DelBloggolo

Monday, June 30, 2014

I GET AN AIRLINE ACCOUNT


I was on a roll, the company was doing very well and I was now working on Lufthansa, the German Airline. I was assigned a part of the account and working on Saturday and Sunday for three weeks straight, there was that much to do.

Hunters Point where you can catch gout!
Around the time that this was happening, my first-born was about to appear, along with my older sister Tessie (much older) was about to have her first child. This was February of 1972, and one Sunday as I was waiting for the Flushing line at Hunters Point Avenue, my right foot was swelling up on the instep. It was very painful and unfortunately I wasn’t going to give in to it. Loosening up the laces of my shoe relieved the pressure and on I went.

Der Sherman Airlion
Designing media kits, mailings and magazine ads, I was deep into the airline business of promotion. Working with writers, account execs and production people, we toiled and tried and retried, wrote and rewrote, designed and redesigned until we felt we had it correctly. At noon we would, as we did every day of the week, stop and go to lunch, eating very rich foods and then heading back to the office. The chairman would insist we run a tab at this one seafood restaurant or that Italian restaurant, and even one of my favorites at the time, Friar Tucks. Food and drinks and sign the tab. It was then that my sister Tessie, my older sister (much older) had her son John! The following Sunday as I am about to go out the door to catch the train to the city, my mom calls and asks what my plans are for the day. I tell her I’m going to work and she gives me hell for not seeing my new nephew yet.

The foot was now almost impossible to stand on and once the crush was over, I went to the doctor. The doctor took one look at the foot and said I had the King’s disease: gout! I had gout!

American Airline
After the Lufthansa crush, as I was sitting in my office I get the news from my immediate boss, that since I did so well on the airline account I was getting my own! We had pitched American Airlines and got it, doing the domestic wing of the business only, there was no conflict, and they felt I was ready to do this!

Tomorrow: IT GETS UGLY!

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

NAME DROPPING


In the course of my career as an advertising man, I have met many famous people. Some of the people were household names like Eva Gabor and some not so famous as far as recognition goes like E. T. Klassen, the Postmaster General under Nixon.

Prior to the Watergate break in and our being on the Dean’s List, we had a visit one morning from the Postmaster General, Elmer Ted Klassen who served from January 1, 1972 to February 16, 1975. Being we were a leading direct mail agency in the country, and the notoriety and vision of the Chairman made the visit necessary as far as the U.S. Post Office was concerned. We were helping them launch a new campaign, and I had never seen such a big deal about anything in that office as I did that day!

Alexis Smith was the first from the glamorous world of Hollywood to visit us. A memo went out the day before that Alexis Smith was in New York and that a small cocktail party reception was planned in her honor in the conference room for the next day. For the life of me I can’t recall why or what it was all about. I remember her being escorted through the office, meeting her at my desk and shaking hands and I recall the cocktail reception, but not much more. She was a striking woman: that left a delicious impression on my young eyes. Fortunately for me I still recall her face.

Advertising is about calling attention, about singling out and about glorifying the attributes: real and imagined, but most of all it is about making money. I was making money, the company was making money and more importantly, I was having fun, learning, meeting new people both rich and famous!

I think that your first job is a lot like your first love: it stays with you after you retire, and brings back such great memories.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

MAKING THE DEAN’S LIST


The Watergate Complex
During the height of the Watergate scandal, the Spiro Agnew crush and the making of so many stars in congress the Congressional probe about President Nixon actually touched me in a peculiar way. The national media was abuzz about the Watergate scandal, the constant reports and the all day coverage of events as they unfolded during the hearings on TV. Everyday was a new revelation, everyday brought something new to the table to be made aware to the general public.

The chairman of the company was an influential man, coming from the field of journalism, working for a major media company at one time, and that influence ranged all the way over to politics, and the attention of Richard Milhous Nixon. The Chairman was a somewhat wealthy man and made contributions to the Democratic Party. During this time of political infighting and the unhinging of the Presidency under Nixon, it was not a good thing to do as far as Republicans were concerned. My politics were of a conservative bent in those days, without an affiliation to any party, and I still feel that way.

the 'Dean'
Arriving at my office one morning, I notice as I pass the desks of the support staff, little buttons on each desk. I don’t think much of it since there was always a promotional item hanging around for one client or another. When I got into my office, there on my desk was this same button. It was about 2 ½ inches across and had a hangman’s noose on it, Across the button in big letters was the words: “I’M ON THE DEAN’S LIST”!

Finding it on my desk gave me the creeps. Why? Because I knew what it meant, and I was guilty by association, and I didn’t like the whole idea for myself. I had a little kid at home and just married and didn’t want anything to do with this that might touch even so slightly on my wife’s reputation.

There seemed to be a certain pride among the office personnel how we were all on the “Dean’s List’. I was confused and wondered why. I hate politics, always have and hate politicians in particular, so this whole idea was abhorrent to me. Then I figured it out, my boss was on the Dean’s List, not the staff or anyone else! I was starting to get a little giddy, life away from Bellport, NY was getting complicated!

