Ode to a Once Mighty Oak

Bookmark and Share

And in that brief moment, its reign ended.

We don’t know how old it really was, but the centuries had exacted their toll. Despite the efforts of the valiant few, the rot that builds with age had eaten its way through the internal fabric that once supported its mighty infrastructure.

When that final gust rushed through, the great citadel had fallen. It had stood for so long that those closest to it, stunned by the fatal reality before their own eyes, could only muster an anemic disbelief.

All that incredulity could not suspend the finality that was. It was gone. Not really. But really.

*          *          *

The Seneca tribe was a fierce warrior tribe. They had to be. They guarded the “west gate” of the Iroquois Confederacy. From that position, they both protected one flank of their Continue Reading “Ode to a Once Mighty Oak”

Two Wrongs Still Don’t Make A Right

Bookmark and Share

I weep for my city. I weep for my country. I weep for our ancestors who worked so hard to overcome the obvious frailty that is all humanity.

I cry for those swept aside by events. My heart bleeds for the bystanders who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. I grow sullen, knowing the damage done cannot be quickly repaired.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of our citizenry that a noble cause has devolved into a self-inflicted chaos. Surely, no one believes it’s fair to punish innocents. Yet, clearly, we enable those who feel justified in doing precisely that.

None of this should have ever been allowed to happen.Continue Reading “Two Wrongs Still Don’t Make A Right”

Yes, Your Community Matters, Too

Bookmark and Share

If this were a Saturday matinee cartoon, we’ve come to the point where Popeye, upset at his inability to escape from the suffocating arms of the evil bully Bluto (a.k.a., “Brutus” in later versions), exclaims to the cheers of his admiring and sympathetic audience, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands not more!”

Yes, we’ve reached our “Popeye Point,” as Karl Albrecht called it in his 2011 article in Psychology Today. Albrecht describes this as the moment when we reach that “primal, visceral, life-changing decision.” Here’s his explanation of the metaphor:

“Popeye (the sailor man) [is] a good-natured, easy-going guy who tries to get through life as peacefully and cheerfully as possible. In the animated cartoon episodes, his emotional fortitude is always being tested by mean, nasty, abusive people around him, some of whom like to whale on him physically. At a certain point in each episode, he Continue Reading “Yes, Your Community Matters, Too”

Nobody Knew: When “The Miracle” Touched Greater Western New York

Bookmark and Share

Everyone knows what happened. Forty years ago this past weekend, when Al Michaels asked the world “Do you believe in Miracles?” a new generation discovered the power of belief. It may surprise you, then, what many people didn’t know…

Yale_Hockey_1980_US_Olympics_300In the months leading up to the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, Team USA hockey coach Herb Brooks scheduled a rigorous sixty-one game exhibition program for his ragtag group. One of those games was played right here in Greater Western New York. The event was held at Buffalo’s Nichols Arena against the Yale hockey team.

Just a couple months earlier, Yale hockey coach Tim Taylor used that game to lure me away from my intention to join the crew team. “Chris, we’ll fly you to Buffalo so you can visit your family,” he said. I took the bait and agreed to serve as manager of the team, (hockey being my second favorite sport and all).

Little did I know that decision fated me to meet history head on.

After all, it was just hockey – at the time an unassuming game played by generally Continue Reading “Nobody Knew: When “The Miracle” Touched Greater Western New York”

First They Came for Our Plastics Bags…

Bookmark and Share

First they came for our plastic bags, and I did not speak out – because I am but a small voice and could do nothing.

I offer this allusion because Martin Niemöller’s poem remains as profound today as it was when the Lutheran pastor penned his post-war confession in 1946. It’s language of persecution, oppression, and injustice, along with the attendant feelings of shame, regret, and the aura of culpability, ring true today in the Empire State as they once did in the totalitarian morass that immediately succeeded the Weimar Republic.

More on that in a moment. First, a bit of (more) recent history.

By the time Mr. Maguire whispered the word “plastics” into Benjamin Braddock’s attentive, albeit naïve, ear in the 1967 hit movie The Graduate, it had already been two years since Continue Reading “First They Came for Our Plastics Bags…”

Bills Fans May Be Hurt, But We Are Not Slain

Bookmark and Share

This is not the Commentary I had planned to write. Nonetheless, I write it with reluctance because a community cries out for it. Not our entire community, so if this doesn’t apply to you, feel free to skip it.

