In a matter of days we will be setting sail for the Eastern Caribbean on the AAA North Penn/ Froggy101 cruise. This will be my 8th cruise and I can’t explain to you how excited and (honestly) deserving Erika and I are about this pending break.
We actually had to prepare ourselves for an extremely challenging twelve month stretch as 2014 began, and it has not only been challenging but this year has been downright overwhelming. Honestly, we have succeeded in doing some of the biggest things that a couple can in their entire lives (moving, merging houses, changing jobs, fixing/ renovating a house, putting a child into school for her 1st year, getting married) and all in one year!!! If we had decided to add: start a business and have a baby, to the list we would’ve achieved the complete list of marital milestone accomplishments and have no more big things left to do. JEEZ!
The old Jonas Salk adage states that: “The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more”… and I am honored to be able to do what I do, but there is also a quote that says: “Vacation used to be a luxury, however, in today's world, it has become a necessity.”
Don’t misunderstand me; I constantly challenge myself to be better, and to achieve the next level, but from the 25th of September to the 4th of October my fiancé and I will be unavailable!
Sure you can call but the phone won’t work were we’ll be…
and that’s just fine with both of us.
When I was growing up my parents simply never considered the idea of a dog as a pet in our house. Dogs, let’s face it, are more work than cats, fish, snakes, hamsters and a substantial list of other pets you could consider, so they purposely dodged the question when I asked them if we could get a dog.
Fast forward to now and the day that my fiancé Erika told me of her plans for adopting a dog (a large one at that)… I was totally against it. She and I both had small places that a large dog would be a menace to live with, and in a short amount of time we would be merging into one small place and the dog would be even more cramped! We live fairly stress free lives and, in my opinion, adding a dog meant no more nights out or weekends away without the constant thought of how, or who, would take care of the dog!
But honestly, one of my biggest sticking points was that I had a very well behaved and peaceful cat that I shared my life with named Butler, whom would no doubt be less than thrilled to surrender a percentage of his domain to a K9 of any size, most especially one that weighed in at 80+ pounds!
My fear of their meeting was monumental, and I remember the day that Endo & Butler met for the first time… it wasn’t pretty. To Butler the invasion was similar to that of when Hitler occupied France! Here was this massive, hulking, dominant force that was immovable and was seemingly thrust upon him, and he wasn’t leaving any time soon… his nerve and ego were in a state of shock and his only logical move was a retreat for higher ground (on top of the kitchen cabinets).
But a pretty miraculous thing started to happen shortly after the occupation (as Butler calls it) happened, he started to warm up to the big headed, dog faced, black mutt, in truth we all did.
Endo is a boxer-pit bull mix and his mode of operation is to love you to death. He’s constantly in need of affection, will lick your face or any other extremity (feet, leg, hands, ear, etc.) at his access to get your attention, truly believes at 8 years old that he is still a 2 pound puppy/ lap dog, and honestly loves Butler and his companionship to death!
They aren’t “the best of friends” just yet, but there are signs that show the possibility of a cuddle buddy relationship on the horizon… and don’t worry, I’ll post those pics ASAP! J
Moving is tough… really tough, but the real challenge is where all the stuff you’ve moved is going to be put now that it’s in the house!
Erika and I sat on the couch, exhausted and covered in sweat between boxes and boxes of freshly moved items, and just tried to imagine where it all would was going to fit. What seemed among the impossible was the thought of all of it disappearing into orderly places.
I have a relatively small place with not enough closets to fit my belongings, and I had just brought the entire collection of worldly possessions of not one but two females into it, for the foreseeable future.
There were 5 wardrobe boxes filled with both clothes and shoes, ten large boxes of everything from towels & blankets to pans & pictures, and then there was everything else: lamps, couches, books, tables, canned food, old records, shoes (lots of shoes), etc., but above all else there was toys…. loads and loads of toys.
I had to remind myself, box after box after box, that fate and circumstance had required us to move into this home as opposed to moving into the one we had intended to build, but that didn’t make the bitter and overwhelming feeling of total and complete disorganization any easier to handle.
I know that in time, no doubt sooner that we think, it will all be filed, folded , sorted and stored… but there in the midst of what seemed like an three day episode of Hoarders Visits Storage Wars… it was inconceivable.
