Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Last Wishes

I've had a rough time with some deaths over the last few years.  You get used to the elderly dying, but it's the others that wear on you, and I've had more than my share of those, people whose lives were ended seemingly before their times, and at some point my sincerest condolences started to sound like empty platitudes.   The reality of each situation hit me, and it was that I couldn't really do anything to make this better and I struggled with that, because I wanted to try to help and make it better.  I did decide, however, that I could address this topic prior to my passing so at least there would be some notes on how I feel about my own departure. 

     I know there will be sadness, that's the nature of these things.  We miss what we can no longer
have and that is understandable, but do not weep for my loss but rejoice in my life, because you know darn well I'd do it if I could.  There is so much pressure to have a dignified wake and a long receiving line of family, but I want none of it.  I refuse to buy in that it is a comfort for the remaining loved ones to stand and listen to how I'll be missed as if each person that tells them it is imparting some new bit of information.  These are generally somber, long, uncomfortable and hot affairs and I want none of it, thank you very much.  I'd opt for the Irish Wake...  if you please. 

     I'll leave the money behind, but please rent out a bar (one with a comfortable amount of room, like Eddie O'Brien's in Cdga) and place me quietly in a corner and let the liquor start to flow.  I'd like my sister Hummingbird's husband to help negotiate this, he knows the local haunts and he won't them
This would be a good spot
serve the cheap stuff.  You'll have to buy out the bar, but I'd like the libations to flow free and easy and I'd like my family to sit or stand in pockets of areas where the friends that know me and them, can come and share a laugh or two about my shenanigans when I was alive.  Place my favorite drink upon my coffin, and don't be cheap, refresh it when the ice melts and I'm sure I'll appreciate it.  Have Food.  I'm sure my death will be caused by something food related, as it is the one vice I've always had and never, ever, thought about giving up, so have food and make it plentiful and good and for God's sake someone put money in the jukebox.  I like noise and din and the best times of my life I was surrounded by it, so don't let my last outing be quiet.  Does that sound like me?  Of course not.  Let it run until the end of the night.  I was never one to leave a party that was in
full swing and most times I had to be gently reminded by my wife that we seemed to be the last
What I hope it looks like during the wake
stragglers, and so let it be with my last party too.  Make sure people get home safe, but let them eat and drink their fill, and spill their drinks and blame me for their pounding heads the next morning, now that would be a send-off!  Toasts would be in order, sure.  Toast to the memories that you have, toast to my beautiful widow and to my remaining offspring that they should live so full of a life, because I know I had a good one, it's already in the bank.  Sing songs and if you want to, end the night drunkenly singing "American Pie" or "Waltzing Mathilda", arm in arm and swaying to and fro. What a grand night it will be, and the people they would talk.  They'd peer in the windows and observe such a queer affair and they'd whisper how inappropriate such a thing would be (and they would too), but go ahead and let them, for you see you have the honored guest's permission to act up, out, or in any other fashion that you'd like to that evening, I wouldn't have it any other way.  Make sure to give the Last Call shout loudly, and flick the lights to make sure that everyone knows that the party is ending, and this one last time, I hope you won't mind if I skip the party clean up, I've got a big day ahead of me tomorrow.

     There will have to be a Mass and I wouldn't want that any other way either.  Don't feel obligated to attend if you aren't religious, you'll just get confused on when to sit,stand or kneel, but to my
Not sure if these guys are available but it would be cool
Christian brethren, come and rejoice, hopefully it's the start of something wonderful.  I'd like my favorite songs to be song, and if my nieces and nephews were so inclined, I'd like them to do it, they have great voices.  Please make sure to do "Amazing Grace", "Be not Afraid", "Here I am Lord" and be sure to "Rock my soul on the bosom of Abraham" too.  If a eulogy would be in order and if I could pick those who knew me, I'd choose my closest brother, Ace, my youngest sister, Wilson, and my friend Drew to represent all my friends that I held so dear (plus I always liked the way he spoke, you'll love it, trust me).  If my wife and children want to compose their thoughts and have them read by the priest or by another eulogizer, that would be nice too, but I wouldn't put pressure on them to speak that day. You can pick the readings, I like them all, but if you can sneak the one in about wives being submissive to their husbands, it'll give Char a chuckle cuz I always poked her in the ribs during this one so that she'd pay attention.  You can end the funeral festivities here, I don't need a crowd gathered around a hole in the ground throwing handfuls of dirt on me, and I kind of like the idea of being cremated so send me back over to the funeral home and let them take care of it (Quick shout out to Johnson-Kennedy in Cdga, please use them, they hired me as a kid, and sponsored the golf tournament each year, so it would be good to give them back some of their money, Hi Jim !). 

