Category: Writing



I recently read an article in the Nashville Scene titled; “Preds Fan’s Guide to Hating Pittsburgh. I thought there might actually be some substance to the article but once I read it I realized that, unlike them and their catfish tossing, we “Yinzers” have plenty to be proud of.

It started off slamming Pittsburgh calling it the “City that Self Awareness Forgot.” It went on to say that when talking to a Pittsburgher, “You have to listen to a litany of the most banal, mundane accomplishments in the history of human civilization.” Obviously the author of this post, whom I will address later, obviously doesn’t realize that some things are said jokingly; like our particular method of making left turns.

“They are really proud of their rivers too, even though only one is of any consequence.” I had to laugh at that one. While the rivers may not see the same commerce traffic of the steel era, they were what made Pittsburgh the industrial mecca of its time. All 3 rivers were packed with barges carrying coal, iron ore, steel, grain and livestock and on and on. The rivers are also the reason that Pittsburgh is known as the City of Bridges. This was because during WWII Pittsburgh was a prime target for the enemy, because of the Steel manufactured here for use in military weapons and vehicles. The large number of bridges insured that even if one was bombed, there would still be more to insure the commerce could continue. Let’s not forget that Pittsburgh is one of the leading City’s in medical research and development.

“Pittsburghers love to tell you about how great they are at waving towels, as if in the thousands of years humans have been drying themselves off, no one ever thought to spin one above the head until a bunch of Yinzers did it.” Once again, a small guffaw escapes my lips. Ok, here is the history of the Terrible Towel. It was invented by Myron Cope, the color commentator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, in preparation for the 1975 playoffs. Cope wanted a symbol for all the fans to rally behind. It worked because in 42 years the Terrible Towel is the only “gimmick” that has been constant in any sports venue. I mean, what does Nashville have? Dead catfish and a Country Music Super Star to sing the National Anthem? Which by the way was flat and pitchy. But I digress. Before you slam a Pittsburgh sports tradition, which by the way, every other sports team attempts to copy, maybe you should learn a little more about it. Such as, The Terrible Towel is 42 years old. Myron Cope signed the copyrights over to the Allegheny Valley School. This School is a series of campuses for people with severe mental and physical disabilities, of which Myron Copes son is one. That means all the profits go directly to the school. What do your dead catfish get you, besides laughed at I mean. It is also a lasting memory of Myron himself who bled Black and Gold and loved this city more than anyone I know.

They are very proud of having drafted Sydney Crosby for their beloved Penguins, a Team most of them didn’t know they had until 1984, then forgot all about until 2005.” The writer of this piece says there was some flim flammery involved in getting Crosby. He sites some shady drafting process because of the NHL cancelling the 2004 season and Pittsburgh was awarded the #1 Draft in 2005. But if Nashville would have been granted the #1 draft there wouldn’t be an issue. Oh wait, that’s right, The Nashville Predators weren’t even a gleam in the NHL’s eye in 2005. I also believe that if the NHL hadn’t given Nashville the equivalent of a participation award by awarding them a franchise, they wouldn’t have been able to attract one on their own.

Now they go on to say that Pittsburgh was awarded the #1 draft pick in 2003 and that wasn’t on the up and up. With that draft they chose Marc-Andre Fleury who, according to this well informed writer, “has since become best known for getting replaced by literally anyone within earshot of the Pittsburgh bench during the playoffs.” Let’s see, drafted in 2003. It’s now um, 2017. I make that 14 years in the NHL. I imagine he might have lost a step or two in that amount of time. But let’s not forget, when Matt Murry was injured at the beginning of the playoff, it was Fleury who was phenomenal and kept them in the playoffs.

The hater-ade must have been flowing freely when this last paragraph was written. It goes something like this; “Of course all of this fortune – which was definitely NOT engineered by the National Hockey League because the Pens are owned by one of the league’s all-time greats in Mario Lemieux (who ended up a Pen in 1984 because Pittsburgh put on a tank job George S. Patton would be proud of) – has resulted in resounding success in the Steal, uh, Steel City.”

