Featured Image -- 128

Benny, the wingman

My friend Beth is a blogger – she posted this one today, about Benny! Enjoy!!

dog culture

FullSizeRender-13

“I got Benny for my kids and me.

They were ten and twelve at the time.

The day we brought him home he pee’d on the tile floor.  He dragged a nearby folded beach towel over to the puddle and covered it.  That was the first and only time he pee’d indoors.

I lost my condo in Boca during the mortgage crisis in 2008.  I was also in the mortgage business, causing my career to go kaput.  I worked several survival jobs to provide for Benny and me.

It took many years to get back on my feet.  There was a chance I was looking at being homeless.

Just having Benny in my life kept me sane.

Ultimately, Benny myself and our belongings were crammed into my ’99 Honda Accord (with 170,000 miles on it) and headed north to move in with my girlfriend (now wife).

When we lived in…

View original post 156 more words

Laziness, Dieting, Shopping and Laziness

Sitting on my sofa the other night, it occurred to me that I have allowed technology to completely consume my life. Don’t get me wrong – I love my gadgets, everything tech and all that it has added to my life, but upon reflection, it has really turned me into an addict. What prompted this epiphany? Perhaps epiphany is too strong a word because it’s been in the works for years, but when you decide to write a blog post about it, you know it’s become “a thing”.

The final straw? Amazon Fresh, but let me step back a bit. I began a diet on April 15th of this year, although I am advised that it is not so much a diet as it is a lifestyle change. I joined Jenny Craig and now I buy all my meals at their location on the Upper West Side. I’ll perhaps go into more detail on my new adventure in a future post, but suffice to say, it’s working. As of today (May 28), I’m down 20 lbs, leaving me wanting to lose another 20. How does this relate to my laziness? Well, on or around April 15, I realized that while JC provides most of my meals, my meal supplements would mean some serious grocery shopping for things like fruits and vegetables. For those of you that know me well, fruits (outside of the occasional apple and banana) and vegetables (outside of potatoes/french fries) have never been part of my day-to-day routine. Ever. I’ve always been a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy, with pizza and bacon and lemon ices sprinkled in. Don’t get me started on seafood – there is an entire food-group I avoid at all costs! All of a sudden, I need to widen my horizons – something that creates a fair amount of stress and angst.

pioneer
Pioneer Supermarket

Our local grocery store, Pioneer , well, lets just say that they are known for other things….

beer
The famous beer aisle at Pioneer
wegmans
Wegman’s Baby!

So, while I love me my Wegman’s, and they’re one of the big reasons we maintain a car in NYC, the thought of driving out there weekly just to lose weight… well, it ain’t happening! So, I decided to give Amazon Fresh a try. I’ve tried many of the grocery delivery services that have popped up over the years, most of them failing, and never liked them. The best I’ve tried was Fresh Direct, but their prices are no better than local stores in Manhattan, so I see no point. To make a long story short (a ship I am afraid that has long since sailed), I love Amazon Fresh! The selection is great, the prices are really great, and they deliver on time! The website is great, and the mobile app is equally great. In short, great.

So, it’s about 9:30pm, I’m sitting home watching the hockey game the other night, and I realized that I forgot to make my weekly fruits and veggies purchase. I grab my laptop and place my order, to be delivered between 10am and 11am the next day. I pay and submit, shut down my laptop and get back to my game when I realized I forgot to order something. No problem! I have my phone, I open the app and add a few items to my order. The ultimate in convenience, or is it the ultimate in laziness? Either way, I’m a tech addict, and have no problem admitting it.

su_logo

Living and Dying – Orange Basketball Style

I’ll be 51 in 2 weeks. For most of my life, I have been a fan of Syracuse University sports – namely basketball and football, and more recently (only for half of my life), lacrosse. I would like to say that it began as a casual interest and grew from there, but that would be a lie. I have always been a “fanatic”. I remember as a child watching the then Orangemen on TV, but it was nothing like today. Games on TV were too few and far between, unlike now where it is quite the opposite. It was 1975 where my interest really kicked into high-gear. Syracuse was in the NCAA tournament for the 2nd consecutive year, and while I didn’t know it then (and couldn’t comprehend it even if I did), the modern day era of the Syracuse Basketball program was born. Back then, the NCAA tournament only welcomed 16 teams – a far cry from the current 68 teams! Anyway, in those days, most people didn’t know what or where Syracuse was, so it was a big, big deal. The Orangemen unexpectedly made it to the Final Four that year, eventually losing to Kentucky in the National Semifinals. All of a sudden, the winters of Syracuse provided more to do than ski or toboggan. Two years later, Jim Boeheim became the Head Coach, two years after that, the Big East Conference was born, ESPN was slowly catching on, and, well, the rest is history.

