IT'S JUST ANOTHER DAY

A blog about a life awakened and rejuvenated around Western New York.


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A DAY IN THE LIFE: AN OPEN LETTER TO BROOKLYN ARIEL

My Darling and Most Precious Angel,

Your name is Brooklyn Ariel and you’ve finally arrived, brought into this world on June 3rd of the year, 2019. This was a day that your “Poppi” had anticipated for some time. Not specifically Jun 3rd, but the day that you would join us. You are very small and won’t understand these words for a while, but I hope you will get the chance to and hopefully cherish their intent.

You were born a special little girl. Your Mommy and Daddy love you very much and they have been blessed with the greatest gift ever. You! And in that, you received a wonderful gift in having them as your parents, parent that wanted you and cared enough to have you. The gift of you keeps paying forward as you are also a blessing to your Grandparents, Grandma Jan and me, “Poppi”; G.G. and Grandpa Michael, Aunt Dre (Andrea) and Uncle Joshua, and a lot of cousins. Even your furry friends are happy you are here. Guinness and Marvel and Roman have taken on the job of watching over you and protecting you.

I can tell you as your “Poppi” that I cried when I heard you were born. They were not sad tears in the least. The birth of you is the happiest day of my life in a long string of happy days that I have seen. So, understand that happy tears are the best thing you could have.

In this short week of your life (as of today, June 10th), you have been an incredible joy and a reason to awaken each morning with a glow in my heart and the hope of seeing your beautiful face, your warm “smile” (even if it is gas), and the gentle sounds that come from deep within you. All of that stems from a contentment that you seem to display every day.

But, as your grandfather – your Mommy’s dad – your “Poppi”, let me offer my hopeful thoughts to you for your growth…

…I wish you could know right now how completely loved you are. There is no greater gift than that. I know one day you will understand this, but for now I hope you can bask in its glow.

…I hope to teach you as much as I can from this store of “knowledge” available to me. Know that “Poppi” is not the smartest guy in the world, but he knows enough to get by! I will try to help you see the promise of each new day, and the beauty of every sunset that graces your days. Whether in the sights they provide or in the words that describe them in the most poetic of ways, I hope you will find the hand of God in everything you witness. I promise to help you.

…I want you to know the music in the world around you. And the music in your very soul. Music is important. It will help you express your joy. It will help you understand your sorrows. It will ease your fears. Music will even make you happy for no reason other that just hearing it. And it will make you dance. Dance and music go together like Brooklyn and Poppi. You are my music. If I have the chance, I will teach you how to play music so you will never be without it. We’ll find your unique song (we each have one inside us) and we’ll dance to that too! And you’ll know the Beatles!

…I hope you never lose sight of who you are and where you’ve come from. It is nice to have nice things. But they will not make your life any better, only flashier. Your imagination will serve you well as long as you don’t get fooled into thinking you were meant to be something or someone you are not. Do not place more value on material things than you do on the people around you. They are your true wealth. They will make you rich in heart and mind, and that’s what is important! Be a good person. Be good to people. You are Brooklyn Ariel. Don’t forget it. And don’t get me wrong. It is ok to have nice things, if they are what you want and what you will work hard for. Things don’t come easily, but you’ll appreciate their worth when you work hard for them.

…Of all the gifts I can possibly give you, there is only one that truly matters; the only thing I can give you in great abundance. That is love. You are so loved, and will continue to be as long as I am able to be with you. Know that love will keep me with you no matter where I am. If given the choice of something of great expense or something as priceless as love, I hope you will know to choose love every time. In the end, love is worth so much more.

You are a beautiful little girl. You will grow to be everything you want to be and were meant to be. People will adore you for being the special person you are and will become. But not nearly as much as your Poppi does. Stay well, grow to be happy and love everything around you and you will be even more amazing than I already believe you are. I will forever carry you in my heart, Brooklyn.

 

With so much love,

Poppi


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THANKS, BUDDY!

I grew up on radio.

(Big whoop! We all grew up on radio.) But I guess it was the time that stands out more than anything. The influences that we garnered from the artists and songs that we heard in our lifetimes had a hand in molding who we would become. Be it Big Band music of the forties, or the 50’s and the birth of Rock ‘n Roll, the British Invasion and beyond, we were birthed in the sounds we heard.

I was a shy kid. (Very shy, extremely shy.) It was debilitating. (I got better!) But my social interactions were slightly above non-existent! I always seemed to find “friends” in the music that played on my transistor radio. (Those born after 1980, I’ll explain transistor radios in another posting. Think of your Mp3 player’s Great-great Grandfather.) So, I had become ensconced in the music of the early sixties and British Invasion, all the way  through the Woodstock era of Classic Rock. (I remember vividly the moment Ed Sullivan introduced those Beatles guys to the world on that February 9th Sunday night in 1964.)

