Saturday, November 21, 2009

Open Arms

Welcome Old Man Winter. We've been waiting for you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

back to the future

A week has passed since I said goodbye to my father and left him behind in the hospital. I wrapped the surreal family reunion with a hand-off of my business card and a closing to the effect of "it's in your court, so call and let me know how you're doing." To date I have received no such call. The whole situation still sits in my stomach like some Five Guys burger - I needed the sustenance but regret what I ate. I know, strange analogy. I'm logging this on my lunch break with no fuel in the tank, so food's on the brain. If you've ever devoured one, you know what I mean, but I digress.

When I returned to DC, I intended to reflect and blog and reflect and blog some more. It turns out I'm still digesting the whole experience, addressing my emotions, searching for the words, and coming up with little more than fragments. In any case, deciphering the content on a monitor through the blur of your own water works is next to impossible, so I'm saving the rain check and hoping to get it out sooner than later.

On a concrete level, I can report that police found his car along with the woman who stole it from the hospital parking lot. Apparently she was living in the car at a rest stop 150 miles outside of St. Louis. Justice will be served in that forum, but I couldn't care less about that superficial piece of business. Sure, the old man received closure on that front, so good for him. The emotional can of worms that crime opened is another story completely.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Blog!

It just occurred to me that my blog entered the terrible twos today. I've been so consumed with dysfunctional family business here in St. Louis that it almost slipped my mind. A belated birthday greeting would simply be lame. I don't have the gear to record a new "Happy Birthday" clip with me but will get around to it when I return to the District. For now here's Jack's jam from last year.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

lost and found

When some despicable grifter of a woman in St. Louis decided to target despondent family members in the waiting area of St. Anthony's Medical Center, she couldn't have possibly known how it would ultimately rattle the cage of yours truly 900 miles away in Washington, DC. My guess is she has never heard of the butterfly effect, but the series of events her flapping criminal wings set in motion left me tossing and turning and crying in bed (later on the couch) last night as I came to grips with the fact that March would not be coming in like a lion but like an entire pride of famished lions this year.

The phone call from home that I'd been expecting and dreading my entire adult life kicked it off. I make it a general practice to pick up any time my mother calls. Being so far from home has instilled in me a degree of morbid paranoia: I'm almost certain that I'll miss the chance to say goodbye to a loved one some day. So on a carefree day off work, thanks to 6 inches of snow burying the District, I noted my mother's name on the caller ID and even suggested to my friends, all with snow day beers in hand, that I always take her calls since "you never know." Here's how she opened: "Will, I don't know how to tell you this, and there's never a good time for bad news..."

Naturally a preface like that removed the feeling from my legs, so I planted myself on the couch to let the rest wash over me. Unfortunately I'm pressed for time, what with a plate full of work to knock out before catching a flight to St. Louis tomorrow, so my dramatic and sensational proclivities need to be kept at bay for now. Besides, the AP already penned the gist of it like this:

Man's car stolen after heart surgery at hospital

The Associated Press Wednesday, February 25, 2009; 4:28 PM

ST. LOUIS -- A St. Louis man is recovering after a heart attack and surgery, and after having his car stolen from the hospital parking lot. William Caggiano had the heart attack on Thursday and had heart bypass surgery. His daughter rushed back to St. Louis County from Arizona to be with him.

At St. Anthony's Hospital, she met a woman in the intensive care waiting room. Now, Amanda Caggiano believes that so-called friend stole her father's car.

The crime happened early Friday. Amanda Caggiano said she was sleeping. When she woke up several items from her purse were gone, including the keys to her father's PT Cruiser.

Police say the description of the suspect sounds like a woman who committed a similar crime at the hospital a month ago.

The heart attack patient whose wounds were salted by car theft is my estranged father and namesake. Amanda is my half sister who I last saw when she was 2 years old. I've seen and spoken to my father once in the last 25 years, and that was 15 years ago. This weekend I'll reunite with both of them in a hospital room - a setting which has always turned my stomach.

To ice the cake my mother went on to share that my grandmother, Michalena Caggiano, who always lived with my father, died two years ago. By proxy she was also estranged to me. Straight from Sicily, her sauce was the best in the league, and I have every intention of returning to the District with her recipe.

How's this for an understatement: I'm a mixed bag of emotions.

There’s certainly more to come on this story. Tomorrow I’m flying with my wife and two sons to St. Louis to let this all play out. Apparently he’s not nearly out of the woods yet, as there have been complications in the wake of surgery, so a certain degree of urgency comes with this situation.

In a strange sense, I suppose I should thank the degenerate woman who brought us together by stealing his car. If it wasn’t for her crime, my mother wouldn’t know about his health condition or whereabouts, and the lonely old man might die without laying eyes on his only son. Regardless of how I might feel about him for bailing so long ago, there’s no fucking way I’m letting that happen.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

smokers mount rushmore

For so many years, my favorite author, Paul Auster, has perched atop my list of great minds I'd like to chat with over a pack of cigarettes. Recently I became the last person on earth to learn that President Obama has a cigarette habit. Sorry, Paul - I have to bump you to second chair. Come to think of it, these two comprise my Mount Rushmore of smokers. I need to add a couple more to round it out and am open to suggestions. Who are the coolest smokers out there?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

for the birds

News that a flock of birds thrashed the engines of US Airways Flight 1549 continues to resonate with me. When I saw this video via Mashable's Twitter feed I must have played it 20 times. Since Jack thinks every one's business is his business, he peered over my shoulder once and was hooked.

It was sort of awkward explaining that the culprit of the engine exploding and subsequently failing is a bird carcass, but I managed. I'm finding that he's too damn smart these days to accept any glossed over explanations of just about anything in any case. He seems to have mastered the art of interrogation already. To avoid a session of 20 questions, I just came right out and shared that birds have been known to take out airplanes now and then.

