Me, Sher, and Ad

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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Skills My Parents Taught Me

This morning I was fumbling around in the dark for my shoes. I was sleepy and groggy from the dry heat in the bedroom. I usually turn it down right before bed but forgot the previous night, thus waking up to stifling heat and a foggy mind. I grabbed a shoe, put it on, and absent-mindedly tied it. I grabbed the other one and did the same. Both shoes were successfully tied. I thought back for a split second to when my Mom and Dad taught me how to tie my shoe laces. I must've been like 5 years old. I remember getting so frustrated because I couldn't grasp it.  But I got it, and here was I, at age 45, tying my shoes blindly in the dark. It's one of those skills which we were taught and take for granted now that we are adults.

It was then I looked down and realized I had two different shoes on! I laughed out loud thinking "Well one out of two ain't bad!"

Driving to work, I began to think of other tasks and skills I learned that my parents have taught me. These are lifelong skills which I often take for granted but felt I needed to acknowledge as sort of a thank you to my folks. Skill sets are essential to leading a fairly successful life. My folks, I feel, set me up just fine.

The earliest skill I remember was my mother teaching me how to drink out of a glass at age 3 of 4. We lived in the Crossings Apartments in Glassboro, NJ. I was standing just inside the kitchen and she handed me a green glass with apple juice in it. (To this day, apple juice is still my favorite juice.) Mom said something along the lines of "Now be careful, hold it with both hands." It was the first time I drank out of an actual glass. Amazing I can still remember it as clear as yesterday.

Speaking of drinking, Mom also taught me a little trick in college. She was a little worried about my drinking habits in my fraternity and didn't want me to go overboard. Mom said to me that if I ever did not want to drink at a party (um, yeah right), I could get a club soda and lime and just say it was a vodka club soda. Now Mom and Dad attended their fair share of house parties in Wenonah where we grew up. This was her little trick of staying sober in the midst of the drunken neighborly madness of the 70s and 80s. I never used this trick in my 20s BUT in my 40s, I have used it and each time, give a silent thanks to my Mom.

Now Dad taught me how to ride my bike. We had a great sidewalk in the front of our home in Wenonah with ivy bushes on one side to fall into. I remember seeing the bike with training wheels and being so apprehensive watching him take them off. I got on the seat at the one end of the sidewalk. With Dad balancing the bike I began to peddle with him running behind me. With a big push, I was off! I was doing it! I was riding my bike without training wheels! But how to stop? Unceremoniously, I fell into the ivy bushes and began screaming.

Mom taught me how to do my laundry for college. Whites with whites, darks with darks, colors with colors. Try and keep reds separate. And to be safe, wash everything on cold! It worked and I only ended up with pink underwear once in college.

I remember Dad spending time with each of us kids on our cars. He taught me how to change a tire, put air in the tires, pump gas, and check the oil. There we were, leaning over the hot engine, I was pulling out the dipstick and checking the oil levels with Dad guiding me. I learned the hard way to not touch a hot car engine. Dad said in his ever calm voice, "Now don't touch that, it's hot. You'll burn yourself." Oh I still did, burning my hand.

Speaking of which, I remember Mom telling me not to touch the electric stove at my boyhood home on Maple Street in Wenonah. And yet I did, resulting in a circular burn mark on my palm from the burner. That happened only once, too.  :-(

Mom more successfully taught me how to wash the dishes. But I remember her frustration at my bad dishing washing, exclaiming, "You need more soap. These are greasy!"  LOL  Hmmm. That's probably why I only buy high quality dish soap now. I'm kinda nuts about it now. (See my last blogpost!

Dad also taught me to shave with an electric razor. I used to pretend to shave myself with Dad looking on before I grew peach-fuzz. This is a quite common experience/memory among us guys. Your dad puts shaving cream on your cheeks and chin and then pretends to help you to shave off the nonexistent hair. My Dad did that with both Adam and I. Then one Christmas, my parents bought me my first electric razor! After a couple years of using the electric I switched to the manual razors in college. These days, I trim my beard with an electric clippers and shave only on special occasions because of my sensitive skin. I am such a sensitive guy. LOL

Lastly, both parents taught Sheryl, Adam, and I how to balance our checkbooks. We started with a passbook savings account for each of us. Obviously kids don't learn this skill anymore. Bank accounts are all electronic and you can check the balance online. When I go to the bank, I sometimes I see an adult still using the old fashioned checkbook. I smile and think back to my parents and how they patiently showed me how to enter the amounts which I deposited and withdrew. As an adult, I seem to do a bit more withdrawing from my accounts than depositing!