Here in Buffalo, we had some great radio stations across the dial that offered all the music for which this kid could ask! We had WGR (550) on the lower frequencies of the AM scope. WBEN (930) ruled the mid-dial with WNIA (1230) a bit further up the scale. WYSL (1400) put a strong push against the King of Buffalo radio in the day, the 50,000 watt blowtorch, WKBW (1520) which was heard all up and down the Eastern North American  seaboard. There were others, but these five filled many memories with the music of my lifetime.

But the AM dial became a graveyard with the advent of the stereo quality the FM roster of stations provided. Through many machinations, those above favored channels were resurrected to shades of their former glory. WGR’s format went from music to News/Talk Radio and its current Sports Talk blather.   WBEN went through a stint as an Adult Contemporary radio staion to become what they currently program, News/Talk Radio.  WYSL and WKBW had their transformations as well, with KB holding court as the ESPN affiliate and more sports ga-ga.

Resorting to the above mentioned mp3 player (after the stint with cassette tapes and CD players) I found myself gravitating to the online music services. Pandora, iHeart Radio, Spotify, et al, all offered the music I remembered with great fondness. But it wasn’t the same. Something was missing.

Personality. The music lacked personality. Pre-programmed and sterile were no substitute for what I remembered. And the personalities on the radio in Buffalo were wonderful. Jackson Armstrong, Shane (Shane, Brother Shane) Gibson, Sandy Beach and Don Berns, Joey Reynolds, Tom Donahue, Tom Shannon, Dan Neaverth, Jim Quinn, Fred Klestine, Jefferson Kaye and Don Kobiella (Don Kobiella?). Even the News guys added their character. Jim Fagan, Henry Brach, Jim McLaughlin, John Zach, Joe Downey and the incomparable Irv Weinstein.

WWKB (the reformatted version of WKBW) made a short-armed attempt to resurrect the radio giant a short while back with the best ratings they had since the 1990’s. But with little promotion and a real lack of commitment, the once great 1520 fell to the curb.

Flash forward to 2017. A guy named William Ostrander bought WECK Radio (1230 – the former WNIA). The on-air persona of Ostrander is Buddy Shula, and Buddy seems to be on track to do it right on the Buffalo Radio dial. He’s bringing “Buffalo’s very own” personality back to the music we love. Local radio with local news and local broadcast professionals to replace the pre-programmed “music of your life”.

I, for one am excited to see the advent of “Good Ol’ Radio” done with a new drive. And the names? Tom Donahue will remain the morning show host, bringing on Buffalo radio veteran Gail Ann Huber, coming on board as co-host and the aforementioned John Zach returning to Buffalo airwaves as their news director, anchoring the local CBS News affiliate. Jon Summers, another KB legend steps into the 9-12 spot and Harv Moore “the boy next door”, taking noon to 3:00 PM. Harv’s former sidekick, Robert Taylor (Taylor and Moore) is the on-air branding voice of WECK. Mike Jacobs covers the three to seven slot Monday thru Thursday. And Friday evening from 3-7 will be filled by Dan Neaverth, ready to move your “Friday Fanny”. To top off the night, Buddy Shula will take his turn behind the mic from 7-9. The changes take place on July 10th. This should be interesting to hear. And long over due. My music, the right music, done the right way. Anyway, I think it’s great!

Thanks Buddy!


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BREAKING BACK

Who’s this guy Walter White? This Wojtanik guy came ready to leave it all on the table. The age-old fable stems from tales that Dad taught me. The carpenter and apprentice building a bond in the home that he remodeled. Today, the story has a new chapter and is carried forward. Yes, it is hard to believe (I’m finding it hard anyway) but, I’ve completed my siding project. Well there’s still a matter of the downspouts, byr for all intents and purposes, I’m declaring this (in my best  Borat voice – “Great Success!”, “Very nice!”)

We’ll be here twenty-four years in December (Yes, we moved in on December 1st) and through the first three years in which I vowed it would be done, the third year finally ended today. It felt like a long one!

The green shake shingles were an eyesore for all these years (although the green was reminiscent of the old homestead in Lackawanna, growing up on Wood Street.) Dad finally relented for a pastel yellow, but the green was where I began. It seemed fitting to start here, but as with Dad, change was in desperate need.

Vinyl siding, an undertaking I’ve never attempted (well versed in wooden clapboard – thanks Dad!) But I taught myself quickly. The month of August was a dedicated effort to finish. A new month takes control today; it is  right that final touches were completed by the time burgers and dogs hit the grill surface. Labor has ceased on Labor Day.

