i’m definitely not a “ready for ‘prime time’ player.”

Are you ready for some (flag) football???

I signed up to play flag football in Fairfax, starting on Monday nights in mid-March. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to play a game of pickup “two-hand touch/stop tackle” football (or what’s known these days as the NFL Pro Bowl), and for the first time in 31 years, I’m finally fulfilling my dream.

My love of playing football goes back to my grade school days, throwing the football with my brother Lee in the front yard….I was his John Stallworth to his Terry Bradshaw. (The Giants were truly awful back then, so Joe Pisarcik to Earnest Gray just didn’t have the same inspiration.) I vividly remember the summer of 1980, running across the yard to catch a deep pass, totally forgetting about the Japanese Beetle trap my dad had put in the yard. BAM!! I hit that thing at full speed, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t catch that ball, bloody nose and all!

Because the son of my mom’s best friend died from a ruptured spleen playing JV football, my parents were totally against my brother and I even thinking of playing football. The “jocks” who played football at our high school made fun of us, because we were just “music geeks”…these same football players almost set a New York State high school football record – for INEPTITUDE. Over the course of two seasons, the team scored a total of SIX points (one touchdown, missed extra point). In 1983, the team went 0-8 with eight shutouts, and in 1984, they went 0-8, one aforementioned touchdown, one forfeit…..who says there’s no crying in football? At least I learned how to play “Taps” very well while in the marching band.

I may not play all that well, but I’m gonna make sure I look like a badass.

I used to love playing football games with my friends in the neighborhood. Our friend Bill Hughes had the perfect Yard for games, and we even put up a rope between two trees one time so that we could kick extra points and field goals. If we didn’t play at Bill’s house, we played at Shokan Park. The best games were the snow games. During my junior year of high school (Winter ‘85-‘86) we had some of the BEST games. We had one game at Bill’s house where Mark McNulty threw me a TD pass, and then I ended up getting covered by all the snow on the shrubs by the garage when I fell into them, and one game at Shokan Park in about 8” of snow where we could barely run because the snow was so deep, and we could barely see, because of the snow blowing in our faces! The best game (which for me became the worst game) was the game I played in my front yard. We had early dismissal from school because of a snowstorm, and we still had about 6” of snow on the ground. Remembering the treacherous footing from the game at Shokan Park, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to use my dad’s snowblower to “clear the field”….the ground was still frozen, but between the snowblower and the game, the grass took a beating. I still can hear my dad stomping up the steps to my room saying “Goddammit!! What the hell did you do to the yard???” Good times!

In college, I met a lot of fellow music majors who shared my love of playing touch football. On any given school day or weekend, you’d see a game of football being played on the quad within the Terrace dorms at Ithaca College. I remember playing with my friends Rob Wrate, Rod Wascisko, my brother Lee, my brother-from-another-mother Rob Collins, my roommate Chuck Wilson, and many other friends from my classes and ensembles. Whether sun, rain (mud!) sleet or snow, there were football games to be played. The last game (one of my all-time favorites) was when the Phi Mu Alpha music fraternity was challenged to a game by the Delta Phi Zeta sorority (and their boyfriends), because they were seriously convinced that they could beat a “bunch of wimpy music majors.” This was two weeks before I graduated in December of 1990. Even though Chuck (my roommate at the time) and I weren’t in Phi Mu Alpha, we were more than glad to help our fellow music majors, and we showed NO MERCY. As Chuck and I were addicted to Tecmo Bowl, we created a playbook (ok, we photocopied the plays from the video box playbook instructions), and we took this very seriously. We didn’t care that these frat guys and sorority girls were hungover and obnoxious. All I remember is that I lost count of the score, and that Chuck and I had a blast!

So here I am, 52 1/2 years old, getting ready to do something I love, but that I haven’t done in years…am I concerned about my body not being as spry as it used to be? Absolutely! I signed up for the co-ed beginner league, which is strictly for fun and not competitive league play. Do I expect to go out there and score a lot of touchdowns? Nope, not at all. Am I gonna rock my new Nike Vapor cleats, my Neumann receiver gloves and my Deion “Primetime” Sanders do-rag, listening to Hammer’s “2 Legit 2 Quit” to get psyched up for the game? HELL YEAH! I just want to have fun, get back into shape, and make some new friends. The friendships are what I remember more than anything else from back in the day.

Let the games begin.

from type A to type F(L)…..

February 15th….it’s always a unique and bittersweet day. It’s my half birthday (yes, I still recognize it at age 52 1/2), but it’s also a day of mourning, as it’s the day one of my closest friends passed away.

This year my half-birthday had more significant meaning, as I have decided that on February 15, 2029 (or soon after), I plan to retire at age 59 1/2. At that time (or possibly before), I hope to move (or snowbird) to the Gulf Coast of Florida. As I’ve grown to hate cold, snowy winters, I want to enjoy the warm temperatures and the sunsets on the Gulf, even if it means splitting time between Virginia and Florida.

