18 years later – 9/11

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Like the assassination of JFK for some people, or the Challenger explosion for others, 9/11 is one of those life changing events that is forever etched in the minds of those who lived through it.  No doubt, you remember exactly what you were doing and where you were when you heard the news.  So do I.

In radio, an aircheck is a recording of your show.  It consists of just your talk breaks.  Many times your boss brings you in to listen to a past show together.  You listen to the breaks you did, talk about what was good, what was bad, how to improve your performance and so on.  On September 11, 2001, I was in my bosses office going over a show.

I was working at B95 in Flint at the time.  Brian Cleary was my boss.  We had just listened to a break where I told a stupid joke when our morning gal, Kristine Turner, came in to tell us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  At the time we all thought it was some sort of freak accident.  We walked out of the office and down to the newsroom.  The TV was on and there was a live shot of the World Trade Center with smoke pouring out of it.  Even the news people on the air were talking about how this was some sort of accident.  And then we watched as the second plane hit the other tower on live TV!

At this point, we understood that this was going to be no ordinary day.  When I went on  the air at 10am, I became the link to what was going on to people without access to TVs at work.  I recall breaking format and playing news updates.  I remember the South Tower collapsed just before I went on the air.  We then heard of Flight 93 going down in Pennsylvania.  Then came the news of the North Tower collapsing just before 10:30am.  It was the busiest and craziest day of my radio career.  I remember staying after my shift and manning the canopy that we had set up in the parking lot to take donations for the people in New York.  I also remember being exhausted when we wrapped up for the night.  We all knew that the days and weeks ahead were going to be VERY different. 

I don’t think any of us knew just how much the world was going to change that day.  My ex and I had just found out that we were expecting our first child, who was due in April of 2002.  I remember being scared about the world that our baby was coming into.  What we also didn’t realize was how these horrible events would bring our nation together. 

What follows is something that I posted on Facebook last year and reposted today:

“18 years ago today the people of this country forgot all about race, gender, political stance, religion, and stood together as one after the events of 9/11. What followed was a surge of patriotism that hadn’t been seen since World War II. American Pride soared. Today the country is extremely divided, and not just into two parts, but many.

Today we live in a country where everything seems to offend somebody. We tend to forget that the things of the past have made us and this country what it is today. History is history. We can look back in hindsight and see that there were things in the past that were (at the time) considered to be okay, but now we know they are not. We study history, to learn the things not to repeat. We also study history, to show us the things that worth repeating. Let’s take a lesson from history, a day 18 years ago, let’s put away the divisions. Let’s remember that no matter what race, color, or gender you are, we are all human beings.

There are plenty of scientific studies to show that it takes more effort to frown than to smile, and to hate rather than love. Today, as we remember those people who were on the planes, in the towers, in the Pentagon, or were first responders… remember the love, sadness, and the patriotism that brought this country together. Life can change in an instant. Practice kindness. Love one another.”

The emotions of that day will never be forgotten. We will never forget the acts of heroism we witnessed or the outpouring of support that was shown by Americans everywhere.  The uniting of a nation is one that I will always remember. Today I remember the people whose lives that were cut short. I remember the innocent.  I remember the heroes.

Today I reflect and remember. I hope you will too.

Tune Tuesday – Guitar Man

It was 52 years ago today, on September 10, 1967, that Elvis Presley recorded the song “Guitar Man” in the RCA studios in Nashville.  The song was written and originally recorded by Jerry Reed (who went on to act in Smokey and the Bandit and other films).  Jerry’s version reached only #53 on the country chart that year, and Elvis would see much greater success with it.  Jerry enjoyed that success, too, because he was playing on the Elvis version.

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One of my favorite interviews I ever did was with Jerry Reed, shortly before he passed away.  I asked him about his connection with Elvis.  He told me that Elvis was in the studio trying to record the song.  He was unhappy with the way the guitar part sounded.  He kept telling the guitar player “That don’t sound like Reed’s record.”  Jerry’s version of the story is that the guitar player told Elvis, “If you want it to sound like Reed’s record – you better get Reed in here!”  (Another version of the story says that Elvis said, “Get me that redneck picker who’s on the original tune!”)

Jerry told me that he was out fishing or something and someone from his office was finally able to reach him by phone and said that Elvis wanted him in the studio.  Jerry said that he hadn’t shaved in days and walked into the studio looking a bit shaggy.  He said Elvis looked at him and said, “Lord, have mercy!  What is that?!”  Jerry went on to tell me, That he never thought of himself as a Nashville recording musician. He called himself a stylist. He said he had his own way of tuning.  He said “they were trying to record Guitar Man, and they couldn’t make it feel like my record.” He said that those players use picks, and he uses his fingers.  He said that once he “wound up his guitar” and got it all set he told me that “as soon as we hit the intro, you could see Elvis’ eyes light up he knew we had it”. (Jerry also played on other songs in that session including Big Boss Man)  It was so cool to hear Jerry tell this story!

In 1981, the song was re-recorded with Elvis’ vocal left intact.  That version went to #1 on the country charts.

Here is the song from 52 years ago:

Here is Jerry Reed’s original version:

Guitar Man

Guitar Man”

Well I quit my job down at the carwash I left my mama a goodbye note
By sundown I’d left Kingston with my guitar up under my coat
I hitchhiked all the way down to Memphis got a room at the YMCA
For the next three weeks I went a hauntin’ them night clubs
Lookin’ for a place to play
Well I thought my pickin’ would set ’em on fire
But nobody wanted to hire a guitar man

Well I nearly bout starved to death down in Memphis
I run out of money and luck
So I bummed me a ride down to Macon Georgia
On a overloaded poultry truck
I thumbed on down to Panama City
Started checkin’ out some of them all night bars
Hopin’ I can make myself a dollar makin’ music on my guitar
Got the same old story at them all night piers
There ain’t no room around here for a guitar man
We don’t need a guitar man son

So I slept in hobo jungles bummed a thousand miles of track
Till I found myself in Mobile Alabama at a club they call Big Jack’s
A little four piece band was jammin’ so I took my guitar and I sat in
I showed ’em what a band would sound like with a swingin’ little guitar man
Show ’em son

