Monday, August 28, 2006

Thanks for the memories

My aunt Catherine....aka Katrine..........has been in a nursing home for the last few years. Considering she's hovering around her mid nineties she's in pretty fair shape, except for a nasty case of alzheimers. My grandmother suffered from this for the last few years of her life and besides the tragedy and hopelessness of the situation it provided some surreal comic moments. Because my father was partially paralyzed with a stroke and my grandmother was...not my grandmother, and my mom was working full time, I stayed around as much as possible. I was playing music full time and my schedule was...uh...irregular......but I'd spend many nights at the Piscataway homestead. One night I came home after a gig...around 3 am or so...and the dining room table was set for a feast. The best china, settings for.... oh... I don't know, ten or twelve. Problem was...there wasn't a holiday in sight. My grandmother was at it again. I figured I'd take it down the next morning but by the time I got up it was gone!!!!! And I don't think anyone believed that I'd actually seen it. Gram certainly wasn't going to confess. Sometimes she would take off and man, could she motor. She could barely get across the living room but get her on the open road...dang!!!!!.People would bring her home...usually a neighbor, unless we spotted her first. One time our next door neighbor and his son brought her home and she seemed unusually......"chagrined." She was a little embarassed but said, "Well, it finally happened." I said, "What happened." She said," The (neighbor and neighbor's son's name deleted for legal purposes) took my maidenhood." Well my old man started laughing so hard his teeth almost shot out. And after the dog ate his first set he had to take care of these. My mom just looked stunned and it was time for get to the gig. Pronto! She spent her last days in a nursing home and, mercifully didn't stay there long.
My aunt, on the other hand, doesnt seem to want to say goodbye. Even though I know she'd like nothing better. Katrine and I were good pals as I was growing up. After her husband died she came to live with us on W. Sixth St in Plainfield, NJ. She eventually gave up half of her part of the house to my grandmother ...remember maidenhood...? Some creative redesigning led to a full, pretty happy home. No wonder I've always felt more comfortable with women. Now I get it. And they smell much better than guys. She and my mom would sit out on the screened in porch, down a cold one or two and...commiserate. She taught me how to tie my shoes (age five), shift gears on a '54 chevy , (age ten), how much better butter is than margarine, (my mom wasn't too happy I learned about that), how to peel and cook shrimp, and the rules of when and why you hit the other guy with the high beams. She'd let me watch the good stuff on her tv, side with me on putting off bedtime, and let me pal around with her in general. The woman was a hazard behind the wheel and not real light on her feet. She had a habit of hitting the deck and took a few trips to Muhlenberg Hospital to get a stitch or two. My father...the guy with the teeth..... was her brother and was on the Plainfield Rescue Squad so he could always pull some strings. She had a great sense of humor about herself and a laugh so unique that today only I can duplicate it. And now she sits in a nursing home not knowing where she is or why she's there. I don't drop in on her nearly enough but when I do...with a little work.... I can bring her back to Sixth St for a little while. Or to Ortly Beach, where my sister and I would make beer runs from the house to the beach for Katrine, my mom and their buddies..."The Bridge Club." One of the clubbers had a house on the beach and she'd cut us a deal for a week every year. Husbands, kids...the whole deal. That's where I learned to play Gin Rummy... discovered that two bucks doesn't go very far on the boardwalk and to never...NEVER...pour beer in a milk glass.
Every now and then on my radio show I play a song from former Jersey boy John Gorka called "I don't feel like a train anymore." One of the last times I went to see my aunt I walked in and said, "Hey Katrine!!" And she said,"I don't feel like Katrine anymore." Can ya see the irony? I started laughing and she started laughing and, oh my God, the two of us were doin' the Katrine laugh like a coupla nuts. Well, we have to be our best... for our moms, dads, aunts .....etc....etc. They were there for us.
A friend of mine who has a parent in a nursing home said to me, "Ya know, it's funny....we start out in diapers and we end up in diapers." I have to tell you I got kind of a chill up my back when he said that. But because I was raised on Mad magazine and Zap comics and National Lampoon and SNL......and nuns...(oh man...more women...) I had to start laughing......chortling....gagging!!!! Just like Katrine would've.
