Sunday, January 11, 2015

The FLounge one sunny morning

I had a meeting this morning, 9AM at the Finger Lakes Gifts and Lounge, but why am I so formal, The Flounge! The meeting was productive, but more importantly, it was with a  friend and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation...and the great coffee in a gigantic mug.

The meeting ended as quickly as it began, and I now stood alone apart from the two young women behind the counter. On a cold bright morning I confess, I like being alone. The coffee was still warm, so I ordered toast with peanut butter and strawberry jam and returned to my seat to ponder life quietly for a few moments before engaging the day. Marshall Tucker's "Can't You See," was playing in the background and it made me smile - I used to have it on a cassette tape mix back when we still had tapes. People came in, people left, no matter to me...the world this morning was mine alone as I sat quietly sipping slowly between bites of Normal Bread's best on this Saturday morning.

The sun streamed in through the full glass storefront and I though of a line from one of my favorite movies, The Lake House,"He must be captivated by the light. Always the light. Always." I looked beyond the panes of glass, mesmerized for a moment by the drips falling like brilliant diamonds tumbling off the canvas awning. The radiant stream made its way across my table silently; a silence wonderfully disturbed by the music still in the background and I found myself somewhere else. Nostalgia had taken over and it was now 1987, August 23rd to be precise. "Tuesday's gone with the wind..." captured me, brought me back to the Lynyrd Skynyrd Reunion Tour at the fair grounds, a beautiful evening so long ago, and I was happy to be there again. Too soon the song ended and I was again left with a reminiscent smile. My eyes explored the space now, the old Guards Cards building with it's black and white tiled floor, the painted design on the ceiling, the endless glass cabinets above. I probably stayed too long, but sometimes that down time is just what one needs. And the music was perfect...Tuesday's Gone, Let It Be, Saw Her Standing There, House of the Rising Sun, Band on the Run, Simple Man, Down on the Corner... (I've left out the singers - If you don't know them I'm not writing for you anyway!).

I'm home now, and everyone is awake. Life is going on, and that pleases me. The morning though, the morning was special. It makes me think of this great quote, "Life isn't made up of atoms, it's made up of tiny stories..." Thanks for reading mine.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dave and Leo's?

I used to be a haircut snob. My standards were high, and my requirements exacting. Two simple criteria. I passed all the fancy places, ignored the prices...held out for the beacons that signaled like a lighthouse to me; a traditional barber pole with an Italian name on the door. Perhaps there's a romance about it, or maybe I'm just biased, but I believe that some groups just do things tailor is Turkish, my barber Italian, and my ribs are 100% prepared by rednecks!

A few years ago I was forced into a tailspin, and I lost my mind. My barber died. Phil...from Phil's barber shop, with a barber pole. Distraught, I found comfort in a woman - no, not like that! A stylist, instead of a barber, and she's done a fine job over the years. As the years have passed however, I'd become aware of a vast chasm in my life, something missing. One day, about a month ago, it hit me as I passed Dave and Leo's barber shop in my daughters hometown of Waterloo, NY.  I've forsaken my standards for convenience. This morning I stopped in.

I'd been there years ago, when we first moved. Leo's the father, straight off the boat. An exceptional barber with the hands of a surgeon and a gift for the art of meaningful small talk that only barbers and Turkish tailors seem to have mastered. I liked Leo, but Dave, his son...Dave hadn't yet found himself, and so I found Phil, then Robin. But today, today was different. I walked in the door and it was like I'd never left despite 19 years. The smell brought me back. Same tile, same ceiling, same signs, same guys, same smell. I sat in a chair and waited, read the paper, looked around and nodded to the few early birds who'd arrived after me as the came in. Everything was the same - almost. I sat in Dave's chair. His head was shaved fairly tight, goatee, earrings...he looked like a man instead of the mullet wearing twenty something I remembered. I'm still not sure about the earrings, but this time he was confident, he'd found himself. With that same surgeons skill, he cut and thinned and talked. He greeted the men who walked in. He asked his dad (you remember Lea, right?) what time a party was this afternoon. When he was done with the scissors, I heard that familiar sound of the shaving cream dispenser, sank deeper into the chair as he applied it to my neck...I missed that feeling...and shaved, instead of clipped the edges of my haircut. Finally, the cloth came off and some barber shop smelling solution was applied to my hair and neck as I breathed an inaudible sigh (I hope). The experience, the smell of the aftershave, the barber pole of stained glass....I felt like I'd just arrived home again after a very long trip.

