Top 5 Heroes Of The Week! Special Edition

We have another first in our Heroes series this week. This is a very special edition that will deviate from the regular top 5, because the story touched me in such a way that it seemed only right to reserve this Friday’s table for only two. This story happened last year, but I am always going to run with something that makes the news? Worthy.

This week’s Special Top 2 Heroes are Bob Kraft and Alyssa Silva. Their story exemplifies hope, faith and our better angels.

I know what you’re thinking. . a New England Patriot as good hero? Two days before the New England Invitational? That there is anathema to the senses of any football fan outside of the 508. But the owner of the New England Patriots is much more than just the “Gate”-keeper to a modern day dynasty. Kraft is also a civic minded mensch whose outreach has helped to make countless lives better.

Alyssa Silva is one of those lives. The twenty eight year old Ms. Silva is a blogger who specializes in creating bold new words like ‘enoughness’. And when she’s not writing, she’s non-profiting (another Silva Special) as an entrepreneur whose mission is to bring awareness to spinal muscular atrophy. SMA affects the motor nerve cells of the spinal cord and inhibits muscle growth. Alyssa was diagnosed with the disease when she was six months old. Doctors at the time predicted she would not live past her second birthday.

Embrace the rough draft. Learn from the edits- Alyssa Silva

Silva has been a frequent guest of owner Bob Kraft at Patriots home games over the years, and last summer she and her family took part in what they believed was a follow up segment for ESPN. During the interview, Kraft and Matthew Slater (Silva’s favorite player) presented them with a handicapped accessible van. These rides do not come cheap, and while her family had been shopping for one, they feared they might not be able to afford it.

Kraft came through with a game winning drive of his own. And it’s easy to see why his organization has been gold standard professional throughout his tenure. Because the Boss? Gives a damn about the people in his circle. Love him or loathe him, that’s how leaders are supposed to behave.

Joy and Pain Can Coexist- That’s when I realized: it’s easy to falter on the false idea that joy can finally enter your life once the challenge has been overcome. But the reality is that joy is ever-present, and despite the discipline and hard work it requires, choosing to see life this way will always be far more rewarding- Alyssa Silva

As for Alyssa Silva, there’s no doubt about her leadership skills. She is twenty eight years strong, with every single day presenting the kinds of challenges most of us take for granted. In a world whose currency is status, hers is the beauty and grace that actually counts for something. The purpose she brings to every single day is one of faith, perspective and a tenacious spirit that has traversed real life odds pretty much her entire life.

We ain’t gonna find a bigger hero come Super Bowl Sunday than her brilliant soul provides. Because winning the day isn’t about trophies and rings. It’s about the ideals you impart for the profit of others, and that is the kind of selfless currency the world needs more of.

That is everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turntable

It was June of ’86 when I hopped a plane for Port Richey, Florida. My former girlfriend had moved out of New York months earlier and I was in chase despite the fact we weren’t in love with each other. Ours was the kind of relationship that wasn’t interested with being in love. Cliches kicked the shit out of you and made you old before you really got going.

For most of the year and change we were together while she was still living in New York, forever had seemed a million miles long. And then it got lost one night when we were involved in a car accident that took my best friend’s life. Everything, every single thing, changed. We stayed together out of a hopeless desperation to save ourselves from drowning. Until the winter took us to different places, and New York, it became a place full of ghosts.

We broke up but stayed in touch. She almost got pregnant to a college football player while I swore I’d found my future wife in a Hardee’s Drive-Thru, and then we kept turning into someone elses until she called to tell me to get there, just for the hell of it.

It seemed like a great idea until I was touching down in Florida and wondering why in the fuck it was that life didn’t come with annotations. And then we were there, trying to catch up on everything we had lost and not having a chance in hell of getting back to what we had been before our lives spilled out in different directions.

The time I spent with her was filled with the kind of education only experience can provide. Among the things I learned was that the girl had more of my stuff than I remembered giving her. There was a half closet full of my clothes, including winter jackets she had no use for in her new locale but took with her just so she could wear them whenever she thought of me. She had a bunch of my vinyl, to which I cursed myself for giving up so easily. Other items of note included a sweet purple and gold Magic Johnson jersey, a Brooklyn Union Gas pylon I had gifted myself after a night of partying and a football helmet.

The more salient lesson happened from the moment I touched down and she ran into my arms. It was blatantly obvious that we tended to disagree. About everything. She thought the world was flat and I knew it was round. I was a Reagan kid and she loved Carter and Mondale. I read books like No More Vietnams and she read books like Phaedo. She was Mets, Chinese take-out, screwdrivers and U2 while I was Yankees, pizza, Corona and Bon Jovi.

