December 26, 2007

The Language of the Dead

It is my belief that the soul in a human body disperses after death. That does not happen immediately, I envision; but, we become a part of the greater cosmos and step into another state of being.

I cling to this belief in the hopes that there is a larger force than us; a being or community of beings which dispense righteousness in the afterlife. Perhaps the only cure for each person's pain and suffering is to learn the consequences of one's actions while they were living.

In death, observing events which make up our existence is edification for the newly departed. As we rise figuratively or literally from our bodies, we see the world as a distant entity, and we then detach from the bonds which keep us within this dimension. Our lives are displayed from creation to the end and then beyond. We view the past, present, and the future through an extraterrestrial portal in time, yet we are unable to speak. There is no verbal expression, no spoken words in the afterlife. We just are. Whatever guides us, teaches or censures us does so with its presence.

We sense them, and court is held before we finally trespass into oblivion. We are human, and shall always be in any form. The world descends from view, and we are captivated by its disappearance, seeking out those we knew and loved for one last time. The path is clear, and we step ahead to the next scene in the Kinetoscope panorama and leave behind a single message which we implore, as only the departed are able to, that it is seen and interpreted.

Clues from those who pass on can be found in a garden long since left uncultivated with a single rose for a widowed bride. A music box playing suddenly on a mantle on a little boy’s birthday after his daddy is gone, or snow on Christmas morning for the daughter who wanted to make snow angels while wearing new, winter coat that Santa never had the chance to bring for her. We are still here, and we decide which signs are for us, and which are mere coincidence, and we deny, deny, deny, until our own inevitable trial comes. The dead are so powerful.

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December 17, 2007

From Dawn until Dancing

In November of 2003, my wife and I took our two children to Disney World in Florida. This vacation was planned well in advance, and my children were allowed to make up the school work they missed while they were away when they returned from our dream vacation. My son was almost five years old and my daughter was eight years of age. The anticipation they felt was almost unbearable, and when we left to drive down to Orlando from Long Island, New York (a drive I will never make again) we felt that something wonderful was going to happen.

My wife is the most organized person I know. She did more research on Walt Disney World than I anyone I ever knew who planned a trip there. There are countless websites on Disney, each with a treasure trove of information from obscure trivia, to where the best places to find the characters hanging around are. With our itinerary in hand, it took us a little over a day to get to the park and check into our hotel, in spite of a tire blow-out we had in Baltimore on the way. Not letting that mishap ruin the mood, we settled into our All Star Movies Resort hotel room and unpacked in a hurry.

The entire week we were there we got to experience all of the rides, meet the characters for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and visit all of the parks and swim in the pools. On the last full day before we were to leave for home the next morning, we decided to toss our plans aside and just do whatever came naturally. That meant no rushing to get to restaurants, or standing on the curb for an hour or more to see a parade, or hopping the monorail to make it to some event by a certain hour. We were free, and very relaxed. By late afternoon, my wife mentioned that we should go to the Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom because her brother told her about it and he thought the food was good. We mentioned it to the kids and they didn’t care, so we went off down Main Street to find the restaurant which is across from the Hall of Presidents.

Inside, it wasn’t crowded, but we still had to wait a short while. Since we were under no time constraints, my wife and I were happy to sit on the benches and chat and look around at the décor. Then, we noticed that our daughter was crying. ‘What’s the matter sweety?” my wife asked.

My daughter continued to cry, not loud, and my wife asked again. “Sweetheart, what’s the matter?” My daughter looked up at her.
It’s just that tomorrow we’re going to leave, and this is our last day here, and we’re not going to come back for a really long time.” She spoke in that hiccup-like voice kids have when they sob and talk at the same time. At that moment, one of the waiters came over and spoke to her.

Why are you crying little girl?” he asked. “There’s no crying in the Magic Kingdom. This is the happiest place on Earth.” There’s a reason why Disney calls their employees “cast members.” This guy was doing a great job of acting he and came to our rescue.

You come with me,” he said “Sit down and have a great, big dinner with your mommy and daddy and your little brother.” Like a scout leader, he turned and led the way as my befuddled daughter and my son trekked behind him obediently to a room off to the side. My wife and I shrugged and followed along. He seated us at a table by a railing which overlooked another dining area a step or two lower than we were, offering a nice vantage point.

Are you still crying dear? This is the Magic Kingdom, and there is magic everywhere…” he said, and then he sprinkled “magic pixie dust” as he called it all over out table with his hand held high above his head, smiling triumphantly. On our plates and cutlery were hundreds of tiny, multicolored Mickey heads. That gesture got the children laughing. He leaned over to me as my children were playing with the pixie dust and asked me my daughter’s name and for the correct spelling.

Then, he left the table, and moments later he returned with a special certificate for our daughter. “This is an official ‘Magical Moment’ just for you.” he announced as he handed our wide eyed girl the placard. It was the size of college diploma, and printed on heavy, stock paper. “This is a magical moment you keep for the rest of your life.” After the presentation, he smiled and walked away.

The magical man left us for good and in the capable hands of a fellow server who hailed from Long Island where we live. He took excellent care of us, and we were visited by all of the characters. I took so many photos and video, that we ran out of film and my video camera’s batteries were almost spent. After our meal and dessert, one of the characters, Meeko, the raccoon from Pocahontas, escorted us from our table all the way outside and bid us adieu.

Before we left, the waiter pulled me aside gave me two birthday cards, each signed by every character we met that evening: Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Meeko, Chip and Dale, Pluto, and “all of the folks at the Liberty Tree Tavern” and he told me to give them to the kids on their birthdays and tell them that the cards were from them. What a guy. Needless to say, both he and the other “magic” server both received generous tips.

Outside, we could barely contain ourselves and our good fortune. Our daughter not only wasn’t crying, but both she and my son couldn’t stop laughing.

My wife noted that the fireworks display was set to go off in front of Cinderella’s Castle within the next hour or so. We decided just to walk over and hang out until the show. The sun was low in the sky and we sat near the front of the castle with other families who were taking in the scenery and relaxing after a day of running around. Soon, the area was full of hundreds of others vying for a good view of the fireworks. Music was playing over those mysterious, hidden speakers which Disney hides in the shrubbery, and it was cool outside. My wife and I sat back on our hands feeling satisfied.

Look at them;” she said “they’re so happy.” There they were, our two kids dancing to the music without a care in the world. They laughed and sang, and rocked out to the tunes. I reached for the video camera and my wife took my arm.

No, no, just watch them.” She said. And, we did. Hand in hand the two of us laughed along with them as the sunlight faded and their shadows grew longer and splayed across the brick sidewalk. There was no need for video. That scene plays out in my head whenever I need to remember what it’s like to be happy. For my wife and I, that was our magical moment.

Happy Holidays from Mr. Grudge & family!

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December 12, 2007

Two Bakers Baking

The other morning at work I had a conversation with a woman whom I barely know. She replaced my friend in a position which occasionally crosses my path in my official duties in our building. When my friend left the job, she didn’t leave my life; in fact we’re still in touch often. Yet, when I see the "new woman", I sense the loss which is associated with missing my colleague.

This new woman was making coffee in the cafeteria when I stepped up behind her to wait for my turn to get my own cup of brew. She turned around and said hello, and I realized that I was whistling along with the Christmas carols playing on the overhead speakers.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?” she asked me with a smile. I must have turned red myself, but she saved me the embarrassment by quickly adding “I love Christmas too.” We talked for a few moments and she told me that her husband becomes miserable after Thanksgiving because his mother passed away around Christmas time a few years back. I listened to her and added that I can understand where he’s coming from because I lost some relatives around the winter holidays as well.

