Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The first failure I remember, or swimming with the sharks.

     I know some people that can remember back to their toddler years, but I'm not one of those people.  My first memories are glimpses of my kindergarten class, the teacher's husband showing up with golf clubs one day wanting to take her out, acting in a school play (I'm pretty sure I was a green light cuz I was too short to be the red or yellow one), and my friend Rob that I played with at Sonnenberg Park that summer, but who went off to a public school, while I went to St. Mary's. Those are my earliest memories, but today's blog is about the first time I remember failing at something, and disappointing my mother, and it happened just a few years later...

     It was summer again and they were offering swimming lessons at the junior high school right up the street from where we lived in Canandaigua.  It cost $.50 to register, and if you completed the lessons, they gave you back your registration money.  My mom wanted to make sure we all were good swimmers (Dad and her were Navy folk), so she sent about 4 of us up to register.  Before she did, she went into her bedroom and came out with an envelope, and placed
a Kennedy half dollar into each of our palms. You could tell that they were important to her, I'm not sure what she was saving them for, but the expectation was clear, that this was a loan, she expected to see those coins again.  I was the youngest of the group, maybe 7-8 at the time and I think it was Brother Redface, Aquaman (yes, I get the irony), and Ace that walked up the street with me.  We handed over the coins, and then they started to sort us into our swimming abilities.  My swimming time heretofore was moving around in a tub of water that my brothers had all previously bathed in, so it was kind of like floating in the Dead Sea, it was almost impossible not to.  I'd been to the beach and touched my toes to the water, but I don't think my head had ever gotten wet at this point (My siblings would argue this to be true, even at bath time).  Amazingly we all were put into the same group, along with a few others.   What a momentous day, I was going to learn to be a swimmer !

They said jump, and I just couldn't.
     The instructor lined us up, and marched us to the deep end of the pool.  I watched the depth markers pass by my little feet, and I was roughly aware of my height, thanks to all the amusement park ride signs that said I had to be "this tall" in order to ride (I wasn't "this tall" yet, hence being typecast as a green light, but I was just a eensie-weensie below "this tall").  We quickly passed the "this tall" mark, and went even further.  I was a little confused, but at this point in my life I didn't question authority, so along I went.  We went all the way to the deep end of the pool and he lined us up there, shoulder to shoulder toes facing the water.  The instructor then directed us to jump in.  WHAT?  I was sure I had misheard him, or he thought he had the advanced swimmers in his group.  Apparently that
wasn't the case as he kept repeating the instruction to each of the kids including my brothers.  They all dutifully jumped into water over their heads and the pattern was repeated right until he came to me, and I refused to comply.  I probably wouldn't have drowned, but in my head, I kept thinking, "They haven't taught me anything yet, how do they expect me not to drown?" After a short debate, they separated me from my brothers and brought me to the shallow end of the pool for my instruction.  Six weeks later, after the end of my instruction, most of which I do not remember except for using a flutter-board, I had not advanced my skill and when they lined us up to receive our coins back, my hand remained empty as I still couldn't jump into the deep end of the pool.  My siblings all had advanced their abilities and were given cool monikers that showed how they had done, like dolphin, otter, or shark.  I'm pretty sure I went home as a tadpole or a turtle.  I dragged behind the others on the downhill walk home, and I'll never forget the look of disappointment on my mother's face, when I was the only one who didn't hand back her investment.  It was a look that I tried to avoid seeing in the future.

The kid on the left has my technique down pat
     I eventually learned to swim, however, it was no less embarrassing when I did.  I was in the 8th grade at St. Mary's and we used the local YMCA pool for lessons.  This time my instructors were two of my classmates who swam competitively, and they took turns monitoring my progress (yes, with a flutter-board). This time I got the basic mechanics of it all and could dive in the deep end and navigate across the pool.  No one offered to try and get my coin back when I finished, although it seemed like it would have been fair to me.  It was one of those life lessons that stuck with me, "It's not always about getting it right, sometimes it's about getting it right, when it is expected of you.  There are no prizes, when you miss it the first time."  I don't even think I told my mother of my eventual success, as it would have only reminded her of my first failure.  As an adult, I'm now sure that my mother would never have thought like that, but you would have been hard pressed to get me to believe that, back then.  I remained a struggling swimmer for all of my life, with heavy handed strokes, and more gasping for breaths than anything that looks remotely like I was in control of the process.  When I started going to Scout camp with my sons, I realized that in order to stay with them in the aquatic activities, I would have to pass the BSA swim test which required 2 types of strokes and the ability to float (this was exactly one more stroke than I knew, and required exactly one ability that I didn't have, I blame the dirty bathwater).  With practice, by the time my sons passed it, I did too, but barely, and it was the floating requirement that almost sunk me, no pun intended. 

     Coming up this winter, I'll be working with the younger patrol at Scouts to help them with a few swimming requirements.  I've got to book some time at the high school pool to do it. All my older Scouts in the troop have passed the swim test, except for one.  The kid struggles with a fear of the water, and then with the lack of swimming ability to actually pass the test.  He's just an eensie-weensie short of "this tall".  It took me a whole session with him last year, just to get him to jump into the deep end, but I did get him to do it, and that was more than the school was able to do during his lessons there.  I'm sure he'll eventually be a swimmer, when something motivates him more than the fear he has of the water, and he sets his mind to the spot he needs to, to do it.  It's all about motivation.  You see, I fail less as an adult now, than I ever did as a kid, because the stakes are higher.  I've got a family to support, bills to pay, kids that look up to me as an example, friends that wish me well and competitors that don't, and these are all powerful motivators.  I'll help this Scout find his motivation, and when he completes the BSA test, maybe I'll have a shiny Kennedy half dollar there as his reward.  It's the least a fellow green light can do. 
We'll never know the lives we saved with these lines. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The clothing lady with the one shoe story.

     As many of you know, I get to volunteer some time with my local Boy Scout Troop in Hall.  I say "get to" because this relationship always gives more back to me than I put into it.  This is a perfect example of that, as this story came to me a few weeks before Christmas, one year, and I would have never heard it, if not for helping the Scouts with an annual event.

     The tradition started well before my involvement with the Troop, but I will say I've been proud to help keep it going for the last 8 years or so.  A few weeks before Christmas each year, the Scouts of Troop 68 in Hall NY, distribute fruit baskets to the aged, unemployed, needy, infirm, and to the new residents of our little hamlet.  They spend the monetary equivalent of 1-2 fundraisers on this project (Ever wonder what we did with the money raised selling overpriced popcorn or spaghetti dinner tickets?) and they go out and purchase 15 cases
of fruit from a local produce wholesaler, and spend a Saturday morning, sorting, packing and distributing boxes of fruit around to the people on our "list".  We poll our neighbors and the local postmaster as to who might be in need that particular year, so the "list" is ever changing.  A small sign goes up in the local diner, hardware store, and in the Post Office, so we try and insure that we capture all who are in need. Most years we distribute 40 boxes, complete with fruit, candy canes, and a card signed by all the Scouts, wishing them well during the Holidays.   It's the finest thing we do as a Troop, and I've heard from the recipients for so many years, that it speaks volumes about the caliber of the boys in the Troop and how much this gesture means to those recipients.  The thank you cards we get back some years almost make you cry, but one has always stood out amongst the others, and it was the one from a woman known simply as "The Clothing Lady".