I must laugh at anyone from Nashville wanting to point out any type of chicanery in the NHL. I guess the writer hasn’t watched any of the Stanley Cup Finals. Games one and two were some of the worst acting since, well I’m not sure since when. To watch the Predators player’s taking dive after dive during the first 2 games, it reminded me of the first Mighty Ducks movie when Coach Bombay wanted District 5 to play act to draw penalties. To watch PK Subban cry and hold his shoulder after a legal check was pitiful. Maybe he should learn from Oli Matta who took a slap shot off of his ankle to block a shot but kept playing. Or even Pekka Renne who was flailing around at times after barely being brushed by legal contact.

Now let’s add the officiating. I guess the only reason so many calls are missed by the officials is because Seeing Eye dogs can’t skate. For the announcers who clearly hate Pittsburgh to comment on how obviously one sided the officiating is, maybe it is true. Even Carrie Underwood, married to Captain Mike Fisher of Nashville, said pretty much the same thing about the officiating. For a player to be standing in front of the and can’t make a play on the puck is ridiculous. Is it because of poor skills, bad positioning? Maybe it’s because PK Subban has his arms wrapped around Sidney Crosby and he can’t even lift his stick. However, the officials did prove they knew what holding was because it was called several times against Pittsburgh in game 3. Actually, most of the penalties have been called against Pittsburgh the entire playoffs.

They like to make fun Pittsburgh for putting cole-slaw and fries on a sandwich. He makes fun of it but there are many copies of the Primani’s sammich. Even Nashville copy’s it. How do I know? I was stationed at Fort Campbell Kentucky from 1987 to 1989 and spent lot’s of time in Nashville.

The writer closes with this stream of pointlessness but I thought I would include it. “Like many teams, the Pens reflect their city well. A handful of supremely gifted artisans surrounded by a bunch of workaday salarymen, coming together to produce impressive, if ultimately prosaic accomplishments.

Sure, a 100-foot I-beam looks great … for an I-beam. But give us the raucous rowdiness of a canyon of gold instead. 

If Flashdance taught us anything, it’s that dancing is more fun than steel mills. And even Jennifer Beals — Pittsburgh’s most famous cultural export, even though she’s from Chicago — is pulling for Preds.”

I laugh at the comment regarding the raucous rowdiness of a canyon of gold. Pittsburgh is the home of rowdiness and gold, Black and Gold to be precise. Once again, another Johnny-come-lately sports franchise to copy Pittsburgh.

In my last point I wanted to say something about the writer. Unfortunately it was written by, and I quote, a “Committee of Hockey Insiders” which might just be code for not wanting to attach your name to this. I honestly can’t blame them. I wouldn’t want to take credit for what was written in an attempt to take away from Pittsburgh exactly what they are; A city of industry, a city that is culturally diverse, leading the way in technology, leading the way in medical advances, a City rich in deep history, more movies shot in this region then Nashville and oh, yeah, THE CITY OF CHAMPIONS!!!

Below I included A link to the original article. All it really is pure jealousy… Geeze, and they call ME crazy…

Preds Fans Guide for Hating Pittsburgh

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I know by the title some of you are rolling your eyes and wondering what rambling incoherent post I have for you today. Well my dear readers, it is about change. All of us experience change in some form or another at some point in our lives. It can be great big, wholesale changes or something small. Nonetheless, it happens to us all. Some changes are good and some are not but change is important to keep everything moving along.

einstein-thoughtOne of the things to consider is changing your way of thinking. I know that sometimes it is easier said then done. We have been programmed a certain way and have spent most of our lives thinking the way we do. Some people are passive-aggressive manipulating narcissists. Others get controlled by them and don’t even realize they have allowed their thinking to become re-wired to believe what they are being told. I read a book called “No More Mister Nice Guy” by Dr. R.A. Glover. In it he explains how the “Nice Guy” acts a certain way based on things either from their past or current surroundings. You say, “No way,” but it happens every day. This is where changing your thinking is so vital. Like Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