I’ve spent my whole life as an outgoing Type A personality. As I continue to get older, I enjoy this less and less. Where the pandemic has been hard on people because of the loss of face-to-face interaction, I’m finding more peace by not having to be “on” for the entertainment or expectations of others. That’s why I put my energy and creativity into sharing Otto with everyone, instead of posting about myself….I know how much joy he’s brought into our home and our lives, and I’m glad that I can share that with others, as it’s about him, not about me. He lives a simple happy life – playing with his friends at the dog park or at daycare, chillin at home or in the car, or just taking walks through the neighborhood. There’s something to be said for stopping and sniffing the roses (or fire hydrants, or whatever Otto comes across).

Eleven years ago, one of my best friends died unexpectedly. Nine months ago, my ex-wife and the mother of my child died very unexpectedly. Neither of them got to watch their children grow up, see them get married and start families of their own. That’s heartbreaking. They were both “on-the-go” people that had to be “on” to do their jobs, and for all their incredibly hard work, they didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of their labor in the way that they deserved.

We all live on borrowed time…I’m thankful that I’ve had so many tremendous opportunities in my life….I had my 15 minutes of fame, I achieved most of the goals that I had for myself, and I’ve made some wonderful lifelong friends along the way. I’ve also made many big mistakes (both personal and professional) for which I carried shame for a very long time, but that I’ve made peace with and that I’ve learned from. All of these things occurred as a result of my Type A personality. It served its purpose, and with each passing day, I try to move away from it more and more.

Cape Coral, FL….picture courtesy of Erin Black.

When I moved from New York to Pennsylvania, it was because of my job. When I moved around Pennsylvania, it was because of relationships, and I again moved because these relationships ended. The only time I felt like I happily and actively moved for myself was when I moved to Virginia. I’ve experienced things here that I could only dream of (including simple but rewarding things, like having the MLK Memorial all to myself one night), and my 10th anniversary of living here will be in two months. I know in my heart that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in this hustle and bustle, materialistic image-conscious environment known as the District of Columbia, and that I want to enjoy a more serene life like I had as a child, but with much better weather year-round than the weather of the Catskills.

I know that a lot of my friends were taken aback when they found out about my “clothing optional” lifestyle. I expected the jokes and the shock that followed, but it showed me that I can handle it, and that I no longer care about what people expect of me. I know how peaceful that experience is for me, and that I don’t have to care or worry about being “on” for anyone else. I want to embrace that feeling of peace and quiet more and more as I get older.

I’ve also decided that this will be my last year on social media. Although it has given us all an avenue of communication, I’ve seen more damage on social media than good as a result. One of my lifelong friends posted a condescending and degrading comment about people who are vaccinated. I copied and pasted this post into a Word document, and changed the word “vaccinated” to “minorities”….even though these are two very different groups, the hatred when I read it with the change of one simple word was both disturbing and disgusting. I now find myself questioning my friendship with this person, and how I could be so blind to not see this part of their personality for all of these years. It’s been 14 years of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and all of these other platforms, and yes, they are addicting. It will be a challenge, but I need to ween myself away from these to achieve the life I want to live.

I’d be lying if I said that I don’t dream about what I hope my retired life will be like…if my life was a book, Chapter 1 would’ve been my life through college, and Chapter 2 would be my professional career. I’d love for Chapter 3 to include a very simple life – enjoying friendships, not having to feel obligated to meet anyone else’s expectations for my career, and maybe having a condo in Cape Coral and a bulldog named Spartacus (I could call him Sparky!), as after Otto, I can’t imagine not having the happiness of another happy pooch…I have no desire to compete and compare anymore…Otto has helped me to realize that in putting my needs aside for his….when he needs to go out at 4am, it doesn’t matter how well I sing, or how well I put a presentation together.

Life is short….as we were younger, it was all about A’s….grades, success, personalities and recognition. I wanna be Type F (or in this case, Type FL for Florida), being the person I dream about being, even if nobody else can see that….nobody else’s opinion matters, and I sure as hell would like to enjoy a few Gulf sunsets before the end of my “book.”

8 things for which i’m thankful.

1. My favorite 80’s sitcoms on Rewind TV.

2. Patience and perseverance.

3. My friends in Chicago and Milwaukee, who have shown me the true meaning of kindness and understanding.

4. The Apollo Theater on 125th Street in beautiful Harlem, USA.

5. Clinton Tuckerman.

6. The return of the USFL.

7. The music of Sam Spence combined with the voice of Jon Facenda.

8. Hope.

firing on all cylinders.

I’m trying to find my motivation again. The motivation to get back in shape. The motivation to practice my Electronic Wind Instrument which I haven’t touched in weeks, as I have no gigs. I’m writing this post as I haven’t been motivated to write, and the feeling of being in neutral has been overwhelming.

