back and forth across the road blown around by the speeding cars. We checked into our hotel in Attleboro on Route 1 about 5 miles from the stadium at 1PM. We plugged in the crock pot and hopped back in the car for the 15 minute ride to Providence and its warm, inviting stripper bars. The snow was still light as we made our way into "Club Fantasies". We opted for this joint on the recommendation of the front desk clerk at the hotel over the infamous "Foxy Lady". There is nothing like sitting in a warm, cozy stripper bar with 50+ naked women prancing about while drinking beer and shots of Jaegarmeister as the snow piles up outside. Its like Apres Ski without the Apres or the ski. Billy and I sat at the bar for the most part occasionally heading into "The Pit" (a squared off section next to the main stage) for a $5 sample table dance(an R-rated version of the $25, X-rated, private table dances done upstairs. We had lost time while in the joint and when we walked out sometime after 5 PM it was into "white out" conditions.

It took us 45 minutes to make the 15 minute ride back to the hotel. We put on our "long johns" and waterproof gear, gathered up the meatballs and french bread and headed toward the stadium. My Bonneville handled surprisingly well in the snow and the trip to the stadium went smoothly. We stopped at a liquor store 2 miles from the stadium and Bill went in. He came out with 12 nips of Grand Mariner. We pulled in to the stadium parking lot and there were no discernible parking spaces. The snow was at least 8 inches deep. I had plugged the crock pot into my a/c converter which plugged into my lighter on the way to the stadium from the hotel, so we expected some steamy, hot meatballs to go with our beer. No go. The converter not only shorted the lighter, thus making our meatballs cold, it shorted out half the electrical system including the defroster, heater and inside lights. We sat in the car eating luke warm meatball grinders washed down with ice cold beer. 45 minutes before game time we filled our pockets with beer and nips of Grand Mariner and headed for the gates of the stadium. At the gates there were ticket takers and droves of security. I thought for sure we would have all of our booze confiscated. I handed the ticket taker my ticket and got a token pat down by a disinterested security person. I know he must have felt one of the five beers I carried in in my jacket pocket or one of the six nips I tucked in my socks. I turned to Billy as we headed to our seats in Section 216 and said "I guess Kraft is trying to save money on demo and is hoping someone brings in a bomb". "I'll drink to that" he said as he hoisted a Grand Mariner in a mock toast.

The scene at our seats were something that could not be duplicated by the best of Hollywood's special effects artists. Snow was falling sideways under the dim lights. The grounds crew was walking back and forth over their respective yard line snow blowing the line so you could see the yardage. Players were warming up mainly by running in place or doing jumping jacks as to not get injured before the game even started. A fog was enveloping the stadium caused by the breath of 60,000 strong anticipating the kickoff.

The game developed slowly. The only scoring in the first half was a Raiders touchdown, Gannon to Jett. In the third quarter the Russian born Sebastian Janikowski and the South Dakota born Vinateiri, both seemingly oblivious to the weather, accounted for dueling field goals with Janikowski winning 2 to 1. With the Pats down 13-3 the crowd got restless. Our half of the stadium, on the Pats sideline, spontaneously started chanting "We want Drew" in response to Brady's inefficiency. Drew was warming up on the sideline and seemed to zip the ball a bit stronger as the pleas for his entry became louder.

Then there was the forth quarter.

Brady appeased the masses by driving the ball down field early in the quarter and ran one in cutting the Raiders lead to 3. Miss cues on both sides ensued. With under two minutes to go Brady dropped back to pass and was being tackled when the ball popped loose. The crowed groaned collectively as a Raider pounced on the ball. I started yelling hoarsely, drunkenly "His arm was going forward, they are going to reverse it." I repeated it a number of times while people stood in dead silence or headed sullenly for the exits. Some guy a few rows in front turned around and told me to shut up. Just as I was about to dive over a couple of rows to fulfil the trifecta of booze, meat and blood the ref said the play was being reviewed. I suddenly went from drunk "belligerent" guy to drunk "knows what hes talking about" guy. The call was reversed and everyone was hugging, high 5-ing and kissing like it was New Years Eve. The guy that told me to shut up even gave me a high 5 which I reciprocated as hard as I could.

Brady took advantage of the second chance, but couldn't get us within "chip shot" range which on a night like that would've been inside the ten, if that. He got us to the 30 with just under 30 seconds to go. The snow seemed to pick up in intensity when Vinitieri was lining up the field goal attempt. As the ball lifted off the ground into the falling snow I immediately sunk my head. The trajectory of the kick was way too low to travel 47 yards and I didn't want to see it miss. As I stared at the pile of beer cans and bottles of Grand Mariner, covered with snow, piled at my feet the roaring erupted. The kick carried just enough over the cross bar to tie the game at 13 - 13. Every hair on my body was standing on end. People were falling over their seats. For two straight minutes everyone in the stadium was bouncing in unison, screaming and laughing.

