Leap Day should be a national holiday where we all eat bison liver

The Bison better be ready for future Leap Years.

The Bison better be ready for future Leap Years.

My friend Liz posted this thought of the day on her Facebook page this morning: “You get an extra day today. Spend it wisely.”

I’m guessing she’s not the only person to post such a hopeful statement.

After all, today is Feb. 29 — A Leap Day in a Leap Year — but for the most part it seems like just another day.

Liz, I’m pretty sure, is sitting at her office because it’s Monday — a work day.

I know that’s what I’ll be doing today. Working. Right after I get this list of chores that I didn’t complete over the weekend done.

That being said, in my humble opinion, Feb. 29 should be a national holiday. After all, it would only happen once every four years and there are so many ways you could make it special.

Give everybody the day off and market the holiday as a “Make A Difference Day.” Get some people to go out there and do something nice for somebody.

Or, in spirit of the every year four-year celebration, call it “Take a Flying Leap Day” — and urge people to do something on this day that they’ve never done before. Sky-diving. Bungee jumping. Eating bison liver (Sorry, Leonardo DiCaprio, you need to find something else to do in four years).

Or, if you really want to reach for the stars, how about this: The Federal Government — you know, the clowns we keep voting into office because we’re too either too stupid or too hopeful to actually invoke real change — should give every household $100 and tell the people to go spend it.

Sounds stupid on the surface, yes? Well, there are 126 million households in the country, so that’s $1.26 billion that government would have to fork over to its citizens. (Lord knows we’ve given them enough of our Benjamins).

To put that in perspective, though, consider our country’s budget is $3.8 trillion dollars, a $1.26 billion payout is only 0.33 percent of that annual budget.

And, in most cases, it would go right back into the economy — into the pockets of the little people, making a bunch of tiny differences that add up.

But how nice would that be? A nice dinner on the federal government? A few drinks at the local bar? Enjoying a bunch of Maine lobsters courtesy of Uncle Sam? Actually eating the liver of a bison?

OK, yeah, that’s kind of gross, even if Leonardo actually did it to win his first-ever Oscar.

Bottom line: It is an extra day and we should spend it wisely.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t allow us to.

THE MUSIC OF MY LIFE: Part 1 – The Early Years of Paper Lace and Billy

Paper Lace, a Nottingham, England-based band who hit it big just once in the US of A with the song "The Night Chicago Died."

Paper Lace, a Nottingham, England-based band who hit it big just once in the US of A with the song “The Night Chicago Died.”

Daddy was a cop, on the east side of Chicago.

No, this is not my biography. Nor is that of my father.

To the contrary this is a memory, another dance with the ghosts of my past, as I look back on a life filled with music and how it led me to where I am today.

Last night — which was Friday, Feb. 26, in the Year of Our Lord — 2016 — my 49th-plus year on this journey — I attended the 80th concert of my life. On the ride home it got me thinking, what kind of role music has played in the life of a non-musician who just happens to love and admire the craft.

Thus, the first line of this blog — the first of this “The Music of My Life” series that I’ll be looking at from time to time — is actually the opening lyrics from a song called, “The Night Chicago Died” by a band called Paper Lace.

Now in America Paper Lace is known as a one-hit wonder and “The Night Chicago Died” was that one hit.

It was a song that told a story of a night of mob violence in a far away city, and had a nice little rock beat to it and when it burst onto the scene in 1974 . I was only eight years old then, but it became my favorite song.

Perhaps, I dare say, my first favorite rock and roll song.

This is one of the first songs I remember turning up the radio, so I could sing a long — and probably also when I realized that I couldn’t sing a lick.

I couldn’t have told you the first thing about Paper Lace when I was eight years old, but I could tell you who the starting second baseman was for the Boston Red Sox (Doug Griffin) so obviously even then my life was already heading down a path toward what is now my present.

But the love of music never left me and on the drive home last night as I thought about Paper Lace, I realized I didn’t know the first thing about the band other than my affection for that very first song.

For the record, Paper Lace was a band out of Nottingham, England — my parents likely would have approved — Carlo Sanntana (who obviously can’t be confused with the great Carlos Santana) and drummer Phillip Wright were the two main front men for Paper Lace, and I’d never heard of either of them until I looked them up today.

