Monday, January 15, 2018

Today I Woke Up Feeling Magic

Did you ever wake up and just know it, ya know? Just know that you’re special, and not the special that your Mom still tells you you’ll grow up to be someday, but special, unique, maybe even magic? I woke up feeling that way this morning, and not because my Mom left me a voicemail that said I’m going to grow up and be special someday. Nope, I just knew it.  I just knew today that I was magic.

For Bella & Grayson? – BOOM! After I almost tripped on both of them in the semi dark I was magic when breakfast showed up in their bowls.

For Cujo the cat downstairs at my landlady’s? – BOOM! I was magic when I opened my door and he flew past me up the stairs into my kitchen of wonder, followed by cat Bruce and cat Honey Bob Tail.

For the dogs downstairs?- BOOM! I was magic when they suddenly discovered they were outside peeing.

For the stink bug on my towel by the shower? – BOOM! I was magic when he found himself hurtling through space to the other side of the bathroom.

And I knew I was truly magic today when, after opening up the driver side back door to my Scion, I looked in my back seat and BOOM! – I realized I had somehow made it snow INSIDE my car. At first the magic I had performed was a mystery to me, as magic can often be.

“What wonderous powers must I possess” I thought “to have done something as magical as this?” No windows were open and it hadn't snowed the night before yet, there in front of my eyes, was snow on my backseat and even more of it in the back of car when I opened the hatch.

And it was here in the back that I did discover the source of my Merlin like abilities. An enchanted twelve pack of seltzer water left in single digit weather. If only I had been witness to my great powers as this 12 pack momentarily and violently turned my car into a snow globe that, had anyone been close, would have had them dialing 911 for the mysterious gun shot sounds emanating from a seemingly empty vehicle. My magic was so powerful that some snow even traveled as far as the front seat. 

Yes, I woke up this morning feeling magic. And though this probably isn’t really what she had, or may still have in mind, thanks Mom, anyway, for the constant encouragement – yes I am indeed special (open to interpretation I'm sure).

(pic doesn't quite do my magic justice as this is after the 'snow' melted off a bit)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Saturday Before Christmas Stupid & The Tea Candle Conspiracy

First let me say that the next time I drive any further than the mailbox (a proud lazy) on the last Saturday before Christmas will be the last and if, for some reason, I do venture out on this accursed day in the future and you see me on the road I want you to take note of my lisence plate and location, call 911 and make shit up.

Today though, I did make this mistake as I actually had a couple of dollars in my pocket courtesy of some of the best co-workers a fella could ask for. I happened to mention to one of said co-workers as he gave me a ride to the shop to pick up the $800 job on my car that it was an expensive day and an anticipated check wasn't going to get to me in time for Xmas shopping. Money, or having any, is not a skill of mine and this check, the return of my full security deposit from my recently vacated apartment (life hack - always clean the crap out of your soon to be vacated apartment you knuckleheads) had me excited to maybe be able to actually buy some presents for my family for the first time in years. But alas..... So he, unbeknownst to me, got some of the gang to get me a card with those couple of dollars in it. Like I said, some of the best co-workers a fella could ask for. But I could now, at least, show up my sister's house with something Christmas for my nephews Jake and Matty. Mom, Sis, Bro, my Sis's guy Buck? IOU's, sorry guys, but Jake and Matty? They deserve something to open from Uncle (or Unca for the Matty child reminisce) Steve.

So venture I did, against my better judgement, into Dante's 10th level - humaness on the last minute knife's present buying gotta get grandma, drunk uncle politic Bill, the paperboy and the rest of the requisite or almost forgotten something's edge. To try and steel myself as much as I could from this I had a plan. A plan that included just a couple of specific beer for when I was done to congratulate myself on surviving such. Get up early, like 7am early, get some laundry done, because no one can have as much Saturday fun as a single dude with dirty sundries, stop in to my good friends Bren & Bob to drop off some Christmas present plants and then get to the Mall by 10a. Did I think other folks wouldn't have a similar "early start" plan? No. Did I hope other folks wouldn't have a similar "early start" plan? Yes. Well, so much for hope...Hell, it's the holidays...who has hope at the holidays anyway?

Make it to the Mall I did though and, being a guy, it was going to be quick and emotionless. I knew what I came for, I was by myself, and nothing would distract me. Though I did linger over the calendars (the classic cheap I care just enough about you last minute to know your likes gift) slowly drifting behind below me on my way up the escalator I was resolute. I was heading to Bath & Body for a candle for mom. It was one of the few items in my plan and was the only reason for me being stupid enough to head out on this last Saturday before Christmas and extra stupid enough to make one of my stops the Mall. On the way back I would jump into Barnes and Noble quickly for the nephews as there, as well as the Mall, I knew exactly what I would come for and then it would be Stop and Shop, just down the street from my new place, for a couple of gift cards to augment their books and then home...blessed home.

My plan was going well, especially after I was able to shake off the almost calendar distraction on the up escalator until I ran into the tea candle conspiracy. Now I'm not talking about little actual 'tea' candles that are absolutely five minutes useless other than as decorations in some sort of candle display gift that is right up there with the I care about you just enough calendar or to be used in something solemn that just really doesn't speak Christmas, but instead a candle with the scent of tea. My mother is English. She IS tea. It is part of her being and a good number of years ago I found a Yankee Candle - Tea & Honey - that was absolutely perfect - she loved it, I loved it and of course they discontinued it.

