IT'S JUST ANOTHER DAY

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


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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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IN CELEBRATION OF FATHERS

Let’s see… I have two Martins, two Walters, two Josephs, a James, a Richard and a John. I celebrate them all today.

The “Martins” are the anglicized versions of the Polish, Marcin (both Great-Grandfathers – Marcin Wojtanik and Marcin Kura).

The succession of Walters ends with me; Walter Francis (Grandfather) and Walter Edwin (Father) broke the name in; I just added some flair.

One Joseph (Great-Grandfather, Josef Jakubowski – Paternal Grandmother’s father) lived well into his nineties (as did many of his progeny). One daughter, Theresa (a Felician Nun – S.M. Consolata) lived days shy of her 100th birthday.

Joseph (Jozef) Kura was my mother’s father. He was my mentor and role model, having spent many hours together in my formative years. A naturalized Polish immigrant, I didn’t know a day without his influence until the day he passed in September of 1974.

James (Maciej) Wasiela was my other Great-Grandfather, (my mother’s, mother’s father). Richard Wojtanik was my Godfather (Dad’s brother) and John Burkowski, my Father-in-law, is the only living celebrant – he is of a diminished capacity in the throes of Parkinson’s and Dementia, but still holding onto this precious life.

Congratulations to my brothers as well: Paul, Tim, Ken (Wojtanik) and Brother-in-law Ray Sahr for carrying on the “tradition”. Happy Father’s Day to every last one!


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PLANTING THE SEEDS OF FUTURE BLOOMS

It became a decent day to complete the chore of planting the remainder of the flowers in the various beds around the house. Frail and small in proportion to their soon to be abundant color and size. It is pleasing to the eyes.

Gardening relaxes me, much as it quelled my mother’s nerves back in the day. When she had her small spade in hand, she was transported to a more serene place and time. Those mindful adventures helped her. They probably kept her alive longer, with all the ailments she tended to keep private.

So, I come by my love of dirt naturally. And like I said, gardening relaxes me. Which I think is why when my writing partner, Marie Elena Good (from Maumee, Ohio) and I decided to branch out from “Across the Lake” the idea of a verbal garden appealed to me greatly. It was a thought I had held sequestered in the dark recesses of my mind (sometimes a very scary place) which was just waiting for the right time and place. A poetry place with a whole plot full of other like poetic minds planting seed. Seeds of thought that grow into “works of worded wonder”. The best of the best grows into “Beautiful Blooms”. All from a little spark of an idea; a nudge into rhyme. POETIC BLOOMINGS – the name of the place.

It is truly a joint effort. A communal garden. It eases my mind. While my botanical flowers take root and grow, I’ll watch them sprout until the poetry breaks ground and blooms.

Gardening relaxes me.


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MEMORIAL DAY 2013

I cook dogs and burgers any day of the week. And with an “empty nest”, my wife and I can enjoy them when we want. They never make the day special. They just make us well fed. Shopping spree sales seduce shoppers to spend whenever the yen to do so hits. Still not making for a memorable day. A day off to cut the lawn and become broccoli (vegetate) is not the allure.

The end of May brings us to more pressing thoughts (or at least it ought to). Memorial Day is an abused celebration for most of the wrong reasons. Remembering the fallen heroes of our armed forces should be the sole reason; recollections and dedicating honor to those who are most deserving. A chance to decorate (a throwback to the original holiday, Decoration Day) lives offered up and spent in service of freedom and liberty.

A chance to renew my fervor for a project I began last Memorial Day. I named it, “Of Honor and Remembrance”.   The purpose of this site is to simply honor and remember the military men and women who have passed on. It started as I said, last May when I took my handful of flags to plant at my father’s grave and the neighboring “heroes” who lacked that honor (or someone to present it). I was overwhelmed by the number of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines (from many different conflicts – some decorated with Silver and Bronze Stars and many Purple Heart recipients) who had been neglected by time and age. Marker stones almost completely covered with mud and grass, nearly obliterated. I began the monumental task of cleaning and clearing the obstructions so these people would be remembered.

The “Honor” part is in accumulating the names and service designations, as well as their Death Dates to post on the “Of Honor and Remembrance” blog. Currently, I am working on the fact gathering at local Buffalo area cemeteries and trying to determine what form the tributes will take. But until these are completed, I will continue to honor and remember the fallen pillars of our Free Nation.