For all the things rattling around in my brain, I can’t even begin to express any of them the right way. I’ve put a lot of focus on keeping friends and family updated about Otto, which I enjoy. This still does not change the feeling of only functioning at about 75-80% every day.

This goes beyond a New Year’s resolution….feeling mentally sluggish is a drag, and it’s not fair to the people around me. There, I put that out to the universe….now to focus on the positive.

Time to rev up my motivation and get back on the highway of life.

One of my resolutions this year is to find the positive, even in negative situations. I’ve got a few situations in the future that are going to challenge the hell out of me. The thoughts and prayers of friends have been greatly appreciated. In the past, I’d dwell on the “potential catastrophic result” so that I could just stay in a sluggish state of mind. I’d be fully prepared to isolate and shut down. Going forward, I’m trying to “put a lid” on when to give time to focusing on negative situations, so that I don’t dwell on them for days at a time. This is why I’ve felt unmotivated.

My goal is to be firing on all cylinders….to be more focused, more motivated, and to look to the positive instead of just feeling blah.

Using this post to “jump start” my motivation has helped me today, and the goal is to no longer “break down” in staying motivated.

turning the page.

2022. We’re only a few hours into the new year, and I feel more optimistic than I did for the majority of 2021. It’s been over 30 days since my last post….a big reason is that even though the last month has been very challenging and stressful, I didn’t feel the need to blog as a way of coping.

Confession – I always have dreaded New Year’s, because I always focused on the negative things that I knew would be taking place in my life (divorce, loved ones dying, financial stress points) in the months that were ahead. I start this year with a renewed sense of purpose….I’m fully aware of the challenging events that will be taking place this year, but I know that not only will I get through them, but regardless of their outcome, I’ll learn, I’ll grow, and I’ll be a better person for having gone through them.

Looking forward to curling up with a good book.

That why my mindset is about “turning the page”…every day is a new chapter. I’m so thankful for the people who have inspired me and continue to inspire me, and for the new people who came into my life in the past year, who have helped me to find new perspective, perseverance, and new creativity.

Most new year resolutions we have tend to be about losing weight or a particular goal (running a marathon, reading X number of books, remodeling the den, etc.)….I wanted (needed) to have a resolution that challenges me each and every day this year…my resolution for 2022 is to connect with people from my past who encouraged me (even if I didn’t realize it then), value the people that currently inspire me, and try to inspire others, especially those who may feel like they’re not worthy of support and encouragement. It doesn’t cost a thing, but it’s a resolution that could be invaluable. This is what I’m taking into 2022….may it be filled with love, laughter, friendship and plenty of joy.

This new chapter cannot be written until I turn the page.

black friday has become black november.

The older I get, the more the holidays have become a blur. What used to be my favorite time of the year is now nothing more than a watered-down marketing and sales push, and it tends to bring out the worst in people.

I grew up believing that the holiday season started the moment that Santa Claus arrived in Herald Square at the end of the Macy’s Parade. Even though department stores started putting up holiday stuff in November, it was in preparation for the day after Thanksgiving.

The new norm is that holiday decorations must be put up before Halloween (as Halloween decorations are displayed before Labor Day), and that holiday commercials and holiday music start at 12:01am on November 1st. When it’s still 75° and sunny in DC, and I’m hearing Let It Snow while driving around in the convertible, something seems incredibly wrong about that scenario.

I realize the impact of the pandemic (and Amazon) on the retail industry. When I was a manager for JCPenney in the 90’s, they used to reserve the first Saturday in November as their “Biggest Sale of the Year”….now it seems like they’re doing this every couple of weeks, just to stay afloat. Most people have just about all of their holiday shopping done. Although I don’t wait until December 24th to do my shopping, there’s still something special to me about going to the mall in December to do some of my shopping (where I can also get it gift wrapped, as I suck at wrapping presents).

“No…….um…..Merry Christmas?”

I’m sure people will be camping in tents in front of electronics stores before Thanksgiving, so that they’ll be first in line when the stores open. Is missing the holiday with family and friends now secondary to getting your hands on the newest video games? And is being open all day on Thanksgiving worth it, for the sake of turning a profit over the previous year?

All this aside, I have one holiday pet peeve that drives me batshit crazy, and I’ll put this in the form of a question: how many holidays are in December? Besides Christmas, there’s Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, St. Nicholas Day and Boxing Day. It irritates me to no end, when people feel the need to correct others who say “Happy Holidays” with “No, it’s Merry Christmas”. Seriously, are you so closed-minded that you can’t recognize other religions except your own? As I’m inspired by Festivus, I’m introducing a new holiday tradition….as December 10th is an approximate halfway point between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I hereby declare this day as “STFU Day”, where if someone corrects you for saying Happy Holidays, you are free and clear to respond “Shut the f&$k up! And hey, Happy Holidays!” I know I’ll be more than doing my part to celebrate this new holiday this year….perhaps I can get Samuel Jackson to do a commercial?