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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Let the sun shine......would'ja please?'s August's hot....and I'm adjusting to life in my new digs on the Musconetcong river. Y'know, I'm no better looking, wealthier or brighter than I was three, five, ten years ago but..... to use a term I can't hear without making a wisecrack or rolling my eyes.....I'm in a pretty "good place ." Again it comes back to attitude. Not the same kind of attitude I'd written about in an earlier entry.... the face you put out to the world. But your inner attitude. What you have to live with all day every day. How many times have you heard "stay positive, "or "look on the bright side," or the one about the"glass half full ?" Dont bring up the one about life "giving you lemons,".......that still makes me cringe. I like to keep at least one foot in the real world.
The fact is adversity is a way of life. And it's all relative. As I write this, Israeli, Iraqi and Lebanese homes have been blown apart and family members killed or maimed. American soldiers are checking into Walter Reed hospital preparing to receive artificial limbs....or.....not checking in at all. Makes that egg McMuffin that came out cold or the backup on the Garden State Parkway not seem so earth shattering.
Maybe it's that I'm getting older and all of a sudden the "light at the end of the tunnel" doesn't seem as far off as it once did, but I'll be dipped in #%&%* if I'm gonna walk around negative and depressed. Y' know people like that? Everything's someone else's fault. The world's against them. WAAAAAAAAA!!!! Who's fault is it that I'm not living in a million dollar home or driving a jag. I don't know...let me see...... uh....hmmmm.....ME!!!!!!! Not that I even crave those things...honest. Right now I'm living in a six hundred dollar a month apartment and driving a Saturn and I'm probably more content than I've ever been. It's a great pad and there's water about fifty yards away!!!!!!!
I love those positive sayings you run into. They're all true. If we could only do it. It's like losing weight. We all know how. Don't eat so much and get some exercise. Cut down on junk and bring up the fruits and vegetables. Wow...what a revelation. That'll be forty five dollars. Didn't say I could do it...but I know....we all know what to do.
I get daily life wisdom's sent to my e mail from a guy named Joel Osteen. I've mentioned him before. He's one of those Sunday preachers without the bible thumping. I'm as cynical as it gets when it comes to these guys but he's always driving home the message, stay positive, this'll be a good day ahead, let the other guy cut in front of you (I'm paraphrasing) and....say it out loud...uh....but not when anyone's around. I kind of stumbled on this philosophy a few years back and danged if it doesn't work. It doesn't have anything to do with religion but you can certainly throw that in if you'd like. When you get in your car and take off for work, or even on your way to the bathroom, just put a positive spin on what's ahead and where you are. And here's the secret. Do it everyday and do it no matter how you're feeling. Yeah....lie to yourself if you have to. Eventually a sense of calm will settle over you. It's ok to still get depressed. When I feel the blues coming on I like to relish it, wrap it around me, really feel sorry for myself...and then....let it go!!! Or try to. Not always easy. But you CAN change your attitude.......if you're aware of it. And exercise really helps. If you're a little down, take a walk for fifteen minutes, jump on a bike or stand up and do fifty jumping jacks. Ahhhh...... the endorphine rush.
Hey man, life's alway gonna try to beat you down. A year and a half ago life gave me a good ol' kick in the butt. For about two weeks I was as depressed as I've ever been. Poor, poor pitiful me. (I still have the hots for Linda Ronstadt) Then one day I just had enough, shook it of and carried on. What're you gonna do?!?! My mom had a long degenerative illness that eventually killed her. And took two of her legs in the process. She'd always laugh when people would come up to her when she was in her wheelchair and tell her how brave she was. She'd say, "Hey, what choice do I have ?" She had her depressed moments, but for the most part (I can't believe I'm gonna write this)....she made lemonade. OUCH!!!!!!
Alright, so what'd we learn here? JUST TRY IT. No matter how you're feeling tomorrow...when you're on your way to.... wherever...and before you hear the news on the radio...just just tell yourself...out loud......... how lucky you are for____________, what a good day this is gonna be, how youre're gonna cut the other guy some slack and..... keep smiling. The shrinks are saying that just the act of a smile sends a positive signal to your brain. Or maybe I made that up. I don't remember. But y'know what... it's contagious. Try this everyday for a month. At least people might think you're really weird. And that alone is worth the price of admission.
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