Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"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).

Friday, October 31, 2014

Jack Bruce … The Unbearable Lightness of Being … Skype me in the morning, baby … Funny Poster of the week …


He was classically trained and would become one of the greatest bass players of his generation. His fights with drummer, Ginger Baker, became legendary, but when push came to shove, Bruce and Baker formed a group with a young superstar guitarist, Eric Clapton, and Cream was born. They were the band of my youth, the one I listened and played drums to most often. They didn’t use flash or gimmicks. They didn’t dress like clowns (Kiss), or jump all over the stage (Jagger), or destroy their instruments (The Who) … they showed up and played and no other band, no matter how many members, could play like them.

I probably played the Wheels of Fire album until it was worn out, but the live version of Spoonful and Crossroads kept me on my drum throne for days at a time. I couldn’t come close, but it was always fun, and I couldn’t stop trying. Bruce, Clapton and Baker took the Mississippi Delta Blues and reintroduced it to an America that seemed to have been wearing earmuffs.

 Crossroads …

 Spoonful …

They sold over 35,000,000 albums in the brief span of two years … they didn’t last as a group and kind of reformed as Blind Faith (minus Bruce and plus Steve Winwood and Rich Gretch), but Bruce went on to play with several other bands, including those he started, before his bash with drugs nearly killed him. A liver transplant that didn’t take at first nearly killed him again.


 Those prayers were finally answered, thirty-seven years later. At 8:10 p.m. on May 2nd, Clapton, Bruce and Baker walked back on to that stage to a standing, delirious, disbelieving ovation, opening the first of four shows this week at the Albert Hall with the perfect, galloping sentiment: the Skip James blues "I'm So Glad," from their first album, Fresh Cream. This was, admittedly, not the breakneck, juggernaut Cream of the concert half of 1968's Wheels of Fire or the post-mortem live albums. Clapton's old wall of Marshall cabinets was gone; he played through just two small tube amps, with a Leslie for that majestic bridge lick in "Badge." And Clapton has long since exchanged the assaultive snarl of his original Cream weapons -- the Gibson SG and Les Paul -- for the cleaner ring and bite of a Stratocaster. There was less assault in the music, but more air, which allowed the original swing in Cream's power blues to come through: the conversational way Bruce improvised inside Clapton's slalom runs and grinding notes during the instrumental breaks in "Spoonful" and "N.S.U."; the taut fire of Baker's snare and tom-toms under Clapton's solo in "Sleepy Time Time."


Clapton's brief remarks to the crowd suggested lingering nerves and fears of overexpectation. "Thanks for waiting all these years," he said, after a rare live outing of "Outside Woman Blues," from Disraeli Gears. "I think we're going to do every song we know," quickly noting, "We'll play them as well as we can." But when Clapton pointed out that "the slings and arrows of misfortune cut us down in our prime," Baker was having none of it. "What do you mean?" he interjected with needling glee. "This is our prime."

When they announced they would be coming to New York’s Madison Square Garden, I was tempted to go and see them … but the ticket scalpers wanted blood I wasn’t willing to spare. In the end, I wound up buying a new drum kit (probably for about the price the tickets would’ve cost me) and I had a blast.  I did order the DVD of their reunion tour and must’ve played it a few dozen times before figuring out how to use Youtube and listening to them at work.

I didn’t know Bruce died until my stepson mentioned it at dinner last week. I knew he was sick, but had no idea how sick. I was saddened, because a part of my youth and love of music died with him. You can see just how sick he was when he was interviewed about his last album, Silver Rails.

Eric Clapton’s tribute to Bruce here. It is hauntingly similar to the one he wrote and played for his son.

The Cream reunion interviews …

 From Wiki: Bruce maintained a solo career that spanned several decades and also played in several musical groups. Although particularly famous for his work as a vocalist, bass guitarist and songwriter, he also played double bass, harmonica, piano and cello. He was trained as a classical cellist and considered himself a jazz musician, although much of his catalogue of compositions and recordings tended toward blues and rock and roll. The Sunday Times said that "many consider him to be one of the greatest bass players of all time."

 RIP, Mr. Jack Bruce …


 The Unbearable Lightness of Being … Czech author, Milan Kundera’s highly praised novel spanning the 60’s and 70’s, is a philosophical romp challenging Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence; the idea that all events have occurred and will recur again and again … or, as Yogi put it: It's déjà vu all over again.

