Friday Fodder

Hello readers. I hope this finds you safe and healthy. This is, yet again, another blog that is full of random thoughts in no particular order.

Baseball

My home team, The Detroit Tigers, have not been much to watch in the past. I guess I was spoiled in that I got to watch the magical year of 1984 and a World Series Crown. Since then, they have struggled. “We are rebuilding” has been what us fans have been told for years! In 2006 we went to the World Series and lost. So, in 30+ years, we really haven’t had much to cheer about.

Despite that fact, I really miss baseball. Today in my Facebook memories, a picture popped up that I posted two years ago. The picture is the view of the baseball diamond that is literally behind our house. “One of the things I love about our house is that I can walk out on the porch and catch a good ball game all spring and summer long,” is the caption. Sigh. Not this year. Even the neighbor kids aren’t out playing ball.

I have mentioned in the past that my favorite Tiger from the 1984 team was Aurelio Lopez. Senor Smoke, they called him. There was something about his pitching style that I liked. As a 14 year old kid, I used to pretend I was him. When I was with my dad, or my buddies from school. We’d pitch to each other calling balls and strikes. When I was alone, I had a square I drew on the side of my house that represented the “strike zone,” I used to throw the ball at. There used to be a square spray painted on the wall of our elementary school, and you could stand in the parking lot and throw tennis balls at it – calling your own strikes.

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I miss hearing baseball on the radio. I miss watching it on TV. There is some talk about teams being allowed to play without people in the stands. While it would certainly be weird to just hear the sound of a ball coming off the bat, I would miss the sound of the crowd cheering for a home run. At this point, however, I would welcome baseball in any form.

The Boys

After my self quarantine of over two weeks, I was able to pick up my sons. They will be staying with me for a little over a week. Despite having seeing them briefly when I took my oldest’s birthday gift to him, and their short visit in my driveway, I felt like I hadn’t seen them at all! Sure, video chats helped, but to actually be with them and give them a hug means so much.

My youngest still has school work that he is doing online and will continue to do through the end of the school year. Because he is a senior, my oldest had the choice of continuing with the final marking period or taking the grades he had when all this Covid stuff came down. He had excellent grades, so he chose the latter and is officially done with school. We’re still waiting to see about graduation and stuff. We haven’t booked a place for his graduation party yet, because we just don’t know when we’ll be able to hold it!

We were able to celebrate my son’s 18th birthday here. We made a cake and sang Happy Birthday. Choices were limited, but we told him he could chose what he wanted for his birthday dinner. He chose pizza (no surprise). It was nice to be able to do that.

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They are always on their devices. They have an Xbox, a Wii U, a Nintendo Switch, and countless games on their cell phones. I am trying to get them away from that stuff, but with the cold weather, it hasn’t been easy. At least today it is supposed to be in the 50’s and we can get outside to play catch or take a walk.

Recently, I taught my youngest how to play chess. It is not my favorite game to play, mainly because I suck at it. I decided that I was going to teach him cribbage. My grandpa taught me how to play when I was about 9 years old. We played the game open handed (where you could see each other’s cards) and I walked him through things. He beat me, and I am hoping to play a few more games while he is here. I am also hoping to get my oldest to play, too. It is ALWAYS nice to have something to do when there is a power outage, or when you are bored.

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In preparation for the boys, I made sure to put clean sheets on their beds, and straightened up their room. While I was in there, I raised the blind on the window to let the natural light in. We have a huge tree that is outside their window. The birds were driving Maizey crazy flying back and forth. She sat like this meowing and jumping at the window for about 5 hours!

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I remember a time when parents put their kids to bed and then stayed up and watched TV before going to bed themselves. However, it’s been the opposite here. Sam and I are ready for bed by 10 and last night they were still up at 3:30am!!! What is up with that?!?

Layoffs

As stated in previous blogs, I am off work on doctor’s orders. While I am here recovering, I have been lucky enough to spend it with family. I have been praying for my co-workers and others who are still working at the hospital. The labor pools at hospital continued to grow because of ambulatory sites being closed, and those workers being put in the pool. This meant less hours for those working. To make matters worse, this week hospitals in the state announced massive layoffs and cuts. Some positions were completely eliminated!