However, I did get thrown for one loop during my research.

Before Paper Lace released their third album, which found some acclaim on this side of the pond, they had released an album in England that same summer that included a song called, “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero.”

Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods.

Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods.

The funny thing about this is “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” was another of my favorite songs growing up, only I knew the version made famous by a band called Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods.

That group, founded in Cincinnati during the 70s, released “Billy” the same summer that Paper Lace released “The Night Chicago Died.”

Paper Lace saw “Billy” go No. 1 in the UK. Bo and band covered it and saw it hit No. 1 in the U.S.

Until today, I can’t remember the last time I heard either song — not even on Sirius XM’s 70s channel — but as I listened to both songs today, I was taken back almost 42 years and remembered the young boy who first started to hear the music, to embrace it and — most importantly — enjoying it.

Now, in the October Weekend of my life, I’m enjoying it more than ever and working at making it a major part of my world.

Say what you will about these two songs, but for me they were the beginning of something special.

And I’ll never let that go.

Dear Benjamin, Welcome to the World

Benjamin and his mom look out on their new world. (Stolen from his mom's facebook page)

Benjamin and his mom look out on their new world. (Stolen from his mom’s facebook page)

Dear Benjamin,

A couple of days ago, a new little boy came into this world — his name is Benjamin.

And he is you.

I’m not going to lie — there are two ways to look at this.

In the big picture, it’s a scary proposition — after all, just look at the world you have been born into. There is unspeakable violence, both local and world-wide. The education system which you will be entering in five years time is failing children on a daily basis and sending our country further backwards in the big picture of things. And, the first president you might remember could be President Trump. If that’s not enough to send shivers up your spine, then I don’t know what is.

But just look at the smaller picture — where it all starts — the family you are being born into. Considering that then I know, in my heart, you’re going to be alright.

I’ve known your mother, Nicole, since she was almost a baby herself. Somehow she got older, and she grew up into a remarkable, hard-working young woman. You will grow up to admire her, trust me.

There will be times she will make you cry and make you mad, times when you’ll think that you hate her, but you never will. Trust me. Let her guide you and you’ll be OK.

You’ll soon find out that your family’s foundation is built upon and held together by love. Unconditional love.

Benjamin, you’re going to have a fantastic grandmother, the best aunt imaginable, and an uncle and godfather whose quest for adventure is going to help you test the waters of the unknown in a safe yet fun environment. Enjoy it. Embrace it.

I can’t wait to watch you grow up from afar — just as I watched you (and waited for you .. and waited … and waited) to come into this world.

Back after the turn of the century, I lived with your family for a short time when I needed a place to stay, so I’ve seen them up close and can make such judgements about your future with a knowledge few others have.

I know your mom is going to be a great mother and because I recall her open-mindedness about how she chose her friends and those she let her close to her. She does not judge people by their covers, but gets to know their heart and judges them as such.

I’m pretty sure she learned that from her family and that’s why I’m pretty sure you’re going to grow up the same way. It means you’re going to meet some pretty remarkable people in the days, months and years ahead, so embrace what you can out of all them.

Another trait I admire a lot about your mom is she’s not afraid to ask for help when something might be overwhelming.

I remember one night she came seeking counsel about a serious matter she could have tackled herself. But instead of taking the scary route, alone, she sought guidance and direction, and I’m sure she’ll do the same as a mother.

The next year is going to be scary and at times overwhelming, but you’re mom is really strong and both she and you will survive all those early morning feedings, all those diaper changes, all the crying. When she sees you smile for the first time, she will melt — and you will have won her over for life. Truth be told, I’m pretty sure you already have.

She was so excited in the months leading up to you joining us. She couldn’t wait to meet you, to hold you, to start this new journey of her life with you.

And when you become that little person that all newborns become, she’ll thrive in that element, too. I just know it.

So, little Benjamin, welcome to this big scary world where the future is yours for the taking.

Just listen to your mother, little boy, because she’s been there and done that and she’ll lead you down the right path. And, eat all the string cheese she is willing to feed you. (That’s a private joke you can ask her about when you’re older).

