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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

"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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

November 14, 2007

Tagged: "Double Meme-ing"

Two blogging pals of mine tagged me with me memes this week. Whenever I’m tagged, I consider it a compliment, and I take a bit of time to respond so I can do the meme justice. First, Eng Foo Tiam over at Beautiful World tagged me with a “Double Meme” asking “What are your three things to die for, and what are your top musical picks?” Mike French over at The View from Here tagged me with “All About Me.” If you visit’s Mike’s blog, you will see that he posted a really cool video response to the meme. Today, I will post my response to footiam’s (as he calls himself in the blogging world) meme. Then, later in the week I will post Mike French’s meme.

The “Double Meme” is: “Three things to die for” and “My Top Musical Picks.”

So, what are three things Mr. Grudge would die for? First and foremost, I’d die for family. My wife and two children come before anything else, then my father, siblings, and down the line to friends. I have several acquaintances who I see every day, those at work, or folks I see in the community where I live who I wouldn’t die for; yet, I might take a few bruises or scrapes for if they were in trouble. However, as far as the guy behind the counter at the 7-11 I chat with every morning about sports, you’re on your own, buddy.

The next thing I would die for is an ideal. I’m not exactly sure which ideal it is I would hold so dearly that I’d sacrifice my life to defend it, but it sounds very noble to announce that one would die for his principles and beliefs. So, let’s just say that conceptually, for the sake of fulfilling this meme, I’d die for my ideals. In real life, if the firing squad is lined up for all of the dissidents, I’ll most likely scale over the back fence with a sack full of cash, phony identity papers, and my “good” baseball cards.

The last thing I’d die for is to be published by a reputable, honest, traditional publisher. Yes, my dream, and the focus of this blog, is for folks everywhere to be able to read the wonderful, amazing, and truly great things I write and become enamored with me, a future, famous author. “But why, Mr. Grudge, would you die for that? Wouldn’t you want to stick around and enjoy the fruits of your fame and fortune after finally realizing your dream?” My answer? Of course I would. But, with my luck, the day I sign a lucrative contract for a multi-book deal with a top publishing house, I’ll step off a curb and in front of a moving bus. So, I could very easily die for a publishing contract so my wife and kids would benefit from my life insurance, the money from the book sale, the subsequent settlement with the bus company for my wrongful death, and years of royalties as a result of my novel being on the New York Times Best Seller List for a record number of years. It’s all about my family, you know. I’d die to make a better life for my wife, my daughter, my son, and my wife’s current boyfriend. Well, maybe not her boyfriend. He can keep his job at 7-11.

Now, my top musical picks? I can’t actually point to my top musical picks per se, but I can tell you about my musical tastes. This is a fun tag as very few folks can say that they don’t like music. In fact, I am going to write a post next week on how music helps shape ones memories and keeps one connected to past events. Who doesn’t remember what song was playing when you had your first kiss, or when you first made love, or when you maybe when someone close to you died. Perhaps the song was not playing at that moment, but certainly, you had a strong, emotional reaction to whatever was playing on the radio that day, depending on your mood or the power of your experience. You’ve heard folks say things like “Oh, this song reminds me of junior high school when me and my buddies went to the movies and saw Godzilla.” You get the idea.

The reason I bring this up is because I have two musical genres I enjoy. In my high school days, I was into the music which was prevalent among my peers. We were into Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and David Bowie (I graduated high school in 1981). I’ll always have a connection to these bands because whenever I hear “Stairway to Heaven” I feel young again. I’ll always be passionate about my hard rock/art rock/ southern rock tastes.

Then, there’s the “fusion jazz” Mr. Grudge who surprises everyone. Nobody believes that I love jazz. The older fusion works of bands like The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever and Weather Report led the way to a harder, more modern jazz, with Weather Report leading the way with the heavy use of synthesizers in their long, extended jams.

Though these bands have long since disbanded, many of their band members have gone on to have solo careers, with Al DiMeola, Jaco Pastorius, Billy Cobham, John McLaughlin, and Chick Corea going on their own to create great music. There’s nothing like cruising the Northern State Parkway with the moon roof open in my Earth un-friendly, extended Chevy Trailblazer with “Gibraltar” by Weather report blasting on my stereo. The world is a great place then.

