Growing Old With The Sandman

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I’ve been to Bills games. I’ve been in Bills games’ traffic jams. I know how to navigate those slowdowns. I don’t have the patience to wait. I see the shortcuts like I see the back of my hand on the steering wheel. Most get overcome with frustration at the sight of these roadway snarls. I buckle down with calm confidence. I know the way out. And I’m not afraid to take it.

The Adam Sandler “I Missed You Tour” wasn’t supposed to be a Bills’ game. Even a sold-out Blue Cross Arena would require only a fraction of the people.

And yet, there we were. Stuck in traffic on 490 West.

It seems like everyone made the same decision. Park at the Civic Center Garage and stay out of the rain. Or sleet. Or snow. Or whatever decides to precipitate from the skies above.

I wanted to make it a relaxing evening. A casual drift down memory lane. A respite from Continue Reading “Growing Old With The Sandman”

Blasdell, The Beatles, And Brotherhood

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There was always The Beatles. Or at least it seemed that way.

I was too young to remember a time before The Beatles.

Strike that.

I certainly do remember the years before The Beatles (or, more appropriately, their music) landed on American shores. I can recall several memorable scenes from the time I was one or two years old.

I remember watching Mercury launches on the black-and-white TV in the living room of our apartment. I remember waiting for my mother to return home (from either work or school—that part I can’t remember) in that same living room on 83 Victory Avenue. I remember taking walks on that same street.

I remember staying at my grandparents on Ingham Avenue while my parents went out. I slept in the crib in the back room. Rather, I was supposed to be sleeping in the crib in the back room. What I really did was stand up against the railing and stare out the window.

The moonlit scene illuminated the slow moving railroad cars on the two levels of tracks. The raised level had box cars moving one way. Moving in the opposite direction, the lower level contained “coal cars.” That’s what I thought they were. I eventually learned the cars were called “gondolas” and they carried coke, not coal.

I don’t know why I remember this particular view. Many years later, long after I had told this story repeatedly, I discovered an old photograph of this exact scene taken from the same window. It turns out the rail traffic was standard for the era. The coke cars traveled to and from the coke ovens and mills on South Buffalo Railways track. The Lehigh Valley regularly ferried box cars containing car parts to the Ford plant on its elevated tracks.

How do I know I was between one and two years old? First, we moved out of the apartment in Lackawanna to our new home on Abbott Parkway in Blasdell in August 1963, just after my third birthday. Second, there was always another person in my memories—my brother Kenny.

He was in the living room as we waited for our mother to return. (Our poor father seemed a bit on edge with his two young sons, as if he was worried he’d have to do something he wasn’t quite sure how to do.)

He was in the stroller my mother pushed. (I tried to sit in the lower basket in the back. That didn’t work, and I preferred to walk.)

He was at my grandparents’ apartment in the high chair when my uncles threatened to feed us both to the barking junkyard dog next door. (My grandmother yelled at them for this, then put us to bed in the back room.)

By the summer of 1963, with a new home, a new street, and new friends (kids close enough to our age lived next door).

But that wasn’t the only new thing. Unbeknownst to us, in October of that year, John Lennon and Paul McCartney penned “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Released in the UK a month later, it would have been the number one hit had it not been for The Beatles’ previous release—“She Loves You”—already occupying that spot. Within two weeks, though, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” would displace its predecessor.

I can’t recall popular music until The Beatles defined it. There are claims, however, I did “The Twist” before I turned one. In fact, there’s video evidence of it, but I don’t remember it.

On the other hand, almost immediately upon the band’s first release (“I Want To Hold Your Hand”) in January 1964, Kenny and I took to the tune. I remember that. My three-year-old self sang it as “I want to hold YOU hand.”

When we visited our grandparents, we rifled through their record collection, eager to find my teeny-bopper aunt’s Beatles albums. We couldn’t play them—didn’t know how to—but we liked to look at the picture and identify each Beatle. It was a strange way for two elementary school brothers to bond.