Well I recently re-discovered a similar candle. I say re-discovered as it was a gift that sat in the sheets and blankets closet at my apartment for almost 2 years. Now it wasn't a gift that I hated and thus was relegated to the sheets and blankets closet to die (as referenced earlier, I'm a single guy, single guys, at least the non metro types, don't hit the sheets and blankets closet all that often to refresh). No, it was gift that I just didn't use as I went through a phase of not feeling all that candle-ee. But when I moved into this new place I obviously brought everything and it included that candle...a Bath & Body White Barn "Tea and Lemon" candle.

*Future reference: If you ever find yourself judging a tea scented candle competition put this one at the top of your list...and if they, for some reason, question your tea judge credentials just tell them "Frankenberry's Mom"...they'll know.

So I broke it out and in my crazy singleness I lit that bastard up! It was perfect and it was a candle that just screamed, scented "Mom!" A perfect Christmas present as mom and I still wistfully recall that fine "Tea and Honey" candle like a long lost friend (Oh, don't try and tell me you don't have some sort of similar). Thus my trip to the Mall for ONE item.

"Sorry Sir, that one is seasonal, there aren't any"

WHAT?! When the fuck did tea become seasonal?! Have you talked to the English about this?! Is coffee seasonal? No! Is Coke (Pepsi Ok?) seasonal? No! Is a plethora of pumpkin spice everything, even deoderant and perfume, seasonal? No! Yes! Maybe! Oh, crap, you know what I mean! Seasonal? Seriously?

The discontinued or seasonal tea conspiracy left me at a loss. They didnt' even have one "in the back" though I was encouraged to try back after the holidays in case there are any returns as most of us will surely take the possibility of a used candle. All I can hope for is that mom likes honey cinnamon crumbcake.Who wouldn't right? I hope? Sigh.

Well I couldn't walk out empty handed could I?

I made my way out of the Mall leaving a scented wake of honey cinnamon crumbcake, past calendars that didn't even cause me to flinch now as they approached me on the down escalator, walked 3 miles barefoot and shirtless in the bitter cold to my car (I'm exaggerating now as I'm still pissed off) and headed off to the last stops of my plan. Hey, Jake and Matty will get the books I hope they like, gift certificates to buy what they actually like and I'll have a story of tea candle conspiracies to share with mom. She'll surely say "Stephen, I appreciate it, but didnt't they have anything wine scented"

Merry Christmas

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Kevin, Signs & A Trip Shakespeare

I’ve watched the first two episodes of the new Fall show 'Kevin Probably Saves The World' starring John Ritter’s son, Jason, who is eerily similar to his dad in so many ways. That's a good thing by the way.

Kevin, formerly, painfully self immersed, selfish and ‘not a good person’ as he confesses in episode one, has come to a crossroads. A life that seemed so perfect and successful to others from the outside had him dead on the inside leading to him eventually attempting to be actually dead. He has a sister who adores him but has also come to her own crossroads with the loss of her husband, leaving just she and her teenage daughter. Kevin, who’s selfishness had him not being there for her loss, has moved back home and into his sister’s house with she and his niece to try and piece things back together. Throw in an angel of sorts who thinks Kevin can save the world as long as he “listens to the Universe” and you’ve got the gist. (as long as this doesn’t stray into “Touched By An Angel” territory I’ll stick with it).

One of the final scenes of the second episode was an absolutely wonderful bit where Kevin calls his ex last High School girlfriend. You know, that relationship you had as you went off to college that just kind of, after a few painfully sincere ‘miss you’ letters, just  floated off to nothing with no finality, usually for at least one of the parties? That party in this case is Kevin’s ex who, after they run into each other and hook up, reminds him of such with a basic ‘thanks for the wham bam, but you never called back then, so see you later’. The beauty of this scene is that when Kevin calls her, he calls to 'break up' that High School ‘floating’ all these years later.

So, playing under this scene is “Closing Time” from Semisonic circa 1998. As I’m watching and listening I immediately flashed back to a weekend, while at WVU, where a couple of guys and I from the college radio station went to DC, at the invite of a record rep, to have dinner with and catch a show from a band called Trip Shakespeare who were promoting their new album "Across the Universe". This was 27 years ago and that album became really obscure, really quickly.

Why did I remember this? One because I had never eaten at a Mongolian Restaurant before and two, because when Trip Shakespeare disbanded a couple of years later two of the band members formed Semisonic and had that one hit. Me even remembering this connection of the two bands is probably even more obscure than that album.

Fast forward to the morning after and I'm sitting at the unoccupied, but messy, cubicle next to the cubicle of sales guy Eric to talk to about a couple of spots. Sitting on the desk of that messy unoccupied cubicle I'm sitting at, under a pile of papers? A copy of Trip Shakespeare's "Across the Universe". The obscure come back to life all these years later. 

I shared this story with a good friend who, believing in such, said she thought this might be “some sort of fabulous sign for you!” and I thought, maybe she has point. A selfish guy (I can be such) who is supposed to change the world by listening to the universe? A tune I remember fondly, playing under a wonderfully written and played scene from a band, who in a former incarnation were named for a famous writer and had an album called “Across The Universe” that somehow was sitting in front of me 27 years after it’s now pretty much forgotten release? Mongolian restaurants? Maybe it was a sign. So I took the CD with me, excited to re-listen all these years later in the car on the way home and maybe glean some sort of ‘sign’ as my friend exclamation pointed.