If there are service men and women whom you would like to add to the Honor Roll, send an e-mail to the address found at “Of Honor and Remembrance”. Send all the information as it appears on the marker or headstone and the cemetery (city and state) and I will be glad to include it. This is a monumental undertaking and I have been overwhelmed but the sheer number of names I have accumulated from a small corner of two local burial places. But it remains to be done… to in some small way, Honor and Remember in the hopes of reclaiming the Memorial of what should be a decorated day!


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EASING BACK TO NORMALCY

All plans and preparations were completed and the celebration to the union of two young people made for each other is winding down. Two days after the nuptials, the Mother and Father of the Bride take time adjusting to the facts as they have been presented to us. Our daughter is a married woman.

Now that part isn’t so hard to swallow per se, the kids were engaged for 18 months before the big day. We had time to adjust. Hearing the echo in the “cavernous room” left vacant, haunts memories of her well lived life so far. We haven’t decided the disposition of this space. We’re giving it time.  Maybe our Andrea will assume her sister’s room. The lack of adequate closet space (my wife’s bane since we bought the place) could be remedied here. Maybe a “Man space” for… (not an option she says as I type).

Lost in contemplative thought and I hear the sound of car tires on the stone approach to the house. A frantic ring of the doorbell summons Janice and me to the door, post haste. There stands the young newlyweds.

“Don’t you have your key?” my wife inquires.

“I don’t really live here anymore” my daughter quips.

A stabbing truth in the reality of this past weekend.

“Maybe so” we say, “but this will always be your home. You two are always welcome!” I complete the thought.

“Thanks, Dad” I hear from the man responsible for my daughter now. A calming hand on the shoulder of my despair. I think we’re easing back to normalcy.


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REHEARSING TO BE MRS. KRUSE

It was an amazing 24 hours. The whole week really. Melissa had come home to be married out of our house like she always dreamed. We ate meals as a family. We watched movies together (wedding movies, needless to say). 

Cold, wet skies pocked the approaching days, and in a way we prayed for better weather. It poured as we entered the church to rehearse. Step here, do that. Don’t do this, the wedding party goes here… And it seemed to go smoothly (a precursor to the following nuptials). Dinner and a gathering again as a soon to be newly formed family. Drinks and laughs and food and long glancing looks.

Her mother looks contemplative. She knows our daughter will join the ranks as a wife and somewhere down the road, a mother. They’ve had their battles, both headstrong and driven. Melissa was too much like her mother, as much as neither would admit it. As much as they both hoped they would be.

And I was as melancholy as I had become as the big day neared. Mixed emotions, I guess you would say. Melissa was our first born. She was my helper, my right hand. She cared for her sister while mom worked nights and I tried hard to keep the ship afloat. Her chosen field (teaching) came to her naturally, again in her dealings with Andrea, her junior by seven years. The girls liked to play school. And in acting as teacher, Melissa did indeed teach her sister, how to read and write long before she had been enrolled at school.

She was my biggest fan. She enjoyed my music and was my best critic when it came to my verbal scribblings. I knew my poetry was good when I was able to elicit tears from Melissa through the touching beauty of some well chosen words. For a while it felt like I was losing that.

But all I was losing was the daily connection we had come to rely upon. None of the rest really changed.

The morning of the wedding moved like a high speed movie. Disjointed scenes, random clips of a pre-scripted show. Hair appointments, and dressing, photographs and in the milieu of time, a wedding happened. Me, on wobbly legs escorting this beautiful woman (the second time in my life) down an aisle to a new life. No practice was really necessary, she knew what to do all along. It was as if she were leading me to where she needed to be. I had been replaced. And she couldn’t have chosen a better man.

But in reality, it was he that made the correct choice. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple of kids.


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TIME FLEES

It’s been a week since I last posted. You see, I’ve been distracted, but I’ll go back and fill in with thoughts or profiles or attractions. I had done so well, and then it hit me squarely between the eyes.

My oldest daughter is getting married tomorrow. The past week was filled with preparations, last minute changes, fittings and gatherings and a whole mess of panic as it ebbed and flowed. But sitting here now I still find no relief.

The girls are off doing girly things (nails and the last blasts of tanning) before the rehearsal. And I find myself as Steve Martin did at the beginning of “Father of the Bride”; lost in a chronology leading to this day. Twenty seven years passes quickly when you aren’t paying attention.