This never happens to us, we never get the breaks.

The ghosts of Ben Dreith, Buckner, Piersall, "The Fridge", Desmond Howard and Bucky Dent who had been lingering over the moment retreated hastily from the joy and ectasy rarley experienced on a January night in New England.

Over time was anti-climactic. We won the coin toss, drove the field and AV made a chip shot right in front of us to win the game. As Lonnie Paxton was making snow angels below the stands were a sea of euphoria. People were screaming, jumping, cackling, hooting, hollering and even crying. I stood there like a lifeless spector not making a noise, but soaking in the sights and sounds of the moment until Billy bear hugged me bringing me back from my daze. No one left their seats for an hour. Every fan stayed there listening to the post game interviews being broadcast over the loudspeakers, drinking smuggled booze and telling tales of this game and games prior. It was like an Irish wake, drunken and raucous, but touching.

We made it back to the Bonneville about 2:30 AM, but didn't get out onto Route 1 until after 3AM. We passed out at our hotel immediately. I woke up at 7 AM to take a piss. As I stood over the bowl, still drunk, I noticed that my right hand was killing me. I inspected it figuring I must have slept on it the wrong way, but the palm was black and blue. I sat on the end of my bed flummoxed, then it hit me. As I walked out of the stadium I high fived at least 1000 people.

We got on the road by 10 AM. At home I alternated between worlds on my couch while watching the Steelers and Rams win. Every time I closed my eyes I could see the breath rising and the snow falling. It was a mid-winter nights dream.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Just Another Ordinary Day

Today is just another ordinary day. I woke up. Drank a shitload of coffee. Made breakfast. Got one son ready for school. Got the other one ready for the day. Did some work. Checked the ice on my rink.

Inauguration day is always amazing to me. Peaceful transfer of power, hope, trepidation all converge in a show of pomp and circumstance that rivals most monarchies. Freedom is fluid and the fact that we can change the ruling party overnight without bloodshed or violence makes this country the most remarkable and stable society in history. Yesterday a black man was sworn in as President of the United States. No shots fired. No unusual displays of discourse. As extraordinary as it was that we elected a black man as President of the Untied States it was just another ordinary inauguration. It was just a beautifully orchestrated show of our countries unity and common ground.

To me,the fact that this Inauguration Day was business as usual shows how far we have come and what makes our country the greatest in the history of this planet.

Here's to many ordinary days to come.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Rink...Bigger and Better

Last year I built a skating rink in my backyard (read here). This year its bigger and better. Last year it was about 60 x 25 when all said and done. This year its 70 X 40. A new net and some tweaking such as keeping an unfrozen hose in the basement for nightly icings have made for a perfect surface. Since I dropped my digital camera in my coffee Xmas morning I can only download picutes in the camera's memory (the memory cards are unusable in the camera, now), so when I buy a new camera in the next week or two I'll take some action pics. Until then enjoy some pictures taken after this past weekends snowstorm.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Normalcy Returns...Whatever THAT Is

Since my last posting life has been a roller coaster, on ice, with the riders all smoking crack, puking, with the flu and me strapped to the tracks.

December 13, 2008

My five year old son Matt and I left hockey practice at the Mullins Center on the UMass campus both drained. I had that foreboding feeling you get when you know you are getting sick. Matt is usually a tiger on the ice, but today skated like a kitten. He starts a small cough as we pull into our driveway.

December 17, 2008

Matt and I are both coughing all night, but it subsides in the AM. Matt goes to school to endure his own sleep deprived hell, while I have to fight my lack of sleep while doing last minute Christmas preparations with my three year old Peter in tow. Pete hasn't gotten sick...yet.

December 19, 2008

Matt goes off to school in the AM. Amazingly, he hasn't missed a day off school, but is obviously not feeling well. He has a dry cough and is lethargic, but can function. I have offered to keep him home each of the last three mornings, but he chooses to go to school. He must realize that being home with me while I'm sleep deprived and sick would be worse than him being sleep deprived and sick sitting in his classroom. Pete still seems OK. Mom goes to work each day and seems oblivious to our plight. She is immersed in her yearly pre-Christmas mania. She won't be able to relax until sometime Christmas night. I am supposed to meet my friend Eric in Foxboro tomorrow for a night of drinking then a Pats game in the snow on Sunday. I consider cancelling, but figure that being sleep deprived and sick while drunk watching football in the snow is better than being sleep deprived and sick hanging out with a stressed out wife, sick kid and an energy filled unsick kid.