But, life does go on, right?” I said, trying not to sound too cliché.
That’s right; my mother in law wouldn’t want her son to be miserable, especially for our children’s sake.”

That was poignant, what she said. I kind of stared for a moment and thought about Kismet. We paid for our coffees, and I was careful not to offer to pay for hers as I'm inclined to do for co-workers of mine because she was the new kid filling in my friend’s position and she was still kind of on “probation” in my book. Maybe I’d have to phone up my pal and ask if it was alright to fraternize with the new gal, I thought.

However, it is moments like the one I just had with my new work associate, our brief chat about having a happy holiday, that highlighted another conversation I had with my twelve year old daughter only a few nights earlier. My mother died in August of 2006, and while we weathered the holiday season last year with great difficulty, I began to have doubts if I could keep my smile affixed to my face again this time around. My son has been crying a lot because he misses his grandma, and my daughter has been feeling a bit down herself.

The night when I spoke with my little girl we were opening Christmas cards we received in the mail. We talked about her grandmother and how my daughter doesn’t think its fair that she’s not with us anymore. There’s not much to say to a kid who’s crying about a lost loved one. I stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head.

Hey, why don’t we bake some of Grandma’s famous pumpkin bread together this weekend?” I asked her. She lifted her head and looked at me. “But you made some for Thanksgiving, Daddy.”

I know, but there’s no reason why we can’t have more. Grand pa would probably want some.

But, won’t that make him sad?” I paused, and thought about what she said. “Yeah, I think it might. Grandpa misses Grandma so much. But, he would be so proud of you if you baked him a loaf of her pumpkin bread. He would really love that.”

So, it was agreed. We have a date to bake pumpkin bread together for Christmas Eve. All of this came about while opening Christmas cards and thinking of Grandma. It didn’t occur to me that any of this had to do with the idea of being happy during the holidays until I talked for the first time to the woman who replaced my friend in her position where I work. And, I couldn’t make my daughter feel happy either until I explained that the best way to cheer up Grandpa was to give him something he loved and missed; and that was Grandma’s baking.

It would be difficult, but I would do my best to make this a memorable Christmas holiday for my wife and kids as it is only right to do so. My mother wouldn’t want me to be depressed because she wasn’t here anymore, and she would want her grandchildren to have fun time when Santa Claus came to town.

This is going to be the best Christmas ever” I told my daughter. She listened with the biggest smile on her face as she took an envelope from the stack of mail. I watched her read another Christmas card; and, it was from my friend I knew from work. I hope she likes pumpkin bread.

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December 10, 2007

Perps, Cuffs, and Doughnuts Too

Every profession has one, and that is its own language. Those in the medical, legal and education professions all speak with the jargon of their career field. My former line of work is no different. Cops have a lingo all their own, comprised of legalese, shorthand, and slang. You've heard police say the word "perp" on detective shows for years. Many of you know what a perp is. You do, don’t you? A perp is a perpetrator. That’s slang for suspect. It's easier to say than perpetrator. Another exmple is in New York City, if a cop needs to call on the radio for an ambulance, he asks the dispatcher for a bus. That’s because it’s shorter than calling for an ambulance when time is critical.

Also, there are all of those radio codes cops rattle off, as well as sections of the law and the Patrol Guide which are quoted during the course of a busy tour of duty. Now that I am a writer, I wish to tell many of the stories I have from my experiences “on the job” but I don’t want to bludgeon the reader over the head with cop-speak. It’s confusing and requires a glossary at the end of the story. One other reason I want to take it easy with the police terminology is that it’s boring. Nothing makes a reader want to skim past pages of dialogue and description faster than dousing them with industry-specific or profession-oriented speech. Only the true police buff will sift through a word list and define various phrases and terms used in a police story. My goal is to write for a wide audience and not insult the reader’s intelligence by making the text too simple, and to maintain an aura of realism.

So, when striking a balance with readers and authenticity, I tend to allow the narrator describe details in lay terms rather than have the characters do it talking like "hair bags" (hardened, veteran police officers). It is less confusing to say “The officers climbed into their cruiser to begin their tour of duty", rather than have cop #1 say to cop#2 “You sign out an RMP and I’ll be the recorder.” I can tell already that you’re falling asleep.

In real life scenarios, police in New York City are trained that if they don’t know a radio code, you simply say what you need. If you’re trying to break up a small riot and cannot decide if you want to call a 10-13 or ask for a 10-85 forthwith, just tell Central where you are and that you need backup. Everyone in the whole division will know right away that you’re getting your head handed to you and they’ll fly there “lights and sirens” or even with “hats and bats.” This makes my job as a writer easier when creating scenes where my police characters use the radio because I can realistically have them talk like civilians to the central dispatcher and toss in generic “10” codes which anyone knows, such as “10-4.”

Where my job gets dicey is when my characters are on patrol or hanging around with other cops. So far I’ve gotten around this by limiting my patrol time with my characters and having the narrating “voice” translate the details of a jargon laden conversation. In addition, I’m given to mixing civilians into social settings with the off duty police officers in various scenes to suppress the natural urge of the cops to settle into unfiltered cop-talk. My first foray into blogging about my police experiences seemed to go well judging by the comments I received from the post. I tried to balance what happened with my civilian voice and explain any of the law enforcement tactics and verbiage. The story has been posted for several days now and reactions have been positive. My three novel length police stories, though read by only a small number of select readers, have also been given upbeat reviews. Yet, I feel like it is a lot of work to get the mix of pure police-speak and civilian perspective right.

A true writer, in my opinion, never has an easy job. If it is effortless for me to publish even a blog post, then maybe I'm not doing enough to please my readers. I accept the assignment of relating my police experiences in either fictionalized, novel length works, or blog postings in this space. In fact, while putting together this piece, I was reminded of an incident while working in Manhattan North in the sixth radio division when a/t/p/o, c/v stated that she was struck by unk perp about the head and neck w/blunt inst. Perp fled unk dir. Canvass neg, 32 PCT SQD not. EMS 10/84 C/V RMA. Now that was scary.

Awards: Friendship & Useful Blogger

My friend J.D., the author of The Uneasy Supplicant has presented me with the two great awards: The Colors of Friendship and The Totally Useful Blogger. In the blogging world, there aren't too many folks who can claim to be friends; but, J.D. has been a supporter of Mr. Grudge almost since its inception as a writer's blog a few months ago, and he can claim to be a friend of this blog. I can ask J.D. a question and he'll get right back to me with a response. My door is open to him as well. J.D. knows that writers, bloggers, and artists who post on the internet form a neighborhood, and with that there should be present a standard of honesty and integrity. That is why other's have seen fit to award him these very honors which he generously passed on to me. Thank you, J.D., a blogging friend.

December 6, 2007

Confessions of a Blood-Stained Twit

Notice to readers: names of the individuals in this story have been changed to protect the innocent, and the stupid.