Thanks footiam. I appreciate being tagged. Like I said, I am going to write Mike French’s tag next. I suppose now I must pass along the favor and tag someone else. I believe I’d like to know more about a certain guy named Andrew over at Andrew Ruth the blog. So, I’m tagging you, Andrew, if you’d like to participate. Andrew’s a terrific, vibrant writer who does not nearly get the amount of exposure he deserves. Check out his blog, as well as footiam’s and Mike French’s blogs. These guys are terrific writers, good blogging pals, and they all have my respect and gratitude for their kinship with this blog.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

November 13, 2007

November 13, 2007 Update on "It's a Movie!"

Recently I posted about a young director and her cinematographer who both are making a short story I wrote over twenty years ago into a movie. This will be a lengthy process expected to take several months and I didn't expect to get an update in so soon. However, I am happy to report that I met with the writer/director today, and she said she was well on her way into writing the first draft of the script. Wow, this is actually happening!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

November 12, 2007

My Characters And Me

It's that instant when you get a great idea for a story; you're in the shower, in a meeting at work, or waiting for someone to quit talking to you so you can nod and walk away. Yes, we writers are always writing, even when we're not in front of our computers. For me, when that moment of inspiration hits, and I'm able to ditch my responsibilities and scurry off to find a pen and a scrap of paper to jot my ideas on, my characters begin to come to life.

In my head, their personalities are formed first. I'll imagine someone with the fortitude to rescue an entire nation, or merely reach for a ball in a sewer, or whatever the plot calls for. I’ll then see that person's human shape assemble itself in that section of the brain reserved for a writer's special talents. For me, it's the character’s behavior and traits which dictate their physical characteristics.

In my latest story, my protagonist, Roger, is a former police officer in the process of grieving. He's not very active because he finds it difficult to get out of bed everyday because he does not have a whole lot to live for. He does not work and lives off his police pension. He becomes overweight because of his sedentary lifestyle and the fact that he does not take care of himself. Later, he takes a job as his life and spirits improve. After a few months he begins to lose weight and gain some muscle tone. Roger's emotions dictate his physical appearance in this example. As the writer, I had to be true to Roger and describe him as was necessary based on his emotional state of being; heavy at first, but then slim and in shape, only because he changed as a person and became active again.

That is just one example of how my characters form. There are, however, shortcuts to my characterizations. In my first novel, Sergeant Fukes is based on a sergeant I had in the police department, physically, and psychologically only by half. His personality is an amalgam of both my squad sergeant’s and another sergeant I knew at one time in my career. The two were dissimilar in looks and persona, and I thought is would be ideal to combine their mannerisms into one person because they both would have handled certain situations in the story very differently. I thought their dissimilar habits would make for an interesting character. One sergeant was a brown nose who never would question a superior, and the other was a stickler for department regulations which very often were obscure and rarely used. The man I created was a rigid, rule worshipping nebbish who also could not say no to anyone who outranked him or was senior to him. This created friction as there were policies to be obeyed, but he did not have the fortitude to enforce them with anyone who wasn’t below him in rank. As a result, he was ineffective as a supervisor.

Finally, instead of shaping characters from my imagination, or basing them on other people, more than once I based a protagonist on myself. Writing is indeed therapy, and using the space of entire novel to reconcile my religious faith or my misspent youth does have a healing effect. Also, I hope it may be enticing material for someone to read. Another benefit of using me as inspiration for a character is that it is less likely that someone would think I wrote about them.

These are just a few examples of how I create characters. Once my central character is born, he needs family, friends, co-workers, etc, and they seem to spring up around him and fill in the spaces in the story neatly along the way through each chapter as I write them. Notice how I said “they spring up around him.” That’s because I have yet to write a story completely around a woman. Maybe it’s because I’m still writing about myself, or maybe it’s because the only story I want to tell about a woman will be based entirely on someone I’m very close to and I don’t think I want her to read it yet. It’ll be tough to keep that manuscript from her because my wife reads every one of my stories. Oh great, she’s going to read this post too.

Add to Technorati Favorites

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

November 8, 2007

Special Announcement: It's A Movie!

I have a special announcement to make which has been in the making for a few months now. One of my short stories is going to be made into an independent, short film. The filmmaker, a young woman who graduated from a respected college for film, read two of my short stories and selected one for her next independent project. Her cinematographer, a young man who won an award for a short film of his own production, will work with her on the filming of the story, as well as in post-production.

