Category Archives: Life
Vocalist Margo Rey’s Christmas classic, “This Holiday Night” has become a staple of December. A vision of the holidays as seen through the eyes of a child, the beautiful song conjures up warm images of family tradition and memories of years gone by.
Rey describes her style of music as ‘Organica’; a unique blend of musical texture and groove, but it’s the infectiousness of her voice that really makes you stand up and take notice. Her album, “Habit” remained on the charts for an astonishing 21 weeks and contained the singles “Let the Rain” and “Saturn Returns”, both co-written with the legendary John Oates.
Her latest single, a cover of the Squeeze song “Tempted” adds her distinctive vibe to the classic 80′s hit.
In addition to her amazing vocal prowess and songwriting skills, Rey’s personal mission really makes her a true inspiration. A cancer warrior, Rey volunteers her time and talent to Brides Against Breast Cancer, an organization that contributes to programs for cancer patients and their families while raising funds in a rather cool and unique way.
A recent bride herself, Rey is married to comedian Ron White. While presenting an interesting dynamic, their relationship is a communion of two artists in awe of each others craft, while not being in competition with each other.
I spoke with Rey about her passion, her music and her cause.
You consider your style of music ‘Organica’. How would you describe it?
It’s an unorthodox hybrid of adult pop music that’s deeply rooted in jazz and R&B grooves with a lot of ambient vocals and texture. I like my vocals to be lush and for them to be an instrument as well.
Tell me the origin of your song “This Holiday Night”.
I really wanted to write a song that sounded like a Christmas classic. A song about the way a child experiences all the goings on in a house around the holidays. I had this idea that it was going to be a waltz and I wanted every line to end with “this holiday night”. I started out writing the melody, chords and most of the lyrics and then called up my friend Barrett Yeretsian, who had been working on songs for my “Habit” album. The two of us started kicking around images of what the holidays were like when we were growing up. We put the pieces together and that’s how it happened.
Let’s discuss a few tracks that you wrote with John Oates from the “Habit” album.
Let The Rain
John and I actually wrote “Let The Rain” the day that we first met. He had written some chords based on some of my music and when I heard it, I remember saying, “I think I have something for that.” It was a melody and lyrics that I had written around the time Ron and I were getting engaged. I had a lot of verses, but wasn’t quite sure what to make the chorus about. That’s when I told John about how I used to love playing in the rain with my Mom in the summer’s in Texas and he told me to write the song about that. So we came up with the melody for the chorus together and from there it took on a life of its own.
I had just been diagnosed with cancer four days before our writing session and the doctors were trying to get me to stay to get an MRI. I said, “No way, man! I’m going to write a song with John Oates” [laughs]. I remember telling that story to John and his eyes got really big and he was worried. I said “No! No! I’m going to be fine. This is a cancer free zone!” I showed him a chorus that I had been working on and he thought it was fantastic, but he told me that it has to be my story. So I went back to my condo that night, wrote the rest of the lyrics and we put it all together the next day.
Tell me a little about your most recent single, “Tempted”.
I’ve always loved the band Squeeze and that song always made me happy whenever I sang it. So when my radio team approached me about releasing a cover song, I told them that I wanted to do “Tempted”, but with an R&B groove.
Did you always want to be a singer?
When I was young, I used to always sing in the grocery cart whenever I was at the store with my mom. I would always sing a lot of crooner songs by Nat King Cole, Engelbert Humperdinck or Hank Williams. Then one day when I was 4, I was at my brother’s school play when this girl who was supposed to sing “Oh Jolly Playmate” started crying because she had suddenly developed stage fright. I remember going up to the school principal and telling him that I could sing, and that I knew all the words. So he let me go out and sing in front of 300 people.
A lot of things crystallized for me in that moment. It was the first time that I had ever sang with a mic and saw my shadow in the spotlight behind me. I knew right then that it was something that I wanted to do and so a few years later, I started classical training.
Let’s discuss your involvement with Brides Against Breast Cancer.
I volunteer a lot my time towards this cause and this past May, they selected me as a National Ambassador. The money they raise goes to providing free programs and services to people living with cancer. Programs people need where the doctor kind of leaves off; like wellness, nutrition and counseling. They even provide these services for family members too.