Does sex require love? Does love require sex? And what about emotion (kitsch) vs. reason? Ayn Rand would have had a field day putting the kybosh on emotion, and there are those who still buy into her lustful greed 1000%, but they’re most often the people the rest of us avoid (or try to avoid) like the plague.

Written in and out of chronological order, with the author making brief appearances and announcing his presence, Kundera offers his readers two couples, a young man and a dog to present his case(s) … or are they dilemmas? Much of the action (or non-action) has to do with the Soviet Union’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Tomáš (the protagonist) is a surgeon consumed with the Oedipus story: When someone acts with total conviction while doing something with the best intentions, and later learns those same actions were used (or indirectly supported) something evil (i.e., Czech intellectuals supporting communism), are they blameless or guilty? Tomáš once wrote an article suggesting those responsible, no matter their best intentions, are guilty and therefore should “cut out their eyes” (so to speak). And for that gem, although his article was actually edited down a third of its original length, gets him booted from the hospital and eventually finds him washing windows for a living (not that that makes him a bad person).

Tomáš is also a once divorced serial womanizer who believes sex and love have nothing to do with one another, so once he beds down a waitress he met in a small town (after she shows up to his door by invitation), he falls in love with her (Tereza). His infidelity runs wild (remember, he doesn’t connect sex with love) and drives Tereza a little pazzo. What happens between these two is often told in separate perspectives, which enhances the story for me. Kundera also ponders a Beethoven Quartet Es muß sein! (It must be) … although I have to admit there were a few times where the philosophical back and forth, as interesting as they could be, became a bit dry and interrupted the flow.

Tomáš has a favorite mistress, Sabina (a painter who lives a life as far from emotional attachment as possible; she’s the kitsch hater, so to speak). During the Russian invasion, she escaped to Geneva and started an affair with a bored professor (and his issues). We learn early and it is sustained throughout that Sabina believes in betrayals.

From tender youth we are told by father and teacher that betrayal is the most heinous offence imaginable. But what is betrayal? Betrayal means breaking ranks. Betrayal means breaking ranks and going off into the unknown. Sabina knew of nothing more magnificent than going off into the unknown.

It is following Sabina’s story when we come across the novel’s title: Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden but the unbearable lightness of being.

For Sabina, emotion equates to heaviness … something she abhors … for her, avoiding the emotional (the heaviness) leads to a lightness (a form of bliss).

No spoilers, but there’s a female dog named after Karenin – named after Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin (Anna’s husband) from the Tolstoy novel. The way humans treat animals is most telling. That Kantian statement is also posited in the novel via the pooch, Karenin: “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."

When Tomáš’ son from his first marriage enters the story, it is near the end and their relationship (which has been a conscious non-relationship for Tomáš), and is immediately put into jeopardy. Again, no spoilers.

This was a good read for me, but I have selfish reasons for enjoying it maybe more than I should claim. The best thing writers can do outside of doing the work that is writing is and always will be read(ing). I have been working on a novel that involves young couples and infidelity. It’s a good sized draft, but the more I work on it, the more I want a new beginning. Kundera’s Omniscient 3rd provided it for me … at first probably subconsciously, but now it’s a very intentional plagiarizing of a writing style I’d long been neglecting.

I’ve yet to see the movie, but I will have to … even though the author himself was appalled at the production and claimed The Unbearable Lightness of Being would be the first and last book of his to wind up on the big screen.



Skype me in the morning, baby … I’ll be switching days off next week (working Monday/taking off Tuesday) to participate in a Skyped(?) discussion about POV (point of view) with students of my 4th semester mentor, Diane Les Bequets (what I used to pronounce: Less Buckets). I’ll be using my third semester critical research paper on Richard Yates use of third person omniscient in the discussion, as well as why I chose to move from my own use of third person (from my crime writing) to 2nd person in my thesis. Thanks to Diane for the invite.
Check out and get Diane’s works here:

Funny Poster of the week ...


