Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Charlotte and the Summer Storm

I had just arrived home from a horrible day at work. Pulling into my drive, I saw my favorite neighbor, the 70 something day-drinking divorcee Charlotte, suddenly leap up in the chair on her front porch and run into the house. I thought maybe she ran in to batten down the hatches as they say, as a major line of summer thunderstorms were quickly moving into the area.

The air was thick as only a summer storm can make it feel. The late afternoon sun became hidden behind a swirling mass of black clouds and approaching thunder. I quickly got my briefcase out of the trunk and ran to the mail box hoping to grab the mail before the skies opened up and poured down on me.

Running with the mail in one hand, keys and briefcase in the other, I skipped up the steps of the deck to the front door. There was the petite Charlotte, standing at my front door, juggling a small cantaloupe, 2 cheese danish, and a container of her famous chili. “Charlotte! What are you doing, it’s about to pour!” I exclaimed laughing fumbling for the house keys. “Well you boys have to eat!” she said laughing back.

“OK, OK, thank you! You are TOO good to John and I. Put the food down on the bench and I will open up the house first and then grab the food. Now get across the lawn before we get caught in the downpour!” Quarter-sized droplets were already making welt sized wetmarks here and there on my dress shirt. She didn’t stick around and had already bolted across our side yards as quickly as her little legs could carry her.

I got inside the house and dropped my stuff. I then turned back outside and grabbed the chili, cantaloupe, and cheese danish and attempted to close the front door with my ankle. The small cantaloupe slipped out of my hand and went rolling down the steps to the basement with Max and Moxie Cat chasing after it. “A NEW TOY!” they undoubtedly thought. I will get it later, I thought with a chuckle.

Raindrops were now falling heavily but it was not yet pouring. I went into the living room to turn on the evening news. From my large living room window, I spied Charlotte yelling for Abby, her gray tiger stripped kitty, on her back deck. “Abby! Abby!” I looked at the front porch and saw Abby lounging, then get up and start through the bushes for the back deck. Charlotte went into the house from the back and crossed through the house to the front porch.

Charlotte appeared on the front porch and yelled, “Abby! Abby! Come in, the storm is coming!” Abby now was on the back deck wondering where Charlotte was. Abby’s head perked up in the direction of the front porch and proceeded to go through the bushes back in that direction. Charlotte, in the meantime, went back inside and I saw her go through the house again to the back deck! I watched this comedy of errors happen two more times before I said to myself I need to put an end to this!

I went outside, now with rain coming down, trees and branches blowing all about, and yelled to Charlotte across the yard through the howling winds, “Abby is now on the front porch again! Stop changing positions! Just go and get her without yelling her name!” Charlotte nodded and ran through the house again to the front porch and collected her dear little Abby just as the storm hit with rains pouring down. Ahhh, I thought to myself, my work as a good neighbor is done here!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mr. Rabbit

Yesterday after the gym, I was driving down the street to my driveway and spied a rabbit nibbling peacefully on some grass in my yard. I smiled and observed him for a bit. It has been awhile since I have seen one in the yard. Call me East Coast sentimental, but I believe every grassy yard should have a rabbit, a chipmunk or two, squirrels, the occasional skunk, and some robins and cardinals. It is just enough wildlife to remind you that you are not the only living thing out there!

While spying on Mr. Rabbit, I remembered back to my youth when I lived on Maple Street in Wenonah, NJ. I was about 7 years old. Dad came in the house and asked if we kids wanted to see something neat. So Mom, Adam, Sheryl, and I followed Dad out into the backyard. We wandered over to the side of the house by the tether ball pole. Below that by the fence, we had a large forsythia bush.

Dad told put his fingers up to his lips and shushed us quiet. Slowly he bent down and parted some lower leaves and branches and pointed to a small hollow at the base of the bush. There was a litter of 5 baby rabbits hiding in a nest lined with rabbit fur and green grass. They had hair and were about 4 inches long. Dad pointed out the small one, the runt of the litter. He was about an inch shorter than the rest.

