Auld Acquaintances Not Forgotten

Greetings one and all, and Happy New Year!

Sorry for the delay between posts, but I’ve been a bit under the weather (thank God not from the usual Holiday Cheer which I no longer partake in).  New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day has taken on a very different form since I got sober; a far cry from the days where both my wife (who is not an alcoholic, but no longer drinks because she was a bit of a wild one and is supportive of my abstinence by her own) and I used to ring in the New Year with much fanfare.  We would usually get together with several couples that were close friends or family, and attend an all night function at a hotel that would include a room (no drinking and driving for us, thank you very much!), the dinner, and most importantly an open bar.  With top-shelf liquor, I might add….LOTS of top-shelf liquor; sometimes at the expense of the meal, which was usually quite good except for one year…hmmm…that gives me an idea.  Allow me to recount for you some of the more memorable New Year’s Eves that my wife and I partook in, and the tales of drunken debauchery that took place.  The names have been redacted to protect the very inebriated.  Please remove all young children from the room.

New Year’s Eve 1991-92: Our first New Year’s together as a couple, and just over a month since I proposed to my wife (which is another story in itself).  We were with her best friend and her fiancée, and two other couples who were their friends.  My wife and I had no idea who anyone was outside of the engaged couple, but we soon bonded.  Yes, it’s an amazing thing how complete strangers can bond over something as insignificant as a drink, in this case, something called a “Woo-Woo”.  I have no recollection what was in the damned things, all I remember was the eight of us toasting everything out of shot glasses…poured from a pitcher no less.  You know you’re in trouble when you’re drinking out of shot glasses.  Every toast no matter how serious or ridiculous ended with the rallying cry of “Woo Woo!”.  We sounded like a bunch of drunken Ed Nortons coming up from the sewer on New Year’s Day.  As the evening progressed, the highlight of the entertainment was to watch about 200 drunken, white suburban New Jerseyites attempt to do the “Electric Slide”.  Busby Berkeley was rolling over in his grave; and June Taylor’s services were sorely needed.  It was during one of these intoxicated processions that my wife’s foot was impaled by her friends high heel; a New Year’s gift that kept on giving all through the evening as my wife spent the better part of the night with her foot in a bucket of ice.  All and all, a most memorable evening.

From New Year’s Eve 1992-93 to 1994-1995: Same place, same two central couples (being my wife and I, and her friend and her husband); but the rest of the central cast of characters changed.  In addition to friends being added and couples breaking up, there were four marriages (including my own), one engagement and one divorce, as well as that other central couple I was talking about having their first child.  Yes, there were the ever present Woo Woos along with the accompanying rally cry and the nasty hangovers the following morning (my wife has some PRICELESS photos of me one particularly nasty morning).  There was also excellent food and friendship and incredible good times.  We were all in our early 30’s, at the start of our marriages, and at the rise of our careers and there was an endless stream of possibilities that loomed before us.  It was definitely a heady time, and for me personally it one of the best periods of my life.  My career was on a MAJOR upswing, and I was recognized as one of the guys who might very well be a candidate for Senior VP down the road; probably in the next ten years time, and that was the belief among my co-workers, staff, and my superiors.  New Year’s was a time for me to blow off one year’s worth of stress and aggravation and spend it with my lovely wife (who also had her own career going at that time as a Case Manager RN in the Insurance Industry) who was doing the same.  She made sure she stayed away from her friend’s high heels though, and she never had to worry about waking up to a foot in an ice bath again.

New Years 1995-1996: We took a detour this time from our usual spot, which was now being remodeled into an up-scale brewery.  We instead went to a hotel that was near our apartment, a VERY high class establishment where my wife and I stayed on our wedding night and were suitably impressed.  They promised a room, open bar, and a seven course meal.  Sounds great, right?  This was a tour-de-farce that could probably be written into a Broadway comedy, but I’ll try and encapsulate just how interesting an evening this was.  First off, I put the reservations to HOLD on my Corporate American Express.  The hotel was not supposed to charge the card, it was just supposed to be a good faith gesture until we got there and paid in cash (which we did).  Needless to say, they charged the card…which I was furious at, because I would now have to explain that charge and it’s reversal to my boss and HIS Senior VP.  While my boss had a conniption (and for a while so did I), the SVP was someone who I occasionally drank with and smoked cigars with (Cubans which he provided, smuggled in from Canada) in his posse of peers and protegees.  He did manage to get a good laugh out of it, especially when I told him the rest of what you’re about to read; so I was forgiven and told make sure it didn’t happen again.  After that little incident at the front desk, we got the keys to our rooms…or should I say igloos.  The heat was turned off in the rooms and we managed to get the heat going (our igloos having a lovely view of the FROZEN Shrewsberry River); by the time we returned somewhere around 3AM, the temperature was hovering around 60…but we were too drunk to even feel a thing anyway, more than normal in fact.

The downhill spiral continued as we arrived into the Main Ballroom and were seated NEXT to the band.  As in close enough for me to play the congas (which I actually did on a couple of songs).  Remember that seven course meal?  Oh, we got it for sure; what they didn’t tell us was that it was all on the same plate.  In keeping with the hip nouveau cuisine of the day, the hotel served us dollops of food (all lovingly dolloped in a colorful array, I might add).  They also didn’t allow us to have more than one drink at a time, didn’t make pitchers of anything (let alone Woo Woos), and stock liquor only.  That quickly changed as we bribed our waitress Flo to keep the liquor flowing, taught her how to make Woo Woos and at least get them served in a full glass instead of a shot glass or a pitcher.  Nice happy compromise; nice happy band of delirious drunks; massive group hangover by all concerned the following morning.  Despite the misery inflicted upon us, we had a good time just because we could not possibly believe just how bad everything went…it was the Universe playing a cosmic payback on us for all those other great times we had.

