Good-bye, Old Friend; I, For One, Will Never Forget You

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The Bangor Auditorium.

It’s time to say good-bye to an old friend, one of the deepest and truest loves of my life.

For more than 35 years, she welcomed with me open arms. She always wooed me with the promise of something new, something different every time I handed my life over to her, be it for a couple of hours or an entire day. She never judged me at any point, not from the day I first set foot into her remarkable and unpredictable world. She was always there for me, beginning when I was just a child. She would later give me a home for three years, one I could always return to and feel as though I never left. She gave me memories that will last a lifetime.

And, I loved her. So much. She was the Bangor Auditorium. And I’ll never forgot her.

If you were born and raised outside of the area known as “Eastern Maine” you might not be able to grasp what the Bangor Auditorium means to those who walked through her doors and camped out below her unique, V-shaped roof. You might have been there for a circus, or a concert, a single basketball game, or the week-long basketball extravaganza known as The Tournament.

But it was Heaven in so many ways, to so many people. Everybody had a different relationship with The Auditorium and each is unique and special to that person, and that is perhaps what makes the old barn such an iconic place.

Yankee Stadium? Fenway Park? Wrigley Field? Lambeau Field? Madison Square Gardien? Hell, the Coliseum in Rome. None of you have anything on the Bangor Auditorium when it comes to great sports venues. Not in my eyes, nor in my heart.

I honestly can’t remember the first time I set foot in the Bangor Auditorium, but if I had to guess it was for the circus. I don’t remember the time-frame, but I was young. Really young. Elephants, clowns, scantily clad ladies flying around the air on what appeared to be invisible strings.

Little did I know what this beauty really held in store for me.

The “love affair” began in the late 1970s, which was right about the time I discovered the sport of basketball. They held “The Tournament” at the Bangor Auditorium during February school vacation week every year, and unless you lived it, you can’t quite understand how small towns throughout Maine would literally shut down, and make the pilgrimage to the Bangor Auditorium to watch their teams play basketball.

I had a friend in middle school and his mother worked in the concession stands down in the bowels of the Auditorium. Every day, for a week, we would tag along, getting in for free, and then spend all day inside the building, not just watching the games — two wide-eyed kids amongst a throng of thousands — but between sessions, we always got to to play on the court, as well.

I never realized how lucky I was back in those days. I couldn’t even count all the games I saw back then, but all those schools who came to play were just the first steps in ever-expanding world. Cony of Augusta. Stearns of Millinocket. Orono. Jonesport-Beals. Allagash — places I’d never even heard of, yet there they were, places and people and role models outside of my tiny little berg of Orrington, Maine.

Forget wanting to be a member of the Boston Celtics. I wanted to be Gary Towle, or Ray Felt, or Jeff Sturgeon, or Jeff Topliff.

By the time middle school was over and I went to high school, the Bangor Auditorium became my home court. I was wise enough to pick John Bapst Memorial High School, which was a private school located in Bangor, a little more than a mile away from the Auditorium. I played three years of JV ball as a Crusader — though I’ll go to my grave knowing full well I should have made varsity my junior year.

My freshman year, with a true varsity team to root for and support, I realized how special a place the Bangor Auditorium could be. During that year’s Eastern Maine tournament, a senior at our school — Tammy Stone — hit a shot at the buzzer to win the regional championship. The ball bounced around the rim not once, not even twice, but three times before falling in. Standing in the student section, waiting to go crazy and storm the court — we were allowed to do such things back in the day — I remember thinking the ghosts of this building are going to force that ball in. It’s nature. It’s our home court. It’s the Auditorium.

And, sure enough, we were champs.

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The author (No. 31, and don’t you dare say anything about the shorts) in action at the Bangor Auditorium during the 1981-82 season.

Whether I was playing sub-varsity with my JV team in front of 50 fans, or whether it was watching a tournament game (or a college game — the University of Maine actually played its home games there for a number of years, including playing host to the No. 1 team in the country, DePaul, in 1981) — with five to six thousand others, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more at home than inside the Bangor Auditorium.

During my high school days, during the tournament, since me and my friends knew the building so well, we knew where to hide out so we never had to pay more than once a day.