Mom had an AM radio in the kitchen. Back then, all popular AM stations played Top 40. We’d either listen to WKBW or WGR. They had news, sports, and weather. And rock & roll. Kenny and I would perk up whenever a Beatles song came on.

What we couldn’t understand was how The Beatles so quickly traveled from one station to the other. Yeah, we were smart enough to know there weren’t miniature Beatles playing inside our radio. Of course, we did believe they actually played live at the radio station; hence, the perceived perplexing travel logistics.

We grew up with The Beatles. The Early Beatles. The movie Beatles (Hard Days’ Night and Help!). The Sgt. Pepper’s Beatles. And The Late Beatles.

We joined the school bus stop arguments about who was the favorite Beatle. We laughed at those who thought The Monkees were better (or even real).

One time, when visiting our cousin’s house, she furtively asked in a whisper, “Chris, Kenny, come to my room but don’t tell your mother.” She then played “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” as if it were some contraband song. Kenny and I looked at each other and said, “What’s the big deal? We hear this song on the radio all the time.”

When we walked the area streets on a paper drive for Boy Scouts with our next-door neighbor, we collected all sorts of paper products. One item included a Life Magazine that was a “best of the 60s” issue. It had a black cover, a montage of public figures from the “Decade of Tumult and Change.” Prominent among those were The Beatles (the early years version).

Kenny & I wanted to keep it, but our neighbor was older, and he was an actual Boy Scout (we were just Cub Scouts), so he had first dibs. He grabbed the mag. (I’ve since bought the issue for my collection.)

The Beatles broke up in 1970. We thought they did it just to get on a magazine cover and would soon be back together.

That wasn’t the only thing that broke up in 1970. Our family left Abbott Parkway for a new home in a new city. Blasdell, like The Beatles, became the past.

But the brotherhood remained. It proved stronger. Strong enough to begin a new enthusiasm for The Beatles (if not Blasdell). Kenny & I collected our allowance money to buy—guess what?

Nope. We used that money to buy baseball and football cards. We used those cards to trade for other cards. We sold those other cards. That brought in more money than our allowance. That was enough money to buy old Beatles albums.

And that’s what we did.

We tracked down every rumor that The Beatles would once again band together. I bought the Klaatu album. Kenny bought the books.We bought every re-release. My first CD gift to Kenny was a Beatles album. Not Abbey Road like I had hoped because at the time it was only available in a Japanese format. It was Tony Sheridan and The Beatles.

For his wedding I helped him splice together a Lennon song (“Grow Old With Me”) with a McCartney song (“Pipes of Peace”). Would we have had the technology then that we have today. All we could do was record one song on a cassette and play the other on the record. Between the two, we determined the best place for the splice to occur. Of course, between us and the wedding videographer, something got lost in transition, and the end product was less than what we imagined.

But we knew what it should have sounded like. And it was a perfect blend.

And maybe that’s all that mattered.

It’s fitting, then, that on this day, November 2, 2023, what is likely the final original Beatles single is to be released. Called “Now and Then,” it features recordings of the two dead Beatles with overlays from the two surviving Beatles.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that November 2 is Kenny’s birthday? He would have been 62.

Maybe I should go to Blasdell to listen to it.

What A Whirlwind Week It Was

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Adrenaline does amazing things. It can give you a sense of superhuman strength. It can push you to accomplish things you can only dream of. It can keep you awake and alert until the job is done.

How long can an adrenaline rush last?

That’s a tricky question. The length depends on what triggers the initial rush. It might be 10-15 minutes. It might be an hour or two. It might be a day.

And what happens when you experience a series of adrenaline rushes?

OK, I’m going to stop right there. I’m not a doctor and an “Adrenaline Rush” clearly has Continue Reading “What A Whirlwind Week It Was”

Life (With Strings Attached)

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Sitting in the balcony at the First Presbyterian Church on North Main Street in Honeoye Falls, I couldn’t help but wonder. It was Ray Milne’s funeral service. He was an amazing man. Long ago, during my term of public service, he offered sound and wise advice. He was a man many could look to as a community role model. I only wish I could accomplish half of what he did.