Too many years ago I convinced myself that that the barber pole didn't matter...I was wrong...

Sunday, November 24, 2013 night
A quick review of Yelp led me to old Philadelphia, and the Khyber Pass Pub. I found myself on the corner of Chestnut and 2nd Street, unsure of where to go. To my good fortune, a young bearded guy was standing next to me, waiting to cross the street. "Hey, do you know where Khyber Pass is?" "Right there," he pointed, "The place with all the people." "Is it good?" I asked, "Have you been there?" "Yeah," he replied without passion, "a couple of times, I liked it (long pause) it's a dark bar." I wanted to offer him a literary medal for his outstanding use of adjectives, but instead just said thank you, and crossed the street.

The funny thing, Khyber Pass Pub is...a dark bar. Despite his youth, the bearded guy had wisdom. I walked in and found a seat on the dining room side of this place lit mostly with neon and Christmas lights. The music immediately grabbed me. It sounded like AC/DC playing a heavy blues line... I grabbed a two seater with a marble top, maybe the only in the place. The rest of the tables were colonial looking with plank tops. Bench seats flanked the walls, and I took one for the better view. As with every place I go, I took it all in. Beer sign, a little related art, some sconces on the wall, and a lot of happy looking people of all ages.

A young woman handed me a menu and a water, lighting the candle at my table. I looked over the menu, thinking too hard about how to solicit a recommendation. She's a girl, I reasoned, and this is guy do I ask the right questions... I would ask her what she liked, and then adjust my analysis based on those answers. A flawless plan, though in retrospect, perhaps a little sexist. Once again, my unrealized bias' failed me...assuming ribs are not female friendly (see next paragraph!).  My efforts, all that deep thought, all in vain. Another bearded guy arrived at my table, "Can I get you a beer sir?"

I had selected the bench side, waxed and slippery, but comfortable. I was pondering the menu when a server brought dinner to the three friends right next to me. It looked fantastic, and I couldn't help myself...impulsively I slid over boldly, "I know this is obnoxious as hell, but what did you get, and do you love it?!" My expression might have been pleading, with a huge smile as I asked.  Once the shock wore off, they each humored me. The man immediately to my left answered first. A good looking guy whose nationality I couldn't pinpoint in the dark and I found that curious. I decided he was a university professor. "Three mixed meats with mashed potatoes, though they don't look mashed." He was right, they looked liked crushed home fries. The second man, directly across from me, reminded me of Andy from The Shawshank Redemption. He'd ordered the Gumbo which looked more like chili.  And the woman...attractive, dark haired, and an immediate friend...she ordered the ribs! I thanked them for tolerating my intrusion, and disappeared back to my marble table top...the whole evening wondering if they really enjoyed their food.

My beer arrived, a Russian River Consecration. A sour ale, "like nothing you've ever had before." I had just one question, "Is that beard real, or is it just for November? "It's real," he assured me proudly, and based on his highest recommendation, I opted for consecration solely because of it's name.  I looked at it for a long time through the candles and red, and secretly wished the three had asked me to join them, after all, who likes to eat alone?  Oh, wait - me! I do. It's when I observe, experience, and write. I pondered the emotion of it, it wasn't disappointed or hurt, but perhaps a void of an experience that never happened. They seemed to be having a wonderful time together. Perhaps a promotion, a reunion, or just great friends getting together? It's fun to make up scenarios.

Somewhere between my beer arriving and my food, I knew I'd have to write. I scribbled furiously in a tiny Moleskin trying to capture it all. The sign on the wall, "Be nice or leave." The neon signs and the creepy men's room. And those wonderful mysterious people next to me. They didn't know it yet, but we'd connected, and I needed to share that connection. Tearing out a page, "In a few It might be fun!" For the next 20 minutes I tried not to spy, but glancing over every once in a while, waiting for just the right moment, just before they deliver the note. A perfectly planned, well executed plan, delivered with military precision.

As they left, the professor said...thank you

Monday, November 18, 2013

TEDx Albany - The Ghost of Jack Kerouac!

TEDx Albany!

Thursday, November 14th, 2013 was TEDx Albany at Overit Media. It was a fantastic event, and an opportunity for me to check an item off my bucket list, give a TED Talk!

Overit Media is a great venue, housed in a renovated church. It's open and creative in the speaking venue was intimate (think snug). We started at 9am, discussing running, and beer, and how pirates are ultimately responsible for global warming! E-security, and women, and how we need to adapt or die! The speakers and topic were wonderful, and I was lost in the day.