The really cool thing is how they raise money: by having brides and gown designers donate their wedding gowns. Some of the gowns that are donated by designers are unused, while others may have only been used one time. Then they’ll take the gowns that are donated on a “Nationwide Tour of Gowns” that travels to roughly 120 cities a year, selling them at a discounted price. I travel to some of the events to tell my story and to inform people about how important it is to provide these services. What better way is there to give that dress that made you so happy a life of its own than to make someone else happy and also provide programs and services to people who need them? It’s a win-win.
What’s next for you?
I’m putting together an arsenal of songs to release in the coming year. A ballad called “Colors Never Fade” that’s about standing up to what it is that scares you and never fading or getting washed out in a sea of gray. “Beautiful Train Wreck” is a song that has a cool, funky groove. It’s about how we’re all beautiful even when we’re in the midst of being a train wreck. We’re all trying to find our way. Then there’s “Happy”, which is another song that I wrote with John [Oates]. It’s about the simplicity of just being happy and how it’s never too late to be kind.
For more information on Brides Against Breast Cancer Click here
Check out Margo Rey’s Official Website By Clicking Here
Following the recent U.S. economic downturn, actor Paul Blackthorne (along with photographer and friend, Mister Basquali) decided to embark on a cross-country road trip deep into the heart of the American landscape.
Along the way, they stopped to interview random people about the issues and concerns facing every day Americans to try to gauge what society can do to pull together when times are tough.
The resulting documentary, “This American Journey” is an encouraging, insightful look into the unbreakable will of the American spirit.
Regardless of what we may have been brought up to believe through our own socioeconomic backgrounds and biases, “This American Journey” reveals the unique perspective that lies within each of us. It’s the showcasing of those opinions regarding what’s right and wrong with America that makes the documentary so compelling and engaging.
As an actor, Paul Blackthorne has appeared on some of television’s most iconic series, including “24″, “ER” and most recently, as Detective Quentin Lance on the CW hit series “Arrow”. But it’s his directorial debut in “This American Journey” that adds a fresh layer of inspiration to an already impressive resume.
There are moments in the film that are uplifting, while others will surely move you to tears. You’ll hear perspectives of common folks from all walks of life; many of whom having ideas that may make you reconsider your own way of thinking.
But in the end, the real reason “This American Journey” shines is because it makes you think. And perhaps that’s what Blackthorne had in mind all along when he set out on his cross-country quest.
I spoke with him about his journey across America and what satisfied him the most about it.
What made you decide to take on a project like this?
Shortly after the economic down turn, I became curious about what the people of America were thinking about the country. At the time, the American Dream was in a troubled state, and even I wasn’t sure how I was feeling about America (having always loved it since I was a kid). I decided that the best way for me to form an opinion on how I felt about America was to go out and speak to the people of America. So that’s what we did. We got on the road and had a great chat with a lot of wonderful people.
Did you go into it having an opinion of the people you were likely to meet?
It’s easy to judge a book by its cover, but if you take the time to actually open the book and read a few words inside, there’s a lot more to it than what you originally thought. As we drove across the country and met people in certain places sure, it would have been easy to form an opinion of what someone might be like. But once we had the chance to actually listen to them and really get a sense of their character, we were amazed.
Did you at any time during the course of your journey fear for your own safety?
There was one neighborhood we visited in a big city where we had to make a pretty hasty departure, but generally speaking everyone we met was very open and receptive to us and we were received very positively.
What satisfies you the most about “This American Journey”?
Getting the film completed was very challenging, but we were supported by a lot of incredibly skilled people and that was very rewarding. Seeing the audience’s reaction to the film and the conversations that are generated from watching it is also very satisfying.
We went into it wanting to make a film that would make us all feel good about life and be inspired to dwell on the positive and as a result, hopefully generate more positive stuff. And that’s what we’ve done.
Has your own perspective of America changed now that you’ve completed the journey?
I feel very positive about America. We may be going though some tough times, but the American Spirit is in good shape. I’ve also learned that we have a lot more in common with each other than we have different. If we choose to dwell on the positive and look out for each other a little bit more, we’ve got a greater chance of getting out of difficult times. We’re all in this together, so let’s work together and focus on the important things we have in common.
For more information about “This American Journey” Click Here
This Thursday, millions of American families will once again come together for the annual tradition of watching football and devouring as much tryptophan as possible. I too will put forth my own best effort in an eager attempt to fall into a deeper state of food coma.
For me, the Thanksgiving holiday has always been a particular favorite, especially while growing up. I have fond memories of my grandmother rising early Thanksgiving morning and beginning the process of stuffing the bird and making side-dishes. Aside from getting the turkey out to thaw the night before, nothing was ever done or prepared ahead of time. On the contrary, everything was done on the actual Thanksgiving day.