We’ve spent a lot of time together the past few days. Family meals at a full table were reminiscent of days past. Conversations and melancholy rambles and getting on each others nerves occasionally. (Old habits die hard). Evenings were special, as we watched every “wedding” related movie in our DVD library. Looking back at it, I think we’re ready to begin this new phase. It will be different for sure.

As you get older, the phrase “Time Flees” takes special meaning. But for one day, I am willing it to stand still.

I can hear God laughing now.


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I CAN ALMOST HEAR THE BELLS FROM HERE…

I wrote a piece of flash fiction this morning about a young man’s relationship with a grandparent. For the curious, flash fiction is basically a short story. And the premise for this bit of muse has festered for the past few weeks.

Since I started posting to this “journal”, each day becomes a new page in my life story. And after 57+ years, a lot of pages have gone unwritten. I hope to somehow make up for lost time.

(But, back to the grandparents…)

My eldest daughter Melissa is getting married very soon. And for as much joy and pride she (and her sister, Andrea) has given us, I feel a twinge of sadness, that I’m sure comes with the territory. But no story comes without those little twists.

Eleven months after we were married (no shot gun necessary here), Melissa was born. Having her so early in our married life gave us little time together before it needed to be shared with another person. DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a COMPLAINT by and stretch of the imagination. It only illustrates that the three of us, Mel, my wife and I had to grow up together. At times, Melissa did a better job of it that than we did.

In her first nine months of life, Melissa had all she needed, being spoiled by both sets of grandparents. She was well dressed and entertained, spending an equal time with both families. Living a stones throw from home during her first four years, the opportunity presented itself to visit home as often as possible, with baby girl in tow. Melissa would “get to know” my mother very well.

Mom doted on her. Melissa was mom’s third grandchild, but you wouldn’t have known it. She treated her like her first. On Sundays after church, the three of us would stop for coffee and a visit, and mom would light up like her dreaded “Christmas tree” when she saw Melissa.

“My Missa!” she’d coo. “My good Catholic girl, My Missa!” as Melissa was dressed in her finest frilliest frocks (Say that fast a few times).

Mom promised to teach Melissa how to cook, and sew and crochet (mom’s afghans are legendary, adorning the back of the couch and the back seat of my car to this day, twenty-eight years after the fact). Mom for the first time in a long stretch looked forward to that Christmas, with two new baby grand-daughters (my niece Katie having been born a month before Melissa) to celebrate.

We never anticipated mom passing away from a brain aneurysm on Christmas Eve that first year.

Melissa has grown to a fine and beautiful young woman (both of my girls have, actually). She has become a wonderful cook. She doesn’t sew at all and her crocheting phase was short lived (having been taught by my mother’s sister, Anne who had become a surrogate grandmother at one point). We’re fairly certain, Mom has guided my daughter in “absentia”.

But she is loving and caring and will make a fine wife and somewhere down the line,  an excellent mother. She continues to be a source of joy and pride. There’s no hiding the fact that Dad will walk a misty aisle when the day is finally here. My wife’s parents are still with us, and will share in that day. My mom and Dad will be looking down proudly from their Celestial perch. Hidden in the peal of wedding bells will be the sound of my mother’s murmur, “Missa, my Missa!” loud and clear.

I can almost hear the bells from here…


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SCHROEDER, LUCY AND THE IDES OF MAY…

Today , May 15th – a reprieve from the weather gods, a return to sunshine, blue skies and seventy degree temps. Ok, so I wussed out a bit when the mercury dipped. I’m just sick of those elongated “winters” three weeks from the first day of Summer.

Summer. (Follow closely kids, because here is where I go off on a tangent or a flashback if I get it right – a little mental slight of hand). Today I’m at work listening to music specifically from 1969 – “Summer of Love” (see how nicely I tied that in?) That was the year I became a teen. What did a debilitatingly shy momma’s boy know from rebellion? I just knew the music was boss. That year, and those tunes are the soundtrack for this life.

The melodies and lyrics so clearly sit right on the tip of my cerebellum.  I found my escape in what blasted from my transistor radio (we won’t get into it now kids, it would take some doing – think of it as an iPod in which someone else picks your playlist – yeah, scary, I know!). I also found my poetic powers that summer… in a roundabout way.