Something I failed to consider is that he tells his mother everything, so when she walked in the door from a literal planes-trains-automobiles day trip to and from NYC, he promptly grabbed a big toy airplane and demonstrated such a plane crash for her.

Look, mom...the plane is flying high in the comes a bird...right into the engine...oh's on fire...CRASH!!!!

If I had to describe the look she shot me, I would not say it conveyed pride. No, not a single ounce. So much for candor. Worse yet, when he sees one of us on the Macbook, he demands to see this video again.

Yeah...I might need to take a class or read a book.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

miles of smiles

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character. - Albert Einstein

I can't get a certain smiley-faced squirrel working the pharmacy counter at my neighborhood CVS out of my head so figured I'd spill my thoughts onto this canvass and sort through them. Over the long holiday break my youngest child, Cole, acquired what seemed like his 27th cold of the season. The math behind this is rather simple and common - his older brother, the Jackal, started preschool in the fall and began bringing home more than just a daily art project. Since Jack's been around the block already, his immune system is stronger while Cole's is still learning to navigate this germ-ridden world. If you're a parent, I don't need to tell you how drastically a sick infant can completely sideswipe your groove. A dull headache becomes a way of life; REM sleep is kicked to the curb; and general angst guides you through the day. Needless to say, when I approached the counter I wasn't exactly wearing joy on my sleeve. On the contrary, I was more like an active member of a pride of so many hungry lions waiting to chew on anyone in my path with bad news, which is exactly what this guy dispensed.

Sir, that particular antibiotic needs to be mixed, so it's going to be another 20 minutes.

When I dropped off the scrip, they told me to give 30 minutes. I gave them an hour before returning only to hear they'd need another 20 minutes. It's t-minus 2 days until Christmas and I've hardly crossed anyone off my shopping list. I have not slept for shit in over a week. My sweet child is at home with fever, laden with green mucous. So why am I not losing it?

A simple, sort of goofy, smile – one that seems to be permanently burned onto my hard drive, one that quite possibly rescued me for the holidays and beyond. Here’s this kid (he seemed early-to-mid-20s, and yes, it scares me that I’m at the stage where someone that age is a kid) who may as well be standing blindfolded before a firing line, post last cigarette, and he’s delivering every word with this warm, encouraging smile. Really, he could have dropped on me that my home just burned to the ground as my entire 401k went to hell in a hand basket (wait, that did happen) and I’d have walked away feeling like I just hit the lottery. In a sense, I think I did.

Clearly there’s no shortage of anxiety or plight in the world today. It seems like everyone’s toting a bag of bricks on their back in these trying times. I have so much respect and admiration for those individuals who carry those bags around and still find it in themselves to laugh and smile. At the risk of sounding cliché or like I just saw Dead Poets Society for the first time, I have come to realize, and make it a point to remind myself, that I own this moment right now and how I spend it is completely up to me. In the same vein, I get to make the call on my attitude and how I project. It’s a very simple yet liberating concept.

I know there is a time and place for despondence and that happy-go-lucky is just not feasible all the time. Thanks to the pharmacist at CVS, I’m going to take a breath in challenging moments and check myself. Talk about a spoonful of sugar to go with that medicine.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

donuts with daddy

Today the weather service actually nailed a prediction and it finally snowed on Washington, DC. I honestly don't recall snow blanketing the ground once last winter. Thankfully DC Public Schools rarely close due to bad weather and held true to form today, which meant the Jackal's preschool would also open its doors. Normally any kid would hope for a snow day under such circumstances, but today was Donuts with Daddy - an event he's been anticipating for over a month.

When I went to his room this morning, I found him gazing at the snow falling outside his window. "Dad, are we still having donuts at school?" he asked.

After donuts, this art project, and mingling with other dads, Jack led me by the hand to the window to take in the snow again. "Do you want to play in the snow with me today?" he asked, not knowing how rhetorical that question would turn out to be.

I was a flash in the pan at the office, knocking out an abbreviated list before bolting out the door to the hardware store to buy salt, shovels and sleds. When I showed up at home, Jack flashed a gigantic smile and shot up the steps to grab his snow pants. On our first run down the hill, I lost my wedding ring by using my hands as brakes. In all the excitement I forgot to put on my gloves. I agonized over it for a few minutes and tried in vain to retrace our path, but it was pointless and in the end a small price to pay for a chance to embrace a day like this with Jack.

As we meandered home in the SUV, occasionally doing nasty donuts at intersections of side streets that road crews had neglected, Jack giggled and iced the cake with this: "Dad, I love you. Thanks for the adventure today."

Naturally this melted my heart, and little did he know, edged me closer to a major life/career decision I've been weighing for a while. There is certainly more to come on that topic in a future post. Hell, most of it's drafted already. For now I'll savor this day and leave it at that.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

meet joe pug

My friend Don in Chicago is batting .1000 when it comes to dropping new music on me. We check in with each other every few months, but I stalk his ass on Facebook enough to keep general tabs on him. The cat wears many hats - Chicago Innerview Magazine editor, music blogger, diamond broker, and indie artist manager. One of his artists, Joe Pug, is stirring the pot.

Here's what Jason Killingsworth, Deputy Editor of Paste Magazine, has to say:

"While most singer/songwriters are content to warble out a few semi-clever turns of phrase, Pug's scorching poetry and soulful, 'every phrase could be my last' voice will stop you cold. If you want to read the actual endorsement, touch the braille stretching up my arms. Twenty years from now, lazy journalists will compare every halfway decent songwriter to Joe Pug. Mark my words."

For what it's worth, this is my contribution to the movement. Check it out: