Tuesday, February 18, 2014

76ers Sign Player With Down Syndrome

If you haven't heard or read about this story, check it out here.

A great move by a classy organization - sometimes sports isn't just about winning or losing, but doing something exceptional. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mansions In Heaven



            A few years ago I wrote a Father’s Day post blasting my biological father for walking out on me when I was a kid.  It was a post filled with rage, bitterness, and pain, and I still stand by every word.  Time won’t heal that wound.
            My father’s disappearing act created a need for role models in my life.  Men who could show me right from wrong, teach me how to be a man, understand the things you were supposed to do, and occasionally kick my butt when I got it wrong.  Good men I could admire.  I was lucky - my Uncle Dom, Uncle John, Uncle Walt, and my grandfather selflessly stepped into that void to become role models to provide the kind of love and guidance I needed.  This past week we buried my stepfather, Cecil.  I was already a father myself when he married my mother and came into our lives, but Cecil was as important to me as the other men who influenced my life.  He had been in the military for over twenty years, serving his country in Korea and Vietnam with honor and pride the way his generation did.  Cecil was an unassuming man with solid values and a strong work ethic, and like many soldiers and sailors, did what needed to be done without complaining.  It was a commitment he made with no strings attached and no expectation of an obligation attached to it.  Everything about him said strength, integrity, and patience.  He loved my mother and gave her a life filled with the kind of happiness that had been missing for years.  Even though nobody asked him to fill the role, he happily became a grandfather to my kids – he had a gentle and quiet way of showing them how to do things patiently, correctly, and completely.  Cecil was everything a man is supposed to be.  I probably never told him I loved him enough times, but I think he knew that.
            I hope I can be the kind of man he would be proud to think of as a son.
            RIP Cecil.


A few other things to consider:

  • Addiction is not a disease.  Cancer is a disease.  Leukemia is a disease.  Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are diseases.  I have empathy for addicts and their struggles to find sobriety, but disease is not some kind of label we can slap on things to excuse our behavior or choices.  Labeling addiction (in any form) as a disease takes away responsibility for a choice that somebody made.
  • I guess it’s understandable that many don’t accept climate change when they get weather forecasts from a rodent somebody yanks out of the ground every year on February 2nd.
  • This marks the first update in over a year.  Sorry about that – it’s not that I haven’t had anything to say or that I enjoyed sitting on the sidelines.  Expect more on a regular basis.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Willin'



            It’s been a long couple of weeks working on the streets and debris piles in Seaside Heights.  Sadness, pain, and loss cut through every minute of the day, no matter what you do or where you go.  The level and depth of destruction in this beach community is staggering.  You can be moved to tears throughout the day when you see the tattered remains of peoples’ lives and memories in piles along the curb or loaded into the backs of trucks on their way to dump sites.  People put down roots here and raised families and built lives that had value and meaning, and now it’s all gone.  That sadness hangs on everything.
            You see and hear about tragedies and natural disasters on the news, and for many people it hurts about as long as it takes to change the channel to “Dancing With The Stars”, “Storage Wars”, or some other idiotic reality show.  Life takes over for most of us and returns to normal, even with the best of intentions.  But for people up and down the Jersey coast (as well as in the Rockaways and Staten Island), life can’t just “go on”.  Not when everything you spent a lifetime building is gone like it never happened or was never there.
             But what comes back at me day after day, no matter who you meet, is the unwavering belief and conviction that we will rebuild.  That nothing will stand in our way – tough odds and hard work are no match for the kind of strength, resiliency, and toughness the people in this state own. Through the pain comes hope, strength, and courage.  Like a boxer in the late rounds of a fight, we took everything Hurricane Sandy had to give and we’re still on our feet, throwing jabs and punching our way out of trouble.  We may be down, but it’s only a temporary thing.
              Nothing can keep us down.
  That’s the real lesson from the debris piles.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Restore The Shore

If anybody needs me for the next couple of weeks, I'll be in a hard hat and safety vest- clearing debris in Ortley Beach, Seaside Park, and whatever parts of New Jersey need help.

More updates (and random angst and anger) when I return.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My City In Ruins

             Nestled between New York and Philadelphia, New Jersey and the people who live here, are the Rodney Dangerfield of the 50 states.  It’s been that way ever since the 13 Colonies broke away from England.  Mocked for everything from our accents to our attitudes, viewed with disdain and condescension by neighbors across both the Hudson and Delaware, this state is often the butt of late night TV show jokes.  People who don’t know anything about New Jersey think we speak like characters out of the Sopranos and only understand geography when we can attach a highway exit to the map.  Like the caricatures on a dumbass show on MTV or Real Housewives capture the essence of who we are.
            But New Jersey is more than oil refineries on the Turnpike and gridlocked highways filled with rush hour commuters.
            For those of us who were born here, who grew up here, or who live here, this state is much more than that.  We are 127 miles of coastline and sandy beaches, the untouched beauty of the Pine Barrens, acres of farms, and rolling hills.  We are generations of families who have built lives here and raised children and made a difference in the world, in big ways and small.  We are tough and resilient, filled with hard-assed attitude, and we know what it takes to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, and get the job done.  We are the best of all people. 
            We are a state filled with courage – brave, spirited, caring people who love our families, friends, and neighbors with a fierceness nobody else can match.  Our identity is forged in the strength we find in each other.  We are the gritty toughness of a Springsteen song and the beautifully written words of a Toni Morrison novel.  We are a state of farmers, fishermen, truck drivers, blue collar laborers, doctors, lawyers, and executives – sons and daughters of immigrants from all over the world.  We identify with the underdog, and cheer on those facing the longest odds and toughest journey.
             We are everyman.
            So much of what I learned in life, I learned growing up in New Jersey.  This state is a part of me and who I am.  I am proud to be from New Jersey – full of that unique blend of edginess, attitude, energy, and strength, and filled with a love for the people around me.
            New Jersey will rebuild and restore what this storm tried to take away.  The spirit we own can never be broken.  Don’t tell us how hard it will be and don’t try to stop us from doing what needs to be done.  We are about overcoming odds and taking on all challenges.
We are more than a punch line in somebody’s joke.
            We are what this country is all about.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But -