Many of the layoffs are temporary and employees can take advantage of unemployment benefits (while keeping their health care benefits). If I am being honest, I wish that this had been an option from the beginning for many of us. It would have been much less stressful (and safer) for people. I know I would have opted to just be home with family, instead of having to go through a the mental breakdown I had to be home.

I continue to pray for my friends who are still right there in the thick of things. I continue to pray for the many healthcare workers across the state, and throughout the country, who are doing what they can to save lives – while trying to stay safe themselves. I just want life to be back to normal. I want to go and do the job I was trained to do. I’m just not sure when that will happen and if I can even do that!

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Skinny Me

I was out in the garage this week looking through a few boxes. I was looking for some notes from some classes I took years ago (more on that in an upcoming blog). I stumbled on something that I had totally forgotten about – an old magazine I was in.

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Mobile Beat Magazine is still around and it is mainly for mobile DJs. I used to get it when I was DJing more. It had great ideas regarding set ups, equipment, contracts, etc… It also put out a top 200 list every year of the most requested songs from that past year. I still look at it when I do get out to DJ (which is rarely ever now). This particular issue did a story about mobile DJ’s who were also radio DJ’s. I was interviewed and I was one of those featured in the article. My ugly mug even made it in the magazine!

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It is funny to see this picture.

  • I am about 100 pounds heavier now.
  • The glasses are gone thanks to Lasik surgery.
  • The hair is gone because of …. natural causes.
  • The station is gone, because of typical radio politics.

The shirt I am wearing was given to me by my buddy Tim, who is now working in major market radio on a morning show. He and some buddies (Doug and Phil) used to have this set up in their basement where they “played radio.” In all honesty, the stuff they did was better than the stuff you hear on many radio stations today. They would make tapes and I loved them. They called it “Fake Radio” and had me voice some liners for it. Making those up were a blast. I loved that shirt and was sad when it finally was so tattered that I couldn’t wear it anymore!

Ella

My baby girl continues to be a source of happiness. It is amazing how much she has grown in just 10 weeks. She is “talking” so much! I could listen to “baby babble” all day! I love how she smiles at me when I talk to her. There is NO better feeling. While putting clothes away this week, my wife slipped on the tutu and bow my friend Margaret had sent. She slipped it on over her PJs and it looked great. Looking at her, I can totally see her wearing something like this for dance classes.

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I am so guilty of taking a million pictures of her. I will totally be “THAT” dad who will drive her crazy with my camera! “Dad! Enough with the pictures!” I will sit and go through the pictures and claim a “favorite,” only to go through them another day and claim another as “my favorite!” My latest “favorite” is this one:

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I love this little girl SO much.

I love my children SO much. Blessings – each and every one of them!

Until Next Time …

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Happy Thoughts

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I once heard someone say, “In a world of darkness – be the light.”   If I may alter that quote just a bit … “In a world of negativity – be the positive.”  You wouldn’t know it, but it has been a very challenging couple weeks for me.  I just have to keep reminding myself that “some people are just not happy unless they are trying to make others unhappy.”

Here are some things that made me happy this week:

Bless You Boys!

I was reminded that 35 years ago this week, the Detroit Tigers beat the San Diego Padres in the 1984 World Series.  Remembering that amazing season always brings a smile to my face.  In the final game, Kirk Gibson faced Goose Gossage.  There was some chatting at the mound because they couldn’t decide whether or not to walk him or pitch to him.  Gibby launched an amazing homerun off him!  I can still remember Vin Scully calling it by saying, “And there it goes!!!!”  Pandemonium!  I rewatched that video more than once this week!

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Autumn Leaves

The leaves are changing.  Fall is probably my favorite season.  It makes me think of high school homecoming parades and football games.  It makes me think of Alumni Band.  It makes me think of sitting around bonfires in hooded sweatshirts.  It makes me think of those last few weekends up north closing up the trailer for winter.  I love the beauty of autumn.  Here in Michigan, we have such wonderful fall colors.  I love to walk outside in the fall and just get lost in thought.  Fall makes me happy.

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Here’s Johnny!

This month Sirius XM Radio has a Johnny Carson channel (105) and they are playing old episodes of The Tonight Show.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much I am loving these!  Johnny was the best.  These dated monologues are still funny today!  Today, I laughed a little bit harder than I should have at one of the jokes.  He was talking about a previous joke he did about McDonalds.  He then asked “Have you ever been to the Beverly Hills (California) McDonalds?  They serve escargot there.  They call them, McSlugs!”

