Monday, July 31, 2006

Grasshopper and J-Mac

I'm sure many of you have heard the story of Jason McElwain, better known as J-Mac. He is an autistic student from the Rochester area that wowed the sports world last year by scoring 20 points, including 6 3 pointers, in the final regular season game by Greece Athena High School. He was most recently honored with an ESPY award for the clip. He is a local hero and a hero to Grasshopper.

What many of you don't know, and what I didn't know until just about two weeks ago, is that I actually have a connection to J-Mac as well. It turns out his mother has been my dental hygenist since I was about 14. So I've known her for a LOOOOONG time. And the little snot never told me that J-Mac was her son, even though I knew she had an autistic teenager.

But this isn't what this post is about. Last Wednesday, our local AAA baseball club, the Red Wings, hosted a J-Mac night, and gave out free J-Mac bobbleheads to the first 3000 fans. So of course the Wife took Grasshopper to the game to get some bobbles. Maverick and I would have gone as well, but he had a baseball banquet/picnic to attend the same night. Grasshopper and the Wife were going to get in line to get J-Mac's autograph, but the line was HUGE! So they passed. J-Mac, BTW, got to throw out the first pitch. And unlike many lame guys I've seen that stand halfway between the mound and the plate only to throw a pitch the catcher has to run to get, J-Mac stood on the mound and threw a perfect strike. The kid's got talent!

So anyway, remember how I mentioned I know J-Mac's mom? Well, it turns out that the way I found out about it is I ran into J-Mac's aunt, his mom's twin sister (who also works in my dentist's office), while sending a package to E-lo. She was getting clips from the paper after the ESPY awards laminated and I was like, "Holy cow, Jason is your nephew? I never knew!" We chatted for a few minutes and I found out that J-Mac was going to be at the opening of a Quiznoes that a friend of the family owned. That date just happened to be this past Saturday. So we saddled Grasshopper up, grabbed the bobbleheads and ticket studs, and ran on out there. This time, there was no line whatsoever, and we not only got our bobbles and tickets signed, we purchased a shirt for autism research that J-Mac signed as well.

He was a great guy. He wants to move to LA cause there's no drama in LA! Can you imagine! Grasshopper got his picture taken with him and I swear it's the same kid seperated by 10 years. But you don't have to take my word for it! Just check out these shots!






















Here's Grasshopper at the game holding his trusty (and well loved) beagle Tyler holding the J-Mac bobbles.

















Here's J-Mac and Grasshopper together. Aren't they cool! Grasshopper thought he was going to be shy around him but walked right up and said hello. J-Mac is such a great kid. None of this has gone to his head and he acts like none of it is any big deal.

I must vent just a sec, though, on crappy assholes some people can be. The day after the Red Wings game, guess what you found on Ebay? That's right, J-Mac bobbleheads. Some of them going for over $100! People went to that game not to support autism, or J-Mac, or anything else, but to make a buck. And it makes me sick. One or two sellers even said they would donate 10% to charity! How magnanimous of them! It cost like $7 to get in the game, the bobbles and autograph were free, so if it sells for $100, even after the ticket, parking, and donation to charity, they still make out with $75! That is SOOOOO generous of them! I'd be more impressed if the donated ALL the proceeds to charity.

I don't want this to end on a down note, however. So I'm letting everyone know that the Walk for Autism Research is going on next month. We just got our packet today. J-Mac's aunt (who I mentioned above) is one of the organizers and J-Mac is walking in the event (as we are) so we hope it will generate lots of interest and donations. As soon as we have our stuff sorted out, I'll be posting details for those of you who would like to support us. Also, I'll be posting in a day or two about another campaign we'll be starting to help a co-worker of the Wife. It's almost time to turn bloggers loose and show what big hearts you guys got.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

What was irking my taters..

I'm borrowing the line from Julie. I mentioned in my last post that I had to write about something else to keep from getting pissed off again. It's been a couple of days so now I can write about it without getting too torqued about it. Here's what happened.

Grasshopper and Maverick were going on a field trip to Six Flags Darien Lake with their YMCA summer camp. They have weekly field trips. As far as we knew, everything was all set to go and both boys were looking forward to going. So at 3:45 pm the day before the field trip, the Wife gets a call from the camp director and the conversation goes something like this:

"Hi, this is camp. We had another issue with Grasshopper today not wanting to leave the pool. I'm afraid that he might not want to leave the water park at Darien Lake and our councellors are going to have 7 to 8 kids to worry about and won't be able to deal with him if this happens. I don't want to take him on the field trip tomorrow and you'll have to make other day care arrangements. Sorry."

Now, there was more to the back and forth with the Wife but that was essentially it. She called me on my cell shortly afterwards, and I was HOT! How dare they do that to my boy! I had no intention of going home and breaking his heart by telling him he couldn't go on a field trip and his older brother could. Nor was I going to tell Maverick he couldn't go because his brother couldn't. It was unfair all around. Not to mention, when we signed the boys up for camp, we made sure they new that Grasshopper was autistic, went over what to expect, and gave them coping strategies to use with Grasshopper. Not to mention that I'm PAYING them a tidy sum to deal with it!

So I did the only thing I could do. I told my boss I had a day care emergency for the next day and took the day off. I chaperoned Grasshopper on the field trip. I rode with the boys in my car to the park and spent the day with Grasshopper's group. And he was perfectly fine the whole day. The "issue" about the water park didn't even come up. When the counsellor in charge of the group said we were done at the water park and were going on rides, Grasshopper was practically jumping up and down all excited to go ride on the rides. We couldn't get out of the water park and get changed fast enough. The only rough spot he had all day was an episode where he got angry because he wanted to ride a roller coaster and we had other things scheduled first. Eventually he got to ride a kiddie coaster and was happy. Nothing happened that they shouldn't have been able to deal with.