New Year’s Eve 1996-1997: Our usual spot had completed their renovation and conversion to an upscale brewery, and threw a New Year’s Party again…only this time, with limited seating which they cordoned off in a pretty small room where everyone was rubbing elbows…but it was infinitely better than the previous year’s debacle.  Yes, the Woo Woos were flowing again as well as some excellent beer from the on premises brewery.  Yes, there was the usual drunken Electric Slide…but one thing none of us ever saw, at the time but perhaps we were thinking in our hearts, was that this may indeed be our last New Year’s together as a group.  We were right.  The two couples who were there the first New Year’s we spent together got divorced: one because the Cola heiress he was married to found another guy (and he himself passed on away from Hodgkin’s Disease a few years after that), and the other because the wife decided to come out and leave her husband for another woman, which pretty much shattered the guy.  The other central couple would still be together and add two more daughters in the intervening years; another couple would add a son in 1997 (and they would later be Godparents to my second daughter as well); and my wife’s brother would pass on (he had become a regular attendee at these shindigs with his live-in ex-wife…don’t ask…in the last few years).

In 1997, our first daughter was born and my wife and I stayed locally at a nearby hotel attending their own New Year’s bash, which was quite good.  My in-laws came down and watched Kate for us while we went out for which would turn out to be our last New Year’s Eve going out and having a wild time.  We bought a house the following year, and after then, we pretty much had gotten used to a quiet New Year’s Eve alone with a couple of bottles of champagne.  My wife went back to work in 2005, and New Year’s Eve 2005-2006 would be the last time I would ring in the New Year with a glass of booze in my hand.  In fact, I didn’t even make it to midnight that year and my wife got home from work and went straight to bed leaving me alone and drunk.  The past few years have been quiet ones (sober ones for me), spent with my wife making it to midnight sometimes or having to go to bed because she worked on New Year’s Day.

Tonight, my wife will be in bed when midnight strikes…but I will be up at midnight with both of my kids with nothing but a glass of Coke in my hand, and I’ll probably let them have one or two themselves.  We’ll have Ravioli and Marinara Sauce with Meatballs for dinner tonight, and probably Chicken Parmigiana for tomorrow, and I’ll have a new kitchen in which to make them.  I’ve come a long way since my days of Corporate Cards and Cuban Cigars and days of wine and roses.  I have the best job in the world right now: father to two of the greatest kids on the planet and husband to one hell of a human being who managed to hang in there with me in both good times and in bad, sickness and health, richer and poorer.

The only way I’m alive to write these words and what is to come is because of her.  This piece is for you Tess…Happy New Year, baby.

“The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk.  This drunkenness culminates on New Year’s Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you’re married to.” – P.J. O’Rourke

“Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve.  Middle age is when you’re forced to.” – Bill Vaughn

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.” – Benjamin Franklin

Peace On Earth, Good Will To All

My best wishes to you and yours for a peaceful holiday season, and for those who celebrate it…a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I’ll be taking a few days off to spend with my family.  Regular posting will begin again on Monday, December 29th, 2008.  Until then, may your days be merry and bright…and I won’t finish the rest of that lyric off because some of you are experiencing that type of weather already and are sick of it!

Be safe, be warm, try to do a good thing for someone no matter how small it is, and don’t drink and drive!  The world needs you alive.

Peace.

Bank Fraud And Grand Theft Auto

OK, let’s bring this entire Bank Bailout farce down to terms that we can all understand and that can be applied in our everyday lives.  Your wife comes to you and says your daughter got a great job, but she will definitely need her own car to get to and from work as it’s in an area that is not served regularly by public transportation (and if you’re from New Jersey, this is an all too familiar scenario).  Your wife is telling you that this is urgent; that your daughter needs to contact her potential employer right away to accept the job offer, a job she really wants.  After having this matter of life and death situation put in front of you, you agree to lend your daughter $20,000 to get a car; and because you trust her implicitly, you give her the cash and trust her to do the right thing.  A few weeks go by, and your daughter stops by your house with the used car she bought: a 1991 Honda Civic with over 100,000 miles on it.  She is also wearing what appear to be expensive diamond jewelry and a fur coat.  Naturally, you’re a bit miffed at this blatant disregard for the cash you gave her; so you ask her how she spent the money…and she pretty much tells you it’s none of your business, and go to hell.

This is exactly what the large Banks who accepted OUR TAX DOLLARS in the largest government bailout of the private sector in history have essentially told the members of Congress and the American People.  An Associated Press report circulated yesterday stated that they asked the Banks the following questions: How much did you accept, what did you spend it on, how much went for troubled assets, and what do you intend to do with the rest.  Almost every Bank pretty much came back and said it was not our business, that they wouldn’t tell us what they spent or would plan to spend it on, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out of the office, thank you very much!  One Bank even went as far as to say not only that they wouldn’t tell how much they spent, but told the reporter not to tell anyone that the Bank said that.  In an era of mortgage foreclosures, massively high unemployment, abysmally low consumer spending, and our entire auto industry on the verge of collapse; these Banks have compensated their Executives and their Shareholders with OUR TAX DOLLARS.  The Banks have taken luxury junkets and flown on their corporate jets while taking OUR TAX DOLLARS and all the while crying poverty.  The Banks were supposed to lend money to businesses and individuals to stimulate the economy and buy troubled assets in order to prevent further collapse.  Instead, they have completely misappropriated the funds for uses other than what it was given to them for, and have basically raised a giant middle finger to the good citizens of this nation in the biggest bird-flipping in history.

While the Banks and the rest of the Wall Street white-collar criminals were given carte blanche with billions and no strings attached, the Auto Industry has to go BEGGING for just 2% of the total $750 Billion with a LOT of strings attached.  Management and labor gave in, with the biggest concession coming at the expense of the blue collar workers and the UAW.  Their wages were to be “in line” with the workers of non-union Toyota, Hyundai, BMW, and other foreign auto makers.  One small caveat that everyone forgets is that those workers have Government sponsored health care in their respective countries, while there is none here.  Essentially, those non-union workers are being paid a HIGHER salary than our union workers whose hourly wage is within a few dollars of those employees.  Oh, to add insult to injury, many of those non-union workers for the aforementioned foreign auto makers manufacture cars right here in the good old USA…in the good old non-union South (no pun intended).  In fact, a larger financial assistance package that Congress was working on was torpedoed by the U-Boat Captains…er, Southern Senators whose states have those plants in them.  I like Federalism as much as the next guy, but putting your state before your country is treasonous in my book (and I’ll give you three guesses who I have supported historically speaking during our Civil War.  HINT: Sherman was right).  There is a time and a place for everything, and that was NOT the time nor the place to put your local constituents before the nation.  As it was, the Auto Industry almost didn’t even get a bridge loan from the first part of the $700 billion ($350 billion) that was made available.  President Shitforbrains almost had them start to go into an “orderly bankruptcy” process.  Orderly?  Would you buy a new car from those guys?  I sure as hell wouldn’t…I’m worried where I will get the parts for my Saturn if GM went under!