Listening to his reactions to when a joke bombs is just hilarious!  His banter with Ed and Doc is also very funny.  It’s been great to hear classic interviews with Mel Brooks, Eli Wallach, Buddy Hackett, Don Rickles and more!  It’s also been neat to hear some of the early stand up from Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Garry Shandling, and others.  He was a master – and he still makes me laugh.

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Baby Kicks

I have saved the best thing for last.  My wife is 22 weeks along now and she has been feeling our baby move.  Earlier in the week, she started to feel baby kicks.  We were lying in bed this week and she said the baby was kicking.  She placed my hand exactly where she was feeling them, and I felt her kick!  It was light, but it was there!

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I don’t care how many times I feel it, it still amazes me!  My wife feels her move a whole lot more than me, so to feel this little “bump” against my palm makes me more and more excited for her arrival!  It gets more and more real as we get closer.  I get emotional thinking about it.  She’s going to be here soon!  We’ll be able to hold her and kiss her.  I’ve been creating my “Bedtime Song List” for her.  There are some favorites that I sang with my boys when they were babies, and I will be singing them for her too.  I probably need to start working on “Daddy’s Little Girl” and “My Special Angel” – songs that I obviously couldn’t sing to my boys!

February will be here before we know it – and I am sure there will be many stories to be shared about her here!

Final Thought

It really isn’t hard to find things that make you happy.  Look around – they are right there!  Find the happy & SMILE!

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Happy Birthday, Pops.

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Today would have been my Grandpa P’s 96th birthday. In a previous blog, I wrote about my mom’s dad, and today I want to write about my dad’s dad – Pops. This blog is sort of a rewrite of a blog I wrote years ago on the anniversary of his passing.

When my mom’s dad passed away, I had to deal with the loss of a loved one for the first time. It was an eye opening experience that changed me forever. I realized that the people in your life aren’t always going to be around. I made a promise to be closer to my remaining grandparents.

I was very close to my grandpa. When he passed away, it was one of the most difficult times of my life. When I describe him, I often tell people to think of Abe Vigoda from the Godfather (some may remember him as Fish on Barney Miller). Abe reminded me a lot of my grandpa.

He quit school at a very young age. I don’t recall how young he was, but I recall him being in elementary school or maybe junior high. He quit to go to work with his father (my great grandfather). He worked to help bring money in for the family, as times were rough and money was tight. When he was young, they had one of those cars with the crank in the front of it that you had to crank to start the car. As I remember the story, he was trying to start the car one day and the crank snapped back and caught him in the nose. His nose was broken and it remained crooked the remainder of his life.

I used to love listening him tell stories about when he was young. He often talked about the days that him and his friends would hang out on “Joseph Campau Ave.” in downtown Detroit. Detroit was very different then. He and grandma would tell stories of how they could leave the house unlocked when they left and how they could sleep out on the sun porch during the summer without ever having to worry about being robbed or hurt.

Speaking of grandma, one of the stories that they both loved to tell was how they ended up together. The story goes that grandpa saw grandma walking and wanted to ask her out. She kept telling him no, but eventually broke and decided to go out with him, after he bugged her too much. I used to love hearing those stories.

When he was young he was stationed at “the CC Camp”. I’m not really sure what he did there, but some of my favorite pictures of him are when he was a young man there. He never went to war, because of his nose. They wouldn’t let him serve because it was broken. Even though he didn’t serve, he used to tell me many stories about World War II and we would often watch shows about the war on PBS when we spent the night.

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I have mentioned before that grandpa was responsible for giving me my first cup of coffee. I was like 11 or 12 and it was probably more cream and sugar than coffee. He also gave me my first “job”. I used to come over and cut his grass. Before the term OCD was ever used regularly, grandpa was very strict about the way he wanted his lawn cut. I had to check with him before I started to find out if I was cutting the grass vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. He was a stickler for straight lines! We used to call him “eagle eye”. He’d stand outside while I mowed, making sure that I was keeping the mower straight. I was always afraid of making a mistake!

During the summer, you could count on him having the Tiger game on TV or on the radio. The excitement of hearing the Tigers during their 1984 season (when they went on to win the World Series) is a memory I treasure. I was familiar with the current team members, but he would share stories of the 1968 World Champions as well as many other great ball players – he always seemed to bring up Rocky Colavito. Another Rocky he would talk about was boxer Rocky Marciano.

