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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THE LONGEST DAY

Today marks the 69th anniversary of the horrifically bloody battle at Normandy, France.

The Battle of Normandy was waged during World War II in the summer of 1944, between the Allied nations and German forces occupying Western Europe. 69 years later, the Normandy Invasion, (D-Day), remains the largest seaborne invasion in history, involving nearly three million troops crossing the English Channel from England to Normandy in occupied France.

Marines approach Omaha Beach

There were twelve Allied nations that provided fighting units who participated in the invasion. These included Australia, Canada, Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia, Greece, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Operation Overlord was the codename for the Allied invasion of northwest Europe. The establishment of a secure foothold, was known as Operation Neptune. Operation Neptune began on D-Day (June 6, 1944) and ended on June 30, when the Allies had established a strong hold on Normandy. Operation Overlord also began on D-Day, and continued until Allied forces crossed the River Seine.

Click on the above photo for a video about D-Day.

There were several classic Hollywood films about this historic event.

The Longest Day” (1962)

Saving Private Ryan” (1998)

“The Big Red One”  (1980)

“D-Day: The Sixth of June” (1956)

“The Americanization of Emily” (1964)

Also notable was the 10 part HBO series, “Band of Brothers”

 

We honor and pay tribute to the brave service men and women who served with distinction and courage.


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A DILIGENT DIVERSION

Respects paid, and flowers laid into the soil to toil under the sun’s diligent efforts. A quiet stroll through the grounds of Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna, NY. Taking root near where my parents (Mom and Dad, Grandmother and Grandfather) lay in repose, they already are looking colorfully splendid in the cool afternoon daylight. The silence (near-by road noise, not withstanding) makes this a very cerebral place. Thoughts and heart pangs shared in an almost telepathic state. I rue the fact that it is too late to share my achievements in person. But they know. I can feel it. Our connection has stayed strong.

On my way out I stop briefly to re-establish my place to resume the Service project I began a summer ago. I never made it out as planned. Tracking back, I spotted three markers that look untouched. Extracting pad and pen, I begin to record facts engraved in granite and stone, some the lone evidence that these unselfish souls once existed.

Gold_Star_Service_Banner.svg

Gold Star Service Banner

I remained working on Section 25 until I had every last man noted and accounted. More awards and another Purple Heart recipient. I even came across a designated Gold Star Mother; she will be included in the tribute! Three men who fought in the Spanish-American War. So much history buried in mystery here. I assume the role of detective, scratching out clues to solve these very divergent puzzles. I must look strange on my hands and knees, clawing and carving sections of sod overgrowing the flat slabs. Moving from grave to grave, with the hopes of saving some pride and sense of dignity for those who have given me the ability to do so. It remains the very least I can do.

Tomorrow is a big day. I will return in love and out of respect for these extraordinary individuals who have served the whole of us.

Thank you for your service.

“Hang Tough”

And “say a prayer for our guys and gals over there!” (Thanks Bob Curran)


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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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UNFLAGGED

Delayed by a wedding and some inclement weather, a tradition of planting flowers at the graves of our parents and grandparents finally took place today. Still a chance of rain (it did) we decided to undertake the task.

Arriving, at my parent’s plot I was disheartened. The flag I had placed to honor my father’s service, had been stolen. It has happened before, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. But my faith in human nature had taken another hit. We had planted the flowers (half-hearted, I sadly admit) before moving onto the next memorial.

The rain’s intensity kicked into high gear and we decided to resume at a later date.

I don’t know what possesses people to be so crass and callous of the feelings of others. I mean, sure boiled down – it’s a cloth stapled to a stick. But there is meaning in all of it. A banner defended by many lives lost and placed in honor of one such life. My pride in my father’s dedication and the service of other like souls buried here doesn’t change for lack of said flag. I just pray that whoever  removed the flag will come to learn its importance in the hearts of many. It is because of that flag and the brave souls who defend it, that even these kind of people have the “right” to be morons.

It’s just a shame they don’t understand.


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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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ANDREA LEA

With the spotlight shining brightly on the soon-to-be, bride-to-be, I think it only fitting to present the other bookend, my daughter Andrea. (She prefers AN-DREE-YA, call her ON-DRAY-A and there’ll be much hell to pay). As you can sense, she is a lethal combination of beauty and brawn – an attitude a mile long and wide, and there’s no hiding the fact that my Andrea is Sassy! (Her self- proclaimed moniker) And she backs that up every time.

Maybe it’s just a defense mechanism, but she says what’s on her mind and means what she says. The “sass” comes naturally. But this “Little Darlin'” has a tender side (which unfortunately she doesn’t let out of its cage very often), which is being displayed as we near the marriage of her sister, Melissa. Andrea was so thrilled when asked to be Maid of Honor, and she lavished her older sister with gifts and all the attention deserving a teacher and mentor.

She has a playful repartee with her soon-to-be Brother-in-Law, Ryan, with neither passing the opportunity to nudge and cajole on many topics, but most decidedly – Ice Hockey and Music.

IMG_0058She loves ice hockey, and has a devotion to the local heroes (?), the Buffalo Sabres in general and her favorite #57. She spouts statistics and minutia that would have rivaled my mindless baseball trivia in my halcyon days. At last count Andrea has amassed 9(?) Sabres hockey jerseys and a Colorado Avalanche sweater. (Gabriel Landeskog is a god – IHHO!)

And there is no mistaking, the two sisters are as different as night and Pop Rocks. Melissa, always the levelheaded one, knew where she wanted to be and got there. Andrea has an idea what she wants and will know when she gets there. I have no doubt she will. My wife admonishes our youngest, “If you were my first born, you’d be an only child!” Knowing the headstrong nature of my Taurus, we all realize that’s a lot of bull. She would have emerged no matter what.

As she says, “Dad, timing is everything!”

As Andrea steps to the forefront, I tend to agree with her.