Whomever taught you your skills: your folks, your siblings, grandparents, older adults  and or friends, be thankful that they took the time to show you specific abilities to help you succeed in this world. Make sure as a responsible adult that you pass on the knowledge you've learned to the next generation. Be patient as well, for you may have a kid like me who will still touch a hot stove even if you tell them not to.

Monday, January 18, 2016

30+ Things to Invest In During Your Life

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Throughout my 45 years, I've learned a couple of things along the way.

There are things in your life in which you absolutely should invest in. They can extrinsic in nature such as better, higher quality objects including clothing, tools, household items, and your car just to name a few.

They can also be intrinsic investments. These are related to your inner self, your morals and values. These type of investments tend to foster not only your physical health but your mental health as well. A lot of them have long term benefits.

Now there are certain things in your life that you can cut corners on. For instance, while shopping at a Rite - Aid or CVS, chances are that their products are just as good as the name brand ones. Vitamins or over-the-counter medicine for instance, look at the ingredients label and you will see that the drug store brands contain the same ingredients in usually the same order.

Then there are other things which you cannot cut corners on like a good vodka or Champagne. Nothing beats a Grey Goose martini except maybe YOUR favorite vodka. How's that for diplomacy? LOL. For Champagne, we all know Dom Perignon is not a $7.99 bottle but at least it doesn't taste like one either. A 2005 bottle of Dom will put you back around $170.00. For once in your life if you can ever afford it, splurge and sip on some Dom. (Or do like my dear Ritz-Carlton friend Wendy and I did one late evening and snag a bottle after an event during our Ritz days and drink it in her upstairs office! Being so bad never tasted so good!)

In my opinion, wine is actually an exception to this rule. You can buy a great bottle of wine for $10.00 or less. Of course you spend a fortune on a bottle of Opus One Cabernet and it's incredible. But you can also spend $7.99 on a bottle of Rex Goliath Cabernet and enjoy it just as much.

So onto my list of thirty-something random "things" that I feel you should invest in.

Your hair: Get good hair cut. It also doesn't have to be a an expensive hair salon to be a good cut. I go to the Port Clinton Barber Shop where Frank the Marine buzz cuts my hair for $8.00 and he does a pretty damn good job. (At least that's what people are telling me, LOL.)

Dishwashing liquid: Nothing annoys me more than going through half a bottle of watered down generic dishwashing liquid in  a sink full of dishes. I feel that this is a perfect example of when the brand name stuff works better and lasts much longer. Search for coupons and you can get it cheaper.

Laundry detergent: Same as above. The cheaper generic versions tend not to clean as well. I think it's because they have a thinner, more water soluble consistency. Lemme know down below if you feel otherwise.

Bath towels and sheets: Higher count means softer. Also, go for fluffy towels. No one likes drying your butt with a thin rough towel that feels like sandpaper, unless that's your thing. You can always get cheaper deals on higher quality towels and sheets at places like Kohl's, Marshalls, or Ross Stores.

Pillows: OK I mentioned towels and sheets above. This goes along with them. Get a decent pillow, not one that will sag and flatten in the middle after a month. You need some firmness to it. I have one regular style pillow and one memory foam to contour to my head and neck. With pillows, you get what you pay for. Don't forget to check to see if the pillow contains goose feathers. I'm allergic and learned the hard way!

Tools: Invest in a good set of basic tools and know how to use them. Include the following: a hammer, a Phillips head screwdriver, a flathead screwdriver, a monkey wrench. Ya know what? Just follow this link: But maaaaybe 50 is a little excessive. LOL

A good snow shovel:  Go through the motions at the store. If you purchase one at Lowes or Home Depot, it shouldn't cost you more than $20-$30 at the most. Your back will thank you for it.