So now you are sitting there thinking there is no way possible to change something you have done your entire life. I am here to tell you that it is possible. I work at it everyday. Mental health sometimes requires a spring cleaning of the mind, if you will. I don’t mean go and see a hypnotist to change your thoughts, you have to do the work yourself. Take a break from the daily grind. It helps if you have some free time to yourself. Maybe when the kids are at school and the spouse is at work. You might need pad and paper as well, but you need to make a mental inventory. What is going on in your head? What is causing you the most problems? Where does the majority of your stress lie? It might not be as simple as doing it yourself. Sometimes a licensed therapist may be in order. If you don’t think that will work for you, maybe your priest or pastor. Sometimes just talking to someone is a great way to root out what is going on. Changing your way of thinking is not a simple one time effort. It might take weeks, months or even longer.

A positive mindset is so important. If you can find positive things to think about the other thoughts are not right in the forefront. To that end, if a stressor in your life is perhaps a sick or dying loved one, instead of thinking of all the negatives associated with the situation try to focus on the positives. Let’s say, for instance, your child has the chicken pox. Instead of worrying that they are going to miss school or how sick they feel, try focusing on the fact you were able to have the time off of work to take care of them. Or you had a grandmother or grandfather who was able to help you. Or say you have a loved one in Hospice with terminal cancer. You could say how pitiful it is to watch someone die like that or on a positive side you could say you were thankful there was something available like this to help them in their final days.

answer-to-prayer-quoteI’m not saying look at everything with rose-colored glasses but you also don’t have to see doom and gloom in absolutely everything. Having a loved one die from cancer is certainly not pleasant, for them or for you, but you also have to think about how your approach to a situation affects other people. If we give off a positive vibe, others will pick up on it. If you have trouble trying to change your mindset to something positive, surround yourself with positive people. Negativity breads negativity and the same can be said for positive thinking as well. Instead of looking at the glass as half empty or half full, be thankful there is something in it at all. Sometimes removing stressors completely could be the answer.

I know once I started changing my thinking and removing stressors I began to feel better almost instantly. My health began to improve and I was feeling better all around. I joined a gym and I try to go atmistakes least 2 days a week. I started helping my friend and his son build demolition derby cars over the summer. Alan, who had been my friend for 35 years, asked me to come up and help them out. Once I started to get active with my health and my past-time activities I could feel myself feeling so much better. Some people are destined to feel like they are nothing because of mistakes they have made. We all make mistakes, we are all human. Don’t ever believe that you are less than something special because of mistakes. Don’t let people keep reminding you of mistakes either. Just because they can’t move on doesn’t mean you need to be stuck in the past. We are not perfect. We are human. Change your thinking to become more positive in your thoughts and actions. Becoming more positive is a great way to feel better. Surround yourself with positivity. Seek out your friends. Be willing to do what you have to do to make positive changes in your life. Some people are happy making others miserable. They spend their lives doing it. Geeze, and they call me crazy.


So much has changed since I last posted so hopefully I can explain the reason for my sabbatical from the blog. I guess the biggest change has been the moving of ATCMC’s home office from Derry, PA to my hometown of Indiana. There has also been some elimination of staff here as well. We are back to our original staff here at the home office meaning I am back to writing and approving all of the essays from here on out. I found that it becomes easier to write and post without having to wait for someone’s critique and approval. Now I can get back to blogging in its purest form; Getting the idea, writing it down and posting it.

Since moving back to my hometown, it has been a really good transformation. There are so many friends here that I have missed and have missed me. I have been able to reconnect with lots of the old gang and return to my roots. It has been an awakening of sorts. I felt as though I had been stifled for so many years and I hadn’t been able to write any really good posts. While my essays were about current events, they lacked my normal sarcasm and lampooning. Now I feel like the spark is there to write again. It is important when you felt like it was gone for good. Now I can be free to write and have free expression again. So many of my essays were scrapped for reasons other then just not being any good. I was even forced to remove a couple of my posted blogs because of the editor’s personal feelings about them. Childish feelings I might add.