But that’s not what I was wondering about. The setting itself took me back. When I first moved back to Mendon in the late 1980s, I joined many civic groups, hoping to discover what I could offer my adopted hometown. Several of those groups convened in the meeting rooms of the church.

That was a time long ago. I started thinking about all the people I knew back then. Some of them were in that church celebrating Ray’s life. Most of them were celebrating with Ray.

The solemn but sweet music coming from the organ helped place me in the mood to Continue Reading “Life (With Strings Attached)”

Jack Kemp: All American

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A lot of people were much closer to Jack Kemp than I, but a lot more people did not know him as well as I did. Only a few remaining Americans can say what I can: “I was there at the beginning.”

Jack Kemp, who passed away in 2009, emerged on the national scene not in the political arena passing historic legislation, but on the gridiron field and into passing history. He was forged in a time when most Americans believed in and followed the Boy Scout Law. He played among those people, he lived among those people, and, eventually, he came to represent those people. I know. I was one of them.

Friends, conservatives, liberals, and countrymen, I write not to rebury Jack Kemp, but to Continue Reading “Jack Kemp: All American”

Bring Back Dodgeball! Why ‘Too Big To Fail’ Failed

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“Whatza matter you, big toe?” Danny incomprehensibly teased, egging me to wing the ball at him. His flaming red hair and daring blue eyes proved a compelling target. Danny wasn’t stupid—but neither was I. As all fourth graders knew, Danny caught every ball thrown his way. And in Dodgeball, that means you’re out, he wins. The cool lake breeze evaporated the sweat from my forehead as the sun beat abnormally hot that spring day on the elementary school playground. With the recess bell moments away, I made my decision quickly.

Using the deft eye of a future quarterback, my face feigned throwing the ball into Danny’s broad chest and stocky arms. He bought the ruse and, as I cocked my arm back, I could see his biceps tense. Kids usually thought if they threw the ball hard enough right at him, Danny wouldn’t catch it. Danny always caught it. With a snap release, I flicked the ball directly at… his feet!

Stymied by the misdirection, Danny froze. The ball bounced harmlessly off his shoe. The bell rang. I had won.

* * * * *

Six years later, on the hardwood deck of the high school gym, I found myself in Danny’s shoes. Faced in an identical Mexican standoff, I stared at my opponent’s eyes like a preying defensive back. Prepared for anything, his launching of the ball for my lower leg did not surprise me. Its speed, however, did. I quickly slipped my feet behind me and fell forward, curling above and around the oncoming missile. I carefully watched the path of the fleshy projectile, first as it sailed beneath my torso, then as it shot under my quickly rising sneakers. I watched it all the way—at least until my teeth slammed into the unyielding floorboards.

My head ricocheted back, sans two front teeth. My classmates immediately surrounded my dazed body. The first thing I remember seeing were pieces of my shattered front teeth strewn across the shiny wax floor. When asked how I felt, I calmly but matter-of-factly answered, “We won.”

* * * * *

They don’t play Dodgeball in public schools anymore—and not just because kids can get hurt. No, Dodgeball fell out of favor during the era where “self-esteem” became the mantra. “Don’t let Johnny lose. It’ll hurt his confidence.” “Let’s give everyone a trophy for participating.” “Just giving awards to winners might deflate the self-assurance of the losers.” “Better yet, let’s not have ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ at all, because, really, aren’t we all winners?” “Yes, society has certainly grown out of the ‘macho’ phase of testosterone.” “Why can’t we just all get along?”

And so, out went the virile excitement of Dodgeball and, with it, the grandeur of achievement. In came the tepid feel-goodness of equality and the glorification of the victim. “Jane shouldn’t get too far ahead of the rest of the class.” “She doesn’t need help like those less bright. She’s smart enough to figure it out for herself.” “We can’t hold Johnny accountable given his depraved background.”

We went from “defining deviancy down,” as Daniel Patrick Moynihan once declared, to, as the Washington Times wrote more than a decade ago, the “dumbing down of America.”

