Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Tribute to Karen

As a 46 year old man, I realize that I can fall victim to a generation gap. I often get told things like: “That was then, this is now”, “Things are different now”, and other such comments. It’s difficult for me sometimes. I never thought I would be one of those people who mused about how music, movies, art, and society in general is circling the proverbial drain. I have since learned to embrace that role. I have come to discover today that there IS apparently something going out of style: chivalry, etiquette, and pure and simple respect. Such traits are apparently not only circling the drain, they are down the tubes and causing an intolerable, pungent clog. The most recent evidence of this comes in the story of a local area bus monitor named Karen Klein.
Karen Klein is a 68 year-old bus monitor working in the school district of Greece, NY (my neighborhood). Karen was doing her job as she has dutifully done for years on a somewhat meager salary. Sadly, during the course of a routine bus ride, several students from Greece Athena Middle School became criminally unruly. That’s right, folks. I said MIDDLE school. I am talking about students ranging in age from 12 – 15 years old. I know we all wish to think that kids go to school and behave like angels. Let me remind you of one Biblical fact – Lucifer was an angel too.
Karen sat in her seat amongst these students with incredible decorum. When it came to etiquette and respect, Karen lead by example. The incorrigible students thought it was better to show another example of behavior. These students hurled one profane remark after another at Karen. They insulted her about her weight, made jokes about committing sexual acts with her, and threatened her with violence. More than once, one of the students literally poked at her. One student even implied that her kids should commit suicide. By sad coincidence, Karen had already lost a son to suicide. As if this was not all enough, the students were apparently so proud of their behavior, they shot video footage that went on for 10 minutes and uploaded it to YouTube.
This is where things began to unravel somewhat for these mutinous miscreants. Once the video footage hit the Internet, it went VIRAL. The video got more than 100,000 hits from as far away as Australia. People from all over the world have reached out to the school district regarding the video. What’s more, the local police have promised to assist in the investigation. I truly hope that every student involved in this reprehensible behavior receives swift and severe disciplinary action. Perhaps, they can do community service cleaning stalls at the Seneca Park Zoo. After all, why not let animals take care of their own. Furthermore, I would like to see every student involved present Karen Klein with a rose and an apology. This ceremonial policy should take place on camera with their mothers present. Make these students face their actions, face their mothers, face Karen Klein, and ultimately face the world. It seems only fitting since they apparently enjoy a worldwide audience.
I should point out that there is SOME good outcome from all this. Someone started a fundraiser on the Internet to fund a vacation for Karen Klein. The fundraising goal was $5,000. As of this writing, more than $43,000 has been raised on behalf of Karen Klein. The link for the fundraiser is at
To the reprehensible students: May you face a severe penalty for your behavior. I also hope that your mother, grandmother, sister, and future spouse is NEVER subjected to such behavior. May your future children never commit such acts.
To the school district and local authorities: I am sure you all continue to work very hard daily to keep our kids out of the gutter. Clearly, the gutter must also be cleaned out.
To Karen Klein: Thank you for your years of service. I hope you enjoy your well-deserved vacation. I hope that you encounter a random young teenager who will kiss your cheek and hug your neck. Chivalry is not dead. It’s just the reinforcement of chivalry that is lacking.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Musty Basement of My Mind