So if you ever take a trip down to the ocean find yourself down round Mobile
Well make it on out to the club called Jack’s if you got a little time to kill
Just follow that crowd of people you’ll wind up out on his dance floor
Diggin’ the finest little five piece group up and down the Gulf of Mexico
And guess who’s leadin’ that five piece band
Why wouldn’t you know it’s that swingin’ little guitar man yeah

My Oldest Friend

There is no excuse for taking this long to devote an entire blog to my oldest friend. It’s not like I haven’t mentioned him before in blogs, because I have, I just haven’t written one completely about him. Since today is his birthday, I thought it was time to put him in the spotlight. I jotted some thoughts down about what to include, and today in My Facebook “Memories” feed, there was a note from 9 years ago that I had written in honor of his getting older. 9 years later, the content of that note is still true today, so much of this blog is taken from that note (with some 2019 comments added)

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Happy Birthday, You Old Coot – A Facebook Memory from 2009

I always knew when my dad was talking on the phone with my Uncle Tom. He would laugh uncontrollably, and there was an increase in the amount of profanity. I always envied their relationship and as a kid, and hoped to have a similar relationship when I grew up. You see, my uncle is not my dad’s brother. They grew up together in the same neighborhood and caused trouble for many neighbors. My uncle, is my Godfather, and my dad’s closest friend. A friendship that has endured through so many years.

I wrote a blog about my Uncle here:

https://wordpress.com/post/nostalgicitalian.com/241

I have a similar relationship. Jeff and I met in second grade. There are many stories I can share and a TON of stuff that no one but he and I would get, so I will just mention a few and will start with my favorite.

Jeff was a bully. I was a timid pushover. I’m almost positive that Friday was pizza day. This was back when school food was actually pretty good. EVERYONE got pizza on pizza day. (Just this week, someone posted THE recipe that was used to make pizza for school lunches and I sent it to Jeff!) My dad always made sure that I had money to buy lunch on Fridays. Little did he know, I rarely ate it. Me being the new kid, I was easily persuaded. Jeff would come over at lunch every Friday and simply look at me and say, “Give me your pizza or I’ll beat you up”. That was all it took – my pizza was his. This went on for almost a year.

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One day, dad tried to give me money for pizza. I broke down and said I didn’t want to buy lunch that day. He could tell something was wrong and kept asking why. I was afraid to tell him, but he finally got out of me the reason I didn’t want pizza. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “You tell that boy that it is YOUR money, and YOUR pizza, and you are not giving it to him!” All I could imagine was the pain and bruises I would get for standing up to this kid. I was a wreck all morning.

Finally, lunch time came and I was shaking like nobody’s business. Jeff came over and gave me his typical greeting. At that point, I have no idea what came out of my mouth, but it was probably exactly what my dad told me to say verbatim. I remember Jeff looked at me, and said simply, “Hey, man, it’s cool”! He sat down next to me and we’ve been best friends ever since.

(2019) 43 years later, that story remains one of my favorites (my boys love it, too!) – it’s only appropriate to open with that one.

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I recall summer days when we’d be together all day! Seriously – ALL DAY! Jeff would come over at like 8 or 9 in the morning and stay until well after the street lights came on. Those days I remember my mom and dad saying, “Don’t that kid ever go home”?! I’d go in the house and eat dinner, and he’d just hang out in the backyard and wait for me. We could play all day. Countless summer days we’d be out in my backyard with Star Wars figures, playing. We used to go up the Hoover 11 shopping center to Circus World (the toy store) and buy the latest figures.

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We also used to have buckets of Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars! We spent hours and hours out in the yard playing with them. In my back yard there was an area that my folks used to use as a garden. We used to go out to the dirt and build roads and make houses for the cars. We had to move to the garden….I guess the huge hole we dug in the middle of the front lawn that my dad almost fell in while cutting the grass was not a welcome addition to the landscape.

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We used to play cops and robbers, or pretended we were secret agents and often fought “invisible people”. One can only imagine what it looked like to people driving by to see two kids falling down like they were just punched by …. no one! I remember Jeff came over one day with this cool looking gun. It kinda looked like a combination police special and laser gun. We all had cap guns, which looked like something out of an old western movie, but his gun was really something!! Not only did it look cool – it made a variety of noises! I don’t recall if it was a button you turned or a slider switch, but that gun could sound like a gun shot, a gun shot and ricochet, a laser beam, a huge explosion, and a few other very cool sounds which only aided in our imaginary play! Man, I wish we still had that gun!

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When we weren’t at my house, we’d be at his house cause he had the latest tech gadget – the Commodore 64!!!! He always seemed to have the coolest computer stuff. I can remember him showing me these simple and crappy computer games. He was the first one of my friends to have a modem – I remember it was at his house that I first hear the sounds of a modem dialing and connecting with that annoying high pitched screech! He may also have been the first one of my friends to use AOL!!!

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There was a cousin of his, I think who sold fireworks in the neighborhood. We’d buy jumping jacks and bottle rockets and shoot em off. I remember lighting the jumping jacks and dropping them in the sewer and watching them spin under the water. Obviously, we had no clue that there was the remote possibility of sewer gasses exploding every time we dropped one down there! As we got older, we’d take the Star Wars figures and attach them to bottle rockets and shoot them down the street. This is a regret now – especially knowing how much some of those things are worth to collectors today!!

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To say that Jeff and I caused a little trouble growing up is kind of an understatement. I think he caused more trouble with a few of his other friends, but we got in our share, too. Jeff and I both had BB guns. His had the CO2 cartridge which, of course, made the BB’s go farther and faster! I remember the screen in his mom’s bedroom was full of BB holes. Why? Because we used to shoot at the garage door of his neighbor across the street. Every time that BB “tinked” against the door, we laughed. How many other things did we shoot BB guns at? Well, too many to recall. I will say that I don’t recall ever shooting at anything alive!