Oh, and Treasury Secretary Paulsen has asked Congress to release the rest of the funds as soon as possible.  I guess Bush and his cronies need it for a few parting gifts before he (thankfully) leaves Office shortly.

Remember that story at the beginning of the post?  To finish off that story, as a parent you’d feel a bit betrayed by what your thankless progeny had done to your good will and trust.  So you ask her why she did it, and she replies that you never asked to see any receipts when you gave her the money.  Guess what?  Same thing happened with the Banks…and not only that, the Treasury Department has no accurate accounting itself of exactly how much money it gave and to whom.  Your tax dollars at work.

The next time you go into your local branch of that Large Bank who took billions of your tax dollars to ask why they charged you $50.00 for an overdraft charge of $1.48 shortfall in your account, tell them you’re not paying it.  And tell them to stuff their ATM charges, statement charges and transaction charges while they’re at it too…because they already have those fees built into their bail-out money via your tax dollars.

“Fraud is the ready minister of injustice” – Edmund Burke

The Land Of The Giants

Somewhere around the end of the Fourth Quarter of the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers game, my oldest friend called me.  We’ve known each other since we were 14, so that’s 33 years…or about 5 in dog years, which makes it sound much more palatable as both of us are getting up there.  “Dude”, he said, “I think they’re gonna pull this one off.”  As we chatted on the phone a few more minutes, the Carolina winning field goal sailed wide left and we were into Overtime.  “You know man”, said I, “I think they just might.”  Our optimistic outlook is somewhat unusual for the creature known as a NY Giants Fan; but when the Giants Fan has an optimistic attitude, look out…call your bookie and bet the house on the game, because the Giants WILL win.  While our positive outlook was not in itself unusual, the circumstances behind the phone call were.  You see, my friend had just gotten out of the operating room, and was watching the game from his hospital bed pumped up on pain killers.  The day prior, he had shattered his leg in two places while slipping on a patch of ice at a self-serve car wash, which I assume my friend will eventually own as well as the owner’s first born and left testicle.  But this was for top seed in the National Football Conference, home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Nothing was going to stop this man from seeing that game, nothing like a leg that was completely shattered and will take months to heal.  Nothing so trivial as that…only death itself could have kept my buddy from watching the game, even if he had to crawl to the Nurse’s Station to do it.

Such is the dedication of the creature known as a NY Giants Fan.

I was mildly surprised at the phone call, but certainly not shocked.  I know damned well I would be doing the same thing.  We are two of a kind, as is his brother and my brother, and all of our kids.  We are all huge, tremendous, blue-bleeding, sometimes f-bomb dropping (me and my daughter, most certainly)  NY Giants Fans.  Every Sunday, the world stops.  Weddings have been postponed; funerals have been known to have started late because the dearly departed would not have wanted to have their farewell to this world to interfere with Big Blue.  The fanaticism is passed from generation to generation.  Just as my father sat my down at a very young age in front of a black and white television in Brooklyn, NY; so did I sit my oldest daughter down in front of a nice 32″ color television in Long Branch, New Jersey some 36 years later.  Just as my father taught me the ins and the outs of the game in such detail and such was his knowledge of the game that he would call a play and it would happen, the same thing I find myself doing now with my daughter.  My Dad used to make a comment on something that happened on the field during a play that happened away from the main action, and my brother and I would sit there and be amazed when the announcer would say the same thing 10 seconds later.  Now I do the same thing and at such regularity that my daughter said to me once, “Dad, has anyone ever told you you can really creep people out sometimes?”  I assured her that when she is watching a NY Giants game with her kids, that she will be doing the same thing.  Creepiness is also an inherited trait, I told her as well.

One of the most memorable examples of dedication to the NY Giants I have ever seen occurred in January of 1987, when the Giants faced the San Fransisco 49ers at Giants Stadium in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game; a game which would decide one of the final two teams to go to the NFC Championship Game the following week.  My father got two tickets to the game and gave them to my brother and I to attend.  Armed with a bunch of food, a cooler full of beer, and a couple of Thermoses full or Irish coffee, we made the one hour trek to the Stadium from our home in Staten Island.  We tailgated a bit, and then got inside the Stadium…one of the coldest places on the face of the earth in late December and January.  I distinctly remember my breath freezing in my moustache and the rest of my beard on that day; and to make matters worse, we were in the upper deck where the wind howls and swirls.  But this was a playoff game, a game against one of our most hated rivals led by their larger than life Quarterback Joe Montana.  The Niners always seemed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and many times at the Giants’ expense.  This was OUR Stadium, OUR weather, and the sun was shining on this frigid January Sunday…a Sunday that would eventually see the NY Giants win the game by a very memorable score of 49-3.

It wasn’t so much the drubbing that we gave those guys that was that example of fan dedication.  Sure, thousand of us lost our voices and froze our asses off on that day; but one man has always remained forever etched into my memory.  During the half, I went to the concession stand to get us a couple of beers.  The score was 28-3, and the mood in the Stadium was absolute jubilation.  As I’m going up to the stand, I see a man getting wheeled out on a stretcher.  He is dressed from head to toe in NY Giants garb, and as they are wheeling him through the corridor, he manages to take one of his hands that were resting on his chest and make a “Number One” sign as they shutter him off toward an ambulance.  We all broke out in spontaneous applause, and as he continued down the corridor that applause continued, and I assume it would until he reached the ambulance.  The poor guy probably had a heart attack, especially knowing that Jim Burt put such a hit on Joe Montana (we HEARD it in the upper deck) and knocked him out of the game with a concussion.  I just hope the guy lived long enough to see the end of that game, and the Super Bowl that followed, the first of the three that the NY Giants have won in the modern era.  Last year’s Super Bowl victory was most especially a sweet one, because it was completely unexpected.  Who would have possibly thought that the NY Giants, the same team that was written off for dead with its coach fired and its Quarterback officially declared a “bust” by Week 4 would win (improbably) all of their games on the road and defeat the undefeated New England Patriots?  Who would have thought that that same “bust” of a QB would engineer one of the greatest drives and most spectacular passes under pressure (after escaping 5 defenders) would become MVP?  Who would have thought that that same coach that used to piss off every player in the locker room would now be the guy with a lucrative contract extension, and a guy whose players would run through plate glass windows for?  The victory was sweet.