My parents bought a console organ – a nice piece of furniture since no one knew how to play the damn thing worth a lick. I was never sure what possessed them to make this acquisition, but all these years later I see the method to their collective madness. And I thank them. I taught myself how to play it. To this day I can not read a note of music, but I did learn to play. I would place my radio nearby and work out the melodies of the sounds I heard. It came as random noise at first (someone squeezing the life out of a goose) but I did eventually get better.

SchroederLucyThe neighbors started to call me “Schroeder” after the piano playing fool from the Peanuts comics. At first I hated the tag. I hated any nickname (I still shudder at them to this day, but have grown more tolerant). I seemed to grow into the moniker. I started writing melodies; “love songs for no one” (Thanks John Mayer). And at thirteen, I lamented lost love that was years from being reality. First crushes die hard. Needless to say, let she who throws the first Schroeder, be labeled the first Lucy (just to keep the illusion straight).

But for as badly as I tried to write the music, the words flowed sweetly and with a depth I never knew I could possess.  My lyrics could certainly stand on their own. My non-musical poetry.

The music on my 1969 playlist takes me home every time. I miss the house in which I grew up and the parents who gave me every thing I ever needed (wanted, on the other hand was a lesson hard learned). I miss the neighborhood and having an audience who came with lawn chairs to listen. I miss being the Schroeder of my youth. This one’s getting a little long in the tooth. I shoulda listened to my mother and practiced more. I coulda been somebody. Maybe even could have been a poet?

Maybe Schroeder?


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MY MOTHER IS ALWAYS WITH ME…

It is said that the greatest gift you could give your children, is to love their mother. It is unfortunate that I did not always strive to present such a prize to my girls. Thankfully, people can change. It seems I’ve finally gotten around to giving my girls the gift that they always deserve. What my daughters have learned in the growing we all did as a family can be attributed to the lessons I was taught by my mother. No better day to pay that tribute forward.

momGoodnight

Irene Marion (Kura) Wojtanik 1930-1986

My grounding was the same as hers, being raised in the very same house into which she was brought, an old wooden clapboard three family house on Wood Street. (I don’t know how they did it then, but I guess you did what you had to do) It was near the railroad tracks that guided six or seven different lines through the neighbor every day for three-hundred and sixty-five.

Raised with her brother and her sister (half-sister/cousin) by my grandparents; he a Naturalized Citizen from Poland and she the American born sister of his first wife who had succumbed to Tuberculosis. My mother’s sister was a product of that union and thus the confusion. But they grew as true siblings. (I never knew the convolution until I was much older researching our genealogy)

The closeness had been expressed in later years when after meeting, dating and marrying my father brought me and six siblings into the tight confines of our house. We each offered different challenges, but she handled it and all subsequent speed bumps with her motherly grace and resolve. Her toughness was exhibited when my oldest brother (her firstborn, Joseph) died nine hours into life. (Complications from her toxemia). The next year she welcomed my sister and we moved forward from there.

As we got older and started to find our footing in the world, mom found our independence both comforting and disturbing. She was glad we had direction. But she also worried that the family was fracturing in that we didn’t spend times together as a family. My mother out of frustration would always tease (threaten), asserting that “one of these Christmases, I’m taking a long trip and I’m not coming back!’

She became her own self-fulfilling prophet when on Christmas Eve 1986 my mother died from a brain aneurysm. The loss of her on such a day could have been devastating for the family, but it began the process of pulling us together closer. That found completion when four days short of the twentieth anniversary of her death, our father passed from this life.

But in all that time (27 years this December) there hasn’t been a day that I’m not reminder of my mother. I have her hazel eyes and her facial features; my youngest daughter bears a strong resemblance to my mother as a young girl (from the photographs I’ve archived). I don’t need to look far to find her.

My mother is always with me. She is the whisper of the wind rustling the leaves as I walk down the street. She’s the feel of softness in my freshly laundered socks; the consoling hand on my brow when things are not well. She has presented me with my creative flair.

My mother lives in my laughter, and is crystallized in every tear drop ever shed for her. From her I have originated, she was my first home. When I need direction, she is the map I follow and she guides every step that I take. My mother becomes the model I consult when my parenting skills go askew.

She remains my teacher and supporter, my mentor and friend. Mom is my protector, steering me from disaster. She is everything I could have ever asked for in a mother. She had been my first love and my first heartbreak and nothing in this life has been able to separate us. Not time. Not space. Not even death can remove her influence from my life. My mother is gone, and she is always with me.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to my mother, my wife Janice and her mother, and all mothers on today your special day!