Sunday, December 20, 2009

2 Funniest YouTube videos ever? Silly Reporters...

Atlanta Grape Stomp Reporter:

And the Reporter who goes from Zero to Ghetto in less than a second:

What do you think? Comments? See anything funnier than these?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm getting too old for this shit...

OK. So here it is. The list you've all been waiting for. My top ten action movies of all time. Guy type movies. And pretty much the only prerequisite is that someone die. A glorious, well deserved death. Please comment freely below!!!!

1. Diehard: Bruce Willis as John McClane is a total bad ass. He kills anyone and everyone. And what about what's his name, that plays Hans Gruber....GREAT VILLAIN. The role I wish I'd gotten to play in this movie: Argyle, the limo driver.

2. Lethal Weapon: The movie that defines the whole buddy cop genre. This movie starts off great and keeps going. Gary Busey, before his accident, in his pre-mental problem glory. I love this movie.

3. Tombstone: This movie is superb. Kurt Russel plays a good tough guy Wyatt Earp. But Val Kilmer steals the movie with his performance of Doc Holliday. "I'm you're huckleberry." This movie has more bad ass quotes in it than I know what to do with. Great action, great vengeance by Wyatt Earp. And don't forget Sam Elliot. He's always a bad ass.

4. Empire Strikes Back: It's the best of the 6 because the bad guys win. Big time. "Luke, I am your father." Enough said. Don't forget about the ice planet Hoth. And Cloud City. Cool.

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark: Is there anyone who saw this as a kid that didn't want to grow up to be Indiana Jones? Seriously? To this day, I'd quit my job and leave my family for 6 months to go chasing treasures in the desert. And killing Nazi's.

6. First Blood: The first of the Rambo installment, and the only one that actually had a story line. Brian Dennehy is a perfect asshole cop/sheriff. I mean, Rambo is now an American institution, right? How can this not be on there?

7. Star Wars: A new hope (The Original) Set the tone for the next 40 years of civilization. Space travel, computers, holograms, laser beams, Cantina's, Desert Planets, Land speeders, and Sand People. Sounds like the Reagan administration.

8. The Bourne Identity: I quote Seth Rogen from the 40 year old virgin. "Man, I used to think Matt Damon was a real Streisand, but he's rocking the shit in this movie." Total Bad ass, great fighting, classic Ludlum Story. Best part, the sequels don't embarrass the franchise.

9. Braveheart: When they kill his wife, you want him to go bananas. And he does. And he does. And he does. And then he does some more. Really this is just a bad ass guy's type movie that you can watch over and over again. Mel as William Wallace seemed believable. And Gibson directed the movie. Kudos.

10. Gladiator: Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. The way they bring the Roman Colosseum to life is amazing. Don't forget about Djimon Hounsou (who was amazing in Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio) as one of the slaves with Russell Crowe. Or should I say "Maximus?"

So on to the Honorable and over rated.

Honorable mention, in no particular order:

The Boondock Saints
Saving Private Ryan
Terminator 2
The Road Warrior
The Transporter

Over Rated:

The Matrix is good. Not great. The sequels bring the whole thing down for me.
Every Die Hard sequel was a train wreck
Under Siege. Who the hell ever thought that Seagal was a bad ass?
Aliens Sigourney Weaver does not equal bad ass.... She equals BAD-ASS. Does she like women?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'll have the Balsamic Vinagrette, but on the Side...

So, recently on Twitter, we were discussing some movies that people hadn't seen which are classics. Then, over beers, some friends and I had the conversation that we all have at some point. "What are your top ten comedies of all time???" So I'm gonna give them to you.
Now: I understand you may disagree. If you do, please leave a comment. But understand this is my list, my interpretation. And really, the movie that is at ten could easily be #1. All of these are great, great movies.

JMUmonty's Top Ten Comedies of All time:

1. When Harry Met Sally: Point blank, my favorite movie of all time. Funny, Meg Ryan is hot. Intelligent humor. The best thing for me is that a woman watches the movie, and TOTALLY sides with Sally the whole time. Guy watches right next to her, he agrees with Harry the whole time. It's perfectly written. Beautifully filmed. Funny as shit. Great movie.

2. Caddyshack: Star studded, and these guys are in their prime. Dangerfield is hysterical. Chevy Chase is amazing. Ted Knight....Oh My God. Truly a classic. What more can I say.

3. Fletch: Again, with the Chevy Chase? You betcha. The ultimate smart-ass movie. Tim Mattheson is a great bad guy. And a movie with lines like "Can I borrow your towel, I think my car just hit a water buffalo?" cannot be left off this list. In college we lived on this movie, and guys my age quote this thing 25 year later on a DAILY basis.

