As I have stated before on here, I’m writing this blog as somewhat of a legacy of my life. Not an autobiography, per se, but a collection of my thoughts and memories which might better describe who and what I am. I have my son every other weekend, and maybe someday 20 or 30 years from now he stumbles across an archive of these writings and can know his father better – or at a deeper level. For my immediate purposes, it also serves as a bit of a diary/journal and a brain dump of semi-organized thoughts that I have a compulsion to write about. Some people actually read these, believe it or not!
The purpose of this writing was that I wanted to try and capture some moments from my life of note. It started while taking a bath and listening to music and remembering that time I nailed a solo in a performance in front of a thousand people. I then compared this to the daily grind of life….you get up, do your daily routine, deal with the same or slightly different shit at work, have some of the same pleasant or unpleasant conversations, eat a slight variation of the same foods…wash…rinse…repeat. Life becomes monotonous. Maybe you look forward to your next purchase. Your next thing you can collect. You get the high, the rush, then it subsides…and back to wash, rinse, repeat.
But what moments in life have been the most spectacular for you? If life were to flash before your eyes right now, what would make the highlight reel? I’m keeping off any form of “intimate” types of things, as they no doubt have their place in the reel, they have no place here. Ahem….back to the task at hand…
Music – it’s either crushing a solo in one performance, playing in the center of the front line of my band at Disney World, playing at a competition in Toronto, or playing at Vet’s stadium in Philly. The most fun I had I think was playing (and crushing) “Sweet Georgia Brown”…alone, I used to play for me….I loved the A Flat and C blues scales to play…
Baseball – while I had my fair share of home runs, four moments come to mind. One, I was playing high school JV in 9th grade, and I absolutely crushed the ball over the hill. My cousin Eric was there rooting and screaming for me. The feeling…the absolutely marvelous feeling of swinging as hard as you can and hitting the sweet spot on a ball coming in at 75mph and launching it into orbit felt amazing. Second, I pitched 5 innings against upper perk. I think I gave up 11 runs. I wasn’t a terribly good pitcher with control. That day, I was grooving strikes and had a great curve ball. I might have been 15 or so. While I gave up a lot o runs, I just remember being able to really throw strikes one after the other that day. I just didn’t care that I got lit up in the 4th and 5th inning, I just didn’t walk one person. Mounds have different heights, and I don’t want to think about my outing versus temple, where the backstop was 40 feet behind the plate and the mound was 3 feet in the air with the dirt hole on stride meant for a 7 footer. I don’t think I made it through the first inning. Third, as a 12 year old, in the all-star game, I hit a grand slam over the center field wall in Stowe against Brian Lauer. The next inning, I was pitching, and Brian Lauer hit a grand slam over the fence against me. I had to tip my cap, and he was an amazing friend and competitor, we eventually played junior legion and legion together. In legion, he once hit three home runs in the same game against Exeter (one to each field). Never saw anything like it. Lastly….batting practice aka home run derby at the Twin Valley field (apparently, they have been in states like 4 of the last 6 years!). The right field fence was up 15 feet from the road behind it, and across the road was a lot of trees. I used to put balls up in the trees across the street and had a blast every day. Bonus – I hit a laser home run in my last day of legion against Kutztown, followed by 3 doubles against Reading later in the day to finish my season at .389 for legion. Bonus 2 – my last hit for high school was off the center field wall at Muhlenberg to get a double in the top of the 7th inning and then my pinch runner later scored to take us to districts. At districts, I was struck out in 3 pitches by Matt White clocking over 90mph on each throw. No chance.
Chess – playing the World Open of chess in 1991. 4-0 the first day. 1-0-1 the second day to go into the last day in money contention. Get food poisoning in the morning and almost miss my first match. Up ridiculously and accidentally touch my king and not say “I adjust”…with touch move rules, I had to move my king and lost in a few moves after that. Wanted to flip the board and cut the bitch, as I was up a Queen and looking at 10k. Last game I was so pissed I lost and finished at 5-2-1.
Running – I was 23….and 340+ pounds after gaining a ton of weight in college. I stepped on the scale at the mall and it said 342. A few hours later, I was at my old high school and I ran for an hour and 45 minutes straight. I don’t know what happened, but I hit a kind of stride that I have only hit a few times. You runners might know – your legs, breath, pace, heart rate, and everything line up and you just don’t get tired. I estimate I ran between 7-8 miles that night. Sometimes there are things in life you just can’t control. Some things you wish you could control and you can’t. Sometimes running would be that form of self flagellation of sorts…but sometimes like this time, the stars line up and you never want it to end. It was really getting dark and I eventually had to stop…but I might have gotten to 10 miles that night….all while weighing well over 300 pounds. Sometimes you cannot judge someone’s cardiovascular fitness by their waistline, but I concede, often you can 🙂
Golf – two things. There’s a par 5 at the course near me. I launched a drive close to 300 yards. Still 240 away from the hole. Take my 5 hybrid and launch it another 200. Chip 4 inches from the hole, tap it in. Almost had an eagle. Most of the holes I play are between bogey and double bogey. This hole, this one time, I felt like Tiger Woods could not have played it better. Golf has this way of sometimes making you feel like you are a pro, and the next shot humbling you like a 7 year old out with a Fisher Price club. The second was watching Steve Yarmush drive golf balls at the chip and putt place called Waltz Golf farm. Not my golfing here – but this guy looked like he never exercised in his life. Big dude at the time. Picks up a club and launches the ball Happy Gilmore distances into the woods. Never seen any shit like that in my life. Dude must have been driving 350+.
