The Super Bowl

As a little boy, I would peruse the Sears catalog at Christmastime, noting all of the things I wanted Santa to get me – because, of course, I was a good boy! One year, I stopped on the page that showed all of the National Football League gear for sale. My eyes quickly landed on a kick ass logo of an American revolutionary soldier hiking the football. That was all it took in the early 1970s. I became a New England Patriots fan.

Last weekend, the NFL Network ran highlights from all of the Super Bowls. When I turned it on, they were at Super Bowl 8 (or “VIII” for the pretentious…). Next up, highlights for Super Bowl 9.

As I watched those Super Bowl 9 highlights, I realized that this was the first Super Bowl I remember seeing. Steelers vs. Vikings. 1975. It was a gut shot when I realized that I’d been watching Super Bowls for over 40 years!

Although I was a Patriots fan by this point, they weren’t very good (they had a record of 26-58 through the 1970-1975 seasons). So for Super Bowl 9 and the very near future, I rooted for the Vikings.

I loved the Vikings in their purple and yellow. I loved that the defense was called the “purple people eaters“, and I loved Fran Tarkenton and their running back, Chuck Foreman. They got clobbered in the Super Bowl, though.

That Steelers team was awesome, and I quickly jumped on the bandwagon of the steel curtain defense – Lambert, Ham, Greene, Blount – and high-action offense – Bradshaw, Swann, Harris, Bleier… they were so badass!

As the Vikings kept making it to the Super Bowl, and kept losing (they lost Super Bowls 4, 8, 9, and 11), I quickly lost interest in them. Little did I know that making it to the Super Bowl and losing would officially become a “thing” in the 90s when the Buffalo Bills would lose in Super Bowls 25, 26, 27, and 28!

In 1976, the NFL expanded, gaining two teams – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Seattle Seahawks. I never really cared for the Buccaneers, but I did become a fan of the Seahawks – I loved their logo and loved their wide receiver, Steve Largent. Their quarterback, Jim Zorn, was also a legend – at least to me.

The remaining Super Bowls of the 1970s belonged to two teams, really, the Steelers and the Raiders. Yeah, the Cowboys won Super Bowl 12, but I never (NEVER) liked the Cowboys, so I conveniently forget about that year.

The 80s were big for the 49ers, the Redskins, and Giants – also all of whom I never really cared for. But there was one year in the 1980s – 1986 – that I had waited a long time for – Super Bowl 20. The legendary Chicago Bears vs. my New England Patriots.

No team could have beaten the Bears in that Super Bowl. There was no team as dominant as that one. The loss that my Patriots suffered was worse than the one my Vikings suffered in 1975. I rooted with all my heart for Tony Eason and then my hero Steve Grogan to just score some damn points!

After that Super Bowl, it would be 11 years of teams I hated (49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Giants) winning. I always rooted for the underdog in those games, and then, I finally had my next chance – Super Bowl 31 between the Green Bay Packers (Brett Favre) and New England Patriots.

Yeah, my Patriots lost again.

I had a chance of a lifetime when Super Bowl 33 rolled around. My friend Pat won tickets to the game, and invited me along. We flew down to Miami the day before the game, checked in to the Pepto Bismol colored hotel, and made our way to the pre-game parties. Woo-boy, we partied!

The next day, hungover, I rode Pat’s coattails as we found a place for breakfast, then made our way to the game. The Denver Broncos massacred the Atlanta Falcons, and once we filed out of the game, we quickly realized how difficult it would be to get a cab back to the hotel.

You may have noticed that I haven’t yet mentioned my hometown Detroit Lions. Although they have no place in a post regarding the Super Bowl, I should mention that I never really considered myself a Lions fan until I moved to Houston in the 1990s. At that time, it was good to root for a home team, and root for someone other than the team that represents where you currently live.

Yes, I rooted for the Oilers when I lived there. I was a big fan of Warren Moon. But each year ended in heartbreak for that team. Unlike the Lions, who have a heartbreak EACH GAME. Regardless, I consider myself a sad sack Lions fan, too.

