59th Birthday Bridge Song: Hello Lamppost


Always start with a joke…

“How about those 2014 Grammy nominations?”

OK, then do a little song…


Now you have your blog audience in the palm of your hands. You can start now (and drop the 3rd person style, it’s a cliché.)

45845_1568489220291_1769207_nnToday, December 6th, is my 59th birthday. That’s not a normal milestone birthday but for me, this year, it is. I’ll try not to get too heavy here but this year was a heavy year, as many of you know.

This 59th is a “lamppost” birthday, a day to take a break, lean back, reflect, but then get my ass moving forward. That forward will partially explain the reason for that fine graphic at the top of this post.

Lampposts illuminate the darkness as well as steady on the journey. Lampposts may hold signs pointing out the direction to go, waybills telling you to look and see what is happening around you, or old Grateful Dead bear stickers that will never come off.

(Before I continue, if you have the time and the inclination, this link will take you to a list of posts that I’ve written about my life and my journey over the last few years. I think these will amuse and amaze you, and even if they don’t you can laugh at the picture of me. )


When I was diagnosed with Stage IV Renal Cell Carcinoma back in March, 13 months after having my right kidney removed to hopefully stop the cancer in its tracks, I simply lost it. The cancer had spread to my liver, but was still kidney cancer since all the genetic markers were from my kidney. Add this to my interstitial lung disease and this is complicated. It figures that I don’t smoke, so I get a lung disease and I don’t drink, so my liver goes screwy.

After a year where I felt that maybe, happily, finally, something was going to go right for me medically, this just threw me up in the air and I landed with a month long thud.

I made the mistake of using the internet to research it without acknowledging that I NEVER WENT TO MEDICAL SCHOOL AND AM NOT A DAMN DOCTOR. I just played one on the internet. I panicked myself a lot, and maybe it was justified. I read the life expectancy averages, I read the side effects that chemo can have, I read the possible out of pocket costs that might come with this. Every little ache, pain, and blemish sent me into Fred Sanford mode (I’m coming, Elizabeth!).

photo (22)003

01c4736ba2d2a1e26159bb30bae69d804d51784113I worried about how to plan for the costs should I not survive. I worried about how my family would replace my support and income. I worried deeply about breaking my promise to my mom and dad to always be there for my brother Tommy. I worried about my beloved buddy, Swiper Doxy, and pictured him sitting sadly outside of my old bedroom door wondering where I’ve gotten to. I worried about promises to friends that I desperately wanted to keep as well as losing those friends, many of them new to me and many who have been there all along.

Then the best thing that can happen at the time happened. I started chemo. While chemo is scary and I hate being a pin cushion every Wednesday, it started to give me hope, it allowed me to plan, and it stopped me from self-diagnosis. I was no longer sitting around worrying, I was doing something about it.

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John Lennon: I heard the news that day, oh boy.


I heard the news that day, oh, boy. On the night of December 8th, 1980, I was driving along Haverford Ave and was stopped at a red light at College Ave, near Haverford College. I was heading home to Overbrook from my shift at the Wayne Acme Market. I was listening to Famous56 WFIL radio.

I heard the news that day, oh boy. As I sat at that light, the news came over that John Lennon had been shot. Details were still extremely sketchy, shock was evident in the voice of the DJ and I sat through a red light trying to take in what I heard. I switched to the FM dial on my radio and tuned in the audio for WPVI TV6, since that frequency could be picked up at 87.7. They were running Monday Night Football so I twisted the dial to try to find more details.

I heard the news that day, oh boy. I drove home as fast as I could and turned on the TV, By now, it was known that John Lennon was dead, killed by a man who just hours earlier was shown kindness by John in his signing an album cover for him, one Mark David Chapman. Howard Cosell informed all of us during the football game, a game that no longer meant a damn thing. For the next few days, I kept feeding VHS tapes into my VCR to capture that moment for the future but also to be some part of the worldwide mourning.