Movies – loved lots of movies. I used to use movies to get me through difficult times. No one likes being cheated on or having to break up with someone who might not be “perfect” for you or your current situation. I could not stand making someone cry. The first “real” break up I had with someone was 23, and it took me months of watching movies to try and cope with how badly I made someone feel. No words can describe how bad I felt, but we were different people with different futures ahead of us. I needed to see what else was out there, and this person was ready to get married. I ended up watching all three Godfathers back to back to back that day. I used to go to Blockbuster and rent 8 at a time (the max you could do) multiple times a week. Anyway – long story short, I admired movie making and it was so good for me to escape into that for a few hours. I found the AFI top 100 list and tried to watch as many as I could. The 1990s were such a good decade for movie making!!!
Embarrassment – 9th grade. New to school. In the band. There was a “pep rally” that night for a bon fire, and the band was to play. No cell phones circa 1990. I was the first there, as I normally was at everything. Mom drops me off in band outfit. Leaves. Lives 17 minutes away and will be back later. Other band members come…in normal clothing. Here I am in some stupid band outfit and EVERYONE else there dressed normal. Not sure how the fuck I messed that up, but that was a doozy.
Food – a few things come to mind. My college gf at times spoiled me so much. I was about to have a Friday hanging with the guys and getting wrecked after classes. 4:00 she calls me up and asks me if I wanted any chicken parm. I was like, “hell yeah!” She comes over, drops off a tray of chicken parm for me and the guys, and leaves. One of the coolest, nicest, sweetest things anyone has ever done for me…ever. Tasted soooo good. I also made a ziti once that was killer…two trays of it. I LOVED ziti. So bad for me. So damn good. I think most of my awesome food moments were shared with someone else. A pretty girl…an awesome outfit she’s wearing…laughing so hard you almost choke to death…eating dessert food at 2AM in your buddy’s back yard with a bunch of fraternity brothers eating something called Oooey Gooey bars while so drunk you cannot stand. Eating deep fried mozzarella sticks at 4AM at Durgin’s house after yet another night of getting blind drunk. What is very interesting is food in our lives can be integrated to social dynamics so easily. Sometimes, there’s so much cyber connections with people, you just want to sit across from real people, eat really good food – and create these moments. Last week, I just created another – paying $220 for a dinner where I left hungry….never had caviar before. It’s one of those “tiny food” with “5 courses” dinners. GREAT experience, great conversation, but was still waiting for the plate of pasta that never came!
Biking – I love the rail trail, and I’ll keep these to four brief stories. One, I used to bike a ridiculous amount as a kid and have really strong legs today because of it. We used to jump at “4th and Madison” and basically launch ourselves vertically up a 10 foot dirt bank after hitting it at 20-25 mph going downhill….my best guess is we were 5-12 feet in the air, and once I came down and literally broke my brother’s bike in half. Two – I also used to bike gring’s mill path, as my grand mom lives right behind stone cliff park. One day, I biked back and forth from Blue Marsh twice, and estimate of 24-28 miles or so. I might have been 10 or 11 and used a 10 speed. Three – I had a serious crush on a girl and was 15. Lived 10 miles away. Didn’t have a car. One day in summer, I rode my bike out there, crossed a major highway or two, and rode out to where I played baseball. I knew she lived out there, but had no clue if I’d see her. Saw her play catch with her dad on the little league field, and I played across the street on the junior legion field for games. As usual, I froze and kept riding. This is pretty much the story of my life involving any woman I liked. Paralysis. Heavily drinking in college helped this a ton…but I cannot overestimate the paralysis. To be young and innocent, huh?? Lastly – the rail trail. Maybe 7-8 years ago, I used to ride down and back 10 miles each way, then run 2-3 miles on the track. I just remember the cool air hitting me…the nature around me….heart rate elevated…energy levels perfect…my body working like a finely tuned machine, albeit swollen lol. You just feel that moment of peace and tranquility.
Tennis – I won a state title for DeMolay in tennis, then went on to play a semester at York College before getting kicked off for pledging a fraternity. That tournament was memorable because it was the day my serve was ‘on’. Anyone who played me in my teens knows that I had a serve over 100mph, but it might have been a 30-40% accuracy. Meaning, lots of faults. That day, one after another was a bb that painted the corners. Dudes did not stand a chance. That day you “hit the zone” and you feel no one could have beaten you. To add to that, we had a little “fun” tournament in high school at stone cliff park. They had like a carpeted tennis court, and we must have played 5+ hours all day in the 90 degree heat. While we didn’t have a tennis team, we had an ad hoc team of 5-8 who would show up to play all the time. Also, as a 10 year old, I started to play with my friend Mike and his dad. I used to throw my racket a lot. Right behind DiScala’s in Birdsboro.
