Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Excited about the season

This past weekend was one of my favorite weekends of the year — the weekend the world transitions to Christmas.

Magically, the Friday after Thanksgiving, it’s OK to listen to Christmas music, and suddenly all those Christmas lights that I’ve been complaining about don’t seem so passé. I get this itch, wanting to decorate the house for Christmas and watch Christmas movies. Actually, Christmas fever, if you will, starts before Thanksgiving, and becomes just about unbearable during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. By the time Santa heads down the parade route, I’m about ready to jump out of my skin.

Many of you spent the morning after Thanksgiving waiting in lines for shopping deals at local shops and big box stores. For those who did it, good for you. That’s typically part of my Black Friday tradition, and it’s usually quite memorable, although I skipped it this year in favor of sleep. However, I have a video from one Black Friday of me walking from the entrance at the Target on Transit Road in Williamsville all the way to the end of the line. The video is about five minutes long as I kibitz with the people standing in line — all of them in front of me as I head to my spot at the rear. It was cold and wet, but everyone in line was excited to be there.

For the life of me, I can’t think of a single thing I’ve ever bought on Black Friday, but the experience itself was always fun. That may seem crazy to you, but those who get into it will surely agree. Different strokes for different folks, ya know?

Saturday, the kids and I got a pizza and — with the help of my girlfriend — started boxing up the decorations that adorn the house the 11 months out of the year that aren’t Christmas. We wrapped the photo frames on the wall in Christmas wrapping paper and put out the Christmas clock. We put up and molded the tree and decorated it with ornaments, some of which I’ve had since I was a tiny tot and some that we just got last year. Many of the ornaments mean something special, but they all mean it’s Christmas.

We watched “Home Alone.” And “Home Alone 2.” We watched the first few minutes of “Home Alone 3” and then decided it was stupid. We talked about the Christmas specials we all love — like “Charlie Brown” and “Rudolph.” And we listened to some Christmas jazz when we weren’t watching Christmas movies.

There’s just something about this time of year that turns people into kids. Or at least it does so for me. Although I’ve lived through Christmas 36 times before, it always seems so new, so fresh, so exciting.
So if you see me over the next month, and I’m all giddy and look like I won the lottery, odds are it’s just that I feel like I won the lottery. Because it’s Christmas.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

My favorite part of the day is the parade. I'm watching it online. What an awesome world we live in.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving to the people I love

Most mornings - and occasionally some afternoons - I wake up in my bed in my apartment in Tonawanda. I love where I live. It’s a stone’s throw away from the Niagara River, or it would be for someone who were better at throwing stones. It’s also not far from the Erie Canal.

Before I even get out of bed, I check my phone to see if I have any text messages. I almost always do. It might be simple “hello” or much a more pressing issue that needs to be dealt with, but before I was even awake, someone was thinking of me.

My phone sleeps on the pillow next to me. In truth, it sleeps very little. Because anyone that knows me knows that I sleep very little. I’m not sure if it’s the thoughts rattling in my brain or the gallons of coffee I drink every day, but I don’t get my recommended dose of sleep, I’m sure of that.

When I do decide to get out of bed, I stumble into the kitchen and pour myself a cup of that coffee. Always with sugar. Sometimes with milk. It depends on the temperature of the coffee. I like Folgers. Or Maxwell House. Or Hortons. Or whatever. As long as it’s coffee flavored.

I take that coffee into my living room and sit on my couch - or my gliding chair if the couch is occupied - and check my email and whatnot.

More communication. Emails from people I know. Messages from people I don’t know. Friend requests. And even the occasional hate mail, which, in all honesty, always puts a smile on my face. No, I’m not being facetious.

I think a lot. Happy thoughts. Sad thoughts. Simple thoughts. Complex thoughts. Always thinking. Sometimes I wish I could shut if off. Just like sometimes I wish I could sleep.

Some days I eat before going to work. Some days I don’t. For that matter, some days I eat. And some days I don’t. My oldest daughter will occasionally text me just to remind me to eat. I usually haven’t and thank her for the reminder.

My phone is constantly chirping. Text messages. Instant messages. Emails. Seriously, as I typed the word “emails,” I received one. It’s 3:19 a.m. as I type this. And I just got an email.

I don’t get many phone calls. But that’s because most people have figured out that I don’t usually like to talk on the phone. That’s got to seem odd, considering I talked for a living for seven years. Or maybe that makes it less odd. But people take into consideration that I’m usually more comfortable with email or text.

