I’m a Sap.

Amazingly, I’m not here to write about death. Does that mean you’ll stay? Hope so. But, whatever. I mean, they are my words.

But it’s your choice?

Still here? Good.

You might learn a little more about me tonight. Why?

Well, for some reason, I’m feeling ridiculously sentimental tonight.

That’s OK, right? Wait. Why am I asking you? Of course it is. Remember, my words.

(But I am glad that you are reading them.)

(Really.)

So, this sentimental thing. I’ll try to explain.

Maybe it’s because we took the kids trick-or-treating tonight in my old stomping grounds. We’ve done it for the last few years, but something was different about tonight. Not sure what it was. It’s great to go there because my sister and her daughter join us. Or, we join them since they live in the neighborhood now. And I think that’s part of it. That we’re giving the kids a memory they’ll look back on in the years to come. Lord knows I’m looking back on it. I remember going to each house in the neighborhood. Who gave out the best candy. Who pulled pranks. Who kept the lights off. I did this year after year with Steve, Steve, Gary, Tim, Pete and Tim. Just great memories. The neighborhood was alive tonight. And what was even cooler about it? Coming home, signing on to Facebook and seeing other people comment about how great it was there tonight, too.

And, in terms of making connections there between now and then. Well, it happened at two houses. One is still owned by the family that I’ve know there forever. Though instead of the parents handing out the candy, it was the kids. And by kids, I mean, they were my age. And one of the two works where I work now, so that connection continued. And then another house, next to the house I played at the most growing up…well, the people that live there now? One of them works with me now, too. So it’s kind of like the old and new coming together. Only I didn’t know she lived there until tonight. Makes our next conversation an easy one. Good times tonight. Great memories.

Why else am I feeling sentimental? Maybe it’s because both my mom and my nephew have hard incredibly hard months medically — yet both are home. Where they belong. Neither are 100 percent, but each is getting stronger by the day. And, well, that alone is a good thing. I’m done asking for good vibes. For now. I’m just thankful to all who shared them. And, well, I’m just thankful they are both home. We’re the closest non-closest family you’ll ever know. And what I just wrote right here, well, that means a lot. Good times tonight. Great memories to come.

Hmmm….still want another reason? Well, I just read a friend’s blog tonight for the first time in a long time. This is a blog I used to read every day. Heck, this is the blog that made me start a blog. I miss this friend. She and I don’t talk as much as I wish we still would, but I think she knows that we’re always connected. I’m hoping we have the chance to get together for dinner some time soon. Because I want to hear more of her stories in person — and not just in a blog or a vlog. I think I have the connection with this person that it really doesn’t matter how long we don’t talk — because when we are together, it’s always easy to talk. Simply put, she’s the little sister I never had. Ready for dinner when you are.

More? Of course there’s more. I mean, when I get sentimental, I get sentimental. It’s all in, so to speak.

Well, I’m going to see two of my closest friends this weekend with a trip back to Marist. I’m wishing another friend could be there, but alas, that won’t work out this time. What I really wish — at times — is that another person could be there. But I’m not sure that’ll ever happen again. I don’t think about that person much, but when I do, well, it’s just a sad situation. What I’m most glad about is that I have some amazing friends and I’m looking forward to walking campus, going back to check out the places we lived, admiring how much the place has changed and realizing how much we really haven’t changed that much since we first got to know each other back in (gulp) 1988.

What else? Well, I’m digging my new job. Totally digging it. Of course, it’s not really new anymore. Not after having been there for more than a year. But I’m really enjoying it and starting to make my mark a bit — or so it seems. At the same time, there’s one part of my old job that I really miss. So much so that I’m doing it again this holiday season. It’s not part of my old day-to-day job, it’s completely separate and doesn’t interfere at all with my current job — or I wouldn’t do it. But it’s a way for me to get back to something I loved doing for eight out of the last 10 holiday seasons. And I heard tonight that a lot of people are looking forward to having me back. That works for me. First ‘meeting’ is 11/7. And, honestly? I can’t wait.

Ok, we’re getting to the end, but there’s still a bit more. We had some family pictures taken a couple months ago and they just came in this week. A huge package arrived at the door and out they came. First really good shot of the family. First really good shot of Renee and me. Two awesome shots of Aidan and Erin. At one point, when I was struggling what to pick out, the photographer said, ‘think of what photo Aidan and Erin would want hanging in there house some day.’ Great perspective and it, well, made it easy at that point. They are lifestyle shots — all of them. And, well, it makes me think we’ve developed a nice little lifestyle here.

