#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

Friday, November 20, 2009

Like a Dog

Just took my three-and-a-half year old Lab Remy for her daily romp. It's an amazing day here at the Jersey Shore. Probably 60 degrees, brilliant sunshine, pockets of shimmering orange and yellow leaves still in the trees, but also sprinkled along the wet ground.

You'd have never felt this way as a kid, the way I felt, watching Remy chase the ball over and over again. No, as a kid you'd have been wondering how many more times she would chase the ball before you could call it quits and get back to whatever it is you were doing. You'd have mixed in a few yawns and maybe a "come on, Dog" under your breath.

But today, I could've chucked that tennis ball forever, because I was just captivated by my dog's pure joy. With her ears pinned back against the wind, she'd bolt full-speed ahead, somehow sensing -- as if she has eyes behind those ears -- the direction the ball was headed. When the ball would take the perfect bounce, she'd spring into the air and try to make the sensational catch. Why? Not for the applause. It was just me and her. No, I can only guess that Remy thinks going airborne to make the grab is...fun.

Her gait coming back is always so proud, with her tail wagging and drool spilling off the ball, spritzing in all directions. Whether she makes the catch or bungles it, she always comes back proud and loves to veer in for a quick pat on her belly.

For some reason, I feel like an Old Sage today. Maybe it's the glorious weather, or maybe just some inner happiness that my two sons are no longer sick and are getting back to being themselves. Today's run with Remy just made me reflective.

Remember as a kid, how it felt to sprint? I'm not saying I was ever fast, but I think every kid "feels" fast at one moment or another. Maybe it's playing flashlight tag (don't you always feel like you're fast in the dark?), or maybe it's running downhill, your feet slapping the pavement as you push the limits of your balance.

That's what I thought of when I was watching Remy run. And it made me feel good.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

You Big Dummy

Man, I'm feeling inferior lately. So confused. Let me try to explain...

I do not care for Sarah Palin, but I do like a lot of what she supposedly stands for. I'm a conservative-values type of person because, well, that's what works for me. That said, I don't want anyone discriminated against. So, I'm not really all the way there.

I mean, for example, I sit in church on Sundays and my heart is comforted and warmed by the words of my pastor, his message and the way he delivers it. Yet when someone starts screaming to me (at me) about JESUS, it makes me feel kinda icky.

I'm a registered Independent because I can't make up my mind.

I hate name-droppers, but at times I drop names like a banshee. I also cut people off when they're talking, even though I know that's about as annoying as it gets.

I hate the way fast food makes me feel, yet now and again I crave it. I mean really crave it, especially Chik Fil A sandwiches.

I can watch Keith Olbermann and nod my head a lot at points he's making. Yet, other times I listen to Glen Beck and feel like shouting, "Amen, Brother!" Needless to say the whole healthcare debate has me wondering if Cliff Notes will come up with a version this idiot will be able to understand. Am I alone?

I want to be cool, but I cringe when I see people my age trying to act cool.

I like the strategy of the National League, but think the American League is better baseball. I also hate that the Yankees buy all their players yet want the Red Sox to get get Roy Halladay, Adrian Gonzalez this winter and possibly bring back Johnny Damon to be a role player.

I work with really intelligent people...and I consider myself pretty-well-below smart.

I yell at my kids for eating too much candy, but sometimes throw back Sour Patch Kids by the handful. Along the same lines, I like to drink beer with my buddies from time to time but I absolutely live in fear of the day my kids decide to take their first sip.

I don't want my kids to make the mistakes I made (because there are times I feel pretty lucky to have survived them), but I want them to have every bit as much fun as I had. Is that possible?

Bruce Springsteen is my all-time favorite rock and roll performer and a guy I really admire, but when he starts going political on-stage I run for the bathroom. Yet with that said, I'm a sucker for political music."A time to be born, a time to die...A time to plant, a time to reap...A time to kill, a time to heal...A time to laugh, a time to weep." Song gives me goosebumps. Is there something wrong with me?

Lately, I've been thinking...I believe in Good Guys, but I also believe in Bad Guys. I cannot hear enough stories about the Good Guys on this planet. Yet, I believe really, really Bad Guys should pay the ultimate price.

I feel like such a Big Dummy...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Parenting in 2009: Home Sick

Both of my sons are home sick today. They are both suffering from the flu, but resting comfortably in the family room, spread out on couches, covered in blankets, eating toast and drinking tea with honey off TV trays.

