Sunday, July 14, 2024

Shameless Plug (Number Two in a Series)

 At long last, it's done. Three hundred and thirty-four pages of thrills, chills, and pills (lots of pills*)

A Breath of Fresh Air (A Transplant Tale) a novel about one man's desperate wait for a life-saving double-lung transplant, is available for preorder just about anywhere you can get books or e-books. If you live in the Syracuse area and want a genuine illegibly scrawled autographed paperback copy, I know a guy.**

Actual release date is August 26th, which just happens to be the 20th anniversary of my own double-lung transplant.

Price is $19.99 for the paperback and, though I haven't weighed it yet, is guaranteed to cost much less than Beluga caviar.*** Plus, A Breath of Fresh Air (A Transplant Tale) is low-sodium.

If you live in the continental United**** States and would like to have me mail you a copy, we have the technology. Cost is $24.95.

E-book will be available at all the usual places. Just $7.99.

Now that that's out of the way, a word about yesterday. Donald Trump escaped serious injury and we should all be glad for that. One spectator died and two more were gravely injured but still alive (as of this writing), and that is unspeakably sad. The shooter died too, and that is still sad, regardless. If you're a praying sort, pray for all of them.

The division and anger in this country is unprecedented. We are like 320 million scorpions in bottles. We can't go on this way.

However, you can do your part. Love your neighbor, as yourself. Be kind, always.

Just be kind.

*All legal, and you won't believe how many

** I can't read his writing either

*** $1200 an ounce

**** As of this writing

Song of the Day:

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Murder Capital of the World

The small town of Magnolia Bluff, in the hill county of Texas, is the murder capital of the world. Thank goodness it's fictional. 

The Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles is a 27 volume series, set in the aforementioned town, by a group of talented writers known as the Underground Authors. Every book has a murder or two (or more) to solve. From the sounds of things, you can barely leave your house without stepping over a dead body.

A new entry in the series is called Catch a Tiger By the Toe, by Joe Congel. (Full disclosure: I received an advance copy in exchange for an honest review). There are the requisite dead bodies in this one, little ones, and retired NYPD detective Brandon Turner has to team up with the local police force to catch the killer.

Congel weaves a disparate cast of characters. They are almost all three-dimensional and interesting, but  special mention must be made of the friction between Turner and his small-town counterpart, Detective Reece Sovern. The two do not like each other. No, they hate each other, and Congel wrings plenty of laughs out of their interplay. It's a miracle that one of them doesn't kill the other.

The funny parts are nice, and necessary. This is a tension-filled and gripping story with an edge-of-your-seat ending, told very well. If you like mysteries, you will love Catch a Tiger By the Toe. It is available everywhere starting on July 23rd.

This is Congel's fifth novel, and second set in Murderville.(Second Chances, last year). He gets better and more interesting each time, and is another example of how many skilled writers are out there waiting to be discovered.

Song of the Day, which has nothing to do with the above. It's just a cool song:

Monday, July 8, 2024

The Greatest Record Ever Made!

 My friend Carl Cafarelli has just published his second book, The Greatest Record Ever Made (Volume 1).*

The book is based on the premise, he says, that "An infinite number of tracks can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns." When a song you love comes on, for that three or four minutes, no other song matters. You are listening to THE Greatest Record Ever Made, in that moment.

One time, on the way home from Cleveland I listened to Los Lobos' song "Mas Y Mas" eleventy-jillion times in a row.** In that moment, no other song mattered. 

The book is 463 pages of delightful essays about famous songs everyone knows, like "Baby Blue," by Badfinger; novelty songs like the best selling local 45 in Syracuse history, "Transylvania Twist," by Baron Daemon, and songs virtually nobody knows that deserved to be Number One with a bullet, "Life Goes On," by Verdelle Smith.

Carl is a terrific and stylish writer who brings all 150-odd essays to life. He makes you want to search for these songs, to hear them again, or maybe hear them for the first time. You won't agree with many of his choices; I certainly don't. My version of this book would have very little overlap, and maybe yours, too. But that doesn't matter. He has the courage of his convictions and makes compelling cases for each song, and he is certain to change your mind about a few.

Music is entirely subjective. Your Ramones track is my Southside Johnny song. We can peacefully coexist. Isn't that a nice thought in these divided times?