The last reason why I’m feeling this way — or at least another good reason why I might be….my birthday is tomorrow (or today, depending on when you are reading this). I’m turning 42. Every day. Every step of where I’ve been has brought me to this place. And you know what? It’s a good place. I haven’t always realized that. Maybe haven’t always appreciated it as much as I should. Maybe have been distracted by things beyond my control. But, at least I realize that now. 

I’ve got family. I’ve got friends. I’ve got the best health I’ve been in for some time.

Yeah. It’s good. It’s real good.

So thanks for being a part of it. Seriously. I don’t always say it (yeah, that again), but I think it. A lot.

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Happy Birthday, Dad — And Assorted Other Awesome Memories

So today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 77.

But I’m not writing about him. Not now. Maybe not later. I mean, well, eventually. But this won’t be a birthday post like I’ve done in the past. Have I thought about him today? Sure I have. A lot, actually.

But I’ve also thought about other things in my past — and that’s what brought my here. Maybe it was on a whim. But so what. I’m here. And, well, apparently, so are you.

(Thanks for that, by the way.)

The inspiration for this post came from a strange thread on Facebook that started with an innocent comment about a friend’s interest in roller derby. She commented about another friend who would make a dynamic player. I made a comment that, even now, the two of them would kick ass.

I know that doesn’t sound like much but it then led to a look back at the roller rinks of southeastern Connecticut and southwestern Rhode Island, under 21 nights at a couple of now defunct establishments and old-school top 40 radio.

What do these things have in common? Simply, they are institutions of my childhood and early teen years. So, by default, they have an automatic place saved in me. A place where I can always go and pull out some fabulous memories — just like I do about my dad. But, as I said, I’m not writing about him.

So, those of you that grew up in and around Pawcatuck, maybe you’ll appreciate some of these things.

Since I started this thought with roller rinks….let’s start there.

Remember Galaxy when it was down at the beach and Roll-On America in Groton? And of course Wes-Skate in Westerly — Friday night sock hops, anyone? Now Galaxy is in Groton, ads are on the radio and I want to take the kids there. I never could shoot the duck, and I’d probably kill myself trying now, but forget the socializing nights as teenagers, remember the birthday parties and school nights roller skating — because there were a lot.

Maple Breeze. Do I have to say much more than that? I drove by today and was saddened. I went to the auction of when they sold the place — just to see whose hands would be on the property, knowing they’d never do it justice. I went to the property auction, and, as a result, have two special things in my garage — the old clown face and the golf ball sign that says, “Don’t Bounce Me.” On a perfect summer night like tonight, it was the place to be. Mini golf, go karts, bumper boats, water slide. And friends. Always with friends. Aidan and I were mini-golfing in North Conway this week and all I could think about was wishing I had the chance to take him to the best course ever.

There was always music playing at Maple Breeze. Always the local radio station. Maybe it was Fun 102 or 102.3 The Wave. Maybe it was RI104 before it became WRX, 103.7. Or, maybe it was the grand-daddy of the day — Q105. I have an affinity for the Q since I interned there and, most recently, was on the morning show a few years ago with Franco and Nancy and then Nancy and Shawn. But, the point is, more than a few of you reading this had red and yellow Q105 bumper stickers on your bedroom door or car.

So as some of you know, I went to St. Michael School. And, not sure about you public schoolers, but whenever there was an SMS school function, we always — and I mean always — ended up at Bee Bee Dairy in Westerly for ice cream. An equally good pizza place now, but each time I go in, I think about a Bee Bee Dairy sundae.

And speaking of St. Michael’s…Saturday morning basketball league at the Pawcatuck Junior High School Gym. St. Mike’s, West Vine, West Broad, Deans Mill Green, Deans Mill Gold. Great coaches and refs and great stuff for us kids. Even cheerleaders for the girls. Every Saturday morning…two games. And the gym was packed. Or at least I remember it that way.

Nothing could be written about sports in Pawcatuck without mentioning Pawcatuck Little League. I’m a little biased. Ok, a lot biased. I practically grew up there. I have immense feelings for the place and the people who made it into arguably one of the top complexes in the country. Gibson. Knowles. Lenihan. Walsh. Crowley. Cray. Seriously, I could go on and on, but I won’t….I’ll miss too many people. It makes me crazy to go to my own Little League now and see what it is compared to what I had growing up. If I ever moved back to Pawcatuck, that would be one of the reasons. Call me crazy, but it’s true. I remember the boys team that won the district and you’d think they had won the World Series….I remember the girls teams that were good enough to win the World Series. I remember all of it. It’s just a part of me. And always will be.

Back to St. Michael’s for a bit…how about the summer festival? Another institution growing up. Are you kidding me? Charlie LoPresto and family making fritters in the corner. Bingo in the other corner. The white elephant booth. Charlie Shea calling, “put a dime down, win a dollar. put a dime down win a dollar.” My first gambling experience at the dice wheel where they’d sweep losing quarters off the board into rain gutters. The putting green contest where a prize was a free pass to Maple Breeze. The moonwalk when it was there. Pony rides on the convent lawn. And fried dough. Oh, the fried dough.

Wilcox Park and summer pops. Seriously, remember when it all started? Remember the glow sticks you’d get? Remember how early you’d have to get in the park?

And speaking of the park, remember McCrory’s nearby? You could go in and get popcorn — and everything else.

What about Besso’s on the bridge?  A must stop before every movie to get penny candy when it was still just that — a penny.

And after the movies, you’d go to McDonalds. I mean, what else would you do? Of course, if the show was at the United, you’d be happy if you could sit in the balcony.

And the United was close to China Village — a mainstay for ‘special occasion’ dining.

So many memories. So many things to talk about. I mean, I didn’t even mention Rosalinis. I didn’t mention Thanksgiving Day football. I didn’t mention Del’s Lemonade. I didn’t mention “Smiley” working at the DQ. I didn’t mention the Westerly Community Credit Union holiday hoops tournament. I didn’t mention the wall. I didn’t mention the pavillions.

It doesn’t have to be mentioned to be important. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a significant event in your life either. It just has to be something — that when you look back on it — it makes you smile.

I apologize for typos and the ‘rush’ of my writing here, but the inspiration was there to get down a few thoughts and, well, that’s just what I did.

What I really hope is that some of these memories trigger some positive thoughts for you. I am blessed to have grown up in a very cool part of the world with a lot of very cool people around me. Some of them are still around me. And some of them aren’t. And often times you don’t think enough about the ones that are still around until they are gone. But it’s when they are gone that they can sometimes have the greatest impact on you.

Happy Birthday, Dad.


Your Second Choice

Your votes rang true. And I said I would honor them.

So, this post (which is going to be a long one) represents the second story to be told. The first was my life as a star. The third will be my trip to Italy when I surprised my wife for her birthday.

This post, however, is about a get-together I had with some high school friends, all of whom just happen to be female. More on that in a minute.

Due to lack of votes, you will not be reading about my day in a limo with Bob Denver (I still can’t believe nobody wants to hear that story.). Nor will you be reading about the time I almost got arrested scalping Red Sox tickets.

Back to the task at hand, or, as I like to call it, my night with the homecoming queen, the cheerleader, the salutatorian and my former crush.

It’s not uncommon for me to be hanging out with mostly women. For some reason, that’s happened a lot. Two of my three closest friends from college are women. It’s just something about me, I guess. Thankfully, I have a trusting wife.

Deep down, I’m also very sentimental. I love to think back on great memories. The past is a part of us, so why not appreciate. And I appreciate the friends I’ve had throughout more than just high school.

But that’s the interesting thing about this night. Of the four females, I was very good friends with one through high school (the former crush). With two others (the cheerleader and the homecoming queen), we were friends in school, but our friendships have actually gotten stronger since high school, which, in case you’re wondering, ended for me in 1988. One of the four, the salutatorian, I would classify mostly as an acquaintance in school. There’s no reason for it, other than we just really never hung out.

One of the four (the cheerleader) still lives in the town we went to school in. I’m the next closest, being about 25 minutes away. The homecoming queen and my former crush are a couple hours away. The salutatorian is the furthest away, about halfway across the country.

I ran into the cheerleader and mentioned that we should try and get some folks together. She and I talked to the homecoming queen and then we had the makings of a mini-reunion. It was going to be over Thanksgiving, and actually include a few more classmates, but I had a flooded basement and couldn’t make it. So it was cancelled.

We re-scheduled for a night during Christmas vacation and agreed to meet at a local pub.

I was excited to see them and hang out for a bit. To catch up on current lives. To rehash old stories. To exchange gossip. To think ahead. And to just spend time with folks I haven’t had a chance to spend a great deal of time with in the nearly 20 years since high school graduation.

