A Tale of Two Grandfathers

Everyone is shaped, first and foremost, by family. By kin. Either the abundance of it, or the lack. The joy or, sadly, sometimes the horror. Loss and love. It is our immediate family, our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, grandmothers and grandparents, who, if fate allows, shape us the most. While Mom and Dad are always at the forefront today I’d like to talk about my grandfathers. The men who made it possible for me to exist.

I never knew my paternal grandfather. He died before I was born. Struck down by that ever-present scourge known as cancer at the age of 49. However, even from the grave, he had a profound impact on me through my father, grandmother, his family, those who knew him in life and came to know me, and the stories and tales that surrounded him. He is, in my eyes, a man of myth, of legend. A part of me that I have never known and yet feel connected to regardless. He was Papa.

My maternal grandfather I knew very well while he was alive as I grew up not 5 driving minutes away from his house. He passed away when I was 14, also laid low by cancer, but in those brief years in the sunshine of my youth he taught me much about being a man, about the world, about life. Pa, as I named him being the eldest grandchild and struggling with the word “grandpa” as a toddler, also impacts me to this day in much the same way Papa does. Through family, friends, and acquaintances both professional and personal.

Pa and Papa. Two men as different as they were alike.

Papa was the son of Italian immigrants. He grew up as one of four boys first learning Italian and then English. He was, by all accounts, always very social, quick with a quip, and outgoing. He had swagger. He met my grandmother over the phone. What had happened was he had gotten into a bar fight the night before and broke his hand. When he called his insurance company, the switchboard operator he connected with had a nice sounding voice so he kept talking to her and they ended up going out and, eventually, getting married. That kind of swagger.

Pa was the son of immigrants but ones who arrived maybe a century, or longer, before Papa’s did. Raised in an Irish Catholic family, Pa was the second of five children, three boys and two girls. He grew up stern and dutiful with an underrated sense of humor. His father, a GE engineer and navy man, use to make him and his older brother box in the garage when they got into scraps as children, even though Pa’s older brother had years on him. At first, Pa used to get the crap kicked out of him but as they grew, Pa grew taller and stronger and, eventually, the tides turned, much to his father’s amusement and older brother’s chagrin.

Papa went to work at the age of 16 to help support the family. He worked for the Boston Globe from then until his death. He wasn’t a journalist but worked in the mail room. For those not familiar with newspaper jargon (you are forgiven) the mail room isn’t for mail but is instead where the printing press sends hundreds of thousands of papers to be folded, placed on pallets, loaded onto trucks and then delivered to stands all over. After years of working he eventually was able to join the Teamsters union the mail room workers at the Globe belonged to and began rising in the ranks, eventually becoming one of the more respected union officers.

Pa lied about his age to join the navy at 17 in 1945 (Papa was only 7 at the time). He actually joined too late to see any action (his older brother had served as well in the Pacific earning a purple heart when a kamikaze crashed into his gun emplacement killing his entire gun crew but him) and spent most of his enlisted time in Louisiana. After the war and his term of service was up he used the GI Bill to attend Miami University in Florida where he played football for the Hurricanes and graduated with a degree in civil engineering. He went on to work on the satellite system in Greenland for the army before returning home and going to law school.

As their professional lives grew did their families as both men married in the early sixties and now, with young brides, bought and lived in houses in the same town. Pa buying the family home from his parents and Papa buying a home across town where he quickly had the Virgin Mary in a half shell proudly displayed (I think a rule back then for Italians) in the front lawn and an in-ground pool put in the backyard. Then, in the same year, only six months apart, both men welcomed children into the family. Papa my father, and Pa my mother. For Papa, Dad was his first child. For Pa, Mom was his second but first daughter. Papa would go on to have three children in total with my aunt following my father and my uncle following her. For Pa, the family was a bit bigger with five children. My uncle, mom, another uncle, an aunt, and a final uncle only 14 years my senior.

As families grew, so did careers. For Pa, after earning his law degree, he opened his own law firm, began investing in real estate locally, and eventually won a seat on the Board of Selectmen, the governing body of the town. After that, he continued to grow his law and real estate business even being elected King Lion of the local Lion’s Club chapter.