     On where to bury me, it's too soon to call, but today I'd pick Hall.  I've made this little community my home for over 20 years and it's as good a place as any to put me down.  My headstone can be
simple, I think they charge by the word, so something like "Here lies a sinner" or "Son, Brother, Husband, Father" would be nice too.  These are ways that I think of myself and I doubt that they will ever change.  If I've got a little money left, I'd like to give a chunk to the local Boy Scout Troop.  The more time that I spent in Scouting, the more that I realized it's value, and if I can leave some sort of legacy to them in the form of a scholarship, a continuing bond, or even a kick-ass log cabin meeting room stuck in the woods somewhere, well, I'd like that, and it would keep kids coming back to Scouts for a while, which I would like even better. 

     These are my last wishes.  There will sure to be a contingent that will try and send me out another
way and argue that this was done for entertainment purposes, but they'd be dead wrong.  The ones that know me best, know that this is the way that I'd truly like to leave.  

As Scouters, we play Taps at the end of the day.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's good to have a backup....

     I wasn't always this way, I was like every young person out there, flying by the seat of my pants, directionless sometimes, acting on impulse, trusting that it will all work out somehow, but then I changed, and it's tough to go back once you start using backups. 

     My wife laughs at me.  Well, not at those critical times, but she does laugh at me, especially about my backups, but you see, I need them.  There was a time when the notion of a backup seemed ludicrous to me, and I think I can recall the turning point.  I was assigned to work with an old timer at the pie company where I was employed, so early on a Tuesday am, I found myself pulling
into his garage in a small suburb of Cleveland.  He lived in a modest ranch house with a postage stamp size front lawn, and the backyard looked to be the same size.  As we pulled in, I looked up on the peg board wall and directly in front of me, hung at a 45 degree angle, was an old fashioned aluminum 3 bar sprinkler and just beneath it sat an identical one. I had just seen the size of the lawn so I immediately queried my companion in the car about the need for the 2nd sprinkler, and he said simply, "Well, you see,  you got your original sprinkler on top, and then below that, you got your backup sprinkler !" as if it was the most normal thing in the world to buy two of something when the immediate need would have been well covered by one and likely for a long time.  I shook my head and thought what an odd duck he was, and that thought stayed with me as we worked a few days together, and on my flight home, and right up until his system started working itself into my head.

     It was a few weeks after that when one of my toilets in the house broke and while attempting a repair I realized that I needed a ball flapper kit.  It was late enough that I wasn't going to drive the 20
minutes to the hardware store and hadn't I just had replaced one of these on another toilet a few weeks previous?  I turned off the water and got the expected comments from all the other residents of the house but as I settled back into my easy chair, the thought hit me that if I had only purchased two of them the last time, I could have had it fixed by now, but alas I did not have a backup. The next morning, however, I went to the hardware store and bought not one ball flapper kit, but one, plus a backup.  I was hooked.  From that point on, while making repairs I started stockpiling backups. If I needed a spark plug, I bought two, one screw became a handful, and little by little my garage began to look like the hardware store, but I had my backups.  My wife questioned, one time,  why I ordered 2 fog free shower mirrors, and my rationale was that wasn't I saving the $7 shipping by ordering 2 and if I replaced it once, wouldn't I need to do it again?  Oddly enough, the first one leaked like a sieve when I installed it and I haven't quite gotten around to replacing it with its backup (I think a part of me is afraid it will leak too, and my wife would be right in that I have no need of two leaky shower mirrors). 

