Yes, Your Community Matters, Too

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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

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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…

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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”

A Salute to My Greatest (and Most Favorite) Teacher

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What’s the difference between a mentor and a teacher? Dictionary enthusiasts will quickly point out a teacher imparts broad knowledge while mentors provide advice and guidance. Teachers offer lessons you can apply generally to all aspects of life. Mentors show us how to live a very specific aspect of our lives. Teachers educate. Mentors demonstrate.

These are very universal terms. Certainly, teachers give advice and mentors instruct. Since I’ve had great teachers and great mentors (not to mention great coaches, a wholly different creature), I want to make the distinction as stark as possible.

By their very nature, it’s likely you experienced your greatest teacher as a young child. There’s a number of good reasons for this. Youth represents your most formative – your most impressionable – years. Elementary school teachers therefore occupy the greatest Continue Reading “A Salute to My Greatest (and Most Favorite) Teacher”

Was This Written 50 Years Too Early or 50 Years Too Late?

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I‘ve always been puzzled by this thought: Was I born 50 years too early or 50 years too late? This thought resurfaced this week as I rode the train back and forth to Chicago while the rest of the world dazzled itself with remembering the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

It reminds me of a skit I once did as Cubmaster for Peter’s pack. We had our meetings in the cavernous Mendon Firehall. It was always filled to capacity. Filled with boys, their parents, and their siblings.

That night I donned a pair of Buzz Lightyear “wings” (actually they were my young nephew’s and I don’t know how I fit them over my shoulders without overstretching them). After strutting a few steps with those wings, I added a Woody hat on top of my head.

Maybe one of the Toy Story movies was out that year.

In either case, I asked the pack to guess who I was. Some of the boys says “Buzz” and some said “Woody.” I said “Nope” to each guess. Then I looked up to the parents in Pack 105 and said – in a distinct John Wayne kind of voice – “Well, pilgrim, some people call me a ‘The Space Cowboy.’”

And so it has been in my life. Teetering on the precipice of “born too early” while simultaneously straddling the ledge of “born too late.” Some might view this as a Continue Reading “Was This Written 50 Years Too Early or 50 Years Too Late?”