The Greatest Record Ever Made (Volume One) (Syracuse Noise LLC) is available locally (Syracuse) at Parthenon Books, and all the usual book outlets.

* His first book, Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With the Ramones (Rare Bird Books)

**About an hour

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Here's Daaavey!

 I'm back, after a year off doing whatever it was I did.

I wrote a book in the meantime. A Breath of  Fresh Air (A Transplant Tale), a fictional look at the life and trials of a cystic fibrosis patient waiting desperately for a lung transplant, and informed by my own life.

You may remember this book with thirty or forty different names. Tougher Than the Rest. Glass Half Full. Whistling Past the Graveyard. A Tale of Two Cities. (Maybe not that last one.)

Tentative publication will be August 26th, which happens to be the 20th anniversary of my transplant. Details to follow, of course.

And now, a brief foray into the minefield that is the 2024 Presidential election (pauses to duck objects thrown at me).

I love Joe Biden, always have. I rooted for him every time he ran for President, and was beyond delighted that he won in 2020 (I forget who he beat).

Now, though, the writing is on the wall. While I think he is still able to be President, I don't think he can run and win, not anymore. An unhealthy 75% of voters think he is too old. Perception is reality. 

I think Biden should announce he is not going to run, and soon. He should free his delegates to vote their conscience, and there should be a spirited set of debates by such Democratic luminaries as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer  Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, among others. 

There would be a raucous and exciting open convention in Chicago, and the winner would enter the final stretch in good shape. 

Joe Biden would retire with his reputation intact as one of the finest people in Washington, having twice put his country first. Imagine the raucous reception he would receive at the convention.

I hope he reads this blog. I'm sure he'd be convinced.

Sunday, July 9, 2023



…Nineteen years, that is, since my double-lung transplant at the wondrous Cleveland Clinic (technically, I won’t hit nineteen years until August 26th. Unless I step into an open manhole, I should make it.)*

My visit last weekend was both medical and pleasure. Besides my yearly checkup, I spent the weekend with my best friend Steve and his wife, Dede. Steve and I have been best friends since our first day of high school way, way, way back in the Nixon administration.**

My checkup was blissfully routine—my vital signs, breathing tests, chest x-ray and bloodwork were all unremarkable, which is remarkable. I’m a lucky man. I sat next to a woman in the lab waiting area and, as is my habit, nosily asked her, “Did you have a transplant?”

“Yes, lung, on April first,” she said. “Did you?”

It feels so great in situations like that to say, “Yes, in 2004.”*** I like to think laying that ancient date on patients like her gives them a renewed feeling of hope and possibility. She asked me if I ever get used to all of the medications. I told her yes. The whole routine has become routine for me and it will for her.

Then, amazingly, waiting for breathing tests on the ninth floor, I ran into another woman who had her transplant on April 21st, and an almost identical conversation ensued. It felt great being an elder statesman of the transplant community.

The survival statistics say, sadly, that one of those women won’t make her sixth year anniversary. But nobody knows what the future has in store for them, or me, or any of us. Carpe diem!

* Don't put it past me

** Nixon seemed, then, to be the worst president imaginable. How naïve we were.

*** W seemed, then, to be the worst president imaginable. How naïve we were.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

The Greatest Story Ever Told

The Emperor's New Clothes

Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, "The King's in council," here they always said. "The Emperor's in his dressing room."

In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.

"Those would be just the clothes for me," thought the Emperor. "If I wore them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff woven for me right away." He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.

They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest old thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night.

"I'd like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth," the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn't have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he'd rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the cloth's peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbors were.

"I'll send my honest old minister to the weavers," the Emperor decided. "He'll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he's a sensible man and no one does his duty better."

So the honest old minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms.

"Heaven help me," he thought as his eyes flew wide open, "I can't see anything at all". But he did not say so.

Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colors. They pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he dared. He couldn't see anything, because there was nothing to see. "Heaven have mercy," he thought. "Can it be that I'm a fool? I'd have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can't see the cloth."

"Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of it," said one of the weavers.

"Oh, it's beautiful -it's enchanting." The old minister peered through his spectacles. "Such a pattern, what colors!" I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it."

"We're pleased to hear that," the swindlers said. They proceeded to name all the colors and to explain the intricate pattern. The old minister paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the Emperor. And so he did.