On Wednesday I was sitting in the Lackawanna Trail Elementary school gym, listening to the principal Kelly speak to the parents of the incoming class of 2027, and I began to think of how awesome it was that I was going to be helping a little girl to become an adult. Man, what amazing changes have happened to my life.
If you’d have told me a decade ago that I would be in a “parental” position today, not to mention that I’d like it as much as I do, I would’ve laughed in your face. Piper and I have known each other for a little over 3 years now, but the alterations that she (and her mom) has made in the very man that I am have been astounding.
I remember well the “Things That IAbsolutely Will Not Do… Ever” list that I had established for my life, it was written in stone and I would dictate the items on it verbatim to anyone who wished to hear them.
I will never have a job that will force me to wake up at an unreasonable time… plenty of other employment options to choose from with a normal start time.
I will never drive a pickup truck… I don’t need one
I will never date a woman named Erika… too hokey.
I will never work in radio… TV is more my style.
I will never date a woman with a child… just because.
The items on that list seemed pretty concrete to me at the time, and I laugh to think of how I truly believed that they were going to remain the commandments that I’d live by… but that was then.
As the years have slowly ticked off I have watched in disbelief as each so called concrete item of the “Things That IAbsolutely Will Not Do… Ever” list began to fall, and my life became better as a result.
When you’re in your teens and early twenties you truly have the incredibly convoluted notion that you absolutely know it all, and there is nobody and no thing that will convince you otherwise; strangely it wasn’t until the day that I said to myself, out loud, “God, please help me, I really have no idea at all of what I’m doing in this world” that I began to learn any of the answers that would be of help. I am convinced it was on that day, when I uttered those words, that I began growing up.
Today I woke up at 3:10am, kissed my fiancé named Erika and her daughter Piper, and drove to my radio job… in my pickup. Astounding.
The lessons Piper will learn and the experiences she will be a part of in her school career are the things that will influence her entire life, and knowing that I had to share one of the most influential lessons that I have ever learned, and hopefully one that she learns a lot sooner than I did: Never Say Never!
When Harrison Ford in an interview was asked about how he dealt with fame he had an interesting answer: “You seldom see or hear it in front of you… you hear it around you, and behind you”. To me that was an odd response, but I remember the day that I found out exactly what he meant.
We had been invited to a fundraising event as guests, not “celebrity guests” or performers, and that was a bonus to me. It was to be an evening out that had nothing to do with my work. Don’t get me wrong I love what I do, and I do a lot of it, but when we are given a chance to just chill and simply enjoy a night out (without a work commitment of any description) it’s a rare gift!
The event was in the backstage area at the Scranton Cultural Center, and as we entered we did so with a relaxed sense of peace. Our friends had held a couple seats for us, and our timing was unusually perfect. The crowd, however, in the entry way was oddly large and rather dense, so getting from the door to our table would pose a challenge of sorts.
As we pierced the outer edge of the massive herd of party goers to head towards our seats I said “excuse us please”… in response three people turned to look with a sort awareness in their glace. They said nothing but slid gently apart and held their gaze as we passed. I will admit that most of their attention was focused on Erika, as it should be, but the mood of the moment had changed somehow as we pressed on.
Then it happened, my moment of clarity… the three lookers were behind us and as we were moving briskly away from them I heard one of them say to the other two “That’s the morning guy from Froggy”, and just like he’d described in the interview, the small amount of fame I have attained revealed itself to me… not from in front of me, but from the side and behind me.
We stopped, said hello, took some pics and spent several minutes chatting up a trio of great people. I came away from that brief interaction feeling like I’d made a couple of new friends… but I couldn’t help but wonder what it must be like for a guy like Harrison Ford, who’s attained worldwide fame, to attempt a date night and fail at every attempt.
I am more grateful than you can understand for every ounce of recognition I receive. I never find it an inconvenience to say hello or shake a hand with a listener of the show, or any Froggy fan for that matter… ever, but I did learn what it feels like to have a person briefly hold you in a higher place, to be somewhat intimidated to speak to you directly, and to hear the background voice of fame talking… but this time it was about me.
There are few things on this earth that I claim to hate… but one of them is the roads of NEPA!
The driving in this state is abhorred, and year after year, as I continue sailing down the byways of the Keystone State I am less and less inclined to believe it’ll ever be anything but that!