In the end, it was great to have a day with my boy to enjoy at an amusement park. What really pissed me off, and still irks me now, is the way they handled it. They put myself and the Wife in a real tight spot by calling us at the VERY LAST MINUTE! It's a good thing I work for a cool company. I've worked places before that would have hurt me big time for having to take a day suddenly. Plus I've actually got the vacation time since, again, the company is generous in benefits and gives me plenty of time off. Hopefully it won't screw me for the rest of the year as I don't have much slush time built into the days I'll need to take later this year.

There are days that I really hate day care providers. They're usually really good. But in the end, they don't give a fuck about you unless you kid behaves perfectly all the damn time. Call me jaded, but this isn't the first time shit like this has happened to us with the boys. And I'm sure it won't be the last.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Becoming The Fiance

There's a lot I want to say about something that aggrevated the shit out of me today, but if I write or talk about it, I'm just going to get all pissed off all over again, so I will wait until I can let it go.

So.......

We left of the story at the end of high school. The Girlfriend became the Ex-Girlfriend. We were "taking the summer off from each other" as I recall. There was not mention of actually getting back together and we saw little of each other that summer. However, some things are not so easy to give up. College started in the fall. I had joined the NROTC unit at college in order to attempt to win a scholarship. I had applied but was initially turned down. However, in August I got a call from the local unit saying that if I joined the unit and got good grades, there was a possibility of getting a 3 year scholarship. My parents were willing to pay for a year of college with the carrot of the US Navy paying the rest. So I cut my hair and put on a uniform.

Early in the year, we had a social event to celebrate the birthday of the Marine Corps. Many of you may or may not know that the US Marine Corp is a part of the Department of the Navy. As such, the Navy and Marine Corp fall under the same umbrella. For ROTC midshipmen, it means wearing the globe and anchor insignia instead of just the anchor insignia. And much shorter hair. In any event, I needed a date for the event, as coming unescorted was not an option. Nor was blowing it off, actually. In the Navy, it was what we called "mandetory fun". Always mandetory, not always fun.

So, I called Miss E and asked her to go, as I didn't have a girlfriend at the time. The party was indeed mandetory, and only minimally fun. We left early and walked around campus, just hanging out and talking. We got around to our relationship and what the hell we were doing. We hemmed and hawed about whether to get back together or call it quits for good. I recall the conversation not going much of anywhere. So I did what I'm known to do: say the first thing that pops into my head. Which was:

"Marry me or we done."

Or essentially that, if not the exact words. Mind you, we were both all of 18 at the time. She said, "ok, I guess so" or words to that effect and we agreed we'd be "engaged to be engaged" as I didn't have a proper ring or the money to procure one. Thus began the real road to where we are today.

College was a blur of memories. I recall going to her parents place every weekend and actually trying to work on homework on Sunday nights. I recall a lot of kissing and hugging and not a lot of homework. The first time we ever made love was June 2, 1986. I know this date because she wrote it on a card with all of our "important" dates on it, which we still have. It has the date we started dating, and the date I gave her the actual engagement ring (that story shortly). We hung out a lot with my best buddy Scott. That got me into trouble occasionally, since I had a tendancy to promise to meet her at a certain time and then be WAAAAY late because Scott and I were hanging and I'd push it to the limit. One time she even drove over to Scott's house where I was, got out of the car and slammed the door, glared at me menacingly, then got back in the car and tore off. I hopped in my car and chased her halfway around the county before she stopped.

Scott also had this tendancy to call us while we were "otherwise occupied". It never failed. We'd be alone at her place. We'd be getting to something "good", and the phone would ring. It was Scott. And he'd always ask, "Are you in the middle of anything?" And the answer would always be "Yes." Uncanny ability he had.

There where Navy Balls every year in April. The guys would get in our choker white uniforms and the ladies would get a really nice dress. We'd have a formal dinner and then dancing.
She always looked hot. She went to a community college for two years then transferred to the 4 year school I attended junior year. It was nice then. We'd have lunch together when our schedules coincided. Our good friend P also transferred in so occasionally it would be a threesome (for lunch that is, you sick little puppies).

It was during this time that it really struck me. Up until about the end of freshman year of college, we were a couple, and I loved her, but the eye still wandered. I might look at another woman and wonder whether she'd make a good girlfriend or something. By sometime sophmore year, I stopped being interested in other women. I'd still find them attractive and enjoy thier company or looking at them, but I wasn't interested in them in any other way. Basically meaning I had no desire whatsoever to have sex with them. That was HUGE for me. I realized that I truly LOVED Miss E and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. It's a feeling that I've never lost in all the years since. Some people say that you meet someone and you just KNOW they're the ONE. Well, it took me a few years, but it struck me. I've got this sense in me that tells me in my gut through the entire fiber of my being that something is RIGHT. When we were picking a pre-school program for Grasshopper to deal with his autism, I just KNEW that the school we sent him to was where he needed to go. And it was. Same thing here.

So, it's 1986. June 2 was a momentous day for us (at least, I'd like to think so). I'm working full time in the summer and one quarter during the school year as part of the co-op program that goes with my major. Meaning, I've got cash for a ring. Miss E know's I'm going to get her a ring at some point. We've even been shopping. I've been directed to buy her a marquis cut or don't even bother. When I suggested a pear shape as an alternative, I get "what part of marquis or else don't you get?" So what do I do? I find a really nice pear shaped diamond that I can afford. Nice quality. I put a down payment on it. I tell my mom I picked out a ring. I tell her it's a pear. She says, "Didn't she say she wanted a marquis?" So she makes me go back with her to look at the ring. Then she smacks me upside the head and makes me switch it for a marquis cut instead.

I've got the ring now, but I need a plan to give it to her. So I recall the story my theology teacher from high school, Stormin' Norman, related. He had been in a similar situation. He put together an elaborate plan tied to a family picnic to give her the ring. The concept was good: use an occasion where she would never expect to get a ring. His execution was poor, but that's another story. My plan: I call Miss E and say, "what do you say we go out for New Year's Eve this year?" I ask her in July. She says, "Sure, I guess." Plan now in action! In the fall, I made reservations for New Years Eve and a swanky resteraunt in town. One evening, well before that night, I even spill the beans to her with her parents there. I say to her in that voice that says "I'm messing with you": "Guess what I got you!" "Whaaaaat?" she replies. "I got you a half carat marquis diamond ring!" "Sure you did," she replies and goes upstairs to get ready. When she's out of earshot, I tell her parents, "Actually, I did! I'm giving it to her New Year's Eve."