     The "Clothing Lady's" card always came with a scripture verse attached, or an additional inspirational card inside of hers.  I suspect that she gives money to religious organizations and receives many of these back and keeps them.  I envision her going through her piles of them to find one that is apropos for the Troop, and
Not the actual Clothing Lady, but close.
each year she does.  I had enjoyed reading them for many years, before I actually got to deliver my first fruit box to her, and it took a few years of doing that before I got to meet her.  She has a modest house, close to the church where we donate the remaining boxes each year, and it has a heated foyer prior to going into the house.  For a few years, we'd go and ring the doorbell, and knock, but no one ever answered, so we'd leave the box in the foyer, and the only evidence of the receipt of it was the thank you card that would come back a week or so later.  She appeared on the distribution list with her name (It's one of those great older people names that no on uses anymore)  but also with a description in parenthesis that read,  (The Clothing Lady).  My curiosity about the meaning of her nickname went unanswered until just 2 years ago, when I finally found her at home when we delivered.  My son Nolan and I had followed the usual procedure and the door went unanswered but while we were turning to leave, we both heard a commercial come onto the TV inside (Ever wonder why commercials are so loud?, Mysterious ways....)  We peered in and could see just the top of the Clothing Lady's head in a armchair facing the TV.  We knocked louder a few times, but it wasn't until we actually opened the inner door, and yelled, that she became aware of our presence.  She likely was home all the other years too, but had never heard us.  She invited us in, and in the 20 minutes we shared together that morning, she told us the story of the one shoe.

     Before I could even ask my burning question about why she was listed as "The Clothing Lady", she started to tell us about her late husband.  "We had a mission" she said, "and it was to collect clothing and ship
Her mission looks like my son's bedroom on laundry day
it overseas to those who needed it".  She went on to tell us that they had both heard the call, and started collecting old clothes and shoes.  When they would get enough to fill a container or two, she would arrange transportation to the recipient country that had the most dire need at that time.  She had a contact that would visit her and help out when the time got close, and he also went overseas frequently to see that the clothes were being distributed properly.  Part of their job was to go through the donations, piece by piece, and to sort out the stuff that was not usable. They chuckled over some of the stuff that people donated, and you never knew what you might come across in a pile of donated items, like the time her husband found a single shoe.
     There, nestled among T-shirts with outdated slogans on them (Where's the Beef, I Survived Skylab, etc) was an almost brand new running shoe.  Her husband spent the rest of the afternoon searching the pile for it's mate, but it just wasn't in there, so at the end of the day, he placed the single shoe atop the refuse pile. The Clothing Lady passed it and then went back
I wonder who is wearing this now?
and urged her husband to include it in the shipment.  His response was something akin to "What the hell would anybody do with one running shoe?", but he was a religious man, so I am paraphrasing.  It went on the pile to go overseas. Years later the work got too physically taxing on the couple so they prepared to send their last container overseas.  When it was finished, the contact came, but this time he brought some pictures with him of the recipients of their charity, all dressed in the clothing they had sent.  They laughed as they flipped through the pictures, recalling a lot of the items that they were seeing, but one stopped them dead in their tracks.  It was a picture of a man, smiling a toothless smile, standing with a cane and on his remaining leg, was the single running shoe that they had sent a few years before.  The contact explained that he had lost his leg to a mine, and had been absolutely thrilled to receive the shoe, and it had fit perfectly.  I suspect, that if the couple had ever had any doubts as to the value of their mission, they were taken away immediately after seeing that photo. 

     Looking for a moral in this one might be easy.  I suspect when my wife reads this one, she'll suggest "Always listen to your wife, cuz they know better".  I could suggest back "You never know when the inept things I do are the Lord's work" and it could go on all day.  Let's leave you with this thought, "What do you have that you no longer value, that could become so invaluable to those in need?"  If one shoe can make that big of an impact, what could your donation do?  I hear that the Scout Troop is planning on doing a clothing drive this year, let me know if you want to participate, single shoes will be accepted.  
Shoe still needed

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Our annual Christmas Shopping Trip

     As any reader of this blog can tell, we have made a lot of traditions in my family.  Even setting aside the more common Holiday ones, we have quite a few, but among these all, my favorite has to be the annual Christmas shopping trip with my brothers and brother-in laws.  It's a 20 plus year tradition, and likely has spawned a few knock-offs in it's day, but there is only one way to really do it, Yarger style.

     I don't remember the first one, but for a few years it was just my brother Ace and I.  The formula was simple then, and hasn't changed much, try to shop as little as possible, and then have a good time at a few bars to relieve the stress of Holiday shopping.   The exact correct ratio of the first to the second is 1:7, and the shopping can't take more than an hour.  We started just going to a few local stores (The Red Wearhouse in Flint was my favorite), and then on to a few watering holes.  Nothing prevented our night out,
Sage advice to a young male
we even slid into a pole one night on the way to shopping, and we turned around, switched vehicles, and headed back out the same road.  Over the next few years, the number of attendees grew and we upgraded our shopping site to Eastview Mall.  We still did it in under an hour, we'd meet in the front, set our watches, and scatter to "shop" for the next 50 minutes or so, making sure that we were back by the appointed time.  I say "shop" but none of us do, we go, buy, and come back.  Even holding up 2 items to compare them will likely get you kicked out of this club, we don't have time for that, you'd better know what you want prior to coming out with us.  I remember the first year that my sister Hummingbird's husband came out with us and was 15 minutes late for the rendezvous.  He came back, smiling, and was greeted by 5 or 6 angry faces, and his only excuse was, "I thought you were kidding about doing the entire mall in an hour".  He was replaced with her second husband, whom I'm happy to say has never taken more than the agreed upon time, we think we will keep him.

     In the early years, we'd bring our food with us to try and save some time.  I'd do up some appetizers and some fried foods, and I had a plug in warmer that I used for my job as a food salesperson which we would bring with us.  The crowd, after the first few years, ran from 5-12 attendees depending on how many
Typical night at Eddie O's Canandaigua
brothers, brother in laws, nephews and friends could join us.  It has always been guys only, although a sister has crashed a portion of it, a time or two.  Early on we hits bars like McGhans, The Black Diamond Hotel, and then headed to Canandaigua.  The likely schedule any given year now is, Shop, Jose and Willy's, Wally's Pub, Rocky's, Cdga Brew Pub, Eddie O's, The Pickering, Farmers Inn, Niagara, and possibly Don's on the way home.  It's not quite the 12 Bars of Christmas, but we get close some years (give us a break, we have to shop you know, and our trip pre-dates any 12 bar outing that I am aware of).  The longest stop now is likely Wally's and we stop there to re-fuel.  Tradition holds that we order 20 chicken wings per person and try and finish them off.  Some years we do better than others (one year the last few wings were inserted in my coat pocket for my wife to find later, it did not give here the Christmas spirit, trust me).  The jukebox at Wally's has always been the best one in town, so that helps to get us psyched  up for the fun that is to follow.  I never claimed we Yargers were good dancers, but that has never stopped a few of us from trying.