From the potholes to the heaving concrete, the crumbling road shoulders to the dilapidated signage, there is no joy in traveling from place to place here; but this week I saw the last straw thrown onto the camel’s back… the state approved the install of my personal favorite road pain in the ass: “tar & chips”! Let me explain.
The stretch of road that separates Erika house from mine (Rt. 107) was a road that could have easily fit in well to a war zone! Regular air raid bombings could only produce more damage than was visible on that 14 mile stretch of highway for the past 8-10 years. Well a miracle happened, as the macadam God’s smiled on us and a crew of yellow trucks delivered miles of fresh black smoothness to the gateway to my fiancé’s house, and Rt. 107 got a new and flawless layer of paving last year. Sadly, that was LAST YEAR!
Fast forward to yesterday and the disaster that is Rt.107 now… (see the attached picture).
“Tar & chips” is a process where by a huge spray truck applies a generous layer of hot sticky tar to the flat (usually flawless) road surface and then another truck spills an equally massive amount of crushed gravel (dusty, dirty and most of it not adhering to the tar) on top of it. It then is brushed over by a vehicle that I can only describe as a street sweeper from hell that pushes the excess to the ditch. In about a week the street sweeper from hell does an additional pass, and the job is considered complete.
The problem is that during the week that spans from application day to the final sweep day, it is up to the cars and trucks that travel that road to compact the chips into the tar, and during that process your vehicle is treated to a covering of dust, clanking gravel smashing under your fender wells, slippery stone filled travel lanes, and a shower of the same gravel flying over your vehicle from the drivers (just as pissed as you are) traveling the same road at a speed that sprays your car with military precision!
May I now ask: What in the name of the good Lord almighty above are you doing PennDot?! Why, when you do your best work, do you find it necessary to cover it? Why have you ever so consistently done this on the roads I frequent? Why is it that you have no respect for those of us who own black vehicles and wish them to remain clean and free of paint chips?!! WHY?!!!!
There’ has been a ton of chatter this past week (maybe a lot longer) about the lists that rank the Scranton metro area as “unhappy”… not mention unemployed, hung over and massively corrupt, so it might seem awkward for me of all people to write a blog about a happy place here in NEPA,
but I will,
because I own it.
I was padding through the back lawn of my family’s home in Dalton when it hit me… I felt at peace. It was strange feeling these days, seeing as how I haven’t felt peaceful at all for a time frame that I can only describe as: “as long as I can remember”.
It was warm, very warm in fact, and the swarming bugs were intense, but that didn’t detract a thing from the peaceful calm that settled over me in that moment. The breeze blew through the trees that hung heavy over me, and the sky pushed a series of foreboding clouds around that gave you the sense of a pending storm at any given moment, but the world seemed strangely right somehow as I toured the grounds.
In my eyes, during the last ten to fifteen years, NEPA has become a place that sadly lacks an abundance of true beauty. I know there will be people who sharply disagree with me but I have traveled enough to know how we live surrounded by a landscape of mediocre architecture and landscape design. The detail work of creating true beauty is lost here for the most part… it’s like we take no pride in our area or the things that we create here any longer.
Many formerly magnificent places in NEPA suffer from anything from basic neglect, to the problem of having been abandoned years ago and never fixed. Trees grow over clum dumps (drive the Casey Hwy), beautiful city buildings that represent our former glory are allowed to deteriorate to a level where razing them is the only option (The Sterling Hotel), it’s become routine to pass rotting cars in the front yard of a see through house and soon pass a development of estate style homes… sad, sickening, not to mention downright depressing.
I know that you’re saying that “of course your family home is your favorite, it's a place where your memories are and of course you’ll have a prejudice to it” but I’m not alone in feeling it’s soothing effects… Erika feels it too (and not because she drank any Kool Aid either).
Maybe I just love what I have; maybe I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the property itself, or maybe it really is as awesome as I think it is, but in all honesty, the combination of location and convenience plus the somewhat uppity neighbors that surround it make it a safe, quiet, and sort of “Eden-istic” type of place. It’s pretty place, and honestly there’s not too many of those left here… trust me I’ve looked.
As I was humming along on the lawn mower the other evening a realization suddenly occurred to me… I love cutting the grass.
