Halladay Makes History

Published by Parcbench on June 1, 2010:

Little did I know when a very dear US Army veteran friend invited me to the Phillies-Marlins game in Miami last night that I would be a witness to some pretty amazing baseball history.

Initially, Dave’s (a passionate Mets fan) motivation was to experience Phillies baseball with a crazy Philly sports fan like me, having seen me in action during Eagles football season. But it turned out we both got so much more out of the bargain when Roy Halladaypitched a perfect game:

Roy Halladay’s Perfect Game

In a post-game interview, Halladay demonstrated real class and genuine humility when he credited Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz for making the calls that ultimately led to his initiation into an elite baseball pitcher’s club. In Halladay’s own words, he simply “followed Carlos’ lead”.

How refreshing in this day and age of celebrity-athletes-gone-wild that there are still some bona fide sportsmen left to set an example! The next day, Halladay continued to demonstrate admirable character by being the very first Phillie to arrive at Sun Life Stadium the following morning, in preparation for another game against the Marlins (one which the Phils ironically lost by 1-0, after beating the Marlins by the same score the previous night).

It was an amazing evening for a Philly sports fan, with my only complaint directed at the Marlins organization for failing, on the Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend, to recognize our United States Military, and play patriotic American songs to accompany the fireworks after the game.

While I very much enjoy Latin music, on this weekend in particular — just like Independence Day — it would have been nice if the organization had seen fit to dedicate a few minutes to reminding everyone in the crowd of our shared good fortune in being Americans before starting the high-energy salsa celebration. After all, what’s more American than baseball?

When I wrote to the Marlins to express my disappointment, I received the following response:

Thank you very much for taking the time to write your comments to us. Since the office Memorial Day is Monday, May 31, all baseball team will be paying their tribute on that day. Our team will be wearing a special cap in honor of all past/present military personnel. We do apologize but thank you for your comments.

I politely thanked them for their prompt reply and stated that while it is admirable that the entire Major League Baseball organization is marking the Holiday on Monday, it still would have been a welcome gesture for the Marlins to offer their own tribute to our nation’s heroes last night. A few minutes of Stars and Stripes Forever and America The Beautiful could have nicely preceded the rest of the evening’s Latin rhythms.

This is no way diminishes the thrill of witnessing Roy Halladay’s impressive accomplishment, nor is it a black eye on the Marlins. For all I know, no other baseball stadiums recognized the US Military on the evening of Saturday, May 29 either, for the same reason stated in the Marlins email. I applaud the MLB for orchestrating a league-wide tribute to our troops. But when so many men and women in uniform throughout the history of this great nation have sacrificed so much, honoring them the entire Memorial Day weekend hardly seems too much to ask.



The Ken Character in Water Signs

The Ken Character in Water Signs

As someone who was raised with a genuine appreciation and respect for the US Military and traditional, conservative values, holidays like  Memorial Day and Independence Day were about so much more than just backyard barbecues and fireworks, although my parents typically hosted one every year. And once we’d gotten an in-ground pool when I was twelve (the realization of a fervent childhood dream for a Pisces child who loved being in the water all summer long), outdoor grilling and socializing with family and friends became that much more enjoyable.

But growing up with parents who constantly espoused the concepts of freedom, capitalism, strong national defense and love of America, as well as having numerous relatives who’d paid the ultimate price in World War II, I was fully aware of the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make on our behalf. Gratitude for their courage and willingness to serve at great personal peril has always remained with me, along with pride for people like my Uncle Dan, who was an Admiral in the US Navy and one of the most devout, honorable men I have ever known.There is a passing reference to him in Water Signs, in the scene between Madeline and Monica, in which Madeline’s mother implores her daughter about the importance of education.

And of course, the hero of the story, Ken, is a US Navy veteran, just like his real-life counterpart. Although by the time readers meet him, his service has already taken place, his love for America shines through in word and action. In Chapter One, in reaction to Carmen running off with her Iranian date, he notes with palpable exasperation, “I spent four years of my life defending this country from people like him and she and her girlfriend run off with them?”

Of course, Maddy is quick to remind him of the distinction between the Iranian people and their tyrannical rulers.