Jack Bruce (playing with Cream) … one of my favorites, We’re Going Wrong

 Tales of Brave Ulysses

 Sleepy Time Time

Friday, October 24, 2014

East of Eden … Days and Clouds … SNHU MFA Progress Report … Cally's Monster hit ... revisiting a graduation speech (again? Oy vey) ... Mr. Tom Waits ...



East of Eden, John Steinbeck … book critics either adored or hated, but make no mistake, I couldn’t stop reading it (and found it about 20,000 x’s more interesting than the book of Genesis, on which it is based). I started on the flight home from Tampa last week and finished it Wednesday morning between sets on the bench at the gym. Ignore the epic scale (and physical size) of the book. It is an intriguing read from start to finish. Steinbeck remains an enigma as far as his political and social views. He’d been firmly on the left and a member of a communist writers organization (the League of American Writers), yet he’d also offered his services to the CIA before traveling to Europe. He stood up to the House Un-American Activities Committee in their witch hunt against Arthur Miller and other artists, but then become a close personal friend of Lyndon Johnson and supported the Vietnam War. Considering the fact that Steinbeck regarded East of Eden his most important novel, I find it difficult to believe that he was anything but firmly on the left socially, and perhaps an anarchist politically. The messages throughout East of Eden fall squarely with personal responsibility and freedom from any and all interference, especially governmental interference.
“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.”
There are countless philosophical discussions throughout the novel, most often spewed by and/or between Samuel Hamilton and Lee (Adam Trask’s Chinese servant). Most of those quotes can be found by simply googling “East of Eden quotes” (or vice versa). I’d bought a used copy of the book, so it was already marked up (all over the place), and I only marked it myself in a few places (when I had a marker handy).
Without listing all the characters, plots and subplots, because it would take me a few weeks to do them justice, here’s what you’re facing once you begin reading. A Steinbeckian description of Eden (i.e., the Salinas County) … an introduction to an Irish-American inventor/philosopher named Samuel Hamilton (and his brood) … and then enter Adam and Charles Trask (brothers akin to Cain and Abel—and Charles is physically scarred (marked) the way Cain was). Adam is tricked into marrying a woman (a beautiful monster) named Cathy … and from there more subplots erupt (Cathy has twin sons named Aaron and Cal, another potential Cain and Abel).
So what happens when a son believes his father (or mother) doesn’t love him? What happens when he believes he is the spawn of something evil? Is he condemned to a similar fate? Those are the essential questions the novel asks (and answers). The following conversation between Samuel and Lee (Adam Trask’s Chinese servant) are quoted here, but the link provides the full discussion. I suggest reading the book, of course.
Ultimately, East of Eden is a novel about love; how and why we handle feelings of love and/or feelings of being unloved. I was moved by the following theme from the time it was introduced (about halfway in the novel). It is part of the quote from above. It has to do with the different perspectives of a quote from Genesis; whether it is fate or an absolute order that man would defeat evil.
“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”
Steinbeck decides against the idea of children being genetically fated to evil (through Aaron and Cal), but his Samuel Hamilton does hold our existence to a higher standard.
“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”
Another passage dealing with the same morality:
"We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.”
Dealing with the emperors (parents) shedding their clothes before their subjects (kids) … there’s this consequence to consider (and amici, don’t I know it):
“When a child first catches adults out -- when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just -- his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child's world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.”
Pragmatism and/or capitalism are also challenged throughout the novel. I found a naïve belief by the author in people being more than honorable once they’ve struck it rich. Steinbeck goes so far as defending arms contractors during World War I (defending their right to make a profit for what they deliver to the government), but I suspect the author believed WWI was a just war and not something we engaged in for the sake of private enterprise. In any event, I doubt he’d feel the same way about our recent wars with Iraq and Afghanistan.

 And, of course, East of Eden is Very Highly Recommended by Temporary Knucksline.


Days and Clouds … a fine Italian flick about a middleclass/middle-aged couple struggling with sudden (or maybe not so sudden) unemployment. There’s nothing in the job market that can begin to restore Michele’s (the husband) sense of worth. His wife, an art restorer, is forced to take on menial work and cut back on her art hours restoring a ceiling painting that has to do with confirming her professorial thesis. People under stress are apt to act abnormally … or maybe their actions can be considered normal given the circumstances. This one is often painful to watch (if you have a heart) … it takes place in Genoa (the city, not the salami) … and if the job concerns appear familiar, they aren’t much different from what’s going on here in the good old US and A.
If you can deal with the emotional strain of watching two wonderful characters ungluing before your eyes, it’s a wonderful movie.

