Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
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"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Darren Rome Leo nails a book contract for The Trees Beneath Us … Stark House Press enters the literary sweepstakes …


From DRL's blog, Thought Vomit:

So, I’m waiting to hear from a publisher about my book. It went to the death panel, the last stop where one either gets a contract or not even a parting gift, last week. This isn’t youth soccer where everyone gets a trophy. You get published or you get not published…nothing.

Yes, everyone has interpretations and tastes and opinion. All those form a glorious spectrum about art. That spectrum cannot exist until the work is experienced. It can’t be experienced unless it is published, staged, displayed, produced, broadcast, etc. The arts are binary at their core. They are experienced, or they are not.

Think about the kid who was the second choice for the role of Harry Potter. Do you know who he is? I don’t. I doubt anyone except his family does. It might be a fun story at holidays, “Remember when Billy almost got the role of Harry Potter?” That’s it. That’s all they got. Daniel Radcliffe’s life was forever altered by a single binary decision.

The sports world recognizes near misses and good tries. They give silver and bronze medals. There’s a final four. Hell, there’s a sweet sixteen. Even the shittiest Olympian gets to walk in the opening ceremonies. There is JV and the minor leagues, and 2nd string. Ever hear someone celebrate a book that was almost published?

So, I wait on a binary decision. If it is yay, I’ll have a published book. If it is nay, I start back at square one. The next 3rd string left guard on a shitty football team who complains about pressure can blow me.

That was a week or so ago. Since then, Mr. Leo received an offer from yet another publisher (yes, two offers), so the Gold medals were flying, and today Mr. Leo is on the top of the podium. All of us who know him send our congratulations and very best wishes. My wife and I read his book a while back, and it is absolutely brilliant.


Back when I joined an MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University, I met a bunch of terrific people and writers. From staff to fellow students, (to the poor SOB’s serving out prison sentences working on Star Island), it was all a wonderful learning experience. One of the people I met through the program was an extra exceptional writer, Darren Rome Leo.

The publishing ocean is a tough one to navigate, especially these days. Aside from writing that has to be interesting enough to catch an agent/editor’s eye, and then good enough to sell, there are genres to consider, the objective tastes of acquisition editors, the all-important and obscure “market”, and then there are all the financial considerations individual publishers have to take into account when choosing a new author to debut … and should they bypass the financial obstacles, publishers sometimes have to decide whether or not to explore new territory.

And before it can get to a publisher, the author has to get it there with work, skill, more work, patience and perseverance. The road can be long and filled with more potholes (in the form of rejections) than the Belt Parkway (to date only the fucking moon has more potholes than the Belt Parkway). Ultimately, one has to believe in oneself and never quit. Too often writers jump the gun and publish their own works electronically. Ebooks can be tempting ways to get one’s work out there, but right or wrong, there’s no substitute for sticking out the vetting process of traditional publishing. Yes, there are ebook success stories (i.e., 50 shades of Fugazy), but most authors that have found solace and fazool$ in the ebook industry, have already been established in print. Their choice to go the ebook route probably has more to do with seeking a better return on their efforts and/or control over their product, but the likelihood of new authors reaching any level of financial gain from self-publishing isn’t very good at all.

It’s one thing to ask a friend to read a work in progress. It’s quite another to ask them to pay for the privilege.

So, what’s the point, Knucks? When’s the lecture end? What’s it all about? Come on already!

This week it’s all about Darren Rome Leo … DRL … honorary paisan, ball-breaker emeritus, and now an author with a book contract. Paraphrasing Mr. Leo’s response to my query about himself …

After a long career in the hotel business, Darren realized he hated it and that it was literally killing him (an attempted suicide). He decided to attend grad school with the plan of becoming a teacher and writer. He’s now conquered the latter.

Darren’s works generally deal with issues like depression or suicide, or some of the shitty things that happen in life. It is not because he doesn’t enjoy happy stories. More to the point, he thinks there are plenty of happy stories to go around. Darren wants to tell the other stories that people, whether consciously or not, avoid thinking about. Darren claims his character flaw is to feel a compulsion to point out when the emperor is not wearing clothes. He thinks it conveys to his writing.

His book is tentatively titled “The Trees Beneath Us.” It is a work of fiction grounded in personal experience (his hiking, his disease, his depression, and the tragic death of a child). Darren reopened a vein and bled onto the page every day for two years. In the end, he produced a magnificent novel; one that will wrench emotion from each of its readers and leave them in awe of its brilliance.

Perhaps the most surprising thing he learned in graduate school, and subsequently writing his novel, is that while writing is solitary, ultimately it takes a village. He thanks all those faculty and fellow writers who contributed to his efforts and provided their support. He knows his work would not be as good today, or about to be published, without that support.

Here are some other thoughts about Darren, his novel, etc., from some of his peers and mentors from Southern New Hampshire’s MFA program.

David Rawding (fellow SNHU MFA graduate): Darren Rome Leo is a wild man. When I first met him at The SNHU MFA Residency I knew we had a problem. The biggest being that there was already a Darren (Cormier) in the SNHU MFA ranks. I sought to remedy this duplicate name issue, while in a room of smiling MFAers, by nicknaming Darren Cormier “Original Recipe” and Darren Rome Leo “Extra Crispy.” The names both stuck like chicken grease to a healthy artery wall. Darren “Extra Crispy” is like a cigar. He’s unfiltered and should be left in a humidified room or closet. All jokes aside, Darren speaks his mind in real life and on the page instead of flinging hyperbole. If you read his blog “Thoughtvomit” you will better understand this character we call “Extra Crispy.”

Craig Childs (author and one of Darren’s mentors in SNHU’s MFA program): When I watched Darren stand up to some angry shirtless dude at 2 in the morning, not only stand up to him but put him in his place and send him packing, I knew this writer wasn’t fucking around.

Merle Drown (author, editor, and another of Darren’s mentors in SNHU’s MFA program): Darren Leon can cut! His new book, The Trees Beneath Us, shows the hard work a writer must perform to polish his manuscript, cutting to the bone. It’s a tale full of experiential knowledge, the learning he gained by wrestling with reality, then wrestling with words. Darren cut the fat, cut discouragement, cut the crap. He persisted with his story of a man on a quest, on a trail, on the edge. He’ll make you laugh and ruffle your heart. Darren can also cut a rug, cut the mustard, make the cut. He’s a gem.

Jerri Hickox Clayton (fellow SNHU MFA graduate): DRL (a.k.a. Extra Crispy), Robert Saugus, and Nick Clayton. Now there’s three wise men. Or stooges. All of them good literary citizens and amazing writers, and the best of friends; all three were working towards publication of their first novels. Congrats to Darren, for being the first of the three amigos to reach this goal. I for one am not surprised. DRL’s a kick ass writer, a smart ass, and doesn’t give up. And he also can drink a shit load of Jello shots. Look out literary world, you’re about to be taken by storm.

