Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Unique Relationships......

When you live in the Northeast, on a wooded mountain, with a long windy driveway that is half gravel you need a lot of help to keep it well maintained. I have my crew that I count on most of the time. My Pick Up Truck, the two Kubota tractors, the chainsaws, weed wackers, leaf blowers, lawnmowers and my John Deere Gator are my posse. Almost forgot my IPod, for without music I fear I would lose my fragile grasp on that I have on sanity.

Of course family helps when they can. When we have a foot or so of snow it's all hands on deck. But most of the time it's me and the guys doing our best to battle what nature throws our way. We head out in the morning, me full of a hearty breakfast and Advil, them full of diesel or two cycle gas. As the day goes on and both of our tanks drain we realize it's a never ending battle.

Of course, most of it is my fault. When we moved to Mt. KoKo the property was overgrown, not maintained at all. I cleared the yard around the house and never stopped - like Grant marching through the South I kept on going. What was once a few hours over the weekend to keep the yard looking good turned into weekend projects, and that was only if everything is working.

So, as weird as it may sound, I have developed relationships with "my guys". Purely platonic I assure you, there is no desire to take it to the next level (yes, I have had several dances with the weed wackers, but it's a guy thing). When you spend as much time with them as I do it helps to understand each other. I give them pep talks in the morning and at the end of a hard day I pat them and tell them "Good Job".

As in any relationship we have our problems. When the weed wackers get cranky and act up they have been hurled in anger. When the bucket loader and snow plow both died with two feet of snow on the ground I was almost reduced to tears. But the anger dies and we always patch things up. This year we have gotten along pretty good. I have kept them clean and properly lubricated (always works for me!). We try not to overwork each other. We take our lunch breaks together. I have ordered a shelter for the bucket loader to keep it enclosed during the winter months. I fear a tough winter is coming and need everyone in good spirits.

I'm just in from a long day of cutting down fallen trees, tired and a bit stinky. The couch and a restful evening are calling me. But first, I'm going to open a bottle of Cabernet and head back to the garage, chill a bit with the guys, make sure they are all in good spirits. The temperature is dropping daily and they know I need them more than they need me!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Manventions - inventions for men. Originally I was going to talk about my love for paper towels, how I think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. I use them for everything, I will take a roll and wash my car, the basement floor, I stain wood with them, nuke pizza, have used them to filter sediments from older wines. I have washed face, hands and even cooled off the fun parts on a hot summer day. But paper towels lets face it, they are a gender friendly product, can be enjoyed by both Dudes and Dude-etes. But while cleaning the basement the other day, and yes going through another roll of paper towels (thank god for Price Club), I came up with a great idea, the back pack vacuum cleaner.

Now I of course checked on line to make sure they were not available, and damn if they were! Rather pricey I will say, the ones I saw were in the mid-$300 range. The one thing they all had in common was cords, they all had to be plugged in. What we need is a battery powered sucker, just strap it on and run free like Wildebeests on a Friday nite in Cowtown.

I need the think tank at Dewalt or Mikata to develop this. Nothing to heavy, a 2 1/2 gallon unit will be fine. It would need a hose that can extend about 6 feet, long enough to get the cobwebs from the ceiling corners and enough juice to last about 30 minutes. Dyson makes a nice hand held unit, but the battery quits faster than a 90 year old man after too many snorts of single malt. Of course the deluxe model would come with an I-Pad attachment and headphones!

Ladies you want to get your man more involved with the house work? Then join me on this idea. Guys love power tools, well real guys do. Leave us in the tool department at either Lowes or Home Depot and we are like kids at Toys R Us in December. Ah, the look on our face as we opened a box on Christmas morning and a new cordless backpack vacuum (the KoKoVac)  was under the wrapping! Nothing against slippers or flannel bath robes, but something we can play with? Now that is the gift that keeps on giving!!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bigger is not always Better!!

Most guys I know will agree that bigger is not always better. I'm not talking about what lies below the waistline, just life in general. This past weekend I had the opportunity to see two concerts, one at Hershey Park in PA, and one at the City Winery in NYC.

