Friday On My Mind

I love Fridays.


I always had.


Never have I ever wished that the work week or school week had even one more day to it.
I always felt that by Friday, I had had enough.


Thank God it’s Friday, indeed!


But now that I have been retired a few years, you would think that the mystique and aura of Friday would have long dissipated. In fact, the allure of Friday remains as strong as when I was a student or employee.


I still love Fridays.


When I first worked in the mailroom, Fridays (at least every other Friday) were also a payday. The guys in the mailroom would celebrate our good if not large fortune by going out to eat in a nearby Blarney Stone. To the uninitiated, Blarney Stones were bars that also served lunch, primarily consisting of roast beef or corned beef sandwiches served with a pickle and a pint.


Then, years later, when I was a teacher at St Vito’s, the faculty would celebrate Fridays by going out for an early dinner or just an afternoon cocktail at the nearby Ground Round, which was like an Applebees. Hamburgers, beer, and free peanuts. It also had one of the early big-screen TVs where we watched General Hospital and The Edge Of Night.


Soaps always went better with beer and peanuts.


It wasn’t the alcohol that provided our joy; it was the elation of Fridays on its own.
You would think we were prisoners of war getting released for the weekend.


As time went on, Fridays made up for the angst of Sundays.

If you have to go to work on Monday, you know what I am writing about.
Fridays are great. Saturdays are even better because you can sleep in, or even if you get up early, you can lounge about and have a second or third cup of coffee without worrying about traffic or a late train.

But then Sunday comes, and you can still sleep in and maybe even watch a game or two depending on the season, but there is a cloud on the horizon.


It is the Ed Sullivan factor.


For those of you old enough to remember, you may have experienced the sudden realization while watching Ed talk to Topo Gigio that you had homework due tomorrow yet to be completed.


I still get a chill just thinking about it.


I guess being retired has taken this Sunday malaise and has left me only with another New York Jet loss to lament.

Still, Happy Friday Everyone!

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New York State Of Mine

I left New York nearly five years ago. The experience of leaving New York has taught me one thing. You can leave New York, but New York never, ever really leaves you.

It was like that for The Bronx as well.

I left The Bronx for Flushing when Eileen and I were first married. Then we moved to New Rochelle and on to East Quogue on the east end of Long Island.

All through the last forty-five years, when I have lived elsewhere, I considered myself a Bronx Boy. The Bronx was where I grew up, and I think many people share the sentiment regarding the home of their formative years.

I continue to feel that way, and I may live in Florida but remain a New Yorker and a Bronx Boy.

Every year I reconstruct and reconfigure my Lionel train layout.

Back in East Quogue, it was easier to decide how to do this. I would have three 4×8 sheets of plywood on each of which a different diorama would be erected.

One would be dedicated to classical Lionel postwar accessories. A log loader; several types of coal loaders; operating bridges; and other Lionel operating switches and lights. The trains operated on this layout would be classic postwar items, including Santafe and New York Central diesels from 1950.

A second would consist of more recent Lionel creations, including a nuclear power plant, and would have trains produced in this century.

The third layout was my favorite.

It was my Ode To New York.

From Yankee Stadium to the South Ferry with stops at the Automat and Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center and the Times Building for New Year’s Eve, as well as the Empire State Building and the Flat Iron Building, this layout was a sight to behold.

The only thing missing was the Subway.

Oh, wait! We had two subways represented/

The IRT 6 train and the BMT Coney Island Train.

On this layout, The Bronx was up, and the Battery Down and the people did ride in a hole in the ground.

It was glorious.

So, here I am in Florida with only one board, a 5×9, on which to create my Lionel universe. In recent iterations, I have built layouts utilizing bridges and accessories. It has been a long time since NYC was represented.

Well, this year is going to be different.

Yankee Stadium will have a subway encircling it, albeit the 6 train and not the 4.

The rest of my New York Skyline will be south of the Stadium, and the trains servicing the city will be the traditional New York Central and New Haven Lines.

I have even created an appropriate playlist.

Of course, Sinatra will be singing New York, New York

Billy Joel will be enchanting us with A New York State Of Mind.

And last but not least, Sinatra and Gene Kelly will be singing New York New York’s a Helluva Town.

I may be living in Florida, but my toys tell me I am still a New Yorker.

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Pardon Me If I’M Not Paying Attention

I have a daily subscription to the New York Times.

It’s the print version, but I also have digital access.