Kelly Stone Gamble (fellow SNHU MFA graduate): The first time I read Darren’s manuscript, I knew it had a future. He has a story, and tells it beautifully, and I couldn’t imagine that he could possibly improve that original manuscript. When I read the final draft, I was in awe. I laughed, I cried, not only because the words were so perfectly written, but because I knew my friend would see success very soon. I couldn’t be prouder of him. Well deserved.

Andrea Spencer (fellow SNHU MFA graduate): “I think it says something when you can remember where you were when you read a book. When I first read Darren’s work, I was in online peer review for my MFA program prior to that winter’s residency. I was a third semester student; he was just starting in the program. I was immediately intrigued by Darren’s story. I can remember writing, ‘What can I say? I am a D.R. Leo fan!’ That was after reading ten pages. A few summers later, I read his finished manuscript in its entirety while I was on vacation in Damascus, VA. It did not escape me that the house I had rented was right on the Appalachian Trial, a place that I had always loved, but will never imagine in quite the same way again after reading The Trees Beneath Us. I am thrilled that so many other readers will soon be able to take in this heart wrenching tale laced with moments of amusement and tenderness and that Finn will linger in their hearts and minds, as he has mine.”

Robert Greene (fellow SNHU MFA graduate): D.R. Leo is an abrasive curmudgeon with the heart and prose of an aching angel. He’s a pretty good dancer, too, and a better friend.

Darren Cormier (fellow SNHU MFA graduate): I would say Darren is one of the most fearless, brave, courageous, wild writers and people I know. But that’s both equating him with others and usibg the same word, all synonyms. There is no equal, there can be no usage of the same language, and no feeling sorry for yourself for knowing you won’t match the sympathy, empathy, and support he provides to all his friends. Even those which aren’t friends of his, he still champions their work and writing. I’m just very fortunate to consider myself among part of one of his inner circles. Or maybe I’m just partial because we share the same great name.

Wendie Leweck (fellow SNHU MFA graduate): Darren writes with an enviable rawness that both propels you and makes you catch your breath at the truth he gives his characters in their imperfections and passions.

Genre vs. Literary Fiction … some of us hate the distinction, and some insist there is one. Personally, I find the distinction silly, and I read far more of what is considered “literary” fiction than crime fiction these days … and that said, some of the crime fiction I read is far better than a lot of the literary fiction. Six of one, half a dozen of the other … so it goes.

The bottom line is that Stark House Press is reaching out to publish what some will consider/insist/whatever … is literary fiction. More important than any silly distinction, Stark House Press will be publishing a wonderful new novel by the man we’re celebrating today at the top of this post … Darren Rome Leo, a.k.a., DRL, Extra Crispy, Ballbreaker Emeritus … Stark House will be publishing a wonderful novel, something that exceeds in writing brilliance many of the novels I’ve read over the last several years. It is one of those that immediately humbles a writer like myself, for although I can spot the beauty alongside the pain, I can also realize in an instant that it is something special, something I could only wish I could write.

From the Associate Editor at Stark House Press, Rick Ollerman: Darren Leo has written an exquisite story of what it means for a man to be lost in his own life. When Finn suffers personal tragedy and serious health issues, when his orderly world dissolves around him, he searches for something beyond his reach. The love of his fiancé, and that of his children, can't seem to fill the void that has formed within him. He takes to the woods, mountains and streams that make up the 2,100 miles of the Appalachian Trail and loses himself in an entirely different way, meeting people along the trail, some of whom he helps, but many more who have ways of helping him. If he can only learn how to let them.

This is a moving, emotional story that connects to the uncertainties inside all of us, the self-doubts, that "is this all there is" feeling some of us get when we reach a certain age. The book will draw you in from the first pages and stay with you, and affect you, long after you finish reading it. It's the kind of book you buy first for yourself, than for your family, and then for your closest friends. This is a must-read book that you can't put down, which is okay because you won't want to.

From the publisher, Greg Shepard, (after I asked him to provide a few words):  I understand you’d like a few words from me about Darren R. Leo’s, The Trees Beneath Us. I think it’s brilliant. I love its escalating sense of dread as Finn crawls further and further into his own heart of darkness, even as he hikes further and further away from his past life and all those who care for him.

There is something of the noir anti-hero here, doomed to seek something he can’t find. In 50s novels, that something is usually money or sex. In Leo’s novel, it might simply be labeled “peace of mind.”

I don’t want to label The Trees Beneath Us in order to pigeonhole it, because I think that does a major injustice to Leo’s accomplishment here. But if I may be so bold to call it a work of eco-noir, I think that gives the reader a slight handle on it. Finn is on a mission which he himself chooses not to label. Sometimes it’s a battle. Sometimes there are moments of gentle purity. There is also a grim humor here. It took me on a trip I had never been on before.

—Greg Shepard, Publisher, Stark House Press



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tommy Mistretta … The Dallas Buyer’s Club … Treblinka … Qubites? …


Tommy Mistretta … the first time I met Tommy we were about eight or nine years old and he scared the crap out of me. I was on my way home from someplace, about a dozen feet from our front gate, when I saw this rough-looking kid riding a younger kid on a bike. They were heading my way and I happened to make eye contact with the rough-looking kid. His stare went right through me. I looked away thinking I’d handled that well, but then I heard him say, “What are you lookin’ at?” Being a skinny kid myself at the time (hard to imagine, I know), I used my better sense and made believe I didn’t hear him (while I hiked it quick up the stoop to my house and then darted inside). I did take a look before I closed the door and there was the rough-looking kid still staring at me. He’d stopped riding.

“Whew,” I probably said as I closed the door.

The next time we met it was at the new Catholic school our parents had sentenced us to on Seaview Avenue, St. Jude’s. We would be part of the first graduating class, but we started as 5th graders. Tommy’s father’s (Benny) and my father (Tommy) had the same attitude about their kids attending Catholic school. I remember my father’s speech to our first teacher, Miss DeSimone: “Smack him if he gives you any trouble, and then call me and I’ll slap again when he gets home.”

I’m pretty sure Tommy’s father gave Miss DeSimone the same speech.

As it turned out, we lived very close to one another; me on 95th and Tommy on 96th between Avenues M and N. We spent a lot of time in his basement and I can even remember the great models he had on the ledge of a shelf on the stairway to his basement. Frankentstein, the Mummy, Dracula, a car or two, maybe Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. I remember that Tommy was a devout Dodgers, Colts and Lakers fan. Jerry West was his hero.

Back in the day, Canarsie used to have a trolley that ran from where the train station is now, Rockaway Parkway and Glenwood Road, to the pier. Along the way it literally cut through the middle of 95th and 96th streets, so that there was a dugout lot running between the streets. This was great for playing war, baseball, football, or for hiding. It was where Tommy and I would often have a catch, including the day one of my teachers threatened to call home and then did so a few minutes after my father came home from work. Tommy and I both heard my name being yelled out the back of my house. “Charlie!”

I looked at Tommy and said, “I’m dead.”

He looked at me and said, “I know.”

