A Note About Comments & Other Things

While comments are more than welcome and I appreciate all points of view, I’ve been getting a lot of comments that have gone into the spam thread (for various reasons and via certain filters I’ve set up) that should not have gone there in addition to those that do belong there.  While I appreciate debate, there comes a point where you are beating a dead horse to such a degree that a bottle of glue cannot possibly be salvaged from the remains.

Rather than cut off debate entirely on a topic (which I have done on a few posts…guilty as charged) and not allow further comments on an article, effective today February 26, 2008; all comments on this site are now subject to moderation.  This also applies to older posts. In addition, comments can now be nested to reflect replies to various posters (thank you, WordPress) in an easy to read format that will extend to 4 levels deep as a default.  I will extend that should a debate warrant it.  Also, posts like this concerning site business will have all comments disabled.  Pingbacks and trackbacks will certainly continue be welcome and have NEVER been a problem; quite frankly though, I have to look more carefully to see if my new editing parameters apply to them as well.  Hey, I have a learning curve as well; I’ll update as soon as I figure this little piece of data out.

I’ve been a bit behind on posting lately  but I’m a stay at home dad and also have a novel I’m trying to write at the same time.  This tends to get in my way when I want to post here.  Rest assured, I am doing my best to maintain my self-imposed quota of 5-7 times per week.  That has not changed.  What has changed is the times we now live in, with a President taking on the most ambitious agenda since 1932.  News happens at an almost minute by minute pace, and sometimes I need more time to fully collect and think about the day’s events.  I always try and write my own opinions on political pieces before I watch my usual cable news programs in the evening; this way I can offer my own ideas without being influenced by others.  Very rarely will I write something after seeing my nightly news tandem of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, unless they manage to bring up something that I was not aware of.

I need to make clear one thing: I am a person who does their research and homework very carefully before forming an opinion.  I read the major newspapers across this country and in my area.  I read various publications on the web (both Liberal and Conservative) and have certain columnists who I read daily (Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post and Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic are examples of two pragmatic left and right thinking columnists respectively).  I do not have a knee-jerk response, unless it concerns intolerance, cruelty, or civil liberties.  While I consider myself a Pragmatic Progressive (Progmatic?), there are Libertarian doctrines I subscribe to as well.  I am not far Left nor Right; I usually wind up being Left-Of-Center on most topics.  I do not like nor trust extremists be they American or Foreign; religious or sectarian or those that masquerade as either.  My single concern and first loyalty is to the common good of Humanity.  Period.  Nothing else takes precedence; even when it it sometimes at odds with philosophies held by my own government.  It was this way during the Bush Administration, and I will be that way during the Obama Administration.  At least I’ll be consistent.

As always…thanks for reading.


A Very Bad Case of PTED

Lots of great reviews (in tone and in content) coming from both sides of the aisle regarding last night’s incredible speech by President; while almost all reviews of the GOP response by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindall were less than stellar (to say the least). Republicans did receive their marching orders today from everyone’s favorite conservative drug-addicted hypocrite Rush Limbaugh, who “warned” his colleagues that they shouldn’t criticize Jindall at all.

Gee, Rush…what a great leader of the GOP you are, stymying legitimate debate in your own Party on whether or not this guy has The Right Stuff (clearly, the only thing “right” about Jindal is his neoconservative viewpoints). Nothing like democracy, eh Fatso? What are you going to do if they don’t listen…sit on them?

I’m giving it one more day before I weigh in with a longer post, because I’m just waiting to see what the GOP does tomorrow. Today, they were clearly having a bad case of PTED (Post Traumatic Election Disorder); let’s see who follow Uncle Rush’s Oompah Band tomorrow. I’m also interested to see where the chess pieces are being moved by the Democrats on the board to set up strategy for the coming days.

Hang on folks, this week is gonna bet bumpy by Friday!  I will provide you with some reading material for the bumpy landing tomorrow evening.

Observations And Confessions

Wanna balance the budget?  Fine, as good as done!  Wanna eliminate that pesky little deficit?  Sure, no problem!  Our good President is about to throw those key issues back into the faces of the GOP this week as he unveils a budget that will call for cuts in Federal Spending, mostly on programs that don’t work; and taking more of that money we’re wasting in that sandpit known as Iraq and using it for the American people.  Oh yes, he is going to raise taxes…on the rich; and that means couples earning over $250,00 a year.  Ladies and Gentlemen…your free ride is over, the Revolution has begun!

Never before has there been such a disparity of wealth in this country, and although it’s not on par with the misery of Russia in 1917; the way things are going, it might very well end up that way.  Especially when your friendly State Governor refuses to take the funding to help his constituents; funding for the homeless, the unemployed and food stamps.  Funding that could be used to start or complete infrastructure projects that would put people back to work.  Funding that means a LOT to PEOPLE as opposed to just saying no on principle in order to defend an ideology.

Governor Charlie Christ of Florida gets it; he even introduced the President at a rally FOR the stimulus package.  Gee, a pragmatic Republican!  That’s almost as rare as seeing a dodo, because quite frankly I thought they were an extinct species.  Leave it to Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana to turn down the funding…an act of pure genius, considering he has New Orleans still in a state of disrepair (and that’s an understatement) not to mention other parts of his State that were hurt by Katrina.  This is the act of a selfish ideologue, one who clearly stands on politics rather than helping people.  It is this type of Republican that has dominated that party for the past thirty years, and you think that after the drubbing they took in the 2008 Elections, they would come to their senses and say to themselves, “Gee, we might want to go in a different direction”.  With Charlie Crist; they would be, with Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin they would just be getting the same shit with a younger (and more diverse) face.  Gee, we have our token woman and minority…hey, we even have our very own African-American running the Grand Old Party!  See, we’re not a bunch of misogynistic white Southern guys after all!  You think they would learn that obstructionism and ideology just don’t cut it anymore…people are hurting, the long-suffering and almost non-existent middle class is strained to the breaking point, our Financial Institutions and cherished Auto industry are going by the wayside.  Go ahead guys, keep up the good work; because once the economy starts turning around, there won’t be anything left of the Republican Party as we know it today.