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We’d stay out till dark – every night! We often took walks around the block or walked up the school. When it was time for me to go inside, I’d walk Jeff part of the way home. He ended up having to walk farther than me, and I always hated walking back home in the dark. I remember we’d walk to a bush that was about half way down my street and that’s where he’d keep walking to his house and I’d turn around and walk back to mine. A few years ago, I noticed that bush was removed by the current resident.

Another thing I recall doing was recording our “stupidity” on cassette tapes. Now normally, you hit the Play and Record Buttons to record something. I don’t recall if it was me or Jeff who figured out that if you hit Record and Fast Forward, the tape recorded at a slower speed, so whatever you recorded sounded twice as fast when you played it back. Our voices ended up sounding like The Chipmunks. Jeff did a spot on imitation of his grandma answering the phone on tape! We spent countless days recording stuff – including farts. Farts are already funny to kids – farts played back twice as fast are just flat out hilarious!!!!

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There was a brief period of time that I was told I was not allowed to hang out with Jeff. My folks were gone and my aunt was babysitting us. I don’t remember all that led up to it, but we were probably purposely aggravating my brother. He came out front and was swinging one of those dog chains. You know the ones that connect to the post you put in the ground? He was swinging it around the top of his head like a lasso or something. He was getting close to Jeff, so Jeff pulled out this little pocket knife (the blade was probably less than and inch long and cheap as hell!). My brother told my aunt, who told my mom and dad and I was not allowed to speak to him or hang out with him. I was devastated, but as a young kid, I did what my mom and dad said. Eventually, we started talking again at school (because who can stop a true friendship, right!?). I think we told my mom that the knife was plastic or wood or something. Years later, even my mom said the whole thing was stupid.

It was probably during the time I was not supposed to be talking with Jeff that our house was broken into. My dad and I were bowling at Dad-Lad Night at Pastime Lanes (where I would eventually spend many weeks on a league) and mom was out bowling at another place (with my grandpa, I think). After dad and I were done, we went to see my mom and then came home. Our dog, Lucy was outside barking and we knew something was wrong. Whoever broke in didn’t take much as I remember. I know the microwave was gone, and there was stuff thrown all over the place. My paper route money was still on my bed and not touched, yet my wallet was taken. I say that this happened around the time that Jeff and I weren’t talking, because I remember my dad saying something like, “I bet that troublemaker, Jeff, had something to do with this!” He didn’t!

Speaking of my paper route, Jeff often helped me deliver. He’d take one side of the street and I’d do the other. He would often go out collecting the money from customers for that week. Sometimes my grandpa took us out to deliver in his car. We probably drove my grandpa nuts! We’d always be laughing and whenever my grandpa asked about Jeff, he was referred to as “the crazy one!”

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One of the weirdest guys we had to collect from was this old guy who always seemed to answer the door with his shirt off. He always wanted to talk for 10 minutes before handing me the money (from his little plastic change purse). It drove me crazy! It was Jeff, who noticed that the guy had no nipple on one of his breasts! From that day forward, the man was known as “no nips”!

Despite the fact that Jeff went to another school for Junior High, we still kept in touch. Sometimes he’d sneak into his mom’s liquor cabinet and we’d go up to the elementary school playground and drink it. We spent HOURS on that playground just talking – and occasionally drinking. We were such punks. I remember one time, we had been to the school drinking the remaining drops of cheap schnapps. We decided we wanted to get some snacks and a pop. We walked across 10 Mile and stopped at Quick Pick. Both of us walked out with chips and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. Jeff crossed into the middle lane, and I stayed back to wait for a car. As the car passed and I walked closer to Jeff, I watched his hand (like it was in slow motion) let go of the Dr. Pepper bottle (which was made of glass at this time) and the bottle shattered onto 10 Mile. I walked up to him and asked him what happened and he said “I was looking at the bottle and wondered what would happen if if fell – and it did.” Not sure why that is still funny to me, but it is.

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It seems like we always ate lunch at Wendy’s (with money his mom had given him)! There are WAY too many stories about the trouble we caused there together (and with Mike Smith). Another place we’d cause trouble was at Hoover 11. We often went there walking in and out of stores and just annoying people. I don’t recall where we got them, maybe from Jeff’s older brother, but we had some packages of condoms. We were probably still in junior high or just starting high school. We were such idiots – we blew them up and stuck them in our shorts and walked around Hoover 11! Anything for a laugh or for attention, right, Jeff?!

Jeff and I ALWAYS can get each other laughing – many times when laughter is inappropriate. I actually blogged about that here:

https://wordpress.com/post/nostalgicitalian.com/719

Back in the days of early cable TV, it was Jeff who told me about this ridiculous movie starring the Hudson Brothers called “Hysterical”. Don’t let the title fool you – it is FAR from hysterical! It’s fairly stupid, yet there are a few scenes in the movie that we still quote to each other while normal people look at us and wonder if we are sane! If you ever stumble on this turd, know that Jeff and I can do the “dance” scene from this movie flawlessly!

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I have probably embarrassed him enough today, but it’s his 49th birthday and I don’t have money for a birthday gift, so this blog is the best I can do. I also should get a little serious to wrap it up.

Through the many changes in life, girlfriends, wives, children, etc… we’ve always been there for each other. Even when we both decided to move. He went to Vegas for a few months, and I went to Ludington for a few. You can read about the cool thing we did when he moved to Vegas here:

https://wordpress.com/post/nostalgicitalian.com/606

I’m not sure there is anyone I can talk to, like I can talk to Jeff. Our friendship shares so many things. We both lost our mothers to cancer at an early age, we both have strong faith, and we’ve both had our share of difficult times. It is in those times, we’ve been able to call each other and vent. We can talk about work, our kids, and everything. He has always been the first call I make when I need to talk.

(Side funny to this serious portion of the blog: Sam says she always knows when I am on the phone with Jeff, even though she can only hear one side of the conversation. She says our conversation usually involves 3 things: Beer, Butts and Boobs…and occasionally farts!)

