Thursday, December 31, 2009

Some Thoughts

Hey there! Yes it's been a while, a long while, since I last posted anything here. Not that I haven't wanted to but I've been extremely busy and trying to find the time to post. However, excuses are cheap and actions speak loudly. So, I am back at the end of the year to posit some musings garnered from my journeys in 2009.

The year started off rocky but finished on a definite high note as things have changed for the better. What a year it's been and I am filled with a renewed optimism for the future and my life. Family relationships have been strengthened, old friendships have been renewed, and golden opportunities have appeared.

There have been some minor setbacks and other areas where I strive for change for the good, but nothing that has made me lose Hope. And Hope is the key, isn't it? Without we are lost and give into despair and slide down a slippery slope of self-loathing. Hope is eternal. Hope is renewing. Hope heals.

I look forward to the 2010 and make the vow to be more diligent in blogging. I've heard from some dear friends that they think that I am a decent writer, and perhaps I am and I owe some of those friends a thank you for encouraging me to write, write, write(That's you E.C., J.D., and M.F.). Whether I am or not I realize that I LOVE writing and it brings me great joy. If it brings others joy too then that is the icing on the cake.

Here's to wishing you and Happy, Safe, and Blessed New Year!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Things Do Get Better

I have had the most interesting journey in my life for the past 5 or so years. Things have been topsy turvy and for the longest time it didn't appear like it would get better. There were glimmers of hope but they soon passed. I found myself falling into the miry pit that Psalm 40 talks about in the Bible. The good thing is that just like in Psalm 40, the Lord has lifted me out. The evidence of this was found in the last two weeks where I spent the most wonderful time with my parents, with whom I had been estranged for far too long. My three sons were with me on this trip and it was good that they were there to witness the Lord's healing hand. While my daughters were not there I know that they will see the results of God's tender mercies.

I also was able to reconnect with some very special friends in my life, though there were others I just could not get to see due to time being hectic but also due to the healing that was taking place. I guess I had forgotten who I was and started to believe the lies that I heard from people who really didn't care about me. Through it all I have grown closer to my parents and see just how beautiful they are. I am a blessed man to be their son and I thank God for their love and support. I thank God also for my dear friends who are special to me as well, even though we have not seen each other in years.

I am not sure that I deserve all of this love, but I am thankful for it and will do my best to reflect it back to my family and friends and to pay it forward to those whom I meet in my daily live's routine. I guess the biggest lesson that I have learned is that people DO change and that by God's hand. I've heard time and time again from others that, "People just don't change" and on their own they probably won't. But God is the God of the Impossibilities and nothing is undoable to Him. He has changed my heart and my outlook as he has done so with my parents. We had long been praying for this and God listens. He might not respond right away but He will respond.

So don't ever give up hope, like I did. Keep standing firm in faith in Christ and know that He wants the best for you. God does change people even if they are running from Him and He can do it in an instant. Trust Him with all of your heart and He will never lead you astray.

Here Endeth the Lesson,

Friday, April 17, 2009

Signs of the Impending Apocalypse Part II

OK, I saw another commercial that caught my eye and made me laugh with the absurdity of it all. Perhaps you've seen this one as well. It's a Dunkin' Donuts commercial that begins with three little children in a darkened room with zombie like looks on their faces as they are watching cartoons. The TV is holding them in some sort of zombie-making tractor beam and it's actually drawing them towards the TV.

Then the door opens and this bright light fills the room and it's their dad holding a box of donuts beckoning the imps to come get one. Upon hearing this they awaken from their cartoon slumber and head out to the kitchen all jazzed up at the tasty sugary sweets that await them.

The only thing wrong with this was that the kids did not have sunken eyes nor expanded waists. I mean what were the people of Dunkin' Donuts thinking with this commercial. "Hey if you have couch potatoes for kids just feed them these empty calories to keep them tuned in the Cartoon Network all day long!"

That commercial is a far cry from this.

Now go out and do something creative!

