Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Brother-Man / Sister-Baby Comedy Hour ...

Two jokes my kids recently told me:

From Bro'-Man:
Three men arrive at the Pearly Gates and are standing before St. Peter. "I am afraid that heaven is beginning to get very crowded," Peter said to the three. "We are now restricting entrance through these gates to those who died the worst possible deaths. The first man steps forward. "I suspected my girlfriend of seeing another man, so one day I paid her a surprise visit to her twenty-fifth floor apartment. Much to my dismay, I find a man hanging from her balcony. I was so filled with rage and despair that I took a hammer and began to beat on the fellows fingers until he loosed his grip. He fell to the ground but landed in a bush and was relatively unhurt. Well, I was still seeing red. I went back into the apartment grabbed the refrigerator and as the cad was brushing himself off I dropped the fridge on him crushing him to death. The stress of the whole thing was too much for me and I had a massive heart attack and died."

"That's pretty horrible," Peter said, "I guess you can come in."

The second man stepped forward. "I am a health conscious man, Peter," he began. "I was exercising on the balcony of my 26th floor apartment. I got a little carried away and before I new it, I had flipped over the rail. Somehow I managed to grab onto the rail of the balcony below mine but then all of a sudden this raging maniac hits me with a hammer. I fell, my life flashing before my eyes. Then another spot of luck -- I landed in this particularly soft shrub. Because of the bush and my fantastic physical condition I survived the fall with only minimal injuries. I was dusting myself off, looking up, counting my lucky stars when suddenly a refrigerator fell from the sky and that was the end of me!"

"Now that is the worse on I've heard all day," Peter said. "Dude, you are totally in!" Then, turning to the third fellow, Peter said, "I hope you have a good story."

"I do," said the third man. "You see, I was hiding in this refrigerator ...."

And this one is from Sister Baby:

"Why did the chicken cross the playground .. get to the other slide!!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

...apologies to Dan Fogelberg ...

So ...

When I was in high school -- junior year -- I sat next to this beautiful girl in two of my classes. She was smart and sweet and pretty ... and unlike every other girl I had known up to that point who matched that description, she noticed me. She would occasionally even speak to me. I thought, "one day I'll summon enough courage to 'throw some g' her way { that is hopelessly out-dated slang for 'ask her out on a date' ... I think}. Actually I should have said 'if' not 'when' because back in those days I was so shy that it was literally painful ... I'm sayin' -- it was pathological!

Well, junior prom time rolled around and I really wanted to ask her, even attempted to do it a couple of times {imagine an '80's inner-city version of George McFly ... "hey girl, with yo' fine self, you just might be my density -- uh -- I mean, destiny"}. I just couldn't keep my head out of my shell long enough to get the words out, so I never asked her.

Now, for some reason, the prom was held on a Thursday night and the people who attended had a blanket excuse from morning classes the next day. So that Friday it was just me and a few scattered members of the chess team and the physics club wandering the halls telling ourselves that the really cool kids were too cool to go to a prom. But when I walked into my second period computer class who was there but HER! "You didn't go to the prom either," she asked me. Don't think I managed to say anything in response ... but I must have managed to shake my head or something. "Well we should have gone together, then." So after I regained consciousness {kidding, I only almost passed out} something strange began to happen. We began to talk, or I should say she did. During the course of that 45 minutes I felt my shyness begin to release its grip on me. We had the wonderful conversation about I don't know what --apparently she really liked to talk and I sure liked listening to her. I left that class thinking that we might just become friends and if we became friends then we might become something more than that and then ... well you know the stops on that train of thought -- senior prom, marriage, house in the suburbs, etc. etc. But after lunch the prom goers arrived and I began to recede again. For the rest of that year and the next Sheila continued to be very nice to me but my overwhelming shyness and her immense popularity put an end to all my pipe dreams.

So, yesterday, I was in the second-hand store {to which I have become shamefully addicted} and who do I run into but Sheila! The makings of a tacky love song were all there -- to quote one, "just for a moment I was back at school and felt that old familiar pain," the pathological shyness I mean. For a few minutes I was that skinny, goggle-eyed 17 year-old McFly doppelganger. When I told Shemetra about it later that evening she said, "Please tell me you didn't punk out and walk away without saying anything" {not a shred of jealousy -- Mammacita is the COOLEST}. I was proud to say that I had NOT. "Excuse me," I had said, "are you Sheila?" Of course, I knew she was ... she hadn't changed a bit {and I'm not exaggerating ... sister still has it goin' on}. I don't think she really remembered me, but that's okay. We had a nice conversation about spouses and jobs and how we had both somehow managed to miss all the reunions { "just like we missed the prom" ... should have said it but I didn't. Snap!}.