December 20,2008

I wake up feeling better than I have in days. Matt seems better too. I get out while the gettin's good. I drive to Franklin Mass where I meet my friend Eric who currently lives in Maine. We have gone to a Pats game every year for close to 20 years. Even when he lived in Cleveland we would meet in Buffalo for a game. We spent the night drinking, re-telling drunken tales of old, etc... I fall asleep in a queen sized bed to the sound of my own snoring.

December 21,2008

Eric and I trudge to the game in an eight inch snowstorm. I am not hungover, but only have three Bud Lights in the car in the parking lot outside of the stadium while cranking the heat and watching the snow melt on my wind shield. the snow piles up outside my vehicle. We are sitting eight rows up from the field in the corner end zone. The game is a joke. The Patriots are up 24 - 0 sometime in the second quarter. We consider leaving early, but are the types that don't leave cause you never know if a once in a lifetime play or occurrence will happen. In the third quarter it does. Cassell throws a screen pass out to his left to Randy Moss who has a 70 yard clear run to the end zone, our end zone. As he cruised down the sideline it was as if he was all alone and running toward me, only me. Like in a love story with two lovers running toward each other in a field of daisy's I made my way down the eight steps and got to the railing overlooking the end zone just as Randy crossed the goal line. He started walking toward me with the ball outstretched. I quickly realized that he was bringing the ball to a kid who was standing next to me with his dad. As he handed the ball to the starstruck tyke I was reaching down patting Randy on the shoulder pads. It was a real, live Coke commercial (you remember the one where Mean Joe Greene throws the shirt to the kid). We leave the game in the forth quarter with the Pats up 47 - 7. I get home and scour the Internet for footage of me and Randy's moment.

December 22, 2008

While I was on my "man" weekend Pete and Lori become ill. Pete has a 102 degree temp and Lori has an upper respiratory something. She goes to work, Matt goes to school and Pete pukes a half a dozen times. There always seems to be penance to pay after a "man" weekend. Pete naps numerous times throughout the day as do I.

December 24, 2008

Pete is getting better, but still whiny. I drop him and Matt at my sister-in-laws while I drive to Boston to pick up my Uncle Mac. I stop at my mother, aunt and grandmother's grave site and leave them a Christmas gift then head to BC where my uncle has worked for 45 years and picked him up for the 100 Mile ride west. We get back to Northampton around 2 PM and spend the afternoon watching "A Christmas Carol", doing last minute wrapping and watching the kids get wound up for Santa. We go to my sister's house for a turkey dinner about 6PM, but get out of there by eight to put the kids in bed, for Santa.

December 25, 2008

Christmas morning was magical, until I dropped our digital camera in my coffee, ruining it. If I dropped the camera 1000 times it would not have fit perfectly in my cup as it did. The day was great, otherwise. We hosted dinner at our house. While the kids played with their new toys the adults drank wine and Irish coffee, gorged themselves on my wife's dessert creations and watched "Bad Santa".

December 26, 2008

I dragged my ass from the couch playing the Wii Santa brought for the kids and placed plastic down on the area I had snow blowed last week on the side of my house. My rink will be bigger and better than last year. My uncle helps lay down the plastic, but falls hard on his ass, but is OK. He won't be the first person to fall on his ass on the rink this year.

December 31, 2008

In the midst of his first school vacation Matt is in a Wii induced coma, rarely leaving the couch to eat or use the bathroom. At one point I think he shit himself and just when I'm about to yell at him I hear the cat was scraping around in the litter box. We have a babysitter come over around 5 PM and we go out for a quick, but intimate dinner at the Whately Inn. We go home and play the Wii until 11 PM. We go to bed and are asleep 1/2 hour before the New Year.

January 2, 2009

Matt and I are skating on our rink. Pete went skating for the first time earlier in the week at the Mullin's Center free skate and was able to stay up by himself by the end of the skate. He has no interest in skating today, but says he'll skate with "mom" when mom skates. Fricken "mama's boy"! There are a few rough spots, but it's skatable now and will only get better with consecutive icings and colder weather.

January 3, 2009

Hockey practice was nothing short of awesome. Matt and I were both back to our normal selves, skating hard for the first time since early December. We just introduced sticks and pucks to practice which makes it feel like hockey instead of skating practice. Tomorrow we'll skate on our rink at home then it's back to school Monday. Time to get off the roller coaster.