4. Anchorman: There are more quotable lines in this movie than any movie the past 25 years. Will Ferrell at his awkward best. Steve Carrell, Paul Ruud, and even Vince Vaughn show up to make this easily the best Frat Pack film to date.

5. Austin Powers, International man of mystery: (One and Two are interchangeable in this position) This movie changed my life, and almost ended it. When I saw the scene with Tom Arnold in the bathroom stall, and Austin yelling "Who does # 2 work for?" I literally almost laughed myself into a coronary. My wife and I still laugh at how hard I was laughing. If you haven't seen this movie tell a friend, leave a note for the ambulance crew, and have 911 punched in already on your cell phone. You may not have any breath left to call them. Hit the button, and they'll hear you writhing with laughter in the background...

6. Animal House. "Mr. Blu-Mr. Blutarsky. Zero. Point. Zero." Belushi. A Legend. At his best.

7. History of the World, Part One. Mel Brooks must have at least one film in a top ten list like this. This is my preference, although I struggled between this, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. (Frahn-ken-STEEN!!!)

8. Wedding Crashers: It's new, but it is funny. I learned how to make balloon animals because of this movie. Motor boating is now a mainstream word. And you have the greatest monologue in comedy film history.

Janice, I apologize to you if I don't seem real eager to jump into a forced awkward intimate situation that people like to call dating. I don't like the feeling. You're sitting there, you're wondering do I have food on my face, am I eating, am I
talking too much, are they talking enough, am I interested I'm not really interested, should I play like I'm interested but I'm not that interested but I think she might be interested but do I want to be interested but now she's not interested? So all of
the sudden I'm getting, I'm starting to get interested... And when am I supposed to kiss her? Do I have to wait for the door cause then it's awkward, it's like well goodnight. Do you
do like that ass-out hug? Where you like, you hug each other like this and your ass sticks out cause you're trying
not to get too close or do you just go right in and kiss them on the lips or don't kiss them at all? It's very difficult trying to read the situation. And all the while you're just really wondering are
we gonna get hopped up enough to make some bad decisions? Perhaps play a little game called "just the tip". Just for a second, just to see how it feels. Or, ouch, ouch you're on my hair.

9. Midnight Run: Robert Deniro in a comedy role. Charles Grodin. Mob accountant. HYSTERICAL. I've got two words for you. "Shut the fuck up." If you haven't seen this, I implore you to add it to your netflix cue...
10. Swingers. This movie is so money, and it doesn't even know it. Launched 2 great careers in Favreau and Vaughn. And best of all, they tout the greatness of video games NHLPA 93 and NHL Hockey 94. "I'm gonna make Gretzky's head bleed for super-fan #99 over here."

Honorable mentions:

Princess Bride
Napoleon Dynamite
Old School
The Hangover (this one needs to age a bit, but I loved it.)
Monty Python's The Holy Grail
Harold and Kumar....I especially liked escape from Guantanamo Bay, but they're both good. NPH steals the show. But it needs to stand the test of time a bit.

Most over-rated comedies. Not that I don't like them, but many people think these are the funniest things going, and I'm not in that boat.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
The Big Lebowski
There's something about Mary (Although this had some great lines, it's not a great movie)

That's it. My next list. Top 10 Action movies of all time. I'll have it posted soon.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Does anyone really LOL?

LOL. The most overused abbreviation on the web. Does anyone LOL?


You are laughing out loud? People in the next room can hear you laughing? I doubt it.

How about LMAO?

Honestly? You? Laughing your "ass" off. Cuz I'm funny. And you're probably 10 -15 pounds overweight. So you should be in better shape, as funny as I am...

I'm making some new, more practical abbreviations. You are welcome to use these from now on. I'll add more if you suggest them. And I deem them worthy.

LOTI: Laughing on the inside. This is a real compliment.

LJAL: Laughing just a little. Probably more realistic.

C: Chuckle. Barely audible. But I can hear myself. People in the other room may sleep or play Modern Warfare 2 without my uproarious laughter disturbing them.

PMPJAB: Peed my pants just a bit. Self explanatory.

SSOMS: Spit shit on my screen. Very practical. Let's face it. Most of you reading these hysterical Facebook comments and tweets are probably drunk, sitting at home alone on a Friday night, instead of out picking up women. You probably have some sort of alcoholic beverage, or god forbid some cannabis burning on a dented coke can with holes poked in it. Those of you drinking may find some of these comments amusing, causing you to spit said beverage of choice on your computer screen. Then, like my 17 year old, when you computer doesn't work, you turn to your significant other (or parent in my son's case) and have the following conversation:

"Hey, my computer isn't working anymore. "
"What did you do to it?" significant other/parent would respond.