SNHU MFA Progress Report … a bunch of my fellow classmates and/or graduates from Southern New Hampshire’s MFA program are published and/or have publishing deals in the works. A more detailed report will ensue as each new publication (book release) date approaches.

 Kelly Stone Gamble … “Burying your husband is difficult—especially when you’re using the same shovel you whacked him with in the first place.”  Visit Kelly’s webpage here:


 You can join her virtual book party here:


 Darren Rome Leo … You can visit the link here to learn about Darren’s debut novel, The Trees Beneath Us. It’s with Stark House Press and will be available in June 2015.  Visit Darren’s website here:


 James Marino … his debut novel, The Keepers of Mercia, will be available November 6.
Visit James’ website here:

Andrea Crossley Spencer has a short story in the Cumberland River Review … check it out here.


 Randi Sachs … Koehler Books will be publishing Randi’s novel, Indivisible, about twin brothers who lose their family in a car accident on the way to one of the brother’s college graduation. Only his twin survives, and he has Down syndrome. His brother is left as his legal guardian


John Vercher … will have his story, Discontent (a short story inspired by last year's seemingly interminable winter), published in VimFire Magazine.


Holy cow … this speech again?

Cally’s monster hit knocks the camera off the wall … was this when he was injured?

Okay, okay … I know yous want music … here’s Mr. Waits from Nighthawks at the Diner …

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lucy Crown: A Novel … Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth … A Very Special afternoon in Tampa Bay …



Lucy Crown, by Irwin Shaw … I read this one about 2 weeks ago, but didn’t get the chance to review it before our mini vacation. In the summer of 1937, Lucy Crown, a wife and mother, has an affair with a college lad and is caught by her son (the college lad was hired by Lucy’s husband to watch after and insulate the boy from his overprotective mother). It’s a kind of coming of womanhood (for lack of better terminology) … Lucy has been a subservient, beautiful wife to her husband, Oliver, and a very devoted mother to her sickly son … Oliver isn’t a bad guy/husband. He’s doing what most men did back in the day (run things, including his wife’s life). Lucy ultimately becomes bored with her role in her own life … getting caught by the husband is one thing, but getting caught by their son is a nightmare that upends the applecart in more ways than one … although Lucy personally grows from her affair with the college boy, she rejects the scorn she knows she’ll have to endure from her husband and son (but it is her son’s scorn she most fears) … when she agrees to return to her husband after the affair is revealed and discussed, it is only under the caveat that their son isn’t in the mix (he’s to attend boarding school, etc.) … he’s to remain out of her life. It’s a pretty harsh condition, but the husband has been weakened by the surprise of the affair and he agrees to the terms. What follows, although the novel starts long after the incident (and we regress back to it) makes for very compelling reading.

Flash forward through the Second World War and, well … you know the deal here, amici … NO SPOILERS … it’s a wonderful read that TK VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDS … and we’ll be reading a lot more of Irwin Shaw in the near future.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan … a topical book (New York Times Bestsellers list for I don’t know how many weeks, but it was a pretty significant number) … let me start by saying I had (and have) absolutely nothing vested in the religious arguments surrounding this book and/or the topic (historic Jesus, the man), but it is what I found exceptionally interesting—the account of Jesus the man (not the messiah). The author uses a boatload of sources (see his endnotes and bibliography). Truth be told, I have no idea what is or isn’t valid. I take the author’s word (he’s a Ph.D in religious study and an expert on the New Testament). I wasn’t looking for proof of anything while reading. Having zero belief in gods of any kind, I found Aslan’s presentation interesting. (i.e., “Yeah, makes sense to me. And good for Jesus” … (because according to Aslan, Jesus the man was one righteous dude; the kind of revolutionary (and/or) radical I could support; he spoke for those in need and against those who would subjugate others)).

The Jesus presented in Zealot is a human with liberal thoughts about the age old problem of rule by oligarchy. In his time, that oligarchy would’ve been the Roman Empire and its Jewish lackies. Aslan goes on to explain and detail how and why the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman (Christian) Empire through neat tricks of the spin trade (what most of the New Testament appears to have been).