Here’s the confessions part of this post: I actually voted for George W. Bush the first time.  I consider myself a Pragmatic Progressive these days, but back in 2000 I was part of that elite class of folks who were living high on the hog.  My wife and I were both working, we had one child at the time, and we owned our own home.  We were pulling in six-figures with no problem, and any guy that wanted to cut my taxes was just fine by me.  Not only that, I had an aversion to Al Gore because he tore apart Bill Bradley (a politician I absolutely loved) in a debate for the Democratic nomination.  I really couldn’t forgive him for that one, it really just stuck in my craw…and back in 1988, I actually supported his candidacy for the nomination even as Tipper and Frank Zappa were jousting.  He just didn’t seem genuine this time, and I thought GWB was a regular kind of guy.  OK, so he fumbled over his words for a bit; who doesn’t?  Hell, he might have even been a little dyslexic; but that’s fairly common and no problem with me, so long as he could read the nuclear codes correctly.  Toward the election though, I was sitting on the fence as to which of these guys I was going to vote for, and apparently so were a lot of folks.  Well, I pulled the lever for him and to this day I will say it was one of the greatest regrets and mistakes of my life.

After I was caught up in the 9/11 Attack on the World Trade Center, I was all over the map politically; in fact, I was just all over the map PERIOD.  I was doing a lot of investigation on-line into what happened, the obvious conspiracy websites, reading through the various pieces of information that were out there.  I started to slowly come to the conclusion that my Government failed me; that the oncoming war with Iraq was a set up and something that Bush, Cheney, Rummy, and the rest of the Neocon Follies wanted all along.  I began to have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and that was made even worse by a Presidential Press Conference GWB held on April 13, 2004 (the transcript of the entire Press Conference- just so you can read the madness- is here ).  It was after that Press Conference that I knew we were being led by either a madman or a puppet or both; and that the entire United States Government had become this big evil machination of world domination.  It was at that moment, I knew that whoever the Democratic Nominee was going to be that I would be voting for them…and not HIM.

One month later after thinking that the President was a madman, I had a nervous breakdown; 3 years of working next to Ground Zero had taken its emotional toll on me.  And call me crazy, but I voted proudly for John Kerry in November 2004.  It’s ironic that after that presser that it all came crashing down on me, and two years later my family and I would be in dire straits financially and in a hole that it seemed like we would never get out of.  I got sober, and got disability shortly afterward.  The pieces of my life started coming back together again; and the parts that I had jettisoned YEARS ago like a belief in the common good, helping to raise up those less fortunate, and a genuine concern for others more than myself returned to me.  It was one step on the road toward Grace and Redemption (and I am by no way there yet), but it brought back the person who was really underneath that Corporate Veneer; the Social Darwinist who didn’t give a damn.  I had gone from one part of the spectrum in college (as a crusading Socialist), to another in my 20’s and 30’s, to coming full circle in my late 40’s…although I have been somewhat tempered by certain beliefs I have in Libertarianism.  Like a massive distrust of the Government in most things, except when things have become to out of balance that it is necessary to level the playing field.

So go ahead, and enjoy your tax cuts upper middle and upper crust…because they are going away.  And so is YOUR war.  And so is YOUR Political Party.  All gone, like the ashes I had to walk through on September 11th, 2001…gone, but NEVER forgotten.

“Hell is yourself and the only redemption is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another person.” – Tennessee Williams

Site Update

New update coming on Saturday, Feb 21. I’ve had the damned stomach virus that’s been going around (the kind that keeps you going…and going…and going). I’ll also be able to digest the Friday News Dump (no pun intended) as well; there’s always some great nuggets in there.

Another Letter To My Favorite Uncle

Dear President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Senator Reid:

I applaud your hard work and effort over the past few weeks in pushing through legislation to help jump-start the economy in record time.  Despite some flaws in the Stimulus Plan, it is a good beginning to what I hope will guide us out of this quagmire we are now faced with.  I am pleased with the tax breaks, but I feel more funds should have been approved and appropriated for infrastructure improvements, but perhaps that is for a later time.  Your plan to assist troubled home buyers that you presented today is certainly admirable, but I have two major concerns.

First, although you stated that none of the funding you want to allocate toward assisting second mortgage holders or investment properties and is only for those truly in need (the folks who REALLY are in need on their FIRST mortgages); I am concerned that this might turn into a free-for-all.  While I am certain there are still unscrupulous characters out there who will stop at nothing to receive a piece of the pie, I am just as certain that there are those who would be willing to lend to these individuals, defeating the purpose of the proposed legislation and wasting taxpayer dollars.  I have no desire to see on “60 Minutes” a piece detailing how a 38 bathroom 52 bedroom mansion in Florida received funding/refinancing.  I believe that strong and transparent oversight is absolutely necessary in order for this to work; to do otherwise is to betray the Americans who pay their taxes every year and keep up with their mortgage payments.  Like me and my wife, who have never missed or been late on a payment in 10 years that we have had a mortgage.  And this brings me to my next and most important question:

What’s in it for me?

I’m sorry I’m being a bit greedy here, but as much as I support a National Healthcare System, and National Education and other worthy programs; I am still a guy who has done all of the right things over the years and is seeing his hard work and good effort rewarded with a pat on the back and an “Attaboy”.  Sorry, that doesn’t cut it.  I was downsized and became disabled and my wife went back to work…and still we managed to pay our obligations like we were supposed to.  Trust me, there were some rough times around here; and some months these days we are just keeping our head above water…but every month that damned mortgage gets paid.  My home has not lost much of its value, and it is still above my mortgage amount.  That is because my wife and I selected a home we knew that we could afford if the worst should happen (like one of us losing a job or getting disabled…both of which happened).  We moved into an area where we knew the schools and the property values would be stable, as it’s a more established town and has a long track record of stability.  We were smart.  So once again…

What’s in it for me?

I have a solution for homeowners like my wife and myself who have neither an oppressive mortgage rate, nor a severely devalued home.  Take my 5.25% 30 year fixed rate mortgage, and amortize it over the remaining 20 years at 3.00%.  Do the same for other Americans (perhaps on a tiered basis, but let’s start with 3% for preferred Home Owners).  My monthly payments would be reduced, and I would have more money to SPEND on stuff.  You know, stuff that contributes to the economy because buying stuff keeps and creates jobs?  You can reward my wife and I for our dutiful and responsible way we have lived our lives, and do the same for so many other Americans.  With this plan in addition to the one you proposed today, the economy would rebound faster than anyone thought possible.

And just for once, people wouldn’t be rewarded for their own stupidity.


A Concerned Homeowner (and Progressive) Who Has Done The Right Thing

A Candle In The Darkness

The true measure of the soul can best be seen when it is alone in the Darkness, without a candle, and no one is looking.