Monday, April 13, 2009

10 Songs

I have been doing a tremendous amount of work online for the past month or two and during that time I've come to use and really like Pandora Radio, which is an online web-based radio program. What is nice about it is that whatever your preference in music Pandora has it and you can program a specific station with just your likes. Some of the music, however, is repetitive but the longer that you listen the more you find that that is cyclical. The station that I've created has an emphasis on Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, and Van Morrison. Other groups such as U2, Queen, Journey, and Tom Petty are mixed in here and there as well as others.

What I like about Pandora is that a lot of the songs are different versions of popular hits, or just great songs from albums that didn't get a lot of air play over traditional radio. So, from using this service I have come to hear some songs that, sadly I must admit, I did not know but should have. Some of those songs make this month's 10 Songs.

1. Highway Patrolman-Bruce Springsteen
This song is off of his Nebraska album which is underrated in my opinion. I was not a big Bruce fan when I was younger, but now, older, having lived life a bit, well his lyrics strike a chord with me and I am really getting into his music. I love this song about dealing with troublesome family members, here a wayward brother. The line that sticks with me is, "Nothing feels better than blood on blood." Great song! Johnny Cash did a cover of this song that is just as good.

2. Devils & Dust-Bruce Springsteen
The title song of the album. Is there any better American song writer right now? I am amazed at these nuggets of gold that I mine from Springsteen's discography. I love how it starts low and soft and builds throughout the song. The lines that get me are:

We've got God on our side
We're just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love?
Fear's a powerful thing, baby
It'll turn your heart black you can trust
It'll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust

Check it out. Great song.

3. Fire-Bruce Springsteen
Bruce got his career going as song writer, and some of his songs-as good as they are-were made famous by other performers. Blinded by the Light was done be Manfred Mann, Because the Night was done by Patti Smith, and Fire was done by The Pointer Sisters. The Pointer Sisters?! Bruce's version is much better.

4. I Wish I Were Blind-Bruce Springsteen
I will admit that while I have found love unexpected and welcomed recently after a tough divorce this song hit me a couple weeks back. I guess that there's a part of my heart that doesn't want to see my ex with another man, though she's found love and is on the verge of marriage. I heard this song and it brought up some feelings I didn't know that were still there that I am working on. Not feelings for her, but feelings at failing in a marriage and not liking to fail at anything it made me ponder my heart and where I had gone wrong. I wish her well, but when I see them I know that I failed, along with her, but the failure is there nonetheless.

5. Call it a Loan-Jackson Browne
I love Mr. Browne and his lyrics are so touching. I have quickly fallen in love with this song.

6. Sky Blue and Black-Jackson Browne
Another song of his I hadn't ever heard, but I love the melody and the lyrics. Good stuff.

7. Lawyers, Guns, and Money-Warren Zevon
I used to listen to this album, Excitable Boy, back in the day when I had a turn table and records. It was one of those records that wore out through use, so I'd have to buy another one within months. Not only was this song on it, but so was Excitable Boy, Werewolves of London, and Johnny Strikes up the Band. He left this world far too young.

8. Wake Up-The Arcade Fire
I watched the trailer for the Where the Wild Things Are movie (Looks really good btw) and I loved the song that was playing throughout it. Found out that it was this song by this group. I really like the song a lot.

9. Shining Star-The Manhattans
This song has special meaning to me because of someone who is back in my life now and that person has brought a lot of light to mine and I am eternally thankful to this person.

10. Emotional Rescue-The Rolling Stones
What can I say? I will be your knight in shining armor, Riding across the desert with a fine Arab charger.

Click on a song title and it will take you to iTunes. Give them a listen.

Chitty Chitty Hee Hoo

I was taking a break from running around Saturday in preparation for the feast and festivities of the following day which was Easter Sunday. My oldest son was flipping through the TV channels when we spotted Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was a favorite movie from when I was a child and is a movie my children have fallen in love with as well. What's not to like? It was written by Sir Ian Fleming of James Bond fame, had Dick Van Dyke and Benny Hill in it, had songs about candy and toys, and also had a car that was the benevolent version of Stephen King's Christine.