Dad said to us in a low quiet tone, “Now don’t touch them, or the mother won’t come back. We can’t disturb them or she won’t come back and raise them. OK?”

We nodded eagerly and quietly watched the little bunnies sleeping in the nest. We followed Dad’s advice and didn’t visit the nest again. Playing tether ball was also put on hold. About six weeks later, the bunnies were spied leaving one by one. A couple remained and we had more rabbits throughout the years, possibly relatives of that original litter which Dad showed us.

My rabbit continued to contently munch away on some grass, not a care in the world. He’s an Eastern Cottontail, maybe 4-5 pounds, with a beautiful brown coat. Hope he sticks around for a bit.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Ever have a reoccurring dream? I have had a couple of reoccurring nightmares since childhood. I have often wondered why these horrible dreams are lodged in my psyche. What part of my childhood initially triggered these torments of the night? The first involves zombies. John always wonders where my fascination with them comes from. I figure it must come from this reoccuring nightmare. I love the AMC TV series “The Walking Dead.” Can’t get enough of it! I love the gore, the fear of the people running from them, and hopelessness of a dying human race being overrun with zombies. Now everyone scream! When I was younger, I started dreaming of being chased by these undead monsters. I am in a dark wet basement, running from room to room. The air is damp, the concrete floor cold. I run into a dimly lit room and quickly close a door behind me, locking it. I am shaking with fear. They are outside of the door, beating on it endlessly, groaning at me in their zombie voices. I back up into the farthest corner of the room. Just as they break down the door and I scream my heart out but no sound comes out! I wake up in a cold sweat. Same dream, every time. I have had this dream so many times over then span of 30 years I can’t even count how many! The other dream I have over and over involves the sea, specifically the Jersey shore. Now before you all go … “Well of course it’s is a nightmare because it's the Jersey shore!” I say yeah whatever, heard it before. I love the Jersey shore, grew up summering down there and will always love it. No Jersey shore bashing allowed in my blog! :-) However, in my dream I am at the shore, wading in the water, close to land. Suddenly, I am drawn by some unforceable force further and further out. Something is dragging me down into the dark murky waters. I can’t swim, I feel like I am in quicksand. I can’t move my limbs. I am sucked down, choking on salt water. I can’t breathe and I black out. Once I wake, I am in my bed, sweating as they say … like a whore in church. To this day, I don’t swim out too far into the ocean. I have such a fear of being dragged out by rip tides. I know my fear stems from this dream, warranted or not. My question has always been what events in my childhood ingrained these dreams into my psyche? There is nothing I can remember. Maybe a bout of hypnosis would do be some good …. or open up events that create more questions. My friend Sarah pointed out that sometimes repressed memories can bring up some pretty scary things. I think she is right. Sometimes it is better to let sleeping dogs lie. So for now, I have these two dreams every once in a while. I haven’t had them in ages though. Maybe it's been a year since the last time. They also occur when I am stressed out. It’s surprising I haven’t dreamt them these past couple months since it has been a particularly difficult time in my life. When I do have them now, I have noticed that I have been able to recognize, “Oh … OK … this is that dream again. I remember this.” With that, I now wake up before it gets too scary. The zombies can stay on TV!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Right Place at the Right Time

After work the other evening, I stopped at the local supermarket to mail a letter. The supermarket has a small post office open during business hours. Yes, some people STILL use snail mail.

While I was walking into the supermarket, a visibly flustered woman ran right into me. With no apology, she looked at me, shook her head and continued on. Okaaaay, I thought, someone is having a bad day with a side of crazy.

I continued inside and made a left to the little post office. My heart sank. The line was 15 people deep and all I needed was a stamp. I let out a deep sigh. I wasn’t going to wait 30 minutes for just a stamp! The letter would have to be mailed tomorrow.

I turned around and headed out to my car. At least, I thought, I got a parking space close to the building. I suddently noticed a car backing up quickly while a teenager was walking behind it. I yelled “HEY!” but the driver didn’t notice. I immediately slammed my hands down on the front hood of the car screaming “STOP!”