In November 2005, I was in the throws of what had been eleven months of drunken depression.  Just over 4 years had passed since September 11th, and I was in the full throws of alcoholism; my job had been eliminated the previous year and my severance was about to run out; and the acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and bi-polar disorder were on full display.  I was falling into the Dark Abyss with no way out, nor (quite frankly) did I care.  As much as I tried to get assistance through therapy, and having friends and family support me, it just wasn’t doing the trick.  There was absolutely no connection with anyone, because quite simply, they did not understand what it was to survive that catastrophic event.  The only Survivors I knew were my former co-workers, but even though you may think you know your co-workers well or be very close with a few; the shared experience is somehow dissipated because for the most part, you shared most of the same one.  I needed to talk with other Survivors, others who had been there on that day and whose lives were forever changed…complete strangers would not be a problem.

Voices of September 11th was an organization I found by chance on the Internet.  One of the founders of the organization was Beverly Eckert, whose husband was killed in the South Tower.  It was dedicated to helping the public understand exactly what happened on that day to the victims and their families; the first responders; the crews who worked over the course of the weeks that followed; and the survivors who were just going to work that day.  There were various outreach programs, and a few of them were separate teleconferences for these groups; and the minute I saw that one was available for survivors, I called the organization.  Someone called me back a few hours later and interviewed me, and told me they had one more spot available in the upcoming teleconference later that afternoon.  Would I like to participate?  Undoubtedly, my answer was an unequivocal “yes”.

At 4 PM, I dialed in to a number, where there were several other survivors who had been in the group for the few months that it was in existence.  I had a large bottle of wine in front of me (as was my usual custom at that time of the afternoon)  and I began to tell my story; and I began to feel something I hadn’t felt through all the therapy and the booze and the haze: an understanding that came from complete strangers.  Similar experiences shared about that day, reactions that still haunted us, and the small little fears of such things as low flying jets that most of the rest of the world wouldn’t even dream of understanding.  From that day onward, I became a member of that group and for a few years (while our funding lasted) had a regular weekly teleconference.  We began to get to know each other and open up more about our lives.  Through the others’ stories, we were better able to understand our own.  We were able to express our fear, doubts, hopes, and dreams without anyone thinking we were nuts when we spoke of them.  I got sober a few months after I joined the group, and they provided an invaluable support system for me as I started my long and (still) difficult journey in combating my alcoholism.  I cannot even begin to express how much this group has helped get me through the darkest period of my life.

Voices of September 11th was only a part of the work Beverly Eckert did after September 11th “for him”, as she would often say about her husband.  She was instrumental in being a voice and a forceful figure in getting Congress to establish the 9/11 Commission which looked into Government failure leading up to the attacks.  She also worked for more transparency in government, imploring Congress to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and improvement of building safety and fire codes that might have perhaps saved more on that awful day, and ensure that perhaps someone else in a disastrous situation would be able to return home safely to their loved ones.  She worked tirelessly for the other spouses and families of survivors, most recently meeting President Obama and other families to discuss changes in handling terror suspects after his decision to close Guantanamo Bay’s detention facility.  She worked for ALL who were involved on that day, not just one particular group of people.  She did the most remarkable work of her life after the most devastating day of her life.

On Thursday, Februray 12th 2009; the aircraft she was flying in crashed into a home just outside her native Buffalo, New York.  She passed from this Earth along with 48 others on that cold winter evening.  When I saw the crash on the news, I reacted the same way as I always do since September 11th: extreme sorrow and grief and empathy for the loved ones.  It was hours later when I found out Ms. Eckert was on the plane, and the tragic irony of it struck me like the proverbial freight train.  While her passing is a great loss, the work she accomplished in just over seven years cannot even begin to be described.

While I never knew nor met Ms. Eckert, I am living proof of her kindness and humanity.  The Survivor’s Group I belong to was instrumental in getting me from that dark place on a desolate November day to a place where I am now; not a perfect one mind you (what is?), but a period of my life which I am starting to have new beginnings.  On March 27th (with some help from The Universe) I will be sober 3 years.  I’ve started to work on the novel about the past seven years of my life, and I write this blog several times a week.  I’m working on repairing relationships with my wife and kids, and other family and friends.  I am still trying to make some sort of sense as to just why I survived and turn the rest of my life into a meaningful one.  I am meeting other Survivors, and I am finding out that we may have different stories of just where we were on that awful day, but we have the same feelings and a connection to other Survivors that is only now starting to come to the surface.  Much of that was all made possible by Beverly Eckert’s work on our behalf.  No, I did not know Beverly Eckert…but she passed on to me something that I desperately needed…

A candle for the darkness.

“What does the candle represent?”
“Whose life?”
“All life, every life. We’re all born as molecules in the hearts of a billion stars, molecules that do not understand politics, policies and differences. In a billion years we, foolish molecules forget who we are and where we came from. Desperate acts of ego. We give ourselves names, fight over lines on maps. And pretend our light is better than everyone else’s. The flame reminds us of the piece of those stars that live inside us. A spark that tells us: you should know better. The flame also reminds us that life is precious, as each flame is unique. When it goes out, it’s gone forever. And there will never be another quite like it.”

–  J. Michael Straczynski (taken from the Babylon 5 Episode, “And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder”)

A Quiet, Romantic Night Alone…With The Gas Company

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday (you may all sing after you read this, OK?).  Our original plan was to go out to dinner, and then go to a bar where her friend (who she grew up with, hasn’t seen in 20 years,  and recently got in touch with via Facebook) and her husband would be watching his brother’s band.  OK, recovering alcoholic in a bar is not necessarily a good thing, but I’ve done it before in restaurants or hotel bars or small pubs where there aren’t a lot of people and I can just sip an O’Doul’s or whatever non-alcoholic beer they have in peace.  Keep this in mind as we go forward…

Another part of the grand master plan was to have my youngest daughter stay with her aunt and Grandparents at their house, roughly 50 miles from our place.  My wife would leave early, drop my daughter off and stay for breakfast, and come back home, beating the rush hour by a few hours.  My oldest daughter was supposed to stay over her friends’ house for a sleepover with a few other girls.  Seems good on the surface, right?  I mean, my wife and I RARELY get out alone so this was going to be a very cool thing.  And as Robert Burns once said about mice and men, the grand master plan began to unravel.  My sister-in-law forgot she was committed to being the class mom for a trip, which meant she wouldn’t be home until 3PM.  That now meant my mother and father-in-law would watch my daughter for a bit until my sister-in-law got home (they live next door to each other).  Then my oldest daughter’s friend canceled their plans; so I just said, to hell with it.  I thought it might be nice if we all just went out for dinner, and we meet up with my wife’s friend and her hubby out for dinner a couple of weeks down the road.  Makes sense, right?