Home2

< THIS IS THE BEFORE PICTURE

I had ranted on the many hues of “Tan”. (A Woj-TAN-ik house had to find its grounding in the soft brownish hue.) But good God, there was tan and beige and buff, and khaki, and wicker and… you get my point, And being somewhat frugal, I stayed within budget and had foregone the “fancy” colors for tints right off the shelf which were $11 – $22 cheaper a case.

IMG_1185 IMG_1186 Home1THIS IS THE AFTER PICTURE—->

84% of the project was a one man ordeal and as the title mentioned, I busted my back to get to today! And my back isn’t in great shape to begin with! Battling Summer’s hottest and haziest, I sweated off some pounds and turned my skin to leather. Another shade of tan for the project.

I would be remiss if I failed to thank my “crew”: my daughter Melissa and my son (in-law) Ryan Kruse, my daughter Andrea and her BF and my right hand throughout, Cody Stanek, my ‘kid’ sister Laurie Anne Wojtanik and my Brother-in-law Tony Kujawinski (my second story man). The “Foreman” (my wife Janice) kept the construction on track.

And so what next? The back fence posts need to be reset and plumbed up. But for now, mission accomplished. Very nice. Great success!IMG_1189


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A FAIR TO GREAT DAY

Erie County Fair

Erie County Fair

Some days are better than others. Today was a better day than most. First, it’s County Fair time in Erie County (Western New York). It still holds an allure all these years even though so much has changed. After 175 years, it sure as hell better have. I’ve always enjoyed the exhibits (and the food) and told myself I would enter SOMETHING at the fair to see how I’d…well, fare. My daughter Andrea has enter photographs in competition and did earn an Honorable Mention ribbon. I figured I’d join her this year. This year, Andrea entered a rather colorful photograph of Niagara Falls, She also experimented with an abstract black and white shot with some interesting colorations incorporated. Her Niagara Falls picture took Second Place in her category. NiagaraFalls2nd I had placed my shots in a “Floral” category and one in “Informal Portrait” The “Floral” entry was the photo of my tea rose with its glowing center and pink highlighted edges. It was taken in series – a daily progression of its growth through the course of a week. From an opening bud to this magnificent bloom the series is capped nicely by this final shot. This earned a Second Place finish as well. TeaRose2nd   The “Informal Portrait” was my photograph of original Beatles drummer Pete Best. He was headlining a show with his Pete Best Band. I had captured this pic up close during his performance and had the opportunity to chat briefly with “The Best of the Beatles”. By my calculations, that’s one degree of separation from John Lennon and I think that is way cool. The Pest Best portrait earned me an Honorable Mention ribbon. All-in-all, a good haul.

PeteBestHM

I’m looking forward to the 176th edition of the Erie County Fair. If I can find the right subject, I’ll try it again. It was a fair to great day.


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WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

Post Blizzard of 2014b – Day 1: A dusting covered the cars and the municipal snow plows spewed onto the groomed apron of my driveway. But no snow was falling when I left for work. The roads were snow covered, but scraped down and the ABS brakes on my car give me the sensation of grinding my teeth badly. A slow trek, but what the heck my driving skills needed to be challenged. And they were.

There was that idiot in the BIGGER SUV than mine whose balls paled in comparison to the plastic prosthetics that hung from his trailer hitch. There was the lady who drove like NASCAR was a slow joyride. The elderly gent who was hell bent on skirting into the McDonald’s parking lot to take his place amongst his cohorts after nearly swiping the utility truck, was a moveable obstacle for sure. And to think I stayed home yesterday in part to avoid driving in the hellacious blizzard conditions, only to take my life into my hands the day after.

Their antics did not make them better drivers. Their reckless attitude toward others on the road, never mind themselves, was an affront to common decency. Twenty-four hours after the “city of good neighbors” pulled together in our weather induced dilemma, it was business as usual in the self-centered minds of these morons. It’s as if a cheer went up in unison. “Hooray for me! Screw everyone else!” A very telling comparison. What a difference a day makes!


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IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK ALOT LIKE… BLIZZARD

I live in “Buffalo”. I love my four seasons. But in years where three of the four are Winter… I’m not a big fan. There was a recorded blizzard in January. Municipalities shut down. Schools closed. Driving bans were instituted. And the snow blower got a serious work out.