Tommy was a natural athlete. We both played for St. Jude’s CYO teams, the Canarsie Little League, and the PAL. Back in those days, we all played baseball, basketball and football. Tommy was the much better athlete. He was our MVP for St. Jude the year I recorded my basketball career highlight—2 points. No, that’s not a typo. I scored 2 points all year. We lost just about every game by absurd scores like 44-20 or 50-25, and Tommy usually scored 90-95% of our points. He was our Jerry West. In baseball, I once had to pitch to him the year he won the MVP in baseball. It was about the most frustrating thing in the world, because I couldn’t get a single pitch by him. Even when I purposely threw a pitch up high, hoping he’d foul it off, he’d wind up driving the damn ball into right-center field for a triple or home run.

Probably the one place I could outdo Tommy was getting into trouble in school. Neither of us were ever destined to be rocket scientists, don’t get me wrong, but once my family moved from 95th Street to Canarsie Road, across the street from the school convent (all this at about the same time my family disintegrated), I was pretty much a marked man by the Nuns. It probably didn’t help that the day we closed on the new house, my old man and his friend were pinched unloading a truck of Chivas Regal in the new house’s garage, but I can’t tell you how many times living there put me in the shit.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Stella,” a nun (pick one, any one) would say, “Did Charlie show you he got another 45 in Math yesterday?”

Oy vey …

The bottom line was all the boys in our class lived for recess, when we’d play Ringolevio, stickball and touch football games (and rip our uniform pants and then catch hell for that when we got home). I’m pretty sure Tommy was spared the altar boy sentence I had to serve (his parents were more merciful than mine), but we were all supposed to attend church Sundays, serving mass or not. To kids who lived to play sports, sitting in a church for an hour (that seemed like five hours) was torture, pure and simple.

I forget how old we were (still pretty young, I think) but Tommy wound up being my first date. He had a girlfriend and I didn’t, but when my old man scored a pair of tickets to a Led Zeppelin concert at Madison Square Garden, I called Tommy.
Once we moved to Canarsie Road and ran into the brick wall that was my family falling apart, I’d wind up making new friends and only seeing Tommy after I did a stint in a nuthouse for getting into the shit—violence that needed an outlet (thank Coaches Yaker and Morogiello for introducing me to football). I returned to high school the second half of our freshman year, but my old man was gone, and not before he’d screwed me, my sister, and my mother in a huge way. He was bailed out of the joint from my mother selling one house (the one on 95th street), and when my mother couldn’t make the payments on the new house (no thanks to Dad), the end result was a move to a shitty apartment in Queens. I remember Tommy coming over there one day and being cornered by our German shepherd, Bruno. I’d gone to the bathroom or something and all I heard was some growling and Tommy saying, “Charlie? Hey, Charlie? Get this mutt out of my face.”

Bruno wound up having to go live elsewhere because he never adjusted to the apartment and actually did bite quite a few people, but Tommy was spared that day.

Taking two trains and a bus to school was a different world for me, and I was still getting into the shit, so my Mom managed to find an apartment back in Canarsie before my junior year. And by then, even I had a girlfriend, and thus was spending all my free time back in Queens. It was only through high school football that Tommy and I still had the chance to hang out once in a while. At some point during high school, everyone noticed that Tommy, at 16 or 17, looked as though he was in his 30’s, because he seemed to grow a five o’clock shadow every fifteen minutes. Somebody on the team nicknamed him Wolfman and that moniker stuck. Wolfman played cornerback and running back and could put a sting on your ass if you assumed he was too small. See Tommy’s wedding picture further down? Even money says he grew that mustache AFTER his morning shave on the day he was married.

After our senior year, I caught a break and wound up playing football in Minot, North Dakota, where my life was changed forever by a teacher (Dave Gresham). I’d take a 20+ year detour and still get into the shit (some of it the real shit), but eventually I’d return to writing (thank you, Principessa Ann Marie). Unfortunately, I’d lost touch with Tommy and many other friends from back in the day, until I learned through the Canarsie grapevine that both Tommy and I were getting married on the very same day—October 23, 1977. Tommy married my third cousin, Linda Maita (she had to clear this up for me, because I was clueless about how any of this extended family stuff works).

I’d been hanging with a different group of friends by then, so there was no fear about a wedding dilemma, but figure this one out—we both wound up naming our first born(s), daughters both, Nicole. Tommy and Linda also have another daughter, Krista.

I became a union window cleaner and eventually drifted back into school, and then out onto the streets. Tommy was with the elevator operators union. A number of years passed with everyone living separate lives. Then one day I received a horrible call from Momma Stella. I was already married for the third time and involved in a street life, so I hadn’t seen or even heard anything about Tommy for a dozen years at least. Mom told me that she’d heard Tommy Mistretta had a brain tumor, and that he was scheduled for surgery in the hospital across the street from where I was living in Murray Hill, Manhattan. The hospital was NYU.

I immediately called the hospital to make sure he was there, then went to visit him that night. He’d had the top of his skull removed, so the staples were still visible after it was replaced. I remember Tommy had tears in his eyes when he saw me. It was at that moment when it hit me just how serious his situation was. This had to be around 1992-93, because I would move to Little Italy within the same year, and I remember visiting him while living in Murray Hill.

This was a time when my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills were putting me through the personal torture of losing four consecutive Super Bowls (the first of which I witnessed in Tampa). I remembered that Tommy was a Colts fan, and because I used to go up to Buffalo a lot to watch the games (to avoid playing craps), I guess it was a few months after seeing him in the hospital when I noticed the Colts were on the Bills’ schedule. I booked a flight to Buffalo for us and had my ticket scalper (I was a street bank for a NY scalper back in the day) get me two tickets for the Colts-Bills. I don’t even remember who won, but it was fun spending the day together and shooting the shit again. Reliving some of the whacky moments we had as kids always made us smile.

Perhaps the toughest story for me to swallow was the day a group of us knuckleheads at St. Jude’s decided to use the portable basketball rig as a skateboard and ran it into one of the basement walls, bending the rim and chipping the wall. Not such a big deal if nobody saw us, but somebody did. All 6’5”, 275 lbs. of the Giant, Father Nolan. He was heading down the stairs at the opposite end of the huge basement that was mostly used for Bingo. All four of us nearly shit our pants when he yelled at us to line up, four abreast. That day Tommy caught the most vicious slap I ever witnessed. In fact, that slap was so hard, I’m positive it scared Father Nolan into backing off from hitting the next victim in line—me. We all walked home together that day. Tommy had a glazed look in his eyes I’ll never forget—probably from what today we’d call a concussion. I’m telling you that slap was friggin’ hard. Each of us was expecting to get another dose if Nolan called our parents, but I don’t think he did because I never caught a beating for that one.

When I heard Tommy had a brain tumor, I immediately thought about that slap he caught way back in the basement of St. Jude’s school. It probably had nothing to do with a brain tumor, but it’s the first thing that crossed my mind. I can still hear that slap. I can still see the welt it left across Tommy’s face, and I remember how guilty I felt for not catching a slap at all, because Father Nolan probably realized how hard he’d hit Tommy (and figured he’d be better off keeping his hands at his sides rather than put some kid in a coma).