Yet, I always was afraid of the Child Catcher in the movie. He scared the bajeepers out of me and still makes me feel uneasy. The thing that struck me upon viewing him this time was that he was reminding me of someone whom I couldn't place. It bothered me. Gnawed at me. It even kept me up a little too late thinking about it that night. Then, as I fell asleep I found myself back at a dance in high school and over the speakers the song Billie Jean came on and it hit me: the Child Catcher looks like Michael Jackson!

Then the irony of Michael Jackson playing the role of the Child Catcher hit me and I started to laugh. I mean, hasn't he been playing that role for years now? I guess Boy Catcher would be more honest. But honestly, both have that funky looking nose, are pasty white with jet black straight hair, dress in extravagant attire, and are sickly thin. Come to think of it I have never seen both people in the same place at the same time. Hmmmmm. Makes one scratch his head and wonder. Oh well, I will never look at either person the same, and both do give me shivers down my spine.

Just something that I thought that you'd like to know!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Sign of the Impending Apocalypse, Kinda Sorta Maybe

I was watching the tube the other day and a commercial came on for Burger King. It caught my eye because I heard Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back whilst watching the King boogie with some female dancers with interspersing images of Sponge Bob Square Pants flashing across (or acrost to those of you from Dixon, Illinois) the screen. I thought, what the heck is going on?

Well the deal that BK is offering is that if you buy any value meal you can also get a kid's meal for 99 cents with a toy included. However, nowhere in the commercial do you see the regular meal advertised until the end. OK, so call me a fuddy-duddy (Latin origin Fuddias Dudditum meaning concerned parent), but I find it inappropriate that an extremely popular kids cartoon is flashed on the screen with Baby Got Back blaring throughout the commercial. I really don't know what they were thinking with this one. OK, I've said my piece. Comment if you've seen the commercial and tell me what you think. I really want to know.

Now go do something constructive,

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I Must be Getting Old...

...because I am not fond of the cold or Winter anymore. All I want to do is head off to an island in the South Pacific and roam the beaches wearing little, if anything. Crystal clear pristine waters teeming with the freshest delicacies, lapping soft sandy beaches where I am prone on my back drinking a fruity adult beverage with an umbrella sticking out of it sounds wonderful! Well all that and a lovely lady who touches my very soul to share it with, now that would be as close to Heaven on Earth as one could get. Call me a dreamer but I believe in my heart of hearts that I will experience this very image ere I die.

Anyway, this is short and to the point because I am done with the winter. It's 10 degrees outside and my oldest child is struggling with the flu. No one gets the flu on a soft sandy beach in paradise South Pacific. Just like there's no crying in baseball, there are no flues in paradise! People swill Pina Coladas, Margaritas, beer with lime wedges in the bottle not Nyquil nor Theraflu.

I want to run up and down the beach like one of the kids from the Lord of the Flies with a spear in my hand hunting a wild boar to be roasted over an open flame. And no matter what I will always have the conch so we will do what I want all the time!

OK, I've whined long enough about the winter. Just a few more weeks to go. At least we have St. Patrick's Day before then. Green beer will have to suffice!

Stay Warm,

Friday, February 13, 2009

10 Songs

It looks like it is time for 10 Songs to make an appearance so here goes. I've been grooving to some new music to me and some really old songs that I've seen in a movie or two that have left a lasting imprint in my mind so here are 10 Songs currently in heavy rotation on my iPod:

1. When the Crying is Over-Ian MacLagan and the Bump Band.
Ian is a studio musician who has played on many and album that you've more than likely listened to. His voice is rough in an enchanting way. This song, as all songs from the album which it's on, is a tribute to his late wife. The whole album is a testimony to his love for her and the impact she had on his life. Anyone who has lost a loved will relate to this song, no doubt, but they will find hope in it. It is not maudlin in any way. I love this song.

2. The Wrestler-Bruce Springsteen
When I first heard this song I wept and had goose bumps all over. I thought that The Boss had been following my life for the past few years as it seemed to be written about my journeys of late. But Bruce has a way of striking a chord that resonates in most everybody's lives. It's from the movie THE WRESTLER which I have yet to see but plan on seeing it soon. Anyway, this song has a beauty of it's own which also, to me at least, ends on a high note of hope. We've all been down but the the wrestler in all of us gets back up for another round. I am ready for another round in life too.