So everyone knew about it except for her! New Year's Eve comes along, and we go out and have a nice dinner. I've got the ring in my pocked wrapped in Donald Duck Christmas wrapping paper. Since her birthday is January 9, after dinner I pull it out and tell her I have an late Christmas/early birthday present for her. She opens the wrapper and stares at the box. She cracks the box open and starts to cry. That's when I officially propose to her. Many tears and hugs ensued. The waitress was quite attentive as she realized what was going on and asked to see the rock. After dinner, we went to see her parents at a friend's house and the first words out of her mother's mouth when we came in were "Let me see the ring!" The Fiance couldn't beleive I'd managed to tell everyone and keep her in the dark for nearly 6 months. You may cheer now. I rule. I know.

So this was New Year's Eve 1986. We weren't graduating from college until 1989, so we had some time to plan the wedding. I will end this chapter of the story here and pick it in the next installment, covering from the ring to the wedding, and all the insanity the three weeks surrounding it was.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Major Milestone

This is just too good not to be blogged. We've been working with Grasshopper to teach him to ride a two wheel bike. He's been getting frustrated since he didn't get it in like 2 seconds so he's been saying he doesn't want to learn and will just use training wheels his whole life. We've been explaining that it takes a while and just be patient, he'll get it with practice.

Well, yesterday, his best friend dropped by to play. He'd rode his bike over (a two-wheeler of course). So they go outside to play. A little while later his friend runs into the house and yells, "Grasshopper is riding a two wheel bike!". We run out there and here's Grasshopper getting his bearings on the two wheel bike, going only a few feet by himself, but definately riding. A little encouragement by his best friend went a much longer way than ours. Within about 15 minutes Grasshopper was riding up and down the street no problem. He's still having trouble starting and stopping, but now he's so excited he can't wait to get home from camp so he can practice some more.

Aren't best friends the coolest thing in the world?


Thursday, July 20, 2006

I'm so bad...

...baby I don't care!

I was a baaaaaad boy today! I had a laptop at karate and there was an unsecured wirelss network out there I could connect to. I brought up the configuration page for the wireless router and sure enough, the owner didn't change the default administrator name and password. I had complete access to his wireless network. So I changed the broadcast name of the network to Pleasehackme!. Aren't I terrible? I didn't change anything else, however, so I didn't do any real damage, but hopefully this will wake up whoever owns the router.

I've finished another song, at least the lyrics, at karate as well. I have to sit down and put some music to it. It should be done soon. Also, one of the members of the band has convinced me to submit one of my songs as the theme song for next year's NCYC event (National Catholic Youth Conference). Don't know if they'll pick it, but why not. It's a new song called Keep the Faith. The band will have to record a very dirty demo to submit. I'll keep you up to date.

I was going to write the next chapter in my saga, but it's quite a bit of work and I'm too damn tired. However, the Wife is taking a shower and I'm very tempted to join her, but she's all work and no play when showering. Bummer, I know. Retro, NO TORRID DETAILS FOR YOU! I'll get something up before the end of the weekend, I promise. I might even throw in a TOOOOORRRRIIIIDDDD detail or two if you guys are really good. So mind your manners.

Oh, and almost forgot, since Jude was willing to vote for me for dictator for life, I give you:

You can live free in my monarchy
Wanna be the King of the World
You don't have to do before you can be
Wanna be the King of the World

If you take me, I'll give the world another chance
I'll make the politicians dance
You're taking a chance either way


Prize of unspeakable value (that is so worthless we shall not speak of it) to whomever can figure out the above reference without googling it!


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blame E-Lo

I've been tagged! Miss E-Lo has decreed that I complete a meme with 20 things I love and 20 things I hate. Further details of how Miss E became The Wife will have to wait. Feel free to visit her blog and voice your displeasure. Or tell her how cute her kid is.

20 Things I Hate (in no particular order)

1. Heat and humidity. - I prefer not to sweat my ass off.
2. Getting up early.
3. People that are in my way. - I move fast. Stay with me or move before I run you down.
4. Boring meetings. - Thank God I can bring a laptop and do something else when I tune out anyway.
5. People that insult my intelligence. - I'll admit if I'm wrong, but don't treat me like I'm stupid.
6. Mangers that keep changing their minds. - Let's make a decision and then go with it!
7. Getting my car fixed. - It equals lots of money, guarrenteed.
8. Network news - Sqeezing a complicated story into a 30 second report gives you nothing. Whatever happened to content.
9. People that don't understand my kids.
10. Tripe. - Enough said.
11. All the fighting in the Middle East. - It's time to get the hell out of there, rope the area off, and let them all destroy each other.
12. That my lotto numbers never win. - I could really use a couple of million dollars to pay off the house and let the Wife quit her job.
13. The Wife's job - she hates it and would rather stay home with the boys.
14. The Buffalo Bills
15. Buffalo, NY
16. The Yankees
17. The DDSO for taking away Grasshopper's benefits.
18. When my friends are having a tough time.
19. That I can't save the world. - If I were dicator for life, the world would be a better place.
20. That I had to come up with 19 things I hate.

20 Things I Love

1. The Wife
2. Grasshopper
3. Maverick
4. Music/guitar
5. The Lord for giving me 1-4.
6. Being Italian
7. Eating good food
8. Rollerblading
9. Being a computer geek
10. Snuggling with the Wife
11. My Faith on Fire bandmates
12. Queen
13. My blogger pals (you know who you are!)
14. Helping out my friends with nothing in return expected
15. Sleeping in
16. Visiting Washington DC
17. Being different
18. Europe
19. Sitting on my porch
20. That I'm done with this meme.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Another Interlude

These last two posts where written out of order, but I really wanted the one below to be at the top, since it was fresh in my mind when I began writing. Also, I promise to scan the junior prom picture of the Wife and I. I show it to everyone (it's still in my wallet) so why not you guys? You'll get to see us as our 16 year old selves.