I remember with great affection attending games with my parents at Manley Field House, enjoying the Louie and Bouie Show and the birth of the Big East.

Jim Boeheim in his first year as Head Coach.

The experience was awe-inspiring to me. Since I was a local (or “towny” as my friends call me), there wasn’t a lot of “big-city” things to do in Syracuse, so when the basketball team began it’s trajectory to national prominence, Central New York was fully on-board. The Carrier Dome opened in 1980, and that was a HUGE deal. It was the only domed stadium on a college campus, and was one of only a few in the nation. The fans came out in droves, and it was an event every game. Not to diminish the football team – it was slowly building a brand as well – but at that time, Syracuse was a basketball town.

Over the years, the basketball program flourished for the most part, and the fan base grew. Since my first time attending a game at Manley Field House, I knew I wanted to go to Syracuse University. Looking back (hell, even at that time), I knew this was not the best reason to choose a college, but I didn’t care. I was going to be a part of that!

The “Concentration” style Haffenreffer bottle caps provided lots of drunken fun.

1982 was my freshman year at Syracuse, and I was “all-in” in terms of basketball and football. I bought my season tickets and never missed a game. We had a group that went to each game together, and there were many Haffenreffer beers consumed prior to every game. The obsession grew, and my freshman year became a blur as I became an “Orangemen Major”. It’s a small wonder that I didn’t flunk out of Syracuse, but that’s a story for another time.

Fast-foward to 1989. The Syracuse newspaper exposed violations and the NCAA imposed penalties. Fast forward to 2015 and history sort of repeats itself. As a die-hard Orange fan, I think this round of violations were quite minor, although rules were broken, and the penalties were very harsh. When you are as big a fan as I and many others are, it is a lot more than a slap in the face to SU, it’s a punch in the gut to me and the many die-hard fans like me. You have to remember – I’ve been a fan over 80% of my life, so it really hits home.

I know in my heart and through some personal encounters with Jim Boeheim that he is not a cheat. Nonetheless, the buck stops here as they say, so Jim will pay the price. Syracuse basketball has just come out of its best 5-year stretch in school history (in terms of wins, a run to the Final Four, etc), and despite the penalties, still has the best recruiting class coming in since Jim Boeheim arrived. So while the penalties will hurt, they certainly won’t derail the program, which makes me happy. Hopefully when Jim Boeheim does retire (he is 70 years old, after all), the program will continue on its enormously successful path, and continue to provide me and its many fans years of excitement, and another National Championship!

You see, I do live and die by Syracuse Basketball, and for that I make no apologies.

Benny getting his daily exercise

The Dog Routine

So, the other morning it was a downright tolerable temperature out, so I decided to walk to work. On the way, I needed to drop off my cell-phone to have a broken screen replaced. While waiting for the shop to open, I did some people watching. For you non-New York City folk, there is no better place to watch people. A man approached where I was standing with his beautiful chocolate Lab. Being from NY, you tend to think the world revolves around you, so of course I thought he and his dog were coming to say hello to me or to ask me a question. The man and his dog get to within approximately 5 feet of me when the dog just sat down. I say hello (to the dog) when the man said “there is usually a bowl of treats here and he won’t leave the spot until he gets his”. The man then proceeds to pull a treat out of his pocket to trick his four-legged friend. With that, the dog got up, and off they went, leaving me with a big smile on my face.

This encounter got me thinking about my dog, Benny. I have known that Benny had his routine that he adhered to (with the help of his humanoid companions), but did not realize that most, if not all dogs are the same way. Being slightly OCD myself, I get it, and probably contribute to it. Every morning after my shower, Benny is waiting for me outside the bathroom door. As soon as I open the door, his tail begins wagging, thumping as it hits whatever he is sitting near, and he howls in glee. After all, it has been 10 or 15 minutes since we last saw each other, so its understandable! Why is he so happy you ask (work with me here, folks)? He knows what awaits him in the bedroom as I dress – that being the 60 – 90 second long tushy-scratch. Benny just lives for his tushy-scratch. After that, he leaves the bedroom and awaits his walk. Here is where the routine gets really exciting! We walk down W. 74th Street towards Columbus Avenue, head north on Columbus to the Chase branch on 76th Street. He leads me into the branch to the small end-table where a tray full of Milk-Bones awaits. I say hello to my local branch employees while Benny woofs down his daily treat (and watch out on those rare days when the tray is empty, but I’ll save that for another blog post!). From there, we continue north on Columbus Ave another block and a half where Benny likes to “do his business” in the 2nd plant/tree bed. Next up is his daily frolic at the Bull Moose Dog Run. Of course, Benny could do all of this without me, however he needs me to keep him safe from vehicular traffic. An hour later (sometimes less), it’s daddy’s time to pick up an iced coffee and a bagel (yes, Benny gets some of the bagel), and again, Benny leads the way.