This year, the team has done well; and after two weeks of lackluster playing found itself again last night.  While the outcomes of the upcoming games are far from certain, one thing that is a definite: the road to the Super Bowl goes straight through the Land of The Giants.

“If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?” – Vince Lombardi

Our Long, Domestic Nightmare Is Over…Sort Of

At 6:08 PM Eastern Standard Time (-5 GMT), after a seven-week reconstruction…our kitchen was finally completed by the ceremonial first ignition of the stove power burner.  It’s over!

There still is some minor work that needs to be addressed as a result of this though: my office…the place from where this is being composed.  You see, in order to install the oven, a gas pipe in the house needed to be rerouted.  Since our basement is finished (and it was that way when we first bought the house ten years ago), all the pipes and traps and drains are hidden behind sheet rock.  Well, I’ll give you three guesses as to where the gas pipe needed to be accessed, this morning (along with a sewage drain/trap a few weeks ago, which wasn’t a big deal).  If you guessed the kitchen, you’d be wrong, but given the sorry state of affairs of the past several week I’d say a pretty good guess.  Yup, my office.

My sanctuary…in fact, the ONLY room in this ENTIRE house that is relatively clean and free of clutter and well organized…now has several slices of its wall cut away to reveal the lovely infrastructure of my home.  Not only that, but my desk has been shunted to one side of the room and I’m typing from a tiny little corner whereas I used to type from a nice expanse.  My synthesizers are immediately behind me; I feel like a claustrophobic version of Rick Wakeman stuck in a fun house.  Yes, the Universe does indeed have a sense of humor, and right now I am part of the punch-line and lovely sense of irony.

Understandably, you’ll have to forgive the rather pithy post this evening (and lack of one yesterday).  Things should be normal tomorrow after new sheet rock is installed and a quick coat of paint applied, so I’ll leave more lengthy comments until then.  Right now, I’m looking forward to home cooked meals and a stocked pantry instead of frozen dinners and plastic utensils.  As for this evening’s dinner…I’ll eat light: I’ll make a package of Mrs Grass’ Chicken Noodle Soup…on the stove!!

“Irony is a disciplinarian feared only by those who do not know it, but cherished by those who do” – Soren Kierkegaard

Somewhere In Hell, There Is A Lonely Snowball

In an amazing act of non-partisanship and most importantly, SANITY, Newt Gingrich sent the following very scathing letter to GOP Chairman Mike Duncan (EXCERPT FOLLOWS):

“I was saddened to learn that at a time of national trial, when a president-elect is preparing to take office in the midst of the worst financial crisis in over seventy years, that the Republican National Committee is engaged in the sort of negative, attack politics that the voters rejected in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.  The recent web advertisement, “Questions Remain,” is a destructive distraction. Clearly, we should insist that all taped communications regarding the Senate seat should be made public. However, that should be a matter of public policy, not an excuse for political attack. In a time when America is facing real challenges, Republicans should be working to help the incoming President succeed in meeting them, regardless of his Party. From now until the inaugural, Republicans should be offering to help the President-elect prepare to take office. Furthermore, once President Obama takes office, Republicans should be eager to work with him when he is right, and, when he is wrong, offer a better solution, instead of just opposing him.This is the only way the Republican Party will become known as the “better solutions” party, not just an opposition party. And this is the only way Republicans will ever regain the trust of the voters to return to the majority. This ad is a terrible signal to be sending about both the goals of the Republican Party in the midst of the nation’s troubled economic times and about whether we have actually learned anything from the defeats of 2006 and 2008.”

Try not to have a coronary.  Just reach for that nice bottle of Scotch or Xanax, count to ten, click your heels three times and say , “There’s no place like home”.  Make sure the pigs that are flying outside your house don’t break any windows either.  Say what you want about much of what good old Newt has said in the past to piss off the very liberal readers of this blog, but the guy is absolutely right here.  As a matter of course, I’m a pragmatic Liberal-Libertarian anyway, so I find some of what Gingrich has to say sometimes very interesting…but this one absolutely is spot on the mark.  Whether or not there are ulterior motives behind it (like a Presidential run in 2012, perhaps?) is irrelevant.  He just said what any sane American on all sides of the political spectrum has been saying for weeks: accusing the President-Elect of anything untoward at this point is clearly partisan politics at its absolute nadir, and totally premature.  It is making a Political Party that just got its ass handed to them on an tarnished silver platter look like a bunch of whining sore losers offering no concrete alternatives and an intelligent philosophical argument against the Democratic Agenda (which has YET to be FORMALLY proposed for legislative action I might remind you).  What the GOP has done with this issue is put Party ahead of Country, something that Mr Gingrich is clearly against.  Say what you want about the guy (and I have said some nasty things about him when I don’t agree with him), he is an American first and a Republican second.

The rest of the Republican Party need to look at what he’s basically saying: as long as the GOP offers no concrete alternatives and changes the way it does business, it will become as irrelevant as the Republican Party was from 1932-1952.  Gingrich is an Historian (he has a PhD), and he sure as hell has no desire to see his Political Party go into exile for what could be at least a generation…or longer…most especially if the Democrats manage to put aside THEIR own political partisanship and completely change the way this Nation runs itself and how it conducts business with the rest of the world.  He is an extremely intelligent man, someone who the GOP really needs to look toward now if they ever hope to have a means of reconstituting themselves into a viable political brand once again.  Let’s face it folks (and I’m addressing the Republicans who are reading this now most especially), the GOP as you know it is DEAD.  Expired.  It has no relevance in its current form.