     Soon my backup planning started working itself into other parts of my life.  I now rarely go out without throwing a backup shirt in the car.  Sound silly?  Have you ever gone to a party and immediately dripped something onto your shirt?  Had someone spill wine on you?  Noticed a stain
that you didn't see when you first put the shirt on?  I'm covered if this happens, and I know the shirt will match my pants.  Although I rarely have need of them, I started throwing a coat in the car, just in case.  This habit has backfired on me, you can read about it here (I could live vicariously through my lost jackets ).  Although I own a GPS and swap it up every few years, and my car has built in navigation, I regularly bring printed directions with me, as a backup.  I've noticed, in big cities, that the GPS's get funky around the tall buildings, so I just need to glance at my backup
copy, if that happens, to make sure I'm on track still.  On a trip a few months ago, one morning I found myself standing in the wrong borough in NYC because I didn't get my schedule in advance and that's where the GPS took me when I punched in the address I was given.  I lost a whole morning's work due to the lack of a backup.  My cell phone belt clip broke shortly thereafter and I had my wife order 2 replacements for me (of course she questioned it, I suspect she thought about my backup shower mirror as she did so).  Although the original clip lasted over a year, I ended up snagging the new one on a chair within a few weeks and have already started using the backup (Of course I did a victory lap when I got home from that trip proving to my wife how important my backups were).   I swap out my travel suitcases before I need to, and use the old one as a backup.  There's a shelf in my bathroom that has half a dozen of my travel sized shaving cream, deodorant, and toothpaste on it (They can be tough to find).  I own 2 solar chargers for camping for charging my phone and other electronics, there's a cabinet in my house full of backup coffee and blender carafes, some of which are kind of useless, since the base parts broke and I didn't back them up.  I may have to admit that I have a problem or have a garage sale like everyone else.

     Last week I heard my wife ordering a remote control helicopter for my son and I yelled up the
What's probably coming to the house today.
stairs that we could probably use a backup one but it was strangely quiet up there after I directed her.  Fed-ex should come today, and I'm hopeful that she's come on board with my plan.  It's time to post this blog now, but rest assured, if anything funky happens to it, or if it disappears off the Internet mysteriously, there is no need to panic, for you see, I've got a backup.  For the record though, I still own just one sprinkler, buying another one would just be weird, right? 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How dry I am....

     I'm taking a little breather from alcohol lately and I thought this am, I'd chronicle the start of this adventure.

     Hello, my name is Bill and I'm a....  blog writer.   Gotcha, you thought you knew where I was going with that first line, didn't you?  That's kind of the reason for my self-imposed departure from drinking.  You see, the opinions of my friends, relatives, co-workers, and blog readers matter to me, and of late, they were connecting me and drinking and sometimes excessive drinking together a little too easily, and I didn't like it.  Now anyone following this blog, my exploits on Facebook, or me
coming out of most establishments on Saturday nights, can tell I'm a fan of alcohol, but that doesn't mean that it's a vital component of my life, so this stint of sobriety, for me, is like hitting the reset button.  If I've set a bad example with my drinking habits, which admittedly I probably have, well this will help even the scales a little, or so I hope.

     There was no "aha" moment that led to this decision, but there were a series of them that helped me to this choice.  I'm to blame right off the bat because  I celebrated my drinking exploits loudly to everyone.  Here's a quick test to illustrate my point...

1.  Name my favorite alcoholic spirit (type and brand)
2.  What is my favorite mixer?
3.  Where's my preferred spot to be on a Friday night in summer?
4.  Name 5 bars that I frequent.

I'd be surprised if most people don't get these answers right, because I talk about these things a lot and maybe to a fault.  If I asked similar questions about other aspects of my life, they wouldn't be as easy to answer, for example.....