The final run time for the film version of my short story “Hello Neighbor” will run approximately 7-10 minutes and most likely be entered into various independent film festivals. This is not a million dollar production, but professional actors and actresses will be used as well as state of the art studios and equipment. I don’t expect this project to be completed any time soon, as the young writer/director/filmmaker just picked up my draft of the story yesterday. She has to create a script, cast the actors and actresses, scout a location for the exteriors, budget the film, story board, etc, etc, etc. In addition, I’ve noticed that the world of filmmaking comes with many variables that us lay people aren’t privy to. When I saw both her and her cinematographer yesterday, their cell phones were ringing and they were busy giving instructions to others who were assisting them in another production they currently have underway. Still, she was excited about making this particular film because as she put it: “I absolutely love this story.” Hopefully, if this works out, she will absolutely love some of my lengthier works.

This is very exciting for me, and I am extremely flattered by this. I’ve been to screenings of films made by these two talented individuals and have been impressed by the professional quality of their filmmaking as well as their writing. They are up and coming stars in their field and their current workload proves this. This is something which I hope will happen to every writer out there who pours their heart and soul into their work. I am flattered beyond words.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

November 6, 2007

When Life Turns To Stone

There’s a little something in my writing which the reader has no way of picking up on. In my novels, I honor my best friend who died when he was only twenty one years old way back in 1985. The Wade Thompson I knew would have scoffed at anyone doing something so trite; but, the way I see it, he may have changed his mind if he was alive today.

In my first novel, I have a character with the initials W.T. In my second novel, the protagonist buries a suitcase full of stolen cash in three feet of snow at a cemetery, in front of the headstone of Robert Wade Thompson. In my last novel one of the characters based solely on his personality. My visits to him in my stories are my homage to his life, and they don’t necessarily reflect my actual visits to his grave.

Frozen in my mind as an athletic, young, long haired man with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his lips, the Wade Thompson I knew remained someone I could visit even after death. He listened quietly, I imagined, as I told him about my life when I stopped by the cemetery. He’s buried just miles outside our hometown in a small, quiet, private graveyard next to his mother. She had passed away a few years after he did. Over the years, I’d make a side trip to see him while on the way to my parent’s home.

Last August when my mother was dying, I went there once more to pay my respects before I headed to see my mom for maybe the last time before she passed away. As I always did, I kept him up to date with the events in my life and I told him about what was happening to my mother. This visit was different, though. Suddenly, when for all these years I’d been able to have my gratifying little graveside chats with my buddy, it lost its meaning.

I stooped over his headstone, looking at the inscribed words “Loving Son, Brother, and Friend” and was no longer able to attribute them to Wade. My head spun. My mom was going to be buried soon, and we made her funeral arrangements the day before. I didn’t want her to go, yet I knew it as inevitable. Still, there I was, asking my deceased friend for help with my grief. It was time I came to terms with the fact that he was dead.

Wade was twenty one years old when he died suddenly from complications due to Juvenile Diabetes. We knew he was getting sicker, yet that didn’t stop the two of us from wanting to go to school for computer science together. Also, it didn’t hold up our plans to share an apartment and split the rent as two pals would. After his death, the reflection of his friendship stayed with me all the way through my acceptance to the New York City Police Academy, my marriage to my wife, the births of my two children, and up until the moment when my mom faced her own mortality. Then, in one moment of clarity, he was gone.

This was not his fault. I was the one who glorified him, both in my writing, and in the way I kept him alive by seeking him out for “chats” at the graveyard. My other friends over the years all learned about him, saw his photos and tried to understand as I explained how much of an influence he had on my existence. There was always the question in my mind when I faced a problem “What would Wade have done?” That day, a little over a year ago on that tiny plot of grass, I couldn’t find my friend anymore. There was just a gray, carved stone. Dirt filled the crevices of the chiseled letters which formed his name. I don’t know how it happened, but I believe he wanted to go on. There had to be a point where I needed to grow up and face my problems without relying on a friend who died twenty one years earlier.

Wade never went to college, never got married, did not have children, never had a career, and he died before his mother did. Maybe he couldn’t be there for me. Perhaps he was never around the way I belived he was and I couldn’t, or wouldn’t realize it. I walked away from his headstone that day and went to my parent’s house, around the corner from where my friend grew up, and watched my mother leave us the next afternoon. It’s okay, they are both gone now, and we are all going to meet the same fate. I’ll continue to hide secrets about my buddy in the paragraphs of my novels and short stories. He’d like that, if he was still alive.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

November 2, 2007

"I'm Not From Lawn-Guy-Land"

There's a list going around the internet which has been compiled by, added to, and passed around by Long Islanders. This list is called (you guessed it) "You Know You're From Long Island When..." One of my favorite items on that list is "You never realize you have an accent until you leave." This has happened to me, numerous times.