In early 1990 I was a young rookie cop walking a beat in New York City. I was part of a field training unit sent out to patrol a housing development in upper Manhattan. It was a four-to-twelve shift on a January evening and I was deployed with a group of about twenty other rookies and a training sergeant to cover an area in Harlem. While patrolling alone, I rounded the corner at 125th Street and Amsterdam Avenue and I was confronted by an extremely tall man, well over six feet in height. He was wearing a long white jacket with a white, brimless cap, and he was covered with deep, red blotches of blood. My initial suspicions were immediately quelled when I realized he was a worker from the nearby meat packing plant. The man, whom I’ll refer to as Ned because I like that name for this story, was talking on a payphone and hung up when he saw me approaching.

“That was fast, I just called you, Officer.” He said.
“You just called me? I didn’t get any calls.” I checked the volume knob on my bulky, police-issue, handheld radio to see if I inadvertently left it off.
“I just called nine-one-one.” He told me. It was at the moment that the central dispatcher alerted my unit to this individual at our location. I answered and informed the dispatcher that I was on the scene. My sergeant, a street smart young woman, Sgt Wertz (I like that name for her) responded also that she was on the way to that location to meet me and she ordered all other training units to respond as well. It was a slow tour, and I knew that she wanted to instruct us young cops on how to write a proper field report, and nothing more.

Confident that I could handle this situation myself, I opened my memo book and took the cap off a ball point pen and started to interview my “complainant.”

“Why did you call the police?” was the obvious question.” Ned smiled and placed his hands on his blotchy, maroon and white butcher’s coat.

“Okay Officer, it’s like this. You see, I’m a bookie. Now, I know that’s against the law, but I had an argument with a woman who owes me money, and it might have gotten a bit out of control, and I might have pushed her a little, and I just wanted to call you guys and set the whole thing straight before she did.”

I put the memo book back into my back pocket and took another look at the blood stains on his uniform. Precisely at the moment when he completed his pitch to me about telling his side to the story which hadn’t been reported yet by the other person involved, Sgt. Wertz and a small platoon of cops turned the corner where I came from and appeared behind me. I’ll never forget Ned’s eyes widening and saying “Whoa” out loud.

Sgt. Wertz took command. After a few moments of questioning, Ned told a tale of asking a woman he knew for the sum of forty dollars which she allegedly owed him for betting on a ball game. Ned was enlightened enough to understand that cops tend to make sort of a frowny face when it comes to illegal gambling; but, as an otherwise law abiding citizen, he enlisted the aid of the police to assist with this somewhat thorny issue involving him and one of his betting clients.

“Where is this woman now?” Sgt. Wertz asked. Ned took a few steps westward and pointed to one of the corner buildings on the opposite side of the development. She allowed Ned to lead the way as we all escorted this young entrepreneur who suddenly became quiet. We learned what floor the woman lived on and what apartment she was in and Sgt. Wertz asked me and two other cops in my squad to accompany her to the apartment. She ordered the rest of the squad to wait in the lobby, all sixteen of them, and keep and eye on Ned.

The woman’s apartment was on the sixth floor at the end of the hallway. We knocked, and knocked again, and waited. As we were about to leave, someone’s eye appeared in the peephole. The door opened abruptly. There was a woman living there as Ned informed us, and she looked to be about one hundred years old if she was a day.

“How did you know that I needed you?” she asked. Sgt. Wertz looked at me. I shrugged.

“Do you need the police for any reason?” Sgt. Wertz asked. Cops always ask questions we know the answer to. It’s a method to catch people in a lie, though in this case Wertz was asking out of habit.

“Why yes, Officer. I don’t have a phone, and I couldn’t call.”

“Do you know a tall man wearing a white jacket and a hat?”

“Yes, yes. You have him? He’s the one. He did it to us.” Then the old woman turned around and shouted, as only an extremely elderly person can “Henry! It’s the police!” Henry turned out to be her husband who was older than his wife. No kidding, the woman was ninety three and the husband was ninety four. They had a very different story to tell than Ned did.

For about three or four days, Ned, who worked in the meat packing plant nearby as I deduced from his attire, confronted the woman and her husband while he took his lunch break and they were sitting in the bench in front of their apartment building. Each day, he’d ask them for money, and they’d tell him to get lost. Only, Ned didn’t get lost; and on that day, he followed them into the lobby of their building as they tried to escape his persistent and increasingly menacing presence.

The woman and her husband shuffled onto the elevator together and watched as the door closed on Ned’s face. That didn’t stop clever Ned as he ran up the stairs and met them as they came off the elevator. She screamed and fought as Ned tried to rip her pocketbook off her shoulder. Her husband pushed and shoved at him too and Ned knocked her over and dragged her down the hallway by the pocketbook strap. When he was able to yank the pocketbook free, the husband started beating Ned about the head and shoulders with his cane. Ned wisely dropped the bag and ran fled, unable to subdue a couple in their nineties. The first thing he did was to locate a payphone and call the police to get his side of the story in first before they did. That’s where we came in.

Sgt. Wertz heard enough and contacted the other officers guarding Ned in the lobby. “Put him in handcuffs” was all she said. The cop who answered said “10-4” but left the radio keyed long enough for us to overhear Ned in the background saying “Hey wait, I called the police, I called the police.”

I rode in the back seat of the patrol car with Ned, as he writhed in discomfort with his hands cuffed behind his back. The cop driving the RMP (that’s NYPD cop terminology for a police car: Radio Motor Patrol) ignored Ned as he ranted and complained to me, the senior officer behind the wheel, and to anyone who drove past us oblivious to his plight.

“You can’t lock me up, I’m the one who called the police.” He kept repeating.

“That’s right, you called the police, and we thank you.” I said.

“No Officer, I called you guys, so you can’t lock me up.”

“What? No way, you don’t think…” The other officer and I laughed out loud. It was clear that Ned truly believed that if a person called the police first, he was immune from being arrested no matter what he was accused of. Though Ned was the first person I encountered in my police career who acted under this misapprehension, I met many more folks like him during the course of my career who believed that they would be absolved of their crimes if they called nine-one-one before the other guy did.

“Hey hey, Ned, knock it off, you’re way too loud.” The other officer said. He stopped the car and chirped the siren at a garbage truck which was blocking the side street we were on.

“No, no. I’m not supposed to get arrested, this is wrong.” He griped. I couldn’t believe it. I never met anyone so dim-witted.

“What’s wrong is that you robbed somebody and called the police on yourself.” he turned around and looked Ned in the eye. “You have the right to remain silent…use it.”

Ned was a dumb guy, but he knew useful legal advice when he heard it. Not a word came out of his mouth and he drove with us the rest of the way to the precinct with his chin in his chest. Poor Ned, maybe he would have been a better bookie than a robber; but I’m willing to bet he never called the police again.


December 4, 2007

A Semi-Gloss Kind of Love

When I met my wife, Nina, a little over twenty years ago, we were dating exclusively. Ever the doting boyfriend, I bought her gifts, flowers, and took her out on expensive dates, even though I still lived at home with my parents at the age of twenty three. I had moved out of state for a while and lived with some friends until circumstances were such that I had to move home again to New York. My mom and dad were happy to take me back in not only because they were wonderful parents who would do anything for their child, but because I became their house boy. Still, Nina looked past all of that and dated me anyway. I'm a lucky guy to still have her, especially after a certain incident which occurred after we’d been dating for about a month when she saw me in my underwear. I should also mention that I was in my parent’s backyard at the time.