Super Bowl 36, in 2002, finally made my dream come true. After nearly 30 years of being a New England Patriots fan, my team finally won the Super Bowl!

In Super Bowl 40, in 2006, my other dream came true – my Seattle Seahawks were playing – against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in my hometown, Detroit! Yes!

Although the Steelers won that game, I wasn’t deterred. It wouldn’t be until Super Bowl 48 until the Seahawks would win the title. Another dream come true!

The following year – Super Bowl 49, in 2015 – was the ultimate for me – Patriots vs. Seahawks! Not a lot of people could handle rooting for two teams they loved, but for me, it was easy – I felt like I had already won, and the game didn’t really matter. The best thing was that my team won! Yay, me!

A lot of people hate the Patriots – much like I hate the Cowboys. I can dig that. I think that one of the beautiful things about sports is that everyone can have passion for their own team for their own reasons. When it comes to today’s Patriots, I feel grateful every time they are successful. I wish the Lions would have similar success. But until then, as long as the Patriots are winning, I will not apologize for being a fan.

This weekend, Super Bowl 52 will commence, and I will watch like I have for  the last 43 years. Chances are pretty good I will be wearing my #14 Steve Grogan jersey, while I drink my Drew Bledsoe Doubleback wine, and root on my Patriots.

Go Pats!!

Six Months

Having grown up in the Midwest, I was a proud card-carrying member of the meat and cheese-eaters club. With one side of my family being partially Polish, and the other side squeezing mashed potatoes through their veins, I was a bonsai meat and dairy guy of the first order for fifty-one years of my life.

However, it was around this time six months ago, that Sheryl and I decided to start eating Vegan. The intent was to try it and see if we could be better to ourselves and our bodies.

Honestly, I gave myself two weeks, and was ready to abandon ship at any point after that.

Now, six months later, what have I learned?

Well, the biggest thing I learned was that not eating dairy was the best thing I could have done for myself!

Oh sweet cheezus! I loved my cheese! But it only took a day or two for me to start feeling the benefit of not ingesting dairy. I felt clearer, as if someone took a squeegee and cleared my head from the inside – and my sinuses, which always gave me problems, felt amazing!

Before I stopped eating cheese and drinking milk – my sinuses would run like they were in a race! At night, my face would hurt from my sinuses plugging up. In fact, I began going to an acupuncturist, who stuck needles in my face for the sole reason of trying to get some relief.

The thing is, I didn’t know better. I didn’t realize that dairy did this to me. No one ever suggested to me that if I stopped eating cheese and using milk and butter, I might get some relief.

Did you ever get penicillin for a sore throat or something? The doc probably gave you enough meds for two weeks, but remember that one time when you thought you felt better after a couple of days and didn’t finish taking the meds? Remember how you got even sicker than when you started? Well, that was like me and cheese.

I’ll admit – it wasn’t long before I jumped off the Vegan wagon – after six weeks, I had to have my beloved Buffalo Chicken Dip, which I reserved for the first week of football. I love me some football, and I was gonna celebrate with a fat old pot of Buffalo Chicken Dip!… but oy vey, what a mistake! It didn’t take long at all for me to start feeling all sorts of crappy! I quickly started getting a headache, my sinuses plugged up, my lips got numb, and, to be totally honest, I felt as if someone injected chemotherapy into my body. It was horrible!

This was a turning point – I could have kept eating dairy, and hoped that my body would forget how good it once felt, or, I could give up the ghost. And that’s exactly what I did – I decided that it wasn’t worth it. The remainder of the Buffalo Chicken Dip went down the garbage disposal, and I choked down some aspirin, hoping I’d feel better in the morning.

I did, fortunately. But I haven’t forgotten that crappy feeling!

One thing that happens when you start eating Vegan, is that you start distrusting any food that someone else made for you. Did they put real butter in there? Is there milk in there? Did they use egg noodles?

Yes, I’m aware that it sounds picky and even snooty. However, one time, Sheryl and I got some take out Chinese food – the veggie lo mein, if I recall correctly. Well, the noodles weren’t Vegan friendly, which I realized when my lips started to get numb. Before long, my head hurt, and I was feeling awful.