For Papa, his influence in the Teamsters grew and along with it his network of friends and associates. He use to throw open house Christmas parties where hundreds of visitors would come over the course of the day. Papa would be in the basement, playing cards, smoking cigarettes with the fellas, being bartender, or walking around the house entertaining guests with a monkey hand puppet. He was, for lack of a better term, beloved. He use to get all sorts of things delivered for free where he responded in kind with free papers from the Globe which he would deliver himself with a joke and a smile.

Both men have what are, to me, legendary tales surrounding them. For Papa him meeting my grandmother is one of my favorites. Another story I like of Papa is him going out on a hunting trip (he liked to hunt) during bear season. A black bear got the drop on him and Papa, unceremoniously, had to scramble up a tree as it charged. Once there he shot and killed the bear and proudly had the bear skin rug in the living room where, invariably, he got to tell the tale of his brave retreat to inquiring visitors.

For Pa, my favorite tale was a story from back in his college football days. While in class at Miami a professor caught him looking out the window as the Hurricane cheerleaders practice. One of those cheerleaders was his college girlfriend. The professor, annoyed, told Pa in front of the class to pay more attention to the board than to his floozie girlfriend. Pa stood up, walked to the front of the class, grabbed the professor and hung him out the fourth story window of the classroom until he apologized for the insult to his lady.

Both men loved family. For Papa, his younger brother graduated from college with what was then a new fangled degree in “computer science”. He was struggling to make money and, with a new wife, couldn’t afford a place to live. Papa opened his home to his younger brother, rent free, until he could get on his feet. His younger brother went on to join a brand new computer company, eventually become its President, and is now a multimillionaire. It’s a story my great-uncle has told me many times, with tears in his eyes, and the amount of respect he shows to my father, to me, and to my family as a form of repayment is something that still deeply touches me.

For Pa, I cannot even begin to guess the amount of free legal work he had done for family and friends. He also helped out his older, former boxing rival brother in raising his 8 children. Teaching them how to drive, work on cars, and a myriad of other things. He supported his younger sister when her husband died young and left her with three small daughters. He financially supported his youngest sister who joined a convent and moved to Hong Kong as a missionary. He opened his home to his wife’s youngest brother when he was down on his luck. He gave and never wanted credit.

They were pillars. So it should come as no surprise as these two men, whose children met and fell in love in high school, upon meeting one another, instantly got along.

The year prior to my birth, Papa was diagnosed with cancer. He ended up not surviving to see his eldest son marry or his first grandchild to be born. His loss was a devastating one to his family and friends. Hundreds, if not a thousand, people showed up to his funeral. A man who’s charisma was infections and who’s generosity was renowned. My Dad had followed in his father’s footsteps and also worked at the Globe, starting a the same age. I would follow suit as well, though it wouldn’t end up being my career, at 18 during a college summer. When I showed up, on my first day, no less than 15 men came right up to me upon seeing my dad and I, shook our hands and told me how great of a man Papa was. It was humbling. He had been gone for almost two decades and these men felt compelled to warmly greet me because of a legacy Papa had started and Dad had carried on. It was, even then, a powerful reminder that through your children and your children’s children you live on for far longer than when you die.

For Pa I was lucky enough to know him in life although those 14 years now seem all too brief. He quickly instilled work ethic in me and from a young age had me helping around the house or working in the yard or at one of his real estate properties. I remember building concrete forms for a foundation with him when I was 12. He was also very funny in a blunt sort of way. I distincly remember a conversation with him that went something like this;

“Do you like women?”

“I do, Pa. Yup.”

“Good…good. Wear a condom. Kids are expensive as shit.”

I was 13.

Only a little more than a year later, after being diagnosed with cancer and Alzheimer’s Pa taught me a hard lesson. One dealing in death. While I had had other family members pass away before (two great grandmothers for example) I was far too young to grasp the concept. With Pa it was different. It was the first wake I went to. Open casket. I was a disaster. It was the first time I was a pall bearer. The first time I spoke at church, reading a poem my Mom had written that I, somehow, got through before weeping. The first time adults in grief talked to me like an adult. It was a jarring, life altering experience but one that taught me the value of life. Of how fleeting it is. Of family. It was a seminal moment in my transition from child to man and although I know its not a lesson he wanted to teach, it was one that I will never forget and one, in more tender moments, which still brings a tear to my eye.