I even came “thisclose” to having my own incredible varsity moment at the Auditorium. My senior year, I had transferred to a public school in an adjacent town (why I did is a post for another time, but it all started with a girl). I tried out for and made the varsity team for that school, only with a caveat from the coach who told me I was good enough to make the team and I worked hard enough to deserve one of the top 12 spots, but because I was a first-year senior, playing for a young team which had played for the Eastern Maine Class B title the year before, he doubted I would get much time playing time.

I just figured I’d prove myself like I always did and get my shot. When our point guard got booted off the team, I got my opportunity and played pretty well over a holiday tournament and a couple of regular season games. Then, out of nowhere, he called three sophomores up to the varsity team and my playing time dropped off again.

I probably could have let it go as water under the bridge, but during that year’s Eastern Maine Class B tournament semifinals, we were in a tight game with Schenck High School and in the fourth quarter, one of our guards fouled out.

I knew this was my moment — my lifetime dream of being a tournament hero, right there for the taking. The coach looked down the bench, and he looked me right in the eye. In return, I looked right back at him with a look that said to him, “Coach, I got this. This was my home court for three years. I’ve lived here. This place does not intimidate me. Put me in.”

And he looked right past me, tossed a scared-shitless sophomore out there and that player made a couple of key mistakes in our loss.

Needless to say, I dammed that moment up on the bus ride home, refusing to let any water cross under the bridge, and have never forgiven the coach for not putting me in the game. He kept me from my destiny.

Just the same, even outside of basketball, The Auditorium has given me so much more.

My first experience with photography came shooting varsity basketball games there when I was a sophomore in high school. My father had purchased a Pentax K-1000 camera and took photos of me playing. I would then shoot photos of my friends playing the varsity game. Who would have thunk it would be the beginning of a career.

The second concert I ever attended occurred there, as well. Aerosmith — the summer of 1984. Back then, the band sucked because, as Steven Tyler once explained, they had gone from being a musicians who dabbled in drugs and become druggies who dabbled in music. But hearing “Dream On” in person — no matter how bad it might have sucked — is something that never leaves you.

And, of course, professionally, I had the honor of covering a dozen tournaments as a staff writer at the Bangor Daily News, hundreds of games and moments I’ll never ever forget.

From a five-overtime classic between Dexter and Rockland — complete with a game-postponing leaky roof that pushed the game deep into the night ; from a young kid named Matthew Rossignol of Van Buren, who in front of nearly 6,000 strong scored 50 points and when he casually sank a foul shot to give him that number, turned to the crowd and held up five fingers and then zero — the place went nuts; to Cindy Blodgett, who simply became the Larry Bird of Maine schoolgirl basketball.

Toss in a very special Orono High School prom and many memorable Maine Lumberjack games in the CBA, and the Bangor Auditorium became a part of me. (For the record, though, I never called it “The Mecca” as people started to do in the 1990s. The Mecca was always in Milwaukee, and giving another facilities name to my beloved Bangor Auditorium was blasphemy).

I left the Auditorium behind 15 years ago when I left my hometown for The Rest of My Life.

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My piece of the Bangor Auditorium court that I grew up on, and got to play on.

On my TV stand, however, is a piece of the Bangor Auditorium floor that I played on; perhaps my most prized possession from my best.

Just like my memories, I’ll have a piece of the Bangor Auditorium with me forever.

Thank you, old girl. I’ll never forget you.

It’s Not Over Until The Fat Guy Says It Is

It’s February 25, 2013. And I’m just about as pissed off at myself as I’ve been in a while.

I hit that number that I’ve been avoiding, the one that has crept on me like the killer you never see coming in the movies. There was no background music forewarning me of its arrival, either.

There it was, screaming out at me this morning, and telling me off in a way I totally deserved.

Twenty-eight years ago, or so, I weighed in a svelte 150 pounds. Maybe 160 after a full day of meals and a sweater and a coat. Today, I’m fat. Plain and simple. Not happy about it, but a shitty storm of life, society, my chosen profession and my overall lack of self-discipline and self-worth has led me to this.