It had never occurred to me that we had absolutely nothing in common back when we had been inseparable. But with the passing of time and place, now it was impossible to ignore. Once upon a time, I just assumed we were passionate and fiery. That’s some interesting shit. But the idea that we were just a couple of stupid kids who had nothing in common? Not so interesting.

So we debated who the best band in the world was and we never got back to even and then we argued on everything else. Until she was telling me to get lost and then I was hopping a plane out of there. Without my Magic Johnson jersey, or my two tone leather jacket . . . or my vinyl.

Twenty years later, we reconnected thanks to an old friend. There was zero expectation of anything romantic happening, but I had to admit it was nice to hear her voice again. She told me she was back in New York and she asked me if there was any chance we might be able to catch up over drinks. We were both divorced with kids and life was flying by and drinks with an old friend felt like a chance. To just forget all the things that time had stolen.

I had to get there. If only to ask how my LP’s were doing . . .

 

 

 

 

Sunday Morning Post

I was recently reminded of something my mother used to say when I was a little boy. I was doing little boy things,  like being needy and whiny with a checklist full of all the many things I had to have, like . . immediately if not sooner.

You can’t want what you don’t have, so stop asking for it already. 

I found this to be a particularly churlish retort to my obviously childish wants. Not to mention the fact that mom was being uber philosophical without even knowing it. A simple because would’ve done, but to go all Kierkegaard on my ass was plainly unfair and wholly undemocratic.

My mother’s intent was to branch out the lesson into places my formative brain couldn’t yet reach, so that I might shut the fuck up for five seconds. And it worked. The preach was graduate level, but not in a mocking sense. More to the point, it trusted my ability to play catch up with the facts. And in the doing, it took my mind off the static qualities of whining all my many needs.

It wasn’t often that I acted my age. I was sixteen when I was six, sneaking smokes and drinking mysterious potions my friends hustled out of their parents linen closets and kissing girls. I hung out with kids who were twice my age, because they were depressing as fuck and I related to that.

Granted, my understanding of philosophy was limited to wondering why it was that Leigh Ann Dence would talk about marrying me inside one moment and then flirt with my friend Steve inside the next. But a relative understanding was plenty good enough.

This particular lesson on wanting, it stuck. Because it learnt me a solid take on humanism and time management. Dwelling on the former demanded patience and humility and ample amounts of soul searching. It taught me that to want what I do not have was an extravagance to which the cosmos frowned upon.

Never mind that I tossed all of that hard earned perspective away as I got older. I became greedy in my wanting of things that were both illusory and damning in the sense of true appreciation. A cancer diagnosis in 2000 and divorce a few years later kicked my ass back to reality.

I teased this lesson I’d carried with me, and I teased it hard inside the aughts of 2000, once I had a few clean bills of health under my belt and had regained my sea legs on the dating scene. Each and every time I was met with a reminder, to go back to the beginning. To be okay with wanting what I had. Because for me, this lesson was a beacon.

It allows me to navigate my definition of happiness without falling into a place from which there ain’t no returning. This way ain’t for everyone, and thank God for that. Because this way comes at a cost. You’ll lose people. Because the world works on credit and all that great shit the stoics once penned is sold on Amazon now.

But I understand that judgement is nothing more than ignorance dressed in black. And on those days when I feel as if the people I trusted most done placed me inside the windows on Herald Square for everyone to gawk at, I let myself understand that anger for what it truly is. Knowledge.

Once you’re unencumbered from ideas that demand you to want- ideas like anger and hate, confusion and vengeance- you can actually fuse that energy into something more ambitious than a linear progression. As a writer, this means channeling the pulpy wrecks into vessels that float.

So goes the lesson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing My Own Personal Cold War

The world seems to be going to Hades in a howitzer. We have the looming specter of nuclear winters, climate expanded summers and a ubiquitous fall from grace in the United States of Twitter.

So why shouldn’t I rail on fucking cart attendants?

Namely, my man Robert. And if you ain’t down with the snark in that sentence, you ain’t read my last love letter to this asshole. You can find it here, but be warned that you will never get back those three minutes of your life. And you’ll never see cart attendants the same way again. Just kidding, we all see cart attendants the same way, don’t we? They’re fucking cart attendants . . they attend to carts. And they’re ain’t nothing wrong with that, but don’t be selling their profession as some kind of Shakespeare novella, ayt?