I visit their graves as often as I can, just to say a few silent words over them. To ask them for their blessings and to watch over myself and my family. To thank them for all they did for the family and for me, both knowingly and unknowingly. For their service and sacrifice. Their generosity and love. Their ambition and skill. Their charsima and their senses of humor. It is why, for me, the modern call for white men to disavow or belittle their forefathers ring hollow. Do these men sound like men to be ashamed of? To abandon? To demonize? No. Never.

These men were Men. Pater familii. They were my grandfathers and both of them helped, through blood and toil, to make me, me. I won’t turn on them because they NEVER would’ve turned on me.

I love you Pa and Papa. Forever and always.

 

Merry Christmas from the PolPit!

Dear Reader,

As I write the snow is gently falling outside my bedroom window in the early morning of Christmas Day. My family is sound asleep and, as the old saying goes, not a creature was stirring, not even my sister’s new dog. It is in this quiet moment, looking at the tree my mother beautifully decorated, thinking about the Christmas Eve meal her and my father slaved over, all of the relatives who came with warm wishes and merry hearts, of all the relatives I’ve yet to see on this white Christmas Day. The culmination of these ruminations find myself nearly overcome with emotion. I did nothing to deserve this, to deserve the love and affection of so many, to have so many great friends, to have such a great life. Christmas is my favorite holiday but it is because it carries such weight, such a lesson of humility when the scope of human love and kindness is factored in that I know even as the years pass, as old faces are replaced with new, the memories of Christmases past, the joy of Christmas present, and the promise of the Christmases of tomorrow will always be there, forever.

With that, my friend, I wish you and yours the merriest Christmas and the happiest New Years! May your holiday season be filled with harmony and affection, that the worries of today are always far outweighed by the joys, and that the glow of spending days with those you love the most remain with you the whole year through.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Speak Freely

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In the wake of the 2016 Election we are seeing a tremendous amount of pressure being put on social media networks which, for better or for worse, have revolutionized not just American but global politics as a whole. The Old Guard of mainstream media, television, and newspapers are still struggling to cope with the fact that their influence and power have all but evaporated. Destroyed by their own hubris they are now stumbling around in a fog. Confused. Scared. Indignant that the unwashed masses not blessed by the hand of Corporate America are allowed to participate in national dialogue and present their arguments to the public unfiltered and unrestricted.

It’s like watching an old King suddenly age and fade on his throne. A once powerful warrior whose mere glance could freeze a man in place is now incontinent, smelling of decay while still bellowing demands to an almost bemused, disgusted populous. Even more appalling than this farce is you can already see the heir may be worse. Facebook and Twitter, most certainly, have been anointed to take up the mantle once the inevitable happens and large swathes of the current legacy media die off. Unlike 2016, which caught nearly everyone ‘in the know’ off guard, the same mistake will not be made in 2020. You can already see Twitter and Facebook are trying to drive off, if they haven’t already outright banned, anyone remotely effective in supporting Trump, his policies, or even people who just don’t agree with the current nonsensical liberal platform. These efforts will only intensify as the 2018 mid-terms draw near and will hit a fever pitch in 2020.

So, what to do? What to do when the most popular social media platforms on Earth which, consequently, are the most effective in politics are all tilted against ANYONE who does not toe the liberal-SJW-Democratic party line? Luckily, there is an answer. Gab.