I just had to write about events from today. It was one of those days where I was quadruple booked. Maverick had a sax lesson at school at 11 am, so I had to leave work in the morning, get Maverick, go to the lesson, get him back to camp, get back to work and work through lunch. Then this evening, Faith on Fire played at an ice cream social at about 6:30, so it was get home, eat quick, and run out the door to get there early so we could have a sound check. PLUS, Grasshopper had a soccer game at 7:15 so I had to get the heck out of church really fast after the ice cream social to get him to his game resonably on time. And still find time to collect the trash for trash night, make lunches, and perhaps blog all before bed.

So as you can see, I got home from work pretty stressed out with everything going on tonight. I got Grasshopper in his soccer uniform right after dinner. I showed up at church stressed out to start. And the first thing I hear is "They closed the doors on us and no one will hear us. I'm leaving now." Our church is round with a new addition on one side with meeting rooms and a kitchen that opens up into the main church for overflow seating. The original plan was that the group would play, with the doors to the addition open, while people had ice cream. This plan was shot down last minute. So tempers were short.

We tried to work around it with the sound system, but it wasn't happening. So, I being the leader of the group, was nominated to go to our pastor and fix the problem, meaning, go tell him to get the doors opened so people would hear us. So I chatted with him and explained when we were planning to start, and our concern over the doors to the addition being closed. He stated he wanted to do that to prevent people from going into the church with the ice cream and making a mess, which I completely understood. He liked the idea of us starting at 6:30, as the social started at 6. He figured that after about 30 minutes, the early crowd would be looking to leave anyway, so why not direct them back into the church and we could play our set for them from 6:30 to 7. Sounded reasonable to me.

So I pass this on to the group. I got very skeptical faces in return. So we got in a circle and prayed, then went and had ice cream. At about 6:25, I reminded the pastor we were starting shortly. We began a few minutes late, with a couple of people in the church. By the time we began the second song, everyone else came in and we got the set really rolling.

And it ROCKED! And it was SPIRITUAL! And people were clapping and standing up and praising! One of the songs, How Great Is Our God, was just so moving for me. I was just belting out the song and put all of my emotion into it. We were moving around and doing our thing and after half an hour I was sweating my ass off. But it was AWESOME! One of our skeptical band members just hugged me afterwards and thanked me for bringing the Spirit among us. At that's what it was really all about. We play, and the Spirit moves us.

Afterward, I went to the game with Grasshopper. He got there about 10 minutes late but got plenty of playing time. The kids had a water gun war and more ice cream after the game. When we got home, I happened to go outside for a few minutes and it hit me. I went into church today really stressed and ready to snarl at people if they gave me any crap. I left church, after nearly exhausting myself emotionally and physically, totally at peace. That's the power of music my friends. That's why I continue to play and give my music to God.


The Girlfriend

Before I begin the story of how I began dating the girl that would one day become (dum, dum dum!) the Wife, a little background is needed. I "met" Miss E in homeroom freshman year of high school. I say met, in that she sat in the row next to mine and a few seats up in homeroom. I knew her name and she knew mine, and that was about it. We started hanging out after I kind of elbowed my way into her circle of friends. I played sax in the band freshman and sophmore year. I got to be friends with the clarinet playing gal next to me, RP. By the end of freshman year we started hanging out. So I started hanging out with her group of friends, who all happened to be girls (I know, hurt me). So by sophomore year, I was officially part of the P gang, as it was know. It was one of those things that just happened, and Miss E happened to also be in the gang.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I hadn't really payed much attention to any of the girls in the gang until some sort of insanity overtook LC (again, in the gang) and she agreed to date me, if only for a few days. After the breakup, she had mentioned in a casual way how The Girl That Would Become the Wife was cute. I hadn't really thought about it, but as it turned out, she sat in front of me in English (her name being just before mine in the alphabet). It being still fall, the girls in our Catholic high school got to wear "summer" uniforms, meaning a one piece outfit in blue, pink or yellow, with a short skirt. While all were above the knee, a few were barely below the ass. Ah yes, all the boys in the school liked when summer uniforms were again allowed. Anyway, she sat in front of me wearing these short skirts, and sitting with her legs crossed and slightly off to the side of the desk. RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. OH.MY.GOD! She had, and still does have, the most INCREDIBLE legs! I must admit, once the thought got into my head, I couldn't help but fall for those legs. It also didn't hurt that she was tall and thin. The only drawback, perhaps, was that she wore glasses, BUT SHE HAD GREAT LEGS!

So, around late October of that year, I could no longer stand the lure of the legs and asked her out. And she agreed! Unbeknownst to me, it turns out she had a crush on me! Who knew? All the others in the gang seemed to know, but of course, since the were GIRLS, of course they talked about that kind of stuff. Thus are the humble beginnings of our relationship. High school had so many memorable incidents. Early on it was kind of strange. It was a new relationship, so there was a lot of kissing going on. And groping whatever she'd let me get my hands on. She's always had very smooth skin and great curves, especially her hips. It was then and still is a pleasure just to run my hands over her hips and ass. But I digress (and might need a cold shower).

I recall stopping by her house Thanksgiving evening, since she lived near my aunt and uncle's place. It snowed and I was having trouble manipulating my dad's car with front wheel drive and a standard transmission. I also remember spending Christmas at her brother's trailer. I beleive she got me Ozzy's Speak of the Devil, and she had to keep it in her room with the cover down because it grossed her out. I also remember parking in the lot of an old amusement park afterward. Ah yes, young love.