Like a lady, I’m not going to reveal my actual weight, but let’s just say it’s above 250, but well below three bills. Considering I stand 5-foot-11 on a day when I stand tall, you can get the proportions in your head.

Most of it, I carry between my xiphoid process and my hips, so I can’t really call myself a fat-ass. And I can’t even call it a beer belly anymore, though the malt and hops certainly did fuel that growth process back in the day. My doctor says for a guy my age that swallowed-a-soccer-ball region of my body is the worst place for somebody to carry weight.

Basically, I know what happened, and deep down I know how to make it better.

It’s all about having the discipline to be a self-made Nike commercial and “Just Do It” — even as life and work forces you in every other direction but the one you want to go in.

Once upon a time, a lifetime ago when I was me and not this mess of a human being/robot that I’ve become, I was a happy-go-lucky, three-sport athlete, not the greatest or most talented, but I’ll be damned if anybody out-worked me in a time of full-bore competition. Plus, girls thought I was cute. (Never figured out why, but they did — and you know who you are, *Wink.*)

Even after my playing days ended, I did the whole pick-up basketball thing, joined the YMCA, played weekends of tackle-turned-touch football. Stayed active, you know. On occasion even ran a few miles.

In the end, though, a desk job — coupled with a long ago liking for cannabis and midnight raids on the refrigerator — is what set me off on this path. It’s was pretty predictable to see it coming. Work eight hours, come home at midnight and plop down in my chair, light up, get hungry, eat (and eat) and did I mention eat, then go to bed. Repeat. Every day, every night for the next 10 years.

Mix in weekends of drinking and socializing and over the years and that 150 pounds became 180, which became 200, which became 220 … 230 … 240 … 245 … 250 … to this morning.

You get the point.

At some point, my body broke down, refusing to carry me through the pick-up basketball games anymore, or for that matter easy rounds of golf. Too much abuse, too much lack of detail, too much of everything.

Including work, especially over these last 10 years.

Journalism isn’t what it once was, and I don’t mean the newspaper readers aren’t buying the papers.

They aren’t, but people who run the papers don’t care like they used to either. Papers all across the country have cut staff regularly, leaving a skeleton crew to do the work of full staffs, while still expecting more from its employees. In order to compete, newspapers were told to get local, to give the readers what they did want, only the money men took away our resources to do more. My eight-hour desk job has become more of a 12-to-14-hour desk job, working from home, working from the office, working from game sites where we are expected to Tweet and blog and still do the same quality job we did years ago.

When I do finally get home, I’m exhausted. But I haven’t eaten all day, so of course I stop by the local convenience store to grab what’s convenient. And it’s not health food, that’s for damn sure.

When I wake up, the first thing I do is head to my desk and start my work day all over again. Checking other newspapers to see if we missed anything. Updating any over night stories. Sorting through thousands of photos which have backed up over the previous week.

It’s a never-ending cycle of defeat – sort of like the New York Mets, or Chicago Cubs.

But today, when I hit that milestone number out of blue (OK, 275 is too high for those of you who split the difference) it hit me like a ton of bricks. Or a ton of me.

I need to make a decision. In order to cut weight, I need to eat better and exercise. To do that, I need to find time in my day to do some kind of work-out and go to the proper stores to buy the proper kind of food, which takes even more time to prepare than the quick grab-and-eat. (I’m not much of a fast-food eater any more, truth be told. The other day I had McDonald’s for the first time since likely October), but sandwiches and the bread that goes with them add up calorie wise.

The problem is I don’t have the time in my day, as it is constructed right now, to do what it takes to lose weight.

If I cut my work schedule, certain things don’t get done that make us better than the next guy. There are days I wish I wasn’t wired like this, days I wish I could mail in a 37.5 hour work week and say, “Good enough.” But I’m not. When it comes to my chosen career, I’ve put it before everything else — family, friends, my health. When you take something away from me professionally, and tell me to do the same job, my initial reaction is “Fuck you! I’m going to do better.”

God gave me one talent and I intend to pursue that talent with the attitude of a honey badger until I take my last breath.

At this morning’s body weight, though, that may happen sooner than later.