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Open Letter to the Wall Street Journal editors

The following is an email I sent to the Wall Street Journal (email: wsj.ltrs@wsj.com) yesterday after their hit piece on the Youtube star, Pewdiepie, came out. Hard to believe that the Wall Street Journal has now fallen to the levels of the National Enquirer and Buzzfeed but here we are. Without further ado;

Dear WSJ Editors,

 I am writing about a piece that recently appeared in your pages concerning the Youtube personality Pewdiepie. I believe it was written by Ben Fritz, Jack Nicias, and Rolfe Winkler and was, more or less, a hit piece.
     Now it being a hit piece isn’t that concerning. They happen all the time and many papers thrive on them. What is concerning, however, is that the WSJ felt it was necessary to put three reporters on this story. In today’s day and age with the desire for actual journalism at an all time high I find it curious that such an amount of resources would be dedicated to watching Youtube videos and reading a blog to pull quotes out of context to smear a Youtube star. Does that sound like the act of a healthy business or one desperately attempting to stay relevant? Never mind that those reporters could have been allocated to a worthwhile story like investigating the wage gap or discerning the truth about the reports of widespread sexual assaults by migrants and refugees in Europe. But no, why look into serious subjects when you can assist in a libel campaign to silence someone who is making jokes you don’t like.
      If you ever sit in your office and wonder ‘why are we a failing industry?’ look no further than this. The Wall Street Journal, bastion of financial news, commits three full time employees to framing the #1 Youtube star because he is telling jokes or making references some higher up doesn’t like and he decides to try and crush him with the old, dying, dusty paper method of the past. Truly pathetic. 
     Don’t blame fake news. Don’t blame racism or misogyny or privilege. Your industry is dying because you have become a tool of the gestapo who are looking to curtail and limit the speech of anyone who doesn’t say exactly what you want. It used to be people believed not so much in their ideas but in their arguments and that their arguments would persuade people. Nothing has become more apparent to me over the past few years that people have lost faith in their arguments and so seek to silence their opposition because they cannot win a debate.
     You can stand against this trend, WSJ, or you can get sucked down the drain along with all the others who are trying to silence those who are, in black and white, given the right to say whatever they want and whenever they want to say it. Should they? No, probably not all the time but that doesn’t give you, or anyone, the right to try to silence and subjugate anyone who does not express your beliefs.
      We can pretend that’s not what the goal of this piece was but, lets be honest, that’s exactly what the goal was. To try and sever Pewdiepie from the financial powers that allow him to operate on his own, without an overlord, and express his views without fear of getting a pink slip or being socially ostracized (though kudos! You are trying to do that!). That’s the core of this. You, the mighty WSJ, are jealous because some guy in Sweden has more reach, more impact, and is more important than your entire operation. To top it all off he’s saying things you don’t agree with and you are scared. You are scared that you are losing control. Scared that the narrative may be taken away from you. Scared that you are no longer the arbiters of ‘truth’ or the news. Scared that if more and more people listen to people like Pewdiepie who operate on their own, independently, and without your blessing that their arguments may win out against your feeble platitudes. 
      So scared that you assigned three journalists to conjure up this piece to smear Pewdiepie and try to drive away his sponsors because the only way you can compete now is if there is no one playing against you. It won’t work and so I can happily say your fear is not unwarranted. You are a dying institution rotting from within and betraying the very principles you claim to champion.
      Enjoy your last decade in business and good riddance. 
The Mainstream Media is dying a slow, sad, depressing death and the noises it is making as its body fails are truly grotesque.

Aleppo: The 21st Century’s Sarajevo?

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Since March 15,2011 the nation of Syria has been in the grips of a violent civil war which has since grown into a proxy conflict involving up to 45 nations. Hundreds of thousands have died, millions have been displaced, and, after all of that the government led by President Bashar al-Assad remains in power. Furthermore, over the past 48 hours, the primary battleground for this bloody conflict, the city of Aleppo, has finally fallen after years of battle to pro-Assad forces who now, according to the UN and various humanitarian watch groups, are carrying out atrocities in formerly rebel controlled areas of the embattled, ancient city.

It is a conflict that the UN and the international community as a whole have been unable to quell and, it could be argued, may have even exacerbated the conflict. It is certainly true that without Russian-Iranian intervention on the side of Assad and US intervention on the site of the Syrian rebels that, most likely, this conflict would not have lasted as long as it has and the toll in human suffering would not be as high. From the “red line” talk that President Obama declared and then backed away from to the use of chemical weapons which may or may not have been used by the rebels instead of Assad, to the airstrikes from both Russia and the United States that seem to go astray every now and again to kill each other’s personnel on the ground in Syria, this conflict has, truly, devolved into a miasma of violence and confusion to which, seemingly, there are no winners and only losers.