I have always written about what I wanted. I never did it for any other reason other then to express myself and for my readers. So now I am full of ideas, or maybe it’s just gas from lunch, and ready to get it out there. I thank all of my loyal readers who have stuck with me through this last sabbatical and I am sure you will be happy with the forthcoming posts. I am getting started forth-with and have already got a few rough drafts laid down.

We have stocked our pantry with several bottles of 15 year-old single malt scotch and cases of Nutter Butters. We even got a call from Dave over at One Man’s Tofu wishing us luck on our rebirth. I guess rebirth is as good a word as any to state it. Once again, I thank you for your patience and understanding during this time of transition. We look forward to entertaining you for at least another 5 years.

-ATCMC


Ferguson Shooting victim Michael Brown

Ferguson Shooting victim Michael Brown on the left.

It started with the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. And unarmed, black teen was shot by a white officer. The media fixated on the race side of the story and pounded it out that way.  All you heard was that a white cop shot an unarmed , black teen. Then they keep on with the unarmed angle. It of course sparked race riots all over Ferguson. They somehow missed the fact he had just robbed a convenience store minutes before meeting up with officer Darren Wilson, then allegedly assaulted officer Wilson. Then take Michael Brown’s Step-father, Louis Head. After the Grand Jury

Louis Head. Michaels Brown's step-father

Louis Head. Michael Brown’s step-father

decision was announced, he stood on top of a car and announced; “Let’s burn the mother fucker down! Burn this bitch down” Gee what happened next? It doesn’t really take a deep thinker to figure it out. Do we really need to recap? NO. They really followed his instructions well. It is a shame. The media then helped feed the fire and it kept growing and growing. The media NEVER said there was any checkered past for young Mr. Brown. But then go figure. It’s not a good story if there is not drama attached? I mean, let’s face it. The media put officer Wilson in danger. It was 2 Fox news reporters I believe who published his home address. Really? The drama the media caused in Ferguson wasn’t enough? They wanted to exact their own justice?

Eric Garner. NYPD Choke Hold Victim

Eric Garner. NYPD Choke Hold Victim

Then there is Eric Garner. The unarmed, black man put in a choke hold by a white NYPD officer when he resisted arrest selling illegal lose cigarettes . Officer Daniel Pantaleo put Garner in a choke hold when Garner told police; “Don’t touch me.” Now the NYPD doesn’t allow the “choke hold” but a legal expert for ABC News said that doesn’t make it illegal. Now the media of course has blown it all the place but I have to say that while some blow hard’s are trying to link the two cases, I think there are big differences. Michael Brown had a record and many questionable pictures that the family tried to keep hidden. Eric Garner was a married father. He had no record. True, he was selling illegal cigarettes but I don’t really think it required all of those officers to lay the smack down on him. Now for that officer to be indicted I have a little trouble with that outcome. Not saying he was guilty by any means but I just really think they are two different situations.

The now vacant Eastern Derry Twp VFD

The now vacant Eastern Derry Twp VFD

Now for last piece of the media puzzle. I started this piece by saying how the media spins stories to create more drama then needed and how they try to skew the story away from the truth. To prove this point I will mention the Eastern Derry Twp. Volunteer Fire Department. They had their doors shut back in August of 2014. See News Report. The local news ran a couple of stories because the fire fighters from that department said that they didn’t a grant from the local township to buy insurance for their vehicles. Unfortunately, The failed to tell the whole truth. They had failed their most recent audit and then had to answer for missing money. The media tried to lay the sympathy angle on this story but of course, once the truth came out in it’s entirety, there has not been another story regarding this at all. The right thing would have been to say that more information has been uncovered and so on and so fourth. Instead, the media just walked away from it.

I think the media should try and tell the truth when reporting stories. All the truth. From Ferguson to New York and even here in our little piss-ant area. The media needs to tell the entire story and make the news about the truth. If there is a case when more information is found that might change the story, the media should have enough integrity to change the story to report the truth. All of these media outlets say they report fair, honest and accurate news. My ass. Just what I have mentioned here today proves they don’t. Geeze, and they call ME crazy

 

 


"Mmmm, chocolate cake!"