My Movie Awards Have A First Name And It’s O-S-C-A-R

Our latest holiday is just 15 minutes away — The Oscars out in Los Angeles.

Just so everybody knows, since it seems to be the most important thing in the world, I am wearing, “Jeans of Levi, A Hoodie by UConn, a t-shirt by Russell Athletics and Shoes by Timberland (and I don’t mean Justin).

Steven Spielberg

He looks like an “Oscar”

I didn’t watch the entire pre-awards show — the all-captivating Red Carpet — and I am just jumping in for the last few minutes.

But what did jump out at me from what I did see ….

• Robert DeNiro forgot his comb at home;

• I was hoping there was going to be a head in that cage of surprise, a la the movie “Seven” rather than the ruby slippers;

• Jamie Foxx’s daughter is very beautiful, proving you can’t take the fox out of a Foxx;

• Anne Hathaway is beautiful, but she’s even more attractive with longer hair;

• Kristin Chenoweth is very short;

• Daniel Day Lewis can play anybody in the world except Daniel Day Lewis;

• Bradley Cooper brought his mother, but I have a feeling it’s not because he couldn’t get a date;

• Can somebody tell me why Daniel Radcliffe is in the house? Was Harry Potter nominated?

What I’m most looking forward to, though, is how Seth McFarland is going to do as host. I have a feeling he’s going to be as funny as all get-out, but perhaps I’m just pulling for him because he’s from Kent, Conn., and his grandfather is from Gardiner, Maine.

We’re just minutes away now so ….

PLAY OSCARS! (Sorry, I’m always too sports-minded).

• • •

And there’s the opening great line by Seth, referring to Ben Affleck’s being left off the Oscar’s Best Director list by saying the film “Argo” was so top secret that its director was not made known to The Academy. This line would also prove to be quiet prophetic by the end of the night, too.

And then he scored with the Rihanna/Chris Brown joke, saying “Django Unchained” was a date movie, but it appeared quite obvious that Hollywood’s greatest was going to be a tough crowd. Granted, the jokes about Mel Gibson fell flat, but Hollywood sticks together, so shouldn’t that be expected.

His quip about Daniel Day Lewis and John Wilkes Booth being the only people to get inside Lincoln’s head was funny, but after the crowd’s groan-action McFarland kicked it up a gear by quipping that “150 was still too soon?”

Bringing in Captain James T. Kirk was certainly funny, but did you see the look on Naomi Watt’s face during the “Boob Song.” Oh my.

Very, very uncomfortable opening act. Can’t help but wonder if it was orchestrated that way, in addition to being written that way.

Loved the sock puppets. And the joke about Denzel Washington being in all the Nutty Professor movies, though. McFarland has comedy chops, but he was certainly playing a tough crowd — one that still publicly supports Mel Gibson.

Enough said.

• • •

It didn’t take long for the Oscars to have its first surprise of the night, at least in my book.

In the Best Supporting Character category, it was Christoph Waltz who took home the trophy for his role in the film Django Unchained (and don’t forget, the D is silent). Waltz is a really good actor, of that there is no question. His role as a Nazi in the film “Inglourius Basterds” was brilliant and I suppose his role in Django has to be right up there. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I’m going by who I thought would win out of the movies I’ve seen). My vote — OK, I don’t really vote, but my guess — went to Robert DeNiro for his role in “Silver Linings Playbooks.” DeNiro was a great actor whose career seemed to hit a card-punching, money-making stretch that included all the Meet The Parents movies, but his role as Bradley Cooper’s Pop was one of his best acting jobs in a while. Plus, you can never count Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who is always brilliant, as well. They called this one of the most tightly contested awards of the night and I’m sure it was.

Soon after the first big award of the night was handed out, it became obvious that “Life of Pi” was on the verge of having a big night. It won back-to-back for Cinematography and Visual Effects and built some momentum. Knowing it had some big awards left to haul in made me start to think the movie might be living a “Life of Oscar” for the night.