     The most common place for us to dance is the Brew Pub, although we have done others depending on the band or DJ.  I like the Brew Pub, because we don't go there on a regular basis, so few people know us.
What it looked like when I danced with Xena
That makes for some interesting nights.  Admittedly I do more dancing than the rest of the group, but you haven't lived until you've seen my BIL's "statue dance" in the middle of a dance floor.  He struts out, crosses his arms, and stands there for the entirety of the dance, with his partner(s), dancing around him.  He's the one that married "She Who Shall Not Be Named" and he is in pretty good shape, so he actually attracts girls this way.  I, on the other hand, don't have a chiseled chest, so I have to rely on witty banter, and plying girls with alcohol, in order to get my dance partners.   Truth be told, I didn't have a chiseled chest when I was younger either, so I'm pretty practiced in the alcohol plying and witty banter method.  I could write a few blogs about all the good times we've had dancing, but here I think I'll highlight just a couple.   We've met a nurse who looked like Monica Lewinsky, who made "house calls" and wanted to share her number and her limo with us, we danced with a Xena Princess Warrior clone, who towered a foot over us all and could lift us off the floor, spent time with two frisky factory girls that my brother Aquaman met, who were fixated on my nephew, and ended one evening talking to a nymphomaniac pretty blonde who felt awfully comfortable confessing her intimate needs and talents.  You really can't make this stuff up.  Each time, however, we left with just our original group, our morals intact, and of course these great stories to bring back. 

     The rest of the night becomes a  pattern after this, drinking, talking, dancing, rinse, repeat.  At some point someone is bound to suggest we do a shot (usually it's me), so we do.  We finish when the bars close, and then head for home with our designated driver safely at the wheel (we'd do breakfast, but do you know how long it takes to digest 20 wings?).  We wake late the next morning, most of us with hangovers, and start thinking about how we are going to improve the gathering next year.  It's amazing how often we do have progressively better times in spite of our advancing ages.  Trust me, it's a much needed stress reducer for us as the year draws to a close.   As this blog draws to a close, I invite you to start your own such tradition.  It's safe, it's fun, there is great camaraderie, and you'll have something to look forward to each year.  I know I do, and you might too, after all, the limo is still waiting. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oh, deer.

     I was coming back from my gym workout this am, and I was stumped for any inspiration for this week's blog, when suddenly God provided it for me.  It was shortly after sunrise, and while driving back, suddenly I spotted a deer coming across the road on a trajectory with my car.  I was easily able to avoid it, I was alert and going a reasonable speed, but it made me think that my history of accidents involving deer might make a good blog plot, so here it is.

     I'm pretty sure my first deer was on a Halloween weekend, some 25-30 years ago.  I'm not a hunter, but at last count I had racked up 7 of these creatures, and none intentionally.  The first time, I had just purchased a new car, a Toyota Tercel hatchback, and my wife and I were headed to Rochester dressed for the party. I had just finished remarking to my wife that I really hadn't gotten used to where everything was on the car yet, when someone driving in the opposite direction flashed their lights at me.  I looked down to see if my high beams were on, and in those few moments, I heard an awful
What my car looked like after the deer
thud, and felt the impact with something at the front of the car.  I remember the sickening feeling that I had, and my first thought wasn't that I hit a deer, as I was on a stretch of Route 332 where some kids had been hit by a car several years earlier. I pulled over and exited the car, and then confirmed that it was a deer that I hit.  Coincidentally, some cousins of mine, from Newark, were close by and pulled over to help us.  The spotlight that they had on their car was the only thing that allowed us to find the deer.  It had flown over the car and into a ditch and it's legs were crushed.  It had already died, and my car wasn't faring that much better.  The car was only days old to me, but at least it took the worry out of who was going to get the first scratch.  As I had mentioned, we were headed to a party, but I hadn't mentioned that we were dressed as a 50's couple, complete with greased hair, leather jacket, and a poodle skirt (Char, not me.).  After we got home, we scrubbed the idea of driving to Rochester, and went out and visited friends in Cdga, and got to meet my best friend's new girlfriend for the first time (Shout out to Dan and Peggy).  This wouldn't be the last time we interacted with them on evenings that we hit deer.

     My next two deer hits were less eventful and both of these happened in the early morning.  I used to drive a lot of miles doing my job as an independent foodservice salesperson.  I'd do 2-3 times the miles that an average person would drive, with my top year coming in at 40,000 or so miles.  I'd be out at dawn and home at dusk, and my schedule coincided with the deer's, almost perfectly.  So the next two hits happened on my way to work.  I had graduated up to used Toyota Camry's by then, and they fared only slightly better than the
Deer look good here.
Tercel when it came to impacting wildlife.  Not a lot to tell about these hits, car met deer, did damage, deer died, car got fixed.  My next one, however, was a little funnier.  We were going to go to dinner in Honeoye with friends (second shout out to Dan and Peggy) one Friday, and we had a rental car at the time.  Char's Charger was in the shop, being fixed from an accident caused by some amorous activity happening in the other car that hit us, so we had a rental.  We had joked about taking the rental over that way, as the area was rife with deer, and of course, we didn't own it.  Little did we know we were foreshadowing.  It was on the way back that we crested a hill, going pretty slowly, when we saw the 3 deer conversing on the side of the road.  It seriously looked like they were talking with each other, and I swear I almost heard one of them dare another to cross in front of us.  He did, and try as we did to slow down, the road was slick and we skidded into the deer and bumped him over.  It was more like cow tipping this time, and the deer wasn't seriously hurt, and we only cracked the headlight cover on the rental car.  It allowed the light to shine into the trees instead of the road, so we looked like we were coon hunting on the drive home. If you have to hit a deer, that's the way to hit one.  We only had to pay a little to replace the headlamp and the deer had a great story to go back and tell to his friends. 

     The next deer I did not hit, my wife and daughter did.  They were coming back from a cheerleading event at night and crested a hill just a mile away from our home (You know that's where most accidents happen, right?).  That's where the deer was too, just a mile away from our home.  There was no time to react to a deer
Deer don't look good here
standing in the road, so the deer was hit, hit the windshield, and then flew over the car.  I say I wasn't involved, but technically I was, cuz they were driving my Cirrus.  My wife apologized profusely, but there was no need, by this time I had figured out that the deer had it in for me.  I evened up the score (with my wife, not the deer) the next year, and hit one with her van, dropping off my brother from our annual Christmas shopping trip.  We were less than a mile from his house (you know that's where most accidents happen, right?).  Not too much damage with this one, and by this time I could just look at the car and guess how much it was going to cost to fix it.  It's a skill that I wish I hadn't had developed.

     The last deer in this litany of roadside rendezvous, we hit while coming back from some friend's' house on Christmas eve (Last shout out to Dan and Peggy).  We were about a mile from their house (you know that's...)
Deer looks best here
The van was loaded with the kids and after we hit it, I surveyed the damage, and Char kept the kids from trying to inspect the carcass too much (That's how you get Vegetarians).  I'm pretty sure we were able to drive, but that's a bold statement to make as I'm telling you about our 7th deer hit.  We made it home safely and the deer was quickly forgotten as the wrapping paper came off the first present the next morning.  My present that year, was that the deer seemed to call a truce on our cars after that, as it now has been years since they have had an impact on our vehicles. 