However, our relationship sort of ended in the spring. It was around Easter time, because I remember being in the pit band for the school musical and not being able to practice on Palm Sunday. We had "broken up" shortly before then. Mostly, she broke it off with me. I don't even remember the reason, but it was something like, "we should date other people" kind of thing. I remember being disappointed, but was kind of ok with it. Just before the break from school, I found a "rebound" girlfriend in one of the other girls in the band. I didn't really like her, it was more that she was available. She like fell for me really fast and got one of those heart pins that said "I (heart) Vince" on it after about 3 days. Bells should have started going off right then. She left town just before break and I rode the bus with Miss E to school every day that week. And I just couldn't stay away from her. We tried being "friends" but ended up kissing all the time. So we decided to get back together. I do believe she even wrote me a nice note about how we should stay together (remember writing notes in high school?).

In any event, when the temporary girl got back from vacation, I broke it off with her. Over the phone. Cause I was REAL smooth in my youth. And she flipped out on me and threatened to kill herself. I called Miss E all distraught over it. I thought she was for real. As it turns out, the little bitch was yanking my chain. After that, Miss E and I were inseperable in high school. We went to our junior prom, winter dance, and senior prom together. There was no question of it.

We got ourselves into a nice little routine. Once I had a license and a car, I'd pick her up and drive her to school. We'd hang all day long. I'd take her home. After dinner, I would go back to her place and we'd hang out until I had to leave. It was nice. One amusing incident during that time, P, the "leader" of our gang, sent The Girlfriend a note (again with the notes) saying she shouldn't be dating me. It was "bad for her reputation". She was hopping mad! I found the whole thing amusing and was rather proud to have a bad reputation. Mind you, that bad reputation was mostly as a nut (I'll have to tell you about some of my ambitions in high school sometime). But as of yet, I had not had sex with The Girlfriend, so it's not like people thought I was taking advantage of her or something.

There are so many memorable things that happened in high school, I can't even begin. There was the time we where parked behind a school and a security guard knocked on the window. There was the junior prom where she looked so incredibly beautiful. There are the walks we took on the pier by the lake. There was the tough as nails nun, Sister Margaret Mary, that smiled at us one time when I kissed her on the cheek in the hallway. In general, I think it was your typical high school romance. I believe it was during this period that I first professed my love for her. There were no plans past high school at this point, we were too busy being teenagers in love.

Our relationship ended with the end of high school. It is for this reason I don't like to use the term "high school sweethearts". Because it wasn't during high school that our relationship really got serious. We had a lot of fun and being together was very comfortable in high school. But Miss E thought it would be a good idea if we dated other people. Not that I was really interested in dating other people, but you see, I was her first real boyfriend. And she wanted the opportunity to date other guys. I wasn't terribly happy about it, but if she wanted to do that, I wasn't going to force her to stick with me. So after graduation, we broke up.

It was the dullest 3 months of my life. Soon, September rolled around and college started. And like an addiction you just can't shake, Miss E would soon be back in my life. Because we still tried to be "friends". And it isn't in me to be "friends" with a woman like her. The next installment will chronicle how The Woman That Would Be The Wife, went from The Girlfriend, to Miss E, to The Fiance.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Interlude

I've been meaning to post the next installment in my ongoing saga, but I've just been do damn tired to blog. The only real chance I get to write is after the boys are in bed, and truthfully, I've just been exhausted. So just a couple of quick thoughts to jot down.

First, if you could say some prayers and have some good thoughts for my parents, I would appreciate it. They're flying to Italy tomorrow for a month vacation, so please pray that they have a safe trip. My mom started crying just saying goodbye to us today and misses all her grandchildren already. She's too funny sometimes.

Faith on Fire (now found at www.faithonfireband.com, a web site still in its infancy) will be performing at an ice cream social at our church for a visiting priest from Kenya. He was our assitant pastor for about 2 years then returned to Kenya to run a parish. He's a wonderful preacher and a very spiritual person. We practiced today and for not playing for about 6 weeks, we were very tight. Practice went incredibly smoothly. We're all looking forward to playing more often.

Speaking of playing more often, I did something Friday night I hadn't done in AGES! We recently upgraded to digital cable so I now get VH1 classics. Friday night they had classic rock, mostly from the 80s. MY kind of music. So I sat in front of the TV for about an hourish and played along with the videos on my guitar. I used to do that as a teen to MTV with the same videos. It's how I learned many songs, honed my ear, and developed my style. It was quite satisfying to do so again. And for my Lep readers out there, it was quite fun playing along to Rock of Ages, though I had the wrong guitar to do Phil's solo. Need a trem for the middle part.

Hope everyone can stay cool tomorrow. I hear it's going to be HOT everywhere. And as Maverick mentioned when I told the Wife she looked hot today while we were in the car, "You don't mean hot as in looking real good, do you?". I especially feel for my peeps in NYC. I'm sure it's going to be brutal there.

I'll be writing the next installment soon, hopefully tomorrow or Tuesday evening. It will cover the time from when we started dating till we got engaged. I will try and add some torrid details for the Retropolitan, but I must be careful, as I prefer sleeping in the bed with the Wife instead of by myself on the couch.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Women in my Life, Part Deux

My second real girlfriend, AS, was one of the group of people I hung out with in my sophmore year. She was a junior, so I was dating an older woman! The reason I hung with them is I became friends with a junior I'll call Marcus Aurellius and that was his circle of friends. I'm not sure why exactly I started dating her, other than I found her kind of attractive, needed (or wanted) a girlfriend, and she was willing. In all fairness, I wouldn't have asked her out if I didn't at least find her cute.

AS was an interesting gal. She was a little more punk that many of the girls I'd known. He big thing was she was a Rocky Horror Picture Show fan. I mean, she was in the cast at the local theater where it was played. I beleive she played Columbia. (As a side note, the first time I saw Rocky Horror was with the Wife and my best bud Scott. She got a kick out of a man in drag sitting on her lap singing to her.)

Anyway, what I remember most about her is that she had some trust issues. Again, we did some heavy petting, but there was no petting allowed for her below the belt. She told me someone had "forced" her to do some stuff she was uncomfortable with and didn't want to go there. I respected that. What I remember most about the relationship was that she seemed to like me more than I did her. I believe we dated for about 6 months or so. We were dating on my birthday, as she came to my house. I also took her to her Junior Prom. Back in the days of ruffled shirts. I proudly display the pictures of the Wife and I at our Junior Prom (yes, I still have them) but there is no evidence left of my at a prom in ruffles. It was downright scary.