Now, I'd be lying if I tried to say that the thought didn't cross my mind ... you know the thought ... "what would have happened back then if I had only ..." And, hard on the heels of that thought came the next one ... "what would happen now if I ..." But it was easy to dismiss the whole notion as ridiculous -- I love my wife {who's got it goin' on and on} and I respect my old friend Sheila {also happily married} so our nice conversation stayed nice and cordial and brief. No tacky love song theme music playing in the background -- just a "so nice to see you" and a "you too" and that was that.

Besides, what would a brother look like "throwin' G" in Morgie's with a wedding ring on his finger and an armful of second-hand sweaters and shirts?!

Friday, October 17, 2008

AM Radio Soul ...

Just My Imagination …

Love this song … do yourself a favor and check this classic link:

When I was younger, and my brother and I would go to the barber shop, when this song would come on the radio, Leon used to turn up the volume and turn the clippers off. "Listen to this," he would say to us youngbloods in the room. "Y'all don't know nothin' 'bout this here, do you?" He was right -- we didn't. But now I do, and since I am now older than Leon was then I guess I qualify as one of the ol’ folks, and I find myself drawn more and more to the classic soul that’s was more a part of my parents generation than it was of mine. So allow me to illuminate you youngbloods out there ...

This song right here … let me tell you something… you can’t get any smoother than Sweet Eddie Kendricks’ singing lead. These cats were the definition of COOL.

And I relate – or I should say related – to these lyrics:

Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by.
I say to myself, “You’re such a lucky guy.
To have a girl like her is truly a dream come true.
Out of all the fellas in the world SHE belongs to YOU …”
But it was just my imagination running away with me,
Just my imagination running away with me.

I remember how that felt. As they say in New Orleans it "wasn't nothin' nice." As a very young man I dreamed about being in love -- longed for it just like the "lucky guy" in the song. As a slightly older (but still quite young and naive) man I thought I was in love probably 42 times before I met the Mammacita who made my imagination reality.

To have a girl like HER ... truly a dream come true!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


So ...

There's this commercial that comes on, usually during the evening news -- an advertisement for hair-restoral for balding men. Every time that commercial would come on Abby would look at the TV then look at me then look at the TV and then at me again and say, "Daddy you need that, huh?" Whereupon I would patiently explain the fact that Daddy is not bald, he just keeps his hair cut very close because that's the way that he likes it. It took weeks for her to get it -- every time we would see the commercial we would have the same conversation.

An then, a couple of nights ago, the commercial came on and Abby looked at the TV then looked at me and ... didn't say anything. Victory! But a few minutes later a commercial advertising hair dye for men came on. "Daddy, you would need that if you had some hair."

Yeah ... okay ... you got me, kid.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mammacita, Brother-Man, Sister-Baby & Daddy-O

Nothing to say about this -- except that I love the picture. It is soooo US!

A Gender-Role Call ...

So ...

Mammacita and I have gotten into a Saturday morning groove. She and Sister-Baby get up and get out ... doing dance class, shopping etc. Brother-Man and I stay home and clean-up the house. And I am completely cool with it ... seriously. This is the 21st century and a dude is no less and dude if he does housework. Besides, it makes Mammacita happy and that's the number one rule of this house:
Happy Mammacita = Happy Hacienda!!

But today there was a disturbance to the normal copacetic flow of things, caused by a momentary surge of old-school chauvinism on my part. As Mammacita was leaving today, I said "Honey, are you going to Target today?"


"Would you mind picking me up a new pad for my dishwashing sponge -- I've worn the old one out."

I don't know how she replied because at that moment I thought to myself, "Dude ... what's going on here? You should be the one going out ... to the golf course or the bowling alley or the pool hall or something ... and she should be staying here cleaning the house! Oh, how the mighty have fallen!! What a world, what a world!!! DUDE ... Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot!!!"

For a few minutes I was reeling ... asking myself who wears the apron and who wears the pants in Daddy-O's household? Then my brother called me ... just to relay some necessary logistical information which is why one dude calls another. In the midst of the conversation I felt it necessary to fess up and admit to my shameful lapse in machismo. I told him the whole sad story. I was hoping for some word of wisdom to get me through my current crisis.

"Dude," said my brother (who is a black-belt martial arts instructing city COP), "I spent the morning reorganizing the kitchen cabinets and I'm on my way to the girls' ballet practice. Here's what you need to do: Take your shirt off and go stand in front of your house. Burp, spit, fart, scratch your crotch and get it all out of your system. Then go back in and finish folding the laundry."

Wise man, my brother ... I could go on and on about him but I gotta run now. The pot roast is almost ready!

Sail On, Silver Girl ...