Socks: Why go cheap on socks when they are going to fall apart after 5 or so washes? Get a nicer quality and they will last much longer through repeated washings.

Q-tips:  They don't even have to be the Q-tips brand! Try the store brand cotton swabs but make sure they have the paper or wood rods and have plenty of cotton on either end. The plastic bendy ones suck and the more cotton on the end the better. No one likes poking their ear and the cotton helps prevent this. But it also just feels better! Ahhhhhh.....

Good deodorant/antiperspirant: Cheap stuff will make you smell. I learned the hard way. I was called Pig Pen that week from Peanuts? Remember? Don't skimp on this. The cheap stuff won't last and will possibly melt in the container during the summer, You'll stink. 'Nuff said.

Lightbulbs:  People are now pushing the longer lasting energy efficient bulbs. I try and look for a mid-range priced bulb. It is annoying to have to replace light bulbs which go out after a month of continued use. I don't go for the really expensive ones though as I'm not at a place in my life where I really feel I need a lightbulb to be around after I'm dead.

Makeup: This one is from my sister. If you use dollar store makeup, expect your face to break out overnight. Get quality stuff which contains the words noncomedogenic and hypoallergenic.

Cologne or perfume:  Get the cheap knock off stuff and you are gonna smell like a $2.00 hooker or gigolo. Or at the very worst, your Nana. Buy the most expensive cologne or perfume you can afford. Sample scents and see what works for you. Ask the clerks at the counters for their advice BUT get a smaller bottle to start off. The expensive stuff will last longer and a little goes a LONG way. Use for special occasions and above all, DO NOT bathe in it!

Underwear: Get something fun and comfortable that fits well. They don't all have to be boring tighty-whities! My favorite pair is a tartan plaid square cut with bunny rabbit skulls provocatively placed. If you'd like to see me in them, please send $10 to Marc Haynes at ... On second thought, private message me. :)

Moisturizer:  My awesome Mom taught me this one! Cheap moisturizers does not last. Get a mid-priced one and you'll use less of it while is lasts longer on your skin. I cannot stand having dry hands and I am constantly slathering my hands up (no jokes please). No more cheap stuff!

Tin foil:  Cheap tin foil will rip too easily. It is thinner and generally of a lesser quality than the higher end stuff. If you want your tin foil to last or you are using it in your freezer or on your grill, you are gonna have to put out a couple more bucks for the betters stuff.

Coffee: I'm not talking about the coffee you buy for your office. Hit up the generic crap for that. Spend a little more and get some great quality coffee for yourself at home. The better coffees have all of these flavor nuances which will astound you. Savor it. Have a basic coffee for during the week and then that special coffee for the weekends.

A great pair of jeans:  Get a pair that shows off that ass. You've worked hard for it, might as well flaunt it. But seriously, spend some money, invest in a great classic pair of denim jeans and watch them mold to your body over the years. The denim softens and will start to hug every curve of your body. Sounds sexual? It should. A great pair of jeans makes you feel and look sexy. But note, this doesn't mean you have to invest a fortune. I have paid little as $40.00 on sale for a pair of awesome Levi Strauss jeans that are one of my favorite pairs now. Look for sales and read reviews of the best jeans out there. Here is a blog devoted to just that! In addition, a great pair of Levi's will never go out of style.

Messenger bags, purses, luggage, etc:  Buy quality and it will last for years. I go for classic looks over trendy styles. My sister gave me a new messenger bag for Christmas. It is canvas, constructed well with tight stitching. I want it to last a long time and I know this one will. The brand? Levi Strauss. It's as well constructed as their blue jeans.

A nice meal: Once a year at least, take out that honey or stud OR just treat YOURSELF! You work hard and you know you deserve it. Go out to the nicest restaurant in your area and order something you wouldn't normally order, like lobster, shrimp, steak, or the most expensive veggie platter (if that's your thing). :) We aren't getting any younger and we need to pamper and treat ourselves more. Plus, you expand your horizons by trying new and exciting foods. Try Thai if you never have. I can guarantee they have chicken on the menu if you wanna take baby steps! Wanna try Japanese but don't like sushi? Try tempura chicken or vegetables, lightly fried in a tempura batter. YUM. Me? Hold the veggies and I'll take the steak.