As I remember him, Father Nolan wasn’t a bad guy. He could be grumpy with us altar boys, but imagine I’m your friggin’ altar boy? I do think he lost it that day, and that he regained control of himself is to his credit. I know this much, he left me with a memory I don’t enjoy thinking about to this day, one that turned my head away from the idea of allowing anyone to ever hit one of my kids.

Tommy’s favorite story was the one where he scared the shit out of me when he was riding his brother Michael on his bike. He loved to remind me of it … and I would always say, “Hey, we were ten years old or something, but you had a friggin’ beard, man. Of course I was afraid!”

Tommy tragically passed on November 9, 1999 from his illness. I’m not even sure when I heard about his passing, but I know it was sometime afterward. It may well have been on a night when I was in lockup at the Toombs and/or in the midst of divorce #3. My daughter’s birthday is November 8, and she would’ve been 20 in 1999, so we might’ve been up in Albany where she attended college or in Boston, because I remember taking her there once to see the Bills play the Patriots on one of her birthdays. I can’t be sure.

I’ve recently been in touch with Tommy’s younger brother, Michael. He tells me his mother, Marie (she’ll always be Mrs. Mistretta to me), is 85, and that she still travels to the city by herself to bring him his lunch from time to time. Eye-talian mothers, amici … they don’t come any better.

I’ve also been going back and forth with Tommy’s wife, Linda, and their daughter, Nicole. Tommy has two grandsons from Nicole, Thomas and Joseph (above).

Tommy was a good guy. I only wish I’d spent more time with him back in the day, when we were both too naïve to realize just how short this life is. Tommy and his family were cheated by his illness, but they remain blessed for having him as a son, brother, husband, father and grandfather.

My wife, before she tortured me with Quantum Physics tonight, told me about this quote that seemed appropriate for the end of this piece. I read it and have to agree. It’s from the screenplay of a Stephen King short story, The Body. Most of us know the movie based on the story, Stand By Me.
“Although I haven't seen him in more than ten years I know I'll miss him forever. I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anybody?” —Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon—Stand By Me.

RIP, Amico …

Dallas Buyers Club … great cast, great acting, great movie … and what Matthew McConaughey did to himself for this flick is pretty damn amazing … McConaughey plays a redneck hustler/electrician who learns he has HIV … what happens next (inspired by a true story) is both alarming and wonderful. He fights the system (the FDA) … and although he doesn’t win, he ruffles enough feathers to get some help for those most in need. It’s a wonderful story/movie …

As for his weight loss for the role, my diets seem to work in reverse. Did he really have 40 pounds to lose?

Bottom line, this was a terrific movie and well worth the fazools to see it. Highly Recommended.

Treblinka, by Jean-Francois Steiner … this account of the horrors of the Nazi extermination camp, Treblinka, has been attacked as a phony account by several survivors. I direct your attention here (to this link). I suspect the discrepancies can only mean something to the survivors of Treblinka. It is a tough read because of the horrors of the death camp, the sheer brutality, and absolute insanity.

What happened at Treblinka is as appalling as it gets, and unfortunately extends the insanity of man vs. man cruelty throughout history … what Europeans did to North and South native Americans is no less horrifying, except from 1939-1945, one would think the world would react quicker to what was going on (claiming they didn’t know doesn’t seem possible) … without TK going through every attempt at the extermination of any people, it’s never really stopped. One could look to Southeast Asia, the Siege of Sarajevo, and what has gone on/what continues today in Africa. It all points to an inevitable ending to mankind by mankind, which has always been my cheery prognostication (because ultimately I don’t believe we’ll be able to stop ourselves). The wife says it’ll be a virus. Obviously, she’s the optimist in the family.

Treblinka (from Youtube): “God must have been on holiday.”

Qubites … so there we were sitting in Ferraro’s Italian restaurant in beautiful downtown Fords, New Jersey … me in heaven eating scungilli over a bed a of linguini Fra Diavolo, drinking Ruffino Classico Chianti, and wiping the gravy (sauce to yous nons) with fresh eye-talian bread … when the wife starts in on some nerdy subject, something she read in TIME magazine called “the infinity machine” … something about Quantum Physics … “Listen to me,” I kept saying … “I don’t give a fuck.” But did that stop her? Listen to me: Forgetaboutit … she was like a kid in a candy shop; her eyes all wide and bright … she yapped a mile a minute (while I stuffed my face) … and all I could say to what she was spewing (something about life not being linear; that we could be dead and alive at the same time—some bullshit about “superposition”) was, “Listen to me, I don’t give a fuck. You gonna eat those shrimps?”

Okay, so she’s 1,000 x’s smarter than me … so are most rocks … but seriously, Quantum Physics? I had to threaten my algebra teacher back in high school to pass me or I would’ve blown a football scholarship … you really think I can understand this physics bullshit?

Oy vey … thank God she keeps me around for ballast.


For Tommy … Whole Lotta Love …

Heartbreaker …

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Shooter’s Nail … The Wolf of Wall Street … Olympic hockey … the Snowdown …


When cugino/actor/ David Calderazzo requests a shout out for someone, we deliver … especially when the shout out features Eric Roberts in a new film by Lisa Regina … listen to me, The Pope of Greenwich Village remains in my TOP TEN ALL TIME movies list … the classic lines from Roberts continue to put a smile on my fat face today. In fact, it was on television again last night and my fat face was quoting lines along with Rourke and Roberts … it’s a beautiful thing.

“It was like shopliftin’ buying this horse. Have you ever heard of artificial inspiration? … I mean how many times you yourself pull a muscle or something screwing, right? … and these great big stallions, man, they get horny they can easily kick the mother horse in the head. Ba-boom, you’re out a million dollars … The groom jerked off the father … she got the champion gene, Charlie … It’s the fuckin’ gene that does the runnin, the horse got absolutely nothin’ to do with it.”

And who could forget this scene … “It ain’t slow.”

And then there was this (probably the most quoted scene): "Charlie, they took my thumb! What the hell happened here, man? … That twat robbed you? … Charlie! They took my thumb!”

Eye-talians especially appreciate this particular line: … “It’s canned, man.”

I could recite the entire movie here … it’s a classic. Rourke and Roberts made this picture one for the ages. Just wonderful.


The Wolf of Wall Street … unlike some of the others we’d heard so much positive hype about, this one was getting not so great press … Goodfellas on Wall Street, etc. … maybe, but the Principessa Ann Marie and myself really enjoyed this one … except for one scene we took very differently … since she’s an RN working with drug and alcohol rehab patients, the principessa does not like drug joking of any kind, so she found the Quaalude scene offensive … me, I thought it was hilarious … the star of this movie, we both agreed, was Margot Robbie (playing DiCaprio’s 2nd wife) … she had Bay Ridge, Brooklyn down so well, it was impossible to think for a second she wasn’t from Bay Ridge. As it turns out, she’s from Australia. It was hard not to hate just about every character in the movie except DiCaprio’s first wife … and seeing how DiCaprio’s character wound up doing just 3 years working on his tan and practicing his backhand in a federal prison was pretty sickening, but, hey, it’s justice in America for the 1% (which explains all the patriotism throughout the flick). It was a bit long, but I didn’t notice the length until about 15 minutes from the end. Recommended.