Newspapers aren’t cheap today, and Reading All The News That’s Fit To Print is pretty expensive, especially when I remember getting it for a buck not too long ago, and I thought that was expensive.

I get the print version because I do the crossword every day, and doing it on a computer is just not the same as doing it on page three of the Arts section and making a colossal mess of it all because I do it in ink.

Hubris.

My daily routine had been to read the main section first. The first page and then the oped depending on who is featured and then follow up on some of the lead stories. I would peruse the special daily section, sports on Monday, science on Tuesday, etc., etc., etc. Then I would turn to the Arts, read what I thought was interesting, and then start the puzzle.

However, I no longer follow this routine.

I go right for the puzzle.

It’s gotten so that reading the newspaper offers the same dread and angst as provided by cable news. The guy or gal (can I still use gal, or am I showing my misogyny?) who coined the phrase, “No news is good news,” really hit the nail on the head if I can resort to an idiom.

I read no news.

I watch no news.

I listen to no news.

The mantra of a happy and healthy mind.

I do resort to Twitter but only to learn about what is going on with the Yankees.

I have all but given up on Facebook, which is a shame because it was so nice to keep in touch with friends and family and to re-connect with friends long lost but not forgotten. I still check in once a week or so, but I don’t LIKE anything and never read anything other than a note from family or friends.

There has been much talk about getting off the grid and giving your phone a rest from the internet and social media. I have added newspapers and news shows to the list.

Try it for a while. Maybe even a day. I confess that I will check in on the odd morning or late night only to learn that nothing new has transpired since my last visit. Stories are churned up and subject to intense scrutiny and review, and after a week’s absence,  there was nothing more to be learned.

Speculation and opinion have replaced news.

If I want to get myself worked up and filled with angst, all I have to do is spend a few more seconds in front of the mirror as I shave and brush my teeth. The state of my hair has become a metaphor for the state of the union.

It’s unruly.

It’s a reminder of the devolution of my physical being.

It’s just another reason to wear a mask.

Well, have a great weekend and watch Ted Lasso instead of the news.
Ted Lasso is another story coming soon.

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Nowhere to Hide On A Saturday Morning

As I opened my WordPress account this morning, the first thing I saw was that my last entry had three readers in China. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions that my blog was so great that even the people behind the great wall enjoyed my musing.


In fact, someone closer to home, specifically in my house, advised me that this particular blog was a dud.


Therefore, it’s doubtful that the faithful followers of Mao would have thought anything positive about my work. Oh well.


The fact that someone (or something, i.e., a bot) from Ecuador, Ukraine, Russia, and China read my blog is more than a little concerning, given the propensity of some countries to hack and otherwise spy on our data.


I have been more and more fearful of Facebook (I have an Instagram account but never use it) and rarely go there except to see my family groups. The rest I leave to the Russians.


But this is the modern age we dreamt about when we were kids.


On to happier topics.


The Yankees lost the Wild Card game against the Boston Red Sox. What Joy!
Yeah, I’m being sarcastic, but only a little.


Baseball is a lot like love. Better to have played and lost, but it is sweeter to win.


Nevertheless, I enjoyed a great baseball season despite the ups and downs of any sport one follows. Fortunately, there were more ups for the Yankees, but, sadly, it would have been great for just a few more.


Some Yankee fans will focus on the fact that they have not won a World Series since 2009. I like to focus on the fact that they have not had a losing season since 1992.


That means that for twenty-nine seasons, I have been mostly happy watching the Yankees.


The Jets, on the other hand?


This same philosophy, focusing on the wins rather than the losses, might be better applied to America in the twenty-first century.


Or, as I like to think of this philosophy, Ted Lasso Comes Home.


I was so sad to come to the end of season two of Ted Lasso. It is the best thing on TV, the best thing that has come along in years.


I only wish I was still teaching seventh and eighth grades at St.Vito’s.


Ted provides so many lesson plans that would benefit us all, especially young people coming of age.


Ted epitomizes sacrifice, goodwill, and more than anything, forgiveness.


He’s not a sap.


He’s not a wimp.


He is just a man living a life.


He doesn’t preach, but he does teach.


He doesn’t always win, but he never loses.


He lights up a room when he enters, but the light is always shone on others.
He stands up for his friends and disarms his enemies.


The only thing he doesn’t take seriously is Ted Lasso.


Watching Ted Lasso has reminded me that if we only stopped watching the news, we would realize that we all have a little Ted Lasso in us if we only let it out.