I think the thing that changed the relationship for me was a party we attended at a friend of hers. Overall, the party was not noteworthy, other than hanging with her. However, one of her ex-boyfriends was there. As the night went on, he began to get a little drunk, and started threatening me bodily. Not to my face, but to the crowd. I ended up having to go outside before the party ended to wait for my ride to escape injury. It was never the same after that.

As I said, we dated for a while after that, but it went downhill for me. When I broke it off with her, she was upset by it. "Never saw it coming" kind of thing. After a few weeks, at her insistance, we gave it another try, but I ended it a day short of a month (she actually asked me to wait another day so it could be exactly a month we were together).

After this, in my infinite wisdom as a guy, I decided that the break had to be clean. And the best way to make the break clean was to treat her like shit every time I saw her. To the point of being obnoxious. What can I say, I was 15 and thought I knew everything. It took me until 22 to realize I didn't know everything and 32 to finally know that I did. Totally unfair to AS, but as I said, I was a young punk, asshole, cool guy wannabe. Just ask the Wife. She'll tell you what a fuck I was in high school.

I eventually had a little heart to heart with AS and apologized for being such a jerk and we had a friendly relationship. Of course, it helped that we seldom saw each other any more. As with CM, I have not seen her since she graduated high school. AS, in retrospect, I think that relationship was just a dalliance between the two loves of my life. There was one minor stop on the way to the Wife. Just as junior year started, I dated one of the "gang" I hung out with routinely, which included the Wife, PD, MD, LL, JB, RP, and LC. It was one of those deals where I suddenly realized how cute LC was even though I'd been hanging with her for almost a year. That lasted until the first day of school. The she realized, "Holy Shit, what was I thinking in dating this guy!". I tried to convince her we should still date, but she kept saying no. One thing she did say a few times was, "You know, EF (the Wife's maiden name) is cute."

So you can blame LC for putting a bug in my head. The story of the Wife, begins next.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Women in my Life Part 1

For some reason, I've been reflecting on my past life (who can guess the obscure reference?) and I've been thinking of the women in my life (other than my mom of course). I've really only dated 3 women for any lenth of time. There were a couple of girls I went out with for a few days or less so they really don't count, but other than the Wife, I really only dated 2 other girls. So I shall proceed with a multi part installment series on them. It will probably be more than 3 parts since there's no way I could talk about the Wife in one post.

I shall preface this all by saying I'm not waxing nostalgic about former girlfriends and how much better they were than the Wife, as they really weren't. I wouldn't trade the Wife for either of them in MILLION years, as they were quite damaged goods at the time, as you'll see. Just don't want anyone to think that all of a sudden I'm looking for past love or some such silly mid-life-crisisy bull. If I really wanted to have a mid life crisis, I'd buy a Brian May guitar and a 67 Corvette. And get a bad toupe.

My first girlfriend, was CM. While I doubt she'll ever find this blog, I will endevour to protect the innocent. I met her through a friend. The two of them went to the same all girl Catholic high school. I was really hot for my friend, but she wouldn't date me, even though I had all the qualities of a man which she told me she wanted. Of which I repeatedly reminded her. But I digress. I was about 14 or 15 at the time and had yet to have a girlfriend. I find it interesting that I had to go backwards from when I started dating the Wife to figure out how old I must have been when I started dating CM. I would have thought I'd remember a detail like that.

We started by talking on the phone, and after about a week of 2 hour calls per night, we decided to start dating. It was an interesting relationship, since she lived on the other side of town from me. I had to get a ride to her house to see her, usually my dad would drive me out there. It was fairly passionate early on, at least, a lot of kissing took place.

Our relationship was quite interesting. We spent most of our time either at her place, or at her mom's boyfriend's place. Normally we had the house to ourselves. Her mom and her boyfriend would go out, and we'd have the run of the place. Much kissing and touching ensued, but no intercourse. Sorry to dissapoint you all so early. We never really went places together, such as the mall, or to dances, or those things that teenage couples do. She lived near a park so sometimes we'd walk there. Mostly it was just hanging out alone together.

I fell head over heels for that girl in no time. Looking back, it may have been that she was my first girlfriend. It may have been two kids doing a lot of heavy petting. I'm sure now I would call it more lust or enfatuation than love. But at the time, I thought that's what love was. I thought we would be together forever. I was such a kid at the time.

I don't even remember how long the relationship lasted. Just doing the math and wracking my brain, I think it must have been six to eight months. I'm pretty sure we exchanged Christmas presents, because she gave me an ID braclet with my name engraved on it and Love C on the back (which I think I still have but I haven't opened it in years). I remember she got me Ozzy's Diary of a Madman for my birthday, so that was 4 to 5 months right there. As a little side story, I never got to take the album home. If I remember correctly, her birthday was near mine, so she had a party at her place. She gave me the album before the party started. At the time, I hooked up my friend that set me up with CM with a guy I knew from school. I got a ride home from her dad and my pal was in the back with her. I passed back the album to let them check it out. When I got home, no album in the sleeve. The bastard stole it on me so I never got to enjoy it.

Anyway, sometime after that, things began to fall apart for us. Before I go into the reason, a small bit of background on CM. Remember how I said her mom had a boyfriend? Well, she was still married at the time. And her husband (CM's dad) still lived in the house, though I think I met him only once. He was never home when CM's mom was. It seems her mom got pregnant with her so they got married. See where this is going?

One night, CM and I are together and she's upset. I ask her what's wrong. She admits cheating on me with an older guy she knows. I'm pretty stunned, but since I'm IN LOOOOOVE, I tell her I forgive her. We try to go on and I try not to get jealous over it. I don't think I made to big a deal about it, but I poked at her occasionally about it. Bad move. About a month later, she broke it off with me. I was crushed, baby, just crushed.