Has it been a year already? Hard to believe this all began on a whim. My uncle Duff had actually been writing a blog for several years and my mom and her sisters started writing one as well. I always commented on their pages and my uncle and I would have some good debates back and forth. After one particularly intense exchange my uncle suggested I pen my own blog. I thought about it and decided against it because I didn’t think I had the time.

Then one day I was at work reading the intranet and there was an article about mandatory life sentences handed out to juveniles. As I look back, it was rough and heavy-handed. There were a lot of facts and quotes but it flowed like a constipated truck driver. Not to mention it lacked my flair and sarcasm.  Then I took on the blossoming of new  casinos across the country prompting some states to scramble for new ways to increase the State’s revenue.

As the year wore on I began to get my flow and I picked up speed. Football season started and Pittsburgh’s James Harrison became the poster child for fines and penalties for rough hitting. By the middle of October I seemed to hit my stride. I found something that was easy to write about and to allow my sarcasm to run rampant. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has opened the floodgates for every blogger. He is as much fun to rail on as is Sarah Palin, Kate Gosselin and Casey Anthony. Between these four mental midgets, they have provided probably a third of the entries I have posted here. “Thanks guys! Keep up the good work!”

When Richard Poplawski went on trial I wrote several entries on his story and followed it from beginning to end. The trial for the first member of  the Greensburg 6 was followed as well. Sports though has been the major subject. From the Little League World Series to Demolition Derbies,  I like writing about sports and those heroes that make them tick. Family and friends have been subjects here as well as stupidity. I abhor stupidity probably more than anything else in the world. People make mistakes every day, I myself included. Stupidity is something else. I think we all know what I mean. We have all seen it.

I have also learned that it is better to forgo posting an entry then to post crap. One of my favorite entries was about the famous people from Western Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania as well. I did a lot of research but also found that most of my readers knew I was in search of a topic so I wrote that. I liked it but they were right. Anyhow, as I finish this blog so I can go eat some cake and drink some Thunderbird, I thought I would leave you with some actual facts and figures. In the past year I have written 101 entries counting today’s. There have been 20 different categories and 44 posted comments. There have been 9,885 visits since our inception. Our busiest day was July 12th when there were 140 visits. This was the day of one of my posts on Casey Anthony. So to break it down a little further it looks like I averaged 823.75 visits a month and 27.5 visits a day. While that is not the case, because some days I don’t see double-digit visits and some of the posts are spam so they are deleted.

What started out as basically an answer to a challenge, has become so much more. I have heard from people who read my blog at work and they say they look for my entries when something happens that they are interested in. Some of the things that go on are serious but you need to try infuse some humor whenever possible. I thank all of you for our first year and look forward to serving you for many more.

Peace!


Blogging has been a way for me to write when I wasn’t working on a novel. The problem I encounter from time to time is lack of  good fodder. Oh yes, there are good stories out there that I could add my little spin to but everyone is talking, blogging and writing about them. You have Congressman Weiner showing his Brett Favre like texting ability on Twitter. Then you have Kyle Bush getting punched in the yapper this past weekend by car owner Richard Childress after the truck race at Kansas Speedway. Bush was cleared and Childress was fined by NASCAR. Go figure. Childress has always been the picture of control and restraint and for him to pop the reckless driver should be an indication that there was something that happened. NASCAR will wait to do something to Bush after he kills someone.

Like I said before though. These are only two stories being beaten to death in the media and on the internet. It isn’t as much fun to jump on an overloaded band wagon. Then when I have to really search for a good subject to add my little personal spin on I worry that I will publish crap. Because I take writing seriously I find myself getting frustrated when the subjects aren’t there for me to lampoon. If you look back through my previous posts, you will see some that are not quite up to snuff. I was looking for something to post because I don’t like going for long periods without posting something. Of course I have reluctantly discovered that sometimes it is better to not post anything then to post junk.