• • •

OK, I’m not going to lie. The one thing I hate about the Oscars is the 621 minor awards that the show hands out, bringing forth people that nobody knows, but who are vital to a film’s success. Sound mixing, sound editing, make-up and hairstyling — you get that point. God bless the folks who work behind the scenes to make these movies so brilliant and enjoyable, but can’t The Oscars be the Big Six and pared down to an hour television show?

• • •

Now, as I mentioned above, I love Anne Hathaway as much as the next guy … Well, except, I suppose for her ex-fiance who fleeced all his financial clients from all that money a few years back, but I definitely think she is a good actress. She was also the heavy favorite for Best Supporting Actress, which she ended up winning for her 15-minute role as Fantine is Les Miserables. I saw both Sally Field play Lincoln’s Wife and Jacki Weaver as Crazy Guy’s Mom and DeNiro’s wife in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Both were very good and my vote would have been for Field. But you can’t go wrong with Hathaway. She’s that good and she can sing, too.

• • •

As a writer, one of the categories I actually enjoy that many people don’t care about is the writing categories. No arguments from me on any winners here — Chris Terrio for Adapted Screenplay in “Argo” or Quentin Tarantino for Original Screenplay in “Django Unchained.”

One of my favorite movies of the night, I think, was during a Tarantino’s rambling speech when the multi-talented Hollywood player said, “This is the writer’s year.” And it was. It was a brilliant year for movies and while the movies come to life through the work of thousands of people, it all begins with the written word on a page.

• • •

Finally, it was time for the big ones. Best director went to Ang Lee for “Life of Pi.” Haven’t seen, but have heard great things. I’ve never been a huge Ang Lee fan. He’s probably not even in my top 20 of favorite directors, but obvious he’s a very talented man. Coming into the “2013” Oscars, much of the news about this category was focused on he who wasn’t nominated (Ben Affleck with “Argo”) than those who were. Within 30 minutes, The Academy showed how wrong it can be sometimes when it honors those who had the best year because when “Argo” capped the night with Best Picture, the fact Affleck wasn’t nominated the Best Director was laughable.

Think about it — The best movie of 2013, according to The Academy, was directed by somebody who wasn’t even considered worthy of being in the top five directors. How can that be? Maybe you don’t win both, but if you’re directing the best movie, you need to be mentioned in the same breath as all the other top directors.

The Academy has had its share of oversights and black eyes over the years and this was just another one.

Affleck, in his Best Picture speech, was brilliant, though. He touched upon the past — his first Oscar along with Matt Damon for writing in “Good Will Hunting” — in perhaps the most moving speech of the night.

Another highlight from the big finish: George Clooney. He was the butt of “Good-looking” jokes all night long, but he passed on saying anything as one of “Argo’s” producers, showing he’s a man who doesn’t need the limelight to know what a success he has become in the business.

• • •

Finally, the Actors. Best Actor and Best Actress.

85th Academy Awards - Press Room

Daniel Day-Lewis, the best actor of my generation.

I went way out on a limb by predicting that Daniel Day Lewis was going to win Best Actor for his role as Abraham Lincoln. Only after I got out there on that limb and saw everybody else standing there did I realize he was actually a shoe-in for the award. This man is the most brilliant actor in my history — a three-time Oscar winner now — who in every movie is so different and so brilliant that it’s scary. His roles as Bill The Butcher in “Gangs of New York” or Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood” were incredible. Funny story about DDL, though. Way back in 1989, I was so pissed that he won his first Oscar for “My Left Foot” because he beat out what I thought was a brilliant performance by Tom Cruise in “Born on The Fourth of July.” Over the years since, though, Day-Lewis has proven me wrong. Though I still haven’t seen “My Left Foot” I am now a big fan of him and his process. And, needless to say, had he played Margaret Thatcher instead of Meryl Streep, he would have been brilliant. (Also one of the highlights of the show, too).