And why did she finally break up with me? Because I was TOO GOOD FOR HER! Yes, that's right, I treated her too well. She had expected me to get all pissed off at her and dump her ass after I found out she'd cheated. She probably did it purposely to sabotage our relationship. She hadn't counted on me still wanting her. However, all my pleading did no good and we stopped seeing each other.

I kept tabs on CM through my friend. After we broke up, she began dating the guy she cheat with. Turns out, he was a fuck. He would beat her and treat her like shit. She got pregnant by him at 16 or 17. She'd made a couple of weak attempts at suicide during that time (before the pregnancy). He even hit her in the stomach when she was pregnant. She finally dumped his sorry ass after the baby was born. He beat her up in front of the kid and that's when she realized she didn't want her kid to grow up with a man like that.

The last time I saw CM I was in college. Probably somewhere around 1985. I spoke to her once more after that. I have not seen nor heard from her since. Our relationship inspired the lyrics to the song Remember When, which I wrote in 1994-95. I'll give lyrics below. I did find out her married name from Classmates, but never tried to find contact information. There's been so much time, I'm not sure she remembers me, or what those memories are. I've got some fond ones, at least of first love, and I'm comfortable leaving it at that. I'm sure her kid is grown and out of high school by now. Damn we get old fast.

Remember When, by Vince Franco

Young and in love, starry eyed
Said you’d love me until we died
Never thought you’d make me cry
And I can’t believe we’ve said good-bye

BRIDGE 1
I said I love you, this can’t be true
You were my whole life, don’t say we’re through
You’ve found another to be with you
I wish you’d tell me what did I do.....to make you leave me

CHORUS 1
I remember when we thought it would never end
Sometimes every now and then I remember when

VERSE 2
You wouldn’t see me, or take my calls
I was behind you, never there at all
I tried to reach you, get inside your walls
But you just ignored me from your horse so tall

BRIDGE 1
CHORUS 1

VERSE 3
It’s been a long time, the pain is gone
I’ve found another to call my own
She is my whole life and I am hers
I can’t believe how good my luck has turned

BRIDGE 2
Sometimes I wonder, where did you go
I was so busy, caught in the flow
You must have your life and I have mine
Do you think of me from time to time

CHORUS 2
I remember when we thought we would still be friends
If we could meet again we’d remember when

I remember when (2 times)


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Really Busy

I'm sure all of you are as busy as I am these days. So just a few quick updates to let you know what's going on.

I'm going to be spending some time working on a new website, www.faithonfireband.com. Now that the band has "seperated" itself from being a parish music group, I thought we should have our own site. There's nothing there right now if you look, but I'll get something going soon. I'm having some trouble with the site design website I'm using, and I'm not sure if I want to go with it or another one. I'll have to look around.

Of course, I got to see Italy outlast France to take the World Cup. Italia! Italia! I saw the game at my parents house, in proper Italian style with dinner just before the game at 1 pm. I was a bit terrified when it went into penatly kicks, but this time Lady Luck was with Italy and we survived the match! I'm one happy Italian tonight.

We went to a family reunion yesterday (on the Wife's side). It was a great day for her, gossiping with her cousins. The only down side was when a couple of her cousin's grandkids (children came EARLY in that family) decided to pour water on her when she was in the pool. Cause they GOT HER HAIR WET! Oh, yes, looks of death ensued. But beyond that, she had a wonderful time. I didn't have as nice a time as she, but it was a good quiet afternoon of food, swimming, and games with the boys. So I enjoyed it as well.

Finally, the Wife and I had a very nice little moment last night. I was totally exhausted (as was she) so after falling asleep on the couch, I crawled into bed around 11:30. The Wife (as is her habit) fell asleep in the chair and came to bed somewhere around 3 am. I was having trouble sleeping since my nose was all stuffed up (stuid allergies!) and since I was awake anyway, got up to take something to clear the sinuses. When I got back into bed, the Wife came over to my side, snuggled up, and put her arm over me. She's usually not the snuggly type, so this was a very sweet gesture on her part. She can be such a sweety when she wants to be.

I'm going to crash now, as I woke up tired ths morning. There's nothing good on TV is it's a good be I can fall asleep on the couch to whatever's on.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Look Into My Mind

As I mentioned before, a post of Nanner got me to thinking about this post. She noted that two people could grow up with similar backgrounds (that being Italian and Catholic) and come out totally different people. It occurred to me that while I've posted much about what's going on in my life, I haven't posted to much about my past or any of my early experiences. Part of the reason may be that my past isn't any where near as interesting as that of many of my readers, but not everyone can lead such storied lives.

So here goes a little trip down memory lane I like to call: How the hell did I end up so liberal?

I grew up in a typical Italian family with off the boat parents. They were so Italian, they grew up in the same little town in the vicinity of Naples (Italy that is) and knew each other growing up. They grew up in post-WWII depression Italy. My mom was a farmer's daughter and worked her ass of from sun up to sun down. My dad's father died when he was 14, leaving him to take care of my grandmother by going to work as a mason (among other sundry low paying jobs). My dad came to the US back in 1960, went back for a month to Italy in 1963 and decided to get married to my mom (that a whole OTHER story), went back to visit again for one month in 1965 (he was not a citizen and was working on a visa for my mom to come over), my mom got pregnant with me in that month, and she came to the US in March of 1966 one month before I was born. So you don't get much more Italian than me without actually being born there.

Being ReALLY OLD SCHOOL, the came over with many prejudices, especially my dad. And primarily against blacks, the minority of choice in those days. He was very old fashioned and didn't think my mom should work, since the woman's job was to take care of the home and kids. My mom did finally go to work when my dad succumbed to the economic necessity of two incomes to try and raise the family (which by then included my brother and sister as well). Both my parents were very hard workers and did what they had to do to raise a family, including working opposite shifts so someone was home with the kids. My mom was the "nurturer" and my dad the "disciplinarian".

You would think that growing up in a home like this I would think that it's a woman's place to shut up and do what she's told and cook my meals when I'm hungry kind of thing. Except that my mom never takes any shit from my dad. It's almost funny now to see them yell back and forth to each other over stupid things. But that's what they do.