Olympic Hockey has been exciting (and it cost me my boycott) … the USA was outplayed by the Russian team, I thought … but won in the shootout (the one thing about hockey I do not like are the shootouts) … T.J. OSHIE wound up the hero (he was pretty amazing in the shootout) … but Pavel Datsyuk was the guy putting on the best show … and our Ryan Callahan was out there hitting (flooring Ovechkin early in the game with one check) and stirring it up with his brand of physical hockey … The New York Rangers better pay this guy or he’ll come back to haunt them big time.

This morning, the USA, after sleepwalking through some of the 1st period, has dominated play against Slovenia … Phil Kessel already has a hat trick and Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh has the 4th goal and Rangers’ Captain Ryan Callahan has an assist on the 5th Goal (Go Rangers) … 5-1, USA win …

Snowdown … this week was the kickass week for the snow … it beat me down, I can tell yous that much. I haven’t been in the gym for 2+ weeks now because of the muscle soreness from shoveling this shit … using different muscles as the snow became heavier and heavier (with salt, water and freezing) absolutely kicked my fat ass. Not sure when I’ll return to the gym because I just don’t want to lift anything right now … maybe domani … we’ll see. I had one good scare which might’ve been a panic attack because I could catch my breath and felt like I had to strip my clothes off from fear of suffocating … it’s a horrible image (me stripping) but it’s exactly what I did once I got back inside the house last week. I felt dizzy and had pains in my chest that were probably more from being 4,000 pounds than anything to do with my heart … all I know is that it scared me and I couldn’t catch my breath.

So what happens this morning? Well, an older African-American guy (in his 50’s at least), comes knocking on my door looking for work (shoveling the snow that accumulated yesterday in front of our house) … he had a wagon with salt, a shovel and a broom … instantly hired for $25.00 (15 minutes of work, but he’s out there hustling and I love it when people hustle to earn a buck). I also offered him a cup of coffee, but he said, “No thanks.” I suspect he was thinking time is money. Good for him … and shame on all the spoiled brats who live on this block for being spoiled brats.

So, for those who continue to advise me to hire one of the kids in our neighborhood to shovel the snow, let me say it one more time: They’re ALL too busy being spoiled motherfucking brats to get off their lazy asses and consider making a few extra coins shoveling snow. They’re the privileged middle-class (or what’s left of it) who’d rather play with their joysticks (not their dicks, that would require imagination) than actually leave their basements where their video games can provide them with the imagination they’re too lazy to come up with on their own).


For all the spoiled brats out there …

Monday, February 10, 2014

Michael Sam and me … and all of us ...


I think it’s great. The NFL is made up of great athletes, no doubt, and it is a fact that a gay-free NFL never existed prior to this story, but it’s certainly high time the homophobes in the league cut their losses and adapt (or go play somewhere else).

Before I get too harsh on those sporting homophobic lip service in the NFL (or anywhere), it’s Confession time here at TK.

First off, I was guilty of cracking locker room gay jokes as a football player in both high school and college, and if that wasn’t bad enough, it became worse when I did so as a coach. I was an assistant coach at Brooklyn College for one seasons (plus) when I was in my mid 20’s (and just a few years out of my college locker room in Minot, North Dakota). I coached linebackers the first year and the offensive line part of the second season.

Meant to get a laugh and/or show my players that I was cool, hip, one of them, etc., I would sometimes stare at my linebackers and/or offensive linemen, either before or after agility drills, in a group meeting, etc., and say: “This has to be the ugliest position on the team. I’ll assume you’re all gay, too.”

All of them would laugh, and one or two would point to another player and say, “No coach, just _____’s gay.” More general laughter would ensue, and the other asinine assumption I’d make was: No harm, no foul. None of these kids are gay, right? Hell, they’re linebackers/offensive linemen for Christ’s sake. It’s just impossible that they’re gay.

Please note that that kind of talk (what I said to my position players) was never sanctioned by our head coach and/or the school. I’m sure they never knew what I was saying when I was alone with my position players. It was something I believed at the time was both funny and bonding. No coach of mine ever used it on me, not in high school or in college. In fact, all of my coaches in both high school and college were very adamant about discriminatory comments/jokes/statements of any kind. They simply weren’t tolerated.

Unfortunately, that brand of policing never existed in any locker room I ever experienced. Gay jokes/bashing was cool, a way to blend in, a method by which you not only proved you weren’t gay yourself, you had to be one of the guys (the real guys, or what too many NFL executives today are calling “a man’s man”). It’s something that took on a life of its own, probably from when we were kids on the streets repeating some of the dumb shit we heard from older kids and/or our parents. Nevertheless, it was commonplace and wrong, but not enough of us understood the consequences of those types of jokes. At best, it was our ignorance, pure and simple, but that couldn’t diminish the hurt it would inflict on anyone who was gay.

I believe that people can make bigoted comments without actually being bigots (and that works for both sides of the racial and sexual divide). I once worked with an African-American guy who was as nice as anyone I’d ever met. The day after Floyd Mayweather defeated Arturo Gatti, my good friend said to another African-American, “Mayweather knocked the shit out of the white MF’er.”

I was shocked and hurt, and although our relationship was never the same afterward, I’m sure in my heart that that guy was not/is not a racist. He was comfortable saying stupid shit to somebody he felt safe saying it to (like many of us no doubt have done in our past). Even if he was rooting for Mayweather to defeat Gatti based on race, I don’t believe in my heart the guy was a racist. I think he said something stupid.

When I think about how I might’ve insulted and/or worse some kid I was coaching who may have been gay (I don’t actually know if any were or weren’t gay—there really isn’t a way to discern sexuality), my dopey attempt at a bonding speech and/or a joke embarrasses me (today) no end, and my embarrassment and shame is appropriate. It is exactly the kind of thing my sister had warned me about growing up. “You think you’re being funny, but that’s hurtful shit,” she once told me after I had imitated an effeminate voice.

Backtrack: I first dealt with gay issues when I walked in on my sister and her girlfriend during her senior year of high school. They were in her bed under the sheets together when I walked in asking about our dog. My sister and her friend giggled and told me to get lost, etc., but afterward, once her friend left, my sister came downstairs and we had a full-blown discussion about it.

This next section is lifted from my MFA thesis, The 2nd Coming … it’s a Second Person fictional memoir based on my insignificant life and … Jesus? Oh, boy, well … this next section was a conversation (as best I could remember it) between my sister and myself the day I caught her and her girlfriend under the sheets.

1972: Catch 22 ...

You ask if she took the dog out, but what you hear through her bedroom door you’ve just knocked on is a lot of giggling, and it isn’t just your sister’s giggling. You knock again, louder this time, and the giggling begins anew, also louder. So you open the door and there’s your sister and her girlfriend, ______, under the sheets.

“Knuckleheads,” you say. “You walk the dog or not?” you ask your sister.

“No,” she says through a laugh.

“The hell is so funny?”

“Get out,” she says.

“Pair of fruits,” you say, then shake your head, step out and close the door behind you.