Every once in a while, I get somewhat of a lull in my day. When such a lull occurs, I sometimes let my mind  wander on any given random subject that pops into my head. This is why I often refer to my writing as random ramblings and mindless minutiae.Such mental wandering can often lead down some amusing bunny trails.
Allow me to offer you some background that can give you an idea of how the rambling starts. I am what you call a frustrated guitarist. I know a few chords, a few scales, and some decent riffs or two. Having said that, no one is going to make me sing for my supper. Some HAVE been known to start feeding me so I will shut up and stop playing. Now, there are many guitarist out there that I admire. Presently, I am a bit fixated on Jeff Beck. This guy has a long history that includes playing with the likes of Rod Stewart and The Yardbirds. He is also a well known musician in his own right. Jeff Beck is truly a master of the Stratocaster. I have had his song “Freeway Jam” stuck in my head for days.
This fixation on Jeff Beck lead me to watching a video of him performing at the 2010 Crossroads Festival. Watching Jeff Beck playing his beautiful song “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” simply made my jaw drop. I also enjoyed watching other acts such as Robert Cray and Joe Bonamassa perform. The seamless interaction with the other musicians onstage is nothing of short of fascinating to me. Then, a pun popped into my head about how it seemed seamless. It was seemingly seamless.
Once the puns started going into my head I started thinking about all the musician jokes I have heard. I have heard (and shared) jokes about drummer, bass players, singers, and guitarist. After all, if I am unwilling to share jokes about guitarists, I have little business joking about the others. Such jokes include (but are not limited to) the following:
  • How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb? ONE…TWO…ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR!
  • How many bass players does it take to change a light bulb? None. Leave it out. No one will notice.
  • How many lead singers does it take to change a light bulb? One – he holds the bulb in the socket and the world revolves around him.
  • How many guitarists does it take to change a light bulb? Twelve – One to change it and the other eleven to say they could have done it better.
This rambling prompted me to think about the symbols on a music staff (as similar symbols in general). I found it perfectly natural that joking about music had me thinking of symbols (Did you really think I was going to let that pun get away?). Anyway, I was thinking about the symbol for a flat note (). When I see it I get images of a lowercase letter b, or a broken golf club, or a flower with only one petal left. This, of course lead me to the the symbol for a sharp note (). I, then, briefly thought: Hey, aren’t they just using the same symbol as the number key?  I would come to discover they they are not the same. The number sign (#) is also known as the pound sign. The key distinguishing difference from the musical sharp symbol (), is that the pound sign has true horizontal lines whereas the sharp symbol has diagonal lines. In net speak, the pound sign is also known as a hash tag. Personally, I think a hash tag sounds like something a 70’s acid rocker uses to label his stash. I try to stay family friendly so I won’t digress on that.This leads me to think of other symbols such as the ampersand ( &) which is used often used to symbolize the word “and”. Then I got to thinking of the at symbol (@). Now this poor symbol, unlike, the ampersand and pound sign, doesn’t even have it’s own special name. It is simply named after it’s function. Does this make the at symbol feel inferior?
Now, all of this rambling had me thinking about the musical pun about slipping on a banana peel: If you don’t C♯ then you might B♭ & in the end your face might # into the ground and you will wind up @ the hospital. This is how my mind wanders in my spare time. I appreciate you indulging me by taking a step into the musty basement that is my mind. Oh yeah, one more joke: What does it mean when a guitarist is drooling from both sides of his mouth? The stage is level.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

From Henrietta Town Hall to the Commencement Stage (The Beauty of a Dream Realized)

As many of you whom have read my pieces before can by now easily surmise, this is another piece on the subject of graduation. However, one should note that this piece is taking a bit of a different turn in subject matter. Previously, I have written about my kids reaching the point of graduation. I have written about 2 high school graduations and a college graduation. I am very proud of my kids and want them to know that I look forward to the opportunity to write more graduation pieces for them. This piece however focuses on my lovely queen – my wife, Renee.
My wife, Renee, is going through commencement today to celebrate her 4 year degree in Social Work. I won’t lie to anyone. I was nervous about my wife going back to college for her degree. A lot of it had to do with the timing. I had enrolled into a 4 degree program myself in 2010. It took quite a great deal of legwork on my wife’s part to get my college enrollment in place. Once, I have my placement in the program, I had the moment of naiveté in thinking that I could relax since our enrollment struggles were over. I was wrong. My wife then announced that she was choosing to go back to college herself to obtain a degree in social work. I had wondered at the time why this news jolted me so much. My wife pointed out to me in a unrelated conversation recently: “You just don’t like to have things upset your applecart”. That statement proved to be as true in that conversation as it did (in retrospect) about her announcement about her college enrollment. If there is one thing my wife has taught me it is this – An upset applecart is often…upsetting. However, many times, an upset apple cart is often the origin of a mighty fine pie.
I should also point out that my wife’s career in social work did not begin in 2010. It actually began much earlier. Renee and I were married in a town hall in Henrietta, New York in 1993. I had two older kids from a previous marriage. Renee also had a 2 year old girl. In addition, Renee was VERY with child. Our youngest, Caleb was born 3 weeks to the day of our marriage. It was determined in the years that followed that Caleb was born with a mild form of autism - Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified). This diagnosis helped pave a long road of Renee learning to advocate for our children via Hard Knock University (the curriculum is relentless). Renee did a lot of hard work and research to be sure that if any of our four kids, needed services at school, medical care, or even surgery it happened. She proved to be a tenacious tigress who would do anything to provide for her young and devour anyone who tried to impede her task.
So here we are today in 2012. My wife is walking a stage to indicate the start of a new career. Renee is already involved in some organizations that help provide advocacy for people with autism and other developmental disorders. I have seen her help others obtain services they thought was unavailable. She not only allows others to see the tigress on action. She often helps bring out the tiger in others. Her work has even influenced our daughter, Brianna, to steer her own career toward autism awareness and advocacy (a tigress babe in training?)  Be advised, Western New York, you are about to see an ambush of tigers take on autism reform and advocacy bigger than you have ever seen.
Now onto a note of a more personal nature to my wife. Renee, I realize that with both of us wrapping up college studies for the semester, we have both been rather busy and I have been rather silent. I have tried to figure a way to express how extraordinarily proud I am of you today. To do so, I am going to borrow one of our daughter’s favorite quotes: "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."  - Eleanor Roosevelt. Congratulations, my lovely queen on the beauty of a dream realized.. I look forward to seeing you move the tassel on your crown. I love you.