This isn’t his only routine either. On those rare occasions that both Marla and I are home, Benny isn’t happy (and lets us know) unless we are both in the same room. When it’s time to leave the city for a day or more, Benny know’s where the car is and prefers the same walking route to the garage.

Finally, my favorite routine of Benny’s is his insistence on sleeping on Marla’s side of the bed. Guess he knows that I need my sleep!

I would love to hear about your pet’s routine below!

Dog’s and Cat’s Living Together….

I’m a dog person. Always have been. I’ve recently had reason to reconsider this longstanding feeling.

A little over a year ago I received a call from my son who was very upset. Without going into too much detail, he had adopted a kitten and due to some housing issues, he couldn’t keep her. He attempted to find a friend or acquaintance that would adopt her, but at the end of the day it didn’t work out. He basically had two choices – bring her to a shelter, or ask a family member to take her. A shelter meant that her future would be unstable to say the least. To make a long story short, we are now cat owners. My wife, Marla grew up terrified of cats, so this was a pretty big deal. We flew my son and our new, adopted daughter from Orlando to New York to “try it out”.

Fast forward to today, we are still a 2 species family. Marla has grown accustomed to Eloise, Benny “tolerates” her – barely – and Weezy and I… well, lets just say that we are no Steven and Liv Tyler. stevenandlivjpg

To say the experiment has gone off without a hitch would be a lie. You have to remember – we live in a tiny apartment in New York City. It was a smallish apartment when Marla lived there alone. Then Benny and I moved in. Weezy doesn’t take up much space, she takes up all of it! Who knew that cats had no boundaries? Who knew that we could no longer leave anything out in the open – no matter how large or small? My wallet? Pocket change? NOTHING! For those of you unfamiliar with cats, they like to knock things to the floor. It doesn’t matter what they see or where they see it. If it is not glued down, it’s a candidate to be knocked to the floor. Our beautiful chotskies and nik naks, no matter where they were placed became toys to our new addition. The best part (sarcasm) was that since cats are nocturnal, this all occurred while we slept. Again…small New York City apartment. Things crashing to the floor at 3 a.m.

Even more fun was the racetrack our apartment became. A racetrack with no lanes. We’d be sound asleep when all of a sudden Weezy would leap onto us in one of her laps around the racetrack apartment. Yeah, a bit unsettling. When she burned herself out, she’d use the bed as a sort of launching pad to get her to the top of our bedroom armoire. But my collection of baseball hats is on top of the armoire! Did I mention that cats like to knock things over? At first, it was cute. I’d wake up for one of my dozen or so trips to the bathroom and stumble over the 10+ baseball hats scattered all over the bedroom floor!

It gets better. Shortly after Eloise joined us, our apartment began to smell of cat urine. Not knowing cats, we thought that she was being vindictive because she was jealous of Benny, and a bit miffed at his indifference towards her. After some research, we decided it might be a medical issue, so we brought her to the vet. Turns out the poor girl had a bladder infection meaning not only was she in pain, she couldn’t necessarily control where she micturated (thank you Jeffrey Lebowski)! Remember when I mentioned Weezy’s love of the top of our armoire and the collection of hats I had? Yeah, fun stuff.

Don’t misunderstand me – it hasn’t been nearly all bad. She is adorable,weezybathroomdoor has a great personality and she seems to have really taken a liking to me. She’ll join me on the couch and loves to sleep while up against me. I find myself calling her sweetheart – like the daughter I always wanted! She turns up in the oddest of places though!

weezy

Benny likes to chase her and often bares his teeth when she’s near, but he’s grown accustomed to her being around and enjoys the companionship.

Finally, I work late many nights. Nothing relaxes me more than watching Modern Family reruns. Weezy seems to have taken a liking to the show as well, but honestly, this may be her undoing. weezymodernfamily

Do you have a story to share about your pets? I’d love it if you’d share it here….

Craig

Music

I love music, and embarrass pride myself in having a most diverse database of songs in my Google Play list. When I say diverse, well, tell me if you disagree (or agree!). Some of the artists in my database include Chick Corea, Frank Sinatra, Benny Mardones, Joe Bonamassa, to Run-D.M.C., The Sugarhill Gang, Eminim and N.W.A., to Tim McGraw and Brooks and Dunn, to a handful of classical music. I have a nifty little bluetooth Bose speaker that I stream this music to from my phone, and typically listen each morning/afternoon while showering. I’ve gone so far as to set up a “Shower” playlist, although I’m still not sure what kind of music should be on a Shower playlist.

Most of the time, I simply hit “shuffle” and go with whatever comes on. This morning for example (okay, it was 1pm, but I work late!), I began with some Eagles, and then this little oldie came on. 