     I'm not sure if there is a moral with this blog, so let's check.   Slow down ? Nope I've hit them while barely moving.  Get deer whistles?  Nope, had them on at least twice when I hit em.  Don't take a job that gets you up early and brings you home late?  Like we have a choice.  Don't drive to see friends and family on Holidays? Kind of defeats the purpose of the Holiday, doesn't it? The only one I can really come up with is, if you find yourself driving and you see a deer about to cross in front of a car on the opposite side of you, don't flash your high beams at them.  It's really not as helpful as you'd think. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Christmas Trees, Lost and Found - repost from Dec 2010

Stories like this one, are hard to believe, but you have my word that the things in this blog are entirely true.  It does beg the question though, why do I have so many of these things and stories happen to me?  I believe the answer is that God wanted my blog to be more interesting, so he continues to surround me with interesting people and events, and I haven't even told 10% of the good ones yet. Have I ever told you about the time I danced on Broadway?......

I lost a Christmas tree one year.  Go ahead, shake your head and scold me, I can already hear you.." Yarger, I can understand losing the remote, but seriously a Christmas tree?"  It wasn't like that though.  In my defense, that tree never even saw the inside of our house.... 

     Isn't life hard enough without starting harder traditions than your family passed on? Yes, but that's our nature in this family.  As far as I can recall my mom and dad never rounded the kids up and went off in the woods to cut down our own Christmas tree.  Now, that's not to say my siblings might not have done this with them, but by the time I started remembering things, I don't recall a single foray into the woods with my folks.  I have some vague recollections of picking one up at St. Mary's or from the Boy Scouts, but you can't prove it by me, that I was ever involved in an actual tree hunt.  Why then did Char and I start the tradition of bundling toddlers and all up and hiking through the tree farms to find the perfect tree that we all like and can agree upon?  Because we are stupid, that's why.
You can't see us, we are way, way, in the back
My family is at least consistent in this task.  We will hike the entire tree farm, no matter whose it is, or where it is, and always find our "perfect" tree at the furthest possible spot from where we started and will require the absolute most amount of dragging of the tree.  I think the kids do it on purpose because I make them do chores, it's payback.  One year we dropped our tree into a few feet of snow, tied a rope around it and tugged, and I didn't even shift it.  That was a fun next hour moving inch by inch to get way back to the farmhouse.  For the last few years we have gone to Darlings Tree Farm in Seneca Castle.  They have hot cider, they have the shaky thing that gets the dead needles off, the netty thing that wraps them up and they ship dozens of trees off to US soldiers abroad with the Trees for Troops program.  I highly recommend them.  This story, however, goes back about 20 years and the tree farm involved was on Rte 64 in Bristol N.Y.

 It was a few weeks before Christmas, and Char and I had heard about a good tree farm in Bristol NY.  We bundled up Molly, who was a toddler then, and my brother Ace rode over with us to pick out a tree too.
Dan, one year guarding his choice.

It turns out the tree farm was vastly overrated, and it took the better part of an hour before all of us found 2 trees that would pass muster.  We could only fit one inside the van, so we tied the other to the top with whatever we could find inside and headed for home.  We got about 1/4 mile away before the wind got underneath it and flipped it off the van and into the road.  After a mad scramble to re-secure it, we gave it a second attempt with the same result, we were 28 miles away from home and were destined to lose the tree every quarter mile. It dawned on me that my dad's recently built house was only a few miles from there and he had a pickup, so we decided to leave the tree on the roadside and go ask dad to borrow his truck.  This was not an easy decision, as my dad raised us all to be independent, and he likely taught Ben Franklin "Neither a borrower nor a lender be", but we had no choice, so off we went.  He really didn't give us much of a hard time and in less than 10 minutes we were back standing in front of where we thought we had left the tree.  I say "thought" because the area looked identical to where we had been....except there was no tree.
Ace and I examining the scene, I'm the pretty one. 

Now CSI was 10 years from being thought up but even Grissom would have been proud of our canvassing of the area and our identification of the pine needles that were strewn about. I think Ace even rubbed some deer dung between his fingers to test his working theory of the woodland animals needing a tree, but it was 2 days old so Bambi and pals were cleared.  What was left were 2 perplexed, cold, brothers standing on the roadside missing one out of two trees, and of course when we checked, it was my tree that was missing.  One of the only things worse than spending close to an hour combing a thin tree farm for a good Christmas tree, is to do it twice in one day.  Those were the hardest 25 dollars that ever left my hands, but after we went home and after it was up and decorated, it became like every other tree we had brought home, beautiful and ours.  I really didn't give it much more thought, that was, until 7 years later eating lunch at the end of that same road.....

     It's a good story so far, isn't it?  I agree, it lacks something, how about a surprise ending? 

     So that year I was on that road a lot.  I sold food to the local restaurants and my mom's house was there, so a couple days a week I would find myself on Rte 64 in Bristol NY.  A lot of weeks I would pick up food from Rumor's restaurant at Toomey's Corners and bring a cheeseburger to my mom and have lunch with her while I placed my morning orders.

Old gas station at Toomey's Corners (Rumors is back left)
It was during one of those times that I learned the ultimate fate of my misplaced Christmas tree.  As I was waiting at the bar, on one of these days,  just before Christmas again, I happened to start a conversation with a construction worker who was sitting next to me at the bar.  We introduced ourselves and got talking about the upcoming Holiday and whether we were prepared or not.  I, of course, told him of my trudging off into the woods the week before to get a tree, but I added "At least it wasn't as bad as the year I had to do it twice."  He curiously inquired how that happened, and I quickly told him my story of losing the tree 7 years earlier, totally convinced that I had the best Christmas story.   I was just as quickly proven wrong.  He set down his drink and asked me 4 rapid fire questions, "7 years ago?", "This Road?", "about 2 miles down?", and "on the right side of the road?"  I answered Yes to all the questions, and he laughed and said "Buddy, I think I found your tree that year".  He continued on to tell me the most fascinating story from the year that I lost my tree.  He was out of work, due to an ankle injury and times were tough.  He could still drive, but not climb ladders or do his job.  The night before his wife and him had discussed the looming holiday and decided to forgo the tree and to spend what little money they had on presents for their 3 kids.  The next morning, on the way to town in his pickup truck, he had come upon a Christmas tree laying on the side of the road.  He had assumed it had come off from a bigger truck carrying them, so he loaded it in his truck and brought it home to his family.
Nolan in front of his handiwork one year

He said that particular Christmas, to his kids, was indistinguishable from the others that they had, because of that tree.  He recovered from his injury and hadn't had a lean year since that one.  He insisted on buying both my mom's and my lunches and we shook hands, and I departed with a new found friend and a great story to tell. You see, my Christmas had been indistinguishable from my others too, I had the extra 25 dollars, and the time, so it hadn't impacted me at all, until he told me his story.  Then it impacted me, where it counts, in the heart, and not my wallet.  So I did lose a Christmas tree one year, but I got back a little of my humanity.  It was a good deal.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The night we played Bad Cop, Bad Cop.