By mid-morning, every nook and cranny of our kitchen would be cluttered with empty bags or cans of vegetables and cranberry sauce. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would be slowly winding down and I would be glued to our 19″ portable TV just waiting for a Kermit the Frog or Superman balloon to float down the streets of Manhattan.
Pies of many different varieties would be cooling on the stove and the smell of pumpkin and spice would begin to fill my senses. I remember looking outside of our kitchen window and seeing the last of the brown, wilted leaves falling from the trees and realize that the year was officially beginning to wind down. A feeling of home and family would wash over me as the cold winds of November blew across our little South Side Easton home. The heat given off from Nan’s all-day cook fest would be more than enough to warm a pilgrim army on their way to their own bountiful celebration. Looking back now, it surely WAS home.
As you can see, there are many things that I remember about the holiday. But as we all prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving 2013, and before I recall all the years I challenged my brother for wishbone supremacy, I’d like to share with you the five favorite memories I have about Thanksgiving while growing up.
5. Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special: It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without ol’ Chuck and his pals. The “wedge” between Great Pumpkin (my favorite of the series) and Charlie Brown Christmas, watching this show was a treat. Snoopy duking it out with the chair was hilarious and making popcorn for Thanksgiving? Well that’s just sheer genius in my book.
4. Godzilla Marathons on Channel 9. Laugh all you want, but this was one of the highlights of turkey day for me. Godzilla was actually the predecessor to MMA if you really think about it. You knew that when the big guy met the Smog monster or some other nefarious creature, there was more to it than just a desire to kick the crap out of each other. No, those guys in rubber suits really wanted to kill each other.
For me, nothing compared to the idea of filling my plate mile-high with buttered mashed taters, stuffing, beans and one of the drumsticks from the turkey and then scurrying over to the tube to watch my boy go toe to toe with King Kong. Channel 9 out of New York used to run marathons of Godzilla movies all weekend long and it didn’t get much better than that.
3. The Peace Candle. The day after Thanksgiving is always the busiest shopping day of the year as hordes of crazy people line the stores to find an elusive $50 laptop. You know, the stores that only have two in stock at that price, but 600 people out to get it.
But Black Friday is also the night the 106-foot tall Civil War monument in the center-square of my hometown is lit up and transformed into a giant candle. Dedicated to all the men and women who served or are serving our country, it also represents one of the best meanings of Christmas: Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Man.
2. Easton/P’burg Football and Bonfire. Unless you were born and raised in the area this one probably won’t mean anything to you. Every Thanksgiving morning for the past century, our high school football team and their cross town (actually cross-state) rival battle it out on the gridiron for football supremacy. And every night prior to the big game, Easton would light a huge bonfire at the high school to rally the troops. This is the one thing, aside from graduation that any student of Easton looks forward to their senior year.
It certainly wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without this tradition and I remember listening to it on a crappy old AM radio we had lying around. Sometimes, even on the clearest of Thursdays, you could barely hear the game amidst the static of the signal, but it didn’t matter.
And now the number one memory I have about Thanksgiving growing up:
1. Family: Aside from the shows, the football, the parade and the turkey, my favorite Thanksgiving memories growing up are about family. The best ones being spent with my grandmother and disabled grandfather. He had suffered a stroke and due to his paralysis was unable to join us downstairs, so we would always bring Thanksgiving to him. Some of the happiest times of my childhood were spent sitting on the couch next to him breaking bread (and if I was REALLY lucky, getting him to watch Godzilla with me).
Although nowhere near the same now, I suppose I can still thankfully celebrate these “traditions” every year. DVDs can be put in and the football game and Peace Candle ceremony can be attended. But even though technology evolves and the participants in the football game change, one thing will always remain.
So, as you gather around the table to continue your own Thanksgiving traditions, my wish is that you be surrounded by good food, good health, good memories and most of all…family.
It wasn’t long after finishing our first children’s book together [Doodle], that Michele Quinn and I started pondering ideas for a second story. What we didn’t know at the time was that our next book about the adventures of a little girl and her dog would be one of both love and loss.
The story of ‘Doodle Meets the Pound Pup’ is a very personal one for Michele as Cocoa, the guest star of this installment of Doodle books, was the Quinn family’s very own dog.