Then I realized, as I ever quickly hit next track, next track, oh Jesus, next track! that there were no ‘signs’ to be garnered from my weird moment watching “Kevin Probably Saves The World”. Besides suddenly flashing back to that very cool ‘in the moment’ excitement of being part of a dinner and a show with a big label’s new band and their record rep and their new album I also remembered one thing. BOY, did this album suck. And it sucks even more 27 years later. Sigh. I’m sure more signs will come at some point. I'll just keep searching the universe. In the meantime though....**googling closest Mongolian restaurant**

Saturday, April 15, 2017


Most times when it comes to pets you go looking for them. You decide the time is right and you take the steps to find a new member of the family. You go the shelter, maybe a pet store, you make yourself available to that phone call from a friend about puppies/kittens in a box outside a mall, you go online for a story.

But sometimes animals then pets find YOU. You read the tales, see the YouTube videos of animals being rescued from hell and the amazing recoveries and you imagine what you would do if, say, you were that person that saw a monster throw a kitten out of car, or if you came across a lost dog on a hike, or found one of the abandoned seemingly by chance.

I hate to say it but I didn’t think about Grayson this way, even though I had experience of being ‘found’. My Shoes (his name was Shoes) came from a pregnant cat who adopted my sister and brother and I when we shared a house together. Bella came from a shelter’s chance choice of my radio segment’s “Pet of the Week’. Benny and Merlin came from the broken promise of kittens waiting when there were none but they were left. Grayson? He seemed too ‘wild’, seemingly feral, an outside stray that would be too much for me and my Bella…I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’d been ‘found’ again.


There’s a little stray gray cat who found himself to be doing what little stray gray cats do, just outside of my apartment. I noticed him a few weeks or so ago and he noticed me. It was certainly not love at first sight. He was not a fan, something he proved on Neosporin bandaid feral occasion. I would see him in my daily, scrawny with eyes seemingly tired,  filled with gunk wet and lonely. I, of course, had to start feeding him. Though surely appreciative of being fed he was aloof, solitary, sometimes combative and only seemed to mind me because of the meals.

But he became part of my daily, even setting my alarm on the weekends when the joy of sleeping in is overridden by obligation and a me in his shoes expectation. Little Bella has wondered of my new ‘friend’ and reminds me often of her wonder with her squeaks and talk and maybe even her upset, I’m not sure, not really privy, as much as I may like to think I am, to the thoughts of cats.

I initially named him ‘Gray’ even though a friend told me I shouldn’t give him a name. When I dared her to try not to do the same in a similar she ‘shussshed’ me and changed the subject. Yeh, I named him. It was, though, a name decidedly without distinction, too easy, too unimaginative. Calling a small gray stray ‘Gray’? Well that’s pretty simple Steve. So I decided on something a little more proper. ‘Grayson’

Thus, I’ve made a new friend and I see myself in him, fiercely independent but still in need of contact, a rub around some shoes, a scratch on the ear and even a wish of a belly rub with bad results. I’ve bled a few times.


Tara and Blake live downstairs below me. I try my best to tip toe around above their heads, though Bella with her wind sprints and counter down hopping surely raise an ear. My apologies you two. The only thing I requested when I moved in here was that I be on the top (3rd) floor, not a fan of folks living and walking on my noggin’, so I try my best to appreciate those that are stuck with mine. Grayson likes Tara, she has a good heart, and underneath her car is one of his favorite spots when he’s doing his cat lounging. It’s amazing how cats know that you’re cat people. I know that sounds like a bad movie title ‘Cat People’, I think it actually is one as a matter of fact though in a completely different vein. But that one surely doesn’t involve a sad mumu, a tub of ice cream and numerous litter boxes as this one might if I were inclined to wear a mumu and maybe a pair of crocs to the mailbox. Yeh, ‘Cat People’. Tara and Blake are such with their two, Little Foot and Riley, and Grayson knows that. I think he knows the same with me, but not without some damage.


Johnny is a very different older gent who lives in the building next to mine though I shouldn’t say ‘different’, gives the wrong impression, or it can. No, I’ll say unique and I have a feeling he has a life story that is well worth hearing. For now, though, he is just the older graying guy in a pony tail and Australian looking hat who has also taken a liking to Gray and will feed him on occasion and make sure his water bowl is full. He has even left cat food at my door for just such...surely I can provide the water.


Georgia is the pretty girl that lives next door to me, also on the 3rd floor. She has a cat named, I think, ‘Zaara’. I’m not entirely sure of that as she has always seemed a ‘Chloe’ to me but that’s probably for some reason that I’ve forgotten. Maybe an ex-girlfriend I don’t know. It surely has meaning somewhere. Anyway, Zaara, is allowed to be outside during the day and often will meet me around the same time as Grayson waiting for my return from the usual. She’s a big fan of people, ear rubs always welcome. Other cats? Specifically Grayson? Not so much. I’ve buffered on numerous occasions the two of them and, to Gray’s credit, he always takes the high road and backs away at my insistence.