So ...
Flashing back 39 years...

I was five years old and it was the first day of school--kindergarten. Now, I had been pretty excited about starting school but the excitement was based more on the idea of school than it was on the reality of it. Somewhere around the time that the parents were leaving for the day I realized that this was definitely not what I had imagined. They were leaving me there! I didn't know this place ... I didn't know these people. I started crying and boy did I cry ... soaked my shirt, got my tie all snotty and had all the other kids wondering what my deal was (You see, they had all been through a year of kindergarten ... in Boston there was K-1 and K-2. This was the first day of the second year for all of them but it was my first first day). Okay, that's just an excuse, but you understand ... I was five and mommy and daddy had left me in a strange place with strange people.

As the day progressed I calmed down a little but I was still quite inconsolable. Wouldn't respond to any of the sincere attempts my teacher and a few of my fellow kindergarteners made to ease my anxiety. At nap time, it got bad again. I figured that if I laid down on one of those mats and fell asleep then I would just die from shear heartache. So I just laid there, sobbing, eye's wide open, tears running down the sides of my head and pooling in my ears.

"Van Owens," I heard my teacher whisper, "come with me." She led me into her office -- a tiny room adjacent to the classroom. Well, I thought, now I've gone and done it. Who knew what manner of unspeakable punishment lay beyond that previously concealed door?

"Now," she said, "normally snack time doesn't happen until after nap time, but since you're having such a hard time going to sleep ..." She poured me a cup of milk and gave me three oreo cookies. By the time I finished the first cookie, I had stopped crying for the first time that day. We talked, or rather, she did -- comforting, calming words. After she taught me how to hold the cookie in the milk till it got soft she pulled out an album with two geekie-looking white guys on the cover. "Do you like music," she said. "I just bought this new record. Maybe we can listen to it together." She pulled the vinyl LP from it's sleeve and placed it on the record player ... it was one of those ancient turntables, looked like an over-sized shoe box with speakers in the side and a rubber frisbee on top. The first song she played was "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Follow this link to hear the song:

You can imagine how comforting these lyrics were to me at that time:

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes,
I will dry them all;I’m on your side.
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

I don't know if she played me that song intentionally or if it just happened to be the first one on the album but either way, it did the trick. I was good for the rest of that day ... for the rest of that school year as a matter of fact. And Miss Guilfoyle, my first teacher -- because of that simple gesture -- became and remains my favorite teacher.

Like so many songs, this one has that one inscrutable lyric:

Sail on, silver girl,
Sail on by,
Your time has come to shine.
All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine.

Don't know what it means ... heard someone say once that it was symbolic of drug use, the "silver girl" being a hypodermic needle full of heroin. I don't know about that -- I doubt it. To me, the "silver girl" will always be Miss Guilfoyle. As for the "dreams on their way," well, maybe those were her students into whom she poured so much of herself. I'm sure that's not what Simon and Garfunkel meant but that's what the song means to me.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

the saddest minute ...

So ...

Last night something happened to me that happens about two or three times a year -- I dreamed about my late father.

In this dream he was at my Uncle Henry's house, playing pool. Uncle Henry has this grand old antique pool table ... mahogany with a gold felt surface ... makes you feel like you ought to be wearing tweed and smoking a Cuban cigar in it's presence. Anyway, Joe (my father) was there and he challenged me to a game of pool and we played. And while we played we talked about my work and who I should vote for in the coming election and how I was treating my wife and what were the prospects for the Red sox and Patriots this year and all kinds of other things ... things that I imagine grown men talk to their fathers about.

Well, I woke up ... and for that first minute of fuzzy consciousness I thought the dream was real. I could still feel the smooth wood of the cue in my hand and hear the sound of the balls clacking together after each shot. And I could also hear the comforting sound of my father's voice. In that minute, the great incongruity of my existence seems to have been rectified -- all is right with the world and with me. Then, in the next minute, I realize that it was all just a dream and that Joe is still as dead as he has been for 34 years ... in that instant I completely forget what his voice sounded like though I had heard it so clearly just a little while earlier. Then comes the third minute and I'm mourning all over again -- it is the saddest minute (seconded only by the five or six minutes it's taking me to write about it here).

After a while I'll be over it. sometimes it takes a whole day, but I'll get over it. Then I'll be grateful for this and the other sporadic dreams ... they maybe the closest Joe and I will ever get to a "great reunion on the other side."

In the meantime, do me a favor: If your Pops is still around, maybe give him a call or something. Better yet, if he's close by, go pick him up and take him to the pool hall and shoot a little stick. Listen to him. Let him win. Buy him a beer ... and when you clink your bottles together propose a silent toast to Joe and me. Now that would be very cool.