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Friday, June 27, 2014

I GET POLITICAL


One of the real world things I had to deal with as a young advertising executive was politics. There were people that ran for city council, there were organizations looking to reach the masses, there were publications that needed to survive and circulate. They were some of the types of accounts that were assigned to me. I on the other hand didn’t care much for them.

He said he  was not a crook
One day Larry Chait himself comes into my office, his long cigar punctuating his large massive frame, looking across the desk says to me that he needed a visual statement for a left wing magazine, but it had to leave people wondering. I was being asked to design a cover for this magazine’s newsstand editions, and have it ready by late afternoon to discuss. Washington D.C. was in turmoil at the time, and Richard Nixon was the cause. Scandal was about to break in Washington D.C. A young writer was assigned the job initially, but didn’t have the fire to ignite what Larry wanted, and time was running out. Could I come up with something? I said I could and when Larry left my office I said to myself: “WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST SAY?”

Getting hold of the writer I asked him what he had already, did a quick read and then it just fell into place. The whole concept of coming up with something that would fly according to the criterion stated by Larry was being met. Scandal was about to break in Washington D.C. and I had a visual, that needed very little else.

This is NOT the actual art work
Grabbing my coat I ran down to the NY Public Library and borrowed a black and white photo of the Capital building. Rushing back to my office the cab leaves me off a block away, and I run the rest of the way. I order a rush Photostat of the picture and create the cover, the dome, being lifted off the building with some smoke coming out. It was perfect, the boss was happy but more importantly the client loved it.

Tomorrow: WE MAKE THE DEAN’S LIST

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

LIKE STINK ON A MONKEY


My new job was not all wonderful. There were people involved after all, and I would have to deal with them. Some people were unctuous, some were sweet, some just did their job and one in particular, although a nice guy and talented, stunk, like as they say: “Stink on a monkey.”

For a name, let’s call him Fred. Fred was an older gentleman, who was extremely bright, so smart that he would take the New York Times crossword puzzle and do it across only. He didn’t need to do down, he was done with the across clues. Being well read and cynical he formed opinions that at the time I couldn’t understand, in that they seemed so anti-everything. Today I look at those opinions and realize I share some of them too.

Fred was a talker, liked to come into my office, pull up a chair and shoot the breeze, complain about the news and anything else he could find. Sitting with a scotch in his hand, if he had time on his hands, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have time on my hands. Being polite, I’d try to be patient and listen. When he had a job in his hand, he had a bad habit of sitting next to my desk, leaning over into me and discussing the details and concept he envisioned. This meant getting the full whiff of his stink, usually before lunch.  It was so bad it would usually overwhelm me, causing me to almost gag, and it was all body odors! His only saving grace was his pipe, which I prayed he would blow out smoke to negate the effects of his stink! He usually wore this brown suit, day in and day out, causing me to think maybe it was his suit that really stunk so bad.

A little different back in 1971
One day I was informed by the big boss: that I had to join some of the account executives and writers for a dinner at a place called the Gas Light Room in midtown Manhattan. The occasion was the acquisition of a new account possibility.  This meant I would probably not get out of there until 11 or 12 midnight! This meeting would commence at 6:30 and go on for several hours: with drinks, dinner then more drinks. Who should chance to sit next to me, but stinky Fred! This stink would stay in my nose for hours after I left that ‘meeting’, and to this day I can imagine it.

The other problem with Fred was he was a funny guy, making fun of everything including himself. One day I’m drifting by his office and I hear some classical music, and It just sounded so beautiful I looked in. There stood Fred, his whole stinky self, with a pencil in his hand, leading an imaginary orchestra, literally urging parts of the orchestra, I think it was the percussion section onward. It was a hysterical sight to see, he was indeed an amusing man.

Tomorrow: I get political.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

SOME OF THE CHARACTERS


Life would not be fun without some of the people we meet on our journey through life. As for me, I met many, and they all enriched my life, just as they do today. I often think that life is like a play, with a beginning and an ending, and filled with the many roles that need to be played for there to be life in the middle.

I SWEAR I MET THESE PEOPLE YEARS AGO!
Working for Lawrence G. Chait and Co., was the real beginning for me as to what life is all about, people coming from the mid-west, the city itself and from overseas: like New Jersey.

There were in the course of my years at Chait, vice-presidents that threatened vendors with loss of contracts, account executives with deep psychological problems, copy writers with a cynical view of the world, and secretaries with an acute view of all the gossip, behind the scenes action and summation of all the players. The support staff loved to watch my reactions to things they told me, or my response to a cryptic message planted for their amusement. Coming from a small town into this environment and hearing what they would tell me, left me gasping.

There was one vice president whose job was to do nothing, stay out of the way and don’t offer any suggestions. He was key. He was also the chairman’s brother-in-law. He actually was a very talented man, whose work is still legendary and can be found in a very public place where it has resided for over 80 years by now.

The man had an office he shared with our copy chief, who scooted around the office all day, a friendly man who could tolerate the vice president in question. The man would arrive by 10:00 am in his office, and sit reading a high end magazine of art, and design, a glossy magazine, and would on occasion ask me to look at a photo or two for my opinion, then get me into a conversation and waste some time. By 11:00 am, there was a glass of vodka on his desk, yes his 11:00 am vodka, everyday. By noon or a little after, off he went to lunch, returning at 3:00 pm where he would go back to reading his magazine and more vodka, but just a little. By 3:15 he was fast asleep in his chair, sitting up and snoring. I loved it.

Tomorrow: LIKE STINK ON A MONKEY

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

MY FIRST PROFESSIONAL DAY


If you have watched that excellent series on HBO ‘MADMEN’ you will have a glimpse of life in an early 1970 ad agency, and the many characters that populate the agencies with many talents that bear upon the work that is generated. This dichotomy is extended outside the office with the same results as long as the characters are still in play.

After my initial interview with personnel (human resources) I was ushered into my new office by Jack Stern, my new boss on my first day on the job. Jack was a very laid back cool individual who hit it off with me immediately. My office was a corner office, with large windows all around me, facing both the west and north sections of the city. Looking out I could gaze upon Harlem and points north, or across the Hudson deep into New Jersey and on a clear day: points beyond.

Lawrence G. "Larry" Chait was an American advertising executive who was a pioneer in mail order and direct marketing. He was chairman of Lawrence G. Chait & Co. Inc in which I was now employed . He was President of the Direct Marketing Club of New York,and he was also my idol as a businessman, a prognosticator way ahead of his time and friend. I am proud of my time learning from him and along with Jack Stern my mentor, keeping the lessons to this day in my retirement.

But that first day… a day of absolute awe, and my first job, a mailing for 3M, creating logos, letter and brochure with an outer envelope and I was in charge! Me, in my suit and tie, with an office no less, wanted by these seasoned professionals to work along side them. Between shaking and being nervous, I began the process of work, and it helped me get through the nervousness, and the newness of being needed enough that someone would pay me for it.

"Jack"
Around noon, Jack asked me to get my coat and come with him. I wondered where we were going but being new on the block, didn’t question him. It hadn't occured to me that it was lunch time, or that with my nervousness I might be hungry.

Soon I found myself in an upscale Italian restaurant, eating Lobster for lunch! Mr. Stern on Mr. Chait’s orders was buying me lunch, and lobster no less! With the lunch came a phone call from Mr. Chait that was plugged into the table from whom else but Mr. Chait, a rather large man with a larger reputation explaining that he was sorry he couldn’t make the lunch with me but was committed to a previous engagement with a client. I was getting a little overwhelmed, and was now starting to wish I was home in my bedroom, sheltered from this gigantic new world.

During this time period there was a Broadway play called Sweet Charity and a tune: “If They Could See Me Now” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lJ_6qTHgs4 that kept going through my head that afternoon after lunch. Sitting in my corner office, looking out at the big city, wondering if I would ever awaken from this fantastic dream. This would be one of the happiest days of my life, one that I often relive. Coming from a small community, struggling to pay for my education and struggling to get to school, this was the payoff, this was what I never thought would come to fruition, I had made it through my first professional day!

I couldn't wait to tell Mom and Dad, especially Dad, this was always his dream and I was living it!

Tomorrow: SOME OF THE CHARACTERS.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

LOOKING BACK

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It’s been a lot of years, since I left the hallowed grounds of college and entered the real world of life as an adult. I had 2 jobs working in a place called Rollic, Inc., as a stock boy and shipping clerk, and worked in a supermarket at nights until 11:00 PM, collecting wagons from the parking lot, packing bags at the checkout and stocking shelves and putting on the prices when the store closed. When I entered in my freshman year at NYIT, I had both those jobs to help me pay my own way through college. Some of my classmates had cars given to them by their parents and my parents: well they gave me for a mode of transportation, the direction of the railroad station. They even reminded me to buy a ticket first before boarding.

There was no help for me in going to school, I had no money to speak of, I had a small scholarship from the state, and Mom supplemented my daily expenses with a ham sandwich, which was one piece of ham on two slices of white bread, maybe a little mayo. She wasn’t cheap, but poor, she put it in a brown paper bag and when I picked it up in the morning before leaving on the 5:45 AM from Bellport Station, I would take it out of the bag paper bag and stick it in my coat pocket, since it was wrapped in waxed paper. It was one thing less to carry. I had a large painting I had to bring with me, or photo equipment like a camera, light meter and tripod, and books and pads, along with a fishing tackle box for art supplies. I look back today and wonder how I ever did it.

When I applied for my first professional job, I found myself in the middle of NYC, confused and somewhat lost. I climbed out of the train in Penn Station and went to the information booth and asked how to get to Lexington Avenue. I got on the E-Train and headed uptown, saw a street (50th) as close to 54th Street and got on the street, found the building with time to spare and had breakfast first. I was carrying a large portfolio case with ads I design and wrote, samples of hand lettering and photos I took, along with packaging ideas. I wasn’t taking a chance. I wanted a job and a chance to make my way in the real world as quickly as possible.

After the interview with the art director, he asked if I could start on Monday, almost lifting me out of my shoes in joy: I had begun my career, I had made it! I looked out of the 32nd floor, the top of the building and could see the skyscrapers above and below me, the concrete avenues, even looking through the clouds, the ads and awards the agency had won, I was indeed heaven.

Coming home that day, in my excitement, I called home from Penn Station to tell Mom the great news, I was going to be a designer, in NYC, ME, A COUNTRY BOY FROM BROOKLYN!!

Tomorrow: MY FIRST PROFESSIONAL DAY

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

MY KIND OF DAY

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I awoke and found myself singing, happy to be alive and so decided that today was a sunny happy day: a Darby Shea day.

When it is a Darby Shea day, I do what any great mind does: I put on my Darby Shea shirt and strut before the world! After all, the sky was blue, like a Cezanne painting. Rich in color, masterfully created, like a breath of fresh air, like an adventure, and the expectation of exploration, all rolled into one. Oh! One food reference: succulent like a rib eye.

I drove to the mall and as I passed the Cinnabon concession, a young lady from behind the counter yelled out: “Hey mister, mister, I LOVE your shirt!” I yelled back: “Why not love it, she’s my granddaughter!” It added spring to my step, a joyous stride to my tempo. But it did not end there.

As I walked to shop for an anniversary gift for TLW (The Little Woman) people were passing me by, looking at the shirt and smiling, almost in agreement. One lady guessed that it was my grandchild and asked: “How many is that?” The lady in Macy’s came from behind the jewelry counter and we chatted about grandchildren, and I could finally add something to a conversation about grandchildren. Oh the joy!

Then to a doctor’s visit, with receptionist, nurse AND doctor all greeting my shirt with great admiration. Yes, it was a Darby Shea kind of day!

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

HOW INTERESTING


Have you noticed that since we are making such strides in technology these days, that the news reporting is becoming more detailed, and more impelling?

If you turn on the news in the morning, with the use of cameras on phones and I-pads, you get to see the news as it occurs! All the details become vividly memorialized like never before.

When I was a young kid, maybe 7 or 8, Dad would give me a nickel in the morning and send me across the street to the corner candy store to buy the Daily News, the 'picture newspaper'. With its reporting on the events of the day, there was in the center section, a spread devoted only to pictures. This was fascinating to me to see all these interesting people and events unfolded in the center spread. Today, well it is a little different, and certainly more compelling in seeing the news unfold as it would have happened first hand on the TV and computers.

This morning before I even finished my first cup of coffee, on TV I saw a man on a motorcycle go flying through the air and land on his feet, walking away from what looked like a deadly accident! If that wasn’t enough, I ran the rapids in a rubber raft, skirting rocks and what not, with the raging river tossing me about, and crashing without spilling a drop of my coffee? I witnessed a jewelry store robbery, and a small miracle, the Mets winning a game.

I have a suspicion that most of this instantaneous video reporting is coming from all the people who are glued to their androids and I-phones, their noses buried deep into the devices and can’t help but capture all this footage. But just think about it, if you witness something like a crime on camera, your testimony is not necessary as long as the video you took is reporting accurately, soon you may not need to appear in court as a witness, just your footage!

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Friday, June 20, 2014

LIFE IS GOOD…


And so am I!

I tell you my friend, if I get me mad long enough I will find a way.

The appliances and I are barely on speaking terms. We have a tolerable relationship and they do their thing and I do mine. They win sometimes and sometimes I win, even if I have to hire someone to do it for me. Case in point:

this ain't it
My upstairs toilet has been pissing me off for a few months now. (Everything is in context here) I replaced the key for a new one and even changed the insides, a complete toiletry hysterectomy if you will. But, for some unknown reason, the toilet key never sat right, flushed well, having to hold the key for a longer than necessary or normal time. Besides that, a small running or ripple of water was occurring. This annoyed me because I like to read in silence.

So for months it never flushed well, and being I was so busy with Mom, I kept telling myself I needed to do something about it. I was feeling the shame of my wife looking at me and thinking: He’s not smart or handy enough anymore, what a loser!

I have one photo wallet size
Well, today I got mad enough and got out my toolbox and marched upstairs, angrier than a politician being honest. I placed the tools down and ripped off the cover and peered inside, an anger growing slowly, and finally building up to the point that I reached for a tool and began! At this point I had two options: one was to dismantle the key or: go downstairs and take a nap to think about it. I held my ground and began to dismantle.