I was outvoted.  My oldest decided she wanted to go along with her sister, and my wife wanted to continue with our original plans.  We had told my mother in law an hour prior that we were reviewing our plans, and we’d get back to her.  Well, it seems like she took that as an opening in her vast social calendar and decided to fill it without hearing back from us; so by the time the morning rolled around for the start of a 4 day weekend, it was just my father-in-law solo who would be minding my two girls.  Look, he’s a great guy but he has a heart condition and the last thing he needs is to deal with my two kids running around without any assistance.  That now meant my wife had to stay until 3PM and would drive home in rush hour traffic.  I was not pleased.  When days start to go like this, you just know the fuse has been lit on the powder keg; well, strike up the match folks, because here comes the fuse…

I kissed my wife and daughters goodbye, and started to look for just exactly where this bar is in Belmar.  All I was doing was looking for a map, when I came across the fact that it had a website.  Oh, brother.  Bars only have a website if they are old and respectable establishments (the kind I am comfortable in), or loud caverns full of drunken revelers.  Click…cue up the thumping music from the speakers on my Mac and the scantily clad dancers at the top of the screen.  This place has “Danger, Will Robinson” written all over it; based on the photo gallery on the site, I was older than 90% of the crowd and could easily have been their dad.  The bartenders were a bit unconventional (but absolutely gorgeous women in very tight tops…I’m sure there were men bar tending for the women on the other side of the bar).  The place was packed with people, and given my PTSD would absolutely not have been a place to go to.  I would have completely freaked out within an hour and had a Sex On The Beach in my hand within 15 minutes.  This was NOT a place to go.  I even called two friends to see what they thought, and all they did was get as far as the splash page on the site and the immediate reaction in both instances was, “You ARE NOT going here!”  This was also the kind of place I was not going to feel comfortable allowing my wife to go in by herself, even if she were meeting people.  I trust her…it’s everyone else I don’t!  Of course, my wife was completely unaware of this as she was on the road; and I gave it some time before we spoke on the phone.

I kind of lay it out for her how I feel about things, tell her to think about it and we’ll talk later.  In the meantime, I’m getting crazy…absolutely crazy projecting negativity and thinking negative thoughts…the mind is running 10 million miles an hour.  This is what it is like to have PTSD and bi-polar disorder, folks.  Couple that with an aching back and it’s not making for a very nice scene.  I’m wound up tighter than I’ve been in a long time, and I’m popping Xanax like M&Ms just to calm down and keep the never ending panic attacks at bay.  I’m a mess.  (My life has now been reduced to running from my own shadow (and everyone else’s); keeping 10,000 thoughts into one single coherent one; maintain control over an extremely volatile temper; trying not to jump out of my skin because of a loud noise, and all of this…all of this while not trying to have a drink in the process.  This is what I am faced with every day.  It ain’t easy.)

My wife calls me just before she’s leaving to come home to say that we’ll just go out to dinner and a movie instead.  A nice, small, and VERY quiet (and now possibly romantic without the kids present, plus we can order more exotic food) Chinese Restaurant with amazing cuisine very close to us; and a movie we can both agree on: “Underworld: Revenge Of The Lycans”.  (NOTE: About the movie choice, my wife loves horror movies, and I liked the first two of these flicks in the series.  Besides, I had to watch the damned trailer every week for 12 weeks before I watched the webisodes of “Battlestar Galactica” on the Sci-Fi website; I figured I might as well go).  I’m getting ready: showered, beard trimmed, cats fed, cleaning up the kitchen a bit.  I thought I noticed a cool breeze for a moment, but we have an older home with an addition on it, so that happens every once in a while (or it’s our resident poltergeist; yes, we have one…and that’s another post in itself) and I think nothing of it.  Tess gets home, gets in the shower, and I’m noticing it feeling cooler in the house.  Uh-oh.  I go over to home of the heat registers, and it’s blowing cool air.  I check the thermostat: it’s on “Heat”, and there wasn’t an accidental switch somehow to “Air Conditioning”.  At this point, after everything that’s happened so far…I am starting to loose it.  OK, pop another Xanax and call the Gas Company.  The fuse is getting very short…

One of the smartest things you can do is get the Service Contract your Gas Company offers you every year; if there’s something wrong with the water heater or furnace, they’ll fix it and pretty much do anything but replace the equipment itself.  Parts and labor all included.  So, I called the gas company and the soonest appointment was the following afternoon.  I turned on my Irish charm, and explained the whole situation and they managed to get someone to come out and look at things by 8:00 PM.  OK, we could at least have dinner OR the movie (which started at 10 PM) at this point.  The Repair Guy gets here, starts up the furnace…and the heat is suddenly working.  Great…as usual, the damed equipment has a mind of its own, one designed to embarrass it’s owners.  The guy leaves, my wife continues to get ready and I pass one of the heat registers and notice that it’s warm air now, not hot.  Oh no…not again?  Again!  Within 5 minutes, it was blowing cold air.  I shut the damned thing off, call the Gas Company again and they can only send someone out the following morning.  At this point, my wife had thrown in the towel and started to make something for herself to eat, and I went to my basement den to brood.  The fuse was finished, reached the powder keg…BOOM!

Despite the fact that I was loaded up with a lovely cocktail of Xanax and other medications that would probably knock most people into next week…I lost it.  Totally lost it.  Anger and Depression and Confusion all coming through the head with great alacrity and nothing is stopping them.  It’s been a long time sense I had a meltdown like this, and not only was my wife avoiding me…so were the cats.  Pop another Xanax (I’m now at 2 mg. intake at this point) and finally start to settle down.  I actually decided at that point that I might as well go to bed, where I proceeded to rant for another hour (annoying and frightening my wife simultaneously) until all the meds kicked in at once and I was mercifully knocked unconscious for the evening.

It was a three cat night.  All of our felines were cozied up with us this morning when our alarm clocks went off an hour before the Repair Guy was supposed to get here.  The air was a chilly 60 degrees; and my wife was even more frigid.  My rants went a little too far last night, and I said some things that were downright crazy and hurtful and absolutely uncalled for…and I don’t even remember it at all.  Arriving on time at 8 AM, the gentleman proceeded to tell me it was the air filter and particles that accumulated in the furnace that caused the problem.  He got things up and running, and just after he finished,  I’m told him of all the craziness of yesterday when he just looks at me with this face of disbelief, and he simply said with a smile,  “It was Friday the 13th”.