The politics of the Reagan Revolution have succeeded over the past 28 years of bankrupting this country and sending it (and the rest of the world) most likely into the throws of another Great Depression.  We may have “won” the Cold War, but at a cost of creating an enemy that we cannot see, let alone adequately fight.  Thousands of families are on the verge of losing their homes, thousands have already lost theirs, and thousands go to bed hungry every night.  The rift between rich and poor has been turned into what seems to be an uncrossable chasm.  28 years of failed policies and politics that began and ended with the Republicans with 8 years of “Republican Lite” represented by the Clinton era in between.  There needs to be an entirely new way of looking at the way we can improve our country’s national security, infrastructure, economics, health care, and education…just to name a few items on the list.  President Elect Obama has offered his ideas, and the American People voted him into office on the belief that he can bring about the change necessary to accomplish this.  The Republicans can offer their vision…a new vision outside of the failed policies of The Reagan Revolution…to enhance or offer viable alternatives to Obama’s policies.

Obama has clearly signaled his intentions to be a a bi-partisan leader in order to get this country moving again and back on its feet; Gingrich has just laid the foundations for what the Republicans need to do to accomplish the same.  As long as we continue to play politics as usual, both Democrat and Republican, we risk the complete destruction of the Republic.  Surely, if we do not change the way we as Americans work together to save our beloved country, that proverbial snowball has a much better chance of survival than we do.

“The word ‘bipartisan’ means that some larger-than-usual-deception is being carried out” – George Carlin

The Return Of The Son Of The Kitchen Chronicles

For the past seven weeks, we have eaten almost nothing but frozen dinners.  We have been stepping over myriads of construction implements and devices, dodging paint cans and incomplete cabinets.  We have had our ceiling drilled into, a wall knocked down, our cats imprisoned, shards of plastic utensils stuck in our teeth, and been forced to wash dishes in the bathroom sinks.  I have cursed at The Large Orange Home Improvement Store for their ineptitude, and made numerous trips to The Large Blue Home Improvement Store for appliances, paints, ceiling fans, and tile (and have been EXTREMELY happy with those guys).  We have managed to even put up Christmas decorations in the midst of all of this chaos.  But we’re almost there…out great domestic nightmare is almost over.

The kitchen will be completed at the end of the week!

If you’ve never had the pleasure of getting your kitchen reconstructed, let me explain a few things that you might need to know if you’re considering it.  When Murphy wrote his famous Law, it was at his kitchen table while workman hovered around him like a swarm of bees and after they had hit him on the head with a two by four while he was getting HIS kitchen reconstructed.  It doesn’t matter how great your Contractor is, and believe me, our guy is absolutely top notch.  He’s a freind and neighbor who has an impeccable reputation.  It’s who he sometimes sub-contracts to, or who those guys sub-sub contract to that is the problem.  Our guy did all the work in the house, but when it came time to order the cabinets (which came right away except for two cabinet doors that they forgot to include, and sent us the wrong replacements…TWICE) and counter…that was done by the aforementioned Large Orange Home Improvement Store.  THEY subcontract out to other guys.  In one of my previous Kitchen Chronicles posts, I alluded to the corrupt way in which these guys “floated” my money in a legal Ponzi scheme that would make Bernard Maddoff proud.  That Large Orange Store is losing money and closing stores all over the place, while The Large Blue Store is doing quite well; maybe it’s because the people they employ know what the hell they’re talking about AND they are NICE to you too!

There is something that I now call a “Contractor Temporal Shift”, which basically means that any estimate a contractor or sub contractor tells you is NEVER correct and can either be sooner or later than an estimate.  Oh, and I couldn’t even call things an estimate anymore, “Wild Uneducated Random Guess” is more appropriate.  Expect something that you take for granted in your life, namely your kitchen, to become the most important thing in your life, bordering on complete and total obsession.  When someone said that the kitchen is literally the center of the home, they were not kidding…and in our case, architecturally speaking, it most definitely is.  The amazing thing is though, as the final pieces of the puzzle are being put into place, it’s literally the light at the end of the tunnel; the rainbow after the storm; the cigarette after sex…although with all that’s gone on here lately, it’s BETTER than that cigarette!

The counter tops arrived several days early and were installed over the weekend along with the trim around the ceiling and cabinet bases.  The refrigerator has been recessed into its alcove (underneath the last two cabinets that were installed yesterday) so that it’s flush with the wall.  The tiles were installed today, and the grout will go on tomorrow.  The appliances will be put in place both tomorrow and Wednesday, and outside of small touch ups and tacking down the carpets to the hardwood floors in the hallway and in half the new kitchen…we can start whipping up culinary delights in a matter of days!  After rearranging the Dining Room and the Living Room into habitable conditions, and putting all of our groceries and plates, glasses, and silverware away…we can start living like Human Beings again, and acting like them too.

You have NO idea what this amount of disruption does to your nerves, your patience, and your sanity.  I am DONE with doing my best wailing banshee impression at the inept folks at The Large Orange Home Improvement Store.  I am DONE with frozen dinners that make me nostalgic for college cafeteria food.  With any luck, outside of a full interior painting of the house and pulling up the carpets in the dining and living rooms (to reveal the hardwood floors that some previous owner of the house managed to polish and seal BEFORE butting the carpet down…they are in INCREDIBLE condition); this should do it for a few years.  That is, unless we move from here…but if that’s the case, I told my wife the only two words I want to hear from a Real Estate Agent:

New Construction!

“You can get more with a kind word and a two by four than you can with just a kind word.” – Marcus Cole (Babylon 5/jms)

There’s Never An Alcoholic Around When You Need One

Last night, for the first time in I don’t know how many months…I had the urge to have a drink.  Maybe it’s the time of year, maybe it’s all the craziness going on around here with the kitchen reconstruction…but the bottom line is, I wanted one.  And NO, I DIDN’T HAVE ONE.  It’s how I got to the point where the urge passed and I didn’t partake of old nasty habits that’s the story behind this post.  It’s also given me pause on ever trusting Alcoholics Anonymous again.