Now, we have to wait another year before we get another season of parables, just like I have to wait another four months till Yankee baseball comes back.


To Yankee fans, I advise you to watch Ted Lasso in the meantime. Maybe you’ll appreciate the Yankees players, coaches, and froth office a little bit more.

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Tuesday Afternoon

Tuesday Afternoon

Today is the first Tuesday of October.

Old FM radio stations always referred to OCTOBER as ROCKTOBER.

A clever promotion from their sales departments, I suppose.

Of course, I always try to listen to the Moody Blues iconic hit, Tuesday Afternoon on Tuesday afternoons, but I guess that gets tiresome in the end.

On this particular First Tuesday Of October, I am celebrating by planning a pumpkin coffee but probably not a pumpkin ale though I have both ready and available. I don’t often drink during the week.

Getting old if not mature.

Florida doesn’t offer the fall foliage season the New York and Long Island enjoy, but I did encounter a tree yesterday on my morning walk that did look like its leaves were changing. One can only hope.

The days are shorter, to be sure, but the chill of autumn has not yet arrived in Bradenton. Nevertheless, before we know it, I will be putting jeans on and socks as well as a sweatshirt! Oh, how I look forward to those days!

The thin blood that seems to be coursing through my veins since relocating to the south allows me a chill at fifty degrees, whereas in East Quogue, we would still be taking outdoor showers.

Well, better to be thin in blood than thin-skinned.

To be honest, I have become thin-skinned as well, and I have taken to avoiding all news, not about the Yankees, Jets, and the weather (still on the lookout for hurricanes).

All that other stuff I ” avoid like the plague,” a simile that used to mean something in the days when we actually tried to avoid plagues and cases of flu and other diseases by any means possible and practical.

Well, enjoy your Tuesday afternoon and embrace the change of season wherever you are.

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Saturday Morning Musings

Well, autumn is upon us.

I can tell because, down here in Florida, the heat of summer has given way to the chill of autumn. Now, I have re-defined “chill” since moving to Florida. My use of the word chill now applies to any temperature below ninety degrees.

If I were, to be honest, we haven’t gotten there yet as it reached ninety-four yesterday. Still, autumn, like summer, is a state of mind. As the end of the baseball season ushers in the beginning of the football season and as summer ale makes way for pumpkin ale, summer in Florida is evolving into autumn, however, slow it may be.

Meteorologists will tell us that autumn began on September 1st. Rather than on the 21st (or 22nd for this year), the seasons seem to change at different times for our weathermen. 

I would suppose if you talked to most relocated New Yorkers down here, they would say that they miss autumn in New York. It always seemed a delightful time (or I choose to remember it as such). In addition to getting my pumpkin ale, I would arrange with my wood guy (I used to have a wood guy!) to have a half chord of his finest delivered for the upcoming season.

Still, I would rarely put on a fire before mid to late October.

Our outdoor shower had not yet been winterized, and there was nothing like coming home around 8 PM and taking a hot shower on a chilly night with nothing but the stars to above. We miss our outdoor shower, but even if we were allowed to install one here in the land of NO (wait till you have to deal with an HOA, and you will understand), we would not opt to do so. It simply is too hot and humid, and you would need another shower or a quick dip in the pool to chill down afterward. So, what would be the point?

The one autumnal change that has arrived is the waning light of the sun. It is pitch dark at 7:AM and gets dark well before 8 PM closer to 7, but darkness will continue to arrive earlier as the sun’s travel (really earth’s) progresses.

This is all by way of saying that observing and enjoying the changing seasons is immensely more enjoyable than watching or reading the news. 

Another change for me relative to the seasons is the music I now enjoy. 

My summer playlist has been relegated to review and renovation for summer 2022. I have an easier time identifying “summer” music than autumn music. It’s way too early for Christmas music. Still, the Nutcracker is waiting for Thanksgiving when I will usher my celebration with the annual airing of Tchaikovsky’s best, usually as early as 7 AM Thanksgiving morning.

This is one of those annoyances that made my children groan every year that has now morphed into a treasured tradition that my three children carry on in their own homes.

But as far as “autumn music,” I have always (without realizing why) turned to classical music at this time of year. I remember going to graduate school and later law school driving in my Chevy equipped with only an AM radio listening to WQXR, the classical radio station in NY owned by the New York Times.

Classical music always seemed to fit the light of late afternoon and early evening.

So, while I miss my fireplace and the chill of an autumn evening, I do still listen to classical music on a steamy Florid autumn afternoon.