Then, there is Jennifer Lawrence.  The Hunger Games stars showed her range by playing the young widow going mad in “Silver Linings Playbook.” She looked beautiful, and even graceful when she fell while trying to make it up those stairs in that dress, but I had to wonder if this really was the best performance this year. It was a good performance, but something was just missing for me. I heard one reviewer say she took a role deeper than it was written, and perhaps that’s the problem I had with it. I thought she could have taken it even deeper than that, so it didn’t live up to my high expectations when I saw it. I’ve heard Naomi Watts was brilliant in “The Impossible” and I know Jessica Chastain was pretty amazing in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

But, the Oscars have proven one thing over the years. I know nothing about the movies. I just enjoy the heck out of them, and in the end, that’s what movie making is all about, right?

SUNDAY SERMON — The Gospel According To Me

God help me. Or else, God dammit.

Oh God. And no, I don’t mean the George Burns movie which might very well prove there is a God simply because country singer John Denver wound up with an acting job.

It’s Sunday morning and all over the world people are waking up and getting ready for their weekly (monthly, random, regular) visit to the church of their choice. Catholics, Presbyterians, Jews, Baptists; Christians of all shapes and sizes and denominations, as long as its not an NFL Weekend.

Me? I’ve got Sports Center on the television, some coffee at my side and I’ve got a list of errands I need to do before I go to work. No church for me.

By the way, welcome to my “Sunday Sermon: The Gospel According To Me.”

My topic on this first Sunday: Is there a God?

No answers will be forth-coming because I haven’t a clue. I’d like to think that there is a God and that He is good, but all too often the signals I get are mixed and confusing.

How does a ship, the strongest ever built to sail the Seven Seas, sink, taking with it thousands of innocent people, yet an airplane lands on the Hudson River and all are saved?

How does a person on death’s door, whose body is ravaged by illness, walk out of a hospital and live a productive live when everybody knows they should be dead? How does one person live to be 116, yet another dies within minutes of being born?

How does God, if he’s out there, allow a mad-man to walk into an elementary school so close to my home and kill 20 innocent children?

So,  I suppose, there is a God. Or maybe not. I think. After all, there is just as strong an argument as the idea that God doesn’t exist. Like I said, confusing.

It’s all in the eyes of the jury and, let’s be honest, it would make a helluva reality TV series on one of the news networks: Two lawyers arguing the case and calling witnesses and in the end, you, The World, get to cast your voice. They would come up with some catchy graphics to draw people in. The internet would be abuzz with post-show live chats. It’s a sure-fire hit.

Of course, depending on the network, you’d end up getting three different finishes because you know the — ahem — Fair and Balanced FOX News would have stacked the deck in its favor and would decide that God was indeed real and adds the fact that President Barack Obama is not a true American since he was not born in Hawaii.

Surely, such a show would be the new “American Idol.,” wouldn’t it? And, it would bring the religious argument to the forefront once again. And then in the biggest moment of the show, Ryan Seacrest would give us the answer everybody wants to know … Is there a God? … Right after these messages.

Spirituality, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholder. Some believe, others do not.

Take the good, the things that give you strength when you need it, and embrace it. Leave the bad because, let’s face it, there’s plenty of it out there when it comes to religion.

When I was young, I remember a priest in our area who got busted for stealing church funds. As young and naive as I was, little did I realize this was just dipping the toes into the Lakes of Shame by the Fathers and Brothers and Monks of the world. By the time I grew up, the stories about the collared ones had grown far more heinous, forcing anybody to question a God who would allow his people to do things that were so wrong to children around the world.

People will tell you that God is all about love, yet people who read the same bible can’t seem to agree on two men, or two women, loving one another.

Mixed messages, everywhere you look.

Much of my world is spent in the arenas of sports, where God is as decisive and equally as vicious as any place.

A winning player thanks God, who, of course, made it all possible. Which means what? God hates the losing team because the coach doesn’t go to church, so he makes them lose? Maybe God is tipping off The Pope, telling him who He is going to make win or lose, so the betting can begin and the church can make some big-time money. Maybe, in fact, they can make so much money that The Pope can afford to retire — Holy crap, I think I’m on to something.

Or, maybe not. Like I said, when I really think about it, the whole question confuses me.

Growing up, there were flashes of religion in my head. I remember being taught the prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray to God my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray for God my soul to take.” I also remember the words “If I die before I wake” scaring the hell out of me. Why would you plant such a seed in a child, that he or she might die in their sleep?