     Like a lot of parents, we take our parenting advice from a variety of sources, friends, our own parents and other relatives, our personal experiences, and yes, even TV.  One of the more effective methods we have used is a variation of the classic "Good Cop, Bad Cop" that you see in most detective shows.  The idea is to have one parent be the belligerent, over the top, angry and unreasonable cop, and the other to be the sympathetic, caring, understanding, and cooperative cop.  We used this method for years, with me naturally gravitating to the bad cop role, and my wife naturally gravitating to the good cop role.  Like I said, we have used this successfully for years, but this story is about a time that we didn't.

     I was traveling and at dinner with a client when the call came.  It was my daughter Molly with "big news" that she wanted to share.  We were just finishing our meals and it didn't look like the client wanted to hang around for after dinner drinks, so I picked up the call and told Molly that I'd call her back, in a bit, when
Sometimes I think my kids look like this when they call me
reached my hotel.  It did go longer than expected, so it was probably an hour later that I called her back to listen to her big news.  I made sure to shut my laptop so that I could give her my undivided attention.  I'm not sure all my kids are good enough to do this for me, as frequently during conversations, they seem to be multi-tasking, but I digress, for this call, I was all ears.  She started out by telling me that she had secured a good job.  As the semester prior had ended, she was dealing with a lot of change. She was changing schools, majors, apartments, and to top it off her boyfriend was having surgery, so she got a little behind on the job searching.  It had been weighing heavily on her and she was frustrated that she wasn't working yet. I wasn't worried as her work ethic was never in question and I know she
interviews well.  So I wasn't surprised that she did hook up with a job so quickly, however, I was surprised at what she chose to characterize as a "good job".  She explained that she would be working with independent brain injured people for long hours each day.  She had to provide transportation for these people in her own car and she also could be sent anywhere in the Buffalo area.   The starting wage was near our state's minimum.  To top it off, since most of them were pretty independent, there wasn't a lot that she was allowed to do, and I know she had quit jobs earlier that didn't give her enough to do.  She went on with more description, but honestly I was already soured on this job.  She explained also how they hired her immediately, and she exclaimed "Most of the people that work there don't even have cars !", so she would be guaranteed a lot of work.  OY !  I waited patiently for her to finish, and I contemplated whether the timing was right for me to express my opinion, but in the end, I hoped that she could still decline the job, so I started to give it to her, both barrels.   I started by saying something like,  "It sounds less like a job and more that they are taking advantage of you", and it got worse after that.  I rebutted point
Nice job, Dad.
for point derisively, what she had gushed out to me so proud and passionately, only moments before.  I wouldn't have gone on as long as I did, if I had heard her crying on the other end, but I didn't hear her, that is, until the soft crying had become full blown sobbing.  I tried to recant, but she sobbed that she had to go, and hung up.  You can guess how I felt at that moment, you don't get into parenting, to make your children cry, but somehow there are times that you find yourself in exactly that position.  It was late, so I went to bed, and figured I would bring her Mom into the mix, the first thing in the am.  My daughter was going to need the good cop.

     The next morning, I awoke early, and dialed my wife to confess my sin.  I launched right into my tale of making our daughter cry, and when I finished, there was some silence on the other end, and then "Oh Dear".
My wife went on to explain that she had talked to our daughter, earlier in the evening, and her reaction had been almost equal to mine.  She had not been happy about the job either, immediately recognizing the perils in it, and had vehemently expressed her opinion to our daughter, as well.  So much for Good Cop, Bad Cop, this time it was Bad Cop, Bad Cop.  In my defense, I was unaware that it was my turn to play Good Cop, that call comes so infrequently in my house. We commiserated for a while discussing possible remedies, but if there is one thing we know about our girl, it's that it's tough to tell her things and that she usually has to discover them for herself.  The communication from her was short and pointed for a while after that, but finally she started to tell us about her job.  This time, we just shut up and listened.  We both still felt that it was a bad fit for her, but we stopped trying to interject our opinions, it's her life and her choice after all.  We suffered in silence for a few months, but have to admit we were elated when she called one day to tell us, she was leaving that job.  She had good cause, and we agreed, and
Not my girl, but like her. 
 we were even more excited when she called us a week later to tell us about a better job that she had.  This time it was working at an assisted living facility where she would be helping the residents in their daily tasks.  There was plenty to do, and the pay was better too.  In fact, she is already up for a promotion, which again does not surprise either her Mom or me.  We had dinner in Buffalo as a family last weekend, and related our side of this tale to her.  I don't think she'll mind me sharing it, as she thought it was pretty funny.  So did I, but I have an odd sense of humor, we Bad Cops are like that,  just ask my wife. 



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The internet IS controlled by Cats

     I am a creature of habit, and this includes my internet surfing.  When I sit down at the computer each morning, I have my regular list of sites which I visit.  They include Facebook, my family's website, a couple of conservative news sites, a few blogs that I follow, my bank, the world debt clock, and finally my guilty pleasure, TMZ, the celebrity gossip site.  I treat the last one like dessert, if I finish all my others, then I get to check out TMZ that morning.  A few mornings ago, they ran a short video interviewing Ray William Johnson (the comedian who reviews videos on YouTube), and something he said sent shivers down my spine.  He was joking about the popularity of his videos that include cats, and he suggested, tongue in cheek, that cats have some sort of influence on the content of the internet.  I went to sleep that night with that thought still on my mind, and sometime during that 6 hours, I had my epiphany when all the thoughts gelled....  The internet IS controlled by cats.

You know he ate those ducks, right?
     Nothing else makes sense, after you think it through.  The amount of cat content on the internet far outweighs their social significance. I'm a cat lover, new this year, but even I am amazed at how much bandwidth gets devoted to these creatures week in and week out, and it's almost on every site.  Take Facebook, for example.  How many of your friends posted pictures of their cat yesterday (I have a niece that almost does it hourly, hey Angie)?  Pictures of cats, peeking out of tight spaces, with wet faces with cute sayings posted beneath them, sleeping in curled up balls, and doing a host of other things.  It's astounding.  There must be a graph somewhere that connects, length of time on the x axis, and you posting a video of your cat chasing a laser pointer on the y axis and I suspect they meet quite early on.  Don't we all have a friend or two from High School that won't post their own profile picture, but will put one up of their cat?  Sure we do. Why?
I think the cats killed them and took over their accounts, that's why.  It would explain the weird status updates from them like "I slept all day, today" or "I'd take a bath but my tongue is too tired", point is, you should query these friends with trick status updates like " the dog did the cutest thing today " and see if they "like" them, just to be sure they are still alive.  YouTube is even worse. Videos of cats playing keyboards, with rolls of toilet paper, playing peek-a-boo, watching tennis matches, wrestling with each other, all abound with millions of hits, but are they really that funny?  Nope, but they are everywhere.  The whole process must be controlled by cats.   Why are there so many cute cat videos and pictures up on the internet, but the only ones of dogs "being cute" inevitably involve dogs sniffing each others butts?  If this isn't cat propaganda, I don't know what is.