I’ll try and somehow make things up to my wife, although I don’t know how long that is going to take.  We’re going through a rough patch right now, and seemed to pull ourselves out of it, and I screwed it up.  (It always works this way with us lately; we just can’t seem to get he train on the rails again.)  All I know is one thing: next Friday the 13th, I am making no plans nor am I driving anywhere.  Despite the fact that this little disaster happened at home, I plan to do nothing except lock myself in a room with nothing but a supply of Coke, cigarettes, and DVDs.  I never used to give this day any credence…but after yesterday, I have second thoughts.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.” – William Hutchinson Murray

Madame Speaker Has Just Shut Up

Sometime this afternoon, just before I picked my kids up from school, Harry Reid along with all of the Senators who worked on the Senate Compromise of the Stimulus Bill came out and announced that both the House and the Senate have reached a compromise on the deal that will go to both Chambers for a final vote over the next two days.  Noticeably absent from the meeting was Nancy Pelosi (and any other House member).  Reid had trumpeted her leadership (not too shabby, getting kudos even though you’re absent, huh?) and detailed the new Bill, which will trim more funding from the final piece of legislation in an effort to keep the overall cost down which satisfies Republicans; on the spending side, more funding was allocated to infrastructure repairs and improvements.  Well, looks like they finally got it right…looks like the middle of the political spectrum and common sense prevailed…well, sort of.

About an hour ago, Madame Speaker held her own news conference announcing the deal.  Usually, these types of things are announced in tandem; and that can only mean one thing: Ms. Pelosi has been told (by either Rahm Emmanuel or The President), to sit down and shut up.  I assume she was also told to ensure her caucus members get behind this Bill and make sure that even though everyone’s complaining about their precious little piece of pork that was trimmed, that there be no open rebellion on the House floor.  That Democrats fall in line; that those 17 members who crossed the aisle a couple of weeks ago to vote “No” come back into the fold, or that no one else join them.  Madame Speaker was just given a lesson in Chicago Politics, and her breezy Bay Area Bullshit Banter isn’t going to fly anymore.

The Speaker was also not informed that the announcement was being made by Senator Reid; in fact, she thought it was still “in conference” while she was still in the Conference Room.  Looks like our good Mister Reid got his marching orders, and he know which side of the bread has the non-trans fat, non-cholesterol spread on it.  The Republican moderates are CLEARLY on board with the Bill, because the helped to craft the final product and there is no chance that they will go back on their word…unless Pelosi and The House does something incredibly stupid.  Right now, considering this is the largest appropriations Bill in the history of this country; it is just the right size, and I fully support what’s in it.  We may have to add more funding down the line, but at this moment, this is precisely largeted for spending and tax cuts.  I’m also extremely happy more spending went to infrastructure…and this virtually guarantees jobs for “shovel ready” projects for the States.  Speaking of the States, more funding went to them as part of the compromise.  Senators Specter, Snowe, and Collins’ support virtually means this Bill is a done deal…unless Madame Speaker decides to open her mouth and sink the deal, like so many she has before.

Today, Harry Reid stepped up and blind-sided Nancy Pelosi.  He got off the leash and ran away to the nice friendly moderates on the other side of the street.  Yes, Harry Reid has indeed grown a pair.  Let’s just not hope it’s underminded by a bad case of premature legislation.

“Some people are pragmatists, taking things as they come and making the best of the choices available. Some people are idealists, standing for principle and refusing to compromise. And some people just act on any whim that enters their heads. I pragmatically turn my whims into principles.” – Bill Watterson

The Coming Of A Pastime And The Passing Of An Age

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.” – A. Bartlett Giamatti, from “The Green Fields Of The Mind”

My wife doesn’t get baseball.

No, really…it’s not that she doesn’t understand it; it’s just that she cannot see what I see in the game.  She cannot see the subtle strategy, whether it is a double switch or a slight shift of the outfield to the left while bringing the infield slightly over to the right when a switch hitter is up against a southpaw.  She cannot get as excited as I do when I see the subtleties of the game unfold before me, a stealth war on green grass on a hot summer day.  She’ll sit and watch my beloved New York Yankees with me occasionally and I’ll try and show her what I’m seeing and why a manager is moving his players around the field in a certain fashion.  Why statistics in baseball are LITERALLY the game plan, because that’s all you really have to go by.  Baseball is the only job in the world where you are considered successful if you succeed three out of ten tries; if that ever happened to me when I was working, I’d be out of a job and have no problem watching day games at the Stadium.  Then again, I’m not a guy with a piece of wood in my hand trying to hit a small sphere traveling at close to 100 miles an hour.

Baseball is all about the statistics and the subtlety.  In football, you draw up a game plan based on what you seen in film of the opponents’ game plans from previous weeks; likewise basketball and hockey.  Football is in your face; hockey operates at a relentless pace; and basketball occasionally plods along, but for the most part keeps the ball moving.  Baseball is slow, deliberate, nuanced, and demanding.  The only game plan IS the statistics, how well a hitter has performed in the past against a particular pitcher and visa versa; the on-base percentage of the batter and how a batter is performing in that particular game (if he’s 0 for 3 is he due for a hit or will he go 0for 4?); how often has your middle reviever pitched in the past few days…all things to be considered in one game of a 162 game season that lasts from the spring to the fall.

My running joke with my daughter for the past few years after we’ve finished watching the Super Bowl has always been to say, “3 weeks till pitchers and catchers”; this year she said that to me for the first time.  She’s starting to enjoy the game, and is slowly beginning to see the subtleties of the game.  Her favorite sport is football (as is mine), but baseball is a close second these days as I’ll be able to sit with her on pretty much any night (especially when the Yanks and Red Sox play) and point out little things.  It’s how I learned how to appreciate the game from my dad when I was young, and I think that’s a big part of it: getting the kids involved and knowledgeable at an early age.  Get them involved with a team and have them stick with it so they don’t become a band wagon jumper when one day down the road they unexpectedly win a World Series.  Just ask Phillies fans.

I grew up in a baseball era of transition, and coming from Brooklyn, this was an understatement.  The Dodgers left for LA in 1957 along with the Giants, which pretty much left the Yankees the only game in town.  Many Dodger fans simply gave up on baseball until the Mets came along in 1962; others continued to follow their teams and root for them in LA or San Fransisco.  My Uncle was a huge Giants fan, and every time the Giants and Mets would play, there would be a war in their household.  My dad sat out one season of baseball (proper mourning time) and caught the Dodgers playing in Philly a few times, but he became a NY Yankees fan officially with the 1959 season.  He just loved the game too much; he still does, watching all 162 of the Yankee games every season never missing a single one.  At the time, his hatred of the NY Giants as a Dodger fan outweighed his hatred of the Yankees; besides, he admired a lot of players on the Yanks, particularly Mickey Mantle.  By the time I went to my first game at Yankee Stadium in 1966, he was a fire-breathing Yankee fan…and that was what I eventually became.  I suffered through some many lean years; guys like Celarino Sanchez, Horace Clarke, Fritz Peterson, Lindy MacDaniel, Joe Peppitone, and others still cloud my memories with their awful play.  I didn’t know my first winning season and World Series Championship until 1976.