I heard the news that day, oh boy. The news was unreal because it was not only the loss of a life, but also a loss of a major part of our own lives, of my life. John had been absent from the public scene for 5 years, choosing to be a house husband and to raise Sean. However, in 1980, John was ready to create again and released DOUBLE FANTASY which sadly became the tale of where he was at that time and the hope that was now dashed. Each song had a positive spirt, rooted in his domestic life, celebrating his young son with the gorgeous lullaby to Sean, BEAUTIFUL BOY, and a rocking ode to kickstarting both his private family life and his public career.

I heard the news the coming days, oh boy. Over the next few days, and this was well before social media to trigger any response, the world mourned. Spontaneous human gathering formed in every major city. In Philadelphia, fans flocked to the steps of the Art Museum to mourn his death but more importantly, to celebrate a life that had been a huge part of our own consciousness. The voice raised and singing “All we are saying, is give peace a chance” was haunting, sad, and inspiring. Bruce Springsteen played the Spectrum the next night and opened with a tribute to John.


I heard the news those days, oh boy, DOUBLE FANTASY sales would go through the roof as people needed something, anything, as a final goodbye to John. And given the subject matter of John’s songs on that album, despite the horrendous murder, that goodbye was tempered by the fact that at that point in time, John may have been the happiest he had been in years.


I heard the news that day, oh boy. The world would mourn, the surviving Beatles would find their own ways to pay tribute, and John would never really be gone. But for that one moment, it felt like we could never again imagine a world without John. 34 years later, John is always just a #9 Dream away.

A Wayback For My Brother Tommy’s 44th Birthday.

This was originally written in 1999. It was written shortly after he was diagnosed with kidney failure and spent over four years on dialysis. He had a successsful kidney transplant in 2004. When this was written, he had not yet started his decade long love affair with Kelly Ripa. At this time, he actually had a crush on Kitty Carlisle, of all people.

I sat with my brother Tommy and asked him what he would like to help me write about.

This was his blog post. I wrote it and he served as my verbal editor. We wrote this on GEOCITIES (remember that?) but the original page is long gone.

The only change is to remove any dead links.

Happy 44th Birthday, Tommy.


(These are some of the friends that Tommy made at the concerts.)

There is more to read. Just click here.

For My Dad: On What Would Have Been His 91st Birthday

Below are links to previous blog posts about my Pop. Please read at least one to understand why he was so special to me and why, as I battle both a progressive lung disease and the aftermath a my radical nephrectomy for kidney cancer, I’ll always turn to my Pop for reasons to keep laughing and keep living.

If you hear me say something or see me do something, chances are I learned that from my Pop.


That’s my Dad. You can call him “Rich”. His co-workers called him “Dick” but my mother always called him “Rich”. I called him “Pop” or “Dad”. For some reason, I don’t remember ever calling him “Daddy”. I never felt that word was strong enough for my Dad.

Calling him Dad was a real sign of respect from me, at least in my mind. When I would introduce him to people or talk to others about him, I always used “Dad”. “Pop” was more playful, more casual, more personal.

“Hey, Pop, do you want to go to the diner?”

“Hey, Pop, did you see the Phillies game last night?”

“What do you need at the store, Pop?”

“There aren’t any Christmas movies on TV in September, Pop. I checked.”

“Yeah, I can reset your watch, Pop.”

“A plain cheeseburger doesn’t mean that it comes without cheese, Pop. Don’t be mad at the server. Just order a plain hamburger.”

“You have to push the ‘TV’ button, then the “cable” button on the remote to make it work, Pop.” (Usually said with exasperation over the phone as I tried to work while he was mystified by the cable remote.)

“Tommy needs you, Pop.”

“I need you, Pop.”

“I miss you and love you, Pop.”


One Year After My Dad

Dad’s Last Best Year : For Father’s Day

Dad at 15 days

Father’s Day Salute, to mine and yours…(updated for my dad’s 87th Birthday)

My Dad And Veterans Day

Dad and Tom at 1997 VSDA Convention




There is more to read. Just click here.