Anyway, from a young age I had a very keen sense of fairness. Perhaps it was because I thought few of the rules of the house were fair. For example, my dad has a fondness for saying "Like the priest says, do what I say and not what I do". You have no idea how much I hated hearing that. Nothing irks a kid more that having to follow rules without an explanation. And rules subject to change on a whim. This is the main reason I have a very low tolerence for hypocrisy.

I also tired of hearing about how certain "groups" of people were no good growing up. My parents had a tendancy for painting wide brushes of statements: Don't trust Sicilians because they're SICILIANS! Not REAL Italians. All blacks will steal from you the first chance they get. All the people in the inner city use drugs. Stuff like that. I never saw any of that with the people I'd met so I grew to judge individuals for who they are, not groups in general.

My parents have been staunch Republicans (well, at least unti recently, but again, a different post). They had traditional conservative values. However, my sense of fairness led me away from Republicans early on. I started paying attention to politics during the Reagan years. Seeing the rich get richer and the poor get poorer really turned my off to those guys. I aslo never understood the "trickle down" theory of giving more money to rich people and somehow it would "magically" filter down to poor people. But I digress.

Part of the other reason I probably turned out the way I did was that I didn't really embrace Catholcism until I was an adult. Growing up, I was a dutiful Italian Cahtolic male. It was the woman's job to go to church and make sure the kids went to CCD (the name for faith formation classes in those days). My family went to church on Palm SUnday, Easter, and maybe Christmas. When I got to high school (a Catholic one, no less!) I basically rejected my religion. At first, I simply ignored it. Then I decided it was all bull and proclaimed myself an athiest. It was during this period I really honed my philosophy (at the time) that basically you could do whatever you wanted as long as you weren't hurting someone. Homosexuality? Between two consenting adults, right? Abortion? Personal choice. Premarital sex? Again, if it's consensual, get as much as you can. I also naively believed that an enlightened dicator would make a good national leader. You know, someone like me that "knew" better than all of you common peons and could make sure everyone was treated fairly. I seriously believed you could legislate people's behavior and make them act nicely towards each other. Nice little utopia, isn't it?

Anway, it was when my relationship with the Wife started getting serious that I truly found my faith. After a while I gave up being an athiest and decided I was an agnostic, though I didn't really use the word at the time. However, I started going to church with her, mostly just to be with her, and because she asked me to go. However, after a while, I started to embrace it on my own. This was a very slow process, as I didn't even take communion for several years, as I thought it would be hypocritical of me to do so since I didn't sincerely believe it was the Body of Christ. But I came round.

However, I never gave up my sense of fairness. One of the most powerful lessons I learned in political science classes in college was that you cannot legislate morality. You can make laws against murder to protect people's right to live, but you can't make people value life my making it illegal to murder people. This goes for many things. So I've always maintained one set of political values and one set of moral values. Sounds kind of crazy, I know, but the other powerful lesson I learned is to let the Lord judge. Politically, I think many of the solutions to our problems are not necessarily more laws, but to make laws unneccessary. For example, instead of making abortion illegal, lets instead concentrate on the reasons women get them and work on that. If you change the culture so that women do not want to abort their children, then it won't matter whether it's legal or not. Same with many other civil issues. The law shoudl be about fairness. Your morals are going to be based on whatever faith you follow, whether is something organized or not.

I've probably rambled on long enough about this. Maybe this gives a little glimpse into what makes my brain tick. Or perhaps I'm just insane. I'm even still optimisitic enough to think that maybe a few good people can set the right example and change the world for the better. Crazy, ain't I?


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Again not what I was going to say

First of all, in case you live under a rock, Italy beat Germany today 2-0 in overtime to advance to the World Cup final! I watched the second half of the game (halftime to end) at my parent's place and it was full of happy screaming Italians at the end of the game!

I was going to write a post based on something Nanner posted, but I booted up the laptop and left it on the couch, then went outside with the Wife and played guitar while she read. By the time I came back in, she was crouched on the couch surfing the web. I thought it would be a good time to gently kiss her back and rub it, you know, be all sensitive and romantic and such. I was told to go away and stop bugging her. It seems my beard was a little "pokey". So I booted up the desktop to post instead. And now I'm too tired to write the long, introspective post I had planned.

So you'll all just have to wait until later this week. So there.

Oh, and FORZA AZZURRI!


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Music Update

First, I'd like to thank everyone for their encouraging words for Maverick. I printed them out for him and he was quite appreciative. I offered to let him write his own comment, but he was "too shy". He is keeping an open mind about baseball. I'll let you know how he does at his next game.

Thurdsay evening I met with the other members of my Christian rock band and finally got up to speed with what's going on. Normally, I would call it my church rock band, but, our Sunday evening Mass has been cancelled. There's some politics behind the whole thing, I think, but I don't get involved in the politics at church, so basically I'll say that the pastor was no longer behind the project and he is the final authority. We've been told we can provide music at some of our Wednesday worship services, but it's not clear if those are going to continue either.

We (the adults in the band that is) have decided to keep going on our own. I, personally, was not completely happy with doing a Sunday evening mass every week for various reasons. The last few weeks there was some sort of frustration on a sub-conscious level. I thought (and prayed) about it and I've realized I'd missed the other dimension to being a rock musician: performing. Playing at a Mass is not preforming, as you are limited in your selection of music and behaviour due to being at a Mass. Some things are just inappropriate and some songs just don't work in an outlet like that.

When we discussed it, I mentioned I'd like to just start playing for any group that will have us, whether it be a youth group, a diosocene event, whatever. One of the other churches in our area would love to have us play a Mass once a month, so we can still do that. We can also take the opportunity to try and reach more people with our music ministry. This also frees us up from the constraints of doing only what our parish would allow so to speak. We are no longer one of St. Pius X's music groups. We are a band, Faith On Fire. And we'd be more than happy to play at any event or at any church that invites us. But now you need to ASK us.

I'll keep you posted on how this moves forward. We still need to break it to the youth in the band. But I think this is going to give us a lot more freedom to just do what the Spirit moves us to do.