Latest release

I decided to take a little time to work on my book writing. My latest release, “Exit to Eden”, has been out for about 2 months now but I won’t know until mid to late August how it is doing. Exit to Eden is based on a local murder case out of Blairsville Pennsylvania. A home is destroyed by an early morning, fast-moving fire that kills the owner. The man’s daughter is initially charged in the case. It seems open and shut to everyone involved. As the investigation progresses it is discovered that this case is much more sinister than anyone could ever imagine. I have gotten decent feed back so far and hope this book takes off. Hopefully I can get back to my regular blogging soon. Don’t worry though, I will still look every day for a good subject to blast. The unusual has seemed to work for me. Like my piece on Wrestle Mania VII. I got more hits when I posted that then when I wrote about the post-season run for the Steelers.

As we move on, I hope you all enjoy the wonderfully warm weather. Besides, you shouldn’t be inside reading my blogs anyhow. I want  to thank everyone for their continued support of my blog and I hope you keep reading. If you are looking for a few other good blogs to read, go to my “Crazy Page Suggestions” at the top of this page. Take care and enjoy the weather…


I am always looking for an interesting subject when I write a blog.  Do I always have one? Hell no. However, I was reading some news articles on the intranet at work the other night and I learned something.  Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.  Other than myself, my favorite author to read is Stephen King.  A lot of times his books do not translate well to the big screen.  Then again there are some that do.  Even though it saw limited success on the big screen, it has become a cult classic.  I am referring to “The Shawshank Redemption.” Since 1994 I always thought the movie was filmed in the original locations in the book.  That would be Maine.  Once again, I was wrong.  Most of the locations in the film were shot in Mansfield Ohio.  The Prison in the movie is not a set but the former Ohio State Reformatory on Mansfield’s north side.

Overhead shot of “Shawshank”

Construction on the prison began in 1886. It opened in 1896 and housed approximately 154,000 inmates before being mothballed in 1990.  Most of the scenes from the prison were shot on the prison grounds.  Andy Dufresne’s “tunnel” is also on site.  It is a two foot diameter pipe and the sewage that he crawled through was actually sawdust, chocolate and water.  All I can say is, “Thank God.”  It certainly looked real enough to me.  The laundry where Andy worked, the wood shop and movie theater were all on site in the prison.  It was a large, sprawling site and tours are conducted there daily.

The Bissman Building

The Bissman Building shown here on the left was used as the Brewer Hotel in the movie.  The Brewer was where Brooks Hatlin hanged himself and where Ellis “Red” Redding stayed after he made parole.  The hotel was a halfway house of sorts. The E&B Market in Mansfield was the “Foodway” in the movie.  Ninety-five percent of the movie was shot in and around Mansfield.  I still find it interesting that almost all of the movie was shot in Mansfield because movie studio lot’s have everything you need for a movie so shooting on location isn’t as important now as it was 50 years ago.  There were also scenes shot in Ashland, Butler and Upper Sandusky in Ohio as well as the US Virgin Islands and Portland Maine.  There is a tour called the Shawshank Trail.  It encompasses Mansfield and 3 counties around there.  People flock there still to take the tour.

The oak tree from the movie

Another famous place from the movie is the oak tree and rock wall where Red goes at Andy’s request.  The tree and wall are part of the Shawshank Trail tour and are located in the middle of a farmer’s field outside of the Malabar Farm State Park in north-central Ohio.  The location is however on private property so tour takers are asked to not trespass. There is a turnout across the road and patrons are asked to park there. The tree can be seen from the road. All of the other places may or may not be open for you to go inside, you are still able to go up to them and maybe get a picture or two standing next to them.