On a serious note, I do wish everyone health and happiness through the rest of 2021….perhaps as we continue to head towards a semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, we can bring back the sense of tradition as well.

Perhaps I should start digging out my St. Patrick’s Day stuff for January?

8 things for which i’m thankful.

1. My new friends in Milwaukee….there’s a different type of politeness in the Midwest that I wish we had here on the East Coast.

2. Newfound courage.

3. Improved communication.

4. Lactose-free mint chocolate chip ice cream.

A peaceful afternoon at Lake Michigan in Milwaukee.

5. Finding my voice musically, emotionally and spiritually.

6. Laying on the couch while watching TV with The Floof.

7. The INCREDIBLE voice and musicality of Dara Tucker.

8. Redemption….coming on December 14th!

a clockwork otto.

So much for a good night’s sleep.

Our dog Otto is usually our morning alarm clock, as he consistently wakes up between 5:30 – 6:30 every morning. He sleeps in our bedroom, as he likes to sleep on the hardwood floor. Occasionally he’ll have an exception to the norm, and this morning was definitely an exception.

As I was in my deep sleep at 4:15 this morning, Otto was awakened by a siren (I assume), and next thing I know, not only did he hop up on the bed, but he put his head right by my face…there’s nothing like warm dog breath in your face to start your day!

As Jenn is on business travel, Otto and I have our nightly ritual – I walk him around the block at 10pm, and then we come home and head upstairs, where he hops on the bed while I brush my teeth. I then give him his Greenie dog toothbrush, where he hops back down on the floor to eat the Greenie and goes to sleep. He’ll sometimes hop back up for a quick snuggle, but then he’s back on the floor and fast asleep.

Otto in mid-day form….has anybody seen my
Apple Watch?

When he woke me up this morning, I assumed he needed to go out (when you have a Great Pyrenees dog, you ALWAYS go on the side of caution!)…needless to say, I hopped up and threw on my sweats, and quickly went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I came back to the bedroom, and guess who was passed out cold, laying horizontally across the ENTIRE bed, snoring louder than I usually do?

All I could do was laugh….as I nudged him over enough so that I could at least have 1/8th of the bed, I thought about how dogs are very intuitive to the needs of their humans. Whether it’s a seeing eye dog, a dog that can sense seizures before they happen, or a therapy dog for helping those with emotional issues, dogs truly make a difference in our lives.

More often than not, Otto knows when I need a laugh, when I need some company, or when I need to get my ass off the couch. That’s why I didn’t mind petting him this morning while he slept, occasionally taking a big paw to the face, and I enjoyed the quiet (ok, relatively quiet) time to plan out my day.

While he was asleep beside me, I actually started thinking about if I could put my Apple Watch on one of his paws to help with my Exercise ring. I then realized that it would be much more logical to put it on him while he’s asleep, as he probably would burn a lot more calories while snoring!

I’m truly thankful for the joy that Otto has brought into our lives. Every day is a new and interesting adventure – and sometimes the adventure starts at 4:15 am!

the dog days of autumn.

No matter how you calculate his age, it’s still a parental dilemma. Otto is both a toddler in his “terrible twos”, and he’s also an “early year teenager” (14) in human years. This week he reminded me of how he is both.

On Monday morning, I had an early morning dentist appointment. I took Otto both for a walk and to the dog park, so that I could get him back home and situated before heading out. Right before I was ready to head out the door, Otto got an unusual case of separation anxiety. He would not let me leave, as he blocked the front door, and then he would not leave my side. It was like he was trying to protect me from something. When I was able to get out of the front door, he decided to rebel like an angry teenager and tried to escape – by charging right at me, knocking us both over down the front steps.

Only a couple of more years until I have to start teaching him how to drive. They grow up so fast.

After deciding to drop him at daycare (and arriving late to the dentist), I took a few moments to think (and chill) over what happened. When I picked Otto up after work, I found myself in complete “parent mode.” Otto and I have a ritual that we walk around the block at daycare before getting in the car to come home. As we walked, I started talking to him, as I’m thoroughly convinced that he understands me. I remember the conversation word for word:

“Otto, I was really disappointed in how you behaved this morning, as both of us could’ve gotten seriously hurt. But you know what? No matter how much you upset me, you’ll always be my Floof.” I could practically see my mom smiling from above.

Dogs give us unconditional love…they also remind us of the importance of unconditional love. I treated Otto to a ride home in the convertible, as he’s getting more and more comfortable to riding with the wind blowing through his floof. Although I’m still a little sore from the tumble, I’m thankful that the experience was such an important life lesson.

Hopefully the only things that Otto and I see falling going forward are the leaves.