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

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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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Bob Curran was one of my favorite columnists when I was finding my way in life. Writing for the Buffalo (Evening) News, Bob was a decorated combat veteran in World War II. His “Curran’s Corner” column was consistently a tribute to veterans everywhere and through it he had championed many veteran causes. His trademark…  his tag line, encouraging words for his brothers in arms was “Hang Tough”.

BobCurranOf his articles, I loved the snippets of truth he would present under the above title, “It’s one of those opinionated days…” The news of the day can elicit many emotions ranging from compassion to down right frustration with the world at large. It is easy to draw upon these to fester a muse or pose problems; it’s a lot harder to “rage against the dying of the light”; presented as opinion and taken as “fightin’ words”. But to the contrary, those voices be damned. Have your say, but don’t shove your beliefs and vision down my throat (or up the old “Eerie Canal”). Thank you Bob Curran for your service and your common sense approach to dealing with the world. But back to the subject.

It’s one of those opinionated days…

…What ever happened to common courtesy? I remember helping hands extended in the guise of brotherhood,and having four fingers and a thumb, not just a single digit. These days the return of the “Me” society, the “Hurray for me, screw everyone else”, seems more prevalent than a polite, “Can I give you a hand?”

… I remember a little thing that was displayed after e150px-Sealofgoodpracticevery show that aired on television called “Television Code Seal of Good Practice”.  It meant that what was viewed carried a responsibility with it. Family friendly fare and some socially redeeming values. Those were the days.

mayberry…In that vein, it seems the world could use more Mayberry and less Honey Boo Boo.

…Does anyone play the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the end of the broadcast day anymore? With endless infomercials on the air, does the broadcast day even end anymore?

…Reality was every day living; the hardships and joys of life dealt with in dignity and not some scripted adventure show about living in the wilderness, or having babies in your formative teen years. Stars dance (big whoop), and dive (bigger whoop), and race and walk and so on, ad nauseum. REAL people fall on hard times, lose jobs and become homeless, some contract diseases like cancer and AIDS and heart disease, and some even die from them. But I guess such topics are too harsh for a viewing audience.

…Thank a veteran for their service. The freedoms we share (and sometimes abuse) are hard won through their sacrifice and bloodshed.

…We used to care for our elderly and infirm. It became a family responsibility to pick up this gauntlet and carry on. Financial burdens are understandable, but we seem too ready to put our aged into facilities and forget them to carry on with our self-important lives. And so it goes.

…There was a time when crime rates were down and respect for law enforcement was up.

…Does anyone write new music anymore, instead of just talking over someone else’s proven success? Does a lyric carry more meaning by adding the word “fuck” or “mother-fucker” to it? My naivete is obviously showing.

The opinions expressed above have been fermenting for a long while, and appear less relevant in today’s society. When we give governments full control of our lives it is easy to not live (and believe we’ve never had it better). I guess it’s best that I bury my head back into the sand and dream of Bob Curran and the “good old days”. Life just seemed to be more valuable then.

“Say a prayer for our guys (and gals) over there!”

Hang tough!

God rest you, Bob Curran!

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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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Peace Bridge joining Buffalo and Fort Erie, Canada

Peace Bridge joining Buffalo and Fort Erie, Canada

The scene highlighted above is the Peace Bridge. It is a free standing structure that spans the Niagara River and joins the City of Buffalo, New York with the Town of Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada.

For more information please visit: PEACE BRIDGE



Back in the day, before Homeland Security and terrorist threats, crossing the bridge into Canada was an afterthought. It was a trek we made on a weekly basis. And we were just kids.

Growing up on the border with out great Canadian neighbors, we were exposed early to the game of hockey. A good pair of “rabbit ears” could squeeze the signal for CHCH-TV (Channel 11 around the Buff) and a chance to view CFL (Canadian Football League) games and curling on Saturday afternoons. But the kids up and down the street would congregate to whose ever house had the best reception to catch the Maple Leafs playing hockey at Maple Leaf Garden in Toronto. Buffalo had a minor league hockey team, the Buffalo Bisons who had served as an affiliate to the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and the storied Montreal Canadiens over the years. We made the game our popular favorite long before we would land our own NHL team (Buffalo Sabres)

It stood to reason that having caught the “bug” that we would attempt to imitate our hockey heroes. A bunch of American kids with little equipment available to them, but a load of frozen creek to make our rink. We wanted to play hockey. Pond hockey was fun, providing an all day escape in the clear, crisp frozen air that graced Western New York when late November came to call.

But somehow, even that wasn’t enough. We needed an actual ice rink to play upon. Not many facilities in the area in those days, so our obvious solution was north of the border, across the bridge. 3 AM we loaded a few cars of the older guys who could drive and with our make shift pads and rusted skates, we would pool our little cash from a paper route, of grass cutting (a few of the older guys had jobs) and we would rent an hour of ice time in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada.

The Peace Bridge was more than a crossing over the Niagara River, more than a portal into Canada. It was a lifeline to the game we loved. Early morning across the bridge.