I have not seen the group Nickleback play. I knew a lot of their songs so when tickets became available I thought why not. The only concert I usually make these days is when Buffett is in the area so I decided to broaden my horizons so to speak.

We went to a bar a short walk from Hershey Park where we could leave the car. Nickleback is touring with Buckcherry and Three Days Grace, two groups I'm not familiar with. The brewskies I was enjoying were familiar so we hung at the bar until the main event was scheduled to start. Some things never change.

The stadium at Hershey Park can hold up to 30,000 for concerts, I would guess there was around 20,000 in attendance. It was a great night for an outdoor concert. Our seats were up kinda high so we decided to stand in an aisle on the field level. Outdoor rock concerts and sitting just don't make sense to me. I would always rather stand, just makes it more enjoyable. Plus you don't have to climb over people when it's time to feed the liver or empty the bladder.

It was a good show, they played many songs I knew - Photograph, This Afternoon, Gotta Be Somebody and Someday to name a few. They also did some great covers, Friends In Low Places by Garth Brooks, Don't Stop Believing by Journey and Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi. Nickleback is a great rock band, no elaborate stage, just 4 guys on the stage rocking out. I was glad I went. After the show was over we went back to the bar for nitecaps. Again, some things never change!!

It was a late nite and an early morning, I had to be back for my grandson's football game. I made it back and they won but my butt was dragging all day. The Friday before I was offered two tickets to see John Hiatt on Sunday night. It's been awhile since I had done back to back concerts, but I'm a huge Hiatt fan so I could not turn it down. So son Travis, the Tech Guru and another huge Hiatt fan and I headed in.

Now I'm not a city guy, hate the traffic and congestion. I was a regular at the Bottom Line, one of the greatest places to see a concert but when it closed in 2004 my trips to Greenwich Village ended. So while the trip to the City Winery was vaguely familiar, wrong turns were made, curse words were uttered. We got there a little later than I wanted, but a parking garage was almost next door which saved time.

I'm telling you, the City Winery ( is a pretty neat place, like an upscale Bottom Line. Restaurant sitting, probably holds about 300 with a stage in the center. Sure, the food is expensive, as is the drink, but it's NYC! They make their own brand of wine there, I had the Cabernet which was quite tasty. Go on the website, check it out. They have some good groups playing there.

Holly Williams, who is Hank Williams' granddaughter, opened for Hiatt.  A country singer with a couple of albums out she played for about 30 minutes. All acoustic, good music, a great opening act. I plan to pick up her albums she was that entertaining.

Hiatt came on around  9:30 or so. I have seen him many times, with a band, with Lyle Lovett and on the songwriter tour with Lovett, Joe Ely and Guy Clark. This was my first solo acoustic show and I was so looking forward to it. Years ago I saw Buffett perform acoustic, might still be my favorite concerts of all time. When it's just the artist and a guitar, that's just it man. Does not get any better. Hiatt did not disappoint.

He opened with Master of Disaster and played many favorites, Drive South, Buffalo River Home, Cry Love and Walk On were just a few. He has so many great songs, it was almost like a greatest hits concert. Fans were shouting out songs and he obliged by playing them. It was almost like being back at the Bottom Line when John Hartford performed there. Hartford in my humble opinion was the ultimate performer, always playing requests. Hiatt is a close second. If you have never seen him live, it is a must see deal. He plays his heart out. He closed with probably his best known song - Have a Little Faith In Me - just after midnight. One of the best shows I have seen in a long time.

So, Saturday was the grand stage Rock Band and Sunday was the best known unknown singer / songwriter. Two great events, but give me the smaller venue any day. Not because the eyes and ears aren't what they once were, it's just more intimate, more personal. Catch the show if you can, you will greatly enjoy it!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Dinosaur Vs. Technology -

OK, I am not on the cutting edge of technology. When computers are working smoothly I think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. But should an error pop up, if the screen freezes like a deer in headlights, should it slow down like Eeyore with a hangover, my patience is quickly tested. If I cant fix it (the odds are always highly stacked against that) in a few minutes I immediately search out my son Travis, the family Tech Guru. With the clock ticking the race is on as to whether he shows up before I lift the offending piece of equipment over my head and hurl it as far as possible. Granted, I doubt the result of a movable object (my laptop) meeting an immovable object (the fireplace) would bring about favorable results, but the immediate satisfaction might just be worth it.