I guess I’m really not as different as I like to think I am. Because for all the times I grimace at those peeps who need to be liked, it seems I got me some of that DNA as well. I mean, I don’t give a great good fuck if you don’t like me. In fact, I’m plenty coo with it, because let’s face it . . that shit is interesting. If a person doesn’t like me, there’s always this little voice in my head (He sounds like Hugh Jackman) who’s  like Look at you! All hated . . . you must be some King Shit! 

Of course, the feeling is transient and more unstable than a third world bank. After which Hugh Jackman voice is summarily kicked to the curb by Samuel Jackson voice, who says something like Bitch! Get that weak ass shit outta here! King Shit my ass! After which I curse myself for not having any bourbon in my crib.

So it happened again yesterday. More evidence that Robert is fucking with my head. There I was, walking into my local grocer while Robert stood guard at the door, greeting every single fucking person who passed by. As I approached the automatic doors, I checked my phone for no other reason than I didn’t want Robert to think I gave a fuck that he was about to ignore my ass yet again.

Maybe I put too much thought into these interactions, or lack thereof . . I dunno.

Of course, all that chirp ceased as I moved to the doors. Evidently, I am the bubonic plague when it comes to his ability to construct basic sentences. So get this, I smile at a text my pal Q sent me . . . last week. That’ll teach you Robert, you pretentious piece of shit! I got a life that doesn’t need your hello . . bitch.

But nah, Robert wasn’t content with radio silence. Because just as I’m breaching the entrance, he greets someone else. I turn to find the recipient of a hello not named Marc’s and I gotta say . . wow. This Robert asshole is good. Because the other end of his greeting is in a car . . driving . . through the parking lot.

So Robert basically yodeled to this individual a half block away, after which he proceeded to have a conversation with him. Meanwhile, yours truly who is standing punching distance away from him gets some more of the Bruce Willis treatment. And now it’s quite evident to me that I’m playing checkers and Robert is playing chess.

Maybe he’s got more Shakespeare than I’m giving him credit for.

The Proof In Our Existence

 

Firefighters Todd Heaney and Frankie DiLeo, of Engine 209, c

People are inherently good.

We’re raised to believe this concept from the time we’re old enough to get bored during liturgy and choose sides on the playground. Most kids aren’t concerned with empirical validation when the freedoms they hold most dear are threatened; yanno, stuff like playtime and dessert.

Then there was me.

I questioned everything, no matter how convincing the adults were at selling the points. I wanted to believe people were generally good, but I had myriad reasons to be skeptical. Adding to my distrust of the status quo was the fact that I read, a lot. And I observed, everything.

So it was that I questioned the cross stitched tenets of a happy life, which mandated that you go to school, score a good job and get married. Societal conventions read like a manual, and I knew that spiritual complications navigated through so much more than a simple set of instructions.

In my cross examination, I wondered how it was that Walt Disney and Henry Ford were able to strike it rich since they’d been dropouts. And I argued that Oscar Wilde wrote quite well while being mostly unemployed. And of course I had to ask why it was that marriage was such a great idea when the happiest adult I knew was our family friend George, who I pointed out, wasn’t married.

Questioning the way things had always been was usually met with censure. I was told to shut up, or to finish eating my dinner, or to go to my room. Some kids might have been deterred, but I knew I was onto something.

When I got older I began adding some patina to my simple ideas with Locke and Hobbes and liberal high school girls who wore berets and questioned everything. I struggled mightily with ghosts and found odd comfort in the idea that most people were inherently good, but also selfish. It was comforting because these qualities were intuitive and human and real. The vulnerability of these qualities guaranteed complications, which helped to explain why the best laid plans of school, work and marriage often took a hard right turn at Topeka and sometimes, they never made it back from that stretch of yellow brick road.

It was October of 2001 when I was re-introduced to the question in a pub in New York City. It was closing in on one month since the terror attacks in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania. The rubble at Ground Zero was still on fire and the inhalation of toxic smoke and ash was a much bigger issue than the news outlets were letting on. That’s what brought our small band of volunteers together. Some doctors had helped put together a free clinic for first responders at the Police Academy on East 20th Street and we were part of that effort.

When I think back on that time now, it doesn’t seem possible that seventeen years have come and gone. It feels much closer, because I can still summon that cornflower blanket of a sky that was busy going nowhere fast and taking the world along for the ride. And I can remember that juicy peach of a sun, ripe with best laid plans. And the air possessed the feeling of silk, and winter seemed likely to be canceled on account of the preponderance of this wonderful evidence.

Until the North Tower brought storm clouds and morning became night and the darkest reaches of the human heart strangled the dreams of an endless summer. After which the nation and the world had to try and put itself together again.