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Tweet-delete

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Following the 2016 US election I made a decision that I think not a lot of aspiring writers would make. I deleted my Twitter.

Now, in writing this, I know what I have done was probably naive. It was probably ill advised and, ultimately, was probably a step back from where I want to be as far as outreach and views and publicity. However, I felt that I had no choice after seeing what Twitter has become. Maybe Twitter had always operated this way (I don’t think so, signed up in 2012) but the selective application of their Terms and Conditions to essentially silence dissent and their manipulation of whatever algorithm they use to either promote or hide trending topics effectively controlling what gets ‘airtime’ and what doesn’t made me realize I detest their business practices. I felt that they were hypocritical, biased, and intentionally attempting to limit, control, and police content that they did nothing to produce or create other than creating the platform through which these ideas were communicated.

Then I realized, why am I using it then? Why am I helping them get bought? Why am I engaging, entertaining, and conversing with people through a platform I dislike? My livelihood isn’t tied to Twitter or the internet. I don’t rely only public opinion or clicks for my paycheck so why subject myself to the thought police and the moral finger waggers? Why operate in a social space that seeks to silence dissent and promotes echo chambers? To watch people fight and yell over the internet at each other using 140 words at a time that they would never use in real life? I couldn’t come up with a good answer for myself.

So…I stopped.

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Civil Dissonance

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With the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States I was legitimately baffled by the response of the Democratic party supporters currently protesting. I didn’t understand their anger, I didn’t understand their frustration, I didn’t understand their objection to a democratic election. You lost. It is a possible outcome. You weren’t cheated. You weren’t suppressed. You weren’t silenced. You lost. That is what happened.

Then, I got it.

This reaction is what happens when objectivity is lost. Make no mistake, there would’ve been an equally stupid and short sighted reaction from the right had Trump lost. No, it wouldn’t have been marching in the streets of America’s cities but you’d be hearing about it. Militias forming and all sorts of nonsense in rural America. But that didn’t happen so now we are graced with the ever impactful protest/riot. Like the Clinton dynasty this is the swan-song for protest movements. The High Water Mark. How do I know this? Simple. This protest will never work. It is, currently, an impossibility. It only exemplifies how powerless their cause is and they know it.

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Patriots blanked by Bills 16-0

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You did good, Rex. Have a snack. Have all the goddamn snacks.

The New England Patriots, after thumping the Houston Texans 27-0, were themselves the victims of being shut out by the Rex Ryan led Buffalo Bills 16-0. As the score indicates, it was an ugly, uneven game in which the Bills dominated for almost its entirety. There were flashes of hope here and there but almost all were negated by a penalty or a miscue that saw the Patriots shut out at home for the first time ever within the confines of Gillette Stadium the first home shutout loss suffered by the Patriots since 1993 (!).

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Patriots Victory nearly Pyrrhic (for 2 more games anyway) as Garopollo suffers shoulder sprain

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Well, first things first, the Patriots are now 2-0 after beating the Miami Dolphins at home 31-24. Now, for the second thing;

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The victory ended up coming at a potentially steep price as the Patriots backup-become-starter Jimmy Garopollo ended up leaving the game in the second quarter after a stellar first half which had most of New England getting ready to call a doctor after four hours. In an emotional roller coaster that would’ve had the most stalwart of thrill seekers turning green, Garopollo was taken down by Dolphins LB Kiko Alonso and landed hard on his throwing shoulder. Clearly shaken up, Garopollo struggled to get off the field but ended up going down onto one knee as trainers examined him on the field and Patriots fans everywhere opted out of their next beer for something a bit stronger.

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Handsome Jim solid as depleted Pats win in Arizona

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In a week filled with more one point games than any other in NFL history the New England Patriots, sans Brady, sans Gronk, sans Ninkovich, sans Solder, sans Dion Lewis, and sans Vollmer went into the desert on Sunday Night Football and defeated the Arizona Cardinals. In a game most had tacitly accepted as an ‘L’ for the 2016 Patriots, the squad from New England was able to buckle down and hold on to a 23-21 victory thanks to a missed FG by Chandler Catanzaro in the waning seconds of the 4th quarter.

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