Of course, when they construct these things, they make them so if you have fingers wider than a pencil, or arthritic joints, you should contort in pain and invent new curse words, I mean, who ever heard of a wing nut with an ancestry? I generally like to save my profanities for the morons that cut me off on the road or don’t pay attention to what they are doing while driving! I decided to reach into my bag of silent curses and lay them upon the screw, the arm and the chain that needs to be adjusted just right. Often I have had silent one-sided debates with things. Learning to keep your mouth shut comes from the art of marriage.

There is only one way to fix a key correctly, and that is to adjust things through trial and error, that means doing and undoing until you get it right. After three tries of changing the arm for the chain, testing the rubber gasket and fiddling with the key, I GOT IT RIGHT!

To all you unwashed novices out there: never let your chain hang loose too tightly, give it some slack, enough to get that floater up and sitting on the surface of the water! Then stand back, and hit that key baby! WHOOSH! Down it goes in a glorious second of time, poo-poops, paper and any constipated memories.

Now I can walk along the rooms of my retirement, a smile on my face and a lilt in my step, knowing I am not a loser anymore!


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Thursday, June 19, 2014

43 YEARS AND COUNTING


It seems like yesterday when I proposed to TLW (The Little Woman). It was in the front seat of my brand new Camaro, flush with money from a great professional job I started and feeling no pain. It was also the day after Thanksgiving and I introduced her to the family, to get a feel of how well she would fit in. I was about to leave the house, looking for an apartment months before when we met on the train on our way to work.

Since then we have done a lot together, raising children and marrying one off, burying one and sending one to live in a special home for her own happiness. To say there were tears is to understate the facts and deny the past. Having someone to hold onto when the road is slippery helps.

Today it is 43 years ago that I walked the final mile of bachelorhood, and standing finally in the church where I vowed I would never go, surrendered meekly.

So what has happened? I look around and see that I retired officially years ago! What’s going on? It seems that life is but a short story with many characters and many events, that won’t stop when I go just as they ran along when I came into this world. All the children are grown and now it is TLW and I.
AFTER THE WEDDING, I DROVE HER OLD CHEVY BISCAYNE

All the world is indeed a stage, and I have a few regrets but too many joys to even begin to elaborate on, I enjoy life for what it is, I learned long ago you need only to like yourself, and whole world is likeable with few exceptions.

Sharing it with a lifetime partner who made life not only comfortable, but beautiful, is all I ever wanted, and all I ever got!

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY SWEETIE.


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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

IT ALL BLOWS UP!

Sitting in the limo, as we were about to enter the gates of Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, I was feeling kind of relieved that the ordeal of burying Mom was about to end.

My imagination being what it is, I tried to feel what it is like for an Italian boy, sitting in a limo on the way to a cemetery dressed in an expensive suit feels like. All I would need is the police surveillance of the “family” so to speak.

Looking out of the front driver’s window, I notice something I didn’t expect, three police cars, waiting at the entrance on the road! This was playing out a little too well. I thought they were there just to have a donut or chit chat as is their want on the numerous occasions I’ve seem them do that. I was hoping they weren’t checking for registration tags.

The procession of mourners drove to a designated area to wait for the funeral director to complete the business with the cemetery staff and we would do what we would do. My 4 sisters who occupied the limo with me, laughing about Mom’s boy toy and how bazaar he had acted in the funeral home parking lot, the church and was now in the funeral procession some where in the line. The car was rocking with laughter and they were all having a good time before the final goodbye. Tension was being relieved.

Suddenly, the back door opens with the limo driver with his cell phone in hand, telling us some old guy was being arrested as the police had taken him out of his car. I started laughing when he said that thinking: he the driver is getting in on the fun. The only problem was, he wasn’t kidding.

I step out of the limo and see Boy Toy standing off to the side with the police frisking him and searching his car. The shock of my life, one of Mom’s friends, the very same mom who taught me to watch who my friends were, not to ever embarrass her, was now embarrassing her whole family because of the boy toy! Mom, who never left the house, had saints statues and rosary beads planted all over the house, was giving us a send off we would never forget, mom, the only living saint there was, because of her friend, had blown up her final goodbye. I was proud of her: she was just saving it until the end.

The Boy Toy had made a threat about shooting people while in the church, angry that we had dismissed him for abandoning my mother not once, but three times, for not taking care of her like he promised, for letting his own selfish interest preceded my mother’s health, for lying to her and us. He happened to tell it to one of my nieces, who became frightened and from training as a nurse had heard the threat and mentioned it to her brother and cousin, who decided to call the police in the interest of safety.

The police detained him after searching him, while we the family completed our business at the gravesite. After we left the cemetery, we were told that the police escorted him to the grave where he said his good bye and then out of the cemetery.

I wonder what Dad is thinking about all this?

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

IT DOESN’T GET ANY MORE CRAZIER

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As we sat in the Limo on our way to the funeral home for the last goodbye before the Mass, there was an issue. It seems Mom’s boy toy was acting a little strange once again and I decided that I didn’t want him at the funeral parlor.