That’s what we talked about in the pub all the way back then. Our group weaving in and out of personal conversations, some of which spun larger before getting dismissed in accordance with the particular round of friendlies we were tossing back. And then, one of the volunteers pulled the table together when she confessed that her faith had been damn near shattered, irrevocably. She was sad, confused and downright pissed off at the thought that this hell on earth had extinguished all evidence of a higher power.

And that’s when I assured her she was looking at this horrible event in four evil acts, and forgetting the countless other selfless ones that followed. There were the first responders who rushed to the scene and gave their lives to save thousands more from getting lost inside those towers. There were the cops and firemen, EMT’s and doctors and nurses, and there were the ordinary citizens who rolled up their sleeves and got to work inside the desperate hours.

My take was simply this. God was there on that horrible day, in all those people who showed up and stayed put when we were getting our asses kicked hard from all corners with no end in sight. And when the darkness was unleashed and it felt as if we were at the doorstep to the end of the world, it was no longer a question of whether people were inherently good.

We found proof.

3 Days In Woodstock

 

Woodstock bus

The Museum at Bethel Woods is the good acid. Because it will trip you out inside the time spent, with no shitty side effects. Yanno . . like ending up in the ER, or dying.

could go through a good many different sentiments in regards to the forty five minute gallivant me and Q took through its halls, and maybe I will have something more specific next weekend. But a very profound revelation has come to me as I sit down to write this latest Woodstock entry, so Imma go with it.

This revelation is a crush of emotions, stacked in a neatly felonious pile of thoughts that stole me all the way back to the UK in the fall of 1994. It was a year in which O.J. Simpson got away with murder, the Republicans took back Congress and Throwing Copper made the musical band Live a global bumper sticker.

Back then, I was roaming the vast halls of the British Museum when me and my wife came upon the Rosetta Stone. After our tour guide tap danced right past it with a couple here and there shout outs to the ancient Egyptians, I pulled her aside and told her to keep Vanilla Ice (my pet name for our guide) at bay while I did some heavy petting with history.

And so it was that I pushed the velvet rope aside and touched the Rosetta Stone, after which I wrote out a check for a religious experience that is still paying me back to this very day.

Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting the same kind of experience when me and Q made the rounds at Bethel. Until we came upon it. A rusted scrap of the chain link fence that got tucked into history by a couple hundred thousand pair of barefooted soldiers, after which Woodstock became a ‘free concert’.

had to touch it, of course. Because this was the musical Rosetta Stone, and well . . there was no velvet fucking rope stopping me. And even if there had been, Q would’ve been like “Fuck ’em, hug it for all I care,”.

And so I did. And as it turns out, the fence? It was electrified . . in the very best kinda way. Because it took me all the way back to the UK, and then it took me even further back than that. Back to a time when music was a prayer so sweet and songs were living ends.

Songs that thieved the stars and pledged them to a vinyl page, and in so doing, turned that sound into a madness that seeped into every living inch of you. Lyrics that tasted of sweet velvet plums that hung like magical kites on trees borne of thunder, with a melody that wept the misbegotten remains of a day into the luminescence of a brilliant forever after.

A great piece of music can steal back time. Leaving you breathless and shaken and spent. Alone and together, high and grounded, resolved and disputed. It preaches to your choir as it stirs your soul into the kind of rebellion the previous generation loses sleep over.

And that’s how the kids of Woodstock closed the book on a decade torn to its seams by war. It was a decade that began with John F. Kennedy promising the moon to a restless nation, and delivering that very thing with months to spare when Apollo 11 planted its talons on a patch of mystical dirt George Bailey had once claimed as his own on the silver screen.

The betwixt and between left a heavy price on the heart and soul of a vociferously tribal generation otherwise known as the ‘baby boomers’. They watched Camelot get stolen on a beautiful fall afternoon in Dallas, and then again five years later inside a Los Angeles hotel. They watched Martin Luther King’s dream come true with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and then they watched its shepherd fall in Memphis less than four years later.

And it was those kids, who grew up inside the rattling bones of an archaic set of rules, and who punched hard at the skeletons and made haste with the gravel of the zero sum game they had inherited. It was those kids who made metal out of three heavy summer nights, shouting medieval chants inside their rocket booster clogs. They cheered and fucked and got high to the sounds of a new and distant future whose logic did not rhyme with the establishment. At all.

They hammered out a fledgling constitution possessed of a wholly different set of amendments that ran counter to the bomb sheltered TV dinner taxes they had been made to wear for a decade’s worth of time. Their demands were quite simple. Give us peace and love through music, or get the hell out of our way and we’ll prove how that kind of shit works.