2pm rolled around however, and I panicked, "sweater or no sweater?!" Overit was very warm, and surely I'd be uncomfortable, but Gavrielle (15) informed me, "the sweater looks cool dad, you have to wear the green one."  I donned the sweater, and at 2:04, The stage was mine! "I'm in love with cities I've never been to..."  I wasn't prepared for how nervous I was as the talk began.  It occured to me, these people spent money, and expected something meaningful for their time. My voice and body soon found their groove, and the "Ghost of Jack Kerouac" was off!

I talked about Jack's typing, about meeting him...on Facebook, and about my daughter. And then, something happened.  Something magical, and it crept in like the fog of San Francisco. I began to connect with the audience. The hat lady, the beer guy, the race car driver. Our eyes began to meet. Not a corporate "we," but rather, one by one. Her eyes, his face, their gaze. Suddenly it wasn't me telling a story, but rather, WE were on a journey in San Francisco, chasing ghosts together! We rode a cable car together, shared a poem "...exploding like spiders across the stars," and even a shot of bourbon! As the story wove on, my stolen gazes became intention moments...eye to eye, dare I say, soul to soul? As if I were speaking to just one person, and at the same time, talking to everyone.

When it was all over, I was humbled by the responses. "Great job," and "How much of that was real?" and "I was there with you on the cable car..." Kind people delivering wonderful feedback, "I loved the way your words and voice worked together." I was thankful for the feedback, not because I needed the ego boost, but because I really wanted to know how it worked after laboring for so many hours to get each piece just right. I'll quit there, this isn't the 'Chris is great hour!' But I will say that delivering my TED Talk was one of the most meaningful moments in my life. Not the opportunity to perform, but the opportunity to really connect with others. To engage in that conversation that TED is all about. Meaningful conversations with wonderful people who share this "TED thing". Somewhere I decided to be bold and engage a half a dozen people out there directly, looking deep into their eyes for a few moments too long. It felt like my first jump from an airplane...terrifying and thrilling at the same time...and involving real risk. They didn't look away. I could see their faces engaged and smiling and enjoying the story.

I'm a different man today as a result of this experience, and I think that's what TED is all about. I'm especially thankful for that race car driver who was vulnerable enough to answer my question, "what did it feel like when I found your eyes on the cable car?" "It was great, I was there, it was like you were talking to just me, even though I knew you were talking to all of us...and it wasn't creepy." Phew!

I'm thankful for TEDx Albany, for Gavrielle, for Overit Media for the amazing venue, for those 100 people who will hopefully never look at Jack or SF the same way again, and for my sweet bride and family whom I tortured for months.

My audience of 0 was mesmerized ; )

Friday, June 21, 2013

Drifting away


Farther Away.

Simple words, composite image. Husband and wife. Nearly 50 years. Brookgreen Gardens in Myrtle Beach, SC. This is the second year in a row I've taken this series of becomes more real each year.  Hand in hand down the live oak allee.  Enjoy the time you have with them...I am.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Girls and Guns

My middle daughter, 14 with  a Ruger Mark II in hand.  My first pistol.  And tonight, my first opportunity to teach her to shoot.  We had a great time, blasting through about a hundred rounds.  She's good!  Quick learner...had a great time.  We covered safety, good form, quarterbacking, and finally target aquisition.  Funny thing though, at the end I reserved a new target for her final 10 rounds as a keepsake.  She passed....but she did take a target, the one we shot up together.  The difference between boys and girls.  At 14 I would have taken the one I shot and talked about how my dad took me and taught me and look what I did.  Not for her...she just cared that we did it together. 

I have to tell you...I love being a dad!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I don't even know where to start, I just think I should.  I don't write enough these days.  In fact, I haven't written at all these days.  Well, at least until today.  It's been a long summer filled with pressure and stress and all the things that make up a good construction project.  I did end the year with Leaves and Lobsters with my bride...a Sunday afternoon filled with nice Reislings and lobster.  Perfect view, perfect day.  Life doesn't get any better.  This year was my 29th reunion from high school, you know you come from a back woods town when you informally celebrate 29 years! 