I had some more lean years as a fan in the 80’s and early 90’s, but the one bright spot was a first baseman named Donald Arthur Mattingly, a/a/a Donnie Baseball.  He was one of the greatest hitters of the game, with the immortal Ted Williams even saying he was the best hitter he has ever seen.  His fielding was stellar; the plays that Donnie would make at First Base were simply incredible.  He won 9 Gold Gloves, and except for 1990 ALL of them were consecutive.  That’s a tough number to get, but to do them consecutively (5 then 4) is practically unheard of.  They just don’t give away Gold Glove Awards.  His swing was a thing of beauty: he could pull the ball and put it in play wherever you needed him to.  He took advantage of fielders’ weaknesses.  He has a lifetime batting average of .307, and was a six-time All Star and a one time MVP.  He tied a record of hitting a home run in ten consecutive games.  His highest salary was his last contract from 1991-94 where he earned 3.4 million per.  That’s a bargain…and that’s just for those statistics.  Sadly, his only playoff appearance was in the first Wild Card Playoffs between the NY Yankees and the Seattle Mariners in 1995 (the best 5 games of baseball I have ever seen played) where he batted .407 with a slugging percentage of .708.  He retired after that season, way too young and his body battered with injury which robbed the game of someone who could have been as great a hitter as Ted Williams was if he had stayed healthy.  There was another intangible to Don Mattingly that everyone in the game recognizes: he was a fantastic teammate, and an all around good sportsman.  This was an ambassador of baseball, who has sadly failed to make it into the Hall of Fame yet.

As Mattlingly retired, Derek Jeter came up through the Yankee farm system.  He played with the Mattingly in the latter part of his last year, but in the Spring of 1996, he became the starting shortstop of the Yankees.  A superb hitter, a stellar fielder (who managed to perform the most phenomenal play I had ever seen in a playoff series against the Oakland A’s in 2001), and a quiet but effective leader in the clubhouse.  Like Don Mattingly, a Captain of the team (only Lou Gherig, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, and Ron Guidry held the title previously).  Like Mattingly an example of everything that is right about the game.  It was indeed the passing of an age, and my beloved Yankees went on a massive run to win numerous American League and World Championships over the next 13 years.  The patience of my youth was rewarded ten fold in my middle age.

At the exact same time of Derek Jeter’s arrival in New York, Alex Rodriguez became the starting shortstop of the Seattle Mariners in 1996.  It soon became aparant over his first 4 seasons, that this was a most special individual; a gifted five tool player who comes along once in a generation.  He was considered the best shortstop in baseball in addition to being a magnificent hitter.  His contract as a Free Agent signing with the Texas Rangers was the largest in baseball history.  When it became aparant after winning the first of his AL MVPs in 2003 that they would not be able to afford him any longer (and since the team was hemmoraging money), he was traded to the New York Yankees.  He agreed to the trade despite having agreed to play Third Base (as Jeter was firmly enconsed at Short) and he excelled at the position.  He won another two MVPs while with the Yankees over the next several years.  He is on pace to break almost every cherished record in the Baseball Record Book, including that of most lifetime Home Runs.  On paper and on the field this is a guy you want on your team.  Unlike Mattingly or Jeter, A-Rod can be aloof with his teammates and elusive with the media…nonetheless, it was always believed that he was never a user of Performance Enhancing Drugs.

The other day a report surfaced that he used PEDs after failing a drug test in 2003.  It was a “trial run” of testing that the Players Union carried out in an agreement with the owners that if 5% or more Major Leaguers tested positive for any banned substances, mandatory testing would begin the following year.  The results were supposed to be destroyed, but for some unknown reason it never was.  The only one of the 104 players on that list that was “leaked” to the press was Alex Rodriguez.  The man who so many thought was the last best hope of baseball, went the route of other players who had to use drugs to achieve the greatness that only he could achieve on his own without drugs.  The inevitable media storm followed and sports talk radio in the Tri-State Area was buzzing.  Everybody had something to say, including the President who said he “tarnished an era” .  Ouch…not good, especially from the first baseball fan coming on the same day in which you owned up, explained what happened, and apologized to baseball and baseball fans.  His teammates support him.

I am not going to condone what he did, nor will I second-guess if there’s more behind the story that has already published.  The man owned up to a mistake yesterday, and will have to deal with the repercussions of having made a poor choice (well, it’s complete stupidity if you ask me) almost a decade ago.  There has been no infractions since that test as random testing has been inplace since 2004.  The man has had arguably some of the best seasons of his career since 2003, all without the aid of any PEDs.  He is still an amazing player to watch day in and day out.  Perhaps this incident might even make him less aloof and more of a teammate, and also a better human being in the process.  He can set things right again by being involved with kids in making sure they don’t do any kind of drugs at all, let alone PEDs.  He can play at a level that is worthy of every cent the Yankees gave him in a 10 year contract and take baseball into the next age, a new era of the sport.  A new age untarnished by Performance Enhancing Drugs, and back to the basics of playing a game that is for the ages; a game of subtlety and nuance; a game whose torch is passed from generation to generation.

All I know is this: if Derek Jeter’s name is on that list of 104 names, I’ll take a torch and personally burn the new Yankee Stadium myself.

“Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.” – A. Bartlett Giamatti, from “The Green Fields Of The Mind”

No More Mister Nice Guy

The People have spoken, and Barack Obama is President of The United States; a huge majority of Democrats occupy the House; and there is a nice (although not a filibuster-proof) majority in the Senate.  So what’s the problem?

Nancy Pelosi, first and foremost.  If she didn’t load up the House Bill with enough pork to send the world’s Hassidic Rabbis into massive convulsions, we wouldn’t be in this situation right now.  Harry Reid for continuing to walk on the leash of Madam Speaker and not exercise his own authority to get the garbage out, and tell Pelosi to stuff it.  He’s a United States Senator for God’s sake, and the last time I looked that was higher on the political food chain.  Grow a set, Harry…please.  By setting the Stimulus Bill up for Republican ridicule by putting completely unnecessary spending into it, the Democrats have put the roadblocks up themselves.  The Republicans were just more than happy to assist them in the process.  There are definitely obstructionists on the GOP side, make no mistake about that…but there are some good centrists who are working with Democratic centrists in trying to get this all done by this evening for a vote.  The other issue that was a major factor in this Bill being more problematic than it should have been was the fact that Democrats allowed Republicans to win the media war.