I attended my kids Christmas Concert at their school last night, and as always the band didn’t sound like Tommy Dorsey; the chorus wasn’t the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and I had the usual annoying kid that should have been kept on a leash by his inattentive parental units constantly moving in and out of the aisle and stepping on my new sneakers.  It was a nice evening though, filled with very cute kids doing their darnedest to put on a show and happy parents and neighbors.  Four years ago, this annual event was the scene of one of my more memorable benders (not memorable for me as I was in a blackout at the time, but unfortunately a memorable evening for my wife) after having been at a few Corporate parties and lunches earlier in the day.  Let’s just say I wasn’t at my finest.  There I was completely sober last evening, enjoying myself  when somewhere in between the “Blitzen Boogie” and “Carol of The Bells”, I wanted a nice stiff scotch.  I kind of thought my way through the urge (just like you’re supposed to do), and it passed until I had it later on again in the evening.  This was NOT a very good thing at all.

You have to understand that there is absolutely no alcohol in my house at all, not even the God-awful cooking wine with more salt in it than the Mediterranean.  It was 1 AM, the local liquor stores had all closed and since I never drank and drove even during my darkest days, I wasn’t about to start now.  What I did need to do was talk to a fellow alcoholic who might be able to offer some perspective on things, talk me down off the ledge and clam me down, and make sure I didn’t have second thoughts of picking up a cocktail.  It’s been about 6 months since I was at an AA meeting (I have some philosophical differences with AA, which I will go into later on in this post), and I have a list of names of fellow alcoholics from my time in AA that I could have called; I chose not to for one simple reason: I didn’t know if they were still sober or not.  It doesn’t matter how much time you have (and a few of those guys have many years of sobriety), you could still fall off the wagon.  So I did the next logical thing: I called the AA Hotline; at least I knew that the person on the other end of the conversation would DEFINITELY be sober.  What I didn’t know was that they would be of absolutely no help at all.

After calling, identifying myself by my first name and the fact I was an alcoholic; I also let them know I was sober, I had no alcohol in the house, and exactly what I was looking for : someone to talk to.  I also made the mistake of telling them that I hadn’t been to a meeting in a long time and that I had some philosophical differences with AA, but I REALLY needed to speak to someone.  You know that old joke about the guy who’s ready to kill himself, he decides to try life for just a few more minutes, and he calls Suicide Prevention and hears “Suicide Hotline…please hold”?  Well, this was kind of like that.  After a minute or two of small talk, this was followed by a minute or so of a muffled conversation (she was talking to someone else and had her hand over the microphone) in the background.  The charming young lady took my name and number and said that someone would call me shortly.

I’m still waiting.

One of the so-called hallmarks of Alcoholics Anonymous is “always there with a helping hand”; what they don’t tell you is that occasionally the hand slaps you in the face.  The organization is supposed to be non-denominational, yet meetings close with the Lord’s Prayer.  I’m sorry, but if I’m an atheist or a Jew I’d have a problem with that (I don’t think you have too many Islamic Alcoholics in the world, but you never know).  I’m a Deist, which basically means I believe the Universe is sentient or is God itself; or if there is a God or Supreme Being, they pretty much created everything and left it alone.  In other words, God is pretty much an absent parent.  She doesn’t give a damn what you do in your life and really has much better things to do than listen to your whining about how miserable everything is in your life and for her to intercede.  I was brought up a Catholic, so the prayer itself doesn’t bother me (and they use the King James Version of the prayer, no less…so if you’re a hard-core Catholic, that might antagonize you anyway), it’s the philosophy espoused by Alcoholics Anonymous that I had a hard time reconciling.  Their entire belief is that the only thing that can save your sorry drunken ass is God.  That’s right, that which cannot be proved and has many different ways of looking at it will save you and keep you from picking up that next drink..  You are supposed to completely submit and turn yourself over to God…a Christian God, if you look at the two prayers that they use: The Lord’s Prayer and The Serenity Prayer which was written by Saint Francis of Assisi.  Pretty non-denominational, huh?

Now I’m not going to deny that AA has helped millions of alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety, and that they haven’t done good things for people…surely they have.  It just wasn’t working for me any more.  Deists use reason to understand The Universe, and most Deists don’t pray.  We acknowledge great men and women who have come before us and have given us worthy philosophies of life to live by, but not a savior.  Outside of Unitarian Universalists, Deists aren’t organized…we’re rogues who seek to understand the Universe through logic and reason rather than doctrine and theology.  AA had become doctrine and theology for me…so I left; just as I had left the Roman Catholic Church thirty odd years ago for the same reasons (only at that time, I was agnostic bordering on atheist; my views evolved over the course of the years and through some very personal experiences).  What I expected last night was to hear from a fellow alcoholic use logic and reason with me to help me to work through my urge and perhaps understand what caused it.  What I received instead was deafening silence; you see, I made the mistake of TELLING the person on the phone that I had a little problem with the God thing.  This was never an issue in any meeting I went to previously, but they must have issued a new edict because I can only conclude that I was now considered “outcast unclean” and that’s why I didn’t get a call back.  I can only conclude that my earlier suspicions were indeed correct: that AA believes it is the ONLY way and there is no way it will help you unless you see it THEIR WAY.

Oh yeah…the reason I didn’t drink was because I was writing a very long post on a web site I belong to.  By the time I got done with the post, the urge had passed and I could move on to other things.  It looks like writing works best for me (as I always thought it would when the time came) to get over the hump.  If you need a cop really fast, check the local Dunkin’ Donuts.  If you need a paramedic, call 911.  If you need an alcoholic, you can go to a bar for a really ripe one if you so desire.  I needed a sober one, and the only one I found was the one I could trust implicitly…myself.

“First the man takes a drink; then the drink takes a drink; then the drink takes the man.” – Japanese Proverb

Rememberance

I received a link to this tonight from a friend (and fellow 9/11 Survivor) in an e-mail.  I cannot even begin to express myself after seeing this, because there are no words…it is a simple truth told in pictures.  It was created by a 15 year old girl.  It is a brilliant display of Humanity, and a brilliant extension of the good soul of its creator.

“Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.” – Harlan Ellison

Oh Boy…I Might Be Getting Old…

This evening will be the final time that both my kids will be in the same Christmas Concert at their school.  Come to think of it, this will be the last time this will EVER happen.  My oldest daughter is 4 years older than her sister, and the local grammar school ranges from grades K-6.  Middle School is 7-8; High School is 9-12.  This is kind of an interesting time for me, because I’m coming to the realization that my kids are getting older, and after this year they won’t be in the same school building.  It’s making me feel a bit old, I guess.  It’s also starting to make me realize that I have something looming on the horizon in just a few short years…

Eight consecutive years of college!