So dairy is obviously not pleasant for me to go back to. But what about meat? I think at one point in my life, bacon grease was an aphrodisiac for me. I could have made an Olympic sport out of eating hamburgers!

When we started eating Vegan, Sheryl and I instantly began joking about getting Bojangles’ chicken, just to take the edge off. For some reason, we had been yearning for it. Well, a few weeks ago, we jumped off the no-fun, no-meat wagon, and got some Zaxby’s (aka “chicken ambrosia of the gods”!). We recognized beforehand that our discretion might cause severe distress to our digestive systems, so we played it safe, and didn’t go bonkers. We had a few chicken tenders each, and that was it.

The result? We felt fine. No GI issues or anything. However, it really didn’t scratch the itch. It wasn’t worth the hassle and guilt. I realized that the memory of eating meat was much more enjoyable than the actual act of eating meat. It was totally something we could do without. Yes, it’s true, over the course of six months, meat no longer has power over us.

“But maybe it was chicken,” you may say, “try some delicious beef or pork!” Well, to be fair, I did. One day, I had the urge to eat some sweet, sweet polish sausage. Sausage was a staple of mine in a previous life. But this time, the grease drove my belly to rumbling. Again, I didn’t eat enough to cause major problems., but I was in no way proud of myself, and in no way did I want to go back to regularly eating meat!

With that all said, you would think that we are happy, healthy tree-hugging eaters of the land. Well, I can honestly say “I wish!”. Just like any diet, we still find a way to eat too many processed foods, and not enough greenery and vegetables and fruit. We’re trying, though, and I think we’ve got a pretty good shot at improving our diets.

All said, we feel better. We feel clear, and much of our joint pain has subsided. We might have taken off a pound or two, but that was never the purpose for changing our diet.

Again, we simply wanted to be better to ourselves. Our poor bodies have been through a lot in 50 years, and we had decided that it was time to treat ourselves nicer. Eating Vegan can be a challenge, but I enjoy the challenge. I feel like it’s a pretty good bet that I won’t shrivel up as a result of not eating meat, dairy, fish, and eggs.

“But what about the cost?” You may ask. Well, it’s true that organic food costs more, but once we got over the hump of changing our pantry over to Vegan-friendly food, our grocery bills actually became LESS. In fact, I’d have to say that we save between $100 and $200 a month in groceries, simply because we don’t buy meat and dairy.

The beautiful thing about eating Vegan is that we can change our mind at any time. It’s like when I decided to quit drinking Diet Coke. I know that I can still drink it at any time, but generally choose not to (talk about joint pain, I can feel it when I drink “pop” more than once a week!).

Knowing that you’re not a slave to a particular diet is in itself very freeing. I would urge anyone who has joint pain, sinus issues, memory problems, and the like, to try going without meat, dairy, eggs, and fish for 3-4 days. See how it goes… you can always go back!

Have… a Good Time… All the Time

I was sitting this weekend in a semi-fast food restaurant. On the wall flashed pictures of news and news and news. The scrolling bar along the bottom of the TV told me more news.

I couldn’t hear the vomit coming from the tube, thank goodness, but the pictures flashed between women’s marches and the president.

Even though I couldn’t hear the news, I felt my body tightening. I don’t normally watch the news or pay attention to the White House and congress because I don’t like to get wound up. I also don’t like media telling me what I should or shouldn’t care about.

While watching these pictures on the TV, I started thinking about the bigger picture – in particular, what the hell is going on with us. I thought again about the skewed media, and decided I had to write a blog post.

Although politics generated the thought process behind this post, this post is not political.

This post is about you. It’s about me. It’s about us.

Look. We live in a great country. Each and every one of us has a right to our own opinion, and a right to make up our own minds. We have a right to turn our attention to things that we are interested in, and passionate about.

On the other hand, we have a right to put other people down. We have every right to be a shitty person. We have a right to show our ignorance and plaster the mistakes of others all over facebook and tabloids.