As a teenager I used the family mower as my primary means of income, and as a supplement to it for several years after that as well. When I circle the lawn these days that old familiar vibration from the whirling blades is like a sort of time machine, and in my mind (for a brief moment) I'm back in high school on my summer break working for gas money, or home from college putting a fresh cut on the grass for some extra beer bucks, or maybe just doing what my mom no longer could in her later years... it's amazing what places that mower can take me in my imagination.
Maybe it’s the accumulation of hours spent making laps in most of the neighborhood lawns, or the familiar and welcome smell of fresh cut grass combined with the exhaust of a Tecumseh engine, or possibly it’s the gentle roll of the mowers tires upon a well fertilized field of green that is so inspiring to me… who knows, who cares, whatever it is I love it!
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t choose it as a career change, but I do completely enjoy the simple pleasure of making the lawn look like a golf course every week… almost as much as I enjoy the beer that awaits me when I’ve returned the mower to its spot between our cars in the garage.
It’s an amazing thing: when you have extra time you have no money, and when you have no time you have extra money! Oh boy, is that me!
I guess I shouldn’t complain… I have a successful business, I love what I do, I make enough money to afford an amazing lifestyle, and I am grateful for all of those things, but I just wish that I could slow it all down a bit these days.
I look forward to the summer months with an adoration bordering on idol worship, yet in my line of work, when they arrive I begin a schedule that allows me nearly no time to enjoy the warm NEPA summer weather at all. My grueling 6 to 7 day work weeks come at a heavy price too: I rarely rest, when I do it’s abbreviated, and I miss my family terribly.
Yeah, I make a sizable amount of money (that’s usually spent by the following April) but the world spins another direction from where my attention is focused during the 5-6 month time frame that I’m talking about.
I usually begin to lighten up with commitments around the beginning of November, which as you know, begins the slow decent into winter, and thus the ugly side of the cycle begins again.
Sadly, we need the money I’m making to do the things we’ve planned for our future more than I need an extra nap, and that requires work, so I suppose that I have to come to terms with the fact that I will wake up at the end of this glorious summer span and once again realize that I have worked my way through all of it.
I need to make a confession… I never wanted to be involved with a woman who had kids (or one kid) at all.
There I said it. It’s not that I didn’t try a few times to date a mother of one (or two+) but it always ended badly, or maybe never started at all. I lived most of my life like a member of the Seinfeld cast… too picky, and if there were even the slightest reason to abandon a relationship (or even begin one at all) I would take full advantage of that exit sign and bolt.
I remember being 3 minutes into a first date when a woman asked “So, do you like kids”… then confessed that she had five. Ladies a word of advice: Don’t do this! Let us decide if we like you (and you decide if you like us) then drop the bomb and we all can decide on taking the next step together, okay? Okay.
I also remember the girl that insisted that I meet her son for the first time at the mall (why, I’m not sure) and he showed up with a kiddie police helmet that had a flashing light and siren on it. As we walked the mall, for the next thirty minutes I wasn’t sure if I were on a date or under arrest!
Then was the closest call of them all… I’d met a very beautiful friend of a friend, who had a young son, and was moving to Vegas. She knew I was intimidated by even the thought of kids, and told me that if I wanted to her to stay in PA., and if I wanted to have a relationship with her, I’d have to be equally involved with her son (good move). When I turned her request to meet him down, I instantly realized that I wasn’t ready for that big of a step, and apparently I was not wanting her in my life enough to take it.
That all changed (not at once mind you) when I met Erika and she introduced me to Piper. I started learning a new life and a new way to look at life as well. Yeah, I fought hard at first to avoid the idea that I was falling for a 2 year old, but like it or not it was happening, and there was little I could do about it.
Now, let’s be honest, kids are a full- time commitment and bring with them a HUGE change in the way that a single guy with no kids has to live his life.
Your schedule and freedom are compromised.
Your patience and ego are tested.
Your budget and sleep schedule are busted, completely…
and somehow it all makes sense, when you have the love a child.
I have found my soul mate in Erika, but I have also met the love of my life at the same time… she is five years old, a fussy eater, and can throw a wicked tantrum without a word of warning, but she has taught me how to be a person I never knew I could be, and she makes me better just by being in my life, every day.