"OK, I'll take it to the geek squad, pay them $75, and see what they can do with it."

Geek Squad: "sir, there is some sort of sticky stuff, like soda, all inside the keyboard and on the screen of your laptop. You'll need a new motherboard. It'll be $500 to fix."

"No thanks, my kid doesn't have a job, but now he'll just have to actually LOL. Not SSOMS. Keep the damned laptop."

(actual true story.) This situation can be summed up with the proverbial FML.

Addendum: If you are partaking of the cannabis using the coke can, you probably spit Doritos on the screen. No big whoop. It's all the same.

RNFAA: Really not funny at all. Probably should be used at a 10:1 ratio to the current LOL usage.

IWTGIYPSIPTLOL: I want to get in your pants, so I pretend to laugh out loud. Ha, ha, ha....You are so funny. Just do me already if you're gonna do me. I'm easy.

YLLASAIHYHDI: You look like a slut and I hope you have daddy issues. This one, I hear, works like a charm.

First addendum for my friend Pedro:
IWTBMPS: I would tweet but my phone sucks.

This is really a list that could grow forever. Most likely it will be my second book, Internet abbreviations for dummies.

Have fun kids, leave a comment, and I'll see about adding more in the future FTW!

Suggested by Stephane in the comments:
IDRHATS: i dont really have anything to say. This one mainly works with text messages replacing the lone LOL.

Holiday Chorus concert, 5th grade style

This time the 5th grade song.

Feliz Navidad!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Boys Winter Concert Chorus from School

First up is the 4th grade.

"The Holiday Spirit" Mr. Guy is the teacher.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cigar Aficionado's Big Smoke 2009: A pickpocket story

CA Big Smoke Weekend

A recap of the weekend just ended, the 2009 Cigar Aficionado Big Smoke event in Las Vegas. Overall, the trip is a wonderful time for cigar enthusiasts. There is not a greater “fun” city in the world, and Vegas is the perfect location to host this group.

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Begin arrivals by all in our party beginning around 1pm. The pre-arranged meeting point is the Casa Fuente Cigar Humidor in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Pearce and Scooter (a chick) arrive first. I am a 4:40 flight time. Here's a small shot out the window of the Grand Canyon.I wish I knew why this picture was to the left. I can't fix it.

Upon arrival at the airport, I grab my bags, jump in a cab, and head to Harrah’s, where I will be staying for the trip. I walk up, no line, and am greeted by “Veronica.” I hand over my ID and credit card, we make some small talk, and exchange pleasantries. Until…Veronica states that there is a problem with my reservation, and that I’m staying at the Imperial Palace. (A property owned by Harrah’s, just next door, but it’s a dump. I don’t want to be there, and it’s the wrong direction from The Venetian, where the cigar events are held.) Veronica is just downright rude. She could not be bothered, handed me $50 voucher for my trouble, and sent me away. I was furious, but trying to not start off the trip on the wrong foot. I complied, figuring I’d get the time to write a scathing email after the trip was complete. Off to Casa Fuente. I arrived to find Pearce and Scooter having drinks, and seated at the bar. Frustrated, I was glad finally begin my weekend. I entered the humidor, and purchased an Arturo Fuente Anejo “shark,” simply a wonderful cigar and size that will knock your socks off. The three of us spent the next hour or two catching up, waiting for Ray to arrive.

When Ray arrived we had a few more drinks, another cigar, and then headed of to locate dinner. We came upon a fine, fine, restaurant. The world renowned “Palm” Restaurant. In we went. Let me just say two words…”loud noises.” We were not well behaved. Before the end of dinner, Pearce had a face full of key lime pie, and someone, I won’t say who, had yelled “who doesn’t like fucking pie???”

After dinner we went back to Casa Fuente, to await Dave's arrival.

But he did not show. 9:30. 10:00. 10:30. We started to worry, so I called him. I could tell he was upset, but he said he’d see us in a few minutes. When Dave arrived to the bar, dragging his luggage, I knew we had a problem. “What happened, Dave?” Dave reached into his back pocket, and stuck his hand right through. Anything in that pocket, including a wallet, was no longer there. Turns out, Dave had been the victim of a pickpocket at the airport. The guy, an Asian, had cut Dave’s pants, and knocked him down an escalator into a crowd of people. Dave quickly realized what occurred. He chased the guy, tackled him, and broke his nose. But a do-good er passerby Canadian (always meddling, those damned Canadians) pulled Dave off, and in the scuffle hit Dave. Dave hit him back, putting him in the hospital. Asian guy and wallet got away.