Bob and Brenda live on the first floor below me with their front door facing the back parking lot. The two of them, especially Brenda, have come to find a new appreciation of cats through me it seems. They don’t have one as, ‘Sandy’, their lovable but not cat inclined dog would have none of such an arrangement. I came to know them as that is where I park and find nose kisses from Sandy. Brenda was a blessing to me when my Big Orange, ‘Shoes’, was in his final days, helping me with feeding he and Bella on my late homes and just eventually, simply spending time with Shoes, welcome company for him, during the day while I worked. She didn’t know cats until my two. She marvels at them and they with me. Bob, a gruff and good man also marvels. Sandy, as I just mentioned, has no love of cats, would probably eat one if given the chance, but Bob has noticed that Sandy has a certain respect for Grayson if she comes across him in her loungings and his travels. Thus Bob has the same respect.


Why the snapshot of my neighbors in a story of a little stray Gray cat? Because he has made his presence known to all of us. He has made all of us keep an eye. He is pretty smart that way….and lonely. I’ve heard he had something of a place with some guys that lived a few spots down from mine. At least they fed him and let him in on occasion I’ve been told. But when they moved they just left him. So yeh, he’s lonely.


Though Grayson and my Little Bella have come nose to nose a couple of times I’m not sure trying to bring him in is the best of ideas yet. Bella has firmly entrenched herself in my heart, even more so than on day one, a radio segment visitor from a local shelter, tiny on my chest in front of my microphone. Upsetting her balance is something I can’t do, especially after the loss of Shoes, her best friend and mine. I don’t want to disturb what has become her house, I just serve and gladly so. Though I realize Grayson has become calmer since taking him to get neutered he can still snap at on occasion and I don’t want any hurt to come to Bella. My idea was to fashion some sort of little cat house for him, something that I can’t afford to order from online cat stuff as they start upwards of too many dollars. So, I bought a large storage container, a run of carpet and duct tape. A little MacGyvering later (minus the high speed chases, gunfire and bad dialogue) I had built something that I hope he has the presence to use. I had also built something that was SO not pretty. If not, well, I have another idea, but, for the moment, while the weather is still strong, I’m working it.


There are two parking lots, one in front and one behind my place. I use the lot behind as my neighbors are always clamoring to be in one of the first couple of spots in the front even, I’m sure, thinking, agonizing about it on the way home from their day. I was the same when I first moved in until I realized that all this jockeying for spots was just dumb. I now just walk a few extra feet from the lot behind without the stress of that silliness. Just to the left of the last spot in the front parking lot is where I came to start feeding Gray, on the other side of a tree and next to a solid rock. Behind or beyond that is a bit of woods…and his tree stump. It’s about 2 foot tall and has a wide flat cut in it, after it was felled, that allows him a perfect perch to peruse his holdings as some sort of cat land baron. ‘All of this is mine’ I imagine he says. Growing up we had cats, lots of them, and mom was of the mind that they should be allowed the outside. The only problem was that we always lived by a busy road and that ended up poorly too many times. Thus why ‘house cat’ has always been the more appealing choice for me. Grayson, though, doesn’t have those concerns. The complex here is set back from the main road and there are woods, in front and back, there are places where cats can do what cats do without the concern. This is another reason I have difficulty taking that out of him, not even that that was something he would want. But I also realize that living in a complex like this provides too many variables of people, especially those that for some reason aren't fans of cats and might try to do him harm. It's tough line. 


I watched the other night, from my third floor window, Gray chase a blown leaf, grabbing and clutching with delight, like Bella with the numerous little stuffed mice that I throw. It broke my heart.


Grayson waits for me daily, knows the time after his morning feeding. If I’m to be late Brenda downstairs lends a hand. But a daily is just that. A daily. The daily’s pass and Spring and Summer don’t last. Seeing the weather alerts at work had me worried beyond worry. Freezing temps with snow and sleet. Yeh, the summer was done but Gray was still outside.


I’m a big fan of Ocean State Job Lot (a company name I’ve never understood), a monster store filled with…filled with just shit really…but in a good way. Craploads of non name brand stuff that function just a well as all the stuff it’s imitating. Anything you need you can find at Ocean State and cheaper. Kinda like the other store I’m a big fan of, Dollar General, the mini Walmart, but Ocean State is just bigger, more warehousey. When I go in there I always take the same route no matter what I’m looking for. All the way to the right of the store and then a hard left all the way to the other side. Kind of forward sweep because you never know what ‘new’ item you might trip on that you didn’t know you needed. Well that all the way to the left always brings me to the ‘pet’ section. Discounted food, kitty litter, pet beds, cat towers you name it….and pet cages. I had seen them, checked the price, had an idea but the weather was still good.

Then it wasn’t. Back to those freezing temps, snow and sleet weather alerts. I checked the only credit card I had, almost maxed out from Shoes and his surgery and final months of whatever comfort I could bring him. It had a $123 available. A large cage, a litter box and a cat bed came to $80 and change.

When I got home he was waiting, as always, this night curled up on the welcome mat cold and hungry. He got up, found my legs to rub around, grabbed a scratch on the ear and waited on the porch while I brought a big box in the house. After putting the cage together and setting it up with the litter box and pillow I went downstairs and led him inside to his dinner at the top of the stairs for the first time.

Grayson had his spot. Bella nosed. He ate and then slept like a stone.


His eyes seemed lazy. Lids half closed. I worried he was blind, or at least partially so. Every morning when he would be waiting for me in his spot on the porch, just outside my door I would look at those eyes and worry. I would wipe away what he would allow before a swipe of a paw. When I dropped him off at the local shelter to be neutered I asked if the Doc could look at his eyes, make sure he didn’t have an infection of some sort.