At my wive's 30th; yes, I married an older woman - A cougar!  Where was I?  Oh yes, the 30th.  I ran into an old mutual friend.  He lauded his love of Scotch.  I'm not a drinker, but the thought was interesting.  A nice maduro, a fine Scotch - such a manly thing to do.  For the fun of it, I began a little research (not on the Maduro - I've got the cigars figured out).  Lucky for me there's a website out there called "The Art of Manliness."  My problems were solved!  Apparently I missed this memo - to be a man you have to drink Scotch.  Hmmmm...  I'm not sure I'll take up the sport of Scotch drinking, but something deep in me resonates.  It's a guy thing.  I can't describe it really, other than to say, if you don't get this cartoon, don't even try to figure it out!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Great Men

I should be posting something spiritual today right?  Something about the greatest man that ever lived...take this right please, that's not where my writer's mind is at today.  No disrespect to the birth of the King, but my mind this morning has drifted 3,000 miles back to Ft. Lewis. 

I was a new private attached to the 9th Division, 109th MI (LRSC).  Airborne Infantry attached to an MI Battalion.  I met a man who I still think of with great respect.  If the Captain is the "old man," then Colonel Hughes was the "old old man."  He was quiet,  unassuming and respected.  I remember my inbriefing to the 109th MI.  He shared our history, our mission, and then thanked us all.  The he dismissed all but the paratroopers.  Praised our service, our toughness, reminded us of our fate should we be captured in combat.  20 years later I realize his speech was brilliant...he knew how to motivate men.  He was honest, and honorable and worthy to be followed.  He trusted us to carry out our missions.

We were paratroopers, and Colonel Hughes was the commander of a bunch of "Legs."  He had wings I guess, and a combat patch, but how tough could he have been?  We liked him, offered our respect, but often thought of him as the MI Colonel who knew little of infantry real army stuff.  He tried to run with keep up.  We respected that...immensely.  Even kept with  us for the first mile of the Sound to Narrows.  We respected that he tried to be a part of us, like a loving father teaching his son to play ball.  He included us, and at times excluded us from the chores of post duty, and he worked us hard.  No, he inpired our officers and NCOs to work us hard.  We earned all that we received, and we gave of ourselves gladly. 

Social media can be a great thing.  I met the Colonel again three years ago.  Wished him a Merry Christmas and shared a memory or two.  Didn't think much of it...  until the next year.  I was curious how he ended up.  Only then did he correct me...humbly with a simple link I read later that day.  He was no longer Lieutenant Colonel Hughes, but rather, General Hughes.  Lieutenant General Hughes - three gleaming heavy stars for all you civilians out there.  I was shocked...that man we had the audacity to think of as the "old old man?"  His career is impressive by any standards, and as hard as I thought I was at 20, I think he'd lost more by then than I've ever had.  Read it if you like:,r:1,s:200

Great things come in unassuming packages.  Maybe that's why MI treated him so well?  I'm a little awed that I stood at attention, and I stood casually shaking his hand, so many years ago...having no idea.  And he wasn't pretentious enough to care who he was - at least it never showed!

So to General Hughes I say, Thank you for your leadership, your example and for your service. 

But it's also time to turn back to the day at hand.  There was another man, a greater man.  The greatest man who ever existed.  He was born in a humble manger, lived a quiet and blameless life, died for sin, was raised from that same death so that we may live.  Unassuming, he was the King of the King of kings.  I make no comparison between Jesus and my beloved Colonel who became a General...but this one.  Sometimes it's worth the time to get to know a man.  Especially if  your life is in his hands...your eternal life is in His hands.

Merry Christmas

Monday, November 21, 2011

Moments with Tom Piazza

We all have brushes with "fame," don't we?  I for example, once stood as a soldier at the change of command for General Colin Powell.  Granted, I was a parade field away, it was still very cool. 

Somehow, I don't think my description as "fame" would be fully embraced by Tom Piazza, but I have no better word.  Let me paint a scene for you.  Black hair combed back, black boots, black pants, black jacket, black t-shirt, and a crisply pressed buttoned down white dress shirt - the contrast is a little striking.  He's comfortable with the audience, and immediately disarming.  Reading now.  Engaging.  Voice inflections that are somewhere between New Orleans (pronounced New Orlens) and Long Island.  First chapter of his latest novel.  We're immediately drawn in by the characters, by the story, and by the humor.  A wonderfully complex and vivid imagination at work.  Tom's body moves like water, movement and gesture taken to a new level.  Each gesture presented with rythm, poise and flare.  A man might open his arms for emphasis, Tom's arms open and his hands roll in the ripples of a stream of fluid thought.  Like a painter using his voice as a brush, and words as the media, he reads.  Then sing, "American Eagle..." in the voice of a character still being developed on a desk made from a door slab and sawhorses.  Sixty dollars at Lowes, plus tax.  We shook hands that evening, he signed our books, and we met his charming "better half."  It was a delightful date night with my bride.  It was the night WE met Tom Piazza.