3. If I Didn't Care-The Ink Spots
I heard this when I was watching one of THE top 10 movies of all time, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. It's played right at the beginning when Andy Dufresne is contemplating killing his wife. The song is from the 1940s and is lovely. If I could travel back in time I would pay a visit to the 1930s and 1940s just to drink in the culture and entertainment. I love this song.

4. Time Has Told Me-Nick Drake
So you don't know who Nick Drake is? Well shame on you! He is no longer amongst the living and past away back in 1974. Read all about him on the link above. This song is beautiful and really brings out the "doomed romanticism" that has labeled Drake's music from the beginning. It was reported after Heath Ledger's untimely passing that he was in the process of working on a biopic about Drake. Sadly they both died in the same fashion and far too early.

5. Running to Stand Still-U2
From, arguably, their best album ever, The Joshua Tree. This song has haunting lyrics and the twangy guitar in it evokes a mood of hope in the face of despair, even if that hope is slight it still is there. Any song on this album could be picked as their best ever, it just so happens that this song is currently being listened to by me on my iPod. Give it a try.

6. I've Got a Feeling-The Beatles
What a great rocking song by The Fab Four! The more they matured together as a band the deeper the sound of their songs became. Their talents really shone as they grew more comfortable in them and the singing by both Paul and John is top notch. It is infectious and makes me want to belt it out with all that I've got!

7. Dixie Chicken (Live)-Little Feat
I may have had this song on one of my lists before and having it here again just shows how fantastic a song this is. I love the live version (off of their Waiting for Columbus album) because most live versions of song have a little extra umph to them, as if those songs went all the way up to 11!

8. Cornman-Kinky
OK, so this is an interesting mix of salsa and pop. It gets under your skin and really is something that you will be humming all day. And where did I find this gem? Well I bought my oldest boy the video game Little Big Planet which is an incredible game with a killer soundtrack. This song is from that game. He asked me if it was on iTunes and Lo and Behold it was. Give it a listen and you will probably end up buying it. It's a great workout song too.

9. World in My Eyes (Cicada Mix)-Depeche Mode
Who doesn't love the Mode? A friend suggested this song recently and I found a few different versions on iTunes. This one has a driving beat and reminded me of my club days of the mid 1980s where I would mousse my hair up, slip on my bowling shoes for dancing and go wild! Oh, yeah! Bring the 80s back!

10. Fly by Night-Rush
Very few things have come out of Canada that are really worthwhile. In fact Canada is really the 51st state of the US, or America Light if you prefer. However, Rush is one of the few exceptions. To me, this group never really got its due but man how they could rock. Fly by Night is just one of many gems offered up by this group. Rock on my Canadian neighbors, rock on!

All songs, except for The Beatles offering, can be found at iTunes. Just click on its name and you will be magically transported there. Have fun!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Shiva H. Vishnu

I am not a holy roller by any means. Even though I have a Masters of Divinity and was pastor of several churches I never was one who would ever be mistaken for a monk cloistered away in a monastery praying and chanting and making fruit cake or some other tasty treat. I've been told that I am "real" though I don't know what that means or if it is a compliment. I am not one to force feed my faith and love of God and His salvation offered through the redemptive death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ upon others. And while I believe that, as Christ Himself has said, that no one can come to Father except through the Son, I don't cut off relationships with people who believe otherwise. I have many non-believing friends but I don't base my friendship on a common faith. Maybe that makes me a poor witness for the cause of Christ, but make no mistake: I do pray for them to allow Christ into their lives.

With all that said (and it sure doesn't make me a saint in anyway) there are things that bug me to no end and the biggest one is the taking of the Lord's name in vain. I hear that all the time in most places that I go. I hear it on TV, and read it in books and magazines. I read it in emails and such. And the thing that gets me is that Christ's name is abused over and over and over again by people who have no idea just how powerful that name is.