As much as I hate to say it, The President himself is to blame for much of this for a couple of reasons.  One, he trusted Pelosi…he’ll never do that again.  I know he likes Harry Reid personally, and Harry will still be in good graces as long as something like this does not become routine.  Two, he didn’t sell it himself in the manner of an FDR, JFK or even Ronald Reagan.  Only in the past few days has he been doing what those men did by working the phones and personally calling Senators and having conferences in his office.  Now, he has encouraged the emergence of moderates such as Senators Snowe, Collins, and Nelson as power brokers in moving the Bill toward a more sensible conclusion.  Three, he is no longer playing the role of Mister Nice Guy.  He is determined to get this through the Senate and in conference between the Houses as soon as possible.

It looks as if instead of taking a vote this evening, it might be delayed until Sunday; which will give the obstructionists more time to cherry pick and spout their rhetoric on the Sunday News Programs.  $170 BILLION was cut from the previous Bill, and most of that is coming from Education.  Yes, you read that correctly…Education.  But you know what?  Education spending belongs in an annual Omnibus Budget, NOT a stimulus package; likewise other line items that were removed.  Democrats need to wake up and realize that this is not the time nor the place for bullshit in the Bill; Republicans have to wake up and realize this is not the time nor the place for obstructionism.  People are losing their jobs and their homes; the American Public is getting angry and impatient.  Action now is needed.

One thing that will happen next week is the almost certain objections of Pelosi to the cuts made to the Bill.  This will be the new President’s first test of his authority: to keep her in line.  Once he does that, Reid will follow suit, although he’s been amazingly bi-partisan considering his reputation for being a hard-liner.  This is where Mr. Obama REALLY comes to Washington.  And unlike Jimmy Stewart, he needs to make sure that he heeds the old adage of “No more mister nice guy”.  The real enemy of the passage of this bill and the President’s agenda is The Speaker Of The House.  She needs to know who’s boss, and I have no doubt that she will find that both of her butt cheeks will be a nice shade of crimson by the end of next week.

“I never did say that you can’t be a nice guy and win. I said that if I was playing third base and my mother rounded third with the winning run, I’d trip her up.” – Leo Durocher

A President Who Has Found His Voice, And A Speaker Who Needs To Lose Hers

I don’t like Nancy Pelosi… I’ll get that right out of the way first.  She is two-faced, underhanded, and a fomenter of political chaos…as long as when the whirlwind stops, she’s still standing with every hair neatly in place.  When she took impeachment proceedings against the President and Vice President off the table, I completely lost respect for her.  As Minority Leader, she took a stand FOR the Iraq War (of course, before she was against it) and rolled over and played dead like the rest of House and Senate Democrats in allowing then-President Bush and Vice President/Sith Lord Vader to completely trash the Constitution in the process.  There was no oversight, except for that of what she was going to wear that morning to the office.  She was an abject failure and an abysmal excuse for a Congressional Representative.

So it is with no surprise that the Economic Stimulus Bill she allowed to come to the Floor of the House for a vote was leaden with pork and pet projects; and don’t let anyone tell you that there wasn’t any so-called earmarks in there either.  Stimulus funding for Hollywood?  Family Planning?  There is a laundry list of things that should NEVER have made their way into that Bill; it was and is a complete and total disgrace to this country and this President…who made it understood that he did not want any such unnecessary items in the Bill.  That Bill had her fingerprints all over it, make no mistake about it; and like I said in an earlier post, it gave the Republicans ammunition to fire back at the whole plan as preposterous.  While I agree with the Republicans on the need to remove the unnecessary crap from the Bill, I disagree with them on wanting even more tax cuts than the President has already allowed to be placed in the package.  The tax cuts that are there are fine as is, and are logically targeted at the Middle Class and Small Businesses.  By putting that Bill out there, she allowed the Republicans to completely control the debate, and garner favorable public opinion which is uninformed on many levels.  The GOP continue to harp on items not even in the Bill any longer, as though they were still in there…the Democrats were losing the PR Battle.

Until yesterday and today.  That is when the President not so gently sent a message to Congress that this Bill is in need of passage, and that there was an Election in November and the vote was to change the way business had been done over the past eight years.  The past eight years of running up over a trillion of dollars in deficits (more than any other Administration COMBINED) and now the Republicans suddenly found Jesus and are now very concerned about spending.  The past eight years of deregulation and tax cuts that have caused the economic crisis in which we now find ourselves.  The past eight years of spending on an unnecessary war in Iraq.  The President trusted the good folks on the Hill in his own Party.  He expected leadership from Nancy Pelosi.  What he got instead was farce and folly.  Today, the gentleman who works out of an Oval Office brought his sword and armor with him to the Department of Energy where he gave a cogent outline, bullet-pointed and easy to follow of what’s in the Bill that’s GOOD and NECESSARY.  He then left (still in armor) and went back to the White House to do battle behind closed doors; and although she wasn’t there with him, he most certainly called Madam Speaker to let her know his displeasure of the circumstances which SHE got him in.  He’s now there still working with Senators on their Bill removing the crap that was allowed in by Harry Reid because he’s Nancy’s political puppydog and followed her on the leash.

It is often said that the greatest enemy comes from within, and without a doubt the true enemy of President Barack Obama is not the entire GOP contingent in Congress, nor Rush Limbaugh, nor Billo The Clown.  It’s not even Harry Reid.  It’s The Speaker of The House, she of grand designs and a vision of herself as a political Joan of Arc.  I believe that The President has learned his first lesson in governing and Washington hardball.  He may not hit a Home Run, but he will at least get a single or perhaps a double with passage of this Bill in the Senate tonight.  And if I read my Chicago baseball loving President correctly, he has Rahm Emmanuel working on a double switch to get Nancy Pelosi out of that Speaker’s Chair as soon as possible; perhaps within a year even before the next Congressional election.  If Madame Speaker had visions of Jeanne D’Arc, she should remember her demise…and right now, the match for the pyre has been lit.

“In war the only sure defense is offense, and the efficiency of the offense depends on the warlike souls of those conducting it.” – George S. Patton

Batman Versus Billo The Clown

The snowy weather has been horrible on my back, and this afternoon was no exception.  So I popped a painkiller, and when that didn’t work, I popped another and promptly fell asleep in front of the news.  You’d be surprised what a trance like-narcotic induced state and MSNBC can do with your mind.  I’ve had acid trips that were less trippy.  So, I pretty much had nothing to write about tonight anyway…until I came across this little gem on You Tube.  It’s a mash-up of the recent Christian Bale f-bomb laden tirade on the set of “Terminator 4” with the f-bomb laden tirade of one Mister Bill O’Reilly from a few months ago from his time as anchor on “Inside Edition” back in the 80’s.