While the timeline and some details have been arranged to fit the “Doodle” theme, the heart of the story is quite true. Cocoa was adopted by the Quinns two days before Michele’s birthday, so they were especially close, as Cocoa was her special birthday gift.
Cocoa had spent her first years of life chained outdoors with another dog and by the time the animal rescue had her in their care, she was already afraid of men, had hip dysplasia, as well as separation anxiety.
Through no fault of her own, Cocoa was shifted to six different foster homes over the next six months, the last of which having her back outside on a large run.
The Quinns traveled for hours to bring Cocoa from Amish country back to their home in Eastern Ohio, never once regretting the decision to take her home (even after a $400 vet bill on her second full day with the family!)
Cocoa spent the next eight and a half years with her new family, who loved her deeply. Sadly, she began to suffer kidney failure at the end of March and the Quinns had to make the heartbreaking decision to end her suffering. She is now running free, finally catching up with the squirrels and bunnies that she loved to chase.
In keeping with our theme of giving back, from now until December 31st Michele and I will be donating 100% of the profits we receive from sales of “Doodle Meets The Pound Pup” to The Center For Animal Health & Welfare, a no-kill shelter located in our hometown of Easton, Pennsylvania.
For more information on “Doodle Meets The Pound Pup” and to keep up with future book signings and events, be sure to check out our website by Clicking here
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Today is October 5th, 2013: My 44th birthday.
Truth be told, it’s sometimes hard to believe that I’ve made it this far. Especially when you consider the fact that it was only yesterday when I was the youthful teenager laughing hysterically at my parents for being in their 40′s.
I suppose there’s a certain sense of immortality you have when you’re younger that lets you make fun of your elder’s age without fear of retribution (or karma ever catching up with you).
Little did I know.
When we’re young, the whole world seems to be filled with endless possibility, and I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait for the chance to break free and start my future. The only problem was, that future always seemed like it would never get here.
Last night, I stumbled upon my 1980 Easton Area Middle School ID Badge under a pile of old memories and immediately recalled the day I first received it. Although I didn’t care much for the goofy grinning picture of myself on the front, I do remember it was what was printed on the back of the worn, laminated card that really caught my attention.
For the first time, I saw the words “YR GRAD-87″ and believed that the year of my high school graduation (1987) was so very far away. To this shy, cheesy-grinned, eleven-year old boy, seven years seemed like seventy and the idea of me one day living in the year 2000 was equivalent to being in a Star Wars movie. It was impossible for me to even comprehend it ever happening.
Fast forward, and here I am celebrating a birthday twenty-six years post graduation and nearly fourteen years beyond 2000. A brand new century. When did I close my eyes and wake up a middle-aged man? Back in 1980, it seemed like all I had was time and now, it sometimes feels like time is running out. Why just the other day, I was given the sad news about a high school classmate who had unexpectedly passed away at the young age of 43.
If what you’ve read so far sounds a bit depressing or makes you feel old, I apologize. This post wasn’t meant to bum you out.
On the contrary, 2013 has actually been one of the best years of my life. In just these last few months I’ve been able to accomplish something I’ve always wanted to do with a dear friend – write and publish my very first book.
In addition to that, I’ve had the opportunity to interview and write articles with many of the artists and performers I admire most. A pipe dream for the little boy you see in the above picture.
I’ve also made a conscious decision to start doing something different for my birthday every year. Beginning this October, I’ll be using my age number as a benchmark to do something to help others in some way. This year, I decided to use the equivalent of my age (44) in dollars and use it to hopefully put a smile on a sick child’s face.
Who knows, maybe next year I’ll take the “45″ and divide it up into hours; donating my time over the course of the month to volunteering or raising money for charity. Then maybe at “46″ I’ll donate forty-six signed copies of my #1 New York Times Bestseller (hey, it could happen) to a charity auction. Nothing is too small and anything is something.
Which got me to thinking, what if every one of us did something similar? How about instead of just receiving well wishes and birthday cards for making it through another year, what if every person used their own special day as an opportunity to do something for the greater good? Instead of making it a day all about ourselves, what if we made part of our day about helping someone else? One day set aside that you’ll always remember (I mean, how could you forget? After all, it IS your birthday). What better feeling can there possibly be than knowing you made this world a better place, and did it on the day you were born!