My story is different.  I built a house for Tom.  We'll, renovated a house and built a living room.  One might even say I knew Tom before we knew who Tom would be.  Finding the house, drawing and planning the renovation, negotiating with the City and the neighbors.  More drawing...a bigger room, fireplace, change the second floor...  More'll flood my yard, where will they park... A hint, "I think you should sketch in a piano."  I fought with the Architect, "There's no room in the budget for a piano!"  The drawings came the morning I first met Tom in the run-down old place that would become the Trias House and the attached "tree house."  And what did Tom immediately focus on?  The Piano!  "Of course I said, but I'm not sure it will be a baby grand."  In retrospect, I think the hope for the piano is the only glimmer that he had to hold onto given the state of the house. 

Fast forward several months...let's pretend the neighbors and the city and the threatening of the contractors never happened.  10 am Monday morning, the first day of classes.  It's a "move that bus" experience as we give the keys to him.  Paint still slightly tacky in places.  A blue foam insulation door with hinges of duct tape still hanging just off the kitchen.  The house was done.  Beatiful. Wonderful.  Four bottles of wine on the table, all the clocks eventually set to the same time.  As close to home as I could make it...almost.   Tom was appreciative and kind, but something was missing...  It took two additional weeks to get the piano there. Some people think of dog as man's best friend.  And others?  It only became a home away from home the day the piano showed up!

So much I'd love to share, but privacy is so important.  I'll keep those stories, those moments with Tom Piazza for myself.  But I'll give you one hint as you wonder what Tom might have meant in the bottom left, when he wrote this as a thank you for a job well done...

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Future of Design

Can one ever be sure where the future is going?  Think about it, we have HAL who was there for the astronauts in a space Odyssey.  The Terminator.  Machines that think, that are aware, and who least until they become self aware, useful and make our lives a little better.  Like this guy below - forgive the gender assignment.  The value is immesureable, and the design is perfect, right down to the target aquisition marker.  I want one.  I want it now.  NO, I DO NOT DRINK TOO MUCH COFFEE...on second thought...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wine Appreciation
Responsible adults? LOL!  OK, well I'm not really laughing out loud, but I am smiling.  You see, a general message to the community went out, "wanted, responsible adults to temper the wine class."  Stacey and I agreed to come.  Date night.  80 students give or take a few.  Some staff and facutly.  And a bunch of wenches.  The professors term, not mine.  Wenches by his definition is a gender neutral term. We ended up at a table with six others.  Two students, three recent HWS graduates and a new staff member.  It was great!  Youth is always invigorating.  They have energy, life, and a perspective unencumbered by children, responsibility or experience!  I've always found balance important...have someone older to mentor you, have someone younger to be mentored, or to challenge you, or both.  So for the next six weeks : )  Red wines, white wines, a rose or two, French wine with a French woman.  What a blast we had.  Spilling on my clothes, sharing cheeses and stories and smiles.  And for the last class, dinner.  food and wine paired.  Great wines.  And as the evening closed I thought two significant things...  Why, I thought, does it have to be over?  And I smiled somewhere inside as I reviewed this photo on my Droid as I thought, noting the bunny ears, "who are the adults?!"

Saturday, November 12, 2011


So, I'm driving down the road minding my own business. Couple of sweet girls in the back seat. Heading for the championship soccer game for our small school league. I'm a responsible driver. 72 in a 65. No texting while driving. Checking my side mirror...and then my rear view...aaahhhhhh!!!I nearly swerved off the road. Terrified. A monster in the back seat. And it get's worse. I mean look at that face. Well, not the blonde. My sweet Gavi. NOT!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ever wonder how they test a toilet? I mean, do they line up a hundred lumberjacks after a hearty breakfast and see how things hold down? Practical yes, but good science? NO! Once again, thank God for the versatile soybean. With this modern miracle, the peanut of our generation, a scientific method can be created. I didn't believe it until I saw it, a dozen Cuban hand rolled cigars...oops, I mean...hand(?) turds. Not sure about the

Silly Americans

"You silly Americans, not understanding how to take a Rose wine seriously." These words were spoken by a lovely woman with a charming French accent. Somehow, in that context it wasn't offensive. And my gosh, she was right. The rose was amazing! What's more, Amanda the lion woman loved it. She told me the wine would be spectacular, and she was right. I smiled as we clinked our glasses and exchanged smiles. It kills me to think the French might be right...even once...but I must say, they do make a delightful Rose