To ensure that Dave enjoyed the night, we drank a large number of Caparinha's and smoked many $30 cigars. Mission accomplished. Bed time.

Friday November 13, 2009

Awoke with a slight hangover, I'll keep this day short. I called the group to see if anyone was awake. They all were. For hours. Dave had already returned to the police station to look at mug shots and fill out paperwork. Met the Canadian do-good er who he'd sent to the hospital.

For breakfast we walked about 3 miles, just behind the state of Montana, to a shit hole casino called Ellis Island, for a very mediocre breakfast. Don't ask why. Just know that I hate everyone that was involved in the decision. Cigar #1 of the day, Rocky Patel Vintage 1990. We walked back to the strip, and went into Caesars Forum Shops, to the Casa Fuente bar again. (11a.m.)

For 8 hours. $600 bar tab, and $350 cigar tab. That is all. Except that Mark Chioda, aka Mr. Handsome, former model, all around wonderful guy and crimefighter, arrives. It's on now, bitches.

We had dinner reservations at The Range Steakhouse in Harrah's. Basically no wine involved, because there were 6 inebriated people, and the dinner was $600 with tip. And a little disappointing, except for the potatoes and such. The Au gratin, the steak fries, the mac and cheese. Heavenly. I think Jana, who has starved herself of carbs for months, had an in-pants experience, if you know what I mean. And she got the giggles. Bad. At this. "Can someone pass me the empty Au Gratin Dish? I'm going to fuck it when we're done with it. " Back to Casa Fuente, now fueled by carbs, Janna (aka Scooter) decided to HO it up a bit. She was all over some guy. Not sure what she did with the dude, but he was staying at the Rio.

Late night, 12-1am, I stumbled back to the Imperial Palace for some Blackjack and Craps. Amazingly, I was not that drunk, and felt ready for the Saturday seminars and events.

Saturday, November 14th, 2009: Big smoke day

Group meets at the food court in the Venetian at 8:15, prior to our 9a.m. seminar start time. I've got a bottle of Baileys for the coffee. I ask Janna if she banged the dude, and she's non-committal. OK, move along. I wasn't that interested. I'd say she didn't.

The seminars were amazing, and for anyone who loves cigars, they are a must attend event at least once in your life.

After the morning seminars, there was a lunch hosted by the Fuente family. At the lunch they introduced a new documentary project they'd been involved with. Amazing artwork and photography from their factory. Very cool. The artwork that was not cool....Ray C. got up and took a photograph of his junk in the middle of lunch, and sent it to all 6 of us. I just threw up in my mouth. Again. Thinking about it. I had to change hotels (into Harrah's, finally) and drop off my cigars. Did that. Guess where we went? You got it. Casa Fuente, at Caesars Forum shops again. As we stood in Casa Fuente, I noticed Pete Johnson, the owner of Tatuaje Cigars (Spanish for Tattoo) standing around,by himself. I invited him over, and we really enjoyed meeting and speaking with Pete. Here's a picture of Ray and Dave with Pete.

Pete, we're pulling for you to meet Vivica A. Fox again, and just let us know when you are having the barbecue and party at your headquarters.

Everyone went back their separate ways to get gussied up. And back to the Venetian for our "Big Smoke Evening" where you meet all the manufacturers, go from booth to booth and get many cigars (Tickets to the event are like $250 bucks, so I won't call them free cigars) I brought a coke, there was a Jack Daniels booth, and we got a shitload of cigars.

Good times. The event was less crowded this year than last. Rocky Patel's line and booth was ridiculous. Always go the CAO booth first, they light a cigar for you to smoke while you are there, and if you do and bring it back to show them, they give you another. Great deal, great marketing scheme by them to have everyone in the event smoking their cigars. "Squirrel." If you've seen up, you'd sort of know what I'm talking about.

Everyone went back to their rooms to drop of the bag of 50 cigars we were carrying, muster point at the Casa Fuente!!! One or two beers, and a cigar. Off to Mandalay Bay "Foundation Room" for a private party. We took a limo, had a great trip over, arrived, only to find that Dave's friend had failed us. Not on the list for the party. I wasn't about to argue with a bouncer in line at a bar. There are at least 1000 bars in Vegas, and they deal a little game I like to call blackjack. The group was hungry, and I was gambling deficient. They ate, I gambled. To mixed results on all parts. But Mandalay was crowded, as that night had been the Manny Pacquiao Miguel Cotto fight. (Tons of Pacquiao fans.)So back in the Limo, to the Venetian. (Limos are a great way to move a group around Vegas, and cheaper than you might think.)