Cooking: Invest in a good basic cookbook. It doesn't need to Martha-what's-her-name. I am not doubting that she is great but you can start off with a Rachel Ray cookbook or even good ole' Betty Crocker one. Start learning cooking measurements and how to use your oven. The feeling of cooking a successful meal is an incredible feeling of accomplishment!

Quality candles:  They will burn longer, smell better, and give off less smoke. IKEA has great tealights and votives which last much longer than your cheaper 99-cent store variety. Ever notice how cheaper candles don't smell like they are supposed to? More perfumey and just disgusting? I once bought a generic vanilla candle and I swear it smell like a wet dog. (And I own cats.) I just have to say it ...Yankee Candles are still #1 in my book.

Matches: One needs good matches to light your good quality candles. The giveaway ones from the bars are fine in pinch but invest in a long handle lighter to protect those fingers or buy some good quality wooden wooden long handle matches for the fireplace or grill. As always, keep them away from the pyro-playful kiddies.

First aid kit:  Invest in a good one or make up one yourself to include at least the follow:  good, quality band-aids, gauze, first aid cream, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, first aid tape, scissors, and latex gloves. Check out the American Red Cross website for more ideas: Your boo-boo will thank you later.

Condoms:  Don't buy condoms from a truck stop, bar, or diner. Suck up the pride and embarrassment and buy quality condoms at Rite-Aid or CVS.  My day to day job is a child support officer, If you use a lesser quality condom, maybe I'll see you in my office when the mother files a case against you?

Paints:  When painting your home, read paint reviews and pick the correct paint for that particular room. Do you need it waterproof for the bathroom? Is it interior or exterior? Do you want a flat paint  for the walls and a glossy one for the trim? Research what you need and then buy a good quality paint from a reputable store. In addition, ask questions! The people who work in paint departments know more than the average person. If you don't know, ask. Use them for their knowledge.

Music: Invest in a great music library. I don't care whether it's LPs, CDs, or MP3s. (Now 8 tracks and cassette tapes?  I draw the line! LOL) Don't just stick to one area. Branch out and discover others types of music such as R&B, the Standards, classic rock, jazz, disco, doo-whop. punk, classical, etc. The nice thing about all of the music streaming sites and online radios is that you can listen to different types of music without having to first buy anything.

Alternately, go see a band live!! OMG, LIVE MUSIC? Is that still around??? Why yes, friends it is. There are so many venues out there where you can experience the thrill of heart and soul pumping bass without shelling out hundreds of dollars for tickets! I'm seeing a good friend perform in the next week with 4 other bands and paying $10.00 per person. You can't beat that! Your local bars and taverns will often host bands on the weekends. Just check out your local papers or online.

Good Scotch, cognac, or whisky:  A good Scotch or whisky is usually smoother. You taste more flavor, less alcoholic bite. You sip it, DON'T guzzle. (My friends you know who you are. And stop pointing the finger at ME!)

Friendships:  Friendships need cultivation. They need give and take. This means picking up the phone and talking to your friends. Friendships are not solely be based on texting. Texting is fine but we are doing too much of it. You need face to face time whether it be drinks out, shopping together, grabbing a bite to eat, or even just catching a movie. Constant texting is not investing in your friendships.

Your home:  Homes age, paint chips, corners get dinged up, floors dull, walls get scuffed. Your home is a reflection of yourself. Invest in your home and you are investing in yourself and your pride. It doesn't have to be adding on an addition. Keep it neat, clean, and organized. (A never ending project for me. LOL)

Your kids: I don't have kids so I'm giving out advice based on what I see my my brother Adam and his wife Teresa do. Invest in education of course but also invest in their life experiences. Take them to museums, take them outside on a hike or camping. Get them to find an activity they like and encourage them to pursue it. It could be sports, music, art, etc. There has to be something other than video games. Show them what culture is. Expose them to different foods, different music, different films. Not every movie is an action movie. Spend quality time with them. Plan a game night. Have them help make dinner. There is so much out there to do with your children! Me? I'll take my cats.