Today, this bum finally caught up to me and turned 49. 43 years of friendship! What an amazing blessing! I’m not going out to buy him a Hallmark card, because no card could ever express how glad I am that he’s my best, and oldest friend. So Happy Birthday to you, Jeff. Thanks for all the great times we’ve shared through the years. Thanks for the laughs and for being like my Uncle Tom was to my dad. I can only hope that my boys will view our friendship as something they aspire to have with someone when they grow up. Thanks for being a friend, a counselor, a sounding board, and a brother to me all these years. Here’s looking to the future!

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Oh, and when I told Jeff I was going to blog about him, he wanted to clarify: He says he is not “a bully” because it is such a harsh word. He said that he was an “opportunist who saw an opportunity …. and exploited it as long as I could!”

Consider it clarified, my friend.

Zorro, The Gay Blade

Introduction

This blog is my entry to The Costume Drama Blogathon, which is being hosted by Debbie at Moon In Gemini.  The rest of the entries can be found here:

https://debravega.wordpress.com/2019/09/06/the-costume-drama-blogathon-is-here/

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Debbie uses the term “drama” loosely and said it was fine to write about musicals or comedies, which is what I am focusing on today.  The movie had to take place 1920 or prior and could take place anywhere in the world.

I am writing about one of my favorite silly comedies – Zorro, The Gay Blade starring George Hamilton.

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This is one of those movies that many people are just unfamiliar with.  This is a shame.  I saw this movie when it first came out in 1981 and my brother and I have been quoting it ever since.  It is not odd for a phone conversation with my brother to begin with a quote from this movie.

The film’s opening dedication states: “This film is dedicated to Rouben Mamoulian and the other great filmmakers whose past gives us our future”. The movie opens with a black-and-white clip from 1940’s The Mark of Zorro which Mamoulian directed.

The opening narration (done by the great Frank Welker) sets the tone for the film:

“In the late part of the 18th century, the peasants of California were oppressed by tyrannical land owners. To protect the poor and downtrodden people, there emerged a mysterious swordsman who pledged his life in the service of justice. To the people, he was a great hero who would live forever in their hearts. To the landowners, however, he was a real pain in the ass. He was known only as… Zorro!”

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The Cast/Characters

George Hamilton is just perfect in this film.  He plays a dual role, which in reality, is like 4 roles.  He plays the suave and sexy Don Diego de la Vega (1), who is also Zorro (2).  He also plays his homosexual brother Ramon de la Vega – AKA Bunny Wigglesworth (3), who is also Zorro, the Gay Blade (4).  He plays Don Diego with a slightly exaggerated Spanish accent, while Ramon/Bunny is played with a British/English accent.  Hamilton does a great job of playing these as two very distinct characters.  Not only do the accents of the two differ, but the body language in which the characters are played are very different.  You really almost feel that two actors are playing the roles. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in the film.

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Ron Leibman plays the evil alcalde, Esteban.  He not only uses his actions to make his character convincing, but he also has a great command of his voice.  He often yells, like a power hunger mad-man, but when needed, he can speak in a mellow, soft tone.  He also plays a variety of emotions – and conveys the anger of the character in such a way that you feel his frustrations.  He’s really quite a jerk in the film, and he is the butt of many of the jokes, and the perfect foil for the hero, Zorro.

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Brenda Vaccaro is Florinda, Esteban’s wife.  We learn almost immediately that she was the woman that both Don Diego and Esteban wooed as young men.  Unlike Hamilton and Leibman, who play their roles with heavy Spanish accents, Vaccaro doesn’t speak with one.  Her raspy, almost manly voice only adds to her character.  She craves sex, is unhappily married, spoiled, childish, and annoying.  She also gets many of the movies funny lines.

Lauren Hutton is Charlotte Taylor Wilson.  She is a political activist who is there to encourage citizens to fight their independence.  She is a thorn in the alcalde’s side and is the love interest of Don Diego.

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Donovan Scott (Popeye, Police Academy, and 1941) plays Don Diego’s mute servant Paco.  Though he never speaks in the film, he conveys exactly what needs to be conveyed with his facial expressions.  He has wonderful chemistry with Hamilton.

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What I Love About This Film

I have heard many compare this film to The Princess Bride.  I think that is a fairly good comparison.  The humor of both films is very similar.  I think Zorro has a lot more “under the breath” one liners, and is a bit less of a love story.  Both films have that sense of adventure, but I think there’s more in Zorro.  Both have swordplay, but again, there’s more in Zorro.

Here is the trailer:

The Plot 

Don Diego is summoned home by his father.  He arrives to find that he has passed away and his childhood friend, Esteban is acting in his place as alcalde.  His father’s servant brings a huge casket which contains a black hat, sword, black cape, and letter from his father, which reads:

“My Dear Son.  I do not call you by name because I do not know which of you two brothers will be the one to read this, but whoever does inherits the greatest gifts that I possess.  This sword with which to fight injustice; this mask with which to deceive tyranny, and this hat which needs reblocking.  Where them with honor, for in time of need it is the destiny of the Vega men to become Zorro.”

In his first outing as Zorro, he injures his foot and can no longer “fight injustice”.  The alcalde’s reign of terror on the people goes on for weeks and Diego is unable to help them.  It is then, that Diego’s gay brother Ramon returns home (presumably after also receiving a letter from his father).  Diego recruits Ramon, a British Navy man who now goes by the name Bunny Wigglesworth, to become Zorro in his place. It takes some convincing, and after being allowed to make Zorro “his own”, Ramon agrees, using a whip instead of a sword, and changing the costumes a bit.

Finding his “voice” as Zorro makes for a funny scene – I love how his face is half made up.

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The change in Zorro does not go unnoticed.  In one of my favorite scenes, the alcalde notices that Diego looks like Zorro and gets him to “act” like him ….

The film becomes even more absurd and hilarious once Diego’s flamboyant and fashion-conscious brother takes over the role of our hero, Zorro!  Can they bring the alcalde to justice?  Will Diego woo Charlotte Taylor Wilson?

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(Spoiler: They do and yes – with many laughs along the way!)