Enjoy how much your grandmother spoils you. If you have a problem you can’t take to your mom, your Aunt Stephanie will be the perfect sounding board. And when you hang out with Uncle Dan, take band aids. Because you’re going to have a blast.

Someday, somewhere down the line, I hope I get to meet you face to face. Shake your little hand and welcome you to the world in person.

Until then, my words will have to suffice.

There is a reason why I love crickets

My number fan, the cricket.

My number one fan, the cricket.

As I do every morning, I walked up to my local deli on Friday morning for breakfast.

One large coffee, 24 ounces, and one bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a poppy-topped hard roll. It’s been my morning routine for the better part of the last decade.

On this particular morning, however, I as I was pumping my coffee concoction — three parts Island Coconut, one part Hazelnut, I felt two sets of eyes burning into me from the chairs that sit adjacent to a counter where some people gather to eat, drink and share stories of their lives.

On this particular day, it was a mother and her two children sitting there, having their breakfast. The two kids, one boy, one girl, roughly between the age of four and six, I’d guess, were sitting there whispering to each other and staring a hole right into me.

As I moved from the coffee crafts to the Half and Half to top things off, I just jokingly said, “I have a feeling somebody is watching me.”

The kids, realizing they had been caught, quickly turned around.

The mother laughed and said, “They were trying to figure out if you were our family friend, George. It’s not George, is it kids?”

Both kids looked at me and shook their heads. Nope, I wasn’t, George.

“Phew,” I said to the three them. “I’m glad that’s all it was. I was afraid my psychosis had come back.”

Crickets.

And that’s why I love them.

They always laugh at my unique sense of humor.

Life’s sudden twists and turns and tragedies

Natalie Keepers was all smiles in this picture from her Facebook page.

Natalie Keepers was all smiles in this picture from her Facebook page.

This is a story about life; about how it can change so suddenly and yet also come right back around again.

It’s a story about love and hate and also tragedy. And, in the long run, none of it makes much sense.

There is a photo on Facebook, a picture dated Nov. 24, 2014, of a high school senior looking the camera and smiling. The only comment to the right reads, “You are such a beautiful granddaughter! Love you, Gramma.”

A little more than one year later if you Google the name “Natalie Keepers” another photo comes up. A mug shot.

Natalie Keepers' mug shot

Natalie Keepers’ mug shot

She was arrested over the weekend and charged with “one felony count of improper disposal of a dead body and one misdemeanor count of accessory after the fact in the commission of a felony,” according to a report on CNN.

To look through a person’s Facebook page is to see part of that person’s persona. Natalie is 19 years old, a student at Virginia Tech. She is from Laurel, Md. While in high school, she was involved in her school’s theater department. She is seen in pictures smiling with friends, laughing, goofing off.

There is also a picture of her from her high school graduation and a photo of her that looks like a family photo, standing in front of a home.

It all just leaves you wondering how she could have played a role in the death of a 13 year old girl.

Nicole Madison Lovell.

Natalie 

In case you haven’t seen the story, 13-year-old Nicole Madison Lovell was abducted from her home last week and on Saturday her body was found in a lake in North Carolina.

Another Virginia Tech student, a freshman named David Edmond Eisenhauer, 18, of Columbia, Maryland, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and abduction. He was a member of the school’s cross country team.

One day later, Keepers was arrested, as well.

You can read the Roanoke Times coverage of the story by clicking here.

This is a tragedy beyond Shakespearian. A young girl — who survived a liver transplant, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and lymphoma when she was just 5 years old — is taken from the world far too soon, and quite likely far too violently for us to want to comprehend.

David Edmond Eisenhauer

David Edmond Eisenhauer

Then there are two other young people — somebody’s son, somebody else’s daughter — who allegedly played a role in the death, whose lives are forever changed, as well. Their punishment will come in time if and when the courts see fit, but their families are torn apart emotionally, as well.

People can be cruel. We all know that. Life, though, can feel so much crueler when you start thinking about the dominos that fall and how it affects those inside each family’s circle.

A week ago, all three were living out their lives with the passing of each day. The future was theirs for the taking.

And now it’s all changed.