It seems that Boy Toy had taken it upon himself to have flowers draped on my Mom’s casket, and a set of rosary beads placed in her hands. The funeral director told him he couldn’t place the roses on the coffin, but he would put the rosaries in her hand, and if the family decided that they didn’t want them he would remove them. The roses were a blanket for the top of the casket, and in the middle were two yellow roses that symbolized Mom and Boy Toy.

Most of the family disagreed with me and thought that even though he had abandoned Mom three times, throwing hissy fits and acting almost tyrannical, he should be allowed to come to the wake.

There even was divine intervention sought to see if I could change my mind. I was even told to “let it go”. As we drove the streets to get to the funeral parlor, there was a text message that Boy Toy was in the parking lot of the funeral home. Once again I was asked to “let it go”. Now in my grief I was angry and more determined than ever to keep him out.

Arriving at the funeral home, I exit the limo and see Boy Toy in his car, and I enter the building, I get the director and tell him I don’t want the man near the family: that I will personally toss him if he is let in.

Boy Toy stays in his car the whole time and we get back into the limo. Ready for the final ride to the cemetery.

My four sisters were in an odd mood. They were all being nervous silly, that is laughing and joking, something I usually do, one joke and one comeback after another. Little did they know that things were about to change in a hurry?

As we approached the cemetery, I noticed something strange.

TOMORROW: IT ALL BLOWS UP!


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Monday, June 16, 2014

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS


You make a funny face.

I finally had an agreement with TLW (The Little Woman) that the tree in my front yard had to go. It is sitting almost on the sidewalk and the roots are coming out of the ground and on my lawn. It is a nuisance to live under in spite of the wonderful shade, because when it sheds its leaves, the front of the house is a mess, the roots are killing my grass and lifting up the concrete walk.

No, this is NOT a lemon tree.
So I contracted a tree removal service and he gave me a price and I agreed. In his price was a date, which I put down on my calendar and waited to come with great anticipation. It was scheduled for a Monday and he said he would call me on the weekend to confirm. He calls Friday night to tell me he is not coming because his wife is having a C-section and would be clearing the whole week away. I call him back and we make a new date for the week following.

For a whole week I am looking at the tree and wishing it were gone so I could get my lawn into shape.

The big day arrives and there was no call from the tree remover, plus the weather is not going to be good. It is going to rain and rain heavy. This means the big sissy will not come, of course. I waited 30 years to get rid of the tree and I will probably wait another 30 years in spite of my doctors.

Suddenly, at 6:30 in the morning, the big sissy calls and says he has to cancel the work until Saturday, because the rest of the week he has municipal work!

Actually, I think this is a good way to live forever!

If it weren’t for the fact that nothing will really happen with or without that tree, I’d fire the guy. I know the rain is coming, but so was the baby, so why schedule something then in the first place?

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

DAD AND I

Happy Father’s Day to a wonderful man, my Dad. He was human in a very real sense, and if he had a fault, it was that he loved everyone. He taught me how to wield a hammer, fix a lamp, and treat people. He gave me wonderful memories and family history so rich and exciting that I miss hearing him tell me the stories.

He taught me to help those who could not help themselves, to be compassionate yet discerning and how to give your all when working.
He took me to my first baseball game, sometimes had too little patience and sometimes too much. He cared about me, worried and tried to be a good father. He failed, he was a GREAT father: to my 4 sisters and me.

You could always find him playing a prank on Mom, teasing one of us and on the other hand, helping us to establish our households when we started out in life.

He was a home body, a man who put his family first and himself last, just behind Mom, who seemed to push him away to be last. There was always laughter in the house and a warm sense of togetherness, for as a family we were happy with each other. We each had a special relationship with him that made him so special.

I hope you are playing a prank on Mom today, as you welcome her into Heaven with you. Oh by the way, the Mets still stink.

THE AMERICAN WAY

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I find it interesting that the Federal government can be so harsh and draconian on the ordinary citizen who pays his taxes, doing his duty as a citizen, when it comes to that citizen’s savings. The Feds tax it, make you report it, and will take it away from you if you wish to give it to your children: and when you suddenly need Medicaid, will give away the billions in benefits to illegal aliens who skirt the law and sneak into this country with out even paying taxes, or social security. Somehow, earning and saving is somehow punishable by law! God Bless America!

But that is the American way.

My issue is not with the illegal aliens, especially those with children who want a better life and want it desperately, my issue is with the Federal Government and how it discerns how to treat its citizens when it comes to money, their money.

Where is it written in the Constitution that taxation is a must?

Aren’t the governments that rule the various levels of our civilization supposed to be accountable to the citizens?

Is it not the responsibility to serve and protect the Constitution and the populace by those elected officials?

Is the government wielding too much power and making itself unwieldy?

Do we need taxation? Maybe, but we need freedom from tyranny first, then accountable governments that spend our hard earned dollars, and paternal protection with maternal care for the people.