So, when I brought home the Apple I-Pad, my family once again questioned my sanity. Now my sanity check is usually a weekly occurrence  but this time I felt justified -  "I got a good deal", I told them. Regardless of the cost involved they thought I was nuts. And Travis? Well he did his best impersonation of my beloved Boston Red Sox, he tried to fade quickly into the sunset.

Now I have to admit, I have been a Dell man my whole life. Don't know why, have never met Michael Dell and I doubt he needs any more of my hard earned but quickly decreasing income. But I am a creature of habit, and not a bright one at that. But I do have an Apple I-Pod which I love. Just use it for tunes, no photos, no videos and no podcasts, don't even know what the Hell a podcast is! So I figured, if I can use one Apple product I was sure I could manage another.

As I opened the box I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I did it privately, wanted to prove I could get it up and running alone, without the help of the family Tech Guru. Well, I opened it at work and you need to have access to your Apple account to get it cranking so I had to wait till I got home. But damn, once I got home, hooked it up to my Dell (thankfully interracial relationships are accepted these days), logged into I-Tunes and it fired up like a '68 Firebird!

This thing is pretty cool! Yes, a lot of what you can do on it can be done on a lap top. There are countless video games you can download (look at me with the lingo) but the last video games I played were Space Invaders and Pacman at the Brownstone. You can manage pictures the same, email and search the internet. And yes, those TV commercials comparing it to a Kindle, showing the problems reading with sun glare are true. Still I love this sucker.

It's much smaller than a lap top, easier to carry around. There is an endless amount of "Apps" you can download, many free. You want to read the paper, a magazine, check the weather or see what wine goes best with a Buffalo Chicken dish? That would be a Riesling. That took me less than 10 seconds to find out. You can watch your stocks ( might not be a good idea), check out eBay, buy tickets on Stub Hub or catch up with friends on Facebook.  And you can do this from pretty much anywhere.

The books cost about the same as they do on a Kindle, so don't but it for this feature. All my music is downloaded, as are my photos. I'm putting in my contacts, you might be able to download them, not sure since I misplaced the instruction manual (what a surprise). The great feature is that all applications are just a touch away. Not new to you I-Phone users (still a Blackberry man), but those of you who are Apple virgins, it might be time to pop your cherry. It navigates quickly and so far I have not had the desire to make it into the worlds most expensive Frisbee!

Check it out. I'm not promoting it at all, just think if a dinosaur like me can find enjoyment and benefits from it, those with a wee bit more computer expertise would really enjoy it. Now please excuse me as I sit back with my morning cup of coffee and catch up with Opus and Bill the Cat - did I mention the free Comic App?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thank God for Football Season

The 2010 Football season is here and not a moment too soon. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the Baseball season and I'll watch the finals in Basketball (not the same since Bird and Magic left). Hockey, well I doubt I could even name a dozen players and those I could name would be on the Devils. Soccer, if they played that more than once every 4 years I might follow it more. But come early September the weekends are a wee bit more interesting and while I enjoy the NFL, its the Saturday morning games that grab my heart.

If you have ever been involved in the great game of football, as a  player, coach or just a die hard fan you understand what I mean. I was lucky enough to coach at the "Pop Warner" level for 15 years. My wife ran the snack bar and all of my kids were involved - the lads played and the ladies cheered. That was one of the greatest stretches of time in my life. Most of the friendships I have today all started when I coached their kids in the program. Hell, many of the kids I coached then are friends now!

The world was a simpler place back in the early 80's. MTV first appeared on the music scene, Pac Man was in every corner bar in the country. Michael Jackson gave us "Thriller", the largest selling record of all time and Compact Disks shoved 8-tracks into the closet. Our football program was more of a babysitting service back then. Parents would drop their kids off at 6pm and pick them up around 8pm. They trusted us and they had no reason not too. The kids listened to us, never any back talk, never any lip.

We tried to make practice fun for the kids. We never called a player out for making mistakes, we would pull them aside and correct the problem out of the spotlight. We had drills the kids enjoyed, relays at the end of practice. We worked hard on the fundamentals, they learned the game the right way. If a player brought in an "A" test score from school they were excused from sprints at the end of practice. I did fine the players, mostly for being late to practice. The fine was always a bag of Peanut M&M's, my favorite snack at the time. How could I ask for money?

We always had a "Coaches Meeting" after the Friday practice, as our games were usually played Saturday mornings. We'd meet at Nellies, a local restaurant famous for their thin crust pizza. After several pies and more than several pitchers of brew-ha-has, we would head back to my house for more in depth strategy planning. The bigger the game the next morning, the later we would be up working on the game plan. Of course, libations would be flowing the whole time. Ah, Junior Football, full of late nites and early mornings!! Advil was always a breakfast staple!!

Games always went too fast, winning or losing. I can honestly say, back then winning was not the most important thing. Of course we played to win, but we also made sure all the kids got in the game. We made sure the kids had fun, got them as much playing time as we could. Sure a game or two might have been lost because little Johnny needed more plays, but most understood that.

In the 15 years I coached I don't recall any problems, and confrontations with parents. Sure, they would question some of the plays I called and when reviewing the films at times I could not blame them! But no one ever got into my face on how good their kid was, how they should be starting over someone else. I always tried to be fair and if I had doubts I would confer with the other coaches. Parents appreciated all the hours we put in over the season. It's changed now, many think their players are going to be superstars, full rides to college, make the Pro's. They push their kids hard, take them to camp after camp. It's a damn shame. Life is too friggin short as it is and childhood is shorter. Let kids be kids as long as they can. The real world sucks much of the time.

My oldest grandson has been playing for a few years now and my second oldest is just starting. My youngest son is coaching the freshman at his Alma mater. Once again weekends are filled with the game, my only problem is  trying to get to all of them!

There is a quote, not exactly sure how it goes or who said it but it goes something like this "In the game of football you might miss a block, drop a pass or fumble the ball ~ but never forget how lucky you are just to be able to play the game" Amen!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Harley Trip

I've always wanted to take an actual trip on my Harley. Sure have done the rallies, Sturgis, Daytona and Myrtle Beach but we trailered the bikes to these events. And honestly because of the distance involved as well as limited time available (job, family - those pesky commitments) riding there was not really an option. Needed to find something close but not too close, a nice 3 - 4 day trip.

Last year my son Gates and his wing man Nate rode out to Lake Erie for the Roar On The Shore Rally. Not a major rally and relatively new, believe it was the 3rd year. But he said it was a great time, a 4 day deal. Sounded perfect for what I wanted to do. So I called my wing man (you NEVER leave your wing man) Marko, who I had at hello, and we were set. We did add a fifth day to the trip, the two AARP members did not want to push it too much!!!

As the departure date gets close, you go through the normal routines, get the bikes serviced and spend hours cleaning them. You check the weather channel what seems like every few hours. Get the clothes ready. Buy the rain suit you've been putting off for years (if you have it, it will not rain). Download new songs for the I-Pod, tunes are oh so important!

Thursday morning has finally arrived. Marko and I are going to meet at a rest area off I84 and catch up with Gates and Nate at the Dunkin Donuts in Port Jervis (nothing like a DD coffee to get the heart pumping!). My phone rings and its Marko (not good) he holds the phone next to his bike as he tries to start it and all you hear are the dreaded clicks (really not good), damn, dead battery. No biggie, put it on the charger and we might just miss a few hours. Well, four hours later and still nothing (we find out later that if a bike battery dies you cant recharge it).

We tell Gates and Nate to leave, that we will catch up to them. Marko decides to buy a new battery, he swaps them out and he is off. We catch up with them at a Harley dealership, where Nate takes advantage of our delay to get his oil changed (ultimate procrastinator!) After a short wait we are finally off on the journey!

Gates mapped out our route, pretty much taking Route 6 all the way, which is a freaken scenic route. You travel along rivers and lakes, through forests and small towns. We took our first break at one of those scenic overlooks, the views were breathtaking. As we were heading back to Route 6 I notice Marko looking down, seeming to have trouble clutching and sure enough he pulls over and stops. "Holy Crap" I think to myself, what next?

Well, none of us know much about the mechanics of Harley's, Gates knows just enough to get himself in trouble. After a few minutes we notice there is a loose bolt which prevented the clutch from fully engaging. We dig the loose bolt out, (damn we're good) and now need to find out where it came from. Must be that damn flitch plate!! Knowing really nothing about motorcycles, flitch plate is a generic term we use for any problem, hell it sounds good!. Actually it came from the horn assembly, Gates gets it back in and we are off again.

A few hours later the skies darkened and sure enough they opened big time on us. By the time we could stop and get rain gear out we were soaked. With no other options we rode on. We came  upon some road construction, where they were repaving the highway. It was still raining and we were riding on grooved pavement. If you have ever ridden a bike on grooved pavement you know it sucks big time. Even at a slow pace we were all over the place. We made the 10+ miles without incident, but damn not looking forward to that on the ride back.

As the sun was setting we pulled into the hotel for the night, road weary, hungry and needing to quench some serious thirst. We did not have reservations and you can guess what happened next - no rooms at the inn! They were kind enough to call the other hotels in the area and again, all booked. We were about to head back to the previous town, but we found a B&B that had two rooms. We checked in, walked to the first restaurant we found (we were the only ones in it) had burgers and  several beers and called it a night. In the morning our host prepared a breakfast that was simply nip-doodleish, far better than we deserved. We said our goodbyes, filled the tanks and we were off again.

The ride into Erie was thankfully uneventful. After a stop at the Kinzua Dam, again great views, we rolled into Lake Erie in the early afternoon. As I said earlier, it's not a big rally, but with Harley being a major sponsor you know all the ingredients for fun will be there. An endless supply of unique bikes, cold beer, beauty pageant contestants, live bands - what else do you need? Again as the sun was setting (not a huge fan of riding at night) we headed to the hotel, where we HAD reservations. Marko and I dropped our bags and headed right to the liquor store to stock up. After a few cold, tasty libations by the pool we decided to walk downtown for dinner. Learned many years ago that the bikes remained stationary after 3 drinks and we planned to have many more than that, which we did.

We had thought about joining the poker run through the vineyards the next morning, but the 8 am departure time prevented our inclusion. We found a nice local place for breakfast, visited the Harley Dealership and then headed off on our own tour of the vineyards. We rode north, along Lake Erie, visiting and doing tastings at the vineyards, found a place to climb down to the beach and stopped at a local pub on the way back. A great day believe me. Back at the hotel we again enjoyed pool side cold ones, kabitzed and mingled with other bikers before we walked downtown to the rally. We stayed longer than we planned (not much of a surprise) and stumbled back to the hotel.

Sunday morning, after several Advil we need to gather whatever marbles we have left along with our belongings and start the journey back. Things never seem to fit back in the packs the same way and all I added to the load was a t-shirt. I guess the Oscar Madison method of packing takes up more room. We get squared away and are off once again.

We decide to get as far as we can, leave a short ride for Monday. Thankfully the ride back was pretty much hassle free. The grooved pavement still sucked but at least we had dry weather. We did once again face the "no room at the inn" - next year reservations will be made. Another B&B saved us again. Monday we were up early and after a lite breakfast we started the final leg of our trip.

