Monday, December 15, 2008

Beyond The Grave

I'm intrigued by death. I can't help it. Maybe it's because my family has been involved with running and operating a cemetary since I was a kid. Death, was, and remains, the ultimate unknown. My religion tells me that living a good life and doing the "right things" will be rewarded upon death by entrace into "heaven." But I don't know what "heaven" is. Maybe it's the achievement of eternal tranquility for someone's soul. Maybe it's not a place or destination, but instead a concept that one's spirit will rest peacefully after doing "the right thing" during our physical existance.

All types of death seem to have made their presence in my life. Cancer, heart attack, stroke, suicide, car accidents, etc. Everytime we hear about the passing of someone we know, it usually results in the contemplation of our own mortality. It makes me wonder when I will die and how I will die. Do you go to heaven? hell? Is there reincarnation? Who knows. I'm not sure there is alot of value trying to determine those things, since there seems to be a power greater than us that is controlling the action. When we are born, we are born with an expiration date. At least, that's what I'm believing more and more as the years go on. It's the only way I can make sense of seeing people die prematurely.

After my last few breaths have been taken, I hope i've lived a life that has made a positive impact on others and that I reach my spiritual destination of "heaven." Oh, and if "heaven" happens to be a place where the Mets always win the World Series and I can TiVo Celebrity Rehab, that'll make it all the better.

By the way, if you want to see a riveting and dramatic portrayel of the dying process, check out "Dying at Grace", a documentary on the Sundance Channel.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Burning the Career at Both Ends

You really get to understand what certain people are made of during times of crisis. Maybe that's where the idea of "fight vs. flight" originated. When times are tough, people will usually either "fight," with determination to push themselves and do whatever it will take to persevere, or they will opt for "flight" and obsolve themselves of any responsibility and resign themselves to a fate, they believe, is unchangeable.

Lately, every day starts with the same news. More layoffs.....oops..i mean "corporate restructuring." Companies are implementing strategies of stop-loss, the work force has been decimated by job loss and financial loss, and all this has likely resulted in confidence loss.

People commonly (mistakenly) identify themselves through their career. Take away the career, and these same people are left to put the remaining square pegs into downsized holes.
When i was informed of my job loss in 2001 due to corporate restructuring and the closing of our office, I immediately left work and started developing a plan. When I say I "immediately" left work, I mean literally. The company announced the office was closing in 60 days and I left before he could finish his announcement and went home to work on my "workforce re-entry plan" (sounds militaristic, doesn't it?). Updating resumes, hitting the pavement, working with job recruiters, etc. Doing whatever it took, I dedicated all available time to marketing my skills. The payoff, was when i landed a new job, 45 days later.

Sadly, there are those affected by layoffs that may experience symptoms of depression, anger, resentment, and lack of motivation that become an obstacle for them re-entering the work force. What was a month, quickly turns into a year without a well designed plan. When I went through the layoff process in 2001, I networked with all resources available. Family, friends, colleagues, etc. It was "all hands on deck" and sitting at home comfortably collecting unemployment was not an option I was comfortable with.

For those people who are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, congratulations, at least you are preparing. For those people hoping for the best and assuming the know what they say about people who "ass-u-me", right?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pirates of the Millenium?

Look out Captain Hook. Move over Jack Sparrow. Hell, even the obscure former Pittsburgh Pirate Mike Lavalliere better step aside. The Somalia Pirates are in town. No, they are not after your gold, they are after ship?

Did I miss the memo about pirates re-introducing themselves as modern day villains? Seriously, there are PIRATES on the open sea that are attacking sovereign ships. Ships carrying freight, ships carrying imports, and most recently ships carrying vacationers. Why would these "Pirates" (arrr!) want to hijack a cruise liner? Are hawiian shirts and ugly sovenior mugs worth alot of money these days?

What ever happened to the routine armed robbery, ya know, where you didn't have to do it with a patch on your eye and a jewel-emblazoned sword. Hasn't criminality advanced beyond this archaic idea of "pirates" by now? Reading about these modern day Pirates makes me long for the good ol' days when robbers used ski masks and a 9 millimeter Glock.

And the media outlets are not even mentioning how these pirates of the high seas are defaming the great baseball organization, the Pittsburgh Pirates. I picture poor Mike LaValliere, or "spanky" as he was often referred, trying to simply buy a loaf of bread at the store only to be refused the sale because he use to be a Pirate. It's not even Mike LaValliere that's been affected by these so-called Pirates, think about former Pittsburgh Pirate Barry Bonds. He tried to rob the home run record from Hank Aaron and now he's being dragged through the performance enhancing mud.