Then, of course, I have my trains!

Have a great weekend, and wherever you are, treasure the change of the season.

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Two Score Plus Five: A Bronx Boy’s Tale Epilogue

 

I was initially going to entitle this entry FORTY-FIVE, but I thought too many of you would think it’s about Him.

So I came up with something else.

Today is Eileen and my forty-fifth anniversary, and I wanted to write something to commemorate this achievement.

When I wrote A Bronx Boy’s Tale, I intended to chronicle my life from the day of the Kennedy assassination when I was in the eighth grade until Eileen, and I got married.

My story ended much as it had begun with me leaving 1261 Leland Avenue and taking in the glory that was The Bronx. When in 1963 I was on my way to Blessed Sacrament School, I was now on my way to Blessed Sacrament Church to get married.

Aside from a conclusion about our kids, that is how A Bronx Boy’s Tale ended.

Today, I am writing an Epilogue detailing the day Eileen and I got married.

EPILOGUE

Well, I finally got to Blessed Sacrament, and the place was mobbed. It seemed everyone in the neighborhood was there. All my family was there, brothers and sisters and all the nephews and nieces. Mom and Dad were there decked out in their Sunday best. Eileen’s family was equally represented by brothers and her sister as well as in-laws and nieces.

My brother Mike was already at the front of the church, and I went to him right away as I waved at the rest of the church. Mike was my best man. Thank God I didn’t have to worry about the rings.

It was all I could do to hire the limos and find an apartment…both of which were accomplished only a few days before.

I still had a nagging concern about the band for the reception.

We went to see them when they played for another wedding in Brooklyn, and they were terrific. They agreed to do our wedding, and we shook on it.

That’s it! We shook on it. No contract. No letter of attention.

I had a nagging concern about the band.

Eileen had taken care of everything else to do with the wedding ceremony, including writing our vows and getting a folk group to play the music at the service.

Before I knew it, Mike was poking me and brought me back to the moment at hand as the Wedding March blared from the organ perched in the choir loft.

Eileen came down the aisle.

She must have been with other people, but I only saw her.

We joined at the head of the altar, but instead of Father Rafferty officiating as had been the play, Father Pat Carrol was there smiling and welcoming us.

I made a quizzical look at Eileen, and all she said was, “Don’t ask and read this when the time comes.”

I looked in my hands where there were now three index cards.

I didn’t see or hear the folk group yet, but I was so relieved that we weren’t having the usual Ave Maria sung by our old music teacher.

The service went off like clockwork. Well, almost.

As we rose to exchange our vows, Eileen again told me to read the card when it was my turn.

She spoke her vows beautifully, and it was a magical moment…for a minute.

Now, it was my turn, and I began Reading, “Grant us O Lord THREE wishes.”

It was like I was talking to a genie hoping for fame and wealth.

Father Pat had to put his hand over the microphone because he laughed so hard and loudly.

In reality, I was supposed to say, “Grant us O Lord THESE wishes.”

Oh well.

Then came the candle lighting ceremony, where we both had a long lit stick and joined our flames to light one candle—a symbol of our union as a married couple.

Then we sat down and meditated to the glorious AVE MARIA sung by our old music teacher.

I looked at Eileen, and she said, “Don’t ask.”

A few minutes later, we were kissing and picking rice out of our hair.

Then the wedding party was off in the gray limos that I had arranged for. I didn’t ask for gray, but they were there waiting for us outside the church, so gray was okay with me.

Our reception was going to be in a catering hall in Queens. We would be going to the photographer’s studio for pictures and then to the hall. But first, we had to stop at the bodega down the block from Eileen’s house.

You see, in 1976, limos did not come stocked with beer, so we had to get our own.

Oh well.

The rest of the day is a blur.

When we got to the hall after the photoshoot, we were encouraged to shake a leg as people were dying for the bride and groom. I actually believed him.

We had an open bar, and there was food, but more than anything else, there was MUSIC by the most terrific band you ever heard at a wedding.

I could finally relax.

Pop, my father, sang his compulsory rendition of Five Foot Two Eyes Of Blue… and the band loved him.

Then there was dancing, and before you knew it, the final minute arrived…not so fast.

I had a quick talk to the caterer and checked with the band, and we announced that there would be an extra hour of merriment if not out and out mayhem.

You would have thought that would have been enough for any newly married couple.

You would, of course, be wrong.