You move to the den and watch television from the love seat. ______ leaves a few minutes later. Your sister walks her out, both of them still giggling as they head up the short flight of stairs. When she returns, your sister stops at the bottom step and folds her arms.

“What did you call us before?” she says.

“A pair of fruits.”

“What’s that?”


“What’s that?”


“You know what that means?”

“You think I’m an idiot?” you say. “I know you’re gay.”

“Yeah, you’re an idiot,” she says, “but that’s beside the point. What does gay mean?”

“It means you like being under the sheets with another girl.”

She smiles. “You gonna tell Mom?”

“Why would I?”



“I’m thinking it’s time he knows.”

“So tell him.”

“I will. Next time I see him.”

She squints. You ask what her problem is, and she says, “How’d you get back in the house without us hearing?”

“Maybe you were busy doing something else.”

“Something else what? Do you know what we do?”

“You giggle a lot. I know that much.”

“Jerk. I’m being serious. Do you know?”

You’re not sure if she’s trying to educate or mock you, but you go along with it. “Yeah,” you say. “I know what you do, but you didn’t invent it.”

“Invent what?”

“Sex, moron.”

“I meant specifically.”

She clearly wants to tell you, even if it is in her own special way.

“Like I said, you didn’t invent it,” you say.

“It’s different for us.”

“How’s it different? Everybody does it.”

“How would you know that?”

“Like I said, you didn’t invent it.”

“I don’t know how to take that. Did you ever … ”

“Me and ____, you idiot.”

“Oh, gross,” she says, then mocks sticking a finger in her throat. “Yuck.”

You shake your head.

“Fine,” she says. “Do you really think Daddy’ll be upset?”

“Of course.”


“Because he’s a dinosaur. The only thing worse’d be if I told him I was gay. Then he might kill himself, but it wouldn’t be for my sake. He’d just be embarrassed.”

“What do you think he’ll say?”

“He’ll probably choke is what he’ll do. It won’t be easy for him to hear his daughter is a lesbian. He’s probably got other ideas for you.”

“Yeah, well, now he’ll have a real excuse for being embarrassed about me.”

You’re shocked. You can’t believe she feels the same way you do. She’s his favorite. She’s been his ambassador to make you feel like shit since you can remember. You say, “Embarrassed about you? You’re the special one. He thinks I’m a moron.”

“You are a moron.”

You flip her the bird. She calls you an idiot. You call her a queer. She laughs, and sucker that you are, you smile.

“Asshole,” she says, angry this time.

Now you’re fed up. “What are you breaking my balls for? Go back in your room and play with yourself.”

“I do, you know. Women do that, too.”

“Good for you and good for them.”

“You know what else we do?”

“Break balls.”

She flips you the bird. “And we use our mouths,” she says.

“Yeah, you eat each other. No shit? I already said, so do we.”

She chuckles. “Is that what you call it?”

“Eating someone, yeah. Big deal.”

“That’s so crude.”

“As opposed to using our mouths? It’s the same thing, imbecile.”

“You’re an imbecile,” she says, scowling this time. “Men are assholes.”

“Maybe because you can’t get any.”

Her eyes narrow. She’s hurt. “Fuck you,” she says.

You immediately feel guilty. “I was joking,” you say. “Take it easy.”

“No, you weren’t. That’s what you think because you’re a moron. Dad’ll think the same thing.”

“I said I’m sorry.”

“How dare he be disappointed in me, that prick.”

You swallow hard. “He’s a lot more disappointed in me. At least you do good in school.”

“You’re a fuckup. He’s disappointed in me because I’m not beautiful.”

Your feel her hurt in your soul. “He’s an asshole with stuff like that. You should hear the shit he tells me. He can’t help himself. He likes to put us down.”

She’s almost crying. “He is an asshole.”

“Yeah, he is, so forget about it. Don’t let him piss you off. Look at his wife. Mom says she’s a slut and a gold digger. She calls her Gang Bang.”

“He loves her.”

“Good for him and good for her. Who cares?”

“I hate her.”

“Me, too, but I don’t think about her like Mom. Gang Bang won the battle. Big fucking deal. She got him. What a prize.”

“He fucks with your head, too, so stop trying to blow it off.”

“I just said he does, didn’t I? I’m trying to keep you from crying, asshole.”

“I’m not crying now, jerk. I’m done crying over him.”

“Good. It’s about time.”

“And you’re still a jerk for saying that before. I can so get a man.”

“Great. Run for President.”

“Loser,” she says. “You are, you know. He’s right about that.”

“Here we go,” you say. “Got anything else on your mind?”

“Yeah, why’d he have us if he’s so disappointed?”

You do a double take. You know her pain is real. You want to help, but you need to be careful, your sister is a master of deception.

“I don’t know,” you say.

“First he had us and then he was disappointed. He left us and now he’s with that cunt he tried to have more kids with. I’m glad she lost the baby.”

Ouch, you didn’t know about the pregnancy. It hurts to learn of it like this, but you make believe you knew. “Me, too,” you lie.

“I hate her and I hate him.”

You’re still somewhat rocked. “Huh?”

“I said I hate them.”

“Oh,” you say.

“I can’t wait to tell him I’m queer.”

You’re still thinking about Thomas Rocco holding a new baby Jesus.

“First chance I get,” she says. “When he’s with all his dumb fuck friends in the city, all those losers he hangs out with, I’m going to say, ‘Daddy, didn’t you know I was gay?’”

“Sounds like a plan,” you say.

She wipes her nose with the sleeve of her shirt and gets up to use the bathroom. You remain in the den, unsure of whether you should leave. You hear her blowing her nose through the bathroom door and then she comes back out, looks at you and says, “Don’t spy on us anymore.”

You’re there, but you’re not there. “I wasn’t spying,” you say.

She’s staring at you, her eyebrows furrowed. You look up and say, “What?”

“You didn’t know she was pregnant,” she says.

You swallow hard again, then shake your head. No, you didn’t, but you can’t speak.


A few weeks later, my sister would tell my father that she was gay and it was a classic moment in Stella family history. We went to meet him at Miteras on the corner of McDougal Street and West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village. My father was talking to one of his wannabe wiseguy friends at the counter when we arrived. They were literally cracking gay jokes. My sister decided it was time to give him the hammer. Soon as his friend left and my father sat down with us, she said, “Daddy, didn’t you know I was gay?” His jaw dropped, and then he turned white. “No, I didn’t,” he said. My sister then left to get a Sunday NY Times from a street kiosk alongside Café Reggio. My father said to me, “That was like a kick in the balls.” I said to him, “Don’t do that, she’s your daughter.”

The problem is, of course, I used that gay joke/insult (mentioned above) on my linebackers some ten years later. Even after accepting homosexuality, I was using the vernacular that makes some feel ashamed of themselves and/or insulted. I think it’s one of the most common problems today (especially for athletes), repeating things without thinking of the consequences.

During another part of my life, very surprisingly to me, gay jokes/bashing (and racism) wasn’t nearly as common and/or popular as it was in locker rooms. Street guys, wiseguys, knockaround guys … call them what you want, but very few that I knew or associated with were out and out homophobes and/or racists. That’s not to say it didn’t exist, but it wasn’t as rampant as it was in locker rooms. I think the problem is more severe and commonplace in the major sports (not intentionally, but from the shit we pick up at a young age and carry around like a 500 pound gorilla for the sake of being accepted).

And it’s a damn shame.

How I wish I could take back all the dumb shit I’ve said in my life, but I can’t. And make no mistake, racial epithets at certain stages of my life were uttered just as ignorantly as were gay jokes, and I only wish I could take those back as well. Unfortunately, it was a part of our culture where I grew up to spew shit for the sake of being macho. Too many of us repeated the day-to-day shit we heard in and around Canarsie, and I doubt most of us even understood the implications of what we were saying, except it’s no excuse to not understand. My old man wasn’t big on cursing in the house, nor did he use racial epithets very often (although I can remember a few instances when he did so). I don’t think I ever heard him gay bash until I was fifteen or so (see thesis above). It was what we picked up in the blue collar streets and parks we played in that we too often repeated. Even so, I truly believe most of us knew right from wrong, but ironically said dumb shit amongst ourselves to feel bigger (more adult?) than we actually were. I don’t know a single actual racist kid I grew up with from Canarsie. Not one, yet Canarsie became famous for racial violence (including firebombing a real estate agency that sold to blacks before the great white flight of the 1970’s took place while I was away in college).
I will say this, football (and athletics in general) put an end to my racial epithets much faster than gay jokes/bashing. (See, Canarsie—The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn against Liberalism—it is a wonderful study of the subject that can be found here). Ultimately, it is education and meeting other people and growing (the fuck) up that teaches us how little we know about anything in this life. For me, it was football that helped speed that plow.

For those who have never uttered racial epithets and/or engaged in telling gay jokes or gay bashing, I tip my hat to you. In all seriousness, you deserve whatever heaven awaits. I’m not sure I personally know of anyone who has never done so, but I’m sure there are some people who were confident enough to hold their own water rather than give in to a crowd (whatever the crowd may have been, to include parents and/or other adults). That is not to blame the crowd, make no mistake. I suspect it is more a lack of confidence in oneself to do the right thing and stay quiet (or walk away) than it is the fault of any crowd/situation.

Last year during the Zimmerman trial, I read somewhere on Facebook how some people claimed to have never uttered a racial epithet (and were quite boisterous about it). “Really?” I wondered. If it’s true, you are one cool, strong and fortunate human being … and you probably didn’t grow up in Canarsie (although there probably are many Canarsians, black and white, who never did utter racial and/or gay epithets).

So, I wish I could’ve told those linebackers BACK THEN how wrong those gay comments/jokes” were … and I can only HOPE/PRAY that none of them were gay. They were all good kids trying their best to blend into the macho world of football, but it was (and has always been) the macho mindset of the game that is flawed—unfortunately, sometimes to the lowest possible denominator.

The best coach ever (any sport), Vince Lombardi, was way ahead of his time not only on the field, but in the locker room as well. “Lombardi's unprejudiced attitude was not confined to his players' race or ethnicity. Lombardi was aware of tight end Jerry Smith's homosexuality, and upon arriving in Washington, told Smith in confidence that it would never be an issue as long as he was coaching the Redskins. Smith flourished, becoming an integral part of Lombardi's offense, and was voted a First Team All-Pro for the first time in his career, which was also Lombardi's only season as Redskin head coach. Lombardi invited other gay players to training camp, and Lombardi would privately hope they would prove they could earn a spot on the team.”


And, yes, that should apply to all religions everywhere all the time.

So, here’s to Michael Sam. I intend to buy his jersey as soon as he’s drafted (and I expect him to be drafted). Even if it’s the dreaded New England Cheatriots, I’ll buy and wear his jersey. This kid deserves all the support in the world … and I know I owe him and everyone like him for my own past indiscretions.


Let it be …

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Reviews: books, movies and The Tower Journal … the Super Bust (and TK’s top 5 QB’s) … Facts that aren’t fun …


This Dark Road to Mercy, by Wiley Cash … after the sudden death of their mother, a pair of young sisters (Easter, a 12 year old and Ruby, a 6 year old) are under the care of a guardian and living in a foster home when they’re abducted by the father (Wade Chesterfield) who signed them over to their mother years earlier … but something has happened behind the scenes that has placed others people money in Wade’s hands … the people seeking that money (hire a dude named Pruitt (who has a pronounced beef with Wade). Both were former minor league baseball players and Wade once threw a fastball that caught Pruitt in the eye … the guardian (Brady Weller) is a former detective with a traumatic past that includes something that got him tossed from the police force … no spoilers … it’s a quick read made quicker by the page turning pace … it might end a bit too suddenly (it did for me), but it’s still an adventure once the chase begins. Set against the backdrop of MLB’s steroid race (cheaters Sosa & McGwire) to beat Roger Maris’ 61 home run record, this fast paced thriller is told by a few different characters (Easter, Pruit and Brady). This Dark Road to Mercy is a fine follow-up to the author’s best-selling debut, A Land More Kind Than Home.

Movies …

Ajami … a tough, moving collection of connecting stories told in no particular order (interactive, so to speak; different perspectives of the same issues) about life in this neighborhood of same name in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. This perspective may (it may) show those with a hardline pro-Israeli stance how life actually is in the occupied territories and/or the refugee camps (where these stories take place). It’s an interesting and tough movie, apparently nominated for the Academy Award (whatever that means), but that shouldn’t be held against it. Highly recommended.

The Attack … an Arab surgeon living in Tel Aviv with his Arab wife wins a prestigious award, but his wife isn’t there for the ceremony (she has to go to Nazareth to visit family) … the next day he’s at lunch at the hospital when a bomb goes off … he goes home that night and can’t reach his wife on the phone … the next day he’s brought to a hospital to identify the remains of his wife … he’s taken into custody … she’s believed to have been the suicide bomber … no spoilers here … a very good movie … another highly recommended one.

The Other Woman … this one surprised me (how good I found it). Natalie Portman is the other woman in a relationship that comes with an 11 year old boy … she’s an associate at a firm who winds up in a relationship with a partner and is eventually his wife and the stepmother of said 11 year old. She gets pregnant but then the child dies 3 days after its birth. As I said, I wasn’t expecting much, but this one surprised me throughout. Definitely recommended.

12 Years a Slave … wow, this one really disappointed me. A very compelling story (since it’s based on a true one), I thought it was dragged out in the wrong way and then suddenly came to an abrupt end that absolutely didn’t satisfy. This one is also nominated for an academy award (and that probably should be held against it). Just disappointing with all I had expected. I especially didn’t like Ridley's screenplay … not at all.

The Tower Journal  … Time restraints kept me from reading all the stories, so there are some mini-reviews with links, and then authors with links to their stories. Don’t get confused … just read on …

PLEASE NOTE: As it turns out, all the links below will bring you to the index and you'll have to click on the individual index links to get to each story (just look to your left and cursor over the author's names) ... oy vey ...