On the date in question, it was summertime and I returned home from work to my parent’s house. That particular evening I was supposed to take my Nina out to an expensive restaurant. My dad confronted me as I was about to climb the stairs to my old room with Led Zeppelin posters still hanging on the walls from high school, and told me I wasn’t going anywhere until I painted the outside windows. He meant the ones on the second story on the rear of the house. One didn’t argue with my six-foot tall, muscular, father with the deep voice which scared the hell out of all of my childhood friends. I think I said something like “But, dad, I’m going on a date.” And he replied with something along the lines of “You’ll have a date with the dentist if you don’t get on that ladder right now.” Maybe those weren’t the exact words, but I didn’t squabble over it because I didn’t think Nina would date a homeless guy.

Outside I sized up the daunting task of hoisting my dad’s rickety, aluminum, extension ladder up against the rear of the house. There’s a wooden deck under the window and the ladder had to stand on top of it. After moving an outdoor table and chairs, I grabbed the paint can, brush, and a couple of rags and began to scale, rather cautiously, this flimsy stepladder which I’d propped up against the eaves of our Cape Cod-style home with a rear-facing dormer.

It is at this point I must state that I actually like painting. I just don’t like painting in a spot where I would be safer doing the job while leaning out of a blimp. In that location, I would paint about a foot of space, climb back down the ladder, move the ladder, worm my way back up to the top, careful not to shake the aluminum frame too much, and paint another few inches of window frame. The sun was still bright in the sky at that hour. It was about six o’clock in the evening, Nina was due to arrive at about seven o’clock, and I was hoping to finish at least one window, change out of my cut-off jeans shorts and white tee shirt, shower, and be ready for my hot babe of a girlfriend to pick me up because I didn’t own a car. As I write this, I am still wondering why she stuck it out with me.

Towards the end of the job, I was becoming frustrated. The paint can dripped all over the new deck below which meant I had to get down there quickly and clean up the spots before they dried or my father would add my blood stains on the deck in some sort of morbid, Jackson Pollack, outdoor scene. As I held the open paint can in one hand, the paint brush in two fingers of the other, I began the decent from the ladder to the deck about ten or twelve feet below me. That’s when the ladder slipped. It stopped, caught at the edge of the extended eaves, the shingles of the roof barely holding onto the tiny safety hooks at the top of the ladder frame. I grasped onto the sides of the ladder for my life completely covered in paint.

When the paint can hit the deck, all of the paint inside erupted back up at me in a Warner Brothers cartoon style and splattered me from toe to forehead. My glasses became opaque. Paint found its way up the legs of my shorts and into my Fruit of the Looms. My tee shirt suctioned itself to my torso, cold and wet with Benjamin Moore’s Antique Semi-Gloss White. When I breathed, the ladder slipped a millimeter or two more. If it fell, I would have at least broken my arms and legs. My father would have finished the job and crushed the rest of my skeleton.

After what seemed like a day, but was more like five minutes, I moved in slow motion to the bottom step of the ladder, with paint dripping into my eyes and down my entire body. When I eventually reached the bottom, I picked up the ladder and threw it across the yard with all of my strength. My parents, who were always aware when I had the TV on at a whisper at three o’clock in the morning in my room, somehow were oblivious to my cursing and swearing as I damned the ladder and the paint can to an eternity in Hell.

My shorts and tee shirt were dripping all over and I had to strip them off and then run to the side of the house in my underwear and retrieve the garden hose. I gave the deck a good dousing and the paint came off better than I thought it would. When I was satisfied that no permanent stains were going to result from my near-death experience, I aimed the nozzle at my body and showered myself in high pressure, very cold water. That’s the moment Nina showed up.

What the…” She walked into the backyard attracted by my yelling and cursing at the ladder, only to witness her boyfriend taking a bath with a garden hose to clean off several coats of all-weather paint. If the neighbors heard me hollering and cursing, they covered their ears when she laughed her head off. To this day, I’m still explaining this one; not to Nina, but to my father.

“Next time, anchor the feet with rubber.” He said. Dad wasn’t angry, but it wouldn’t have been in his character to not at least give me instructions on how to avoid killing myself the next time out. He waited until he was in the next room to laugh at me. I did take a lesson from all of this, though. I proposed to Nina so at least I can say “hey, you married me” if she decided to tell anyone the story later on in life, and as soon as I bought my own home, I invested in vinyl siding.

December 2, 2007

Red & White and Christmas Lights

Dear Readers,
I wrestled with whether or not I should post this on my blog. Briefly, at around 1:30 a.m. on December 2, 2007, I published this piece with a few more details than what is present now, and I received a very supportive and very insightful comment from an excellent blogger and new reader to Mr. Grudge. My reluctance to share this story overpowered me and I removed the post and graciously contacted the author of the comment and explained the removal. After further contemplation, I edited out identifying details and I decided to post this story again because I want to make a statement regarding the need for all of us to cherish what we have and to not take our lives or our families for granted. Thank you. -Mr. Grudge

December 2, 2007, 12:57 a.m.: It is late and I am writing this piece because I cannot sleep. I’m sitting across from our Christmas tree and the colorful lights are reflecting off the screen of my laptop, as well as blinking lights from outside our window. In order to try to fall asleep, I thought I would write about my day.

December 1, 2007, 10:30a.m.:
When my father heard me coming in is door of his home this morning with my children, he greeted us with the same giant hug he always did even when my mother was alive. Our plan was to help my father move some furniture and then eat lunch together while unbeknownst to the kiddies, my wife sneaked off to the store to buy the final, “big” present that Santa Claus will be bringing them this year.

My wife and I had a somewhat delicately timed plan to get the thing into our house. After leaving my Dad’s place, I was to take my daughter home first and then drop my son of at his friend’s house for a play date, and my wife was going to bring our daughter for her violin lesson, and I was to then go to the store alone and pick up present, and then high-tail it back to our house to hide the box in our garage. Then, I was to go back and retrieve our son, and we were all going to meet back home and then go out for dinner. Sounds like a plan, right?

At around 2:00 p.m., we said our good byes to my dad and my wife called on my cell phone to confirm, as only a wife would, that I understood everything I had to do, and that I had the receipt, and I wouldn’t be dopey enough to blurt out that I was going to pick up their gift which is supposed to be from Santa Claus to our kids.

I ended the call with her and decided to call her back and tell her that I would drop our son off at his friend’s house first and then take our daughter home so I wouldn’t have to crisscross the neighborhood and I could do everything in one shot. As my wife listened, she stopped me and said “Let me hang up, there’s something going on outside. I’ll call you right back.”

Moments later, my cell phone rang. She told me that it looked like there was some sort of accident in front of our neighbor’s home a few doors down from us. This particular family has children the same age as ours and our eight year old son is friends with their son. The same thought went through both of our minds as we feared that the boy may have been hit by a car. I asked a lot of questions, forgetting who my audience was in the back seat, and my son started to worry aloud. “Is that my friend, daddy? Is Jared alright?” I assured him that Jared wasn’t hurt, although I wasn’t actually sure, and my daughter chimed in with her own questions. I held my hand up to my daughter to quiet her down so I could hear my wife. Ordinarily, she’s pretty calm under pressure, but she sounded anxious.

“Hold on, I can’t hear you,” she said “there’s a helicopter, its right over the house. I have to go. I’ll call you right back."
It’s about thirty minutes to my father’s house from ours. The ride back is the same, of course; but after this series of cell phone calls, it was turning into a ten minute drive and I was cutting people off to get home. All sorts of images were popping into my head about someone’s poor child laying in the street and his or her parents in anguish. I tuned the radio to my kid’s favorite station and pretended everything as just fine.