Conclusion

Zorro was far from a “hit” at the box office.  I think it only made like $5 million.  The fact that it wasn’t a hit, doesn’t prevent it from being one of my favorites.  As I think about the list of my favorite films, there are plenty of them that didn’t “perform” at the box office – this is one of them.  It is one of those films that I had to watch twice to catch all of the little “under the breath” jokes, and continue to watch (and quote) when I need a good laugh.

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Is this the best comedy you will ever see?  Probably not.  It is, however, a fun and adventurous romp with a familiar hero.  It’s one of those films that is difficult to find in the store to buy or rent … It is available at this link on YouTube:

Enjoy!!

“Remember, my peoples. There is no shame in being poor! Only in dressing poorly!” – Bunny Wigglesworth/Zorro, the Gay Blade

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Daddy’s Little Girl

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The past 16 weeks have been very exciting for Sam and me.  It has been especially nice to have this blog as a place that I can write things down and look back on later.  My last blog told of the ultrasound, finding out the baby’s gender, and how we shared the news.  I am writing today’s blog because something was missing from my last one – I’ll explain in just a minute.

First, let me say that we are overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and congratulations we have received from our friends and family.  It was fun to tease that a gender reveal was coming and watch friends post their guesses on Facebook.  I was reminded how blessed I am to have such wonderful friends as they sent private messages, texts, and called with congratulations.  Thank you all!

So what was missing from the last blog?  It was a lengthy blog, so what could I have possibly left out?  Sam pointed out that I had certainly written about a lot of things that happened over the weekend, however, I really never said much about how I felt.  I shared about watching the ultrasound, how I told my dad and the boys, but how do I feel about it?  What am I feeling?  I don’t know that I can put it all into words, but I will try.

Elation.  Joy.  Excitement.  Delight.  Jubilation. 

I mean, how can I NOT feel these things!?  I was told that there was only a 4% chance of me being able to have a baby, and then, the amazing news that we are having a baby – well, that makes you pretty damn happy!  I’ve been given the opportunity to be a dad again – and this time, I’m having a little girl!

Over the years, I have been an uncle to many nieces, and have loved every minute of it.  I have danced around in a princess crown for them, gone to Peppa Pig World, read girly bedtime stories, and made puppet monkeys talk.  Having a daughter takes things to a whole new level!

First girl

I had always hoped that when I had children that I would have one of each.  I wanted a boy to play sports with and a girl to walk down the aisle.  I was blessed with two amazing sons, who I loved playing catch with.  I love those boys with all that I am.  I was NEVER unhappy that I had boys.  They each have very distinct personalities.  They are both very smart.  As I look at all they have accomplished, I beam with great pride.  I am honored to have been chosen to be their dad!!

12 years later, after many changes in my life, I am once again about to become a father.  This time, I will be “daddy” to a little girl.  What a great responsibility this is!  I will not lie about this – as happy as I am, I am also scared as hell!!!

Scary things

Boys could get away with 2 or 3 pairs of pants.  All you really needed were a bunch of shirts and you could be set.  Girls are different!  They need pants, shirts, leggings, shoes, and many, many dresses!

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I hope Sam knows that she will probably be picking out most of the clothes!  I have a feeling what I think is “cute” really isn’t!

Have you seen the Xfinity commercial where the girl is dressing up her dad??

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I would TOTALLY let my daughter do this!  Now, if I have to do nails or makeup, I have this awful feeling that it will look something like this guy!  I have never had to paint nails before.  I don’t know how to put on eyeliner, blush, or any type of makeup.  I will definitely need a crash course!!!

Let’s not even talk about her hair!  I used to do my own hair, and now I am bald! How on earth am I going to be able to do her hair?  With the boys, I brushed it, combed it, or parted it.  This isn’t how it works with girls!!  Have you seen the gazillion ways to braid hair?!

There is this:

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And this:

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And this:

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And this:

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The braid is hard enough!!  I gotta make a heart, too?!? The pressure is unreal!!!!

Then there is play time.  Very different from boys.  I have never EVER hosted a tea party …

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Whew!  I’m glad there is a book!!!

Another scary thing is diaper changes.

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It’s a whole new ball game for me!  It’s been some time since I changed diapers, and I know it will all come back to me … this time, however, the parts are different!!

Then there is GLITTER!  Man, I really hate glitter!  It stays with you for years!  LOL

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Sports

Sam asked what sports I thought our daughter should do.  Me, being a guy, thought about what I had already done with the boys.  Hey, girls, do these things!!!

T-Ball – How cool are pink bats and gloves??!!

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Bowling – Some of the high school’s have girl bowling teams!  I gotta tell you, these gals bowled better than some of the guys I bowled with over the years!

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Golf – I knew a gal who golfed for the high school team.  She was pretty amazing!  How good was she?  I never golfed with her, because I knew she’d beat the hell out of me!  Golf, like bowling, had scholarships, too, so why not?!

Find-a-Site

Sam must have thought I was crazy!  She said that she was thinking about gymnastics – which after she said it, made total sense!  Of course, our girl could do gymnastics!  I can see her at the Olympics!  Our little gold medal winner!  Of course, I won’t let this guy teach her …. this doesn’t look right ….

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One of the things I can see her doing is dance.  My nieces do dance now.  Whether it is ballet or just dance in general, I can totally see our daughter doing it.

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Sam has already warned me that girls in dance class have to have many outfit changes.  Tutus, ballet slippers, tap shoes, bows, leotards, and more!  Yeah, I’ll be out in the audience doing all the moves with her (minus the leotards).

In all seriousness

I won’t lie, raising a child in the world today is very scary.  Hell, it was scary before my oldest was born (9/11 happened just 7 months before he was born)!  As a father, I know that my daughter will be looking to me for many things.  I hope that she sees me as her hero!

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I hope she will see me as her protector and as someone she can always trust.  I hope she will feel comfortable to share what ever is on her mind, and come to me for advice.  I cannot wait to share that special bond and special love that a daughter and dad have.

Things I am looking forward to

  • Her first cry
  • Her first photo shoot
  • Her first words
  • Her first tooth
  • Her first steps
  • Holding her in my arms
  • Singing her to sleep
  • Hugging her
  • Piggy back rides on my shoulders

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  • Reading bedtime stories
  • Holding hands
  • Buying her whatever she wants (Sam says she’s hiding the checkbook)

The list goes on and on.