     So how do they do it?   I haven't got it all worked out but it has something to do with the hours on end that cats disappear each day.  Did you ever notice that, you look everywhere and can't find your cat?
Hidden snapshot of cats on duty
I think they go to secret cat lairs and power the internet on treadmills and upload some of these pictures and videos.  Don't you always eventually find them sleeping under a chair or something?  It only makes sense if they were out exercising, but why hide it?  Exactly.   They don't want us to know.  There must be a division that implants subliminal messages in these pictures and videos too.  I know I've shared some of these with friends, only to go back later, and think "Why did I do that?"  The cat, that's why.  Hell, I even blogged about cats prior to this (See - There's a cat in my house ).  Did I want to? No, but I did, sneaky cats. 

     I need to finish up now, as my cat Nibbler keeps walking by and seems to be checking out what I am writing.  Over this next week, take a look at the internet, your Facebook, YouTube, and then tell me there isn't something going on.  Nothing else explains it.  I'm headed out on a trip, which is the only reason I've got the guts to post this theory.  You think it is coincidence that every time they find a dead body in a home, there are cats around?  Exactly. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The famous flaming deodorant story.

     Everyone has their favorite family stories, and I've never met a family that didn't have at least one funny recounting of a time when they were younger.  Not everyone, however, has a story that pushes the boundary between a family owning it and it becoming Urban Legend, but my family does.  It's the story of how my brother Ace almost set his room on fire with a flaming roll-on deodorant.  I would wager that this tale has been told equally by as many non-family, as family members.   Apologies up front for any distorted facts or circumstances, but I think I got it mostly right, and that's what happens with Urban Legends, after all.

     It all started with a nice gesture by my brother Ace to his twin sister, Meter Maid.  It was circa 1978 and my brother had attended a pep rally or a school bonfire, after a dance.  Meter Maid was ill and could not attend.  Ace saw some other students that were there, light sticks of roll-on deodorant and use them like torches, held high above their greasy, pimpled faces (Hey, it was high school, everyone had greasy pimpled faces).  We'd all seen this done at concerts with Bic lighters, but this was a new twist.  He thought it was so cool that the next day he called his twin into his bedroom to try and repeat the trick.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the show would quickly turn into a fiasco of epic proportions. 

This guy became an Olympian
     You will need to know the layout of the upstairs of our house, to really get the feel of how this went down. At the time this story took place, there were 6 bedrooms and one bathroom on that story of the house.  Ace and his brother Aquaman occupied the bedroom in the Southeast corner of the house, which also happened to be the furthest bedroom from the small bathroom.  In order to reach the bathroom, you had to exit the room, go straight for 6 feet, turn right, go straight for 25 feet along the stairway, turn right and continue another 10 feet into the bathroom.  It was not the best bedroom for a bed-wetter to be in (Wait, wait, I did not say that either Ace or Aquaman were bed-wetters, only that logistically they were placed in the worst room, if you were one) It was a good bedroom to hang your sheets out to dry after you wet the bed though ala Michael Landon in the Loneliest Runner, as it was in the back of the house, so Ace's friends wouldn't see them.  Incidentally it would be wrong for the reader to link the upcoming pyromania of my brother to bed-wetting too, as the scientific basis for that is shaky even if seeming to be proven regularly by anecdotal stories, but I digress, on with this tale...

View from under the bed
     Ace closed the door of his room, and took the top of of his rarely used bottle of Brut roll-on deodorant. 
Ironically, Aquaman was not present at the time when his brother most needed a master of the seven seas (Some of you are trying to tie this back into bed-wetting aren't you?)  He lit it, and sure enough it produced a nice blue flame as the alcohol in it burned off.  It was during one of his ballet style swings of his arm that Ace got his first lesson in the expansion of things when they are heated, and unfortunately the top of the roll-on deodorant expanded faster than the ball, which allowed it to tumble out of it's receptacle onto the floor.
To paint a clearer picture, think of twin 16 year olds, gawking at a flaming ball of alcohol rolling around on a hardwood floor.  Do you know what is worse than one flaming ball of alcohol rolling around on a hardwood floor?  The answer is, many pieces of a flaming ball scattered around the floor, which is exactly what Ace ended up with, after he instinctively tried to stomp out the ball, and it shattered.  I'm told that the ones under the bed were the prettiest, but there is a minority who enjoyed the ones that shot under the curtains.  With a room full of flaming bits, the only thing preventing my brother from being a bed-wetter at that particular moment was .... location. 

An approximation of the long hallway
     Ace sprang into action and raced to the bathroom.  He cupped his small hands under the water, collected some and ran back the 40-some combined feet and went to throw the water on the fire, but all the bouncing, corner taking, leaking (out of the hands), had done an effective job of drying them on route.  I exited my bedroom, which he had to pass on the way to and from the bathroom, and watched him make two more consecutive trips, with similar results.  In my version of the story, it was me who came up with the idea of using the toilet brush holder to effectively carry some water back to extinguish the flames.  Truth be told, the alcohol burned itself out mostly by that time, but I don't get to be a hero often, like my brother, Aquaman, so let me have this one, OK?   Though the fire was now out, the calamity was not, as all the commotion, running, screaming, and the word FIRE, had caused my mother to start to climb the stairway to investigate.  Shit, meet fan. 

What Ace should have gotten
What Ace did get
    My brother only had seconds to think of a story to explain the charred bits and wet patches, and the story he told is what launched this tale into Urban Legend territory.  "Mom", he exclaimed " You wouldn't believe it... the sun came in through the window and hit my open bottle of deodorant, and ignited it".  He continued explaining how it was only his quick thinking of knocking it to the floor, stomping on it, and extinguishing it with water from the toilet brush holder that had stopped us from having to change addresses (Another irony was that, the true hero in this story, the toilet brush holder, would die in a fire, in that very same bathroom just a few years later, and yes it's true, I can't make this kind of stuff up).  My mother, jaded as she was from raising 12 kids, did believe it and bought the story, hook, line and sinker.  She always did have a soft spot for Ace, as the story goes she might have dropped him down the stairs accidentally, when he was much younger. To my recollection, there was no punishment for Ace, and in fact his heroics may have even earned him a cake for his efforts.  I've often wondered if my Dad bought the story like my Mom did, or was he just polite enough to her, to not argue the point, when she related it to him later that night.  After all, he didn't drop Ace down the stairs.

       This story has a great ending already, wouldn't you agree? That's not how it did end though.  My mother was a stay at home Mom, with a little time on her hands, excellent writing skills and with a mission to save other Mother's kids.  Ace should not have been shocked, when a week later, she told him how she had written the Brut company a scathing letter, outlining our experience, and chiding them for not including a warning on the roll-on about direct exposure to sunlight.  I wonder how the cake tasted then.  It was a few months later, when we noticed an actual warning label appear on that product.  We will never know if that was the direct result of my sister missing the bonfire, or not.   Feel free to share this story, after all, it's an Urban Legend now. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Does it start with the shoes ?