1.  How many boys in my Scout Troop?
2.  What is my job title and area of responsibility?
3.  Name 3 books that I've read
4.  Name 3 TV shows that I follow

     How did you do?  That's why I'm taking the blame, I'm a victim of my own poor PR campaign.  I
spend a lot of time each week involved in these activities too, but I tend to advertise my drinking habits first and loudest, so I shouldn't have been surprised when the advertising campaign worked.  Another component of this is my choice of drink, which is a hard liquor, gin. I like to order double, tall, drinks to avoid going back to the bar as often, but I know some people don't get the distinction of what a double, tall is.  They hear double only, neglecting the fact that the drink I've ordered has the same ratio of alcohol to mixer as if I've ordered a single.  If I drink one of these and my companion has two craft beers during the same period, our blood alcohol contents are almost identical.  It's true that a shot and a half of a spirit has the same alcohol content as a 12 oz bottle of beer, but craft beers are typically served in a pint glass (16 oz) and can have 30-70% more alcohol content that standard beer, but I'd argue that no stigma is attached to drinking those.  It is easier to protect and monitor yourself from the "overpour" with beer though, as I truly can't know how much alcohol I am consuming when I am at bar but beer drinkers can.

     Back on point, some people had mentioned my drinking, my "need" to drink as much as I did sometimes, and I was even mistaken for being drunk one time when I was completely sober, which
made me take a step back and analyze my behaviors.  My wife and I had a candid discussion of my habits and hers, and we both decided we could do with a scheduled departure from drinking and we arbitrarily picked the end of the year as the target and that was 8 weeks ago.  I've had planned periods of sobriety before, I've given it up for Lent a few years, 2 years ago I went the first 45 days of a diet without it, and every weekend I dedicate to Scouts is alcohol free, including the week this summer that I went to Jamboree, but this is the longest time that I've chosen to not drink.  It' s a long enough time that I am also looking at how drinking and not drinking may affect my chronic arthritis too and I am looking forward to this experiment.

     It's been going smoothly so far, but I can already see how alcohol has become a habitual part of  a lot of my outings.  I was in Canada recently with a peer, and it just seemed weird to not drink with him in the evenings, and frankly I miss my bar time overall.  As an extrovert I get edgy if I don't have a large amount of social interaction each week, and this is where I had traditionally sought it.  I still
go out to them, but not as frequently, and I drink club soda or non alcoholic beers, but it seems strange to do so.  I've attended 2 weddings and it turns out that I can still dance and make as big of an ass of myself and overstay my welcome, without alcohol involved, go figure.  I went out for mocktails with my wife last week and I tripped on a rug coming out of the bathroom of a bar and I was cold stone sober, so I've discovered that I've just gotten clumsier with age, alcohol or not, but admittedly I don't feel as bad now when I spill my drinks as I would if they had alcohol in them.  I get asked a lot if I feel better, and truthfully I don't.  I used alcohol to help manage my arthritis pain, especially at night, but it's way too early to tell if I can manage it better somehow through a new diet or more exercise and try to prevent the inflammation versus medicating it afterwards.  An added benefit has been more time spent with my son who is still at home.  We've done some family game nights and some hiking on the weekends that would probably not have happened if we hadn't changed our habits.  I've been able to interact with my older children, in venues with alcohol successfully, although alcohol consumption when they visited had become the norm previously.  I hope I am setting a better example for them, as they live in Buffalo and the bars there don't close until 4, so drinking in excess is pretty common.  Lastly I was able to go to my sister. Meter Maid's pig roast, an event for me that was tied to drinking all day and night, and had a fantastic time with everyone there, sober or not (and to my niece who claims I never mention her in my blog, Hi Kelsey!). 

     So that's the sober truth of this little experiment and I'm looking forward to the last few months of it and what we can discover.  I pride myself with looking for ways to improve and this falls right in line with that thinking.  So wish me luck with the rest of this journey, and not for nothing, if you need a DD, I'm likely available, Cheers.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Make some time for giving back.....

     As I contemplate the impending end of this blog at the close of this year, I want to make sure that I've hit the high points and since the blog will live beyond me on the Internet and possibly in written form, this will become some lasting advice to my children and any of their future offspring.  This morning I talk about a topic of utmost importance to my family and that is the obligation to give back.  