The swindlers at once asked for more money, more silk and gold thread, to get on with the weaving. But it all went into their pockets. Not a thread went into the looms, though they worked at their weaving as hard as ever.

The Emperor presently sent another trustworthy official to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the minister. He looked and he looked, but as there was nothing to see in the looms he couldn't see anything.

"Isn't it a beautiful piece of goods?" the swindlers asked him, as they displayed and described their imaginary pattern.

"I know I'm not stupid," the man thought, "so it must be that I'm unworthy of my good office. That's strange. I mustn't let anyone find it out, though." So he praised the material he did not see. He declared he was delighted with the beautiful colors and the exquisite pattern. To the Emperor he said, "It held me spellbound."

All the town was talking of this splendid cloth, and the Emperor wanted to see it for himself while it was still in the looms. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom were his two old trusted officials-the ones who had been to the weavers-he set out to see the two swindlers. He found them weaving with might and main, but without a thread in their looms.

"Magnificent," said the two officials already duped. "Just look, Your Majesty, what colors! What a design!" They pointed to the empty looms, each supposing that the others could see the stuff.

"What's this?" thought the Emperor. "I can't see anything. This is terrible!

Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! - Oh! It's very pretty," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't see anything.

His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming, "Oh! It's very pretty," and they advised him to wear clothes made of this wonderful cloth especially for the great procession he was soon to lead. "Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!" were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the swindlers a cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of "Sir Weaver."

Before the procession the swindlers sat up all night and burned more than six candles, to show how busy they were finishing the Emperor's new clothes. They pretended to take the cloth off the loom. They made cuts in the air with huge scissors. And at last they said, "Now the Emperor's new clothes are ready for him."

Then the Emperor himself came with his noblest noblemen, and the swindlers each raised an arm as if they were holding something. They said, "These are the trousers, here's the coat, and this is the mantle," naming each garment. "All of them are as light as a spider web. One would almost think he had nothing on, but that's what makes them so fine."

"Exactly," all the noblemen agreed, though they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see.

"If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your clothes off," said the swindlers, "we will help you on with your new ones here in front of the long mirror."

The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another. They took him around the waist and seemed to be fastening something - that was his train-as the Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass.

"How well Your Majesty's new clothes look. Aren't they becoming!" He heard on all sides, "That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit."

Then the minister of public processions announced: "Your Majesty's canopy is waiting outside."

"Well, I'm supposed to be ready," the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. "It is a remarkable fit, isn't it?" He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.

The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn't dare admit they had nothing to hold.

So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, "Oh, how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!" Nobody would confess that he couldn't see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.

"But he hasn't got anything on," a little child said.

"Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?" said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, "He hasn't anything on. A child says he hasn't anything on."

"But he hasn't got anything on!" the whole town cried out at last.

The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all.

Moral of the story--if someone tells you and shows you what they are, believe them.

Especially when they do it over and over and over.

Song of the Week: Two songs, since I didn't post anything last week:

What so Never the Dance, Parts 1 & 2--Houseguests. Try to get that five note refrain out of your head afterward.

Mr. B.K.--Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters

Sunday, June 4, 2023


I was driving home from work the other day, stopped at the corner of Oak and James Streets. A late model Nissan waited ahead of me at the light, and as it changed and they drove away, the passenger tossed what looked to be a snack-size potato chip bag out the window. It fluttered to the ground as they drove away.


Big deal, right? Look at the trash you see on the streets all the time. I see these everywhere for some reason:



Why are people flossing their teeth on the street? What’s next, cutting their toenails, or using a Ped-Egg?

(I think we can all agree, yum!)


And if I could resell all the masks I see, I'd be a rich man:


But that potato chip bag made me mad, and sad. What goes through a person’s mind when they use the planet as a trash can? Look, I’m no Pollyanna, and there are worse things people do, and do to each other.


Don’t litter. And don’t floss your teeth on the street. I don’t want to get hit with a flying piece of your burrito.  

And, for the love of God, use your Ped-Egg behind closed doors.

Song of the...Week: (I've been calling it "Song of the Day" but since I only post once a week)...

Oh Sharon, look what you do to those men.

Shameless Plug (Number Two in a Series)

 At long last, it's done. Three hundred and thirty-four pages of thrills, chills, and pills (lots of pills*) A Breath of Fresh Air (A Tr...