I remember occasionally attending a church down the road, but it never seemed to me the right place to be. I don’t know why, I just never wanted to be there.

I remember being dropped off at a Sunday School — which was run by a church who was later operated by a man of religion that I actually admired a lot — only to find out that he would later throw himself off a bridge, taking his own life, on the same day he was questioned about an improper relationship with a young boy many years ago.

I remember crying my eyes out because I didn’t want to go into that Sunday School, so for the longest time I stood behind the building, or sat on the front step, refusing to go in.

Religion scared me as a child. To this day, I don’t know why. Maybe it was the knowledge that the entire entity was so powerful that it could force me to die in my sleep and take my soul.

Sounds absurd, I know, but I’ve got nothing else.

I was married in a Catholic Church (And, yes, to keep up with this running theme, the Catholic Priest who married The Ex and I was forced out of the church for “minor” misgivings back in the 1970s). And, I’ve attended a rare Midnight Mass or two, with a certain girlfriend or two.

Religion, however, never took.

Instead, I grew up and decided on my own what I believed and what I didn’t. The bible? Great work of fiction with some great morals and great stories. Surprised it hasn’t been optioned into a movie yet. Oh wait, Charlton Heston did do “The Ten Commandments”, didn’t he?

I don’t know if there is a God or not. I hope so, I suppose, because it would be pretty cool if there was. And he’d be a helluva interview for The Heaven Times, when I land that job at the end of my last cold winter.

My first question to Him: “How much money did you and the pope make when the Giants beat the Patriots the year David Tyree made the catch with his helmet?”

May God Bless you all this day, this week, this month and beyond.

Routine Maintenance On A Saturday Morning

For five years, since relocating from my native land to the lower southwest portion of Connecticut, my morning routine has been relatively the same.

I wake up, wait for my morning head-fuzz to clear, and I walk to the store for my morning cup coffee. It is, perhaps, my most important meal of the day, that coffee — 24 ounces of java to wake me up and start my day just right. Plus, I’d order a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a hard roll, and would grab my morning paper (the New York Daily News; never the New York Post) and I’d walk back to my apartment to complete the morning process.

Rain, snow, sleet, sunshine — no matter. It’s a two-block walk and I’d walk through Hell and back to get my hands on my morning coffee. I’ve owned a coffee maker for most of my life, but too often I run out of either the coffee, the cream, or the sugar. There is comfort in knowing my local deli will never let me down and never run out of such things.

If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve done this routine 1,825 times — or about 6.75 times a week since I moved here. Every so often, I would switch things up. If I had a hunkering for pancakes, I would drive the 1.5 miles to the local Duchess Restaurant, but if i do that once every three months, that’s a lot.

On some mornings, when I was really hungry, I’d order two BE&Cs. Occasionally lately, I’ve switched from a hard roll to toast. Coffee is mostly hazelnut, but when that’s out I might grab French vanilla or some Island Coconut. If I’m really feeling wild, I’d go half and half.

On a handful of occasions, like during Superstorm Sandy, or the recent blizzard that dropped 34 inches of snow on my neighborhood, the deli would be closed for a day. I hate those days. They don’t start right and I feel lost.

And it’s not like I’m against change. In the late 1990s, I packed up everything I owned and moved out of state for the first time. Didn’t know a single person, but I journeyed into the unknown. Thankfully, no matter where I’ve lived — from Bangor and beyond — every place has had a nearby store that sold coffee. Every place I’ve been, I’ve had that routine to start my morning.

This morning, though, I’m adding to my morning routine.

These words. And, I hope, more words in the future.

My bacon, egg and cheese is in my belly; my coffee is to my right, just an arm’s length away; and my keyboard is clacking away with every finger strike, banging out this blog post.

To be a writer, all you need to do is write. I started writing when I was in third grade and haven’t stopped since so adding the act of writing to my routine really isn’t that big a deal. It’s not like I now go skeet-shooting every morning, or play pinball, or wrestle an alligator. (Wow, how much fun would that be, huh? I mean … playing pinball every morning. Woot, woot!).