     My children were all taught this lesson both by word and deed, because we were taught this lesson first. For us, it was never an option not to get involved in our community,church, civic and school organizations
and to make the best use of our God-given talents, it was our duty to.  My father worked 2-3 jobs for most of his life and supported 12 children through his efforts.  He could have easily sat idle for those few hours each day that he got to himself, but he didn't.  He pitched in, and gave back.  If it wasn't doing pro bono electrical and plumbing work for families in need, it was helping his church set up for their festival, or calling the bingo numbers at the local Knights of Columbus hall.  He made marinades and flipped chickens at BBQ fundraisers and whenever asked to help, he answered yes, if he possibly could.  My mother did the same.  Aside from raising the 12 of us, she volunteered at the church, she counseled pregnant women at the Birthright Center, she participated in Mother's Circle and shared her child rearing secrets with the ladies there.   They both set a powerful example to their children, that no matter how busy you were, there should always be time dedicated to giving back and to making the world a better place.

     The next generation carried the torch too.  My children's aunts and uncles (on both sides of your family) have joined the Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis, the Sons of the American Legion, Sports and Drama Boosters and
scores of other civic organizations.  They've coached teams and led Boy and Girl Scout Troops.  An aunt of theirs continues in her mother's footsteps and is on the board of a pregnancy center and another participates with the Big Sister program.  A few of their uncles volunteer to serve Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at a local Salvation Army and another of their uncles has been known to donate his labor doing electrical work for the indigent, reminding me of my father, and he's not even on that side of my family.  Not all the work is with an organization, some of it is just one person helping another, like my sister who makes casseroles and such for funerals of deceased neighbors.  Another donates the proceeds from an auction she has at her annual pig roast to different charities, and when her area experienced some major flooding, she was one of the first to pitch in and one of the last to stop helping.  I have a sister who is not fond of crowds  but has volunteered for the St Vincent de Paul Society sorting clothes for the needy.  A brother of mine is a local volunteer fireman, and he donates some of his catering time each year to the needy.  Another brother and his wife work the local tomato festival where they live and that's in addition to all the work they did for drama clubs and schools.  Every one of my siblings and a lot of my wife's too, donate time and money to our charity golf tournament each year.  I'm sure I could fill 2 more paragraphs with more specifics but I think you get the point, my children and their cousins are surrounded by great examples of how one should use their talents to improve their community.  It's becoming their time to pick up the mantle now.

     I'll admit some worry on whether this next generation will be able to match the generosity and charitable works of the previous ones.  I think they were all raised in a time where "attention to me" became the mantra that

was taught and we rewarded attempts at the same level as successes, which cannot be a healthy combination.  They face more problems than my generation did, a crushing US debt load, rising college costs and shrinking job markets, and increased competition for those jobs on a global scale now.  They would have a lot of excuses to not pitch in, and that worries me somewhat. I worry too that they may choose to work in fields where the needy are helped, but stop there short of doing additional work.  That would be a shame because it's never the same being paid to perform as it is to do it without compensation.  A job, no matter how noble, has a tendency to become just the means to a paycheck.  Volunteers, however, choose each day to go out and do, or sometimes not.  I'll close with a challenge to this new generation, to rise above the toils and turmoil that we left you with and pitch in to make it a better place.  You are going to need to give something back, in order to see improvement in your communities, and after all your parents set the example for you already. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's probably time to release my Sex Tape.

It's not that I want to, there is no burning desire for me to produce this, but with the recent turn of some events, as a good parent, I'm feeling the pressure to do this, and it would be, after all,  for the kids

     It was Kim Kardashian that got me thinking of this, and knowing her, and knowing me, this sounds strange I know, but Kim recently became an oddity, of sorts, when she had her baby, Due West.  She became a celebrity that had both a baby and a sex tape, and my first thought, of course, was "Why should her child have something that my children can't have, it's unfair and it must be corrected."  Those of you that know me and my parenting methods know that I have always subscribed to this premise, you see my kids deserve everything that other kids
I'm pretty sure this is Kim K
get, but sometimes you have to sacrifice a little for it.  If I had a nickel for every time I had to approach those coaches and demand that my mediocre athlete children (sorry kids, it's genetics and not your fault), got the same amount of playing time as those talented kids, well, you get the point, it's only fair you know.  I also try and stay current with new trends and to remain socially relevant and it would seem that having one of these tapes released and then trying to block it afterwards is a huge boost to a career, and Lord knows, mine could use that now.  So, in all fairness, my kids should have the same opportunity to have a parent with a sex tape, as Due West has, and so I've really got to get started on this.  With the number of celebrities that have sex tapes already, a few dozen at least and considering that a lot of them will eventually have children, then pretty soon there will be a slew of kids, whose parents have sex tapes, while mine do not, and I just can't stand to deprive them of one, and so I'm pondering the right time and method to both create and release mine. 