So am I feeling?

I am overjoyed!  I am ecstatic!  I could not be happier that I am going to be a dad again!!

I am also scared.  I worry.  I am told this is natural.

I am nervous.  I don’t want to fail or disappoint.

I am anxious.  I look forward to all the firsts, all the accomplishments, and milestones.

Final Thought

Over the past 30 years, I have DJ’s thousands of weddings and hundreds of Daddy/Daughter dances!  At weddings, I have watched countless times as two special people shared their moment in the spotlight. At Daddy/Daughter dances, I have watched dads wonder just what their little girl is screaming about when Justin Beiber or Taylor Swift start playing.  I have then watched as they finally get a slow song to dance with their little girl.

As a father of boys, I never understood the bond or the feelings involved with those dances.  I know I have a few years yet, but time will fly and soon enough I will be able to relate to those dads I have watched over the years.  To say I am excited as I look forward to that first dance … is quite an understatement.

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Spilling the Beans ….

It was a very busy weekend for me.  It was a weekend full of many emotions. As I sit down to write this, I have to remind myself what day it is.  My work schedule was a bit different last week, and then you toss in a couple days off for the holiday and it adds to the confusion.

Friday

I normally do not work Friday nights.  Fridays are my days to do almost everything.  I schedule all my appointments on Fridays, because I can get most everything done in the morning, and still be done in time to get the boys.  This Friday, due to some miscommunications at work, I had to work.  It was my weekend without my sons, so it wasn’t really an issue to work.  What made Friday difficult was that we had scheduled an ultrasound for that night.  I had also scheduled an appointment for therapy on Friday morning.

Thursday afternoon, my therapist called to see if I’d be available that night instead of Friday.  Knowing that this would allow for sleep before work, I said yes.  The plan was to come home, stay up all night and then sleep all day Friday until I had to get up early for the ultrasound.  As we sat on the couch watching TV, it was obvious that Sam and I would be going to bed earlier than anticipated.

Friday morning, I rolled over and checked my phone.  I had a text message from my boss at the radio station asking if I could come in and record the show for that afternoon because the regular gal was sick.  I figured I could go in, record, and then be home in time for a quick nap.  It ended up taking a little longer than expected and I got home around 1.  At this point, I could still grab about 2 to 2 and a half hours sleep before I absolutely had to be up.  I ended up lying in bed staring at the ceiling and my eyelids.  I probably dozed for 20-30 minutes before I had to get up.

The Ultrasound

We scheduled this ultrasound a month ago.  There is a place in Grand Blanc that does 3D ultrasounds and can tell a baby’s gender at 15 weeks.  Sure, we could wait until 20 weeks for our OB to tell us, but we were very anxious to know.  I got up, showered, and got ready for work.  We had to drive two cars there because I needed to leave for work right after we were done.

Sam and I were very excited and full of anticipation as we went in to the ultrasound.  We found out that the appointment before us didn’t show, so they were able to get us in earlier.  The room was decorated almost like a child’s bedroom, with a big screen TV on the wall.  The ultrasound machine was to the left of the bed.  Sam got up onto the bed, and I took my seat on the stool to her right.  They prepped her with that gel and we were under way.

It has only been a few weeks since the last ultrasound, but I was really amazed at how much bigger the baby was.  Baby was VERY active Friday and seemed to keep flipping around as the tech tried to get good pictures.  In one picture, we were able to see the baby’s foot.  Then we were able to see the profile.

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Then we were able to hear the baby’s heartbeat again.  This is one of those wonderful sounds that I just love to hear.

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The baby’s heart rate was 150.  At the last ultrasound, the heart rate was 159-160.  Our OB stated that if he had to guess, he’d say we were having a girl.  Today, we’d find out if he was right.

As we watched the screen, the baby was moving arms and legs.  The hand was up near the face, and the tech said that there may be some thumb sucking going on.  For a short time, it did not look like the baby was going to cooperate and let us see anything.  Finally, the tech was able to find the baby’s butt.  At this angle, we could finally see…

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Our baby is a girl!  I do not have the ability to put into words the feelings I experienced at that moment.  I remember looking back at Sam and seeing her face.  Seeing her smile made the emotions even more overwhelming.  Fighting back tears, I turned back to the screen to watch as the tech pointed out features on the ultrasound.

The tech could go from the regular ultrasound to the 3D pictures, and it was very cool to see.  We will be going back later in the pregnancy to see more.  They told us that at this young, it is a bit hard to see and that there were things that were still developing.  This is a shot of our baby with her hand up near her face.  It was very cool to see and I am excited to see her again in a few months.

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After the ultrasound, they took a picture of Sam and I with a huge pink G, and an “It’s a Girl” sign.  We walked out to our cars and we sat together in Sam’s.  We looked again at the pictures and Sam suggested we call my brother.  He has been such an amazing support and Sam wanted to hear his reaction.  He was naturally very excited.

After I hung up, all I could think about was how going to work was the last thing I wanted to do.  We had just found out we were having a baby girl and all I wanted to do was go home with my wife and hold her.  I sucked it up and went to work.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, I realized just how thankful I am for this amazing blessing.

Telling Dad

We had hoped to go see my Dad and Rose Saturday night, but he told us they were not going to be home.  I called him as I drove to work and asked if I could stop over after work because I had a couple things I wanted to show him.  He said he’d be around.  He started to ask about the ultrasound and stopped himself saying, “Oh, wait, that’s next week, right?”  I lied and told him it was.

Sam said that she would meet me at work in the morning and then we could go together, if he was available.  So I texted her and said he would be home, and she said she’d see me in the morning.  Sam had bought some pink socks and a pink bow with the intention of using that as the way to tell him.  When she got to my work, she told me she had left them on the counter back home (an hour away), so we had to stop at Meijer before we went to see him.