Another post later this evening or tomorrow…

Excedrin Headache 1

Some things to remember out of this whole mess that Governor Blagojevich (and in the best spirit of a US Attorney Document, herein and thereafter referred to as “Excedrin Headache 1”) has created:

FACT: The only person to be charged with anything SO FAR has been Governor Blagojevich; anything else is pure supposition and/or wishful thinking (depending on your political point of view).  FACT: Patrick Fitzgerald is probably the most competent US Attorney in the country.  If there is injustice, this man will seek it out and destroy it.  He will utterly prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, and will almost always get a conviction (See Libby, Scooter).  If there is something more than what the public has been told, rest assured he is already on the case (no pun intended) and will follow it through to its natural conclusion, no matter where it leads.  This guy is an incredible example of what a US Attorney is supposed to do and could very well be this generation’s Elliot Ness.  This man is about as non-partisan as they get.  FACT: If there is more to this story than meets the eye, the one person in the Press who is probably all over this right now and whose credentials are unquestionable is Michael Isikoff of Newsweek.  Trust me, that guy is one hell of an investigative reporter who can smell a fire on the other side of the planet.  He’s the one who broke the story last night (before anyone else) that Jesse Jackson Jr. was “Candidate Number 5”.  FACT: Barack Obama needs to be clearer on any knowledge (IF ANY) he has regarding the Governor’s actions.  He also needs to clarify if anyone from his transition team or staff was in contact with the Governor regarding the next appointment to the Senate seat he vacated, and if there was contact, the extent of that contact.  He owes the American people at least a formal statement from himself (and not through a spokesperson) regarding this situation above and beyond the public comments he has issued so far.  The only way that any kind of effective transition to his Administration can occur, and the only way he can effectively propose the legislation needed to bring this country out of the mess it’s in, and effectively govern…is to clarify EVERYTHING.  Now.

It is unrealistic for anyone to think that there weren’t any preferences regarding candidates for the Senate made on behalf of Senator Obama behind the scenes.  If you think politics doesn’t work this way, let alone politics in Illinois; you’re a fool.  It is also unrealistic to think that this level of corruption (and incompetent corruption, if there is such a thing) extends to the President Elect.  It IS realistic to expect doubts in the minds of people, that is natural.  This is why it is so important that this issue be put to rest now, before the fire spreads and guilt by association tactics extend all the way to the Head Janitor in the Illinois State Capital.  This is why the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O’Reillys of the world need to have their traps shut by truth and transparency so clear that even they cannot manage to make a steaming pile of dung out of it.  It is also realistic to expect the GOP to be all over this like white on rice, because you know damned well if the tables were reversed, the same thing would happen and there would be guys on Conservative blogs calling for the same thing I am right now (only they would substitute Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow where appropriate).

What I need to see, and what the American People deserve (outside of what I just outlined) is for the usual political gridlock and spite that accompany scandals of this nature to not be allowed to come to fruition.  The country is on the verge of another Great Depression.  People are out of work, and are losing their homes…and more will be coming.  The focus needs to be on THE AMERICAN PEOPLE and NOT a CHEAP HEADLINE.  The House and The Senate on BOTH sides of the aisle need to realize that.

To do anything less is not only bullshit…it’s downright criminal.

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence” – John Adams

The Audacity Of A Dope

There are exactly 100 Senators in the United States Senate; two of those are held by the President Elect and the Secretary of State Designate.  These are two high profile seats because they are from Illinois and New York (respectively), and whomever was chosen by the Governors of those States to fulfill the terms of both Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton would be under intense scrutiny.  The process has been playing out the way it normally does in  New York, where names are being bantered about and Governor David Patterson has to choose one person out of a list of fine candidates such as Caroline Kennedy and Andrew Cuomo among others.  Of course there’s going to be political posturing going on behind the scenes.  Of course there’s some interesting drama going on, because by appointing Cuomo to the seat, Patterson essentially eliminates his biggest rival for the Democratic Nomination for Governor in 2010.  By appointing Kennedy, he assures a legacy of that family continuing in the US Senate, something that is probably very important to the Kennedy Clan as Uncle Ted is dying.  Oh, let’s not forget the Clintons in all of this drama too, because if you think they are not going to have their paw prints all over this, I have a Bridge in Brooklyn for you.  And here’s another twist: Cuomo was married at one time to Caroline Kennedy’s cousin, the daughter of the late Senator Robert F Kennedy of New York.  THIS is what Political Drama is all about.  THIS is how things are supposed to be: intrigue, twists and turns, but a process that ultimately will pick a legitimate and worthy successor to Senator Clinton.

Things are not so simple in Illinois however.  This appointment to succeed our future President as Senator from the Great State Of Illinois is probably the most watched in the nation.  You would think that the Governor of the State, Rod Blagojovich, would carefully assess the potential candidates in a fashion similar to what Patterson is doing in New York.  You would think that he would wisely choose someone equal to Barack Obama’s abilities and intellect to continue the work he started for the people of Illinois.  You would think that he would constantly be aware that Obama’s successor would be measured by a very high standard no matter who he appointed.  Oprah Winfrey would be held to the highest standard, for God’s sake.

I thought the dumbest thing I had heard was when NY Giants Wide Receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg in a nightclub after the gun he was carrying (with an expired permit from another state) in his PANTS no less.  The last thing I would ever do should I ever choose to own a gun would be to casually drop it in the front of my pants for safekeeping where it could go off at any time, thus taking away my manhood and giving me a new career as an adult singer for the Vienna Boys Choir.  This was dumb…very dumb and most likely cost the man his career and millions of dollars.  Being ACCUSED OF ATTEMPTING TO SELL A SENATE SEAT…the President Elect’s old Senate seat… falls into a completely new category of hubris, audacity, self-righteousness that cannot even be tagged with a name.  All you can do is as yourself a very simple question:

What the fuck was this guy thinking?