     There is no way to write this blog without making myself look like a 100 year old curmudgeon, and I might lose readers early on this one, but like any good curmudgeon, I'm gonna tell it anyway, audience or not.  I was probably 6 or 7 years old the first time I remember going to the shoe store to get a new pair of shoes.  It was a Saturday, and my Dad drove us down to Davidson's Shoe Store on Main street in Canandaigua, and introduced me to the small business owner,  Mr. Hogan.
Now, heretofore, my shoes had been hand-me- downs, or I didn't remember buying them new, but this time I was getting a brand new pair and it was coming from a store rich in the smell of leather and shoe polish.  After we picked out a good quality pair that was within our budget, Mr. Hogan showed my how to untie them and put them on with a shoe horn.  He said that they would last longer that way, and not break down the heel, and so I was taught the "right" way to take my shoes and sneakers, on and off.  The lesson stuck, and I assumed everyone was taught, and used this skill, but my assumption proved very wrong recently.

     We were headed out somewhere and we were ready to go, but Nolan was lagging behind, he has a habit of doing that.  I watched him go up to his sneakers that were fully tied, and he jammed his feet into them.He spent two minutes wiggling his feet until he forced them in.  I was stunned.  I shouted, "Nolan ! Didn't anyone ever teach you how to put your shoes on? Stop being so lazy, and untie them when you take them off."  With a glance at my wife, I could tell that she was more perturbed at me than our 11 year old who couldn't put his shoes on correctly, but she at least let me have my say, and we headed off to parts unknown.  Over the next several weeks, I corrected Nolan as I watched him take his shoes on and off, but still my wife remained silent on the issue. 
Note the crushed heels
You could tell that she had chosen that this was not the parenting hill that she was going to die on.  I, on the other hand, think the small skirmishes must be fought, in order to get ready for the impending battles.  The point was there, shoes cost money (my money) and a kid should be respectful of how he treats something that costs me money.  Was I asking too much, for him to stop and tie or untie his shoes each time he took them off?  I didn't think so. 

     It was a few weeks later while attending my sister Meter Maid's Pig Roast (See - A Swine Time ), my wife made her move.  We had passed a large pile of shoes by my sister's doorway, that was made by the dozen or so urchins camped out in various rooms in her house. 
"I'm not saying you're wrong," she said " but did you notice how many of the pairs of shoes still had their laces tied?"  (I did not notice, but in my defense it took me years to notice Nolan doing it wrong, and I wasn't using the pile to prove a point, but my wife was).  I went back around the corner and checked, and sure enough, the vast majority of kids had not untied their shoes, prior to removing them.  The ratio was close to 5:1 tied to untied.  Not to to be defeated I quickly used the old stand by, "Well, if all those kids jumped off a bridge, would we want Nolan to do it? "  My Mother had taught me well, but my wife had taught me something too, and that was, parents were either not raising their kids with this lesson, or it was lost on the vast majority of them.  It was worth some further thought. 

     I did think about it all, and was going to tie this into how kids  aren't respectful of the things that we provide for them, and I think it's true that a majority of them aren't, well at least to the degree we were when we were growing up.  It may even start with the shoes.  Again, taking good care of the small things that are provided for you, may lead to taking better care of the bigger things that are provided for you (If my friend Tor wrote this, he would be sure to relate this to the Parable of the Talents, you can check his blog out daily at
http://torconsblog.blogspot.com/ )  Does this lead to kids losing or mistreating larger items, like cell phones and cars?  I can't say, but I found another difference in the two scenarios.  If you scroll to the top of this page, you'll see that my first pair of shoes came from a small, local business selling quality merchandise and I treated them well.   My son Nolan's first pair likely came from Walmart, and I doubt there was any quality or craftsmanship involved in their cobbling and he treated them less well.  So there were two lessons to be learned from my view.  The first is that, yes, kids should be taught to respect the sacrifices that parents make to provide for them, it's just the right thing to do. The second, however, might be even more important, and it is, if you expect to have your kids respect things like you were taught, then you have to work a little harder and find good quality merchandise, maybe from small family owned businesses, for them to treat well, and yes, it can start with the shoes. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

As I sat in church this Sunday.....

     I have always said, that you get out of church, what you put into it.  I do not claim to be any more or less religious than I appear to be, but I do try to attend church regularly, and to put some effort into getting something out of it, that is....  most weeks.  Sunday, however, was not one of those days.  The readings were tried and true, but I'd heard them before, of course, so my mind started to wander.  This blog centers on those kind of days and some things I do to amuse myself in church.

     I've been taught better.  One time, my Dad was so upset with my antics at church, he made me and my brothers sit down and come up with a list of 20 things that you don't do in church.  We got to our mandated 20, and my brother Aquaman and I kept going (Dad was on a donut run and not back yet). 
You can't see me, cuz I'm already in position
 My brother, Redface, called us stupid, as we were only told to do 20.  Dad arrived home and scanned our lists, and immediately saw that Redface had done less work than us, so he made him catch up, while we we got to eat donuts. The lesson there is, sometimes overachievers change the benchmark, so always be prepared to do more.  My behavior in church improved, but I still tended to have my mind wander sometimes,  but what would I think about?  The number one daydream that I have  is how I would react if an armed man came in and tried to take over the church.  Probably not a likely scenario in the sleepy little city of Canandaigua, but if it happens, one of us has been preparing for it, for a while.  The first trick is to drop to the ground before he gets set in place at the front of the church.  This gives you a huge tactical advantage as you can crawl under from pew to pew until you are within striking distance.  The rest of the plan involves a full on rush, and an amazing lying tackle, but counts on the people in the front pew feeding you information on when he's not looking your way.  I'm always successful in my attempt to disarm him, as I have the advantage of taking him by surprise.  I gather up the collection basket and hand it back to the stunned priest, and the congregation claps for me as I sit back down in my pew.  That's just one errant thought, I have many others.

     When I served as an altar server, I used to daydream about filling in for the priest if he was suddenly
taken ill. I'd finish the Mass, as I knew all of his lines.  I'd do everything except the consecration, I think you need to take a class on that or something.  I think it requires you to be celibate too, and I am a dismal failure in that department.  I think I could do a good job of getting the congregation worked up, but I probably would be better in a Baptist church or something, but not at being an actual Baptist.  They can't drink, so enough said there.  As in my other daydream, it all turns out well.  I attached a picture of me a a trade show one time here, and tell me I don't have these nun's attention.  

     My favorite way to pass the time in church, is to pick out my next wife (This is not my current wife's favorite thing to have me do in church).  I know that, as an guy who is very happily married, that if something were to happen to take my spouse from me, that I would quickly want to get back into that type of relationship.
It makes sense, since it worked out so well the first time (well, at least for me), but don't we all know a guy who has remarried too quickly and married poorly?  Sure we do, and that's part of the reason that 2nd marriages have a higher divorce rate than 1st ones do.  One of the only ways to avoid this, well except for exercising patience and intelligence, is to pre-shop for possible candidates, just in case.  My wife does find it laughable that I think I even have a chance of surviving her, as there is longevity on her side of the family, and heart disease on my side, but I never said my daydreams were realistic, I told you about the gunman in church, right?  Anyway, I scan the church picking out possible candidates and then spend the rest of the Mass eliminating them.  They don't kneel at the right time or for long enough, Gone.   They don't sing along, Gone.  Don't shake hands during the sign of peace, Gone. When all my kids used to attend Mass with us, they used to help by spotting some of them and pointing them out to me.  Mom did not join us in this activity, but that's ok, she doesn't get a vote.   Of one thing I am certain, and that is, I will need to remarry someone holier than me, just like I did the first time.  Why?  Just look above and see how I spend my time at Mass. 