In another scene later in the novel, as Ken and Maddy are enjoying a romantic beach picnic in Ventnor, she ruminates about what others might be doing at that very moment on the other side of the ocean (something I’d often thought of during my visits to the sand and surf):

“…well, I’ve actually gotten to see what many of them were up to firsthand, during my Navy days. Unfortunately, not all of it was good.”

“We’re very blessed to live in this country, aren’t we?”

“Yes, we are,” he agreed, kissing her forehead.

The character of Ken also embodies love of God, country and family, which is revealed through his actions in addition to his words. Whether professionally or personally, commitment is of the utmost importance to him; therefore, he’s not above working menial jobs such as Taj Mahal parking valet and electric company meter-reader on his way to bigger and better things. And no matter the task, he throws himself into it diligently.

When he mistakenly believes Maddy is over him, he follows through with his marriage to Erin and valiantly fights for it as the years go by, in spite of his wife’s superficial obsessions and his lingering feelings for his former love. It is only after exhausting every possibility of reconciliation that he ultimately chooses divorce, and it is only after the legalities of the dissolution of marriage are finalized that he even entertains the idea of meeting up with Madeline, following a thirteen-year estrangement. Once reunited, the pair still takes it slowly, preferring to reacquaint themselves with one another spiritually, mentally and emotionally before consummating their new and improved relationship. All the while, being a good father to his two children remains his top priority.

On the night of their engagement, as the happy couple is cruising down A1A along the Atlantic Ocean, a specially made CD is playing in the car which contains many of Madeline’s favorite love songs. One in particular, Song for You by Chicago, represents the comprehensive celebration and description of her perfect love, Kenny:

“…it resonated with Maddy in the same way Chicago’s ballad, Song for You, always had. Whenever anyone would ask her about her ideal mate, she’d invariably tell them to play the famous rock band’s classic song: it not only summed up her sentiments perfectly, it extolled them with an accompanying, beautiful melody.”

In Sea to Shining Sea, Ken will continue to evolve as a stalwart, passionate defender of freedom; a faithful, ever-loving husband; and a devoted, affectionate father. Along with Madeline, he will face incredibly trying challenges, including the loss of his executive position and the birth of a son with Down syndrome. But through it all, in spite of moments of human weakness, he will rely upon his faith and uphold his duty to God, country and family, in the true spirit of a US Military veteran.

Every day, I honor our men and women in uniform who courageously fight for our freedom. God bless them one and all. Words cannot thank them enough for everything they do. They make me proud to be an American and represent the very best of all of us.

Read 5-star reviews and preview Water Signs in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com.


Peepin’ on the Palins

Published by Parcbench, May 27 2010:

Whether you agree or disagree with her politics and endorsement decisions, it is an unassailable fact that when it comes to Sarah Palin and her family, the left has absolutely no boundaries and certainly no shame. Many of us who genuinely admire and champion the former governor of Alaska in spite of, or perhaps even because of  an occasional parting of the ways (as has been the case with many conservatives over her endorsement of Carly Fiorina), have often wondered just how sinister a bad case of Palin Derangement Syndrome could get. Thanks to lefty so-called journalist Joe McGinniss, the question has been creepily answered.

In this latest and most disturbing demonstration of PDS to date — as if hacking into her private email, photoshopping her Down syndrome baby, promulgating the repugnant theory that her youngest child was actually the offspring of her eldest daughter, spreading false divorce rumorsabout her and her husband Todd, and mis-characterizing her every word and action weren’t enough — McGinniss  just achieved an unprecedented low by taking up residence just 15 feet away from the Palin’s Alaskan home. Despite the fact that countless biographers before him have managed to write about their subjects without actually invading their privacy, supporters of McGinniss have defended his move from Massachusetts to Alaska as business-as-usual for an investigative reporter.

Sorry, but coming from a man whose son informed Ben Smith of Politico (who ironically accusesPalin of having a “preoccupation”) via email, ”Sadly, she’s right. We tried our best to intervene, but alas, the heart wants what it wants. We can only pray for him now. He’s convinced that Todd will step aside and when the time is right, he’ll be there, right next door, to pick up the pieces”, I’m not buying it.

To her credit, Palin has publicly dealt with the issue with her familiar blend of humor and resolve. In her Facebook note, she described her discovery of her new neighbor, which occurred while mowing her backyard in a pair of shorts with her toddler son Trig safely tucked in his backpack for an “outdoor adventure”. Setting aside the appealing realness of a former VP candidate who actually cuts her own grass, imagine how it must’ve felt to be spied upon by the author of numerous hit pieces who has also previously stopped by her house unexpectedly; bid $59,999 to dine with her at a charity auction; and vowed “I’m not intending to write a salacious book about Palin’s sex life. But if it’s true, I’ll find out”.