Culture: This goes along with the above. Invest in culture for yourself! It could be a different museum once a month, or going to see the symphony (even if its for the Looney Tunes or Star Wars night), See a foreign or an old film at a local small theater. Catch a local play or musical, it doesn't have to by NYC (  My point is for you to get out and expose yourself to culture. It can be a Fall festival, an Italian or Greek festival, or a 4th of July parade. There are tons of stuff always going on. You just need to look online or in your local paper in the community section. Not everything happens on TV.

Pets: Invest in your pets in terms of time. If you don't have time to invest in your pets, don't have them please. They need love and attention. They need stimulation. PLAY with them! Also invest in their health. Take them for checkups so they live a long and healthy life. They will reward you with years of companionship and unconditional love.

Your vehicle: Dad always said get your oil changed on time and he wasn't just blowing smoke. It will extend the life of your car and it's engine. Get your tires rotated and keep them filled! They will last longer and improve your gas mileage. Also, get good tires, not $50.00 a tire special you sometimes see run in ads. Those tires are crap. I learned that the hard way one year. Listen, no one likes car payments. They suck completely. So why would you skimp on vehicle maintenance when you are paying for something so expensive? You are paying for something you want to last for as long as possible between repairs and basic maintenance will help that.

Your health: Those who know me know that I take this seriously. My mother died young 6 1/2 years ago and it shell-shocked me. I decided last January to invest in my health and be in the best shape of my life by my 45th birthday in June of this past year. I got there and it has been a great journey. I have realized you cannot get into shape by dieting alone. In order to get into long term optimal shape, you need to have proper diet AND exercise. It is a lifestyle change, one that hopefully will pay off in the long term. My body still creaks and groans in the morning but I sleep better, get up quicker, and have more energy.

Lastly, This may just be a good financial investment for your future or for that matter, the world's: air plastics. Here is what it is all about:  I just find the concept interesting. :)

I know I may have forgotten some. Then again, my blog, my list. LOL Are there any others that you can suggest?

Monday, January 11, 2016

10 Second Memory: Meeting David Bowie

This was my first introduction to David Bowie as a musician. I fell in love with the song "Blue Jeans" in 1984. He was SO COOL.

On January 10th, 2016, David Bowie passed away. The world has lost an incredible musician and artist. According to Wikipedia, David Bowie "sold an estimated 140 million albums. In the United Kingdom, he was awarded 9 Platinum, 11 Gold and 8 Silver albums, and in the United States, 5 Platinum and 7 Gold."  He was the consummate artist, experimenting and crossing genres during his 47 year plus incredible career.

My experience with the Thin White Duke was a brief meeting in October of 1997 when I worked at the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia as a concierge. He was staying with us during his Earthling Tour supporting the album of the same name. I was finishing up some paperwork at the concierge desk with my head down in paperwork as usual. Sometimes I'd be hiding down below behind the huge massive dark oak and marble desk to avoid talking to people.

I heard someone clear their throat and in a quiet soft voice state, "Excuse me."

I looked up from the chaos of papers and before me was a delicate wisp of a man, perfectly dressed and composed. It was David Bowie! I had heard he was staying with us and hoped for a sighting but instead, he was now before me! I had to fight every urge to freak out and instead maintain MY composure!

It was just the briefest of encounters. I cannot even remember exactly what was asked, I think he was asking directions to a particular store. I do know that this man, this rock star, this rock GOD David Bowie was such a gentleman. He was also unassuming, polite, warm, and genuine. He was genteel.

I was also so impressed with the fact on how he traveled. If my memory is correct, he was there with a single bodyguard and his macrobiotic chef. Macrobiotic. I had no idea what that meant. "Macaroni?" I asked Gideon, my concierge counterpart who responded with a fit of laughter. I remember catching our Chef rolling his eyes at the very word "macrobiotic." David Bowie was waaay ahead of his time. Now, you see variations of macrobiotic and vegan diets everywhere!

In comparison, another MAJOR British band had just stayed with us on their tour just prior to Bowie's stay. They took up an entire floor, had the Ritz-Carlton Suite wired for European soccer and even had a room just for wardrobe. They had the "roadies" stay over at the Wyndham Franklin Hotel.