About five minutes later, my cell phone rang again. I could tell that my wife was on her cell phone and not the cordless one in our kitchen. The sirens in the background were a dead giveaway that she was outside.

“Try not to react,” she said in the same serious tone one uses to deliver bad news. “Some one was killed...murdered...across the street.”

The details were sketchy, but about eight houses down the block, a person, (I am not going to reveal names or my relationship to this family, and I am deliberately keeping out certain details) was dead, murdered apparently by an intruder. I was even queasier than when I believed one of the neighbor’s kid’s was hit by a car.

“Don’t come up our block,” she said “The whole street is blocked off. They’re still looking for whoever did it.”

In record time, I made it home, even after having to take a lengthier route though the crowded mall. In a bizarre scene in our quiet town, police were everywhere, swarming our yards, stringing up crime scene tape within just a few feet from our home, and several officers had police dogs which were sniffing the immediate area around the residence where the murder took place. All of my years of police experience meant nothing. This is my block, and they were folks I knew. Nothing can harden me to the fear of a killer stalking around my house evading the police.

December 2, 2007 1:31 a.m. update:
Around eight o’clock at night I called my father and told him what happened and he was shocked and frightened for us. I told him not to worry because there were an army of cops on the street and it was unlikely that anything would happen to us. My father said he’d pray for the victim; but, what surprised me was that he said he would even pray for the killer as he somehow has this evil within him, and that it is only right to help him with our faith. I am getting ready to turn off the Christmas tree lights now; but the red and white lights of the police car at the end of my driveway will flash all night outside.

Author's note: I am not in the habit of writing journal style posts like this of my every day life. Writing, as I've discussed often in this space offers a sense of closure, or therapy if you will, at times when one is in grief or turmoil. I did my best to leave out the pertinent details such as names and the particulars of the crime. There will be no further updates to this story. Thank you all for reading.

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November 29, 2007

New Design, New Domain Name, New Problems

Hi Readers,
I want to thank all of you for your positive comments regarding my new template. However, I am not happy with it for a number of reasons, but the main one is that it does not load properly into any browser. More accurately, it just does not always load on the first try. I've been experimenting with this theme and I have to hit the refresh button way too many times. I have no choice but to stick with this template until I can move over to something else. I appreciate your patience.

On a brighter note, I registered the domain name As the Internet is the world's largest network, it may take time for this new domain name to propagate throughout all of the root DNS servers and various search engines. In the meantime, Blogger still resolves to It may take a while to iron out these wrinkles too. I had to re-submit my blog for review at BlogCatalog and I will be offline there for a short time. Also, I have to update my URL on a few more places on the Internet.

I want to thank all of you for taking the time to visit here and read my posts. I value all of the wonderful bloggers, writers, creators of art, and purveyors of information who have come here to see what I have to offer. This is a tiny bump in the road, but I look forward to a future of continued friendship with my readers. Thank you.

November 27, 2007

First Dance, Final Goodbye

A lot goes into choosing a wedding song. For many couples, they know right away what to play for their first dance, for others they don’t make a big deal of it, and for my wife and I, we chose something we thought would be special. We both knew the song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack and thought it was ideal for us. We imagined ourselves at our reception, embracing on the dance floor and gently swaying as the band played our song. Just talking about it made my then fiancé teary eyed with anticipation

During our long engagement of almost two years, my bride-to-be kept a loose leaf binder full of all the details, orders, plans, and receipts and the like for our giant, New York wedding. There were to be almost two hundred guests, a big band, bridesmaids and ushers, and everything you’d expect for such a festivity. However, we didn’t know that someone very close to us would not be there for our nuptials.

My fiancé’s Mom and Dad were invited over to my parent’s home for dinner so they could finally meet. My folks were much older, but my father and my fiancé’s Dad bonded right away. They shared blue collar values and had similar childhoods as they each grew up in New York City, and they were both in the military. My father told me later after they went home that he noticed something wasn’t right when talking my future father in law.

“Here’s a man who worked hard his entire life, and he told me he just didn’t want to go to work in the morning.” he said.

“Yeah, but Dad, you say the same thing.” I told him.

He shook his head and looked away from me. “No, this is different. He kept holding his stomach.” Then he got up and went into the kitchen. To tell you the truth, I never gave his comments much thought.

Days later, my fiancé called me from work.

“My dad has a doctor’s appointment.” She was worried, I could tell. Her voice lacked that certain confidence she always had. Sure, she had the right to be anxious when it came to her father and his health. But, she works in the medical field. Her job is to diagnose people with diseases; and her specialty is cancer.

I’ll never forget the day her father returned from the last battery of tests to diagnose his problem. For months, he’d been unable to eat or sleep, and he had a feeling of extreme “discomfort,” as he described it” My fiancé did her best to keep from bawling out loud when learning of his prognosis. Yet, it was difficult to hold back.

He had a very curable form of Lymphoma; but he went without symptoms for so long, it was too late to do anything. Because of his relative youth, he was only fifty two years old, they tried chemotherapy, but to no avail. Hope and constant care turned to grief and worry. Soon enough, we kept a vigil at his bedside. In September he lay dying, and we were to marry the next July. I asked my fiancé if we should marry in his hospital room and just have the reception which was already booked and paid for when the time came. She cried and hugged me and said she’s would run the idea past her Mom. The answer came the next day; and as only a father could put it “My daughter will have her day, and I will be there.”

On our last day on Earth, we all want something special to happen. Maybe we want to see angels in our final moments. Or, some look for loved ones who passed away earlier. My father in law quietly fell asleep with his family looking on. My fiancé hurried into the busy hallway just outside his door in tears. She held on to me and sobbed. It was at that moment I heard music.

“Do you hear that?” I asked.
She looked up, as the source of the song playing came from loudspeakers in the ceiling over our heads.
“Oh no,” she said. “Daddy, oh daddy…” Again, she fell into my arms and cried hard. I stood with my bride to be and listened to the last piece of music I never imagined would be playing at that moment; and that was “The First Time Ever I saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack, our wedding song.

We eventually chose a different song for our wedding day as neither of us could bear to listen to a tune which played at the exact moment my bride’s father passed away. After all of that, I like to believe something special did happen for my father in law at the moment of is death. As he arose from his body to his final place of rest, he looked down and saw his daughter embraced in the arms of the man she would marry, swaying back and forth to their wedding song.

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Pardon Our Appearance! Mr. Grudge Is Having A Makeover

Pardon Our Appearance! Mr. Grudge Is Having A Makeover. I am adding space with a third column and should be up and running by the end of the day. Thanks for your patience.

November 26, 2007

An Amazing Blogger

Dear Readers,
Recently J.D., the author of the creative, as well as exceptional blog "The Uneasy Supplicant" gave me the "You're An Amazing Blogger" award. It is my turn now, and my privilege to hand this award over to a truly amazing blogger, Kristyn, who authors three blogs (Kristyn Writes, Ya Don't Say, Ya Don't Say at Vox) who is a wonderful and prolific writer. I have a difficult time as it is maintaining one blog, I couldn't imagine authoring three of them. She seems to do this with ease.

Kristyn was one of the first people to stop by Mr. Grudge on a regular basis and offer very insightful and valuable comments on my posts. Kristyn doesn't just drop in and write "great post," or "nice blog;" she adds to the conversation, and always has an interesting fact to go along with it. Her blogs reflect that sort of writing. She is grateful to her readers and writes from the heart. So, without anymore rambling, I humbly present Kristyn with the "You're An Amazing Blogger" award! Step up Kristyn, and take a bow.