        This would have been easier if I'd thought of it in my twenties because it apparently is not a necessity that your sex tape is done with your baby daddy or mommy, so I had more opportunities to make this tape back then.  I am not saying historically that I had more occasions to tape mind you, I'm only saying that there were more opportunities because the field was potentially open to more women than my field is now.  It's kind of startling when you think of it, but I went down from millions of options to just one, and in the casting world, well, we'd have to call that unfortunate.  If that actress is unwilling to play the role, or is unable to, due to 
other commitments, we, in the business call that, proverbially screwed, but I have hope. You see, at least I sleep with this actress on a regular basis, and that's a start, so  I'll make the case for my doing the tape now, and then you can tell me if you think she'll commit to the project.

     1.  While I'm not young, I think I can hold my own in front of the camera -   My 20 year old self was pretty skinny and nobody likes to see ribs sticking out in sex tapes, do they?   I didn't command much of a stage presence back then, but now, with an additional 30 or so years under my belt, I've done some major presentations and even acted on a Broadway stage once, so I've got more experience.   I added some upper body muscle lately, so while I don't look like a 20 year old, I'm holding up pretty good for almost 50.  Lastly, if I don't do it now, when will it be the right time to do it? 

2.  The dialogue will be much better - Not being an aficionado of these kinds of tapes, I'm assuming there is some sort of plot line or dialogue and if I do say so myself, I've kind of got a way with words.  My 20 year-old self would have been stammering through this kind of thing, and his vocabulary was pretty limited, but mine now is quite extensive, I'd say pronounced even, so that's better, right?  I've got my opening soliloquy half written already. 

3.  One word - Photo Shop -   The technology has come a long way in 30 years and now even amateurs can photoshop their pictures and videos and enhance them.  We can blur things we want to obscure, and soften a 
If models can photshop, so can I.
look with diffused lighting, hell we can cut and paste from other people if we want to, so I'm not really afraid of what the camera might pick up, because by the end of the editing, it's probably not going to resemble what we started with anyway.

4.  I've got the lay of the land - (Pretty clever how I used "lay" in that opening) - Point is, I don't claim to know all the secrets but I've got a lot of this sex thing figured out by now.  My 20 year old self could not have said that and a sex tape from back then would have likely sounded more like a Q and A than any kind of entertainment, but now, I boast confidently, I got this, and it's sure to show that on the tape.

5.  My celebrity factor might never be higher - Barring a video of me hurting myself doing a home improvement project going viral, I might be at the peak of my celebrity right now. I've found that a lot of this sex tape thing is in the timing, for instance, you don't see that "Where's the Beef" lady from the 80's doing a sex tape, do you?  Why?  Because nobody knows her anymore. I'm pretty popular in bars around town, I write a weekly blog and I may be at the peak of my career at work (They keep mentioning the time I spend blogging instead of working, go figure), 
Potential filming location number 1
so it may be exactly the right time to do this project.

6.  I've got easy access to hotels and shooting locations -   Since I travel almost every week, the company pays for hotels for me to stay in, so I could easily use one of these as a shooting location for my sex tape.  Can you see it artfully done with scenic New Jersey in the background?  I'm sure the manager of the Red Roof would be willing to be the cameraman for me, and the nice girls that hang out by the sidewalk as I enter, offer to be Key Grips almost every time I'm there (you see, the word of my impending sex tape must already be spreading).  Alternatively I think we could always shoot it in the garage and my mechanics creeper would give me a wider range of motion too. 

     I think I've made my case and I'll let you know when the tape is leaked.  I'm not sure what the best way is to do it, but I'm thinking I'll attach it next time instead of my monthly report.   It's pretty believable that I'd do this since most times I forget to attach mine anyway (It's kind of like  "forgetting" to sign your check to the electric company, it buys you a few extra days to get it in)  How do I know my boss will leak it though?   Well, he's sure too, especially after he sees my soliloquy, and after all, it's for the kids.  

I have the exact same creeper