You Are Like A Hurricane: No “Over Hype” Here

“Can’t happen here, can’t happen here. All that fear they’re telling you, it can’t happen here” – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow

Once again, nature proves that, no matter what, she’s the boss. As I sat in my house Sunday morning looking out my window at the wind gusts and flooding rains that were Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Irene, I considered my family fortunate to still have electricity, and not have a yard with a giant tree that had toppled across it.

As a weather event, there is no finesse to a hurricane. She is pure power.

As an armchair witness to Irene making rain fall history, I’m having a surge of respect for people in the states of Florida and the Carolinas who deal with big time storms on a regular basis.

The only reason I left my house on Sunday was to plug in a lead cord for my next door neighbor to run his sump pump. He had lost power, and wanted to get the two inches of water out of his flooded basement.

Why do people venture outside during a hurricane? A tree can fall and crush you. Such events occurred on more than one occasion in Virginia over the weekend.

Why would you drive your car during a hurricane? If you’re not driving an emergency vehicle, chances are you would not know how to avoid a flooded road that could sweep you away to your end.

Why taunt the power of a girl named Irene? You put yourself in harm’s way without reason. The highways are shutting down, and the malls are closed. You have no reason to go out, really. Reacquaint yourself with the definition of the word emergency.

As an advocate of the Old School, I’m of the type who thinks if you mess with a hurricane and what she brings, it’s an act that borders on foolishness.

My dog is a great indicator of bad weather. Not the biggest fan of thunderstorms to begin with, you know if he doesn’t want to go on his “bathroom run” that something sinister is in the air. Dogs are good for this.

New York City was practically shut down by Irene. While residents of this state can be prone to hyperbole and the “worst case” scenario, they had it right by regarding Irene as the monster she had the potential to be.

As a resident of upstate New York, I have only seen the remnants of tropical storms in the past. This storm was an entirely different animal.

There are many that think that the coverage of Irene was overblown, and too excessive in the monies spent to protect. With the exception of writers like Davina Brewer, who wrote about it here, I’ve been reading nothing but bad reviews of the weekend’s hurricane preparation.

For those that think this event was “over hyped”, feel free to witness the aftermath of Irene here in upstate New York: devastating flooding, with waters rising and rivers cresting. Roads and entire towns were pretty much wiped out.

In my neck of the woods, they are many, many people suffering from loss of property.

In the right circumstance, fear and over preparation is a very positive thing.

Good riddance, Irene, and let all your sisters and cousins know that they are not welcome  in this part of the world anymore.

An Opportunity To Become “Full Time” Patriotic

Back in late March, I discussed posting an article to this site at least once a week. Well, as you can judge from the April archives, that ambition went down in flames. I’m not one to use excuses liberally, but a couple of important events happened in our family, as well as a very intense schedule for my son, coming down to the last phases of a first degree black belt test in tae kwon do (you will read a little bit about both in the coming weeks). Well, he’s finally got the black belt, and Mom and Dad can breathe a little easier. And, to boot, we have more time.

With this, I still hope to post articles more frequently, if not every week, beginning with today’s little rant about patriotism. I appreciate the readers who are here and continue to read despite the erratic publication schedule. Enjoy today’s post, and start looking for more to come!

Besides the obvious benefits of Osama Bin Laden being taken out by a Navy Seal (the obvious: one unholy terrorist taker of American lives eliminated), there are some not so subtle side effects of the events of the first of May.

Many beautiful images proliferated throughout the web after the fact. Stars and stripes, shimmering red, white, and blue colors in abundance. We were introduced again to photos of the World Trade Center before the 9/11 attacks, standing tall in the majestic New York skyline.

I saw many photos of the symbol of American freedom, the bald eagle, in flight, perched and steadfast, or draped in the shades of our flag. These images reflect American pride and patriotism.

While it’s a wonderful thing to see these images, whether as icons on the social media accounts of your friends or in a newspaper publication, the truth is we never see it enough. It seems only a tragedy like 9/11, or the event of the death of a terrorist leader brings out the best of American patriotism.

It’s what I would call “part time” patriotism. And as Americans, you and I can be better than that. This site will never have a strongly political bent, but this isn’t about politics. It’s about recognizing the right from wrong and the things we can improve upon.

I fly my flag outside of my home three seasons a year. Only three, because the upstate New York winter’s cold and winds will tatter and shred the most well made flag. But I would still consider that part time patriotism, as I know I can do more to honor this country and those who serve it.

There was an uproar from some after Bin Laden’s death that “everyone celebrated it” in the streets of DC and New York. While it’s an exaggeration that “everyone” did this, it’s important to remember this one individual was responsible for destroying thousands of lives. In this particular case, you shouldn’t feel bad about feeling good.