Got my wheels spinning.

We all know that as parents in 2009 we are confronted with challenges our parents did not have to face. From having to monitor all the stuff on the internet to wondering (as you watch the World Series!) if they're getting some of those Fox TV ads, not to mention the incessant Cialis and Viagra ads (my sons get those and laugh at the "if you have a...exceeding four hours" line).

Now, have you ever thought of this challenge...the "home sick" day ain't what it used to be.

Hear me out.

Remember when we were kids, the "home sick" day began with a few cartoons. Probably Rocky and Bullwinkle. Maybe a little Bugs Bunny. Cartoons, however, ended around 8 because, well, kids were off to school and with limited channels, there was no way a network was going to keep showing cartoons into mid-morning.

What was next? Morning game shows. The Price is Right was one, for sure. I think you could also catch the $10,000 Pyramid. Maybe Match Game. Whatever they were, those shows were barely enough to keep you going until noon.

Come lunch time, when you returned to your couch for your second Ginger Ale (the only time we ever had soda in my house, by the way), you were pretty much forced to go to Channel 13. If you were too old for Sesame Street, you could perhaps handle Zoom or the Electric Company. The noon to 3 interval was tough. Channel surf all you want, but it was pretty much guaranteed you'd find nothing but soap operas and bad movies on channels 2-11.

Once you made it to "after school" hours, you were back to some decent programming. Maybe the Little Rascals, the Munsters, the Addams Family. Maybe a few more cartoons.

Point is, one or two days "home sick" was about all you could handle, right? I can remember missing a week of school in 7th grade with, of all things, a bad case of poison ivy. Seriously, that was the longest week of my life.

As I watch my boys now, they've gone from SportsCenter to NCAA Tip-Off Marathon (saw a bit of Monmouth-St. Peter's!). They've got some programs DVR'ed. There's talk of an afternoon movie. Yesterday was "Glory Road." I haven't even mentioned there are probably four 24/7 cartoon channels. And they've got a 46-inch HD screen...

Will they ever be well enough to go back to school? I have a feeling they're not going back without putting up a fight. My only hope is that the amount homework that's picked up at school today is huge.

Parenting in 2009...yet another challenge.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What I Do

Do I write this? Or do I keep it to myself? Do I tell the whole story in graphic detail? Or do I keep it vague, to protect myself? These are the questions I ask myself this morning as I sit on a plane, flying from Phoenix to Newark, wrapping up a three-day business trip.

Gonna be vague.

I’m scared. That much I can tell you. Having just caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror in the airplane lavatory (nothing brings the nose hairs out like the lighting in those tiny bathrooms) it’s safe to say I’m also scaring others this morning. A 4:45 a.m. wakeup call probably didn’t help my appearance, but I can’t blame it all on the hours I keep. Fact is I’ve been stressing for the last few weeks and doing my best to keep a brave face. The mirror did not show a brave face this morning. Just a creased, tired and unshaven one.

I’ll just think out loud for a bit. I’m two weeks away from my 46th birthday. I’ve held a full-time job in the profession of my choosing (utilizing my chosen educational background) every day since October of 1986. I have a loving, caring wife of 15 years and two incredible sons (13 and 11) that I adore more than anything in this world.

I’ve never been a chart-it-out guy but if I were, I’d have probably tagged the next 10 years as the most important of my life. Pretty obvious, right? I know a few people who set themselves and their families up pretty well in their 30s and early 40s, but not many. Most people’s peak years occur right about where I am now…late 40s. This is the time we build up the money to educate our children, pay off our debts and, yeah, retire. My dad retired at 59 and I always thought Pop got it right. Seriously, now…who’s laughing?

I’m not retiring at 59. No chance. But that’s not what’s got me scared. I’m not afraid to work into my 60s, not if I could keep doing what I’ve been doing for so long.

But there’s the problem. What I do…

I’ve never considered myself very good at what I do. Passionate about it? Oh yeah. Doing what I do is all I’ve really cared to do since about the age of 16, when I realized I wasn’t going to be a Major League Baseball player like my brother. Lucky to do it? So lucky. I’ve always credited my good luck to my passion. Like, if you love something enough, hey, you deserve some luck, right? How else to explain my position in life? It’s luck.

There are a number of people who do what I do who are really good at it and know they are really good at it. I wish right now I were one of those guys. Fact is, I am not.