I started a counter movement after some of my requests to people I know were ignored as to how I am offended when Jesus' name is used as a curse instead of a blessing. To show how ridiculous it is to use His name in that manner I started feigning anger from time to time and shouting, "Shiva H. Vishnu!" or "Mohammed H. Allah!" or "Zeus H. Apollo!" People looked at me like I was crazy (maybe I am) but then I pointed out how ridiculous it is to use Jesus Christ's name in the same manner. Some have stopped doing that, in front me at least, while others don't care if they are offensive.

Another thing that I don't understand is that nobody uses any other deity's name in the same manner. Why? Why don't they do that? What has Christ done to them that they need to disparage His name so much? I am not talking about the Church or some wayward minister here. I am talking about Christ Himself. What has He done to them? And then it hit me that the Bible talks about the power of Jesus name.

Philippians 2:5-11 says the following:

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. New International Version

There is power in the name of Christ and sadly many people are unaware of that as they are using His name as a curse, and indeed they are cursing themselves in that manner without even knowing it.

Nobody uses Allah, Shiva, Vishnu, or any other god's name in the way that they drag Jesus Christ's name through the mud. Partly it is due to their disdain for Christianity but partly because if they did use one of these names in that manner there would be many believers of those names taking up arms against those who profane their deity. Remember a few years back when Muslims were wanting to kill a Danish cartoonist for drawing Mohammed in a cartoon(and he is just a prophet in that religion)? I am not advocating taking the names of those deities in vain, what I am advocating is leaving Christ's name alone.

So there it is. My project to stop people from offending others by profaning Jesus Christ's name and using it as a curse.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Doorman or Just Good Manners

My dad is a gentleman. Even though he grew up on the mean streets of New York City and is street smart he is still very much a gentleman. He is kind and very gracious and literally would give the shirt of his back for someone in need. I've seen him do things that people today call random acts of kindness but back in the day when I was a kid it was just called doing the right thing, though some would call it manners. My dad taught my brother and me how to be a gentleman and to respect others and to not be self-centered.

My dad was, and very much still is at the age of 73, a door holder. When entering a building he holds doors open for ladies, but also for the elderly and anyone around. My brother and I learned that from him at a very early age. "Ladies first," I would hear him say. When I was about 6 years old my mom took some night courses at the Berkeley Secretarial School in White Plains, New York (though now I think that it is just Berkeley College). Back in the late 60s and early 70s the school was made up of 99% women. One night my dad dropped my mom off for class and we rode around White Plains for a while but got back quite a bit early to pick up my mom (my dad is EXTREMELY punctual. If he has to be somewhere at 6PM and the appointment is only 30 minutes drive from where he lives he will indeed leave at 4PM so as not to be late-this drove me nuts as a kid).

Well since we had some time to kill we went to the cafeteria where he was going to buy my brother and me a soda. So there we were in this cafeteria and as I went to get a glass for the soda fountain when I looked up I saw that I had fallen way behind my dad and brother and a woman was behind me. "Ladies first," echoed in my mind so I, trying to be  a gentleman, let her go ahead of me. And then I looked up and saw another woman and let her go too, as I did with the third woman, and then the fourth. Next thing I knew I saw a steady line of women standing there and I was trapped by my desire to do the right thing. Each lady commented on what a gentleman I was so how could I not let them continue to stream past me? The next thing I know is that I saw my dad turn around and looked back to where I was and he let out a laugh and then came and saved me. It was a pretty funny experience but it kind of shook me as a 6 year old.

However, I still hold doors and let ladies go first no matter what their age may seem. From elderly ladies I hear comments such as, "Wow, a gentleman still exists!", or "How refreshing to see someone with manners." From women my age I will hear the occasional, "Thank you." Yet from young women I hear nothing at all and that always makes me wonder why their parents aren't teaching them manners.