Here are some ideas of things you can do to really “celebrate” your birthday:
1. Volunteer a few hours of your time at a local food bank/soup kitchen/animal shelter.
2. Walk (or run) in a marathon to raise money for research.
3. Spend part of your day gathering up unused clothing to donate to a needy family.
According to my calculations, most good work would be done on September 16th (the most common birthday) and the least, February 29th (leap year).
As for me? Well, you can add candle #44 to that birthday cake. This year, I’d like us all to imagine a world where someone is doing something to help someone else, every single day of the year.
Impossible? Maybe. But then again, that’s what I used to think about 1987 and 2000 too.
Don’t Forget to check out the Doodle Book Contest! Click Here For Details!
In life, there are only twelve months to any given year. A dozen different containers of days divided up evenly into four seasons. Each month, its own thing of beauty. Each one a chance for new beginnings.
I’m sure at some point along the way, when all of these months first got together, there must have been arguments over which of them should be considered the greatest.
I can already picture January bragging about the fact that he’s always been first. The first month to ring in a new year. The first month where resolutions are made. Then February would chime in about being the lover’s month; April would mention something about “showers”; May would talk about Moms and June would talk about summer and being the month that most weddings occur in.
And I’m quite certain December would eventually state his case for being great because of the whole Christmas thing.
Not one to brag or voice his discontent, October would just smile and watch the others bicker. For you see, he (much like I) already knows which month is the greatest.
October is the GREATEST month of the year, and here’s why:
1. October is National Breast Cancer and Rett Syndrome Awareness Month: Thirty one days in which to raise funds and awareness to help find cures.
2. Columbus Day: It’s the day America was discovered….. DUH!
3. Oktoberfest: Time to get your drink on.
4. October is the only month where Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo Berry cereal are all readily available in stores. THAT alone is cause for celebration!
5. For baseball enthusiasts, October means only one thing: The World Series.
6. October is the month when fall colors are at their peak. Sure, the Autumnal Equinox “technically” starts in September, but leaves are still green for the most part in September. And by November, the foliage has turned into a dull, brownish color. For those of us in who live here in the northeast, the best days of all are actually when the weather is overcast with a threat of rain. Seeing bright-colored shades of red, yellow and orange leaves beneath the gray sky is one of the most beautiful sights there is.
7. Halloween. Nothing more needs to be said. The final day of the greatest month of the year is the only day where it’s OK to get dressed up and scare the shit out of people. It’s also the only day of the year where you can go walk the streets and beg for candy and not get arrested. Trust me, I’ve tried.
But the absolute real reason October is the greatest month of the year does not lie in days of awareness, cereal consumption or trick or treat. No, October is the greatest month of the year because of what happened on the 5th day of it back in 1969….
I was born.
I can’t say that I remember it as if it were yesterday. Heck, I was just on the verge of turning four on September 20th, 1973 and about the only thing going through my mind at the time was probably wondering whether or not Sesame Street was coming on anytime soon. Although I have no personal recognition about that day in particular, I still feel as if I were somehow there.
It’s hard to believe that forty years have passed since the lives of Jim Croce, Maury Muehleisen and four others were tragically cut short when the twin-engine plane in which they were traveling crashed shortly after takeoff. Croce and Muehleisen had just finished performing a show in Natchitoches, Louisiana and were en route to another show in Sherman, Texas when the crash occurred.
As I look back now, I wonder if Jim and Maury were aware of the impact they were going to have. Because I can still remember the very first time I ever heard their music.
It was sometime in the mid 1970′s when my father took me and my brother on our first overnight camping trip to a place called Camp Hugh Beaver.
At the time, I recall being extremely excited about going camping; that is until after we had actually arrived at the campsite and the realization of being away from home hit me like a ton of bricks. From that moment on, I immediately wanted to go home and let my father know it every chance I could, through both tantrum and tears.
Dad initially ignored my pleas, but by the next morning just couldn’t take it any longer and finally gave in to my childish demands. Shortly after breakfast, we packed up our things and began making the long drive home.
Why do I remember this you ask? No, it’s wasn’t because it was one of the many times I was being a spoiled brat (although I was). Rather, the real reason I remember this so vividly is because on the drive home the song “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” came on the car radio…and I was mesmerized. I distinctly remember asking my father who it was that was singing the greatest song any seven-year old had ever heard in his life and finding out all about Jim Croce.
Dad told me all about Jim and his other great songs like “Time In A Bottle” and “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”. How Jim had appeared on television shows and how his songs and stories related to the “common man”.