  • There are whole generations of people from across all demographic groups who have never taken the time to learn how to say, “please”, “thank you”, and “I’m sorry”.

  • I haven’t always agreed with him politically, but there’s nobody at handling a crisis – at least one caused by Mother Nature – than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  Hands down, he’s the “lead from the front and get things done” kind of guy you want in charge


  • After riding out Hurricane Sandy, I’m not traumatized by the storm.  I’m traumatized by the indifference of so many people about the devastation it caused (substitute Katrina, Irene, tornadoes in the Midwest, the earthquake in Haiti, etc. for Sandy).  Too many people don’t care until it impacts their own comfort and convenience.

  • The randomness of fate and the power of Mother Nature are two of the biggest equalizers in life.

  • Writers write.  Plain and simple – if putting words on paper for others to read is your chosen profession (or dream – desire – passion), then suck it up, tough it out, and stop bitching about editing and rewrites and word counts.  It’s petty and small to hear somebody whining about the “rigors” of writing….go pour concrete, pound nails, or sweat on a highway work crew for a couple of months and change your perspective.  Shut up and write.

  • Anybody who knows something about football knows that Tim Tebow isn’t a serious answer to anything related to the sport.

  •  If the urban oasis by the sea that I live in is a microcosm of small town politics, it’s often the people from the “wrong side of the tracks” who show up at town council meetings to address problems like gang violence, drugs in the neighborhood, schools, and education for their kids.  They’re the ones who are taking steps to make things better.  The people who should do more because they have more are the ones who get involved only when it concerns dog parks and inappropriate bathing attire on the boardwalk.

  •  Cory Booker has future President written all over his resume (if not the Oval Office, then make room for him in the Senate)

  • There’s a kind of coolness to the music of Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Carl Perkins that never goes out of style – something that feels like the innocence of high school, fast cars, and the open road.

  • I believe that the worst of times can bring out the best in people, and that we can put aside our differences to work together and make things better.  That’s how it’s supposed to be.  I’ll keep believing that until they carry me out of the room and turn off the lights.

My thoughts and prayers to my friends, neighbors, and everyone affected by the hurricane and its aftermath.  Stay strong.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Holding Back The Years



        It’s been said that you can’t go home again- that attempts to relive youthful memories always fail because time changes everything.  I used to think that too, but I was wrong.  Last weekend I returned home for my high school reunion, having missed every single one since graduation.  It was never intentional – life just got in the way.  A lot of years have slipped by and time has eroded memories, and I’m guilty of letting too many miles pass between hello’s, phone calls, texts, and emails, especially to many people who mattered 30+ years ago. 
In an instant the years fell away. 
For two days it was all about seeing old friends and missing those who couldn’t be there, catching up on the paths each of us had taken, sharing memories, and laughing about stories I’d forgotten (especially the ones that were horribly embarrassing).  As my friend Butch put it, we stopped being jocks, nerds, rah-rahs, and beauty queens and kings – instead we were just a group of old friends getting together again after too much time apart.  People say that you shouldn’t live your life looking in the rear view mirror and I’ve always believed that all that matters in life is what’s ahead.  But something has always pulled me back to high school, the friendships that were made there a long time ago, and the memories that still endure years later. 
I believe the friendships you make early in life are the ones you hold close – the same ones that can bring you home again.
            Those four years were a bittersweet period that few of us truly appreciated back then – a time of transition and change you could never wrap your hands around.  There were tears, fears, laughter, worries, heartache, and heartbreak twisted around classes, homework, and tests about subjects most of us had already forgotten by graduation.  Crushes, phone calls, and late night conversations with girls who saw you as a “friend” when you wanted desperately to be something more than that.  Football keg parties on Saturday nights, long classes spent watching the minutes fall slowly off the clock, and too many stupid, immature things that were said and done – the kind of things that still make you cringe years later (while hoping that God has a sense of humor about stuff like that).  Some of us even grew up a little.  Or grew up a lot.  You learned to love and you learned about hurt, and many of us forged relationships that remain strong years later.
            Over the past few months as the reunion took shape and many of us reconnected again, I loved how easily we all slipped back into comfortable grooves.  You spend so much time trying to get out of high school that you miss what you have beyond the classrooms and how special each friendship can be.  When we graduated we talked about the future as well as where we were going and how we would change the world, but last weekend it was nice to be reminded of where we started.  Age, or maybe maturity, has a way of making things clearer – at least the things that are still meaningful.
            When I drove home, I felt a familiar hurt – I wasn’t sure if it was nostalgia kicking my ass or the kind of sadness that comes from genuine, heartfelt good byes. 
Or maybe it was the realization that no matter how far you go or what you try to do, you can’t do any of it if you don’t remember where you came from.  And that no matter where you’re going, it’s the friends you have who make it all worthwhile.