     To end this missive on mass musings, I'll simply say that I do give it some effort each week and try to pay attention, but the spirit is willing and the flesh is weak.  I suspect some people are hearing the adage "Standing in a church does not make you a Christian, anymore that standing in your garage makes you a car", right now, and I really can't blame them.  I'll try to do better in the future, but leave me my future wife watching, a guy has to plan you know. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wedding Follies

     I haven't been to a lot of weddings lately, but it seems like these things go in spurts.  A large number of your friends and siblings get married around the time that you do, but then there is a lull.  The next batch might be your nieces and nephews and your own offspring, and maybe even some kids that were close friends with your kids.  The last spurt might be the next generation of kids in your lineage, if you are fortunate enough to be around for them (I suspect I will not be), and then you are done.  After this, it's likely you'll attend more funerals than weddings, but this blog is not about funerals but about some weddings and receptions that I've attended, and the good times that followed. 

     If you were invited to my own wedding, then you got a good idea of how I was going to behave if you invited me to yours.  The way I looked at it, our wedding was the best party we ever threw.  We got to pick the music, the date, the guests, the booze, the location, and most people that were invited came, as it is only a one time event (Well at least in our case it was ..... so far). 
My bride and I
There was no way that you were going to drag me out of there til the last song had been song, and no one did.  After that my wife had a 3 hour drive with me to Niagara on the Lake, and I'm reminded often how I sang all the way, and why wouldn't I?  Weddings are supposed to be celebrations, aren't they?  Sure they are, and we have been known to celebrate.  We were the first in our group to get married, but the others quickly followed suit.  They came so quickly they kind of blended together, but here are some highlights of those.  At one, a bunch of forks got mysteriously stuck into a banquet hall corkboard ceiling (I was not invited to this one, just heard of it later, I did get invited for his second one).  Another time we had a 2 hour wait in between the wedding and reception, so we took over a local small bar in Messina NY, and scared half the locals out by telling them there was a new dress code to the bar. After we got to the reception at least two girls
"shot the boot" and drank from one.  Another friend had his wedding at the Inn on Canandaigua Lake, but it was delayed a few hours due to a power outage, and then it was held by candlelight.  
An early wedding
They opened up the bar, to make up for the power, and I think that one remains one of the most fun receptions I have ever been to.  After the 4th hour of drinking, my friend asked me to do the prayer, prior to dining (They said I did I fine job, but you couldn't prove it by me). My friend Dan has a great story from that reception, how he was standing at a urinal, lit only by a candle on top of it, and laughed so hard at a joke that was told, that he blew out the candle and plunged the room into total darkness.  At still another of our friend's weddings, I was dancing with an inebriated partner and she let go on a spin, and tumbled directly into the 5 piece band.  Of course that reception had to be at the fanciest place around at the time.  I interacted more positively with bands and DJ's at almost every wedding I went to around that time, with most of those evenings ending with me singing (unsolicited), with the band.  My favorite go-to song was American Pie, and rarely did I have to look far to get some partners in crime to sing along with me.  Not to belabor the point, but I like to have fun at weddings.

     A wedding buzz can be a difficult thing to keep, as some folks have a habit of shutting the bar down, mid wedding and re-opening it later. 
I went to such a wedding, one time, with my pregnant wife who had offered to DD for me.  Not to be outwitted, I proceeded across the hall and crashed another wedding that was still serving.  I stayed for one, but then they played "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, so I had to dance too.  A family friend came in a little later and dragged me away during a dance with the bride, but she still has the video to remember it by.  As I have said, I like to have fun at weddings, even those I'm not invited to.  The bride thought it was hilarious that I crashed, and her group mixed it up with ours coming through in a Conga line later that night.  I've crashed a few weddings since then, just to dance and such, but they say you never forget your first, and I haven't. The first wedding that I actually attended was my brother Paul's.  I wore a new dark blue leisure suit, but while serving on the altar, I kicked a candle while carrying it, and spilled white wax all down my pant leg.  I would have loved to dance or carry on that wedding, but as a 12 year old boy with a guilty conscience and a large white stain down his pant-leg, even I couldn't do it.  That's probably why I make up for it now.   

     One of my funniest wedding stories (and one of my wife's most embarrassing) was when we were invited to Boston to a cousin's wedding. 
Young Russ should have had this
We caravaned out with about 12 family members to attend, but at the reception my wife and I found ourselves at a table of almost complete strangers.  I started by trying to have a conversation with another cousin and his wife.  I didn't know him very well, and when he asked my opinion on something that sounded like it would be a possible felony, I turned my attention to the other couples at the table.  Left around me were Old Russ and his wife next to me, and Young Russ and his wife across the table from me.  I engaged Old Russ in conversation by asking how he was.  20 minutes later, I was still listening to the monologue on his ailments, though admittedly I can now hold my own in a conversation on knee replacements.  In desperation, I shouted to Young Russ across the table and tried to engage him by asking " How about you Russ, how long have you been a Deaf Mute?"  I'm not sure if it was the kick I got under the table from my wife, or it was from watching the color drain from her face, but I knew almost immediately I had nailed it.  My wife could see the hearing aid behind his ear from her angle, and his Mother confirmed it by saying, "Oh Russ doesn't hear too well, and he hasn't spoken in years."  That's right, I called a Deaf Mute, a Deaf Mute.  My wife insisted we move to another table, but I got the best wedding story out of it.  I later asked my cousin, why he placed me where he did, and his answer was "Because it was next to the bar".
Yet another wedding, this time with family at the table
  He made a good point, but couldn't I have been next to the bar, and not mixed in with potential felons, the elderly and handicapped?  Probably.  That's one of the problems with weddings though, you never know who you are going to draw as your table-mates.  I have fun, regardless, but sometimes my jokes fall on deaf ears. 

   One of the last weddings and receptions we went to, was for a favorite nephew of mine.  He stocked my brand of Gin at the bar, and I took full advantage.  I laughed and danced and even remember the bustiest girl at the reception  falling all over to dance with me (She was top heavy).  We hosted an after hours party, and the last guests had to be walked back to their rooms propped between others.  One girl spent a good amount of time sprawled out on the grass, and I don't think she was a star gazer.  Now, that, was a reception.  As I close this blog on weddings and receptions, I'll leave you with this bit of advice.  If you do invite me to your wedding, fully expect that I will come prepared for a good time.   I'll hit the open bar hard, dance my feet off, may end up on stage, probably embarrass myself or others, but will definitely help you celebrate and create some wedding memories.   You've been forewarned.

Having fun, even with a cheesy mustache.