November 23, 2007

No Dreamers Allowed

Three days ago I called a buddy of mine I hadn’t spoken to in a while to wish him a happy Thanksgiving. Though we don’t get to talk or visit each other often anymore, our friendship is such that we can pick up the phone anytime and pick up where we left off. I’ve known him for twenty six years, and we’ve experienced a lot together, and I’ve watched his two sons grown from mere babies to young men in their twenties.

During our conversation, we ended up discussing dreams. He told me that his oldest son’s girlfriend bought a book on dream interpretation and has taken to asking everyone, including him, about their dreams to analyze them. To know my friend Nat, you have to understand how he is and what he looks like. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, is in his early fifties (he’s ten years older than me), is very large with a close cropped beard. He looks like someone the director of a movie would order up from central casting to play a mafia hit man. Ask him his dreams? His son’s girlfriend is "lucky she’s good looking", he told me jokingly.

The subject of dreams hit a nerve with me. Nat fully knows after over a quarter of a century of friendship that I’d rather visit a dentist than hear someone tell me their dreams. He bought up the dream book his son’s girlfriend toted around because of an incident at his house over twenty years ago when me, Nat, my friend Mike, my other friend Mike, and my late friend Wade were seated at the kitchen table in Nat’s house playing cards. Yes, there were three "Mikes" in our group. Another guy, Danny showed up to play, but he came to the game late and to wait for a new hand to be dealt before he could join us. I really didn’t know Danny that well and he seemed like an alright guy, and we let him hang around because he always brought beer with him.

During the hand Danny sat next to me and tried to look at my cards. That annoyed me and I shifted myself to hide my hand. I had a full house and the stakes were pretty high. I’d say there were about two bucks in nickels in the pot (hey, it’s better than playing for matches) and I didn’t want to be disturbed as I felt the need to concentrate. Danny wanted to feel included so he started to talk… a lot. Worse yet, he started to tell us all about a dream he had the night before. Nat, Mike, Mike and Wade all buried their faces in their cards and Danny turned himself and talked directly to me, as if I gave a damn what he dreamt about. I was playing poker and I needed to place a bet and Danny was becoming annoying. Normally, I’d let it slide, but he was killing my concentration and I was becoming frustrated. After clearing my throat a couple of times (ahem) Danny didn’t get the hint. Right around the point where he was telling me about the creepy house with the crooked steps and the weird lights inside, I snapped.

“Hey look Danny,” I said, dropping my cards on the table. Nat, Mike, Mike and Wade chuckled as they knew what was coming. I didn’t want to be rude, but he couldn’t keep quiet; and besides, he bought Meister Brau. That’s the kind of beer you’d buy at a dog fight.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t listen to you tell me about your dream, okay?" I said. "I don’t care what’s it’s about, I don’t care if I’m in it, and I don’t care if you have a vision of me getting killed by a falling safe and you want to warn me. I just don’t care. Dreams don’t mean anything.”

Surprised at how harsh I sounded, I smiled a bit and smacked him on the shoulder in a playful kind of way.

“But, I think this dream does mean something. My Grandfather was in it and he died five years ago.”

“Tell me later.” I said.
“But, I think you’d appreciate this Mike, you know about like, psychology.”
“Hey Dan, what I know is that we’re trying to play cards. I need to concentrate. I don’t know anything about psychology, and I can’t stand to listen to other people tell me their dreams, okay? The only time I will listen to anyone tell me about their dreams is if her name is Heather Locklear and she dreams that we're in a hot tub together, and we're both naked."

To this day, Nat still laughs about that because his wife, Angie walked into the kitchen at the exact second I said “we’re both naked.” It was a bit awkward explaining to her what I was talking about.

My thoughts on dreams stood for decades, including all the way up to that phone call and in spite of my slight awkwardness in front of my friend’s wife. That was until the other morning after I woke up my eight year old son to get him ready for school. He came downstairs for breakfast after getting dressed looking a bit glum. I was on the couch with a cup of coffee and the newspaper and I called him over. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that he had a bad dream and it was bothering him. My typical response to an adult would have been to immediately hold up my hand and warn them that they were entering hostile territory. Dreams aren’t welcome here.

I sat up listened to him talk. He told me that he had a dream about Grandma and it was really sad. My son has had a tough time dealing with the loss of my mother and there have been more than a few times where I had to cuddle him in my arms as he cried to sleep. That morning, after hearing him tell me he had a bad dream about my mother, I pulled him close to my side.

“I dreamed that Grandma was dying, and all of the doctors went away, and I was alone with her. There were all these machines and I didn’t know how to use them and I told grandma not to die, but she did.”

This little man of mine had so much love for his grandma he dreamed of wanting to save her. He leaned on me and cried muffled sobs as he pressed his face into my side. I held him and stroked his hair and kissed the top of his head. My boy, my son, he was breaking my heart.

I thought back to my phone call with Nat, his son’s girlfriend and her book of dreams, and Danny asking me what his dream about is dead grandfather meant. I was rude and immature back then. With my young boy’s tears falling on my shirt next to my own, I told him that his grandma loved him so much; and that she was in his dreams because he missed her. It was okay for him to dream about her, I told him.

We sat for a while before I carried him to the kitchen for breakfast. If I had to do it all over again, I still might not have listened to Danny. I was a young man who wasn’t very touchy-feely and didn’t want to get emotional during a card game. But, over two decades later, Danny managed to teach me a lesson although he wasn’t around to watch me learn it. Dreams do mean something. They mean something to the person who experienced them. Still, I’ll only listen if you’re a child of mine who wants to tell me about the scary house with the creepy lights or if a safe is going to fall out of a building on my head.

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November 21, 2007

Honored & Thankful

Dear Readers,
To say that the following announcement is an honor is an understatement. Those who know me personally are aware that I have been writing since I was in elementary school. I can remember the first story I ever wrote in vivid detail, including where I was when I put pencil to paper, who was with me at the time, and what the weather was like outside. Writing is more than my past time; it is my passion. With that said, within the past twenty four hours, two very special and extremely talented writers have honored me with the above pictured awards.

J.D., the author of the creative, as well as exceptional blog "The Uneasy Supplicant" has given me the "You're An Amazing Blogger" award. Let me say that J.D.'s blog is the place I go to when I want to read something that is written beautifully. His poetry is enigmatic, yet spiritual, his fiction is full of drama and emotion, and he is a fabulous photographer. For J.D. to find me worthy of any award, and for him to read my blog on a regular basis is humbling to me. I thank you J.D. for this award. Because you're one of my readers, I will always strive to maintain high standards and deliver quality writing and not get complacent.

Lisa McGlaun, who is the author of the inspirational and life-affirming blog "LifePrints", has honored me with the above pictured "Shibumi" award. Shibumi - The Japanese concept of effortless perfection, a state of mind in harmony and awareness, a noble cause. In her post announcing her own acceptance of this award, Lisa names me as one of "a few bloggers who I think are lights in the darkness." I cannot imagine how it is that my humble works here have had a positive influence on Lisa, a person whom I consider to be such an influential writer. LifePrints is a blog I visit when I need to find hope in the world. She has the uncanny ability to find inspiration in even the darkest tragedy, and find heroes in a world of villains. To me, Lisa is a journalist, a story teller, and a teacher rolled into one; and her blog, LifePrints represents that to me. I am deeply flattered that you gave me this award, Lisa. Thank you.