Everyone was shit faced and tired. Except myself and Mr. Handsome. So we gambled until about 4am at the Venetian, playing blackjack. Great Success!! Finally, John Pearce stumbled into us. He'd been drinking and playing video poker at the sports book all night, thought we'd gone to bed. He was wrong. He wanted to stay up all night, we just enjoyed the scenery and won money. Quote of the night: "please be working, please be working, please be working."

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Group woke up and met up at the Sports book at the Venetian again. I brought the Bailey's. This morning began at 9:30 with the Charlie Palmer breakfast. Some sort of schnitzel, which I'd never had. It was basically just a pounded flat cutlet, breaded. Pretty good. Egg and bloody mary, not so much. But the Baileys and Coffee was great. Then we moved to the Roll your own cigar seminar. I was a disaster, and usually I'm not bad. Here is picture of my ruination.

Then began the Cigar pairing with the Bourbon Tasting. Oh my. 5 premium bourbons. After this weekend, it's such debauchery. I couldn't stand it. Dave drank everyone's bourbon. I tasted all. I really liked the Evan Williams reserve. But on to important things. Football Sunday was in full effect. We basically ran over to the Pallazzo, to Emeril's Sports Stadium to watch the games. Except you couldn't find a table. So the group left, and went to the Rhumbar, a sister to Casa Fuente, this one at the Mirage. I left to go meet a few friends in Vegas (Mizelle and Kraft) at the Las Vegas Hilton. I took the monorail to the Hilton. It was a nice ride, nice views, and inexpensive. I would do this again for sure.

Mizelle and Kraft had been decimated in gambling, and I'd had a bad morning of 1pm games. So we needed to change things up a bit. This new arrangement brought us all good luck. We all won all of our bets, and drank, and made fun of people less fortunate and less healthy than all of us. With our financial come back, so did our sense of humor. I left the boys to go home and shower. I met the group at Casa Fuente, then we left for the restaurant. Here is a shot of the Volcano at the Mirage on my walk over to meet the group.

Mizelle and Kraft were meeting us all at "The Golden Steer," a famous Vegas landmark restaurant since the days of Sinatra and Martin. It's hard to find, and off the beaten path, but it does have that old Vegas feel to it. On my way, I bet the Patriots against the Colts, and the over. I had both bets essentially covered in the first half. It was a good night. Eventually the Colts came back and won, but who gives a shit? I covered both bets.

For the "Vegas Six" this was the end of the road. We said our goodbye's and they all went back to the hotel. Mizelle, Kraft and I went to the Palms. The good old Palms. We gambled, laughed, and went upstairs to the Playboy Club. It's a lot of fun, and we all won a few bucks playing blackjack up there. "Mmmmm, Damn!" It was a great ending to a great weekend.

Monday, November 16th, 2009

I got up. I ate McDonalds. I played blackjack. I won $300. Mizelle and Kraft picked me up. I went to the Airport and flew home.

All in all, a great trip. Especially considering the pickpocket incident that started it all off. Disaster averted. See you next year, Vegas.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Parent Looks at Forty

Sorry for the play on words, Jimmy Buffett fans. Like all of us, my parents are getting older. So am I. No big shock. Recently there have been a few events that both my mom and my dad have dealt with, which brought me to this blog post today. I'll touch on a few of them, particularly my dad. The problem I'm seeing at times is not that my dad is getting older, it seems at times he is getting "worse." He looks old. Tired. He's starting to break down. And it's weird for a kid who always saw him as the guy that could beat me in basketball, arm wrestling, or throwing a ball.

Last week my dad had a second pacemaker installed. (I guess that's the term, installed???) It's like getting a new set of brakes for your car. Take out the old one and put in a new one. I wonder if they leave the old pacemaker in the box in the backseat, so you can see they did the work.....Needless to say, these events and surguries have gotten me thinking about my own situation: relations with my own boys, my parents, and the fact that I myself (give or take) am only 20 years from being on the flip side of this blog post, with my kids sitting down and pondering the same issues.

I've lived out of state, away from my parents (who still live in Virginia) since I graduated from JMU in 1993. My parents are divorced, neither remarried. Since I've had my kids, I'm lucky if I get to spend more than a few days a year with my parents. And I wonder now where the time has gone. Weekends are busy. Cub scouts, soccer games, and work. It's hard to squeeze in what I need to get done in just 2 days off. Somehow, I've been so busy living my life the last 10 years that I feel like I have forgotten/failed to share the boys with my parents. And just as important, share my parents with my boys.

Growing up, I have fond memories of my grandparents: Vacations, holidays, birthdays, etc. I'm not sure that any of my children have EVER seen a grandparent on their birthday. My boys should have those same memories. As I started to think of these things, I began to wonder how well I even know my own parents. I have questions popping into my head right now that I should know about my mom and dad, but I don't:
  • Favorite Movie?
  • Favorite Actor/Actress?
  • Vacation place?
  • Place to eat?
  • Childhood memory?
  • If they could change one thing about their life, what would it be?
  • Who do they miss the most?
  • Who are their best friends?
  • Favorite TV Show?
There are many more...

I think I've decided that I'm going to play a little game with my kids the next few days. We are going to come up with some more questions to ask my parents the next time we see each of them. I can blog the answers, where they'll live here on the internet forever. The boys can always look back on those questions and answers. It will be a little piece of my parents that will be around as long as we want it to be. So I guess I've got a topic for a future blog.

As I think about my dad and look back, I wish that our relationship was closer. He wasn't the most warm and loving fellow. My fondest memories of my dad are of him taking me to sporting events. Mets games in New York as a small boy. Capitals and Orioles games as a teenager. Events, that, quite frankly, ticket prices preclude me from doing with my boys as often as I would like.
I can remember thinking that my dad was nuts as we sat 2 rows behind the Penalty box in the Cap Centre. It must have been 1981, and the Vancouver Canucks were playing Washington. "Tiger" Williams was a semi-talented goon who played for the Canucks. I remember him being a big fighter, and getting some cheap shots in on a Capital player. There was my dad, banging on the glass, yelling "Pull his hair, Tiger, you little Girl." Tiger was banging his stick on the glass, and pointing at my dad. I was scared shitless. But that's the way I remember Dad. I remember he and I going to all the Capitals fan club banquets, and sitting with number 14, Gaetan Duchesne. My dad making my practice my limited french while sitting with one of my idols, a French-Canadian. Again, scared shitless.
In 1978 or 1979, my dad took a job in Virginia. We lived on Long Island. He lived in VA, and drove back home on the weekends. He always brought a present. Albums: The Bee Gees, Foreigner. Baseball cards. I looked so forward to him coming home. A boy needs his dad.

I guess it's unfair or one sided of me to mention some of these fond memories without mentioning some bad ones.
I remember living in New York, I was playing in an end of season baseball All Star game. I was nine years old. My dad was supposed to come, I looked for him, and he never showed. Mom was there. I played great. I asked Mom "where's dad?" She said that he was busy, or else he would have been there. When I got home, I remember finding him out back on that patio, drinking a Tom Collins with our neighbor, Lou Prelli. I was so mad that he'd missed my big day. He laughed at me.
I remember him playing golf. Lots of golf. On the weekends. And Mom never being happy about it.

I remember Mom ALWAYS driving us to practices and being at our games. She never missed them. He missed often. She's still just as consistent, up here for every holiday, always having a great time with the boys.

I remember being like 16, and Dad and I got into an arguement. He threw a screwdriver, and almost hit me. I was livid, and so was my brother Rob, who saw it. We fought with him. But he finally realized that we were big enough that together, he could no longer handle us. I'm certain my brother Rob remembers the day, as we've talked about it on occassion through the years.

The point of all this is that you don't even realize when you are making memories, both good and bad. And I'm sure that my dad never thought that at the age of 8 or 9, 32 years later I'd still be pissed that he wasn't at my All Star baseball game.

Which brings me to today. With my Dad's health starting to go downhill, and my littlest boys in that 9 to 10 year old time frame, I look to myself. Am I doing enough? What will they remember? Will they think of me any differently that I recall my time with my dad? I'm way involved. I coach soccer. I'm a Cub Scout den leader. My brother Rob coaches as well. It's probably a reaction to our Dad's lack of involvement. At times I worry if I'm too involved. I don't remember my dad ever really saying that he loved us. I know he did. But he didn't say it. So I say it to my boys every day and every night. There is never a day in their life that they don't hear from me that I love them. I mean it, but it's probably also a reaction to my Dad's lack of saying it. (or maybe he did, and I don't remember, and all of this just isn't that important.)
In the end, maybe it doesn't matter at all how the kids remember the parents. Perhaps it's more about the expectation level that the parents set for the children. What ideals do they instill? What is important in the parents, and the child? How will I pass these values on the my kids. If I raise them right, as responsible citizens, with a nice expectation of a good education, good morals, and a good quality of life, I've done my job. Right?

I wish I could change my situation geographically. I wish I lived closer to my childhood home. I wish that my boys could spend more time with my folks. They love their grandparents. I get a kick when the boys call Grandma or Grandpa (from their cell phones.) I don't even know who they are talking to. The boys just chatting away like old women. The little guys want to spend more time with grandparents. Not that we haven't.
We have had some great times in Nags Head with each of my parents, and some very fond memories of Mom and the boys with us at Disney. But they don't want to do anything in particular....just being close to them is good enough. Hanging out with the man and woman who CREATED their dad. The 2 people who understand their dad as well as they themselves a way that only a parent, or only a child can. The boys can relate to my mom and dad. Hell....very few people have had to put up with ME in life so much as this small fraternity has. My parents. My kids. My wife.

All that other stuff. The baseball. The hockey. The golf. Some of the not so rosey memories....That isn't important. In the end, I can erase the bad, keep the good. Maybe create a few new memories and stories in the years to come. At the end of the day, I still want to hang out with my parents. I hope my boys will feel the same about Maria and I when they get older.

Turning 40 is weird. It's probably the halfway mark of life. And you look backward and forward with equal focus. I'm not going through some sort of midlife crisis. But I do think that you assess the situation. Take the measure of your life. And you look in both directions to see if there are corrections that need to be made. I've got a long way to go. I want to get it right. And I don't want to miss anything along the way. I promise, I'll take a lot of pictures.

No, I'm not a pirate. But I am looking at 40. Hopefully I haven't arrived too late. I think I can still make the cannons thunder...

Yes I am a pirate
Two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothin' to plunder
I'm an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A son's first broken heart

I recently had the fortune/misfortune of watching someone that I love suffer a minor heartache. I've been reflecting on the incident for a while, and thought maybe it would help if I would "talk" about it here.

Two weeks ago our family took a wonderful vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It's an area that I've vacationed at for almost 30 years. I've taken my wife and kids there often, and we always have a great time. This year, my wife and I, our four boys, and a friend of the older boys went down. The week was absolutely splendid, one of the best weeks of my life. We had perfect weather, and just a wonderful family week. But this story is about one small portion of that week, so let me begin.

On Wednesday of the vacation, we decided to take an afternoon drive to a neighboring town. The thought of a nice seafood lunch, and the chance to get out, and take a small break from the heat and sun for a few hours seemed like a great idea. We decided to drive to Manteo, NC, a small town just a few miles from Nags Head. Manteo is the site of the original settlement in the New World, called the Roanoke Colony. This settlement is honored nightly with a play entitled "The Lost Colony." The town is a quaint, small, waterfront town. There are shops, and boats, and the like. Not exactly the type of thing that a ten year old boy is looking forward to doing, especially when we just left the beach, and the excitement that surrounds the ocean. Bottom line, Sean Michael Monaghan was not looking forward to "Manteo." "Why are we here? I don't want to shop!" was I believe the exact quote as we parked the car.

Walking into Manteo at the festival bridge, we immediately ran into a group of children. They probably ranged in age from 9-14, boys and girls, and they were sitting on the dock of the waterfront. The kids had been jumping off a bridge, about 10 feet high, into a little bay like area. Then they would swim about 75 yards back to the dock, and do it again. Immediately one of the young girls looks at my boys (Michael, 9 and Sean, 10) and says "You guys should jump with us. Come on. Try it. It's a lot of fun. We do this all the time." I could tell, he was hoping to hear those words. I instantly saw Sean's face light up. The day had turned. No boring shopping for him. A girl. A cute girl... He was nervous, unsure, and looked to Maria and I. "Have you done this before? Do you live here?" I asked. "Yes, we live here. We do this all the time, it's safe." she said to the two of us. Sean had no bathing suit on, just shorts. But he saw the opportunity for fun, and to do something cool, so he looked for our approval. I could tell, he thought there was something about this girl. He didn't want to disappoint her. He wanted to go. We agreed. So off the shoes and shirt went. Michael didn't seem as sure, but joined. "Come on, I'll go first," she yelled.

The kids walked out to the top of the bridge, about 8 kids in all. All the while she was talking, telling him that it was "cool." He instantly bonded with her. She helped Sean conquer his fear, his uncertainty. Helped him take a leap of faith. She went first, and showed Sean he'd be OK. She showed him how and where to jump, then waited in the water for Sean to join her. It didn't take him long, he followed her right in. "That was awesome!!!" They swam the distance back to the dock together, laughing the whole way. "Can I do it again?" he asked. "Absolutely son." I replied. A pure joyful childhood moment. Captured, I might add, on video. One of those small but perfect moments in life.