When I drive down the road, and someone in the car ahead of me acts irrationally, I react irrationally. Usually with an expletive. My wife gets upset when I do this, by I try to assure her that I’m not exactly yelling at the person driving. Rather, I am yelling at the car.

When we stop and take the time to meet someone, and understand them, it is easier to empathize with them. Did they swerve in front of me while answering their phone because a loved one was in the hospital, and they were getting bad news? I don’t know. If I knew that, I might be a little more patient. A little more empathetic.

When I see people orating against things that I believe in, it ruffles my feathers. But I find that when I stop my crazy mind from racing, I wonder why this person thinks the way they do. Is it a result of a series of personal experiences? Are they just spouting what they heard someone else say, and they’re not even aware of what they are saying?

I don’t know.

What I do know, though, is that we – as human beings – spend a lot of time feeling bad or making others feel bad. Why? What the hell are we thinking??

Instead of feeling bad, or making others feel bad, why don’t we just feel good? Is it really that hard? We are so confused through years of experiences and media that direct our feelings… we lose sight of the fact that we CAN think for ourselves. We have the right. We can choose.

It really is that simple!

I think that if we stop focusing on all the things that make us sad, angry, upset, etc., and start looking at things that make us happy, we will find that happiness gives us more common ground to work with.

Being happy isn’t a crime. Having fun isn’t a crime. And rather than putting either one on the back burner – or in a closet or treasure chest hidden away forever – we should focus on how to live happy. How to live fun.

I think we should look at the immortal words of drummer Viv Savage, from Spinal Tap. In his wisdom, we find the words “Have… a good time… all the time.”

It should be that simple, shouldn’t it?

Cousins

Scrolling through Facebook one day, I saw a meme about cousins being our first friends. It quickly caught my attention, but didn’t think too much about it.

Out of the blue today, I heard from someone I’ve always considered a cousin and friend. It was a brief, yet touching and meaningful text conversation, that I was warmed to my heart, and driven to write this.

On my mom’s side of the family, we don’t have a lot of cousins, but on my dad’s side of the family we have a bunch! As I sit writing this, I think of each and every one of my cousins (on both sides of the family!), and how much they have come to mean to me.

It’s funny – cousins can grow up together, then go separate ways, yet always seem to come together again. And as I get older, I have found I appreciate my cousins more and more. And more.

No, I don’t always talk to my cousins, and a lot of time, messages come and go out of the blue, but after we converse, I always reflect back to how much I love being in touch with them, and love having them in my life.

One thing I especially enjoy is that each time we come together, it’s almost as if we’ve never been apart. Cousins are cool like that.  Another thing I love is that my cousins seem to really enjoy my wife – and that is really important to me.

“Cousins are your first friends”. This may be correct, but it may be more reasonable to think that “cousins are true friends”.

To my cousins out there – scattered among the four winds – I love you all. Thank you for being my friend, and thank you for the love and support you always gave me  – whether you knew you were providing it or not. You are all awesome in your own lovely way!

My Complete and Utter Fascination with Pink Floyd

In June of 1980, I was talking on the telephone with the girl who used to live next door to us in Madison Heights, MI. At the time, I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d ever speak to her, but that’s neither here nor there.

The thing is, we grew up together. She was like a sister to me. And during that telephone call, she planted a seed that grew to change my life.

With her birthday in early June, and my birthday in mid-June, she was telling me that she got a couple of new records. Since I already liked music A LOT, I asked which records she got.

“Van Halen’s ‘Women and Children First’, and Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’,” she said.

I hadn’t heard either one, as they both had recently been released. In fact, I had never heard of Van Halen at that point, but I had heard Pink Floyd.

A couple of years earlier, when we had gone to visit my uncle and aunt, I got my first taste of Pink Floyd. The opening strains of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” FLOORED me, and the rest of the album had me mesmerized.

So because my former next door neighbor got those two albums for her birthday, I decided that I needed to have them for MY birthday, a week or two later.

I wasn’t disappointed. “Women and Children First” was a killer introduction to a band that would change rock and roll forever.

But it was “The Wall” that I played over and over. And over. And over.

I think it was the 135th time I played that album that I started “getting it”. It really started resonating with me. I really understood the concept behind it, and that understanding led to deeper and deeper levels of appreciation of the album.

I acquired “The Dark Side of the Moon” shortly afterwards, and kinda dug it. Then, at a family get together, my uncle said that he used to listen to “Dark Side” with his buddies “in the old days”. I was intrigued!

Eventually, my uncle gave me his copy of “Wish You Were Here”. Many would say that by this time, I had the holy trinity of Pink Floyd albums. But I still wasn’t full-blown gonzo on the band.

My freshman year in college, I was at a party, sitting next to the radio. Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s bassist, was touring in support of his first solo album, and a commercial for the tour came on. The radio spot played bits and pieces of classic Floyd songs, and it all started to resonate with me.

I went back to my dorm room, and fueled with alcohol and a sudden desire to space out, I threw on “Wish You Were Here”, and it was like I had never heard it before. Over and over, I played my three Pink Floyd albums, no doubt driving everyone crazy. But I was a junkie, needing my fix.

Shortly afterwards, I bought “Meddle”, and fell in love with that album. Again, I played it over and over.

My Pink Floyd addiction got worse and worse. Soon, I had “Animals”, and a bootleg recording of “Live at Pompeii”. I bought cassette tapes of their early stuff, and absorbed all of it. Then, in the late 1980s, when CDs became popular, the first one I bought was “Atom Heart Mother”.

Pink Floyd had stopped touring in 1980, after “The Wall” concerts. I never had a chance to see them.But, in 1988, the remaining members toured sans Roger Waters. I saw them twice on that tour. I bought their live video tapes, and collected every legal form of their music and then some.

In 1994, the band released another album, and I saw them in concert in three different cities on that tour.

By this time, “The Wall” had become my least favorite Pink Floyd album. I had heard it so many times, I felt that I could sing it in my sleep. My favorite songs were the ones they never played on the radio – anything off the “Animals” album, the “Meddle” album, and the epic “Echoes”.

The advent of the internet made bootleg copies more and more available, and I was in – hook, line, and sinker!

Looking back over the last 37 1/2 years, Pink Floyd was easily the biggest part of the soundtrack to my life. Even today, I downloaded some old live versions of their music.

Sometimes, I will turn on something of theirs, and I won’t even remember hearing it, because it is all so familiar to me. It’s like walking down the hallway of your house, not even realizing the color of the walls, because you see it all the time.

Sometimes, I will bob my head to the jams and really feel it. I will think of where I was when I first heard the song. I will think of my uncle, and appreciate him and the gift of music that he gave me. Sometimes, I will simply stop whatever I’m doing, and listen. Deeply. In my heart.

My love of Pink Floyd has given me amazing moments with family members and friends. I remember hanging out with college friends eagerly watching the video for “Live at Pompeii” for the first time. I remember making a trip to Ann Arbor to see the odd movie “Zabriskie Point” because Pink Floyd performed the soundtrack.

When I moved to Las Vegas, my mom came out for a visit. We drove two hours to Death Valley, and stopped at a few places to take pictures. One of those places? Zabriskie Point.

I recall many years ago, cranking out various Pink Floyd tunes while drinking beers with my sister and contemplating life. I took my mentor and friend, George Clark, to see Roger Waters with my uncle and his family. And in 2017, my brother and I saw Roger Waters perform in Greensboro, NC, which was an amazing experience for both of us.

Sometimes, as a writer, I write my stories, and poetry, and essays and such, and throw them against the wall to see if they stick. I wonder if these entities of my creative matter will inspire and become as important to someone else like Pink Floyd inspired me.

Human interactions are like spiderwebs – a tug on one end will cause movement on another end. And the vibrations of those two will affect another web. And it’s in this sense, that I bare my soul, and share the story of my addiction to the Pink Floyd.

Civilization is based on story-telling. And through sharing our stories, and sharing ourselves, we can affect the planet. When my former next door neighbor shared with me what she got for her birthday, and when my uncle shared with me some tunes that he loved, they changed my life for the better.