It astounds me that in a world with 7 billion people, anyone would take time out to consider me. But they do. Today I spoke with at least a dozen people who asked how I was - and genuinely wanted to know.

I have a lot of “things” that I could be thankful for this year, but that which I’m most grateful for is the people in my life. Some have been there since grade school. Some only became part of my life recently. And of course, my mother has been there since day one. But all have their role. Just as you have yours. And hopefully, I have a role in your life as well. Even if it’s just reading this column each week.

Happy Thanksgiving. I love you all.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hate mail. Yay!

Hand written hate mail in response to this week's column.

Awesome. Basically, it says that the Democrats were right for not allowing us in their post-election party ... because the US&J is anti-Democrat.

Specifically, it says:

"What a bull shi---- you are. I remember the day when you were a Democrat and made it known loud and clear.

"I don't blame the Democrats for not allowing your photographer to invade them on Election Night. You, Boss Tucker (apparently says who, what, where and when is printed in the rag), Karen Keefe, Bob Confer, et al treat Democrats like crap, then expect to be treated respectfully when YOU CHOOSE.

"As I've said before, you straddle the fence and go where the grass is greener, so to speak.

"Just a lot of blubber."

Have I mentioned that I love hate mail? I'm giddy.

Giraffes are cool ...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Election night bloopers and jokes

I’ve mentioned before that politics is one of my favorite sports, and election night is my Superbowl.

Just like the real Superbowl, no two election nights are the same. Sometimes things go exactly how you expect them, and sometimes there’s a wardrobe malfunction at half time or a wide-right field goal with time running out.

This year, I was quarterbacking election coverage for the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. We had our team in place and were in the typically boring part of the evening — the “now we wait” part.
In truth, there are several “now we wait” parts. We wait for polls to close. We wait for results to come in. And then we wait for candidates to talk to us. This was the second “now we wait” part, waiting for the numbers to come in.

I sat in the newsroom waiting for fresh numbers from the board of elections, and our team was out in the field waiting to talk to candidates and taking pictures of the evening’s candidates’ parties.

Our staff photographer, Joe Eberle, was popping back and forth from Republican headquarters at Danny Sheehan’s to Democratic County Clerk Candidate Pat Murphy’s headquarters at the Shamus Restaurant. Meanwhile, one of our freelance photographers, Heather Grimmer, had set up camp at Lockport’s Democratic headquarters, the Davison Road Inn.

The Davison Road Inn, or D.R.I., was the home to Democratic mayoral candidate Mike Pillot and candidate for alderman, Shirley Nicholas.

We knew the mayoral race was going to be tight and could go either way. The refuse and recycling issue in Lockport had made Mayor Mike Tucker vulnerable. It had done the same with 1st Ward Alderwoman Richelle Pasceri. In fact, she had lost the GOP primary to Nicholas for that very reason.
Potentially, we had two upsets on our hands, and we wanted to have a photographer on hand to snap pictures of the happy winners at Democrat headquarters, if that’s the way it played out.

Unfortunately, our photographer, Heather, was asked to stop taking photographs — and leave — by adherents to the Democrats’ campaigns.

“We don’t like the Union-Sun and we’d like you to leave,” is the paraphrase that was relayed back to me.

Heather — a professional photographer, but a novice at politics — called to ask me how to proceed. Me — not being a novice at politics — was rather upset at the lack of class and professional decorum on display by the Democrats. And frankly, I was a bit shocked. I mean, this just isn’t the way it works.

Side note for those who don’t know me well: The only thing I dislike more than Democrats are Republicans.

Heather had every right to stay at D.R.I., a point reiterated to her by the staff of the D.R.I. But I told her to leave the restaurant without taking any photos. If the candidates and their people didn’t want their pictures in the paper, then, by golly, they weren’t going to be.

And all I could think was, “If this is the way these people treat others, I hope to God they don’t get elected.”

They didn’t. Karmic justice, if you ask me.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Misplaced hero worship gets smacked down

I was an average teenage American boy.

And like average teenage American boys of my time, I collected baseball cards. I also collected football cards, hockey cards and the occasional collectible cards associated with movies and TV shows. I’m not sure if they still make those, but I know they still make sports trading cards.