(We used the bow and shoes in our Facebook announcement)

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We picked up a pink onesie that said “Baby Sister” and some pink and blue foil paper.  I wrapped the onesie in alternating pink and blue layers and and we headed over to dad’s.  He was surprised that Sam was with me.  I told him I had lied about the ultrasound and that we were there to tell him whether he was having a grandson or granddaughter.

I recorded the whole thing on my phone.  As he began to unwrap the onesie, Rose was saying “Pink! Pink!” as she watched.  Dad first questioned why we used such good paper to wrap it up.  Then he got a bit more frustrated with each layer (and alternating colors).  When he finally saw the pink onesie, he jumped up and hugged on Sam.  As he hugged me, he was wiping tears from his eyes.  This, in itself, was pretty amazing to see.  Sam had asked me in the car how I thought he’d react.  I told her that he would be happy, but would probably keep his emotions under control.  To see him shed tears, really made it more special for us.

Saturday Night

My Aunt and Uncle moved to Florida after she retired.  They have a summer home here in Michigan.  We’ve been trying to get together with them for some time and we were finally able to find a day to do dinner.  As an extra bonus, my cousin Melissa (who had been away at school in Wales for almost two years) was staying with them for the weekend and was able to join us.

What a wonderful time catching up with them!  It didn’t seem like it, but it had been about 10 years since I last saw my cousin!  This was the first time they had met Sam, and it was just so nice to have this time with them.  I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen, as Sam has really had a hard time with morning sickness.  The doctor gave her some meds to help, and they’ve been hit or miss.  I was glad that Sam felt good enough to go to dinner and that I had time with my family.

After dinner, we drove to Sam’s grandma’s to tell her.  She just celebrated her 90th birthday and she is very excited for us.  She’s been wanting to know if it was a boy or girl since we found out she was pregnant!  Sam’s aunt lives across the street, so Sam texted her and said that we were on our way to visit.  When we walked in, Sam’s grandma looked at us and just said, “Well?!”  It was priceless!  She had guessed a girl right from the beginning, and she was very happy.

Sunday

Sam had to work Sunday night.  I didn’t.  I let her sleep and I went to the radio station.  I had to do her show since she was still sick.  I also had some recording to do, which took most of the afternoon.  I got home around 3pm and cut up fruit and prepared Sam’s lunch for work.  She left around 5:30pm for work. I had called and asked my ex if I could see the boys for a couple hours Monday so we could tell them.  She said I could.

I then had to figure out how to tell them.  My idea was to do a scavenger hunt.  I wasn’t sure what the weather was going to be like, so I made sure to keep all the clues inside the house.  I spent most of the evening writing poems on index cards that would serve as clues.  Once I had the clues done, I put them in envelopes and hid them throughout the house.

I took the “Baby Sister” onesie (which my dad sent home with us), and wrapped it up in layers of blue and green tissue paper and put it in a box.  Hid the box in it’s appropriate place and was ready for the boys.

Even though I was tired, I couldn’t seem to fall asleep.  I turned on this silly golf game I have on the X-Box and played a few rounds.   One round I played I was 14 under par!  LOL – if I could only play like that for real!!!  After that, I fell asleep while texting Sam.  I slept a few hours without my CPAP, so I didn’t really sleep well at all!

Telling the Boys

Sam called me on her way home.  She was exhausted and had a really crappy night at work.  I told her to try to sleep a bit, since I’d probably be about an hour before I had the boys back home.

When I picked up the boys, I asked if they wanted to eat breakfast first or if they wanted to know first.  They each said they’d want breakfast first.  I offered to make pancakes or waffles – they chose eggs.  I said I had bacon and sausage – they wanted sausage.  It was a pretty easy breakfast to make.  While they ate, we talked about the first day of school, their teachers and what they were looking forward to.

After breakfast, I sat them down and told them about the scavenger hunt.  They were both very excited about it.  They each got the chance to read the clues out loud.  With each clue, they got more and more excited.  It was so fun to follow them around the house.  When they read the final clue, which brought them right back to the kitchen where they had breakfast, they couldn’t believe it.  On top of the box, was one more envelope.  They both had to tell us what their guess was….

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I was quite surprised that they both thought it was a girl.

When they opened the box, they unwrapped the onesie and when they saw it, they yelled in jubilation. Their reaction was more than I expected.  Their happiness was so genuine.

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They are excited and wanted to know if we had names picked out.  We do – but that will remain secret until she is born.

We’re 16 weeks in ….and she will be here before we know it.   I can’t wait!

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The Big “D” (and I don’t mean Dallas)

I have been blogging here for almost 2 years.  That, in itself is pretty unbelievable to me.  In that time, I have blogged about a variety of topics.  I have blogged about family, friends, music, and music.  I have blogged about changes in my life, happiness, and things I have struggled with.  Today, I am going to blog about a topic that I have avoided.

I won’t lie, there have been times that I have thought about tackling this topic.  I know that I could easily spend a LOT of time on it, but for the purpose of this blog, I won’t.  Yes, I am going to write about it, but I am going to attempt to write about it in a way that I will benefit from it.  I am going to write about it in hopes that someone else may stumble on this and read it and take away some of the things that I did.

I am going to write this as a constant reminder to myself, and a word of encouragement to those who are going through it, or considering it.  I am not going to focus on the negatives, because I already know what that does.  Instead, I am going to be truthful and focus on the positives.

Deep breath.

I had a phone conversation today.  That is what prompted me to sit and write this.  You know how when you get married they say, “You aren’t just marrying that person – you’re marrying their family?” The same holds true when a marriage ends in divorce.  In some cases, that can be a blessing, while in others, well, not so much.  People are going to take sides.  Both sides will try to put the blame on the other.  Hate grows towards people.  Gossip spreads.  Stories become tall tales.  A division takes place and you “no longer are family.”

I was gently reminded today of how “former family” members felt about me.  It was very nonchalant, almost said in passing.  It was one of those things that often happens in conversations that start in one place and end in another.  A jab here, a jab there, something that is meant to seem like nothing, but in reality is there purposely.  The nice thing about where I am today, is that it doesn’t effect me like it used to.  I can totally handle it.