Of course, to ignore this piece betrays a certain detached coldness many of your neighbors would find less than appreciative. Read it to understand them. Read it to empathize. Read it to sympathize.

Those within the portion of our community to which this column addresses – especially those new to the cause – will read this to recognize the true meaning of resiliency.

By the time you receive this, Saturday’s heart-breaking loss will be nearly a week old. A lot of stuff has happened between now and then. A lot of stuff that separates you from that pain. A lot of stuff way more important than a game.

Nonetheless, it’s important to capture the emotion of that moment when an overtime field goal ended a Cinderella season. That feeling must be bottled. Not bottled-up, but Continue Reading “Bills Fans May Be Hurt, But We Are Not Slain”

Mike Alcorn: A Helluva Guy

Bookmark and Share

There’s something about a fraternal bond that is indescribable. It’s like a secret sauce that forever bands brothers together. And I’m not talking “brothers” in the genetic sense. It’s more a sense of kindred, a fundamental commonality that goes back, way back. It goes so far back our conscious mind can’t explain, can’t predict it.

But we know without a doubt when it’s there.

Like many, I knew Mike Alcorn. For certain not as well as others, but I knew him as a fellow-traveler, like most parents with kids the same age know each other.

Perhaps a little more given our shared entrepreneurial experience.

I can’t remember when I first met Mike, but I’m almost certain it was well before we knew Continue Reading “Mike Alcorn: A Helluva Guy”

A Memory of Frank Ricci

Bookmark and Share

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You probably never heard of Frank Ricci.

You probably never met Frank Ricci.

But I have and I did. He is among the thousand points of light that have illuminated my life. This is my salute to him. As you read this, I’m confident you may find some familiar tidbits that you didn’t expect to be there. I promise you, before you come to the end of this column, you’ll discover why.

Francesco “Frank” Ricci was born in the mountains south of Rome, Italy on February 10, 1935. He immigrated to America in 1959 after marrying his wife Teresa. Teresa DeAngelis grew up on Abbott Parkway in Blasdell, New York. I grew up on Abbott Parkway, only many years later.

I remember much about growing up on Abbott Parkway. On the other hand, I don’t Continue Reading “A Memory of Frank Ricci”

Cuomo’s Albany Red Flags New York

Bookmark and Share

Imagine a knock on your front door in the middle of the night amid urgent screams from the other side. Half-asleep, you stretch yourself out of your comfortable bed and stumble your way to your foyer.

More awake now, you’re curious as to where all that light is coming from through the small sidelight windows that sandwich the entrance to your home. The knock at the door suddenly turns into a rapid pounding as your hands fumble around the door knob. “I’m right here!” you shout back. The bellows on the other side get only louder, and deeper.

After a moment, you can feel the lock disengage. You twist the knob and slowly begin to open the door. Perhaps a crack to see what’s going on, you tell yourself.

Only you never get the chance. The moment the bolt is released, the door bursts open and Continue Reading “Cuomo’s Albany Red Flags New York”

The Stormy Beginning When the Erie County Fair First Waded Into The Rock and Roll Craze

Bookmark and Share

On the subject of Pat Boone. It’s really interesting. It’s so interesting I thought readers might have a fun time with it.

I found this out while researching the history of my grandfather’s pizzeria in Blasdell, New York. Specifically, I discovered this little factoid when I began reading about my grandparents various marketing efforts. One of those ventures turned into a wholly separate business. To promote their new pizzeria, they accepted an invitation to operate a pizza stand at the Erie County Fair.

The first year they were at the Fair (1956) featured the Erie County Fair’s first ever Rock and Roll concert on its first two nights (Saturday, August 18th, 1956 and Sunday August 19th, 1956). Box seats for the concert were $1.50; grandstand and front row bleacher seats were $1; and other bleacher seats were 50 cents.

Remember, Rock and Roll was a relatively new phenomenon at the time. Elvis had his first big hit in 1954 and Little Richard (“Tutti Frutti”) and Chuck Berry (“Maybellene”) had big hits in 1955. In many ways, though, 1956 was to become a breakout year for Rock and Roll. It Continue Reading “The Stormy Beginning When the Erie County Fair First Waded Into The Rock and Roll Craze”