There are others who do what I do who may not think they are good, but have this incredible drive to be “that good.” Most of them are 10-20 years younger than I am. They are willing to work incredible hours and argue on behalf of themselves as they climb. I know I need to be more like them, but it’s not a good fit for my personality.

I don’t like to argue. I’m a terrible self-promoter. When I was a kid, growing up in North Jersey, my two most hated athletes were local heroes Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Reggie Jackson. Why? Because they were “braggers.” I became a fan of Jerry West and George Brett. You may say that was pretty white of me, but I was simply attracted to modesty. West did not name himself “Mr. Clutch” and Brett, well, he was all about the dirty uniform. As I got a little older, I loved NFL running backs Earl Campbell and Walter Payton, mostly because they refused to spike the ball when they scored a touchdown.

Back on point, I’ve probably allowed myself to get too comfortable doing what I do. And I see that could come back to haunt me. All around me, I could see that people who do what I do were also doing other things. My flawed logic was that if I did those “other things” they’d distract me from what it is I do. Even as others told me that doing some of those other things would help me make more money, my thought process was, simply, “Don’t screw up a good thing.” A few extra bucks were not going to make me happier.

Driving in my rental car yesterday I heard a radio talk show guy saying, basically, that people who do what I do – at the level I do it, which I explained above – are soon going to be history. He was a bit smarmy when he said it (saying that what he did for a living was blazing ahead even in a bad economy), but he had a bit of sympathy. He even said that it was the work of people who do what I do that fueled his work on a daily basis.

Still, I believe my future is bleak. I’m now in “Re-invent Myself” mode, and not brimming with confidence in my ability to pull that one off. When I get home, I’ll begin with a shower and a shave. I’ll trim my nose hairs.

The mirror is harsh, but it don’t lie.

I guess I should wrap this up by saying I know there are a lot of people out there who are in the same place as me. Some do what I do while others do whatever it is they do. There is some comfort in the mere fact that I’m not alone in being scared. And I can even laugh a bit knowing that I’ll always do what I do. Even if it’s not my job.

Because it’s what I do.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Tradition Unlike Any Other...Well, Not Really

It all started 20 years ago. We were two and three years out of college, trying to find our way in the Real World. Some had serious girlfriends, others had no commitments whatsoever. I was working in New York for Sports Illustrated. The rest were scattered around the Southeast, mostly in North Carolina. "Let's go some place and play golf," I said to my friend Steve one day over the phone. A few days later, he told me he had uncovered a $99 "Sizzler" package in a place called Ocean Isle, NC. Four days of golf, three nights accommodations and free Continental breakfast. It was set.

The first annual "college friends golf trip" was created.

In the beginning, the golf was really bad. None of us had played much growing up. We'd all taken the game up a little bit in college, but entry-level jobs with long hours and little pay had rendered most of us "beginners"...at best. I can remember buying used golf balls (knowing I'd lose them by the dozen) and wondering to myself if I really needed golf shoes. I tried to practice before the trip, but it didn't matter much. Quickly I learned that the golf trip was not going to be the place for stellar play. What it was, however, was the place for Drop and Draw and Credit Card Roullette. It was mostly where you went for belly-aching laughs.

Over time, we all became better golfers. For some that meant consistently breaking 100. For others, the guys who succeeded most in the Real World (or the guys who never married or got divorced), it meant some rounds in the 70s. Guys started showing up with better equipment and nicer clothes.

Still, it was always about the laughs.

In its best years, the trip attracted 20 or more players. In its leanest years, maybe eight. We divided in Year 10 as some guys got the go-ahead from their wives to go to the Bahamas (I was not one of those guys), even though everyone knows you do not go to the Bahamas to play golf. You go to gamble. Half of us ended up in Myrtle Beach and had a good time. Of course, we were rewarded for our loyalty to the game of golf by learning that everyone on the Bahamas trip made a killing playing craps and got the whole trip comped. Of course, as predicted, they didn't tee up a single ball.

We did Pinehurst. We did Myrtle. We did the North Carolina Outer Banks. Two years ago, we got eight guys to go to Kohler, Wisc., to play The Irish and Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run. Last year, we did nothing...and I figured it was gone forever.

But the trip wouldn't die without a fight. The email went out a couple of months ago. Outer Banks, weekend of November 6th. Anyone interested? We've got a foursome.

And talk has begun about what we're doing next year. Gotta keep the tradition alive.