Wedding – so I don’t remember 90% of my wedding day. I guess that’s why you hire a photographer and videographer. I fought tooth and nail about a lot of this. I’m the kind of guy who wanted to get married in a quiet beach destination ceremony with 6-10 people around as the sun is setting overlooking the ocean with palm trees around. That’s who I am and the wedding I always wanted. What eventually happened was 150 or so people at a Saturday night wedding in Long Island at $184 a head for the reception, not counting photographer, DJ, etc etc. It morphed into something not me, but gorgeous nevertheless. While much of this I don’t remember, I remember us laughing together over a few things – then staying up all night to hitch a ride with a limo at 5AM to go to Aruba.
Crushes – while I’m married now, there’s no real harm in providing some safe pseudonyms for those who shall not be named lol. Before Kindergarten, there was “brownie”. I used to go to hickory dickory dock pre-school lol. I think she was in some form of girl scouts, hence the name. In first grade, this girl used to come over and ask me how to spell things. I loved it. Had such a crush. Some kids were making fun of me and I then once snapped at her to “figure it out herself”. Lesson one to anyone reading this. If you are a guy, and want to be happy with a girl, you have to give zero fucks what your guy friends think. Ever. So off and on for many years I liked this girl, and well, she ended up doing ok for herself lol. 4th grade, blue eyes. Junior high, still the spelling girl. Then the biking girl for a year. High school, I transferred schools. Still couldn’t talk to girls. Shy. In 9th grade, I’m on a bus, and this girl I liked happen to be sitting in front of me. Never said 2 words to me before. Whips around, and starts talking to me about a movie. I’ll never forget it. It was my first taste of how I had wanted a girlfriend to be with me, and that is a best friend. I wanted to be able to talk and talk and talk with someone. So, it was good practice! Another one, I just froze. I used to play tennis for hours after baseball every night and practice my serves just in the off chance she might stop by after practice and say hi or bring a racket. I think I said a few words to her in high school, but damn…that shy thing really killed me then. The big problem with movie girl, that college helped me sort out with booze, was how to be friends with someone you are into and NOT get friend zoned. Usually, booze and just being yourself solve that problem. Don’t try to be something you’re not. If you want someone to like YOU, you have to show them YOU and not a projection of what you think she wants you to be. College…what a mess. Lots of emotions, booze, skirt chasing, and trying to find “the one”, failing miserably, whilst still trying to act cool around your friends. Impossible. My breaking up with a person left me gun shy for nearly 5 years of deep emotions before I had a “crush” again. This time, this one I married. Eventually lol. I think I’m allowed to have a few celebrity crushes today, although I’m not quite sure of the rules on this.
Most emotional – first day I held my son when he was 2 months old. There’s a library of stories that gets to this point, but suffice it to say, the first day I held my son was the first day a lot of healing started for me. Nothing prepares you for losing a child. It changes you. You see the world through a different lens. Then, one day, he’s brought into your life and it changes again. It makes you a better, stronger, more resilient person. For all of the pain I had endured during a year, this moment began a long process of getting back to who I was. I had lost my way. I was frazzled. I’m sharing this here because I think everyone has their own unique memories regarding their child. For me, it was “grateful”. While he is not in my life every day, he’s in my thoughts every day.
Vacation – Maine. I have never, ever in my life felt tranquility like this. My buddy’sister-in-law’s family had a 10 BR cabin in Maine on a lake, with tennis courts. Every day, I went out, drank my coffee over the lake. I then went to the pier, armed with a 6 pack and tackle box and would catch fish. Later, we often ate lobster and huge meals, followed by wines they had collected from all over.
Good times – those days you can sit with your brother or friend over Mozzarella sticks at Denny’s and just connect with someone. Let the coffee flow. Let the ideas flow.
So when you’re driving in your car and contemplating the day’s daily challenges, occasionally sit back with your scotch…..take a bath…take a long drive, and reflect on the moments that got you where you are, and the people that played a big part in your life that you might no longer have touch with. Be you. Show others who you really are, even if you’re “not cool”, you will be, someday, to someone who values you. Be your own man, but heed sage advice. Don’t be paralyzed, and write a cute (non-creepy) note to that girl you like. Smile at others. I have spent nearly a lifetime avoiding eye contact as some sort of problem I have, and it’s amazing when you force yourself to try and look into someone’s eyes the emotions you feel for them. Share a warm hug with someone. Put down the video games and tell someone you care about them. Above all, treat people decent, even if you are from vastly different backgrounds. You don’t know the struggles they may have had or their inner strength that has held them together. Extend a hand to help, but don’t carry those who can carry themselves.
Pause, and enjoy those moments from time to time, like I have here.