And maybe it’s naivete that kept me holding to that fence. And then again, maybe . . . just maybe, it’s knowing. Knowing what it feels like to refuse the convention of a society that hasn’t ever gotten a damned thing right since Hector was a caveman trying to fetch some rock and roll out of a couple twigs.

Maybe, just maybe, I was finally in a place that understood me. And maybe, this was better than that time in the British Museum with the Rosetta Stone.

Turns out, being a stranger in a strange land has its privileges.

 

 

Sorryless Sunday Morning

I am proclaiming this Sunday to be the intermezzo of my Woodstock series of posts. So in lieu of flower power, Imma post the first in a brand new series that will show up on the regular once I’m finished spilling on my three days of peace and music in the Catskills with the lovely Q.

I used to do a “Sunday Morning Coffee Love” post on my old blog. I don’t want to steal that title, so I came up with Sorryless Sunday Morning because it had a Lionel Richie groove to it. I may change up that title in future posts, but the vibe will remain the same.

Sorryless Sunday Morning posts will feature blog shout outs, quick hits on whatever is dancing in ‘me noggin and a music video that brings the requisite chill to my Sunday morning. I hope you enjoy.

  • My son’s first week of teaching is in the books and it frazzled him. He’s in that new teacher zone where he’s gonna have to learn his rhythm. As with anything else an individual does that is worth doing, he’ll figure it out. A shout out to Frank at A Frank Angle for dishing up some pieces he wrote on teaching for me to give to my son. Frank is a scholar and a gentleman, and I’m blessed to call him my blog neighbor.
  • Speaking of blessed, the lovely Q wrote a beautiful piece at A Dalectable Life about love and friendship- and how it endures. Later on, we had a rather involved discussion about writing and published works, to which I’ve been stewing on ever since. I feel sometimes that I am hopeless in my take on the matter, so her nudging means more than she will ever know.
  • As for published authors, John Howell at Fiction Favorites is back in the lineup after his surgery a couple weeks ago. He’s the Mike Trout of the blogosphere in that he comes to play (write) every single day, and he brings it. Whether he’s writing his weekly mystery series, a prompt challenge or his haiku . . he engages you with his wit and his clever wordplay. Blog life is always sweet when he’s in the room.
  • As far as good tunes go, tune into Tara’s sizzle over at Daisy Smiley Face if you’re looking to vibe on some musical goodness. Tara operates on the same wavelength as yours truly as far as her musical tastes go, but every once in a while she’ll introduce a singer or group I’ve not heard of. And it’s always a slam dunk.
  • And to round out my top five blog shout outs for this week, Imma mention a chica who tells terrific tales about tails. Monika at Tails Around the Ranch also speaks gardening and Colorado and hockey, fluently. And she just started up a new online business called Sam’s K9 Kreations, so make sure to check it out!

As for my quick hit thoughts? I gots a few . . . .

  • I’m cutting ties with Walking Dead after this coming season. Like the old Carole King song goes, the feeling has died (for me) and I just can’t hide, and I won’t fake it.
  • Urban Meyer has been exposed for the phony he is, but winning will prove to be the deodorant of his odorous tenure. So here’s hoping he gets a clue before someone else becomes a victim.
  • One of my favorite Clint Eastwood lines, in an endless sea of ’em . . .
  • Jacob DeGrom of the Mets probably ain’t winning the Cy Young, but I happen to think he’s the best pitcher going this season. And if I’m a Mets fan, I’m pissed that ownership is wasting his immense talent.
  • In response to the peeps who call him overpaid, Raiders coach Jon Gruden threw shade at Tom Cruise; basically saying that no one complains about how much Cruise makes in a movie. Well . .having just seen the latest installment of Mission Impossible, I can tell you that Cruise is the only thing that drew me to the franchise. And if I’m laying down money, Imma go with Cruise over Gruden . . every day, and yes, twice on Sunday.
  • Going to see Crazy Rich Asians with the girl. Yes, the rumors are true. I am all about the rom-com.
  • Going to see The Nun when it comes out in a couple weeks. And no, the rumors are not true. I will not be wearing diapers. I also won’t drink any beverages beforehand . . .
  • I don’t think peeps understand that impeachment does not mean the removal of the President.
  • Braciole, like my lechon, is a dish best served in variations. The stand alone opening night dish is pure gumba-licious. The next day sammy is slamming. And every day thereafter . . it’s the dish that keeps on giving.

Well, that’s a wrap for this Sunday. Be sure to tune in next week for my next installment in the Woodstock series. Have a wonderful Sunday, and an even better week.

Peace, love and music