Thursday, February 19, 2009

Out of the mouths of........

I’ve mentioned before that my mother-in-law is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. One of the things that seems to keep her more alert or aware is when she is around her great grandkids. During the day my daughter-in-law Melina stays with her and my two year old granddaughter, Angelina and my six year old grandson, Alex, get to visit with their great grandmother. (When he gets out of school)

You never know what those kids will say.

I had to run up to my mother-in-law’s house yesterday to meet a plumber.

“Hey Poppa.”

“Hey Alex.”

“Hi Tony.”

“Angelina! That’s your Poppa not Tony.”

“That’s okay Melina she can call me whatever she wants.”

“Hi Poppa. I love you.”

“I love you too sweetheart.”

“Look at me. I’m pretty.”

(I might as well get the money clip out right now because that little girl is going to cost me a fortune.)

“Hey Poppa?”

“Yes Alex.”

“I’m sad.”

“Why are you sad?”

“Because of the recession.”


“The recession? Why would you be sad about the recession?”

“I don’t know what it is.”

“Well you’re not alone little buddy.”

“A lot of my friends at school are sad too.”

“You talk about the recession in class?”


“Um… so where do you talk about it?”

“At lunch.”

(I have this image in my head of a group of six year olds sitting around eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches debating the stimulus package.)

“Alex why would you talk about the recession?”

“Cause a lot of my friends can’t get toys and stuff because their parents don’t have any money because of the recession.”

There’s not a lot that can make me speechless but when you hear something like that from the mouth of a six year old you need to take a moment.


“The recession sucks Poppa.”

“Yes it does.”



“Do you know what a recession is?”

“Yes I do. A recession is when gross domestic production slows, businesses stop expanding, employment falls, unemployment rises, and housing prices decline.”

“Poppa I’m in the first grade now you don’t have to make stuff up anymore.”

“You’re right. A recession happens when you have eight years of ignorance and incompetence from your elected offcials.”

“What’s a depression?”

“Well a depression happens when the Democrats control the Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives or when your grandmother misses the Nordstrom yearly half off sale.”
“Okay Poppa.”

At this moment my beautiful angel of a granddaughter comes over and socks her brother in the nuts. And then “she” starts to cry!

“Alex! Did you touch your sister?”

“No mom honest! I didn’t! Honest! She just socked me in the privates.”

“You must have done something.”

“Honest mom I didn’t! I can’t lie. I’m honest it’s a character trait of mine.”


“A character trait? Alex when did you learn about character traits?”

“Helloooo Poppa. I’m in the first grade.”

“He’s right Melina. Angelina just walked up and socked him in the nuts.”

“In the privates Poppa, we’re not supposed to say nuts.”

“Sorry… She socked him in the privates.”

“Angelina why did you sock your brother?”

“I’m pretty.”

“I think she was upset that I was paying too much attention to Alex.”

“Well she can’t go around socking people in the nuts.”

“You mean privates mom.”

“I know Alex.”

So I met with the plumber and hung out for awhile with the kids.

As I was leaving……

“It really was my nuts Poppa. I don’t see what the big deal is. Nuts are nuts. It’s not like I said she socked me in the balls.”

“That’s true.”

“Give Poppa a kiss goodbye Angelina.”



“Poppa stay.”

“Poppa has to go sweetie. I love you very much.”

“Look at me. I’m pretty.”

“Yes you are. You’re gorgeous.”

“Bye Tony.”

“Poppa Angelina! Goodbye Poppa!”

“Boy my sister can be a real pain. I’m glad I don’t have to be married to her. Give me a hug Poppa.”

Now she starts crying…..

“Okay sweetheart Poppa will hug you too.”

Alex shaking his head…. “She gets everything with that.”

As I was driving away the thought hit me that all the stress of these tough economic times doesn’t just hit adults. How our children and grandchildren deal with it goes unseen by many of us. I suspect even high school age young adults are feeling the effects and feel scared and unsure.

Many of us have lost jobs or know people that have. We know people that are losing their homes or businesses. Things are going to get a lot tougher before they get better. There are no simple solutions and whether we like it or not the world we live in today is going to go through tremendous change over the next few years.

In times like these there is nothing more important than family. Communicate with everyone, kids included. Don’t frighten them but explain the facts to them as simply as possible. Above all listen. You’d be surprised at some of the ideas kids can come up with.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and he said that all the negative news was making people sick. He told me that more and more people that he knew were diagnosed with cancer or some other illness. He was positive that negativity breeds negativity. That stress causes illness.

I think he’s right. We can’t ignore reality but we can control how we react to it. Jim Valvano, The North Carolina State basketball coach said the following while he was fighting his battle with cancer.

"I'm fighting cancer, everybody knows that. People ask me all the time about how you go through your life and how's your day, and nothing is changed for me. I'm a very emotional, passionate man. I can't help it. That's being the son of Rocco and Angelina Valvano. It comes with the territory. We hug, we kiss, we love. And when people say to me how do you get through life or each day, it's the same thing. To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."

There isn't much I can add to that.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

For a friend.

It’s been awhile so this is a long one.

Everything has a beginning, middle and an end.


Even this post.


Everything except Guiding Light.

And true love.

And herpes.

Sometimes those two go hand in hand. But most of the time one of those involves too much tequila and the city of Tijuana.