The movie itself followed a young banker, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), through his trial for having been accused of killing his wife and her lover and his subsequent incarceration in the Shawshank prison. The movie is also about extreme corruption in the Maine prison system and abuse at the hands of sadistic guards.  It also details Andy’s growth and subsequent rebirth into his own person.  He becomes a pet per se of the warden, laundering huge sums of illegal money funneled into the prison through various jobs arranged by the warden and done by the inmates.  In the end, Andy steals the money after his escape through 1000 feet of sewage to the outside.  After he escapes he sends his friend Red a postcard from Fort Hancock Texas, which is where Andy crosses the border into Mexico.  He always told Red he wanted to live in Saywatanayo Mexico.

Freeman, Robbins

Finally in the end of the movie, Red makes his parole and follows directions given to him by Andy to find a long rock wall under an oak tree.  Red looks where he is told and finds a small box buried there.  Inside is an envelope with some money for Red to get a bus ticket and a letter asking him to come with him and live in Mexico. The final scene shows Andy working on a boat on the beach and Red walking up to meet him.  It is a very poignant moment and shows the lives of Red and Andy coming together.  The book is great read and the movie is great too. In conclusion, I suggest that you see the movie and read the book if you haven’t already. Lastly, maybe take the self-guided driving tour around Mansfield and central Ohio.  “Life doesn’t stop. You either get busy living or get busy dyin'” – Ellis “Red” Redding

As a post script to this, someone asked me why this piece was titled; “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.”  Andy initially used a poster of Rita Hayworth to cover up his escape hole in the movie.


I have often been asked; “What makes you want to write?”  The answer is simple: I like to express myself.  I have written most of my life and have only in the last 5 or so years taken it to the next step and gotten some things published.  I won an award when I was about 8 years old from the Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival.  I got a third place for my age group.  I believe the poem was titled “What does the clock think?”  From there I wrote like most kids do.  There were papers I had to write for school and book reports and so on.  When I was in 4th or 5th grade we went to an outdoor center for 3 days called the McKeever Environmental Center.  It was for school age children to learn about the different animals living among us and about conservation and so on.  When we returned to school, one of our projects was to write a short presentation on what we learned.  We made a film strip and I wrote the screen play.

In high school the writing projects picked up and for a while, and I developed an intense dislike of writing.  It seemed like I wrote so much I could never get anything else done.  Back then, we didn’t have computers like we have now so your writing was either done by hand or on a typewriter.  Since I type like I do brain surgery I almost always wrote my reports in long hand.  Of course my handwriting would envy most doctor’s prescription pads.  After high school I went to the military.  Letters were mostly the only writing I did.  When I returned home I spent most of my time that summer building and driving demolition cars.

Mom's Mac I started writing on

My mom had been working on a book called “Dandelions are Free.”  It was a book about Dandelions and using them in cooking and wine making.  It was actually a very good book and she published it.  I in turn wanted to try my hand at the publishing thing.  Mom’s first suggestion was, “Um, you have to write something.”  A point I had just about forgotten.  I sat down at my mom’s computer, just like the one at the left.  I began writing what I was sure was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel.  Much to my dismay, this writing thing was a little more difficult than I had ever imagined.  What I thought would take a matter of hours to get going turned out to be about two hours of staring at the blinking icon on the black and white screen trying to figure out what in the hell I was going to write about.  Finally mom, who I’m sure needed her computer, told me to write about something I know.  I was working as an EMT at the time so I began a story about an ambulance service.

The basis of the story was a paramedic who was being targeted because of a call he had answered years ago and the woman had died.  Two of the family members went after him to make him pay.  His family gets wiped out and he then goes on the hunt instead of being the hunted.  I had changed the name several times but finally settled on “Payback.”  Of course there was already a book written and a movie made so I’m sure I’ll need to think up a new title when the time comes.  To say I finish everything I have started would be false.  “Payback” was the first thing I ever wrote and it was 20 years ago.  I still haven’t finished it.  I find it difficult to decide how I want it to go so I putz with it from time to time then move on.