Every morning as part of my morning routine, I’m going to write on this blog. Sure, I might add something in the afternoon or evening, as the urge hits, but in my quest to write something every day, it will appear, most days, in the morning.

It may not give you the morning jolt of energy that my coffee gives me. I’m not even asking that anybody make a visit here part of their morning routine.

After all, this is about me, and nobody else.

But I’m looking forward to this slight change in my mornings.

I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Welcome to The October Weekend

I wasn’t even 20 years old during the first October Weekend. Yet that two week free-for-all stands out with me to this very day, more than a quarter century later.

That October Weekend — the official one — was all about friends, drinking, smoking pot, and girls — if we were lucky enough to get them. Girls, that is. When you’re 20 years old, friends, beer and pot were readily available. You didn’t have to woo those back to the house, not like you did the girls.

Back then, though, that’s all that really mattered — those four things were the most important things in our lives and we all knew we were making memories to last a lifetime.

In a nutshell, The October Weekend was born from a two-week period of my life, growing up in Maine. My friend Mark’s mother was out of town for two weeks, leaving us alone to “house sit.” There were four of us who crashed there during that two week span — Yours Truly, Mark, Mike and John P.

There were seven cases of beer in the hall closet (c’mon, you ever try to fit seven cases of beer into a refrigerator?), rolling papers on the coffee table, Cable TV to entertain us, and millions of laughs and memories to be made.

We lived them all — hence the nickname “The October Weekend.” For two straight weeks, 14 days, it was just a constant party. A weekend not crammed into one night, but extended over the course of half the month of October.

The memories, at least at the time, seemed to be coming a mile a minute during The October Weekend. It was decided that a book needed to be written about our youthful exploits and bravado. Its title? You guessed it, “The October Weekend.”

I was the writer, so I was the one chosen to author it. If I could ever have found the right words, that is.

Like I said crazy times. And the consumption of beer and marijuana was a recipe for making memories, but tended to be a distraction from remembering the memories that were being made.

The term, however, never left me.

The October Weekend. It was poetic. It rang true then, it rings true now.

The title popped into my head earlier this week and made me smile. It also made me think. In a few months, I’m going to be 47 years old. The 20-year-old me who lived the first October Weekend is long gone.

He was in the spring of his life back then — so fresh and new and full of hope. Now, I feel as though I am in the fall season of my time here on this earth. My body feels like it’s October, even though as of this writing, it’s actually February.

It’s as though I’m in the second October Weekend of my life. It’s a vastly different weekend.

I don’t drink as much as I used and in the last 10 years my intake of marijuana has been cut down to once a decade. (Hey, maybe I’m due). Friends are far fewer, though through the magic of Facebook, I am in touch with more people now, in a less personable online way, than I ever have been. But I know they’re out there somewhere, and there is comfort in that.

And women?

Ah, women. I’m sure there’s a blog posting in there somewhere, but I don’t think the Internet is big enough to be filled with all the horror stories and heartbreak that the fairer sex can divvy out on a regular basis.

But I digress.

The October Weekend — new and improved — now lives on, not in book form, or a novel, as we had once pictured, but in my words, here in this blog form.

There will be thoughts, memories, stories, essays, poems, pictures — everything my mind can get a grasp on and spill out through the lightning of my fingertips tapping on a keyboard. I hope to write one posting a day, at least that’s my goal. If I’m lucky, I’ll get two.

I know in my heart I was born to write. So as I creep along to a certain death somewhere down the line, that’s what I’m going to do. Well, it’s what I hope to do. To write. And write. And write.

I just told somebody the other day, a bit player from my past who had started writing her own blog, that the thing I admired the most about what she was writing was her honesty and her emotions, both of which jumped off the page and made for a compelling read. I’m going to try to do that here.

Maybe you’ll join me as a frequent reader. Maybe you’ll stop by from time to time and just find things that interest you.

If you are here, Welcome. If you decided to come back and check it out again, I’ll offer you up and early “Welcome Back.”

If you’re bored, and wondering what the hell you’re doing here? Well, frankly, I don’t care. I’m writing this one for me, not for anybody else.

This is my October Weekend. The sequel.

And it begins now.