Several hours later we were in Port Jervis where we parted our ways, Gates and Nate heading back to NJ and Marko and I continuing north to NY. It was a great time, sure there were many bumps in the road so to speak but that just adds flavor. We traveled just over 1,000 miles on the trip, met some interesting folks, had some great belly laughs, saw great views of this wonderful country and killed a few more brain cells. It might not have been the Route 66 trip (my ultimate dream trip) but we had a damn good time and will be back again next year with a few more riders!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

80 Years Young

Today my dad turns 80. If you ever have the chance to meet him, you would never guess him to be 80.  He looks much younger (hope I have those genes) and acts younger still (those genes I do have!).  In the words of Jimmy Buffett he is, "growing older but not up".

His dad passed away when he was a teenager. I can't imagine growing up without a father, I know how lucky I am. Over recent years we have had the chance to spend some late nights together, and he would share stories of his youth.  Even though my father only had his father for a short spell, he was very proud of him.  "He was a man's man" he would always say. "He had a wooden leg, but it did not slow him down."  My grandfather still managed to give my dad a workout on the tennis court!

I had the opportunity, or I'll say, the privilege of working for him and then alongside him for over 30 years. I worked my way up in the business...product assembly, truck driver,  and foreman before moving to the office and finally up in management. He played no favorites, made sure I earned my way. Of course we still butted heads here and there, any father and son in the same business will do that. But the good times, conventions, factory trips - they far outweighed any negative times we had.

His favorite movie is "It's a Wonderful Life" and he still tears up at the ending. His music tastes, well, they are stuck in the 50's. Doubt he could even name a song by the Beetles.  I did get him to a Buffett concert once, but I think he enjoyed the tailgate more!

Sports has always been a way of life in our family. Football season being the best time of year.  Dad loved to tailgate at the NY Giants games; he enjoyed the Army games at West Point. But as big as football was (and still is), golf is what brought us closer as a family. We were lucky enough to play some great courses together. Pine Valley, Pebble Beach and The Belfry to name a few.  Those trips have left me with some incredible memories. And yes, he may have lost some yards off his drives, his putter not quite as true, but he still has that competitive spirit, still giving it his all.

Summers in my family were spent at the Jersey Shore. He always let his hair down there. Can't go into much, not sure if the statute of limitations is up yet! Winter vacations were always Disney. I remember always being at the rope, waiting for the parks to open.  When the rope dropped, we would take my younger brother by the arms and run to the main attractions. We had such great times there that I continued the tradition with my family.  My wife and I, for over 25 years, dragged our circus of a family to Disney. Looking back on those trips I'm shocked I'm still sane.  And now my kids are following suit, spending the money in favor of a lifetime of memories.  And to think my Pop started it all.  With how big our family has grown, Disney has ought to be grateful.

My parents lost a child when he was 5. My mother never fully recovered, it always haunted her. My dad, well he kind of tucked it away as best he could. But the sadness was always there, it was evident late at night when our conversations were more personal, emotional. When we lost Tommy life changed, priorities changed. Enjoying the simple things life has to offer became more prevalent. You look back at what you have learned from your parents; the honesty, the integrity, the being charitable. All important. But, I feel the most important thing my dad ever taught me was to "Smell the Roses". I'm doing my best to pass that onto my kids.....

Growing up as the oldest of four, I was the rebellious one, a product of the times. Did not do well in school, never finished college. Gave him and my mother fits. He is a Marine (once a Marine, always a Marine) and I never served. But as tough as he tried to be, he was always there if we needed him. I hope now I can be there for him. We lost Mom a little over a year ago. They were married over 50 years. I will never forget the call when he told me she had passed, never forget seeing him in the hospital outside her room. I had seen him cry before; at my sisters wedding, those cherished late night conversations.  But never like this. She was the love of his life. They did everything together, and her leaving left a huge void. He has found someone to help with the loneliness, add some  laughter and good times, but he misses her each and every day.

Dad, everything I have I owe to you, everything. Everything my family has we owe to you. I can only hope I can be half the man you are. Tonight at dinner, as we celebrate another year of ups and downs, I will tell you that. Thanx for it all Dad. 

Thanx for it all.
Love you.