Before he retired, he worked at the same company as my dad. It was about 2 miles down the road from my house. During the summer time, it was always a treat when he would stop by the house on his lunch break. He was probably out at the store buying his lottery tickets for that day, but he would always pick up something for my brother and I. He would stop by with candy bars – usually Mr. Goodbar or Chunky. I remember Chunky used to be wrapped in a foil – it wasn’t sealed like they are today. It was literally a piece of silver paper wrapped around it. Today, Chunky is divided into four sections so you can break off pieces to eat it. Back then, it was just one big hunk of chocolate (with nuts and raisins)! Those two candy bars still remind me of him. He knew that my friends were usually over playing, so it wasn’t odd for him to drive up with 5 or 6 candy bars, so my friends could have one too.

When I think about Pops, I am reminded of the laughter. He made us laugh a lot. Because of his limited schooling, his vocabulary wasn’t always great. He mispronounced many words and would flub words when reading. Some people may think this is cruel, but we used to write scripts for him to read while we recorded them on a cassette tape. I did this primarily because I never wanted to forget what he sounded like. I am glad I did this, because I still have the “tapes” saved in a digital format. Personally, I think he liked being the center of attention. He loved be the star. He never doubted we loved him, he read these scripts because he knew it made us laugh. It made us happy. We acted out plays with him on tape, too! Sometimes, while he read through the script, he’d be laughing so hard, he could barely make it through. I remember one week I wrote a bunch of stuff for him and when we came over that Sunday to visit, I gave it to him. When he saw how many things I wrote for him he yelled, “God Doggit!” – that still makes me laugh … and I can still hear him saying it! I find myself saying it today!

I also remember that he was really ticklish, so we’d record him laughing while we tickled him. Sometimes he’d laugh so hard his false teeth would fall out!

Pops bought me my first lottery ticket. I think I was like 13 years old. He had this old raggedy book called “Skippy’s Lucky Lottery Dream Book”. The way it worked was, when you had a dream, you’d look up the subject and there was a 3 digit number. You play that number in the lottery and hopefully, you’d win. Early in my 7th or 8th grade year, I had lost my house key. I had a dream that I found it at his house. I looked where it was in the dream, but it wasn’t there. He, of course, looked up “found keys” and found the number – 195. He told me he was going to play that number for us, and if it won, I could have the money. Sure enough, that week, it came out. I remember he came over with an envelope with 42 dollars in it. He was true to his word. He never said, but I am guessing he played it for himself, too.

He and grandma taught me how to play Pinochle. That’s what they did almost every holiday. We’d have dinner, and the adults would go in to the sun porch and play cards. My brother and I would basically sit and watch TV, bored out of our minds while they played cards. I finally asked to learn and they taught me. They were patient and taught me well. My dad was happy that I learned to play, because he never really liked to play all night like everyone else. I, however, loved playing and was a welcome addition to the card table.

When I got my driver’s license, I would go over there on the weekends with Joe or Steve and we’d play Pinochle all night. Grandma would have coffee on and a Long John Coffee Cake for us. Grandpa didn’t like to lose. He’d get so mad sometimes! There were stories about him cutting up decks of cards when he was losing, but we never saw him get that mad. We saw him get mad … just not that mad! He was the kid of guy who at one point, you’d try to throw the game his way because you didn’t want to see him mad….lol.

My friend Steve used to make him so mad. Steve and I were always partners and sometimes, we’d get really lucky. A trickless is a hand where one team gets all the tricks and the other team gets nothing. It doesn’t happen often, and I remember one night Steve and I did it with back to back hands! We were happy as hell, but that was where the game ended that night!

One time Steve got up and went to get coffee. He opened the fridge without asking permission. My grandpa was so mad. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Where are your manners? I don’t go to your house and go in your fridge!” I was surprised at how much this bugged him. He was probably losing at cards, and he lost it at this little thing. Steve felt bad, and apologized.

Pop’s also used to help me with my paper route. The station where we’d pick up the papers was over by his house. He’d pick me up, take me to the station, we’d get the papers and he’d drive me and Jeff around so we could deliver them. He had a gold Caprice Classic with tan seats. I remember he used to put a blanket down over the seat because he didn’t want the ink to get on the seat. Jeff and I used to laugh and make noises and stuff while we were with him. He never really understood what was so funny. Because of those days on the paper route, he called Jeff “the crazy one”. I’d go over there to visit when I was older and he’d say, “Hey! How’s the crazy one? Do you still see the crazy one?”