Then he told me about the plane crash and how Jim and his lead guitarist, Maury had both died. In the naivety of youth, I didn’t really understand what he was saying to me at the time. I thought Dad telling me that Jim and Maury “died” just meant that they went away and would eventually be back. Sadly, it wouldn’t be long until I discovered what death really meant and realized that we (the world) had lost two of the greats.
Less than two months after Jim and Maury’s untimely deaths, Croce’s “I Got A Name” album was released. Songs like the title cut (which still gives me chills listening to it to this day), “Workin’ at the Carwash Blues” and “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” only remind me of what could have been.
“I Got A Name” is also an apropos title, considering the names Jim Croce & Maury Muehleisen won’t soon be forgotten. Sure, it may have been the last album from two guys whose careers were only beginning to take off, but here I am still thinking about them and their music, forty years later.
Since I assume many of you are already wondering what you should get me for my birthday next month (October 5th), I’ve taken the liberty of posting my list here in order to give you an early jump on your shopping duties.
Unfortunately, none of these items can still be found in stores, so you’ll have to poke around on E-bay in order to find them. But in an effort to help you in your search, I’ve already scoped out and gone through the trouble of pricing these items in order from low to high, so you shouldn’t have any concern over whether or not you’re spending enough. But when you think about it, can you REALLY put a price tag on a gift?
I now present to you the Five Best Presents you can get me for my birthday. Things I received as a child and would love to see again.
Chutes Away ($45) Ah, nothing beats looking through a scope and dropping plastic parachutes from a plane into fox holes on the battlefield as it spins around in circles.
4. Magic Window by Wham-O ($100) You want to talk about mindless entertainment? Look no further than this plastic circle filled with different colored sand. You maneuver it around and the sand magically transforms into different patterns. Let’s see the X-Box Kinect or Wii try to top that! Hours of fun here.
3. Weeble Haunted House ($300). Since there’s no Count Chocula action figure, this is the next best thing. Who ever invented the Weeble was a true genius. They always wobbled but never fell down. I love the glow in the dark ghost.
2. Mego Spiderman ($400) It just wouldn’t be my birthday without a visit from good ol’ Spidey. I’ve had several different Spidey action figures over the years, but never an original Mego one. So, please do what you can to make a 44-year old boy happy this year!
1. Stretch Monster ($800) – C’mon, you know I’m worth it. Stretch Monster was the coolest thing ever. Much better than Stretch Armstrong. I suppose that’s why I’d only let my sister play with Armstrong. She’d NEVER be allowed to touch my Monster. Me and Stretch Monster were tight. We did everything together. Right up until that one day when he fell on some rocks and bled out.
That syrupy stuff inside him got all over, and no amount of band-aid or bandage could save him. To see him again this year would be the ultimate!
If the law of survival was such that the only way you could get food on the table was to do some kind of “handy” manual labor, I’d starve. I’ve never been much into taking things apart and finding out what makes them tick; let alone fixing appliances or cars when they break down.
You want me to write you a story, fix your computer or paint you a Bob Ross masterpiece? I’m your man. Heck, I even take pride in the fact that I’ve been successfully mowing lawns since I was thirteen. But if you want someone who can build you a house from a set of match sticks well, you’ll need to look elsewhere. I even cringe whenever my wife brings home a new lighting fixture and asks me to simply replace the old. My first thought on situations like these is to let her know that’s its been quite a while since my brother last visited.
My brother is the handiest person I know. He finished my entire basement pretty much all by himself. He laid the sub flooring, framed the entire thing, dry walled, primed and painted. About the only thing he didn’t do was hook up the electric and carpet the floor. When it comes to being handy, there’s pretty much nothing he can’t do.
Me? All I’m good for is holding a flashlight, a ladder or making a lunch run. But I’m OK with that. It’s not like I don’t wish that I were more handy around the house. The fact of the matter is, bad things usually happen when I am.
Take the other day for example.
It’s late at night and I’m lying in bed fully engulfed in a Stephen King novel (which in retrospect, should have been a red flag) when my wife comes in and informs me that the dishwasher isn’t working. It won’t power on at all and the entire thing is full of dishes that need to be cleaned. It’s an older unit that has seen better days, but perhaps it’s something that could easily be fixed.
The next day, I scour internet sites looking to diagnose the problem. I discover that the symptoms affecting this particular model indicate one of two things: either a faulty thermal fuse or a bad system board. It also notes that the thermal fuse is a cheap part and is a relatively easy thing to replace by yourself. That’s when the light bulb goes off in my head and I decide to tackle the job myself.