The person braked hard and looked up at me. It was the flustered woman who ran into me while I entered the supermarket. I adamantly pointed to the teenager now frozen behind the car. She turned her head around, looked at him, and then looked at me.

“Thank you.” she mouthed to me. She looked as if she were about to burst into tears. The kid now continued walking and yelled, “Thanks!”

Sometimes you are just in the right place at the right time.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bartending Ups and Downs

As some of you know, I am a part time bartender at the local firehouse social club and at the private lodge in my community. I make my “fun money” this way. I really enjoy it. Being a “talker”, I am completely in my social element. Usually it means a fun, busy evening of bouncing about pouring beers, making shots, and mixing cocktails!

Sometimes though, bartenders have to make difficult decisions which are not so fun. It involves cutting people off, sending them on their way, making sure they are alright to drive, or finding them a ride if they need one. I have on more than one occasion actually had to give a patron a lift home if no other ride could be found. As a bartender, you have the tough job of gauging people’s tolerance to alcohol. A sober person sometimes can quickly become a VIP (visibly intoxicated person)before you know it depending on if they are on medication, have had nothing to eat, or normally do not drink a lot.

The other week I had an issue with a loud obnoxious woman. She has come into the Lodge before and is usually a little kilter anyway. I always attributed it to her odd overbearing personality. She tends to really talk loud and other patrons eventually move their seats away from her. She drinks and gets louder. She is always nice to me but I sometimes have to tell her to bring it down a notch and keep an eye on her.

That night she had a problem with one of our waitresses and was grumbling to whomever would listen. I was told about it and had to make the difficult decision to place myself “into the issue.” So I jumped in, handled it, and it was soon resolved. Unfortunately, when she comes in, I roll my eyes thinking, “What will she be like tonight?”

My good friend at the Lodge asked me after the incident, “How do you place yourself into a situation without hesitation?” I told her at the time that you just do it because it has to be done. After thinking about it more, I realized that taking the position of bar manager or bartender comes with uncomfortable situations like this. You have to observe people who drink and then judge their behavior. Some people are happy drinkers, other are obnoxiously loud ones. Luckily most people fall in between. If there is a conflict, you have to gauge the situation on whether it’s more important to win the battle or win the war. How can this be resolved quickly? How do we not make this escalate into a situation where the police may need to be called? Should this person be banned?

During one night, a bar patron thought that I was being disrespectful to him by not allowing him to run a tab. He had misunderstood me and started getting loud in front of everyone, yelling, “I don’t need this! I will spend my money elsewhere!” He thrust his beers he had just bought back into my hand. It was embarrassing and I tried reasoning with him but to no avail. I backed away and let him go. You see, after trying to reason with him, I realized he was just not hearing me and it wasn’t worth any further scene in the bar. I acquiesced as I just knew I wasn’t going to “win this one.”

A couple months later, he came back in and I didn’t bring it up until he did. I explained that he had misunderstood what I had said and he apologized to me for his behavior. He continued by stating that he had been having a bad day and didn’t mean to take it out on the bartender. Sometimes that happens. We all have bad days and take it out on other people. All was forgiven and I bought he and his wife a round.

So next time, remember that bartending may seem all fun but it comes with a lot of responsibility. If I cut you off or tell you to calm down, it’s not because I am trying to rain on your parade. I am trying to keep order in an establishment that serves alcohol. I can and am held accountable by state liquor control laws. If God forbid something happens to you, you can be rest assured that something will probably happen to me as well.

And by the way, just a little side note from your friendly neighborhood bartender, Long Island Ice Teas and any frozen drinks of any kind are a pain in the ass to make.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Support "Lunchbox Envy": a Great Cause and Cookbook for Kids!

Hi Friends and Family,

Please take a minute to follow the link above to a great project which my stepmom Martha Haynes is involved with and watch the video to find out more! Please check out and support their project!