So it goes …

What I may find even more interesting is the reaction to the book by believers (those who will read the book) … I say “may find” because I know of only a few Christians (for example) that have read the book. Far too many, I fear, are put off by right wing (i.e., FOX NOISE) spin condemning the book as an attack on Jesus by a Muslim (see videos below). Even self-professed liberal, Bill Maher, takes issue with the religion of Islam … but Bill can and does get a bit hysterical at times, and he's often way too sure of his hypocritical self for me.

I borrowed the book from a Christian co-worker who is very open minded and hasn’t bought into the extremist Born Again version of Jesus (i.e., that the Bible is the word of God, no matter how contradictory and/or absurd its stories may be). I look forward to hearing what my wife thinks, if she reads it. She’s a cherry picking believer of Christian faith, and although she doesn’t accept the Catholic Church and/or its rulebook hypocrisy any longer, she likes the new Pope (because he’s not the same as the old Popes) and she does occasionally attend mass.

Another co-worker who is a Born Again Bible thumper, refuses to read the book and claims, upon reading the following paragraph (which is part of the last paragraph of the book), that the author “is just another Muslim looking to slam Jesus and Christians.”

Oy vey …

Lifted from the last paragraph: “… the one thing any comprehensive study of the historical Jesus should hopefully reveal is that Jesus of Nazareth—Jesus the man—is every bit as compelling, charismatic, and praiseworthy as Jesus the Christ. He is, in short, someone worth believing in.”

It’s a shame my Born Again friends (and they are friends) refuse to accept the above as a possibly valid perspective of Jesus. To the blind faithers there is but one Jesus (the Christ) and all the tall tales in the Bible, no matter how contradictory and/or absurd, and/or factually wrong, are validations of an omnipotent being spun into eternity by the Roman Empire 2000 years ago.

TK recommends this book but ONLY if you have an open mind. TK respects your right to not have an open mind on this subject (or any other). We here certainly are certainly closed-minded about a few things ourselves (i.e., no more designated hitters, both major political parties in America, etc.) …


Tampa Bay … turned out to be a very exciting 4 days for the ugly Knuckster and his Principessa … Saturday night’s game vs. the Ottawa Sanitationals was a 2-1 loss in a dopey shootout (I’m closed minded about those too), but it was my first hockey game in 25+ years … and I saw lightning inside the building (I kid yous not) …

My wife knew what they were, but I was kind of dumbfounded. “How do they do that?” I said. “What are Tesla Coils for one-thousand, Alex,” she said, and then I said, “What the fuck are Tesla Coils, Alex?”

On day two we spotted Brian Boyle in a Champions sports bar … and then we watched my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills get waxed by the New England Cheatriots.
Day three we hooked up with Judy and Andy Pereiro. Judy and Ann Marie attended and graduated nursing school together and have remained great friends since. Andy drove us to their castle north of Tampa and I had a brief romance with their dogs (boxers) Buster and Milo (Milo couldn’t stop kissing me, but seriously, can yous blame him?) … Andy handed off a ton of cigars for me to enjoy back here in Jersey. After a quick dinner at our hotel restaurant, we all went to the revenge match-up from the playoffs a year ago (Bolts-Expos) … it’s a little bit different when our starting goalie is around … not to mention our new bolstered defense (Anton Stralman made an incredible save). Our Bolts scored a TD and kicked and extra point against the Expos of Montreal (7-1) … Steven Stamkos scored a hat trick … and our guy, Ryan Callahan, had an assist (from his knees—one of Stamkos’ goals) AND Cally scored his second goal of the season (in just 4 games).  Victor Hedman scored a goal and had 3 assists (4 total points) by game’s end. It was a classic blowout.