His Job Approval rating is just slightly higher than the fat content of whole milk…(just 4% of Illinois residents think he’s doing a fine job.)  This is obviously going to delight Republicans all over this country who are foaming at the mouth right now just waiting for something to pop up in this Investigation about Obama.  Sorry guys, but the charges specifically state (and the brilliant Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald…he of the Scooter Libby/Valerie Plaime Affair…reiterated in his Press Conference) that Barack Obama was in no way associated with ANY of the wrongdoings of Rod The Dumb Governor.  They will be more than happy to make the inference that he WAS associated with the crimes that were in the charges; just wait for Rush and the rest of the Right Wing Boys and Gals to start their rants and campaign of disinformation tomorrow.  They will be more than happy to use this as an excuse to potentially gum up the works of the new Administration before it even gets off the ground and the hell with the American People and the dire straits we are in.  Trust me, these guys are going to do everything they can to make life miserable for everyone again.

I won’t even speculate anything further than what has been shown in the indictment.  If there are dots to be connected and I see them, I will indeed say something in my blog about them.  Right now, it’s way to early to speculate anything.  The only thing we know for sure is that we are left with the audacity of a dope.  I just hope this idiot doesn’t ruin the chance we have of doing something meaningful as Americans in this country rather than resort to the old politics as usual.

This Republic will not survive if that becomes a reality for the next four years.

“He that cannot reason is a fool. He that will not is a bigot. He that dare not is a slave.” – Andrew Carnegie

Pingbacks, Trackbacks, and Aching Backs (Oh, My!)

I’m still a rookie at this Blogging thing; and while I consider myself to be quite well versed in various Operating Systems, Computers, and Peripherals…I must confess that I really have NO IDEA what the Blogisphere (just where is that anyway…below or above the Ionisphere?) requires of its participants.  I just thought it was reader and writer and you happened across a blog somewhere in your travels, bookmarked it or RSS subscribed to it and moved on…repeat process.  That works fine, but if you’re a writer you need readers.

The lovely Swineprincess (one of the regular readers and commenters on this site) once said to me that writers are the most unique of artists, because unlike any other musician or sculptor or artist who can simply create and does not need an audience…a writer NEEDS an audience in order for their art to be complete.  A truer statement has never been written.  After all, if I wanted NOT to be read, I would have started off an entry with the words “Dear Diary…” and put it in a little book under lock and key (or triple encrypted and on a word processing program in the Modern Age).  The point is, writers are BEGGING to be heard, read, loved, and hugged.  We also don’t mind getting our lights punched out from time to time.  All we want is one lone person at the corner of the planet somewhere to say, “You know…that was cool” and complete the artistic circle.  It’s even better when they tell you about it, because you now KNOW there is actually someone is Bulgaria who likes what you wrote about your kitchen (or in my case, lack of it…to be continued).  One of the way Bloggers (and I am forced to admit, I have definitely become one even though I detest labels…I’m a Blogger, for sure and no doubt about it) see what’s happening on their site and who is visiting and who is referring is the statistics page.  I actually wrote a post a few months ago about some of my stats and what surprised me.

One thing I noticed one day last week, I had 70 hits above and beyond my normal readership (which is a trade secret…so don’t ask).  I thought what I wrote for that particular day was a good read, but certainly not worth an extra 70 hits.  Was it something in my own writing I wasn’t seeing that someone else was?  Was it a mistake?  Did 70 people suddenly stumble on to my blog out of thin air?  Actually, in a manner of speaking…they did, thanks to a very cool Blogging tool called Alpha Inventions.  It’s not a program that will take over your computer and steal your first born child, and it won’t automatically find out what porno you’ve been looking at that you don’t want your spouse to know about.  It also won’t raid your bank account and you suddenly discover later on in the day you now own 1,000 futures on pork bellies.  It is a website, and something that is absolutely brilliant in its concept.  After doing a little poking around the site, I discovered that its creator had written an algorithm that tracked various blogs across the Internet as they were published IN REAL TIME (see…it just goes to show you that NOTHING is coincidental in the Universe!).  Folks could go here and see the latest and greatest from the Blogisphere and go to sites that they never would have otherwise.  There are sites from all over the world, including that guy in Bulgaria who loved reading about your kitchen; and now you can read about his bathroom renovation.

Last night because of Alpha Inventions, I came across a very cool blog called A Different Kind Of Blog; different in the fact that they have a VERY diverse bunch of writers over there (good ones too!) with VERY different personal points of view on pretty much every topic you can think of.  Politics and the Human Condition are a staple there (as they are here) and unlike the folks I wrote about last night’s post, these good people are very Smart People who put a lot of thought into their writing and there’s always something to be learned from everyone there no matter the point of view.  Oh, and you can actually have an intelligent and considerate debate over there too if you disagree with a point of view…something that is very rare in these days of soundbites and one way news channels.  I just love coming across sites with intelligent and thoughtful posts and insight, and these guys kept me up until the wee hours enjoying their varying posts on just about everything.  Great stuff…by all means, go on over and check out their work.

In some way, I’ve just completed a circle for a bunch of writers (myself included) who now may have an audience to read their work and thus complete the artistic cycle so necessary for a writer.  Hopefully, from this small seed, many trees will grow from a few sites to many…perhaps even to yours as a result.  Just continue to pingback and trackback with each other if you like what someone has to say, and sooner or later by your “paying it forward”, it will come back to you.  As more sites become known to me and I if I think they’re pretty cool, I’ll certainly post those sites as well and eventually add them to my Blog Roll or Sites I Frequent links.

And speaking of “backs”…it feels like snow or rain today, because the little weather guy I have between L4 and L5 is telling me there’s a very good chance of precipitation.  Needless to say, I’m in a bit of pain (well…quite a bit) and because I have nowhere to take the kids today, I can at least take a painkiller.  Trust me, the last thing you want to do is get in a car after taking some of this stuff…and if you are taking anything like this, don’t even think of doing it.  While you absolutely positively KNOW when you are impaired because of alcohol (or other illegal and sundry substances), this stuff is VERY deceiving.  You think you’re fine, but you’re not…so just consider yourself impaired and give the car keys to the spouse.  Don’t drug (legally) and drive!  This has been a public service announcement.

I’ll be back later on this evening with more commentary on something.  In the meantime, check those links out (and the other ones I have posted on my site too).

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” – Marcel Proust