Michael was another story. He was still perched atop the bridge. He had climbed out over the edge, then back, then out over the edge again about 4 times. He didn't have the same motivations as Sean. He wasn't under her spell. More practical. Jumping from a perfectly good bridge into murky water seems dangerous. That's my Michael. It took him a total of about 13 minutes before he finally jumped. By that time, Sean and his young friend had probably taken about 4 more jumps. These were some jumps. He jumped with an abandon. A reckless abandon. You know the feeling. The kind of jump where you just give in to your heart and leap.

After an hour or so, the kids needed to be getting home, and we needed to be on our way. The children all got out of the water, and got dressed. One of the girls said "Kaitlyn, your mom called. You need to go home." Finally knowing her name, (although I have no idea how to spell it) Kaitlyn turned and said to Sean "You guys should come back on Friday. We'll be here. Let's do this again." I could tell by Sean's eyes, it was a date. No way we were going to miss that.

Sean was excited, and I could tell he had a little thing for this girl. He liked "Kaitlyn" and wanted to see her again. He couldn't stop talking about it all day when we returned to the condo. "Are we going back on Friday dad?" "Do you think we can go tomorrow, too?" The boys had really enjoyed the jumping, and the company. I like the small waterfront area of Manteo, so we said sure, we could go back tomorrow. "And dad, can you please not call me Seannie anymore, in front of people?" You got it, pal. When I told him we could go back, his face lit up. Girls have a way of doing that to boys some times.

On Thursday, when we arrived, we found a group of young girls, Kaitlyn included, swimming near the bridge. Sean was so excited. This time, Sean was armed with a bathing suit, and a towel. The boys both walked out to the bridge, but today seemed to be a "girls" day. No other boys around, the girls were laughing and swimming. Not paying much mind to Sean and Michael. Sean lept from the bridge, hoping to enjoy the events with Kaitlyn. But as I said, today seemed to be a girls day. She didn't pay him much attention. My wife, sensing this, broke the ice by asking Kaitlyn if the boys could jump with her and her friends, and she did. Once. But shortly, the girls exited the water and went down the waterfront.

Sean was embarrassed to approach her and strike a conversation. The boys made the best of the situation, and jumped from the bridge a few times. We strolled down the waterfront to "Marshes Light," a small lighthouse area the girls were now swimming and jumping from. It was obvious today was not to be Sean's day. The girls were wrapped up doing their own thing.

Sean sat, watched. Confused. Shy. Embarrassed to approach Kaitlyn, especially surrounded by other girls. It's hard when you're shy to jump into a group of young ladies and strike up a conversation. Afraid of the possibility of rejection. So close to this girl who had stirred something inside him. Then there was Kaitlyn. Laughing. Smiling. Swimming. Playing. Enjoying. With friends. Sean: Eyes welling. A tear. Sad. Hurt. Crying. Alone. Sensing that the opportunity that he sought was upon him, and he was watching it swim away.

It was painful for a mother and a father. Wanting to interject on his behalf. But trying to let him grow. Be independent. Wanting him to succeed, but not wanting to embarrass him. Feeling every bit of the pain he was feeling. Watching his first heartbreak. His tiny little perfect heart. Breaking. Just a few feet in front of us.

Are we bad parents for not helping? For not making sure that he had more time with her? Are we right in letting him allow that opportunity to slip? Should we have even brought him back in the first place? Sometimes, maybe, you should recognize those "perfect" moments in life, and just let them be. Don't try to revisit them, recapture them. Just accept the moment as perfect and commit it to memory. Keep it perfect.

As we turned away, Maria had to walk with him. Hold him. Explain to him. Help him understand. I tried to hold his hand as we walked back down the waterfront. He pushed my hand away. Wanting to hold on to a piece of dignity, in case someone was looking. Poor Kaitlyn didn't know she was why Sean was there. She never will. And I fear that Sean may never forget. May never forgive himself for letting that opportunity pass.

We never got a chance to go back on Friday, for the day she invited him. Hurricane Bill was close, the water got cold, and the sound higher, choppier, more dangerous. Today is September 2. Two weeks to the day since he met her. A ten year old, with romantic feelings stirred in his heart. Tomorrow is 2 weeks to the day since he last saw her. Two weeks since his broken heart. Three days ago I asked him "how are you doing pal? Do you still think about her?" He knew who I meant. That's a yes. He had told his friends at the park about her. That he had a crush on a girl. Crush. Some word.

Can a boys life change in one day? One fleeting moment? One opportunity passed him by?

I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is a "minor" heartbreak. But when it's your first, it sure hurts like it's a big one. And what about next year? We'll probably go back. Will she remember him? Will he want to spend his days in Manteo on the waterfront, looking for a girl? Will the Outer Banks feel the same to him?

I hope that he can get over her. I'm not sure that Maria or I have. Forget about her? No chance.