Day four we met up with Tony and Mike Liberti and toured Ybor (I keep mispronouncing the place, calling it Eye-bor rather than E-bor) City (but I’ve mentally started a new crime novel because of Ybor City). We ate and visited a cigar store where the woman rolled them (that's actually her above) on the scene … and I purchased some Cuban flag espresso cups … and later we enjoyed some very special company before heading off to watch the Bolts take on the New Jersey Deviled Eggs …

What special company yous ask?  Well, Tony Liberti is originally from Rochester, New York, and was neighbors for many years with the Callahan family.  Yes, THAT CALLAHAN FAMILY. It was a beautiful reunion between former neighbors (Tony, his son Mike, and the Callahan clan (Donna, Mike and their eldest son, Mike) … Ryan was preparing for the game later in the evening) … Both the Callahan and the Liberti clan were about as nice as people can be. Mr. Callahan (the big guy) had my wife and myself in stitches with tales from Rochester. Donna Callahan is a former literature major with a feisty 99 year old Mom (born in Milan, Italy). Very cool people and a very cool few hours were spent in terrific company. Tony and his son never mentioned anything about meeting up with the Callahan clan while we were in Ybor City, and when he wanted to cross the street to the restaurant near our hotel (in the rain), I kept thinking: This guy has more energy than most teenagers! We were in the restaurant talking and Tony kept looking at his watch (and then I’m thinking: this guy is gonna call his bookie for the lines tonight) … but then in walked the Callahan clan and it was a pleasure to watch their reunion with Tony and his son, Mike (who is a devout Bills fan).  Anyway, it was a great last day of the vacation topped off with that incredible reunion and the chance to meet the family of our favorite player.

Oh, the game … right. Well, we lost that one but Evgeni Nabokov really played well in goal (spotting Ben Bishop for the night). We hung out at our room afterward and enjoy Tony and Mike’s company for a few more minutes before saying goodbye (and encouraging Tony’s son to get back to writing a book he’d started before his computer broke down). My ongoing words to Mike Liberti are these: If a former window cleaner, street meatball like myself can pursue a dream and get it done, a young stud with a ton of energy can do it blindfolded. So, you go Mike Liberti!  Write that book!

And look what the Principessa and Nonno caught for Evelyn Amelia Stella ...

The Thunderbug ... Evelyn Amelia is the THUNDER!

Ben Afleck vs. Bill Maher & Sam Harris

The now infamous Fox-Aslan interview (could the woman doing the interview be any more dense?) …

Where comedian Bill Maher made an ass out of his arrogant self …

I know, I know … yous want music … so here (how could I resist this one?) ...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hockey Season begins tomorrow: Can yous feel it? The Callahan factor …


How does a 58 year old curmudgeon football fan wind up a hockey fan?

You watched that? Okay, keep it in mind, please: no stick, a blocked shot, a hit, dives to push the puck across the blue line, blocks another shot, and a hit on his way off the ice.
Listen to how they talk about Callahan in the video above. Listen to the crowd respond. Callahan’s play is an absolute adrenaline rush.

My first hockey game was about 48-50 years ago. Father Scavo took the altar boys from St. Jude to the old Madison Square Garden. Madonna mia, that was a long time ago. The Rangers played the St. Louis Blues and I’m not sure who won. Our seats were way high up, but none of us cared. I think we were all too excited about attending a professional sporting event to care about much else. None of us were really hockey fans. We were city kids brought up on stickball, wiffle ball, kick the can, ringolevio, baseball and football. I know I bought a puck and didn’t have a clue what to do with it once we were home.

If it had had icing on it, I probably would’ve eaten it.

Around age 13 or so, I played some roller hockey, but it wasn’t anything organized. We played in the streets and it didn’t last long because not everyone had skates. Very few of us knew how to skate, certainly not well enough to skate backwards (skating backwards usually occurred when we got knocked on our ass), and nobody could afford the equipment outside of sticks. Chances were, we used a roll of electrical tape for a puck.

I’m sure somebody eventually brought out a football and that was the end of our hockey careers.

Adam Graves on Callahan: "His work ethic is limitless ..."

Flash forward to about 1994 or so, to one of my father-sons days (there weren’t nearly enough and that was my fault), when I took my sons to see the Islanders play somebody. I had a ticket scalper in my pocket at the time, so we had great seats; on the glass, I guess they call it. I have no idea who won. There was a fight on the ice and I have no idea who won that either. I seem to remember some guy with an eye-talian last name (Pulillo or something). He had long (curly, I think) hair, if that helps.