Picking him up later in the day, neutering done, I asked of his eyes. There was no infection I was told, but it was his eyelids that were the issue. The doctor shaved them down (at no extra charge). He wasn’t partially blind as I worried, the everyday lazy wet was not an infection. No, it was the eyelids and after that bit of work from a kind doctor? Grayson could now see the world in full, for the first time. I couldn’t imagine the same.

He was also slightly cross-eyed. Kinda funny actually after all that.


He was like the homeless you see depicted in the movies looking for shelter. Will Smith and ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ comes to mind. As long as they get there at the right time and are early in the line they will get a spot. Grayson was the same way. He knew that as long as he was around when I got home he would get his room. And he did. Our clocks were worked. But I knew that this arrangement would only last so long. He WOULD get antsy. There was only so much of little Bella roaming and nosing that he was going to take. For me this was part of the process, Bella and he would get used to each other and I would get to a time where I had the money to take him for a blood test. But for him this process was getting cramped and, I’m sure in his mind, unfair. I didn’t blame him. I would have felt the same.

Because of this I decided to let him out and to roam the apartment on a couple of different weekends, all the while minding his interactions with Bella. The time spent every night at the top of the steps in his ‘room’ had grown them accustomed to each other but I still kept an eye. In the long run, though, I knew they would be alright. I knew it from the first time they were nose to nose at the bottom of the stairs when Grayson was still outside during the summer. No flat ears, no hissing, no backwards steps with fat tails. Just curiosity.


When I got the call from the doc on Grayson’s clean bill of health I was ecstatic. Not just because I knew he was not a danger to Bella from any cat disease but because I could finally stop the dance, the nightly choreography of Grayson, cage, litter box, Bella, cleaning his bed after one of many pukings, mornings followed by all day worries of him outside in the cold. No, I could now get to just being comfortable again, finally return to a two cat one human home, and he could do so for the first time.


I threw one end of a shoelace at him one night. If you know cats, well, you know shoelaces (anything stringlike) is wheelhouse stuff along with crumpled paper balls, bought stuffed mice, things with bells, even the rings from the tops of Gatorade bottles will work for playtime. For Grayson though, other than that time that I watched him lunge and dart after a blown leaf this stuff was kind of alien. He was alone for so long. No one bought him stuffed mice or crumpled up some paper or threw one end of shoelace at him…until now. He bounced! Bounced, front paws up, bounced like a tiny bucking bronco and ran right out of the room only to return two seconds later with his eyes wide. “Holy fuck!” I imagined him saying in his large gray head “Is this what cat’s do!?” He definitely liked the shoelace, though he treated it like it was live snake who said something about his mama. He also liked anything I eventually threw his way.

When I first took him to the vet to be neutered the doc estimated him to be just a couple of years old. He was now catching up on lost kitten time.


I was going to name another one ‘Sneakers’ in honor of Shoes. I had made some trips to the Dutchess County SPCA in search of company for Bella and I had had some nice conversations with an old radio acquaintance in Florida hoping to make a move if a job could be got. ‘Sneakers’ was going to be a new addition to the house, a long haired orange fella I met at the shelter. I had everything planned. Get the job, grab ‘Sneakers’ from the shelter, hop in the truck with he and Bella and start fresh in the sunshine. Leave NY behind again finally.

I was, though, feeding Grayson at the time and I won’t lie to you, I wasn’t thinking of him. If things had worked out I was going to try and get him to a shelter before I left or, worse, do the same thing the guys in the apartment down the way had done. Hope someone else would pick up the ball.

I’m not a fan of myself for that fleeting thought because I was so desperate to not go through another winter but I also knew that I could never have done that. Turned out it was Grayson who got me through that ‘another winter’.

The job didn’t happen, ‘Sneakers’ had issues I couldn’t afford and Grayson? Well, he kept me centered and reminded me of me. He gave me a purpose through the cold and the greatest of rewards. Obligation, a friend to teach and a friend found, weather be damned.


There’s a couple of swaths of brown paper covering the living room floor that I refer to as ‘crunchy’ paper, the kind used to pack things for mailing. They’re layed out on the living room floor like long crumpled throw rugs. This is a sort of cat bouncy castle just minus the bounce. Throw a stuffed mouse on the paper? Cat fun happens. Grayson has even figured out how to make makeshift ‘forts’ under raised parts of the paper where he waits to attack my feet as I walk by. He really is catching up fast on that lost kitten time.


When I first moved into this apartment, single again after 8 years and a breakup that could easily be solely pinned on my inability to marry my solitary nature with contact, Bella and Shoes were my strength, my daily, especially Shoes as he was just my cat alter ego. Bella deferred to him but he also served as her foil and best company. She also knew, though, that she was my girl. But when Shoes passed away? We were...we were just missing. He was the glue.

So I had concerns about how Bella would deal with an addition and I didn’t think Grayson would be that one, feral, sometimes combative and extremely solitary? How could he be the fit? Yet I always knew he would and Bella agreed. Doesn’t make much sense does it?


You kind of have to drag it out of them but Tara and Blake downstairs will admit, occasionally, to the 'slight' noise. The tiny elephants that dance and wrestle and wind sprint above their heads. The 'slight' noise. Gotta love tiny elephants.