There is a huge industry related to the hero worship of athletes. Aside from the trading cards, there’s also shirts, hats, posters — you name it. We buy the sports stuff so we can feel like we’re “part of it.” The “it” of course, being something important.

The hero worship of athletes, alone, is a huge industry. Add in movie stars and television actors, and millions of Americans spend a large portion of their time and money trying to feel a “part of” something “important.”

Today is Election Day, of course, and that adds in another sector of the hero-worship industry: Politicians. Granted, I think it’s a much smaller scale, but I can confess to having a bumper sticker and pin collection from throughout the years. A few years ago, I was offered a pretty penny for a Ron Paul pin I was wearing at the time. I refused the offer, electing instead to keep my pin.

But what of society’s real heroes? Where is the industry to worship — or at least salute — them? Where are the trading cards for doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, and even teachers?

I was having a conversation with a friend on Sunday during the Bills game. We were discussing this oddity and imagining how strange it would be to see doctors wearing jerseys during live-to-air broadcasts of appendectomies or whatnot.

Imagine how surreal it would be if your kids were talking about the statistics of successful operations or graduating rates or arrests or — well, I think you get the picture.

I’d love to see a local hospital start this trend. I’d love to see someone go out on a limb to try to start this trend of appropriately placed hero worship. Or at least respect.

Sure, people directly affected by the successful operations show their respect. Yes, people silently appreciate criminals being arrested and kids learning their multiplication tables. But isn’t it bizarre how little importance is given to these things that actually matter.

Now, I’m not saying this to bash sports figures, actors or even politicians. I have a very healthy appreciation for the morale boost that can be given to a city by a big win by their football team. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter how few championships Buffalo has. And save for a few millionaires and those who lost bets this weekend, the Bills loss to the Jets this Sunday doesn’t truly affect many people in Western New York. And yet, we act like it does.

I am an average adult male. And like most average adult males of my time, I have a T-shirt with an NFL logo on it.

I’m guilty of misdirected hero worship. But I’m wondering why. Are you?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Random scary thoughts for the day

The world got a little scarier Monday - and not because it was Halloween. Scientific projections estimate that planet Earth welcomed it 7 billionth concurrent citizen yesterday. That’s a whole lot of of people. Heck, 7 billion is a whole lot of anything. But especially people. 
Think of all those potential voters (and taxpayers)!
I read a piece by CNN’s Bob Greene the other day talking about addiction to electronic devices. He indicates that if your smart phone sleeps in the same room with you, you may have an addiction. I have to confess, I’m guilty of that. I think it comes from living alone.
You may recall about  year and a half ago, I wrote a column relaying my glee with having signed up for cable (actually satellite) television service. Recently we decided to take a break. We didn’t break up, really, but we’re seeing other people - or something like that. 
Having lived in my apartment in Tonawanda since last April, I finally decided I couldn’t live without dedicated internet service. I was using my cell phone as a modem when I needed to log on, but it got tedious and I needed something faster. Unfortunately, in order to do that, I had to scrap TV. I can only afford so many non-essentials, after all.
I’m going on a month without television. And I don’t miss it all that much. I’ve found other things to occupy my time and other ways to watch the things I absolutely don’t want to miss. I’ve also found that I have very little desire to watch the Bills. The Bills won 23-0 on Sunday and I missed every second of it. And I didn’t miss a second of it. 
Speaking of the Bills, I see they have a new idea on how to hold the area hostage, wanting  the state and Erie County to pay for significant improvements to their current stadium in Orchard Park in exchange for the team promising to stay in Orchard Park.
Gee, so they’ll stay our friend if we pay them? That’s what it sounds like to me.
Personally, I’d consider this deal if the team actually wanted to play in Buffalo. But the city has very little - if any - economic benefit to home games being played in the Southtowns.
I have nothing against the Bills. I’ve been a fan since birth. Kind of. But the economic blackmailing being done by one of the richest men in Western New York is atrocious. The fact that anyone is considering it, is worse.
This deal is exactly the type of thing that the Occupy movement is about. There should be no doubt that Ralph Wilson is one of the richest guys in the area. And he’s going to make sure to stay that way by forcing us to pay for his stadium upgrade. He gets to stay rich and we have the privilege of having a football team. 
I can’t wait for the politicians to tell us what a great deal this is for us. Thank God there’s 7 billion people on planet earth now to help us pay for it.