And here was David Bowie, so down to earth and unassuming, taking up a whopping three rooms. I never forgot that. David Bowie never let fame nor fortune go to his head. Sure he wanted nice digs while on the road touring. But he didn't need 21 plus rooms for him and his entire entourage!

So back to my chance encounter with Mr. Bowie. I gave him the information he requested. I think it was directions to a shop on Walnut Street up by Rittenhouse Square. I told him that it was just a short walk a couple blocks over.

He simply responded, "That's brilliant."

Me, being the starstruck dorky young American leaned over the huge concierge desk and blurted out, "IT IS BRILLIANT! ISN'T IT?!?!"

He looked at me confused and yet ultimately bemused. After an awkward pause, he quietly chuckled before it seemingly gliding away on air just like one would expect David Bowie to do. :)

Red faced, embarrassed, and flushed, I once again hunkered down behind the massive desk.

And with that, my favorite of all favorite David Bowie songs, performed with the exquisite Annie Lennox at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in London, 1992.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Awesome Rants 'n Raves of 2015

If I had a resolution for 2016 (which by the way, I hate resolutions), it would be to would rant 'n rave more effectively and often. Now I do express my opinion but every now and then I pull it back so I don't offend others (yes I know, ironic for someone who blogs). Often a family member or friend of mine posts a great rant 'n rave which I will now be forwarding onto you to enjoy, gripe, or ponder about. You may or may not agree with them but I think it is important to show differing opinions. In each of them, I find something that I can identify with!

Blogger's Note: Each of these rants was posted on Facebook and reprinted with the parties' permission. Except for possible grammatical or punctuation errors, rants are printed as they were appeared on Facebook. 

Sheryl (my sister): tired of the complaints, political bashing, racism, discrimination, intolerance, fear, meanness, and in general, overall negative rhetoric regarding the past few months on the domestic incidents, the government and our county. I'm tired of no one really providing any alternative solutions to ANYTHING!!! 

Useless selfish speeches are purposefully put out there to incite negativity and detract from understanding each other. But the beauty of America is that you all have that freedom to make all the negative criticisms and bash all the politicians you want. Many politicians you all voted for; many who trade their moralistic visions in for the power they get a taste of and seem to say anything to keep. But the beauty of America is that you all can vote them out; you can make a difference by behaving differently; you can try to be positive or even be nice to those Americans affected the most by the negative media or political speeches. Why choose to join or fuel the mass hysteria???? I mean the beauty of America is that if you don't really like it, you can leave it.

Adam (my brother):

Hope this comes out clearly. We are not trying to come up with ideas to kick people out of the country or put them in internment camps like the Japanese. We are trying to prevent people from coming into the country who are not citizens that already could pose a threat the to United States and our way of life. Unfortunately, some of these extreme ideas to protect out way of life don't make people feel warm and fuzzy all over. They always go back to what our Constitution stated when it was first conceived. 

Taking that into account, we have to find a way to prevent these radicals from trying to destroy our lives and way of life. I would like to hear some of these other ideas that are less drastic than those being presented by the presidential nominees... I find it interesting that it's OK for France to shut their borders down to protect their way of life, but we cannot do that....

Darren (my buddy who is a drummer in the awesome Philadelphia punk rock band Riverside Odds):

You want to know why children are such little prima donna bitches now?

They don't play tackle football. They can't play in the dirt. They eat shit foods because parents coddle them and give into their every want. They can't swim after they eat. It's an ADD problem, and it's never a "diet" or "lack of physical activity" problem. Every kid NEEDS Prozac. They don't know how to socialize face-to-face with people because they live vicariously through a video game of "social networking." 

Let your kids get hurt. Let them get sick. Let them learn mistakes on their own. Spank them when they don't listen. Let them get into fist fights. Ground them from more than just their precious cell phones. People become independent from actions, not just by saying "I raised them to be independent." Teach them to do things on their own. Do chose, do your own laundry, mow the lawn, take out the trash...

Do you know how to prevent a kid from getting tetanus? Inject them with some fucking tetanus! Stop letting your kids be whiny bitches than run your life. Are you the boss or are they? They need to scrape their fucking knees to learn on their own. 

My simple rant:

It was those damn kids and their meddling dog!!!