On that last point, I don’t even want to know how McGinniss intends to uncover the details of something that is clearly out of the bounds of journalistic integrity, and definitely within a reasonable expectation of privacy where Todd and Sarah Palin are concerned.

Yes, Palin is a public figure, but even public figures and their families deserve to be left alone when abiding in the sanctuary of their own home and property. As for the media, does anyone doubt the thunderous outrage that would’ve pervaded the broadcast airwaves, blogs and newspapers had some obsessed conservative biographer with a Hillary Clinton fixation moved thousands of miles from his home to take up residence right next door to the Secretary of State? And what about the Palin children? Given all they’ve been unfairly subjected to already (which points to another media double-standard vis-a-vis the kids of Republicans vs. the kids of Democrats), a carefree, normal summer hardly seems too much to ask.  But when your mom is a prominent conservative Republican politician, you can forget any expectation of basic decency.

As for Todd Palin, much like Glenn Beck, I am amazed by his remarkable restraint, though I can’t say I’d be disappointed if he were to show McGinniss some Alaskan hospitality by taking him on a hunting trip in some remote, untamed corner of the state — and then leaving him there weaponless and alone, with only his perverted fantasies to protect him from the wolves and other assorted wild creatures.

Regardless of how this all plays out, one thing’s for certain: it is shaping up to be an interesting summer for the Palin family, who constantly find themselves on the receiving end of a derangement that doesn’t appear to be resolving itself anytime soon.


Cyberspace and the Single (Conservative) Girl, Part Two

Published by Parcbench on March 18, 2010:

As I discussed in Part One, while it’s easy to blame the internet for the plethora of dishonest players, the truth is, it is simply another vehicle through which to play the serial dating game. In the 21st Century, technology has provided an efficient method for both the upstanding and not-so-upstanding among us to either genuinely seek out a meaningful relationship, or secure the next superficial fling in a relentless hunt for a sexier, prettier, hotter version of the previous week’s hook-up.

Case in point: last summer. To make a long story short, a gentleman (ahem) unexpectedly contacted me via email, after coming across my website in cyberspace. For the next two weeks, we engaged in regular communication in the form of email and telephone conversations. Seemingly holding much in common, including a desire to save the United States from ruination, it seemed a logical conclusion that we meet in person to determine if there was any potential for a real relationship.

Granted, geographical distance between the man and the woman does present a unique challenge, as does older age. Unlike the America of the past where families tended to live together in the same geographical area, and the daters in question tended to be much younger (most folks in their 30s and above having already been joined in the bonds of marriage), today the “safety net” of having a man pick up a woman at her parent’s home is almost non-existent. In this example, my suitor would have to drive about six hours just to meet me. An inconvenience? Possibly, but also a fact of life in the contemporary dating scene.

For obvious reasons, including my own personal safety, I’d set the expectations well in advance: the man who desired to make my acquaintance in order to determine if we had a corresponding physical “spark” to accompany the intellectual one, would have to stay at a nearby hotel. Over the phone, he appeared quite understanding about the arrangement. I’d also informed a few close friends and family of his name, hometown and location of our get-together, simply as a precaution. And since the suitor in question was a self-described “old-fashioned kind of guy from Texas,” it never occurred to me he’d take issue with buying me a $20 entrée at a mom-and-pop establishment by the beach.

Admittedly, along the way I’d ignored some serious warning signs such as his distasteful tendency to divulge intimate details of previous relationships, his confession that the only photo he’d sent was over 12 years-old and the fact that (on his way over in the car!) he phoned to alert me that the birth date on his Facebook profile was indeed, false. In actuality, he was much older than the posted birth year would suggest. And in spite of my inquiries, he begged me to keep an open mind and wait for the answer until I met him in person. I chalked it up to nervousness and decided to give the guy the benefit of the doubt; after all, he was taking some time and expense to meet me. I could cut him some slack.

Note to self: never do that again!