I never would have thought that this would belong on my Shower playlist, but I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t put me in a great mood! Such a tragedy what became of Karen Carpenter. I sometimes wonder what she could have done musically if she had lived a full life. Next up in my shower was one of my all-time favorites from The Police.  So… diverse, yes?

I honestly don’t know how I would make it through my day if it were not for my music.  When I lived in Florida and drove a car daily, it was Howard Stern and Paul and Young Ron that put me in the right mood to start my day.  Now that I live in NYC, it’s my music.

What energizes you to start your day?

Marla

After much debate, I thought I’d start things off in the most positive way I can. After all, we all have things we love to complain about – things we need to get off our chest. I don’t know about you, but it gets tiring reading about others problems!

It was November 27th, 2009 when my life took a turn for the better. First, some background. I was in the midst of a downward spiral that at the time had no end in site. Over the previous few years, my career had quickly gone from one in which I was content and reasonably comfortable, to a debacle. It was the during the depths of the housing crisis, and I lived in South Florida. You see, South Florida was one of the areas most severely impacted by the housing crisis, and I was in the wholesale mortgage lending business. I was getting it from both sides – the value of my condo in Boca Raton plummeted by about 40%, while my income dried up almost completely. It is no exaggeration to say that I was scoping out potential bridges for myself and Benny to sleep under. What was at one time unimaginable, was now a real possibility.

Fortunately, I had friends. Two friends in particular knew how bad my situation was, yet still allowed me (and Benny) to move into their beautiful home, and basically pay them what I could afford (not much). I cannot overstate the effect that a situation like this can have on a person’s sense of being. It can change who you are and how you view life. I was perpetually sad, angry and demoralized. How could my life have gone so far off track? I was at one time a successful bond salesman on Wall Street – a 2 percenter-  to become someone that depended on friends just to have a roof over my head. It was in this context that I met Marla.

I was at the Boca Ale House – a local restaurant/bar that offered decent, inexpensive food, and lots of large-screen TV’s with all the games you could hope to watch. We were a group of about 12 there to celebrate one of my new roommates’ birthday. Marla was sitting next to her sister – a friend of mine that was an adored teacher and who had taught both of my children over the previous several years. I was immediately attracted to her, and immediately terrified. We hit it off almost instantly. Not only did I find her attractive, I quickly found that we had a lot to talk about. She lived literally a stone’s throw from where I once lived on the Upper West Side, and worked in the brokerage industry for Smith Barney – exactly what I used to do! There is a saying in Judaism when two people are meant for each other, or something was just meant to  be. It’s pronounced B’shert. When I observed Marla and her sister look at each other after her sister made the introduction, B’shert was what immediately popped into my head. There was one problem. I was at an all-time-low in terms of just about every metric one uses to measure his or her life. I had no money, lots of debt, and no income. I was depressed, and I think it showed – despite the game-face I wore that night. What could I possibly “bring to the table” that would attract this girl? In those days, it was difficult for me to find a reason to smile, let alone attract a companion. The only thing I felt happy about was my two handsome, intelligent and wonderful boys, and Benny – my dog.

After about an hour of talking to Marla, I knew I didn’t want the night to end. I was speaking with one of my roommates about this and decided that this was worth pursuing. Since I had no money in my pocket (a fairly common occurrence those days), I needed to ask him for $20 so I could buy her a few drinks, and not look like the loser I felt I was!

Without going in to too much detail, Marla and I began a long-distance relationship. We talked on the phone several times a day, and really got to know one another. In many ways, OUR long-term relationship was the best thing that could have happened. It allowed us to focus on getting to really know one another – and made the times we could actually see each other that much better. She wasn’t terribly concerned about my situation – at least outwardly – in fact, I was continually amazed that she would even give me the time of day! The following months offered further challenges to my well-being, but Marla had the ability to help me return to the person I was when I didn’t face these challenges. She gave me hope and love, and while I tried to give her the same, I was always afraid that she would wake up one day and and say “why do I need this guy’s problems?” It was clear to me that I needed to claw my way back, if for no other reason than to hold on to Marla. Don’t get me wrong here – I already had plenty of reasons to work towards improving my situation, not the least of which was my children – but Marla made me feel like a man again and I knew that I didn’t want to lose her.

Marla and I have been married a year and a half now, I’m not only back on my feet, but am also back in the city I love. I don’t get to see my children as much as I used to, but have come to realize that they need a father that they can look up to, not pity. They have their own lives now, and I speak with at least one of them each day. While I have a long way to go to get back to where I once was, I am getting there, and I believe they recognize that.

The moral of my story is, when you are happy in your personal life, the rest takes care of itself. You need to always work on improving yourself, but having someone beside you while you do makes all the difference in the world!