You know, with social media today, we have constant reminders of our memories.  Facebook memories go back 10 years and remind me of what I was doing or what I posted a decade ago.  Some memories are pleasant reminders, while some bring back painful memories.  Here is what I have always believed, and I have mentioned it before – I am who I am today, because of where I have been, the people in my past, and the choices I have made.

When a memory of times with “former family” comes up, I see them.  I don’t delete them.  Why would I?  Even if it was something I want to forget, it still happened.  Unlike my grandma, who cut out people’s heads in pictures because they did her wrong, I don’t do that.  Those are memories.  Sadly, I was told years ago to get rid of pictures of some of my exes.  I did to make someone else happy, but by doing it, I no longer have any pictures from my prom.  Is that fair?  No.  Your past is responsible for who you are today.

So here is what I need to write about all of this:

Divorce allowed me to find “ME” again!

I was not a pleasant person by the time I got divorced.  I was angry.  I was confused.  I was on so many meds, I am lucky I remembered things.  Those meds made me say and do things that I don’t even remember doing.  I apologize to those who were affected by that.

Afterward, with the help of therapy and true friends, I found ME again!  I was that happy guy who wasn’t on medications.  I was enjoying the things I enjoyed before.  I was laughing, loving, and LIVING again!  I was no longer NUMB.  Sure, life still throws curve balls, but that always happens.  The difference now is that I am equipped to handle them and think clearly.  I am no longer making decisions in a fog – I am ME again!  I am in control of ME. Finding me was liberating and encouraged me to do things that I wouldn’t have done in my past situation.

I believed in myself again.

Divorce allowed me to reconnect with people

People used to tell me I was a good friend.  That was NOT true in my last marriage.  I neglected SO many people.  My relationship with my father and my own brother were strained because of my situation.  Some of my BEST friends (some from all the way back in high school) never heard from me, unless they called me (and often those calls were cut short because I was forced to end the call).  I missed more things than I care to discuss because of that situation.  What I felt was important was often trumped by what someone else thought was more important.

Over time I began to leave things like group outings early.  Eventually, I stopped going to them all together.  I stopped bowling on a league.  I always had a “prior engagement” when asked to golf.  I sold my DJ business.  I got out of radio.  I neglected birthdays, anniversaries, parties for friends.  No wonder people stopped bothering to call me.  I had abandoned them to keep peace.

Thankfully, many of those friends welcomed me back without hesitation after my divorce.  They said they understood.  They didn’t want to interfere.  Sadly, I can never get back that time.  Missing events like my Goddaughter’s confirmation, funerals for a friend’s parent who passed away, family holidays, and things like that leave me with feelings of regret.  I cannot get those moments back.  I was a terrible friend.

Divorce has allowed me to reconnect with friends and family who mean the world to me!

Divorce has allowed me to move past what I cannot control

Specifically, what other people think of me.  Sure, you heard all kinds of things about me.  I know you think this and that about me, and that is ok.  I cannot control what you think of me.  You can take the one side of the story, the embellished stories, the second hand gossip and judge away.  In truth – you don’t know the truth.  You didn’t live my life, so how could you possible know what I went through?  Believe what you want.  I have no control over that.  If you want to truly come to a conclusion based on whatever you hear, well, as George Strait said, I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you!

Admittedly, it is one of the hardest things I had to deal with.  I worked on the radio for years.  If someone called me and told me I sucked or judged something I did on the air, it bothered me.  Same thing here – it bothered me what people were thinking about me.  What were others believing?  What was being said?  Why didn’t they come and ask me?  I really let that weigh me down!!

With a lot of help in therapy, I came to realize that no one but me knew what I was going through.  No one knew of the struggles that I was dealing with.  No one was wise enough to sense the smile I wore in public was fake.  No one knew how much I hurt.  No one knew how many times I broke down in tears in private.  I was the one who finally had to make the choice that I felt was right so NO ONE has the right to judge me for my choices.  I took control.  I decided that I needed help.  I was the one who tried to fix me, because I felt I was the one responsible for the situation and I was the one who was the root of all the problems.

Post divorce I carry on.  I live with the choices I have made.  I chose to do what makes me happy, with those who make me happy, and I could care less about what people think of me – because I have no control of that.  I do, however, have control of ME.

Divorce allowed me to find true love and experience a healthy relationship

I grew up in a home where my parents argued a lot.  Perhaps I felt like this was a normal thing in a marriage.  Perhaps that is why I always made the assumption that fighting was something that just happened with any marriage.  Don’t misunderstand me, I understand that in ANY relationship, there will be disagreements and arguments.  In my case, over time, those arguments got more and more heated and happened often in front of the kids.  I guess it was when this happened that I knew it wasn’t normal.

All strong relationships take some effort.  The thing to remember, is that when both people are committed to each other, are compatible, and truly love each other, the effort that you need to put into the relationship doesn’t feel like work.  It is effortless.  It just happens.  You both care about each other, each other’s opinions, and you genuinely want it to work.  It’s not about one upping each other or doing what is best for you – it’s what’s best for US.  There is a connection between the two of you.  You LISTEN to each other and HEAR each other.  You don’t put each other down – you lift each other up.

That is the kind of relationship I have with Sam.  We lift each other up.  We love each other.  We listen to each other.  We are honest with each other.  We make decisions together.  It’s never about “me” or “you”, it is about “US”.  What an amazing blessing she is to me.  What a blessing our relationship is.  When my youngest son looked at me recently and said, “Dad.  You are a good husband to Sam,” I almost cried.  I hope that they look at what I have now and see it as what a marriage is supposed to be like.

Moving on

I think waiting to write this has only helped me more.  Going through it, moving forward, and then looking back at it.  You can look back at it without all the emotions and stuff that cloud your judgment or perception.  Looking at it from where I am now, allows me to look at it, with a new perspective.  I can move forward and know what to do and NOT do.

Divorce changed me.  Going through it made me more aware, and it made me a stronger person.  I went through the stress and pain and came out on the other side a wiser person.  My therapist probably said it best – “You are not the same person that you were before.  Now, you are better!”  Yes.  I am better.  MUCH better.