I am absolutely amazed at when I see a young couple coming towards a door as I am leaving an establishment and go to hold the door open for them and the guy cuts in first before the woman he is with. I usually say something like, "What a gentleman you are." I once had a lady yell at me for holding the door open for her. "Don't you think I can open a door for myself? You need to stop that anachronistic behavior." I replied, "I am sure that you can open your own door Ma'am. I hear you roar so you must be woman. However, my father taught me to do this as a small gesture of honor for women and all that they do. Forgive me for trying to honor you." She looked at me and her demeanor changed and she ended up apologizing to me. I then called her a whore! NO I didn't at all but just thought that would be funny to write there.

I have instilled, what my father instilled in my brother and me, in my three sons. Anytime we head somewhere and they are walking towards a door and there is a lady present or an elderly person I softly say, "Be a gentleman," and they know what to do. I hope that they will continue that without prompting because it seems like their generation is one where manners, courtesy, common sense is sorely lacking and we are to blame for not expecting that from our children. Why is it so hard for us to be civil to one another? Why can't courtesy be an instinct instead of an oddity? Why is it that manners are foreign to us? To me it is little things like the death of theses things that signal, like gigantic waving red flags, that our society is on the decline and our country is spiraling downward. Things can change because we have the power to change them, but do we really want to, and do we really want to be BOTHERED by it all? If we see it as a BOTHER then I think that we have our answer already.

Just some things to think about.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lessons from a Roast Beef WEDGE

Growing up in Fairfield County Connecticut, 30 minutes outside of New York City, was a wonderful experience for me. Even though we were technically in New England we were New Yorkers at heart. All of our TV stations came out of NYC and we followed the New York sports teams. The newspapers we read were the Times, the Post and the Daily News (Maybe the Greenwich Time but that was to see if the police blotter mentioned any friends of ours). Anytime someone mention The City we knew that they mean New York. As I have traveled this great country of ours I have come across differences that make us unique as a nation. Some differences make me scratch my head and wonder, while others are pretty amazing.

I have noticed that one of the things that I thought was universal was how we in lower Fairfield County refer to what the rest of the country calls either a Hero, Sub, Hoagie, or Grinder amongst other names. If you were to go into a deli in that part of the country you would see that we called our version none of those things. We called it a Wedge. They called it the same thing in Westchester County New York, or neighboring county to the west.

I remember when I went off to college in Boston and went to a deli near my dorm and ordered a roast beef WEDGE at the counter. The guy looked at me like I was a bug. "You want me to give you a wedgie?" Then I looked at him like he was an idiot (which he was). I said, "I want a roast beef sangwich on a long roll."
"Oh you mean a Sub or a Grindah."
"No, I meant a Wedge but I'll try one of what you're talking about."
"All right smart guy. You want a vanilla frappe with that?"
"No, but I'd love a vanilla shake instead."

It was an eye opening experience as to taking for granted that with which we have grown up. Not really sure why I posted this today. Maybe it is that I've been reconnecting with a lot of people I knew back in Greenwich, CT, from where I hail. I've been reminiscing about days gone by and nights spent cruising, or partying, or just standing around chatting. A lot of those late nights ended at places called The Country Squire, or Pat's Little Hub, or The Colonial Diner. We'd talk and laugh about that night's events eating a some fries and a roast beef wedge or California burger wedge. They were good times and as much as I enjoyed them as they were unfolding I never really appreciated the absolute joy that they encapsulated. Maybe that's a good thing. In recent weeks I've gone back to those nights in my memory and have seen faces and heard voices that gave me joy and happiness then. The amazing thing is that in my revisiting of those nights I am receiving that same joy and happiness all over again. Pretty cool thing that is. I can almost taste that same roast beef wedge.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2009 Here I Come!

Well New Year's greetings! This is just a short note to say that I pray that all of you had a blessed Christmas surrounded by loved ones and may 2009 be the best year ever for everyone!

There is no doubt that this year will have it's fair share of ups and downs but we are in control of how high the peaks are and how low the valleys will be. So, enjoy the good and when trouble comes, and it will, take heart and know that it will not last forever and that we can chose to find joy even in the darkest times if we are patient.

So, get to it and start reveling in 2009 because before you know it will be over.

'Nuff Said!