Flash forward to this morning. Conditions right for a recurrence. A second blizzard in a season. Blizzard of 2014a and Blizzard of 2014b. Having “survived” the Blizzard of 1977 and all subsequent snow jobs, I have been tempered to such folly. Who am I BS-ing? I hate this crap. Give me a White Christmas and I’m a happy little elf. But on March 12th, I’m ready for Spring, or what passes for Spring around here. But the Snow Miser is giving us another B-Slap. And we take it (like we really have a choice). It’s days like these that have me missing Jimmy Griffin, former Buffalo Mayor. He had the perfect solution for times such as these: “go home, buy a six pack of Genny (beer), and watch a good football game.”

James D. Griffin

James D. Griffin

Since football season is a few months away, I think giving Genny a great big hug would be a great way to honor the man. But in spite of that I’ll keep thinking this thought. This snow blows!


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SPEAKING OF IMAGES

So expanding into other areas of poetics I finally read my poems live before an audience of art patrons. I had performed before audiences in my Ed Sullivan days (working with local Buffalo Beatles tribute band, Beatlemagic), but this was me speaking in my voice… in my own words, written in interpretation of extraordinary photographic images by Paula Sciuk.

Pausa Art House 19 Wadsworth St. Buffalo, NY

Pausa Art House
19 Wadsworth St.
Buffalo, NY

The venue was a quaint art house in the Allentown (famous for its Art Festival) neighborhood, in the shadow of Kleinhan’s Music Hall. Pausa Art House hosted Paula’s collection and I was honored with an invitation to “perform” my works based on selected images.

I had butterflies for sure, but being presented with the last set which featured my work, I had time to find my composure and focus on the task at hand. My intent was to shine a light on Paula’s vision without detracting from it. From her reaction, I believe I did exactly that. When my last words left my mouth and I heard the patrons applaud, I felt validated. People who came to see wonderful works of art, hear fine musical interludes and fits of poetic madness (not to mention the wine and cheese) were treated to a sensory feast.

I certainly had a long overdue experience in presenting my words to people who had not heard them before. They didn’t know me from a baggett, but they enjoyed (or appeared to) the merger of sight and sound in the cause of celebrating Paula Sciuk’s artistic endeavors. Hopefully, after having a taste of public exposure (I kept my shirt on – not THAT public exposure) I get another chance share my poems.  

For a further glimpse at my night and the image and poems combinations, see SPEAKING ABOUT IMAGES at Through the Eyes of a Poets Heart


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MAKING MY WAY BACK “HOME”

It’s been a while since I posted here. Situations and circumstances put life clearly on my doorstep. But we persevere. It’s what life is about.

So here I sit, less than two weeks to Christmas 2013. The tree’s up (the SECOND thing that gets my spirit right – the Christmas music that begins on Halloween not withstanding). That sight and those sounds brings the feeling closer to home. Those who know, understand. Losing both parents at Christmas time (mom on Christmas Eve ’86) it takes some doing every year to find my Christmas. It comes around eventually, but it is still a struggle. The girls are grown and all the magic of their wide-eyed Christmases lingers in the shadows. They “will” my spirit to come our and play!

So I am slowly coming home to Christmas. The decorations that have laced our traditions are being put into place. I will be ready.

A little known secret. Every year for twenty-six years, after all have retired to bed, I put on the suit to dress under the tree. All gifts wrapped and brightly adorned are placed beneath by me in the guise of the Jolly Old Guy! They believe because I believe. Even if only for ten minutes once a year on Christmas Eve, I AM the spirit of the Season. I am Santa Claus. We are all Santa Claus.

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For a journey through my Walter-ego, visit my poetry blog, I AM SANTA CLAUS ( iamsantaclaus.wordpress.com )


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HAPPY 80th BIRTHDAY, JOHN!

DCIM100MEDIAMy father-in-law John turned 80. A milestone for anyone. But the fact he has lasted this long is a testament to his constitution. John has advanced Parkinson’s Disease. He had his stomach removed 6 years ago due to cancer. He no longer walks. To say he’s getting the best care at the hands of my mother-in-law, would be a blatant lie. (And she know all about that!)

John exists. His mind is failing. And when we pause to celebrate a momentous occasion, we have to do it  by halves of the family. It is equally divided. Anyone who would read the details would be amazed by the ignorance. And I would be embarrassed  to tell it. According to the mother-in-law, there are the haves and have-nots! The ones who have husbands, and good law abiding kids, and do not live above their means, who are not on public assistance and are not even treated like daughters… blah, blah, blah. The obverse is true for the other two, grown women both at 48 and 52 respectively. Mommy still cares for them. One milks her for she its worth; the other is a horrendous bully. And listening to reason is not a strong suit she’s ever held.

But, I digress. John exists, and it’s sad that things couldn’t be better for the man, but he holds on to live by a precarious thread. And while he does, we still celebrate. Happy Birthday John, on your 80th Birthday.