When at last we met face-to-face, I was a bit disappointed inasmuch as he did not remotely resemble his photo. However, being an open-minded person, I determined to spend the next few hours listening and talking, understanding that the heart and soul within supercedes the exterior package. And yes, while I do believe in “chemistry,” I don’t simply base it upon the first two minutes of a physical interaction involving a friendly hug and a warm greeting. Sure, in many instances, it does develop within a matter of seconds; however, in my experience, this isn’t always the case.

This man and I went on to have dinner, although his reluctance to do so should’ve provided another clue. Unknown to me, “Zack” had already determined back at the Comfort Inn parking lot that the elusive “spark” he was seeking was nowhere to be found in Deerfield Beach—at least not with me. And as I mentioned, the feeling was mutual, although I was willing to give the guy a chance. As we sat at the dining table, he mentioned how “full” he was from lunch, having been treated to the Cheesecake Factory earlier in the day by a client. Undaunted and hungry (it was dinnertime after all), I ordered a chicken entrée, which came with a side of unwanted pasta, a dish I willingly gave him once the waiter arrived with the home-cooked food.

After he paid for our meal (the water-with-lemon was free as far as I know), we proceeded to walk along the beach, talk and even dance for the next several hours. If Zack wasn’t feeling the “spark” he must’ve been desperately trying to create one because at various points throughout the evening, he’d put his arm around me and even rub my bare feet and place his head on my thigh as we sat by the sand. Alas, these efforts were in vain as he later announced in no uncertain terms back at the hotel parking lot that he just wasn’t that into me.

Fair enough, especially considering the feeling was mutual; however, for him the disappointment ran so deep he didn’t even want to meet for breakfast the next morning. And although I am no psychic, I picked up on a subtle vibe that my crestfallen date truly resented having to sacrifice any gas, time and money for a girl he’d only ever regard as a friend. For him, no initial spark = Dutch treat; it also meant he’d be hitting the highway first thing in the morning, rather than spend any quality time with a new platonic relationship. Too bad he hadn’t enumerated his ground rules from the start to this “old fashioned kind of girl.” When I inquired about attending a free concert as buddies the next evening he protested, “But what if I see a girl there I am interested in? I won’t be able to talk to her because I’ll be with you!”

Needless to say, that was my cue to leave in spite of his protests to “talk it out” some more. This unfortunate interaction led to a few emails back and forth, including this little gem, so eloquently written without the benefit of proper grammar and punctuation (bold emphasis mine):

its more than just me paying for ur dinner…First of all, we were not in the “dating routine”…I had never even met u before so i would hardly say we were dating…Secondly, i expended money, time, gas and personal committment to drive there and meet you…Dont u think the least u could have done is take ME out to dinner, split the bill, or found me free acomodations??…I think it highly presumptuous of you to just assume things that had not even matured yet….Once again, u are over assuming…my coming to see you was not a “date” as in romance or after having established more between us…What it was was to see if there might be a spark where a romantic relationship could grow…Obviously it wasnt there…Apparently from ur reply letter, you considered this a date and as such the man should be responsible to pay for everything…Im sorry for that assumed delusion…Maybe u should grow up a little and understand that when someone (whom u dont know) has invited u to meet them for the first time, it is proper etiquette to split monetary charges between the two and to even extend accomodations to the weary traveler…If we had already established a romantic interest in each other prior to this weekend, then everything u said in this email would be correct, but that simply is not the case…Even u yourself said i knew what the ground rules were before i came; meaning no sex or intimacy…That being the case, how could u expect to have received more than what u got..Daria, when i go out with my female friends (of whom i have no romantic interest) we always split evenly all things we do….Why couldnt u have extended the same graciuosness to me until the two of us decided whether or not there was a romantic spark to further the relationship along into something more that just friends??…You are stil a very sweet girl and I wish u the best in all you do…

Silly me! I should have realized from the start that the fact I wasn’t planning to put out would automatically transform my evening from a “first date” with a guy I met online to an actual audition, whereby if my mere presence didn’t generate those elusive fireworks within his entire being, I would immediately lose all rights to the hotly contested $20 dinner.

Rather than complain about this modest output of cash, good ol’ Zack ought to thank his lucky stars that I am not a Boca Babe, or he’d have been out a heckuva lot more money. Oh how I sometimes wish I had time machine to transport me back to the Fifties! In spite of the benefits of modern technology, in a culture gone to extremes, a good man is still hard to find.

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