One need look no further than at the actions of our financial markets and those investors who had unrealistic expectations in 2008/2009. We saw it in the government forcing lenders to give money to borrowers who couldn’t afford to pay back those loans. We saw it in the banks who didn’t envision losing and willingly gave money to borrowers who couldn’t afford to pay. We saw this in the borrowers themselves who, fed on a steady diet of “self-esteem,” never assumed they could lose. Hadn’t any of these folks ever played Dodgeball?

Worse, we saw it in the quixotic investors who believed in the fantastic returns claimed by Bernard Madoff’s now obvious Ponzi scheme. What a perfect investment! Everybody wins, nobody loses!

Though I now sport a “White Bridge of Courage” from my childhood antics in the game of Dodgeball, that particular arena left important lessons: Life produces winners and losers; and, its corollary, sometimes, when something seems too good to be true, it really is too good to be true.

In truth, when you play the game called “real world” you either win or lose. Pretending this axiom no longer exists only leads to—well—what we’re reading in today’s headlines. The Founding Fathers understood this. The pioneers and cowboys embraced it. And we today must take a stand – nothing is too big to fail!

And if a business “too big to fail” can fail, can’t government “too big to fail” also fail?

(Sigh…) It’s too bad we don’t play Dodgeball anymore…

What Did You Learn From Oppenheimer?

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When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you’re a physics and astronomy major swimming in a sea of humanities majors, everything looks like an atom.

Or, quite possibly, a planet.

I guess it depends if you’re talking to someone who just got out of a micro-economics course or a macro-economics course.

Here’s the thing about majoring in physics in astronomy. Back when I did it, it was considered a double major. In reality, given the amount of required math courses, it was really a triple major. Only the folks in New Haven didn’t officially recognize triple majors.

The point, however, is that your schedule doesn’t have a lot of room for much of anything else.

Now, here comes the twist. On top of all those courses required for the physics and Continue Reading “What Did You Learn From Oppenheimer?”


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N.B.: In Spring of 1981, as part of an assignment for History 111B – The American Nation, 1865-Present, the following paper was submitted as though it was written by a scientific liaison to President Truman at the July 1945 Potsdam Conference. Naturally, to keep within the time frame, the preceding character had many limitations. Scientists, even important ones like Oppenheimer, had no inkling of the military situation and were not informed of the diplomatic situation.14 For this reason, the character does not discuss the political ramifications of outdoing the Soviets because he would not know of the oncoming break in relations. Every attempt was made to draft this hypothetical report in the manner which a science writer in July of 1945 would have written it. This was done by diving into various science-oriented and news-oriented periodicals during that period. Please remember, the language of this fictitious report may seem naïve, ignorant, or even offensive by today’s standards, but it reflects what was known and thought on July 17, 1945.


* * * * * SECURITY 1 PRIORITY * * * * *




When I Learned I Was A Writer

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Yes, I hated English class. All the way from Middle School through College. That didn’t mean I didn’t like to write. As demonstrated by my 10th grade novel, I treated writing as a form of teenage rebellion. Teenagers must rebel, and it’s a lot safer using a pen than some other tool.

Truth be told, I wrote constantly, especially when I wasn’t supposed to. I even used English class as an excuse to write. It’s called “free writing” or “stream of consciousness writing.” It’s the kind of nonsense writing that fills journals.

In December of my senior year in high school, my father gave me an appointment book. It wasn’t as fancy as the ones they have now. His company (Hartford Insurance) printed them up for their employees. My father must have had an Continue Reading “When I Learned I Was A Writer”

Why I Started To Write

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I’ve seen this quote all over the news lately. Funny thing, but I remember the quote and not the news story that prompted its use. The quote is from Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. In it, Bill asks how Mike went bankrupt. Mike responds with the now literary meme, “Two ways. Gradually and then suddenly.”

It turns out this “gradually then suddenly” concept applies to a lot more than bankruptcy. Think about how the Roman Empire fell. This applies both to the OG empire centered in Continue Reading “Why I Started To Write”

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