Yes, we do speak funny, and it is typically arrogant of us New Yawkers to think we speak like Harvard law professors. In Florida a few years ago, I took my family to Disney World. At Typhoon Lagoon, I was sitting poolside when my then three year old son began to play with the sand. Actually, he was tossing handfulls of it into the air. I told him to knock it off, and the burly man behind me said something that sounded like "Arf nargle eeg offay ay nad." Huh?

Not wanting to be rude, I smiled in much the same way one does when we don't want to aggitate the man holding the bloody meat cleaver. I ordered my son once more to quit throwing sand in the air or I'd bury him in it (or words to that effect).

The big hairy guy with the marbles in his mouth walked over. He was with his family, a wife, two little ones (boy and girl) who were playing peacefully in the sand with buckets and shovels.

"It's alright, mate. he's just being a lad. It's just sand, ya know." he said. Oh, he's from England, I thought. Whew, I though I had to whisk my family away and call the Mouse Police.
"Yeah, thanks," I said "I still don't want him to get sand all over." I offered. Really, It was none of his business what I said to my son, but it was obvious that this guy wanted to talk. So, we did.

His wife sidled over to him and smiled as he introduced "Aubremary", or whatever the hell he said her name is, to me. I searched the pool frantically for my wife and daughter so I would have an excuse to grab my kid by the waistband of his shorts and say "Gotta go, wifey's calling..." and hurry off into the artificial surf with my boy flailing helplessy in my grip. But no, my wife only comes around when I'm relaxing and she has something for me to do.

They talked and gushed about how friendly and lovely Americans are, and that everywhere they went, people are just so friendly and want to talk and talk and talk. Ouch. I continued to grin like an idiot as I realized that they didn't visit New York, or more specifically, Long Island, where I was born, raised, and continue to be miserable.

Friendly people? There's a deli I go to every morning for coffee and a newspaper before I go to work. I've been a regular customer there for about fifteen years and I don't think I've exchanged more then three words with anyone behind the counter, and I'm okay with that. I show you what I want, you get it for me, take my money, and then I leave. End of transaction. I've noticed that outside of the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut region, people change. There's something pathological about all of these nice folks who want to know how you're doing, and tell you to have a nice day. In a way, I was glad that this happy English family landed in "nice country." If they came to Long Island, I'd be appalled.

Anyway, I did my best to look interested and tried hard to decipher their language. They had accents, heavy ones. These were hard working commoners from Manchester who saved up all of their pounds and pence to visit Disney World where families toss around fifty dollar bills with reckless abandon and wind up with nothing to show for it. That morning, they found themsleves in Typhoon Lagoon, talking to me.

At one point, after they told me everything about themsleves, their family, the dream vacation they were on, and how happy they were to be in the United States, they asked about me. They wanted to know if this was our first trip to Disney.
"Well, no. My wife and I came here a long time ago after we were first married. We didn't have kids then."
"Did you fly down, mate?"

"Uh, no. We drove. I have a thing against flying." I don't really, we just thought we'd save money. We're never doing that again.

"How long did it take you to drive down?" Did he say "drive down"? I thought, how would he know where I came from?

"Well, I live on Long Island..." I started to say.

"Long Island?" The wife said. She smiled and looked over at her husband as if she'd won a bet. He had a knowing grin on his face too. "Oh yes, Long Island." he said. "We can tell."
It didn't matter what he told me after that. I felt duped, like they were leading me on in an effort to fulfill their own curiosity.

"That bloke is from New York, don't you think Aubremary?"
"Oh no, Simon, he sounds like he must be from Long Island. Let's talk to him and find out."

There you have it. Even folks who hail from jolly old England have us Long Islanders pegged. Oh, and another thing. We don't say Lawn-Guy-Land. Only people who are trying to make fun of Long Islanders say Lawn-Guy-Land. Thanks for reading. I have to go now and drive my caw to the mawl and get some cawfee. Afta dat, I have ta take da famlee to that restront faw dinnuh.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button