If an old lady with few dollars saves them for her children, there should be some respect for the taxes already paid and the savings should be protected from more government intrusion.

This is a great country, in fact it is the greatest country in the world, as long as we the people are diligent and watch how our government is run. We need stronger laws to protect property, and we diligence in how we administer the laws of the land. And above all, we need to protect ourselves as a nation from wasteful spending and a cavalier attitude towards our hard earned money. We need above all, protection from Congress.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

THE DRIVE-IN THEATER


How about a trip down Memory Lane? Actually a stop along the way down Memory Lane is what I’m talking about.

If you are old enough you can remember the Friday or Saturday nights at the local Drive-In. It was a special time and just about everyone went to one every so often. It took you out of the routine of TV and the movie house into the night, free and fresh as the air!

Usually if you went with your family, you went right before sunset so you could get the ideal spot, the little kids in their pajamas in the back seat and close to the refreshment stand. You were bombarded with great advertising for such great treats as hot dogs, popcorn and candy, with a soda standing guard over all the stuff Dad carried back to the car in that little grey box. The red and white stripe boxes of French fries seemed to whet the appetite and you had to have something.

As you sat you watched the other families come and settle in and waited for the sun to set, it seemed the sun never set waiting, and so usually a fight broke out in the back seat until the movie began.

Then one day you went to the drive-in with your friends. Usually there were 6, four paid and two were concealed usually under a blanket, making the experience that much more fun. Then I learned if I just took a date by myself, I had to go back to see the movie again! (Hey, don’t judge, I was young)

Usually there was always some schmuck who pulled up in a van to block your view. This moron also had to step on his brake during the show, so you would put on your high beams and shine into his rearview mirror, hoping to blind the numbskull and send him home.

But the best part was yet to come! No, not the movie, but leaving the parking lot, the mad scramble just as the credits started to roll, everyone jockeying to position to beat the crowd and make the mad exodus to the main road.

And so another part of my youth is forever gone, no longer to be lived, as the world peers into their smart phones and close off another part of being human.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

TODAY I REMEMBER

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Today: is Dad’s anniversary, the day he was liberated from this life of pain and sorrow, joy and laughter, what he owns now I know not. But while he was alive, a lot of things occurred that bring back only the fondest of memories. His life was a celebration to him, the gathering of his grandchildren and children, under one roof for a holiday, in particular Christmas Eve.

But there was an uncle of his: Zio Felice, (Uncle Felix) who will take center stage today, because he was a character, one that is remembered with both reverence and awe. This mighty man stood tall, all 5’01” of him when he stood on his toes. He had a wingspan on his Salvatore Dali moustache of six feet.

It has always been my contention that he was trying to start his own country. He was the oldest brother of Grandma Frances, and the patriarch of the family. All Grandmas children respected him.

When coming to this country around the turn of the century, while on the boat sailing to America, dressed in his black suit with grey fedora and brown shoes, someone told him there was no macaroni in America. This immediately caused a problem when he immediately advanced to the railing and started to climb it. The crew was about to scramble for a ‘Man overboard’ call. He was going to swim back to Italy where there was plenty of macaroni.

He was a man of amazing stamina, and the only one with more stamina that I could think of is his wife, the mother of his 19 children, ergo: the small startup country That’s right, 19. But his little sister Frances was a little smarter than him, when on occasions having a bad day, would throw in her four children and with the 19 Zio Felice had, he could not tell the difference, and fed them all.

Working in construction, he would arrive home at night, and all 19 kids sometimes 23 would all stand at their place at the table and wait for Papa to sit first, then they sat and ate. He was a dictator, so you know what kind of country it would be!

When Dad bought the house Mom is living in, Zio Felice decided to come and bless the new abode. The problem was on that faith filled Saturday morning, which Dad and Mom went out to the supermarket, leaving me in charge. Looking out the front door I notice this car suddenly pull up. It’s Aunt Angie, one of my favorite aunts and Dad’s sister. Suddenly another door swings open and out comes his eminence, Zio Felice, elegantly attired in full fluffed moustache and brown shoes!

Observing protocol, I bow and great the Great One, explaining away the absence of the proprietor of the dwelling and lack of ceremonial band and honor guard. I immediately take him on tour of the house and then the grounds, when we come to this particular spot on the front lawn. Eyes squinting in the sun he begins his inquest;

ZF: “And whatta you put a here?”

Me: “Just this lawn?”

ZF: “Atza no good. You digga hole a here, hew putta in the flaga pole and raise a da flag.”

Me: “Should I put a picture of Garibaldi at the bottom?”

ZF: “Ha What?”

Me: “Should I put a picture of Garibaldi at the bottom, Sir?”

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY DAD, SAY HELLO TO IL COMANDANTE DEL BAGNO: ZIO FELICE!


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TWO DAYS OF SADNESS


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It’s Friday the 13th, and today I will for the first time, visit Mom. She will lie in a wooden box and for one day my life will be put on hold, while I spend it remembering what it is all about.

Yesterday was spent running around, collecting memories and photos of her past, visiting the funeral parlor and making the final arrangements, and along with my sisters, planning the flowers, meals and the ritual of saying goodbye in church, before we close the door to a time, but not the past.

Yesterday was actually Dad’s anniversary of his death. No, we didn’t forget, and I will never forget. Mom made it easy for me to remember. She always made things seem like sense.

We will see mom today for the first time since she passed. We will compare and make notes to ourselves in our minds of how she was and how she is. Tomorrow will be the final act of Mom’s earthly life, tomorrow I will realize it all, today I stay numb.

Don’t cry for Mom, she lived to 96: she lived a very happy last 20 years of her life. She has left behind a legacy of beautiful grandchildren and great grandchildren, I am proud of them and hope they all can stay in touch.

As it was with Dad, Father’s Day will be remembering someone we buried a day ago, as both Mom and Dad choose it to be.

Happy Father’s Day.




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Thursday, June 12, 2014

MOM

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It seems I keep coming back to Mom lately. It is because I am amazed about her constitution and how brave she is. She doesn’t wish to die, but she is not afraid.

As she lies there in the bed, the remnants of the previous hours seem to punctuate the room with harsh reminders of how much she is losing the battle but holding a brave front in the face of certainty, a certainty of finality. There are creams, and medications, pads and drinks with straws, there is very little else, except a comb and maybe rubber gloves.

I look into her eyes and see a vacancy where once there was attention and voice.

All my life as a little boy, I had this fear that one day I would lose my mom, and how horrific it would feel. I remember her telling me how she lost her mother, how cold she felt and as she described how she watched as a young woman as they lowered the casket of Mary her mother into the ground one October day, I tried to relate and feel that pain. I was too young to fully comprehend it, and every time I smell flowers, I get that funereal feel that gives me a sense of sadness, and fear of the unknown.

My wish for her is to die. I know now that will be the result no matter what, and her quality of life as they say is nil, non-existent. It would be selfish of me to wish otherwise, as I watch her not move or be able to enjoy anything. Oh, she is waiting to die, like a commuter waiting for a train, sitting alone in the station looking down the track for her ride.

Something curious is happening to me, I understand the process of dying better, with a healthy attitude and realize the state is not scary after all, but just another act in the drama we call life. It is the final act, and it should have a happy ending, one in a way like Mom’s, with dignity, love and people who care for her and want only the best for her. She is fortunate in that she is in no pain, just lying there waiting, her mind sharp as ever and in some instances better than mine. But that has always been the case, as she corrected and taught me. And yes, even in death she will teach me one more valuable lesson, how to die with dignity.


“Death,” Rainer Maria Rilke
Before us great Death stands
Our fate held close within his quiet hands.
When with proud joy we lift Life’s red wine
To drink deep of the mystic shining cup
And ecstasy through all our being leaps—
Death bows his head and weeps.


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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

THANK YOU MOM,


Cicero once said:
The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living. - Cicero

And so Mom’s life was a guiding light to her children. One that led us to do what we needed to do: helped us to become adults and do always what she would want us to do and be. To this day that is true.

Her life was a life of pain and sorry as child and young woman, the pain she suffered is too painful, separated from her two sisters and mother as her mom had a mental breakdown and she had to live in a Catholic home run by nuns for us to speak of and it seems the only joy she had was in her 5 children. We lived our lives with her values laid out before us, and her face, set squarely in front of every move we ever made. If we accomplished anything with self-pride, she reminded us that pride must be handled quietly, without fanfare.

But Mom was filled with laughter, no matter how hard life was for her, she enjoyed a laugh. As she laid in her deathbed I often teased her until she did laugh. Every morning, in her state of rigidness, she lied waiting for my arrival and I would pull up a chair and begin.

She was very receptive to laughter, although she was shy as one can be. She could laugh at herself, and at life in general. I found her laughter to be something I always enjoyed hearing. Many years ago, working for a large company, with a lot of responsibilities, I would after lunch, close my door for an hour and just plan my next moves would be, write letters and memos and read. It was NOT to be uninterrupted time. The rule was NOT to disturb me. There was a woman who sat outside my office in the support staff who would laugh at times, and her laughter sounded like Mom’s. I would close my eyes and think of her and smile.

The memories I hold are to many and too beautiful for me to relate her in this small space of time, she was a great mother, and a model mother, something that comes and brands your memories with love.

As she was in her comatose state at the end, I leaned close to her ear and told her I love her, that she made me better than I could ever be otherwise, and I thanked her for her being, her lessons and her love, but most of all, my life.

Good-bye Mom, I am sorry for every moment of aggravation I brought you, for every time you had to chase me and correct me. I am glad that you did what you needed to do to care for me, love me for what I am and I promise you, those lessons will be studied hard and remembered.

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