<insert ominous music here>
After obtaining the replacement fuse, I turn off the power associated with the dishwasher and slowly pull out the unit; being careful not to pull too hard to unseat the copper water line or return tubes. With screwdriver in hand, I methodically remove the eight tiny screws from the inside cover, exposing the guts of the unit where I am am quickly able to replace the thermal fuse all by myself. Feeling immortal and with a sense of job well done, I return power to the dishwasher and press the power button, fully expecting to see the green lights return.
I double-check all of my connections to prove that I did the repair properly, but still nothing. The only alternative now is that the system board has failed and will need replacing. If that’s the case, a new dishwasher certainly makes more sense. Dejected, I piece the innards of the dishwasher back together and slowly begin pushing the unit back into place when suddenly, I hear this slight hissing sound; starting out slowly at first and then getting progressively louder.
For a moment, all thought is concentrated on fire. Perhaps I screwed up the wiring after all. But as my eyes gaze down to my now sloshing feet and liquified floor, I quickly realize that the copper line has burst and water is now rushing uncontrollably into my kitchen. Sure enough, I pull the dishwasher back out and see the large crack that’s become source of the flood.
Sometimes when disaster is unfolding before your eyes, one tends to lose track of reality and oddly enough, it was at that exact moment when the legend of The Little Dutch Boy who stuck his finger in the dyke to hold back the water came to mind, and for some reason I decided to try his hypothesis.
Coming to my senses again after quickly realizing the legend was bullsh$t, I was able to turn off the main line water to the dishwasher and spent the next hour cleaning up the handy mess I had made.
Not only does this incident only reinforce my belief that me and tools are simply not compatible, but also that any job that requires the combination of the two of us together should instead be handled by professionals.
Don’t get wrong. I would love to have the euphoria of completing a handy task all by myself. I just don’t like the thought of drowning while in the process of getting there.
Christmas came early this year. Or is it Halloween? Well, in either case, my inner child is doing one heck of a happy dance this morning. As most of you fellow cereal connoisseurs already know, The Monster Cereals have been my absolute favorite ever since I was but a wee lad. I still remember how cool it was to go with my mother to the local Food Lane and see my homies sitting there on the shelf just waiting for me.
Not only did the boys get me through some rough hunger spells growing up, but I also attribute the psychological benefits of having breakfast with a monster with helping me to overcome my introvertism. (Ok, I made up that last part).
Sadly, my beloved Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo Berry buddies were exiled to the latter part of the calendar year; only making their appearances on store shelves now when the weather gets cooler and monsters and trick or treating become all the rage.
Don’t get me wrong, I still do ravage local supermarkets and Target stores every September to stock up on as many as I can for the winter, and always lament the boys taking an extended vacation starting November 1st. But much like seeing the first robin in spring, I always look forward to that first box of Boo on store shelves every Autumn.
But this year will be extra special.
A few days ago General Mills (the ones who magically brought my cereal hombres to life) decided to do something special for the fans and this year are bringing back two more monsters; one of which has been MIA for more than thirty years. Just when you thought breakfast in the fall couldn’t get any better, Frute Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy will be joining the Holy Trinity of Cereal this year!
Fruit Brute (or now, FRUTE Brute for you politically correct people) was discontinued in 1982 and is considered by many collectors to be the most sought-after vintage cereal box. Not only because Brute’s a cool wolf who wears colorful suspenders, but also because the box was used by director Quentin Tarantino in his films “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.”
Yummy Mummy, no stranger to succumbing to the endangered sugar list, has been gone for more than two decades himself. His triumphant return will mark the first time in history that all five boxes of Monster Cereal will be available at the same time.
When asked to comment on the return of the childhood favorites, Julie Anderla, integrated communications senior manager at General Mills had this to say: “The love for the Monsters that we make available each Halloween continues to be huge and the passion for all of them across social media is incredible. We’re bringing back Frute Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy in an effort to give our fans what they asked for.” Can’t argue with that.
But WAIT!! – It gets even better!!
As part of a special promotion with Target, all five monster cereals will be housed in their original retro art packaging!!! So it will indeed be like those days of yore when a young 44 year-old boy sees his childhood friends on the shelves, looking exactly as they did way back when.
I tried to find a way to properly express my emotion for the return of this quintet, but I decided to let Dinosaur Dracula explain how big this news really is in his review of the “new” cereal. Thanks dude!