He nosed my nose and I flinched. I was used to Bella waking me nose to nose in the middle of the night and wanting to lie on my arm under the covers. Grayson? Not so much. I flinched because I still flinched. He was still a fan of swiping at me and making me bleed. But this night he nosed my nose, waited for me to pick up the covers a bit, burrowed his way against my chest and layed his head on my arm. 

I let out a breath, relaxed and Grayson? He was home.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Finding Sasquatch

So, we read about the weird, the unusual, the just plain dumb and the sometimes crazy all the time. All you have to do is troll the internet and you see the videos of epic fails with everything from bicycles, to wedding photos, to swimsuits, to motorized vehicles to shit involving fire, you see the fashion choices of the ‘People of Walmart’, you read about incidents too numerous to list about relationships being literally run over forwards and backwards, gun and knife fights breaking out over unequal servings of what’s for dinner, assaults with frozen meat or delivered pizza, drunk adults letting kids drive to school or away from the strip joint and all of that is just on a Thursday down south. But the one thing you don’t always see is some of this crap happening here, right at home like the ‘Sasquatch’s of crazy’ are truly elusive and only for the remote places where you just aren’t.

I thought about a year back that maybe I had finally caught a real ‘Sasquatch’ when I saw someone rolling a human tall blow up world globe along the side of route 9 only to discover that it was just an attempt to bring attention to some worthy cause. Noble indeed, but shit for a ‘Sasquatch’. You know when you were growing up and you saw ads on TV or heard them on the radio for grand amusement parks or eventually even grander water adventures but all you could do was dream because they were always in far off places like Disney or New Jersey? (Coney Island and Playland were just as seemingly far away but they don’t count). But then you get one right in your own backyard with a Splashdown in Fishkill or a Sandcastle or Kennywood when I lived in Pittsburgh and you say “Finally’! Our fun is right here, now I’m the envy of all of those ever wishful ‘other’ kids.”

Well, finding a real 'Sasquatch' is kind of the same, you want to finally be the envy of those other kids. I’ve been to the Walmarts here in the area and have yet to see a person worthy of a ‘Person of Walmart’, not even in Newburgh where you might think that the chances are pretty damn good. And though I’ve been to Pine Bush I have yet to be picked up by or even just glance at a UFO.

And then today it all changed, in the rain on Route 9 North, as traffic slowed for some reason just past Marist, as there was our very own ‘Sasquatch’. A naked dude taking his sweet time on a 10 speed, smilingly enjoying a full rain drenched body's respite, along with his thankfully lazy not stiff bike’s breeze, from the swealtering heat and, I’m assuming, not riding for any cause other than that.

Now if only he was in the process of being chased by an ex, similarly naked, trying to run him over forwards or backwards with her car or pickup truck while brandishing a frozen side of beef it would have been truly newsworthy but it still was what it was.

The only time I've ever seen anything at all like this was once, when I was a kid, and, along with my Dad, we watched too few adults try to hide the too many curious eyes of the too many young girl scouts in their charge from seeing the green streaker at a NYC St Patty's Day Parade. "It's GREEN?!"

But you know it's funny, though I can relay to you this actual bicylce naked dude ‘Sasquatch’ sighting with my own words I have no pictures, not even a fuzzy one of him riding off into the woods, at least 8 feet tall, to corroborate my story other than, well, my story. Maybe it will just become the stuff of legend. Take that red states.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Season 11

“Alright, it’s the row behind us” I said matter of factly.

“What?” replied JJ

“It’s the row behind us” I said again after surveying, over and across, the row in front of us and then doing the same with the row we were in and then…

“…It’s the row behind us”

“For what?”

“For me to go across and grab our first round”


“Because they’re Pirates fans” In our 11 seasons of catching at least one game, at Shea Stadium and now Citi Field in Queens, there have always been, inevitably, Pirate fans sitting close. “They already like me”

I hate sitting in the middle of a row at a ballgame as, eventually, you will need to Bugs Bunny ‘Pardon me, excuse me, pardon me’ across an aisle of people but in this case I was wearing my Buccos jersey. It was, thus, a much easier momentary imposition I thought.

Me and JJ (Jeremiah Johnsen is his name, not to be confused with the beard and living off the land) had fast become friends at Cumulus Radio in Poughkeepsie NY back in ’05 while I was doing an overnight shift and then a morning show when we thought it would be a fine idea to take our respective ballgame fandoms down to New York City for a Pirates/Mets game along with my morning show co-host, Reno and our producer, Beast. So the following Spring, right around the time my morning show tenure was about to come to a premature end, we did just that. I didn’t know the end of that morning show for me was coming but I somehow felt it in my shoes, when it was decided in the dreaded ‘upstairs’ I wasn’t funny anymore and was instead replaced by someone far less so but far more expensive in more ways than one. That decision would eventually come with a bite. I’ve never held many grudges in my life but that karma bite has always been remembered fondly and that first game was as good a night as any to remember that wonderful morning crew together as we sat just a few rows from God at old Shea watching that first game while bonding and joking with some girls doing their own night together who didn’t realize, or didn’t care how old I was. I thank you ladies for that by the way… and yes, there were Pirate fans nearby.