We had an absolute blast. We sat in the corner booth of a pub and just laughed and laughed for almost three hours. Memory after memory. We just went back in time and reflected on an important time in our lives. Stories of couples, parties, parents, teachers and, of course, almost all of our classmates.

It felt like between the five of us, someone knew something about almost everyone in the class. It was just a great deal of fun. I think who had the most fun was the salutatorian. She was so into it, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. She wanted to know everything about everyone.

Here’s my connection to each of them, a bit deeper than you’ve already read about above. And, if this is getting too long for you, I don’t mind if you take a break and come back later. Heck, I don’t mind if you don’t finish it at all. This is fun for me to write and I hope it’s somewhat fun for you to read. Afterall, you did vote for it.

If you can’t relate to the people, relate to the situation. Think of your high school days and constrast and compare a bit. If anything, it’s fun.

So…where do I start?

Ok, the cheerleader. Actually, I should say that the homecoming queen and the crush were cheerleaders, too, but I needed to only have one cheerleader for the story, so here she is. What has 20 years done to her? Nothing. She’s as friendly as ever. Again, we weren’t incredibly close in school, but we were friendly. And we’re still that way. It’s just different, you know? It’s not high school anymore. It’s life. And there’s almost more in common now than there ever was. She has one older son and a younger son, closest to my son’s age. So we were able to talk about that. Also, because she’s local, she often has the scoop on a lot of people before anyone else. So that’s a good thing. What’s more of a good thing? She’s the same person. Just a little older, like all of us. But from my perspective, nothing else has changed.

Next, the salutatorian. As I said, we weren’t incredibly friendly in high school. But I don’t mean that in any negative way. We just weren’t anything more than passing acquaintances. I’m actually not sure I’ve seen her since high school. And I know I hadn’t communicated with her since I was running our 10th reunion and she sent a note that she wasn’t coming. I’ll tell you this, she’s already psyched for our 20th (which I’m also planning). When I heard she was coming, I was happy. I saw it as a chance to actually get to know her better than I probably have. And I think she felt the same way about being there. I almost didn’t recognize her when she came in. The short hair was replaced by long hair, enough that I was like, wow, is that her? We’ve emailed once or twice since December, and I’ll probably let her know I wrote this, but we won’t ever be super close friends. And there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s important is that we will always have something in common and we were able to build on that and just have a good time.

The homecoming queen and I have become better friends since high school then we were during it. I would say that we were friends in high school, but not real close. We had some common friends and were involved in some activities together, but that was it. For some reason, after school, we just got to become closer friends. Can’t really put my finger on it. But I’m glad it happened. In fact, I almost have her to thank for me being together with my wife. She went to school at the University of Vermont. My wife went to St. Michael’s College, which is just a few miles from UVM. When I was in college, a couple of my friends were going up to see friends at St. Michael’s. My wife was just a friend at the time. We had the same summer job. But I was like, well, maybe I’ll go. But I couldn’t decide. Then I thought, wait, the homecoming queen is up there. I could see her, too. And my roommate’s girlfriend lived on her floor at UVM, so there was just this weird connection. I had a nice visit with her and a great visit with my wife, a visit that probably set the stages for our relationship a few years later. But the thing is, I probably wouldn’t have gone to see her that weekend if my friend the homecoming queen wasn’t just a few miles away. Funny how things work, isn’t it?

The former crush is the person I’ve known the longest from this group. In fact, she’s one of my oldest friends. It’s scary to say this, but I can now actually say I’ve known her for more than 30 years. Yikes! That’s because we started going to school together in first grade. So we did elementary school for eight years before going to high school together. Lots of time to build a great friendship there. And, add in that our last names are very similar, so we were always sitting next to each other in classes. Our lockers were also together most of the time in high school, too (she loved slamming mine shut). And, of course, again because of the names, we were home room buddies for four years. It was just a great friendship. And then, of course, like most dopey boys, I wondered why we couldn’t be more. Well, some people are meant to be more and some people aren’t. We just weren’t. And that’s OK, because we are still friends. It was awkward for a while, but we got through it. And I’m glad we did. I don’t talk to her often as I wish. We email now and then and we exchange Christmas cards, but you know what, once a good friend, always a good friend. It’s just how it is. And how it should be. I could count on her then, and I know I could count on her now.

So, if you’re still with me, congrats on making it through. I won’t keep you any longer. But that’s the story of my night with the cheerleader, the homecoming queen, the salutatorian and the former crush.

If you made it through, thanks. Now think back to your high school years. Fun memories, don’t you think?

What else? I got nothin’.