She is part of a group called Locally Delicious. Here is a bit about them taken off of their website,

Locally Delicious is a small non-profit organization in Humboldt County, California that advocates for healthy food and localized, sustainable food systems through education and grant-giving.

A few of you may remember the cookbook which Martha helped write:(taken from their website) Locally Delicious, now in its second edition, is 314 full-color pages packed with more than 200 recipes instructing readers on how to use local ingredients, where to find them and why it's important for their health and the health of the planet to do so.

Their latest project, Lunchbox Envy, is a cookbook aimed at kids 8 years and up on how to make lunches that are easy to prepare by families of all income levels.

I am very proud of Martha's involvement with this project. Please support their book with a pledge of $5.00, $10.00, or more. Please pass on the link. As of July 2, there are only 9 days left to raise the $15,000 needed to continue with this project. If you are a mother, a father, aunt, or uncle ... if you are a chef or a teacher ... if you are someone that cares about what are kids are eating and want to help teach them how to eat correctly, then please support this cause! Teach our kids that it can be a fun interactive experience! To make a pledge, please follow the Kickstarter link. I have included it again here:

By the way, at the 8 second mark in the video, my stepmom Martha is the one with the t-shirt that says "Badass"!!! Gotta love her! She is also at the 2:50 minute mark wearing the red sweater over her shoulders. I am so proud of her.


Monday, July 2, 2012

High School Gifts

My niece Angelica graduated from middle school this year and will be going onto high school. For her graduation present, my brother and his wife set up a scavenger hunt which ended with her graduation gift, an IPhone. I was excited for Angelica because she worked so hard this year and deserved it.

I thought about the high school graduation gifts that I have received in my life. My high school did not include a middle school and we went straight from 7th grade through 12th. When I graduated 6th grade Wenonah Elementary and went onto Gateway Regional High School, I was given the gift of false expectations. I thought everything would be the same as in 6th grade and it would be easy and fun and wonderful and I would fit it with everyone. Gee, was I wrong. My first day in 7th grade, I was assigned a locker mate. He smelled, was the age of a 10th grader, and had week long crust formed in his eyes. Don't ask me why, I never asked him. I promptly marched down to the front office and got my own locker after he told me we would not be putting a lock on the locker as it took too much time to get his "smokes" out.

Subsequent locker mates were not any better. My locker mate in 9th grade vomited one morning into our locker. Lucky for him, he only vomited on my side of the locker.

When I completed 8th grade and moved onto 9th grade, my "graduation" gift was getting tripped by a senior the first week in school. All of his friends laughed at me while "high-fiving" each other. "Good one!!!!" they exclaimed. Actually I said that to them like the geek in the movie 16 Candles.

I also was given the gift of horrible acne and greasy skin for my entrance to high school. The acne medicine back then was tinted one color, medium beige. So if I used it sparingly, I ended up looking like my face had been splattered with clay from art class. If I used it all over, my ancestry would dramatically change from white Caucasian to Hispanic within 15 minutes each morning.

My 9th grade class picture showed the pure humiliation I came to know those first couple years. The photographer said something to me while I was posing and I leaned forward asking "What did you (FLASH!) say?" So I was in mid sentence with my mouth hanging open drooling when the picture was taken. You can guess how bad it looked. I had a do-over done later that year but the damage was done with the photo now permanently in that year's school yearbook.

The last three grades in high school went much better than the first three. I actually began to enjoy it looking forward to graduation and my life beyond at Rutgers University. I was also so excited to get that all important graduation gift from my parents. Would it be a car? A trip out to see family in Colorado? Several hundred dollars in one of those narrow greeting cards that you know hold money before you open then up?

I received luggage. This was the gift that my brother before me received for his graduation. This was also the gift that my sister before him received for her graduation. My parents, LOVE THEM, justified that you will always need a good set of luggage for your "journey into adulthood." I see their metaphorical point, but … luggage.

For the record, my sister and I were cracking up about this on the phone the other day, and 30 years later, she still has one of the pieces of her set. That is entirely another blog … that's all I'm sayin'.