So, in tying these threads together…this is kind of like what went though my mind this afternoon.  I’ll be around tomorrow with some intelligent commentary (just as soon as the fog clears)…oh yes, in the interest of all concerned, this contains liberal use of the f-word.  Unless you have no children or are from Brooklyn, cover your ears or remove the little ones from the room.  Unless of course,  you are from Brooklyn with children, in which case this warning doesn’t apply at all.

Pieces Of My Past

Blame my wife…it’s all her fault.

A few weeks ago, she joined Facebook: the web application that lets you connect with friends on the Net and make new ones.  I kept noticing how (more than she normally was) she was laughing, crying out “Oh My God!  I haven’t seen her in years!”, and starting up a new city called Polyannaville on a game called Metropolis (where you run a city, control its economy and infrastructure…name it).  She was being more obsessive on the Mac than normal, and one day just before Christmas she convinced me to join as well.  Oh boy, bad mistake Mrs Walsh…your husband with the addictive personality (remember?) is now declaring himself addicted hook, line, and sinker to Facebook.

In the past month, I have managed to reconnect with five guys who I went to High School with, all of whom except one I haven’t seen since the day we graduated.  A guy I grew up with in Staten Island who shared the other side of our duplex got in touch we me about a month ago; that was the first time we had been in touch since 1978 when he moved to Pennsylvania.  I’ve also just gotten in touch with one of three brothers who were my best friends growing up before they moved to Switzerland back in 1970.  I’ve added current friends and relatives…including my wife, who constantly sends me virtual pieces of “flair”.  (Flair is pretty much funny of slogans and/or illustrations on virtual buttons.)  I get virtual kisses and hugs from her (more than I do in real life, I think), asked to join groups, clubs, and also receive virtual gifts (Brooklyn Egg Creams, Super Hero Villains, and Baseball paraphernalia for example).  All this even has me using Skype again for the first time in many years, just so not only can I chat with old friends; they can see that I’ve aged gracefully.  (Aw, who am I kidding? At least I still have a full head of hair!)

Last night, I got in touch with an old friend who is kind of in the same place as I am right now in my life.  She just became a single mom; her kids are the roughly the same age as my youngest daughter; and there’s a lot going on in her life and we were both commiserating of how unexpected this place is we now find ourselves in.  While the circumstances surrounding our mid-life shifting pathways are different, this much is certain: I think we both helped each other out today during our two hour and change conversation; I sure as hell know that she said a few things that I appreciated hearing about my own situation.  It’s funny how when you reconnect with someone with whom you were very close friends with but for one reason or another got separated by time or distance, there’s always a tentative awkwardness when you first start out the conversation.  You may have known someone for almost 30 years, but you search for words and tiptoe around others.  Then the familiarity comes back, the words flow easily and without any barriers, and the next thing you know you’re talking like it’s Christmas Break 1980 and you’re hanging out at a basement party again.  Then reality hits, and you both have to pick up your kids from school.  (So much for the bong hits and “Tales From Topographic Oceans”, huh?)

Before I joined Facebook, I was starting to wonder about many of my old friends I haven’t kept up with anyway.  Why I felt a sudden urge to reconnect with pieces of my past I cannot say; perhaps it’s because I’m turning 48 next month, or maybe I just feel a little more settled in now in my role as a stay at home dad and pursuing my calling of being a writer.  Perhaps the Universe says it’s time, and for that I am eternally grateful.  When my 3 friends moved to Switzerland when I was 10, I was completely shattered.  The block on Staten Island where I grew up didn’t have many denizens of intellectual capability; even more so when you are young and intellectually gifted as we all were.  When they left, I honestly did not have a friendship with anyone of like mind until I went to High School (I attended an all-boys Catholic High School run by Irish Christian Brothers).  In the interim while I was in intellectually gifted classes in grammar school, I honed up my sense of humor…mostly as a defense mechanism…so by the time I got to High School and then College I was not only smart, but a smart ass as well.  The unresolved nature of this friendship with these three brothers had bothered me for years; I would always talk about them with other friends I made through the years, but most especially with my wife who knows me best and could see why this meant a lot to me.  We’re all trying to make plans to get our families together along with our parents who were also very close.

Likewise, catching up with a lot of my old High School buddies was a great thing.  One of my friends (who I also worked busing tables in a restaurant) as it turns out is also a 9/11 Survivor.  He is a broker and had his offices in Lower Manhattan at the time.  We wound up chatting via Instant Message one night, when we started talking about that day and I just got to the point after about 5 minutes where I said, “Call me” and the phone rang 10 seconds later.  We were on the line for well over two hours; although much of the subject matter was not a happy one.  It was a connection made not only with an old friend, but with a fellow survivor…and I cannot possibly explain to you what means on an emotional level unless you are one yourself.  There is a commonality among 9/11 Survivors ; a sense of pain and loss and grief; and although our stories are all unique, we share in the horror of that day.  It is a terrible transcendence of being; and yet, you long to share and bond with other survivors.  You compare notes, little details about what you saw and how you reacted, and most importantly how you dealt with if afterward.  The latter point is where the true genesis of understanding is, because every single one of us dealt with the horror differently.  It’s one of the reasons why I am working on the book about what happened to me on 9/11 and afterward; because not all of us can connect with each other and simply say to another survivor these words:  “You are not alone.”

In a way, perhaps that is the real reason I feel a need for searching out and picking up the scattered fragments of my life; the need for some company, and old friend to say that I am not alone, and perhaps for me to return the favor as well.  In the end, it really is about human beings having a need not to be alone, to form a connection on some level with another; be it friend, lover, or acquaintance.  Many times it’s those old bonds that need to be reconnected and perhaps strengthened, because as one of the guys I just got back in touch with said to me, they actually became the foundation of the rest of your life.  My friend with whom I spoke today was a very important part of my life in my early 20s; we had a lot in common then, and we sure as hell have a lot in common now particularly since we are both at a crossroads.  We have both gotten to points in our lives where we never expected to be; never could have conceived what is happening now 25 years ago.  But there we were today, talking on an extraordinarily warm and beautiful Northeast Winter Day pretty much saying 4 words…

You are not alone.

“When others cloud your vision, you have to take control.  Accept a higher mission, live it heart and soul.  Can’t exist on former glories, reputations fade so fast.  Time to tell a different story, make it good and make it last.” – Martin Orford,  from The Time And The Season