As he got older, he got more forgetful. One time, my grandma asked him to take her to the store. He went out the the garage and got in the car, but left grandma at home. My dad had to go looking for him. Grandma called the police and they were looking, too. My dad pulled into the parking lot of Farmer Jack (I think) and found him sitting in the car. Dad asked him what he was doing and he replied, “I am waiting for your mother!” My dad had to break the news that she was still at home. He was so flustered.

He deteriorated pretty quickly after that. He was more forgetful and often repeated things. I don’t recall if it was on Christmas Eve, but I remember him sitting in his chair looking at the TV guide. Occasionally, he’d look up and say, “Murder, She Wrote” is coming on” and then stare back into the book. It was hard to see him like that.

I’ll never forget seeing him in the hospital on the night he passed away. I remember when everyone walked out of the room whispering to him how much I loved him and how much I was going to miss him. He had basically just been laying there the whole night, but as I spoke to him, he reached up and grabbed my neck. I remember being startled, but I again told him I loved him and it was ok to go.

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Grandparents are a wonderful gift. I remember the looks that my mom and dad had when they first held my oldest son. The smile just got bigger when my dad got to hold his second grandson. Seeing them, I realize the love that my grandpa had for me and my brother. I was blessed to have him for 24 years of my life. He was a very special man and I miss him very much. The memories I have of him bring many smiles and keep him alive in my heart. I wrote a song about him. It never was recorded, although I had hoped it would. I have shared it on Social Media before. Perhaps I will add it in a separate blog sometime….

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Happy Heavenly Birthday, Pops! As I wrote in my song – I still love you and I still miss you!

A Day At The Ballpark

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I am on vacation.  We decided to take a little trip down to Florida.  We built our vacation around the fact that the Detroit Tigers are playing spring training games.  Today we headed over to Joker Merchant stadium to see the boys of summer take on the New York Yankees.

Spring training is an exciting time.  We get to see a brand new team.  We see many young guys hoping to make it to the roster for the regular season.  Some will make it, some will not. In the air excitement for the season ahead.

One thing is for sure, the rich history of the Detroit Tigers is alive and well.  In the store, there were T-shirts with Alan Trammell’s name on the back, others had Al Kaline’s, and more had Willie Horton’s.  Famous Tigers of the past were on banners hanging from the ceilings.  The fans in the stands also had names from the past, too.  I gotta admit, it was awesome to see someone wearing a jersey with Sparky Anderson’s name and number on it.

Next to me a guy was talking about how hard it is to listen to the games on the radio because the late Ernie Harwell is not around to do them. He also was talking about how great the games were to watch and hear George Kell and Al Kaline do the play by play.  I remember listening to the Opening Day game in 1984.  Who knew that those guys were on their way to winning the World Series?!

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This is the first spring training game I have ever been to.  The rain got us a couple of times and they walked away with a win.  I don’t recall how they did in spring training in 1984, but I am sure that those fans who attended those “grapefruit league” games had that same hope that I had today.  I hope that a World Series Championship is ours at the end of the season.  I ran into a Yankees fan in line to get something to drink and he said, “Looks like you got a good team this year.”  I told him I heard the same about the Yankees.  He said, “I hope it’s the year for one of us.”  I agreed.

The 1984 Tigers were a well oiled machine!  Nobody could pull double plays like Trammell and Sweet Lou Whitaker. The pitching staff was one of a kind!  Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Milt Wilcox, and Dave Rozema were tremendous starters and Aurelio Lopez, Juan Berenguer, and Willie Hernandez were bullpen aces!  Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson, Darrell Evens, Larry Herndon, Chet Lemon, and Tommy Brookens were household names!  What a team!!!

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Watching the game today, we were a few feet away from first base.  Watching Miguel Cabrera joke with Yankee players on base, the umps, and his team mates only made me like him more.  One can only hope that he will have another great year full of home runs, and key plays.  There were a lot of names I did not recognize, and who knows, maybe they will be household names, after the season is done.  I hope so.

A Tiger fan for life, in good seasons and bad, I hope this is THE year for the next World Series Championship.  Good luck, boys!  You looked good today.

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