As I moved on with my career in EMS I started writing down calls I had been on.  The ones I really thought were interesting.  I changed jobs and moved up to a Paramedic.  I still wrote down the calls and one day decided to put them all together in a collection.  My mom had suggested a publisher that she had found and I was awash with great hope of a career in literature.  Sadly my first attempt was mercilessly rejected.  I was crushed.  I thought there was no way I was going to subject myself to this type of let down.  About 6 months later I found a story I had written over a weekend.  It was about a demolition derby driver who is almost killed by his staunchest opponent but returns the following year to try to win the championship.  I based a lot of the characters on guys I knew when I ran demolition derbies.

First book released

“Kickin’ the Tires and Lightin’ the Fires” was actually the first book published but the second one submitted.  Demolition Derbies were a big part of my life growing up.  From the time I was 5 years old till well into my thirties.  I still remember the first time I ever went with my dad.  There was this big black car that just decimated everything it hit.  I was so impressed.  As the years passed my dad and I would still go every year to the derbies and always watched that guy who I first saw with the big black car.  As the years passed I learned that the guy with the big black car (a 1964 Chrysler Imperial actually) lived right around the corner from my parents.  I stopped one day on my way home from school and talked to him a little.  As the days past Alan and I became good friends.  At first my mom had conniptions about me being around guys who were older than I was.  After some silence between my mom and I, my dad secretly checked into it.  He convinced mom that things were okay for me to hang out there.  Now 30 years later Alan and I are still good friends and I see him often.

It finally sees the light of day

I had other projects I was working on but was determined to see my first submission in print.  On a whim, I decided to tear the thing apart and re-write it.  It was difficult to see that a story of my career as a Paramedic-Fire Fighter would never see the light of day.  I spent months on it.  I tore different chapters apart and decided that each chapter would be a different story.  It suddenly dawned on me that my new style of writing it might actually be just what it needed.  I included stories about my family in the mix and other things that influenced my career choices and so on.  A couple of the stories were important to me so even if no one else liked them, I felt they had a place there.  One story was about the day my dad died.  It had great impact on me for a long time and I think it influenced me in a lot of ways.  Another story was about a good friend of mine I had growing up called the prophet.  We got to work together one day and he actually predicted all the calls we got that day.  It was a pretty eerie thing.  We are still friends today and still laugh about our fateful day.  I also included the chapter detailing how my wife and I met.  She was working as a flight nurse and I was working as a paramedic. When  tell people the story they think I’m full of shit.  We met over a trauma patient while I was decompressing his chest.  I guess you say it was love at first pneumo-thorax.

I have a third book getting ready for the publisher now.  It is being formatted and should be in print in a few months.  I went an entirely different route on this one.  I took a true story and twisted it my own way.  I put a spin on it and I think it is actually one of the better things I have written.  It’s based on a local murder case.  I followed it from the beginning and I thought it would be an interesting subject.  Gladly, the publisher did too.  The longer you write the better your writing becomes and expression is easier  to put down on paper.  Writing this blog has helped a lot with that aspect as well.  I get to write more often without having a specific outcome in mind.  I have often had people ask me how I find what to write my blog posts about.  It’s simple.  I see something and if I think I can get some play out of it, I use it.  This blog is actually a lot of fun because I can use my own style of humor and take pokes at people and things I couldn’t normally do.  Today was a little different for me.  I had been having trouble finding a suitable topic for my pen and wasn’t having any luck.  I decided to just write about something from my past and I thought what better thing then writing.

Writing is what you make it.  It can either be a daunting task or a great release.  I like to write because it allows me to be anything or anyone I want to be.  It is also fun because the only limitation is your imagination.  I find that if I over- think things, I get writer’s block.  If I write until I don’t have the next part ready to go it comes easier for me.  If I try to force something out it sounds like shit and I end up either changing it or deleting it all together.  I also never have just one project I’m working on.  I always work on a couple of things.  I’ve found it helps to relieve writer’s block and has been a good thing as well.  When I get blocked on one project I can go to another project and work there for a while and most of the time it helps relieve my block.  Biggest thing I have found is that it doesn’t really matter who likes what I write.  I like it and that is most important.  I write for me first and everyone else second.  It might be a little selfish but if I don’t like what I write no one else will either.

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