As usual, I will invoke the old school view on this one: Bin Laden got what he had coming to him, and the method of his removal could not have happened to a better guy. Peace and diplomacy are the preferred route for most anything, but not this time.

This blog is useful for a variety of reasons, not the least of which it helps me remember things. I am part time patriotic. This post should serve to remind me to strive to become more patriotic on a regular basis. To remember to thank those men and women at every opportunity for serving our country, especially in the Middle East. And keep them in my prayers.

Did you like this article? If so, don’t keep it from your friends! Share it, tweet it, and tell me what you think in the comments section.

Not So Smart About Smart Phones

Presently, I don’t have a cell phone. That’s right, no cell phone. When I look around at my little world when I’m out and about, I feel like the only person without one. When people find out I don’t have a cell phone, they stare at me with that quizzical look as if to say “How do you get along without one?” Or the less likely “No cell phone? What…are you homeless?”

I get along just fine without a mobile phone. I work in an office, and there’s a phone right next to me on my desk. There’s a landline in my house when I get home from work. My wife has a cell phone, and my daughter does as well. I will, at times, use my wife’s phone to communicate. You can text on it very easily, and you can also make a call and actually talk to someone.

I’m currently convinced there is a wealth of phone power always within my general vicinity. Why be redundant and add one more?

I was sitting with a friend recently who was showing me the wide range of things his phone could do for him. He has a new breed of SmartPhone that could instantly grab some NCAA basketball scores, look at the weather report, update his Facebook status, and play some on-line games. I was thoroughly confused.

As I’ve stated before, I love some forms of technology and how much easier they can make our lives. My wife and I just joined the flat screen TV revolution, and we’re very happy we’ve been finally able to join this exclusive club. Of course, we had to join because our current television had finally kicked the bucket. It was a wedding gift from my sister and my brother in law, meaning it was just about 18 years old. I think that’s much older in “TV years”, however.

As I enjoy baseball and basketball games in all their high definition brilliance with our new television, and my appreciation of all things new increases, I have to ask myself: Well, what do you think? How about getting a cell phone?

I just can’t pull that trigger. I do love talking to people, and I love new toys as well. But for me, a cell phone is akin to a colossal waste of my dollars. I know I could probably use such a phone in an emergency situation…but everybody else has a cell phone. And I’m a sociable and brazen individual at times.

If my car ever breaks down, the conversation could go like this:

“Hey buddy…can I borrow your phone?”

That’s not all there is to it. Phones aren’t just phones now, they are status symbols. If you’re caught outside of your residence without the right phone…well, what’s a neighbor to say? What, no IPhone? No Android? You just make calls from your phone? Really? That question would come up again. How do you get along without one?

You know the answer. Just fine, thank you.

Kids, just remember: The “Old School” principles aren’t just about paying homage to the previous generations. No, it’s also about realizing what’s necessary in your life, focusing on that, and doing away with (or not even bothering with) the rest of the crap that everybody else is doing.

Saying “No” To Holiday Stress

Here it is. That time of year again.

The time where it seems everyone is stressed out about the big holiday. Christmas. Many of us are still searching for an appropriate gift for someone, or making last minute Christmas dinner or holiday party plans. A lot of people say they are stressed. My wife has said it. My co-workers have said it. I overhear strangers in the stores say it.

The pressure is on. They feel the stress of so much to do, coming down to the wire.

Why bother with all this stress? Stop. It’s not that hard, very easy to stop, really. Your kids will not be disappointed if you stop. The adult who you absolutely have to buy that gift for will not be disappointed. If you stop the stress and remember the real (read: old school) reasons for this holiday, you will feel better about it.

This holiday is not about Target, WalMart, or Toys R Us, no matter how much you are persuaded to believe. It is not about the commercials and advertising bombarding you with the idea that this upcoming day will be perfect if you buy that one last present, or go overboard and put yourself into extreme levels of debt for the next year.

It is not about the gift of a Lexus with a big red bow on it (who does this anyway?).

It is about watching Rudolph again. It is about the excitement of your kids finding that one special present under the tree. It is about creating memories with your family and friends, and dropping some money into the Salvation Army kettle when you see one, to help those who might not have much of a Christmas at all.

Remember the birth of Jesus Christ? If memory serves me right, this is the original reason we celebrate this holiday.

It’s not necessary to get all religious on you here. But if we can reflect on why we hold this holiday in such reverence in the first place, it just might lower that stress level. You may be able to breathe a little easier. You might just think…”there’s no reason to be stressed at all, and plenty to celebrate”.