One of my favorite reads over the last few years was Merle Drown’s, The Suburbs of Heaven … reviewed here at TK (click on link). Now there’s a cousin to the wonderful characters in Suburbs, currently titled Pa … and Chapter 1 is featured (as is the author) in The Tower Journal … Pa’s had a stroke, but doesn’t trust doctors, dentists or hospitals or pretty much anything or anybody aside from himself. This next line relates directly to Suburbs … His grand-daughter had delivered her first child and was living with a seventeen year old husband, Leo Fesmire who was too lazy to work and too dumb to steal.

I loved the characters in The Suburbs of Heaven, so I can’t wait for Pa

R.W.W. Greene has a piece called The Ass Kicking. Journalism with a fun philosophical twist about lazy people vs. workers. Rick had a new motto for life (lazy people make more work for the rest of us), except Jack actually lives the working part … enter Megan, a wannabe journalist looking for and the opportunity to have her ass-kicked to make her great … All three are very well-defined characters I’d love to see/read more of this one (somebody say novel?) … in the meantime, this is a real interesting read.

Kelly Stone Gamble also has a piece in this called, MENTESSEG … a nursing instructor, a student, holocaust survivor and his proclivity to do something odd during meals. A quick and intense read.

Ted Flanagan has a story titled Grinding. This one has to do with a war veteran (Kane) working at a dull job amongst dull men doing their life’s time (not in prison—the other life’s time). When Kane learns about a fellow vet/worker who has recently died, he wants to show respect and decides to do so … there’s also a date and a discovery of cash (a life changer) Kane can’t keep for himself …

Read Grinding here:

Derrick Craigie has a piece called What They’ve Done … Isaac at ages 8 is catching beatings from his alcoholic father at home (just for being there at the wrong time) and then again from some of the boys in the neighborhood (for being Jewish). Isaac has a silent crush on Alexa (a Russian girl who is kind to him) … at age 15 Isaac and Alexa find each other more intimately, but the bad boys (Angus is one) can’t leave Isaac alone … and then Isaac nails Angus, surprising himself and a Russian gangster who has witnessed it (and who provides Isaac with an option) … Isaac goes to work for the gangster and eventually kills a man … he becomes part of the gang (vors working for the Bratva--Redfellas) and he earns his tattoos (makes his bones) … and meets up with Alexa once again (now a woman) …

Elizabeth Plourde had a story titled, Sons and Brothers …

Read Sons and Brothers here:

Sarah Caouette has a story titled, Playing Ball on the Borderline

Read Playing Ball on the Borderline here:

Yes, amici, the above include one established author and mentor at SNHU's MFA program, and the rest are establishing authors who have graduated from the same program.


To put it bluntly, Bruno Mars was the highlight from this year’s Super Bowl.

Defense Wins Championships … please take note up in Buffalo. Pretty please? Remember when you were a smash mouth football team in 1990 for more than half the season (before you flipped to the no-huddle/no win super bowls offense)? Yeah, most fans liked it (not me), and yeah, you scored all kinds of points, but then you caught a smarter coaching staff in SB 25 (it was more like a coaching clinic) and even with giving the game away, it took a missed field goal to send us on a record setting slide that will NEVER be reproduced (4 straight SB losses, the last 3 absolute embarrassments). In fact, the next three Bills SB’s were as big and bad a joke as the fiasco this past Sunday.

First off, let’s face it, statistics in 2014 are grossly inflated as opposed to the stats of yesteryear (1960’s, 70’s & 80’s). The NFL defers to what its audience enjoys, high scoring games. Phooey on them, but there’s no denying the fact that offenses today have a much easier time piling on stats than those back when their QB’s weren’t protected like the Mona Lisa, receivers were bounced around like pin-balls (when you pretty much had to mug a receiver to get hit with a pass-interference call) and never mind the fact that offensive linemen couldn’t use their hands to block back in the day (or that off-sides calls weren’t influenced by the defense moving--encroachment? Really? Please).

I’m sure I’m leaving out something else (or other rule changes) that aid and abet what was the “highest scoring offense in NFL history” this year, but let’s face it, it’s all pretty much meaningless when that type of offense comes up against a truly great defense (and, yes, defenses today, to perform the way the Sea Pigeon defense did last Sunday, have to be quicker, stronger, and more agile than they were in yesteryear, so Seattle probably does have one of the very best defense ever, if not the best).

The bottom line: The old ground and pound mentality ain’t dead yet, youngsters (Mssrs. Kelly & Marrone), and DEFENSE still wins championships.

As for Peyton Manning and his legacy … anyone who doubts he was/is a great QB is just foolish. Whether he was number 1 or even in the top 5 is a much harder sell (at least to me). I’m not a fan of statistics and/or awards (in anything), and it seems to me he’s racked up his biggest numbers under the most ideal conditions (a dome, weakened defenses, weak defenses, the golden age of PIs and defensive holding calls that provide extra first downs, etc.) … if I had to rank them, here’s my top 5 (based on QB’s I actually saw play):

1. Tom Brady (he just is)

2. Joe Montana (he might be interchangeable with the guy above)

3. Aaron Rodgers

4. Steve Young

5. Bart Starr

What? (yous say) … Where TF are Favre, Marino, Elway and Brees?

Way too many interceptions from those fellas for me to rank them in the top 5. The guys above are the ones I’d want on my team.

What about next year, Knucks?

Next year, let’s face it, my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills will be back and ready to kick ass. Hell, they haven’t lost a game yet this year and the best offense in the history of the league has already lost one.

Actually, next year I look forward to the Rangers being very used to Alain Vigneault’s system and thus being one of the very top contenders for the Stanley Cup … assuming they don’t trade Captain, Ryan Callahan and I have to switch over to the Brooklyn Islanders because of it.

Facts that aren’t fun …

See the above? Does it make sense to you because they’re job creators? If so, you need to take a look back to 2008 and all the people Wall Street sent packing (and has yet to rehire) … If it still makes sense to you, that’s just a shame.


Zimmerman vs. DMX … that’s right, amici, you’re seeing this right … a punk who shot and killed a 17 year old kid wants some from rapper DMX (whoever he is) … we’ll obviously be rooting for DMX to show up and have at least as much as the 17 year old who allegedly kicked the living shit out of Zimmerman ... so bad one might argue that the Z-man was embarrassed into using his trusty sidearm (killing the kid).

All men are created equal … well, here we go again … the 16 year old rich kid who was drunk behind the wheel and killed 4 people and maimed two others (1 of the 2 survivors is paralyzed) and then got off based on an “Affluenza” defense (he was spoiled by his parents who allowed him to flaunt the law since he was 13) … well, the same judge apparently didn’t get her copy of the Declaration of Independence … The case caused an uproar, especially since it was revealed that in 2012, the judge sentenced a 14 year-old black youth to 10 years in prison for striking a man who fell and struck his head on the pavement and later died. See more at:


Michael Shrieve’s at 19 on drums at Woodstock with Carlos Santana … Soul Sacrifice … I can’t tell yous how many times I’ve watched this video … this is a shortened version of his electrifying solo (bastards) … he plays it off-snare …

Janis Joplin … Ball and Chain …

Janis … Cry Baby …