Both Lisa and J.D. have become two important bloggers in my life, and I only hope my relationships with them continues to grow. For this Thanksgiving, I have two more reasons to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers, and, as always, "thanks for stopping by".


Mr. Grudge

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November 18, 2007

Kindness Has A Ring To It

Lisa McGlaun, who is the author of the inspirational blog,"LifePrints" has inspired me to write this post. After reading her article "New York Wedding Ring -Do It Yourself", I recalled what a bittersweet experience it was buying my wife her engagement ring so many years ago. In this week of Thanksgiving, I have a special story to tell. Ever since this happened to me, I've been inspired to be a better person.

In July of 1989 I was a raw recruit in the New York City Police Academy. It was then that I decided to propose to my girlfriend. New officers in the police department do not make a lot of money, especially back in the late 1980’s, so finding a decent engagement ring proved to be a bit of a challenge. The meager savings I had up to then went to paying upwards of $250 a month in train fare to commute back and forth every day from Long Island to Manhattan where the academy is located. By chance, I had a conversation with my brother in law Mark’s step-father at my sister’s home. We were seated at the dining room table for dessert.

“So, you are getting engaged?” he asked in a heavy, Polish accent. Ziggy was in his early seventies, and in ill health. I’d known him for many years up to that point, and he was a gentle, affectionate man who enjoyed family. My parents and my siblings all loved Ziggy and we were are close to Mark’s family, sharing our Catholic and Jewish heritages from one holiday season to the next.
“Yes, I’m excited. I’m shopping for a ring.” I said.
“Where did you go? You didn’t go to the mall, did you?” I noticed a look of alarm on his face.
“Uh, I was going to?” I said, almost as a question. Also, I think I gulped.
“No, no, Michael. You go see my friend. He’ll show you what to do, how to buy a diamond. Don’t even buy from him if you don’t want to. He’ll just make sure you don’t get taken advantage of.” He took a piece of paper and produced a pen from his shirt pocket.

In moments, I had a lead for a jeweler in Flushing, Queens who was described by Ziggy as “a man I play cards with every Tuesday.” After thanking him, I put the paper in my pocket.

The meeting with the jeweler took place that Saturday. I couldn’t wait to see what my options were, and though I had a modest amount of money to work with, I was still a bit cautious as I didn’t know how much of a favor this was going to be, and I did not want Ziggy to feel beholden to this man on my account.

“So, you know Ziggy? I better treat you right, then.” The man said as soon as I walked in. “Ziggy told me to look for a cop, a strong, young man with a crew cut. You must be Michael.” He shook my hand vigorously and welcomed me into his shop. We spoke for a minute or two about Ziggy and it was apparent that the jeweler had immense respect for him and that they did more than just play cards together. He repeated what Ziggy said about not having to buy from him, and that he just wanted to teach me about buying gems, diamonds in particular.

“You never buy a ring that’s already made. You buy the diamond first, and then have the ring made from the stone.” His voice was authoritative, and I listened to him because Ziggy trusted this man. I was given a lengthy tutorial on choosing the perfect stone, then I was told that I didn’t have to make a decision that day. So, I left his store, grateful for the knowledge I picked up from his lesson and returned to what was left of my brief weekend and another grueling week at the academy.

The next Saturday, I arrived early at the jeweler, cash in hand, to buy a stone. After at least two hours examining diamonds with a loop, and comparing them to the ones I already picked out, I found the perfect, one carat, white diamond, nearly flawless; and then I chose the setting and the smaller diamonds for the setting. The ring, which was made within the week, is gorgeous. To this day, my wife is complimented on the quality of the stone and other jewelers have said that I got “one hell of a deal” on the diamond.

I remember thanking Ziggy profusely and he waved me off as if he did nothing. But I also recall one scene which played out at my sister’s home, shortly before Ziggy passed away. It was Thanksgiving. The conversation was about family and what we should be thankful for, and I mentioned to Ziggy that I was grateful for the help he gave me in finding a reputable jeweler. His intervention was important in making our experience perfect. The ring, flawless and more valuable than what I paid for, is a cornerstone of our marriage in both symbolism and value.

Ziggy listened to me and challenged my assertion that anything he contributed was such a big deal. After a few more protests on his part, I saw him become soft in his composure, resting his arms on the table.

“That is why I tell people that whatever they do they have an effect on somebody. Who would have thought that this small thing, this little phone call I made to a friend would have this lasting effect and would have brought this much happiness? You’re welcome Mike, It was my pleasure.” It was then that he turned to the rest of the family and began to speak.

“I need to tell all of you this, because it is important. I have seen horrors, lost everything. And we all need to learn that just a little kindness…” he paused just to wipe his eyes.

You see, Ziggy survived the Holocaust. His family lived in Poland before WWII and he was a young man forced into hiding in the countryside with his family to escape the Nazis. His younger sister, who was sixteen years old at the time, was taken in by a Catholic family who hid her in their home. The townspeople informed on the family to the local authorities. When Ziggy learned of the betrayal, he watched helplessly from the woods as the family, his sister, and the family’s two year old daughter were executed in front of their home. When he, his parents and his brother were later cornered and arrested after a search by the locals looking to root out the “Jews” who were hiding in the forest, they were all deported to Auschwitz. Immediately, Ziggy was separated from his family and put to work only because he was a baker, and he was used as slave labor in the camps. The rest of his family all were murdered.

At Ziggy’s funeral many years later, a Rabbi told us all of the many acts of kindness and generosity Ziggy performed throughout his life. After immigrating to the United States after the war, he moved to the Bronx and worked for a baker and saved enough money to eventually open his own shop. If, as the Rabbi explained in his eulogy, Ziggy learned of someone who needed glasses and could not afford them, somehow they found the money for glasses through Ziggy. The same was for folks who could not afford heat, food, medicine, and even life saving surgery. He was a man who lived through Hell and still had the faith in mankind to help all those in need. We were told by the Rabbi that in the camps, Ziggy risked his own life to smuggle crusts of bread to the dying for sustenance. In the Bronx, with his own bakery, he continued to provide for those who needed help, giving from his own plate, if you will, to make sure others did not suffer or live in need. The man was a model of kindness which was born not of misery, but in spite of it.

I learned something after Ziggy told us his story that day, and I had my faith in humanity re-affirmed upon hearing the Rabbi offer his tribute to such a wonderful man. During this week of Thanksgiving here in the United States where Ziggy made his home, we all need to take a lesson from an unselfish man; a person who saw his small acts of kindness as inconsequential, but recognized that even a crust of bread can save a life.

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"Be the Blog" Award!

Be The Blog award

When I began to blog, I never imagined that I would meet so many wonderful, creative, and talented bloggers. Mike French over at "The View From Here" is one of them. Mike has honored me with the above "Be the Blog" award. The award was created by Mark from "Me and My Drum" who stated (these words are from his blog):

"Earlier this year I was tagged with the blogging tip meme in which the tip I offered was “Be the Blog“. That phrase stuck with me because I think that really sums up what a successful blogger does. And what I mean by successful is that they make it their own, stay with it, are interactive with their readers, and just plain have fun.

Since then I’ve been thinking about creating an award of my own, but with so many out there, it’s hard to find a niche that remains untapped for recognition. So I said, “What the heck?”, and decided to shape the phrase into an award called (you guessed it): Be The Blog."