Especially in a year like this one. If you’re lucky enough where your only concern is what to buy your friends and family (and not how you’re going to pay for it) and if you’ll have enough time to do it, you’re doing just fine. No stress necessary.

So, relax, have some egg nog, and have a good time. That’s what the season is all about.

Buon Natale! (Otherwise known as “Merry Christmas”!)

Work Purpose – Passion or Paycheck?

God only knows, God makes his plan
The information’s unavailable to the mortal man
We’re workin’ our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway, when in fact we’re slip sliding away

Crazy lyrics, aren’t they? When you’re working a job, and are part of the masses doing a 9 to 5 gig, the above can be a little…well, unsettling.

“Slip Sliding Away” is a Paul Simon song that was blaring from the speakers of  the almost vintage Cadillac that I drive on the way to work the other day. The irony of the above lyric hit me like the cliched ton of bricks:

Is my life actually slip sliding away while I go to my cubicle each day and perform the duties of an employee?

And is that a reason to dislike, even hate, the circumstance?

I thought about it for awhile, and concluded that I’m stuck somewhere in the middle. Worker bee limbo. I neither dislike nor love the current situation as it pertains to work.

Not everyone hates their job. For some, the only emotion is indifference.

Maybe it’s a by-product of a lousy economy, but there just seems to be an avalanche of individuals these days that will no longer work for the man. They are running micro-businesses, working independently, and writing blog posts all about it. I must admit, at times I am jealous. They all seem to have it going in the right direction.

What’s an old school kinda guy to do? Well, this theory seems to work—

It’s perfectly fine to try and find some meaning within your day job, collect that check, and have a great passion outside of work.

Find something else to do, besides your job, that will stoke your fire. It doesn’t have to be related to work. Who wrote that rule anyway??

My grandmother worked day and night in her restaurant without necessarily “loving” everything that she did. My grandfather worked a shift in factories, and then went to the restaurant to help out after his day was done at the  job. I doubt he was “passionate” about most aspects of his work. He would probably say he did it for the food, the clothing, and the roof.

My job fulfills income criteria as well. That’s all I really require of it.

The idea of a “dream job” can be a fallacy for many of us. I don’t have that one singular, all consuming passion for something that I could make my living at. I do, however, love aspects of my work in sales. I love the competition and the consistent striving to be better than I was yesterday.

My passion is reserved for my God, my family, my friends, ocean front vacations, and my baseball team. My work can just be my work.

Excuse me while I work my job, collect my pay, and yes, glide down that highway.

Negativity Sells. Why Do We Buy?

A well done blog article that I was made aware of recently detailed a subject that is sure to raise the ire of some Italian Americans, but I just thought it to be totally ridiculous: a guided tour of New York’s most famous mafia “landmarks”! An excerpt from the article reads:

An enterprising soul by the name of John Ciarcia is, dare I say it, “making you an offer you can’t refuse”: A bus tour of  (New York City’s) most famous and beloved gangland sites.

Even though there are several Mafia walking-tour guides, Ciarcia offers the first mobile tour on this subject. “Everybody loves the mob,” he said, a restaurateur, radio host and actor (he had a bit part in “The Sopranos“). “We’d like to give them a taste of history in the mob.”

Starting next month, The New York City Mob Tour will guide you through the best in former Mafioso stomping grounds, watering holes and killing fields. Replete with newsreels and film clips describing the various points of interest, you and your own gang could marvel at what was really hot in New York in those fun-filled, captivating days of old.

Are there less tourist activities in the New York City area than I had imagined?

As to why something like this comes to fruition, it’s simple: Negativity sells, and everybody’s buying. As long as people perceive that the term “mafia” equals an exciting and affluent, albeit dangerous, lifestyle, we will continue to be interested.

No doubt, what looks like exploitation of a proud culture here will offend some people. That’s the idea. The more people it offends, the louder the buzz. And then it sells. Negativity sells. And we buy it.

I have Googled “famous Italian Americans” in the past and was always impressed by the sheer number of the thousands of influential people who have had a positive impact on this country.

I like to reference our sporting figures. Individuals like DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Joe Montana, Vince Lombardi were huge.

And those are just some of the famous ones. There are millions of ordinary folks who did exactly the same thing.

My grandmother’s family came here from Sicily to escape the influence of organized crime. They left a comfortable life in their home country, came here with nothing, but still managed to build themselves a piece of the American dream. There will never be a bus tour for that, we know. But that is the true heritage of the Italian immigrants that came to this land.

I’ll make you “an offer you can’t refuse”. Or shouldn’t refuse. Focus on the positive aspects of your culture and heritage, whatever it may be, and ignore the rest.