I’d become a football fan during high school (about the time MLB instituted the designated hitter, for which I’ll never forgive it) … I and a few other guys from my high school managed to get football scholarships to play for a small school in North Dakota (Minot State) that sent 2 of our best players to the NFL. Jimmy LaCugna and I visited one of them, Terry Falcon (about 6’7”, 275), when he was with the Patriots. Falcon pancaked my ass in one of my first college nutcracker drills. I’m glad he made the NFL, because that continues to save some of my fragile self-esteem. Our QB, Randy Hedbgerg, tossed Tampa Bay’s first official TD (the two QB’s ahead of him were both injured during their pre-season).

Still, however, no hockey.

I was never a basketball fan, not really, although I did root for the Knicks when I was bored and/or when they were in the playoffs. I hadn’t even noticed the NBA and NHL kind of co-existed, at least on the calendar.

A Callahan loyal gives thanks after the infamous trade last year:

I stayed a football fan, loyal to the ONLY New York football team, the Buffalo Bills, but only after having been a Jets fan (and having really lousy season tickets at Shea Stadium—a few rows from the roof behind home plate/the uprights) back when the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets were actually from New York … before they became the Moonachie Green Team (and since they hired Michael Vick, they’ve become the Moonachie Green Dog Killers). Don’t bother arguing that one with me; you kill dogs, you lose me for life.

I was pretty much a psychotic Bills fan … flying and/or driving to Buffalo to watch my Bills … sometimes flying to away games as far as San Francisco. The frustrations of losing 4 straight super bowls, then turning into a consistently mediocre team since the late 90’s, I consider payback for past sins.

I can think of worse ways to pay for past sins.

A few years ago, when I first started working at a New Jersey law firm, I met a devoted Rangers fan—Sue Bennett … let’s just say Sue likes hockey and the Rangers the way I used to like football and the Bills. I still love the Bills, but I’ve lost a ton of respect for the way the game is played. I’m a dinosaur. I can’t deal with the never ending celebrations and the all too often neglect of team play by individual players (the chest beating, pointing to the back of the jersey – twice two weeks ago in the 49’ers-Eagles game that was televised). I know the younger generation likes the entertainment value of such nonsense, but I really have a hard time watching it. Just this past week, for instance, a Jets defensive lineman (in a game they were losing 21-0), made a tackle in the San Diego backfield immediately after a play in which the Chargers’ running back gained 50 yards on a similar running play. The Jet defensive lineman celebrated his astonishing play. Two plays later the Chargers scored another touchdown. One play after that, after the extra point, the score was 28-0.
Is there any humility on an NFL field anymore?

So, a few years ago, prompted by Sue and a couple of dear friends from south of the Jersey border, Dana and Corky King (Penguin fans from the Pittsburgh area—Dana is a terrific author), I started watching hockey. I even learned “some” of the rules. I’d send the three of them (Sue, Dana and Corky) Facebook messages with questions. Probably tired of my constant nudging, Dana sent me an NHL pocket A-Z guide book. I read it quite a bit. I’m still learning and very eager to learn more.

Aside from learning the rules when watching the Rangers play, I took notice of one guy, their captain, Ryan Callahan. I didn’t know anything more about him or the Rangers than I knew about chemistry (I know nothing about chemistry), but there was no way not to notice his hustle, desire and drive; the kid was giving himself up to block shots, diving to make passes, and mixing it up to defend fellow teammates.

Remember, I was clueless about the game, so after watching him block shots WITHOUT A STICK IN HIS HANDS (see first video up at the top of this post), then cleanly nail a player on his way to the bench, I yelled: “Holy shit, why are they taking him out of the game?”

Who knew what a hockey shift was?

I knew lobsters shifts. I’d worked midnights most of my life, usually while working 2 jobs, but they never let me take a break after just a minute or so.

Okay, so it took a few more games before I realized there were up to four lines and each line played a shift before coming off the ice, and that nobody could play the entire game without taking breathers.

Then I kept watching hockey and it all started to make sense. I was still looking for #24, because the play always seemed to pick up when he was on the ice. I started to learn the names of the Rangers players. I had favorites: Callahan, Girardi, Lundquist, Boyle, etc. They made the playoffs and I was excited for them and myself (something to root for during yet another dreadful Buffalo Bills football season). I even made my first bold statement after seeing Chris Kreider get sent up and down and back again his first year with the Rangers. “This kid is gonna be great someday. He’s got speed and size. He needs to learn to use his body more, but I bet that comes over the next few years.”