To be considered a blogger who deserves this tribute, I am deeply honored. You can read Mike's Blogs "The View From Here" and "Tales From the Tree" by clicking on the links under "Friends of Mr. Grudge." Remember, that every 15 Diggs brings out a new chaper of Mike's novel "The Dandelion Tree." Break out your shovels and start digging! Thanks again, Mike.

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November 16, 2007

Five Things About Blogging Meme

Hi Readers,

It has been a very good week here at Mr. Grudge. Articles have been piling up for future publication in this space, I broke a personal “visitor” record on Thursday (my readership is increasing, thank you!), I’ve chosen a new, three column design for this space to roll out in the next week or two (Thanksgiving is next week and there’s a lot of preparation for this holiday), and I’ve been tagged twice by two talented, prolific bloggers (see the previous post below). Mike French, owner and proprietor of “The View from Here” tagged me with a meme the other day, right after I was tagged by Eng Foo Tiam over at “Beautiful World.” Mike is a talented writer who is releasing his novel “The Dandelion Tree” on his other blog “Tales from the Tree,” where as Mike puts it “The Digg the Tree: An interactive readership where every 15 Digg votes rolls out another chapter from the book ‘The Dandelion Tree’.” So, get out your shovels, visit “Tales from the Tree” and start Digging.

The meme Mike presented me with is a very good one. There are five questions which I can’t possibly answer as artfully as Mike did with his video on “The View from Here.” However, I am a writer, and I pride myself on being able to “show, and not tell.” Anyway, without any further adieu, here are the five questions of this meme:

1. How long have you been blogging?
I’ve been a blogger for a little over a year. Originally, Mr. Grudge was a baseball blog. I am a huge baseball fan, an unabashed follower of The Bronx Bombers (that’s the New York Yankees, for the un-initiated) and I prefer the American league over the National League. One of my favorite reading topics is the history of baseball, and the business of the sport. I’ve amassed a substantial amount of essentially worthless baseball cards; worthless only to collectors, yet valuable to me. My blog was noticed by the owner of Gotham Baseball Magazine, and on a semi-regular basis, I submitted my posts to their fine publication where they were published online. I grew tired of blogging about baseball and eventually stopped submitting my less than stellar baseball observations to the nice folks at G.B. and closed my blog from June until late September of this year. That month, I began to blog again, but this time about my true passion: writing. What’s funny is that my original baseball blog attracted about two to three readers a week, including the traffic from the baseball magazine’s website. The new Mr. Grudge had more readers in the first week of it’s re-creation than it had in an entire year as its former self. Now, I have more visitors in a day than I had all year. It’s gratifying and marvelous at the same time.

2. What inspired you to start a blog and who are your mentors?
My blogging was inspired by my desire to write about something I am enthusiastic about. My mentor, if you will is my good friend and talented artist Stephen Ingram. Please visit his fine blog and view his painting, drawings, and illustrations. He will be posting more soon. Stephen was the person who originally guided me along the way when I launched Mr. Grudge as a baseball blog. Though he was supportive of my original concept, he told me I should create it as something a little more tailored to my personality. This new blog format reflects me as my alter ego, and allows me to examine my goals as a writer and test my skills in this public format.

3. Are you trying to make money online, or just doing it for fun?
Everyone would like a little extra money. With that said, I am not trying to make money from advertising on this blog. I did have a couple of Google ads here and there but I removed them because I need the space and I can live without the approximately 35 cents I earned from clicks. If I ever do earn anything from this blog, it will be experience. There is always the small hope that I will somehow connect with someone in the literary world who would like to see my lengthier works and perhaps offer me a publishing deal. That is unlikely, of course, but I believe that anything is possible. I do have some plans as far as that is concerned, though (secret stuff). Still, I am going the traditional route of querying agents with letters and sample chapters of my work. So, while I do have fun doing this, I am doing this because I am passionate about my writing, and it would be nice to earn some sort of financial compensation for my efforts, but not from advertising revenue.

4. Tell me 3 things you LOVE about being online.
Well, I never really thought about this because my experiences are still very new, but I’ll give it a shot. I really love the comments I receive from readers. I take my time getting back to folks because I want to treat their comments with respect and return their remarks with more than just a “thanks.” I love the other blogs I’ve discovered while traveling throughout Blog Catalog. There are so many talented folks out there who make me wonder why I bother to write at all when I compare my stuff to theirs. In all truthfulness, I have become a fan of several blogs, and I admire the people who are able to create such fine work. The other thing I love about being online is the knowledge that people are actually reading something I wrote and taking it seriously. Whether I am trying to be funny, or when I publish something serious, or post articles on writing, I feel a sense of pride when I look at my site-meter and see people landing on Mr. Grudge. When the first comments roll in, I get a bit anxious, wondering if this person is going to like what I wrote, or even get it. Overall, my responses have been extremely supportive and positive.

5. Tell me 3 things you STRUGGLE with on-line.
After some thought, I struggle with dealing with some of the online social blogging communities. So far, Blog Catalog has been the absolute best social networking site I belong to and participate in. My interactions with other bloggers there have been rewarding and beneficial for me. Much of my traffic comes from referrals from Blog Catalog. Other blogging sites, especially book marking sites, have a hostile feel to them, and I get the sense that many of the users are cliquish and gang up on newbies. In spite of the allure of drawing more readers, I avoid blogging sites where users feel free to browse around in un-moderated fashion and leave comments with no real contribution of their own other than profane remarks. I also struggle with proposals from entrepreneurs have found my “site” and absolutely love it and want me to offer my readers some “great” product or service they have. I do my best to shield my readers from such blatant hucksterism. Hey, I was a member of the NYPD, and I believe my B.S. detector is much more acute than they average bear. That is why it is insulting to me when I receive e-mails telling me how “cool” my site is and would I be a sport and use valuable web page space putting up links to sell their junk. I also struggle with someone adding me as their “friend” and it is obvious that they never actually visited my blog, but they simply clicked the “add this user as a friend” button and hope that I do the same. Actually, I usually do add them as a friend in the hopes that they do eventually find my blog. It surprises me when I visit their blog and find out it is nothing but a link farm full of banner ads and articles on nothing but how to make money on line. Hey, I am all for people earning cash, I just don’t see how thousands of people can all have the same blog or website telling others how to make money with their blogs and they all have essentially the same advice and advertising. Apparently, the way to make money with a blog is to absolutely cram it with banner ads, Google text boxes, and every other form of advertising including getting paid to review other blogs. I’m not sure who’s making money reviewing Mr. Grudge, but I can save you a lot of time by telling you that I am great. Here’s two bucks, post that.

I want to thank Mike French one more time for tagging me. Whenever I am tagged, I consider it a compliment. Please visit Mike’s blogs and support the terrific work he is doing there. Next up for tagging? Hmmm, I am going to spin around with my eyes closed and choose Kathy Frederick over at “The Junk Drawer.” She runs a link farm crammed with banner advertising, and useful tips on making money...I'm kidding! Kathy is a very funny blogger who recently began a series called “Food That Looks like Stuff” which has me laughing. Hey Kathy, if you’re too busy or you don’t feel like doing this, it’s okay. I would appreciate it, though, if you place a link on your site (Ha Ha, joke) for my paid, subscription newsletter for your readers to be able to buy my branded Mr. Grudge merchandise. Look for the Mr. Grudge bobble head dolls for Christmas. Thanks again, Mike.

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