So, for all the Somali Pirate readers that follow my blog, please drop the "pirate" label from your activities. Real Pirates are feeling the affects of your random hijackings. If you are looking for a group name that represents stealing, pillaging, and fleecing, then I recommend changing your name to "Fannie Mae."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saratoga Turkey Trot 2008

1674. No, it's not when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Nor is it my top score on Pole Position. 1674 is the place I finished in the 7th Annual Chris Dailey Foundation Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning in Saratoga, NY. Out of 1888 runners, i finished 1674. That means that I actually beat 214 runners!

It was a brisk 30 degrees on Thanksgiving morning as we waited for the starting gun to fire. The first 1.3 miles of the race was uphill. It was at about the .03 mile marker that I began questioning why i registered for this torturous experience. At about the .06 mile marker, I looked to my right and an eldery gentleman, passed me like I was standing still. I kid you not, the guy was probably in his mid 70's. As embarrassment settled in and shame was fast approaching, I made it to the Skidmore College campus. As I turned into the campus, I was greeted with another steep hill.

As i settled into a comfortable, yet slow pace, a couple of young college girls were coming up on my left. Trying desperately to avoid further embarrassment, I picked up my pace so as to avoid them laughing at how slow I was moving. After these girls passed, I immediately slowed back down to my turtle pace.

With the 2 mile marker well within my sights, i was about to exit the Skidmore campus. It was at that time that shame had reached an all time high. In the corner of my eye, I saw this large feathered human/bird hybrid. Yup, I was then passed by a woman running in a full turkey costume.

As I shoveled up my self esteem off the pavement, I continued toward the finish line. With friends and family cheering me on, I finished the race in 46 minutes. As I talked with my friend Jay, the winning time was re-announced to the crowd. The winner of the race completed it in 15 minutes. Using my accelerated math skills, I quickly realized that the winner could have run that race three times and still beat me.

But, I was surrounded by people who were celebrating the fact that we all finished and had fun. Shame and embarrassment was quickly replaced with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Until, of course, the race results were posted online and I saw that a 90 year old man had beat me.

So, to recap, I was beat by a 75 year old man, a 90 year old man, and a human sized turkey-woman. Good times.

(pictured above: my friend Jay, me, my wife Jo Marie, my sister Karen and my brother in law Chris....Thanks guys, I actually had a great time!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Time To Give "Thanks"

As the holiday season approaches and the Bush administration prepares to sneak out through a window in the Cabinet Room of the White House, I find it appropriate to reflect back on the past eight (is that all?) years of "leadership" George Walker Bush has provided our great nation.
Thanksgiving. A holiday where families and friends unite to give "thanks" for the blessings in their lives. Aside from the obvious blessings I've been given of the health of my family and myself, there are a few more "thanks" that are owed to our soon-to-be deposed Commander In Chief.
So, Mr. Bush, on this day of giving "thanks," I would like to thank you for the many splendid things you've done to strengthen and protect our country.
Thanks for:
Increasing our federal deficit from 5.6 trillion dollars to 9 trillion dollars.
Thanks for:
Signing the "no child left behind" bill, which has resulted in the lowering of academic standards.
Thanks for:
Your swift action to help the regions devastated by Hurrican Katrina, nothing says "we will honor and take care of our citizens" more than a $1000.00 debit card.
Thanks for:
Hypnotizing the entire nation into thinking there were actual weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and then invading them based on a false premise.
Thanks for:
Defying NATO and sending our uniformed men and women into Iraq.
Thanks for:
Not supplying our troops with enough bulletproof vests.
Thanks for:
Skimping on the bulletproof armor for the troops humvees.
Thanks for:
Taking care of our wounded soldiers with that clean, well maintained and properly funded Walter Reid Hospital.
Thanks for:
Ruining our relations with foreign leaders.
Thanks for:
Decimating our economy.
Thanks for:
That weird terrorist alert system. Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, etc. I didn't know whether to prepare for a terrorist attack or play twister.

But most of all, thanks for those clueless facial expressions that made me laugh and helped me get through my day. Mr. Bush, you will be missed. Missed like Mike misses the Mad Dog. Missed like Elizabeth Hasselbeck misses Rosie. But, most of all, "thank you" for those classic quotes that you gave to the press that never quite made sense. To which, i'll end with my favorite "bush-ism" of all time...

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." —Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Got Any Change Man?"

Let me preface this post by saying that I'm sensitive to the various plights of my community, especially considering we are in the midst of The Great Depression part deux. There are people who've lost their jobs, have no savings, and are facing homelessness, and I have the self awareness that I'm only 4 or 5 bad breaks away from being in their shoes.

But there are some people on the street that come up to me in downtown Rochester with such brazenness that I can no longer lower my head and scurry past them. A couple years ago I left the office to go get a bagel for lunch at Brugger's. As I approached the entrance to Brugger's, a homeless man approaches me and says "hey man, can you please spare some change, i'm starving." I responded with the customary "sorry, don't have any change." As I walked into the bagel shop, I felt bad about lying to the guy. The problem is that I know a large portion of the homeless pan-handle to buy their alcohol, and giving money to them just feeds their addiction.

As I'm ordering my lunch, I had a sudden change of mind. "Maybe this guy is really hungry? Maybe he hasn't had a meal in days." The lady behind the counter asks "can i get you anything else?" and i respond "yeah, can i get two more plain bagels with butter."

It made me feel good to order the extra bagels knowing that I was about to help feed someone in need.

On my way out of the store, I see the man standing near the front of the store. I hand him a bag with two bagels in it and said "here ya go, have a nice day." This man responded by saying "what's this?" as he looked in the bag.

"A couple bagels, you said you were starving" I said.

The man looked back and seemed annoyed with me. "Now..what am i going to do with this?" he asked me.

Confused, I responded "you told me you were hungry, so i got you lunch." The man said "yeah, ok" and then turned and walked away. I clearly had not given him what he

If you are like me and have fleeting thoughts of wanting to help the homeless and foodless, don't give money directly to them, give it to charitable organizations who can then fill soup kitchens and shelters with food for the homeless. That way, your money will go where you intended it to go.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Entertaining Politics

I don't know about you, but everytime i surf the tv channels at night, I come across a handful of television shows about the top 100 of something. What is this all about? Why are we so interested in rankings or lists? The more I think about it, I blame the problems of this country on top 100 lists. Think about it, these shows clearly get enough ratings for their respective network to keep airing them, or even worse, result in the creation of a spin-off list. Oi vei.

Just off the top of my head, I can name:

Top 100 Child Stars

Top 100 Hair Bands of the '80's

Top 20 Hollywood Bad Boyfriends (huh?)

Top 20 Diva Party Girls

Top 40 Embarrassing Moments

Top 20 Caught on Tape


We care more in this country about dumb useless popularity lists than we do on our political leaders. I read on a major news website that more people voted on American Idol than voted in the nation's last presidential election, which is certainly good news if Ruben Studdard decides to persue a political career.

But this type of cavalier attitude also explains why Charles Barkley is thinking about running for governor of Alabama, why the "Terminator" Arnold Schwarzenegger is governor of California, why Jesse "the body" Ventura became governor of Minnesota, and why shock jock Howard Stern actually earned 19% of the votes in the 1994 New York State governor's race...and that was after he withdrew his candidacy!

No wonder other countries laugh at us. No wonder we have become a joke to foreign leaders. I just wish we could place more importance on the people we want representing us, rather than the people who entertain us. But, I guess, sadly, they are one in the same.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Take a deep breath and remember your priorities

Increasing unemployment. Recession. Economic Doom, and a stock market that's falling faster than Lindsay Lohan's relevance. The negativity and uncertainty seems to have eroded our manners and patience for mankind.
A couple weeks ago I was riding with my dad in his van. He stopped at a gas station to fill his tires up with air. As he filled up the first tire, a thirty-something woman with two kids in the back seat of her Oldsmobile Cutlas Ciera (circa. 1988) pulled up next to us, waiting to use the air machine. As my dad moved to the back tires to fill them, the woman became increasingly agitated. Apparently my dad was taking too long for her. She began motioning angrily toward my father and when my father finished filling up, she clearly said "IT'S ABOUT F*CKING TIME!"
Have we really reached the point where mothers are cursing out 60 year old men in front of their children?
What would happen if that happened to be her last day on earth, would she really want to "go out like that?" Is that how she'd want her kids, or more importantly this world, to remember her? Before we start cussing out senior citizens, before we start loudly sighing at the elderly woman in front of us that is writing a check for a quart of milk and a half dozen eggs, can we please remind ourselves of our priorities?
The next time i'm confronted with a pimply faced teenager working at the convenient store who text messages his buddy while counting out my change, I pray that God grant me the patience to remember my priorities in life. Also God, can you please remind me to not "sweat the small stuff," which is next to impossible for me since I tend to sweat simply reading the morning paper.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"..please press 1 for instructions in spanish..."

The automated phone systems are ok. They are fine with me. I know, I know...most people can't stand them. Most people want to speak to a "human being" when they call a customer service department. I don't. I don't want to talk to anyone. I speak to "human beings" from 8am to 5pm and, trust me, i walk away with my head spinning and a sudden urge to funnel a drano cocktail. I'd rather push phone buttons for an hour to get what I need than have a 10 minute conversation with a "live person." Why you ask? well....because the recording of the computer generated chick on the phone doesn't fillibuster, she doesn't transfer me to "someone who handles that", she doesn't ask me for my cousin's wife's maiden name, and she doesn't pretend she cares while she snaps her gum and thumbs through last week's Inquirer. She just makes me press a few buttons to get what i need.

Imagine if the rest of our lives were like that?