My wife was happy for me, because I wasn’t driving her crazy over another Bills defeat. And let’s face it, whenever she asked me a question about football, I’d spend the next half hour diagraming it for her (until her eyes rolled up into the back of her head). I didn’t know enough about hockey to teach her anything, except to say: Look at this Callahan kid. He doesn’t stop.

In a very short period of time, I was no longer concerned about who the Bills were playing, but I was always looking forward to the next Rangers game so I could watch their captain instead. When he scored, I’d yell it out loud (and usually wake my wife up). When he blocked a shot, I’d yell out (and usually wake my wife up). When he dove to make a pass that turned into an assist, I’d yell (and usually wake my wife up). I guess it was better than hearing me curse about the latest Bills debacle, or listening to a half hour lecture on why I HATE THE NO HUDDLE OFFENSE WHEN IT IS USED EXCLUSIVELY … but she was genuinely happy for me. And I still believe, no matter what the college geniuses proclaim, that DEFENSE AND A RUNNING GAME are essential to being a great team. You can still win championships without so-called ELITE QB’s. See Jeff Hostetler, Super Bowl XXV … I saw it. I was there. Outcoached was what happened to the Bills in that game ...

When the Callahan trade rumors began at the beginning of last season, I was nervous, but I couldn’t imagine somebody like Callahan being traded. The kid gave it his all, 100% of the time, and Ranger fans loved it. He was honored several years (4) in a row with the former Police Officer, Steven McDonald award for his extra effort (performance above and beyond the call of duty). Callahan was a true inspiration for fans and teammates alike. When Callahan blocked a shot, the roar from the crowd was electric, and the Rangers always seemed to respond. He led by example.

The definition of hard work.

I dropped the Rangers like a hot cake. It is very rare when I will side with an organization over a player. Add the fact that a player’s style of play (i.e., blocking shots) might be held against him in negotiations (because his blocking shots, etc., can lead to injuries, and thus maybe shorten his career, and/or force him to miss games with injuries), and my socialist temper goes into overdrive. You’re holding his work ethic against him? Nice trick … and it was nice knowing you.

Heart and Soul.

Enough said about that. March 5,, 2014 was the day I decided to go on my Callahan diet. I’m down 88 pounds since. My powerlifting days are over, but I will lose another 70 and one day run (or walk) a marathon with my sons. Shin splints from too many years of running may preclude my bucket list goal, but I’m pretty determined and I almost always get what I go after.

For me, Callahan is the Derek Jeter of hockey, a player who never takes a night off and is always thinking team first. He’s a relentless worker with the kind of intangible value that can NEVER be replaced.

This kid adorable or what? My granddaughter, Evelyn Amelia Stella … another big time Callahan fan.

The trade is forgotten. I’m a Tampa Bay Lightning fan now. I remain a Callahan loyal. The fact Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman joined Cally from the Rangers makes this season all the more exciting. And Saturday, October 11, the Principessa Ann Marie and I are flying down to Tampa to see games 2-4 of the Lightning season. I hope to memorize my new team’s roster (I’m such a rookie). I still butcher Fillpula’s name every time I try and pronounce it. We’ll meet some old friends who’ve moved there to retire (Andy and Judy Pereiro) and we’ll meet some new friends we’ve made through the Callahan Fan Appreciation page (Tony and Mike Liberti). We’ll wear our Cally jersies and t-shirts and pick up Boyle and Stralman jerseys. We’ll be rooting for Cally and the Bolts … and I may even have some room in my Cally jersey, a double X (down from a 4X since March).

So, how does a 58 year old former football faithful and present day curmudgeon find a new sport and a player to follow like he used to follow Joe Christopher of the Mets and Willie Mays of the Giants back in the mid-60’s, or the Bears’ Dick Butkus in the 70’s? I thank my friends for pushing me to start watching hockey, and I thank Callahan for proving there’s still something to admire about hard work and dedication.

The other thing I love about hockey is the respect each team shows the fans after home games and the respect they show one another after a playoff game. Imagine shaking hands after some tough competition? It’s a beautiful thing.

Life is good, amici. Life is very good.

Callahan's first for the Bolts ... the first of many, many, many more.