One of my greatest joys has always been a ballgame, win or lose, wherever I was, checking off 6 different pro stadiums in my time and though I’ve been on the losing side more often than not it hasn’t really mattered in the end. All that has mattered is the green expanse, the rush of walking the stairs, entering the concourse, ticket in hand, to the orderly confusion of favorite player jerseys/t-shirts and caps worn by dads and sons and daughters and moms to guide dad while distracted, as I have always been at the smells of dogs, burgers, pretzels, things with powdered sugar and the excited greeting of that expanse…the rush of that smack, the bat, the ball in the glove, the holler of the ump and the seeming hugeness of the same small game you played as a child, ‘There it is again…’ I thought ‘…and it never gets old’ the smack of looking out over that lush of grown up kids running their dreams to their positions and me living it with them with a beer, a dog, a glove and time paused. You know, I’ve felt old now in too many places and at too many times in the last number of years to remember but I’ve never felt old at a baseball game.

I was even reminded of that thought after I Bugs Bunny’d my way across that row of Pirate fans behind us this night while making my way to one of the snack bars for that first round when I was stopped by some Mets fans, the type of guys that try to make you feel at home while making fun to your face, especially that ONE guy, the smug one, the one that still finds it some sort of inside joke to wear the #69 in his over 35 softball league. I had my glove with me, as I have always have had my glove with me since my first game when I was 13.

“Dude! Pirates fan! Do you really have your glove with you?!” with the expected laughs from his buddies.

“Of course I do. Where’s yours?”

Another guy “How much you wanna bet on tonight? How about a hundred?”

“No, I’m good my friend”

That ONE guy “How much for that glove?”

“Do you still have the same glove you’ve owned most of your life with you today? How do you not bring your glove to the ballpark?” I asked.

We laughed as I walked away feeling the other laughs at my back drifting behind me.

Not surprisingly, as JJ and I and good friend Brian (who has been joining us going on 5 seasons now) left our seats to make our way to a centerfield vantage in the later innings, I ran into that ONE guy one more time, cheeks flushed, spending his time at a concourse bar hitting on some poor girl, the ballpark now a mere drinking hole.

“Hey, It’s the Pirate fan with the glove”

“And it’s you without one. Never forget what it’s like to bring your glove to a game dude. Be good”

Then it was a fist bump with a guy in a Stargell jersey and off to centerfield for some ice cream. Comfort food. My Buccos were down 10-0 and I was hoping that ice cream would come with a hug.


I had a press pass in my later years at WDVE in Pittsburgh starting in ‘93, the year the Bucs stopped being baseball relevant (something that would continue for 20 more), when all the players left and the fans with them, well, the ones unlike me. I was still there and I gloried in my Charlie Golden Ticket of a free pass to the expanse anytime I wished or when I was there to get sad losing sound bites from Jim Leyland or disinterested players for the morning show. People still needed to hear the trainwreck right? Me? I got to sit in the press box after waving that ticket at security through the press entrance to fellas that would eventually just smile and nod me through, no pass needed. Though the club was a losing one, in a city that seemed to baseball die after ’92 (I swear Pittsburgh took that harder than any Steelers failure), I was allowed access to that press box and the clubhouse and even to the ’94 All Star Game. For a guy who grew up in NY but bled Black N Gold courtesy of my grandad how could you ask for more? Other than winning? You couldn’t and I surely did not when I would walk in on a Friday or Saturday night, unencumbered with the obligation of a girlfriend or others, no sound bites needed for the weekend, and grab a beer and couple of dogs to make my way to the 600 section of old Three Rivers Stadium, feet up in the front row. Bring me bad baseball with sauerkraut with mustard. Now that was living.


In the grand scheme 11 seasons is a blip, it doesn’t even garner a flicker, but it’s been one fifth of my life, MY life. One that is only mine for this short stay but it’s been pretty big. Past days spent with Jagger (Maria’s son) and days spent with he and her, so pretty in a ballcap, days spent with my sis, her Buck and my nephews who are now stuck with the Bucs courtesy of Uncle Steve, a day spent with Johnny, when he was still feeling out his relationship with one of Meg’s daughters, the day in the rain where Beck and Buck and I moved, drenched, to the hitter’s eye seats in centerfield and days spent with JJ on a Sunday if we had a weekend series, getting there at 11a after the night game we caught to grill dogs, burgers and braut in a soon not to be lonely parking lot in the sun, to the game where I just missed a HR ball from Cutch 

and to that scheduled doubleheader in '77, with me decked out in my homemade John Candelaria jersey, the one that would have me noticed at the mad filing out after game 2 by his parents somehow amid that exiting rush, as proud as any parents of their child who, grown now, inspired that homemade jersey of a 13 year old from the suburbs who lived his 13 year old dreams by meeting John himself at the players entrance as they directed me and dad there to display their pride in the form of me. I even got a chance to meet John Candelaria recently and recount that story to a big smile, laugh, a handshake and an autograph on the years weathered Pirates batting helmet I got that day almost 40 years ago. This was courtesy of JJ. Thank you for that my friend. The bond of ball.