But everything else has a beginning, middle and an end.


Life ends.

Whether we talk about it or not we all check out at some point. The older we get the more we think about it. Maybe because friends we know start to go, maybe because we’re faced with those life changing health moments.

But at some point we all die.

I’ve done it on stage a few times but I get resurrected the next time I perform. In that way comedians are a lot like Jesus.

We even have disciples.

Unfortunately mine are two retired strippers that come to my shows and yell at me to “take it off”.

I swear I have never seen those two old broads before in my life.

But the other kind of death…. The permanent one…. I’ve been thinking about that lately.

January has been very tough.

So far this year my high school wrestling coach, Glen Takahashi and Ron Baldan, my best friend in high school, best man at my wedding and godfather to my oldest son have both passed away. They were both in their 50’s. In addition three very close friends were diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully with surgery they should all recover.

The thing is…. I’m in my fifties.

Fifty one.

Saturday my wife and I were at a wedding reception and we had our photo taken together. They gave us a copy of the photo while we were at the wedding. Who was that middle aged overweight balding guy standing next to my wife? What the hell happened?

I’m getting old.

I could die.

I think I’m going to start saying I’m in my very late forties.

I have been thinking a lot about Coach Takahashi and Ron Baldan.

I was a member of the first wrestling team Coach Takahashi ever coached. It was at the University of San Diego High School.

I only joined the wrestling team because I saw that the cheerleaders sat at the edge of the mat with their legs crossed…. or not.

That’s how they cheered!!!!

I was an Italian high school male.

What else can I say?

Coach Takahashi was one of the most soft spoken men I have ever met. He weighed about 130 pounds and could turn me into a pretzel. He never yelled at you in anger. He yelled encouragement and instruction. He was a great motivator and a man of honor.

I was never a star. I won more than I lost but my heart was never into that sport. When I graduated I remember telling Coach Takahashi that he was the best coach I had ever had. And he was. He was also one of the finest men I ever met.

Coach Takahashi passed away on New Years Eve. Ron Baldan passed away a week later.

Ron Baldan was my best friend. I would have trusted that man with my life. He loved tequila, food and strippers and not necessarily in that order. There are way too many stories to tell about Ron. I’m going to share just one.

We did a fundraiser once where the guys dressed up as female Miss Universe beauty pageant contestants. There were about a dozen of us. Not one of us could ever pass for a woman.


I was obviously Miss Italy and Ron wanted to be Miss Poland because Miss Mexico was already taken. When Ron came out on stage from behind the curtain he pretended he had a wooden leg and would bend over, pick it up, and then turn it in the direction he wanted to walk while he was on the “runway”. Later, as entertainment for the “contest”, Ron and I along with my wife’s cousin Albert did a rendition of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy dressed as the Andrews Sisters.

Each of us weighed over 250 pounds at the time.

We all had moustaches.

It wasn’t pretty.

But the best part of that event was at the second intermission when Ron dressed up as my mother in a skit we did to the song Shut Uppa You Face. I was out in front singing and Ron was sitting behind me on the stage dressed as an old heavy set Italian woman. He was holding a large bottle of Chianti and was rocking back and forth to the song taking huge gulps of Chianti. By the time the song was over the bottle was drained.

It was real Chianti.

I told you Ron loved tequila. Well that’s what we’d been drinking to get the courage to go on stage dressed as women.

First tequila.

Then Chianti.

Tequila and Chianti.

Sounds like a new cop show on FOX.

By the end of the night Ron actually believed he had a wooden leg.

I will miss both of those men.

There comes a time in every man’s life when he asks himself the question, “Why am I here?”

I spent thirty seconds reflecting on that last night.

Why am I here?

Why am I here?

Am I just a collection of the atoms that were created billions of years earlier in the interior of stars, the fraction of a fraction of a percent of normal matter that escaped annihilation in the first microsecond of the universe?



Am I here for the food?

Does it really need to be more than that?

What if the reason I’m here is for a pizza with the works?

The average everyday Joe isn’t going to go down in history books for any great deeds. He isn’t going to leave some magnificent piece of art or music behind. He lives his life and when he dies those close to him remember their experiences with him. But when they die those before them are often forgotten by the next generation.

Everything has a beginning, middle, and an end.

So what’s the point?

Maybe there isn’t one.

I believe James Bond, or perhaps it was me at my bachelor party, said the following:

“Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die.”

But that isn’t enough is it?

So I’ve decided not to die.

I’ll just have a beginning and a middle.

Here’s my theory.

Everybody that retires.......dies.

If I don’t retire.

I can’t die.

But if by some chance I do die someday I need to have some “famous last words”.

That way I’ll be remembered. There have been some great famous last words.

Julius Caesar – “Et tu Brute?”

Lou Costello – “That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted.”

Winston Churchill – “I'm bored with it all.”

Edmund Gwenn – “Yeah it’s tough. But not as tough as doing comedy.”

Union General John Sedgwick – “They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist. . . .”

I need to come up with some famous last words just in case. That way even if I don’t get to say them I can have it in my will that these are my famous last words.

Something like, “Et tu Andrea?”


“I think there’s a couple of twenties in my money clip son.”


I need something that will be remembered for all time.

Something profound.



AH HA!!!!!

“Chianti for everyone!”

Goodbye Coach.

Goodbye Ron.

You shall be remembered.