Though I didn't really expect a victory on this night with the Pirates pitching scuffling so badly it didn't matter. I was at the expanse. At the lush. It was season 11 of days and nights at a ballgame.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

52 - A Work in Progress

I recently took a weekend off and did something.  Now mind you, that sentence is a touch foreign. I haven’t taken a weekend off to do something since the last time I did and that was, well, that was never it seems. But it was also a stinging reminder of all the weekends where I should have, with loved ones in tow but didn’t. A bad I can never un not do. But this particular weekend I did and I gotta tell ya, I felt a rush of actual living from it and it was something that I had to do at this point in my life for just that reason. I went to visit my old, and best, roommate, Tom. He the teacher of 20 years and his life were holding a Poet Con. A coming together of poets and expression and friends. He asked if I would be interested in joining, witnessing  and maybe actually do a bit of that coming together.

Sitting on a train to Norfolk from Poughkeepsie (a couple of them with a Penn Station hub) for just short of 12 hours I was slapped with a reminder of me. I enjoyed the solitude of those trains with a Neil Gaiman book this day, and a packed lunch and could have easily continued to stops beyond, or as long as my sandwich held out to the next sandwich, yet the promise of meeting new folks and sharing poetry had me get off where I should.  How to mix solitude with connection, a conundrum I’ve been trying to master for a lifetime.  


Ya know, I don’t remember exactly when Tom (JT) and I weren’t sharing a place together back at WVU and before then. I know when it had to be, after Tom was done with the masters and I stayed on in Morgantown, after not being done with mine, at the college radio station while trying to catch on at WDVE in Pittsburgh, I just don’t remember exactly when.  I don’t really recall moving out, the whole packing and steps and lugging shit down them to say goodbye to that two bedroom place that started with pizza and fleas. Fleas hopping above that exhaustedly happy post move-in pizza suddenly profiled in the light of the TV as they sprang up and down in an almost circus of flight just minus tiny top hats from the carpet that seemingly had been home to a flead cat or dog before us. The necessary bombing of the place took a bit of the sheen of new place excitement out of the move but it settled and we lived even with the eventual ants who apparently just laugh off flea bombs. 

We had been roommates for so long and so well that I think my memories just kind of skipped straight to wherever I was next, wherever the next bed and stuff was. There were quite a few.
It started with our last year of college at Waynesburg where I stayed on for a fifth as the Resident Director of a Dorm, something that was requested of me, while needing to take just a couple of classes. Tom and I had already decided to find a place together for that year and when the school asked of the RD position I told them it had to come with a roommate. They agreed and it was the length of four dorm rooms connected and a slew of mattresses ‘procured ‘ from the unused floor above us. My bed was four of them, on the floor, stacked two on two. A Jerry rigged luxury King Bed of sorts that was only missing waved palms and dropped grapes. I still live with my bed on the floor, never quite comfortable in one as it’s supposed to be… it's nice that there's nowhere for monsters to hide. That’s a good thing right?

After that it seems something of a blur.  A succession of roomates and places and beds and girlfriends and mistakes, misfires, actual fires a lost dear cat (the first of many) and its upending, radio jobs that were good, some that were just dollars and time backwards, a wedding, an ex and a direction that never really was. Just one that always kept a roof and new cat food.

That has continued as I approach my 52nd birthday, a roof and cat food after a new ex of eight years two years gone now and the house we shared with skin and fur and memories of good and an eventual slow creep of bad. I wonder every day how I got here, what I missed along the way and how I can possibly make my last shot at a life that won’t just be one of walking, breathing poorly and limping to the end but one that I might still be proud of amidst my many failures.

Shit, that’s something.


Today I finished a weeklong set of three triple header lacrosse state playoff lacrosse matches that led to three teams being crowned State Champs in an almost drunken haze of joy countered with the hangover of loss and tears from the seconds. I watched intently from my sideline gig for Time Warner Cable Sports and their broadcast of the games (an envious vantage for the moms, dad's, sisters and brothers and others that were imploring their kids from the stands I’m sure) teams of High School players doing what they do with the spark flash of youth and it was mesmerizing.  I watched a game I don’t know but have come to admire as I enjoyed this envious vantage while figuring out as many intricacies of the game as I possibly could. Who knew, thought the newbie, what sticks out meant after a shot on goal racing to the out? It’s something I could have played, I think, if I weren’t so baseball centric in my same days.

But there was something.

I found myself with small foot to foot rocking and tiny anxious lunges at whatever action was happening for whichever team I had silently decided were mine. Most importantly though, I breathed. While keeping my head in the game for my job of the day I couldn’t help but note that, God, yes, I was indeed breathing, taking in the day’s big heat and wanting to do nothing more than to jog, break out a ball and glove and look for mom and dad sunglassed proud on a blanket or bike ride to grab a sweat in my own spot, maybe on trail in the woods, with camera in hand, or a fast walk somewhere in the sun.

When the games were done and the day was the same I made way out to the now silent parking lot, so raucus earlier with the horn honks of victory and special meals from moms for son victors when they got home, and sat leg out in my car, windows open to a welcome breeze, spent, after letting that wavy heat drift breeze away and my stink sweat go with it. It was just me and one last survivor. A guy and his camera slowly working his day up the long parking lot to its end of the same leg out at his car or something similarly paused in the quiet of breeze.

My little square squeezy cooler holds just a few cans with a plastic block of freeze in the middle. Its long lost freeze now, after a day in the car’s sun, was still cool enough for the soda waters I kept there to get me home after the hot. He took the one I offered on his walk and found his day end spot, on a small wall further up the lot as did I with my leg out in the front seat, tilted back just a little extra. Man, what a day to breathe and, for a quick moment, I found the answer to that joining of solitude and its companion.