Eileen made arrangements to get us a ride from our good friends Pat and Paul to take us home to Eileen’s and then to a bar owned by her brother’s friend.

Now, I was very relaxed by this time and thought I should close my eyes for a second, so I laid in Eileen’s driveway still wearing my tux, and waited for Eileen, who I thought was changing.

No, she got our suitcases because Pat and Paul would be taking us down to the Plaza where we would be spending two nights before we flew off to Bermuda.

So, we are now off to the bar, having what probably was a drink well over the suggested daily amount for a newlywed couple.

It seemed like a good part of the wedding crowd was joining us and making merry. But finally, it was time to go, and Pat and Paul drove us down to the beautiful Plaza Hotel.

I was not so relaxed that I missed the magic of entering the Plaza. It was just magnificent.

I went up to the room with the bell cap, who carried our bags, and then came down to get Eileen and our friends.

“Paul, you have to come up! The room is magnificent. The bed is like an aircraft carrier, and there is a phone in the bathroom.”

I guess Pat and Paul thought that joining us on our wedding night was something they could do without.

The next day having the hangover to end all hangovers, Eileen and I struggled signing all the checks that our wonderful family and friends bestowed on us. We then crossed the street on Fifth Avenue to Schrafts and had the best cheeseburger to cure our hangovers.

It was a fitting beginning to our life together.

Anyway, we had a glorious time forty-five years ago today as well as for the last forty-five years.

 

 

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TWENTY

 

I suppose the first memory that we share of September 11, 2001, was that it was an absolutely gorgeous day.

I always felt that September, especially in New York, was the best month of the year weather-wise.

Of course, as a child, September always represented the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. But in terms of the weather, it always seemed to contain beautiful summer days with a twist of autumn in the air.

Other memories that we share of this date are not so joyful but extremely memorable.

We remember where we were.

We remember whom we were with.

We remember when we heard that a plane flew into one of the towers of the World Trade Center, and many of us thought (Hoped? Prayed?) that it was a small plane whose pilot had lost consciousness, etc.

The thing that I remember most is watching the news on a small television in one of my Associate Director’s office and seeing the plumes of smoke and bronze flames coming out of both towers, as by now the second tower had been struck and all delusions that we were not under attack were finally put to rest.

I remember as the entire office watched, and I said, “One thing you have to say is that the engineers who built them knew what they were doing because the towers are still standing.”

A few seconds later, the first tower fell, and I stopped watching for a while.

In the days that followed, the entire nation seemed to be united.

We weren’t thinking of hanging chads or the 2000 election that was so close and that Al Gore reluctantly conceded out of a concern for national unity.

We appeared on September 11, 2001, to be living up to E Pluribus Unum.

We were behind our President, and even the Mayor of New York became America’s Mayor as his calm demeanor in delivering updates seemed to serve as a balm on the open wounds of the terrorist attack.

The feeling of oneness didn’t last long, and twenty years later, it seems hard to imagine that so many feel so alienated and despised that the nation that saved the world and ushered in the era of exploring new worlds can no longer save itself.

Twenty years ago, acts of terror brought us together, while today, a vaccine and a mask threaten to divide us.

Remember what you were doing on 9/11 and pray for the survivors and the families of the fallen.

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Before He Was Captain

Twenty-five years ago this month I took my children to see the Yankees play the Red Sox.

We sat in Row X in the grandstands of the old Yankee Stadium.

It was a Saturday afternoon September 21, 1996.

Like most Yankee-Red Sox games this was a nail biter and actually went into extra innings.

In those day there was on Ghost Runner on second base to start the extra innings but there were plenty of ghosts there nonetheless.

In the bottom of the 10th inning Jeter came up to bat with two out and bases loaded.

Jeter got a single and Boggs scored from third and the Yankees won the game.

Jeter was a rookie but all of the nearly fifty-five thousand baseball fans in attendance probably new that there would be a day when Derek Jeter would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Today is that day.

Fortunately, that day in 1996 was only one of many days that we got to see Derek Jeter earn his way into the Hall.

It wasn’t just what he did in the playoffs and World Series that mattered. He played the same way on a cold Monday night in April as he did on a cold early Thursday morning in November.

He played like a champion.

He always played like a champion.

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Fifty Years To Forever

There are times in our lives when momentous things occur for which we rarely are prepared.

It’s as if we are acting in a play, and we walk onto the stage only to find we are in a production, unlike the one for which we knew our lines.

I faced such an event fifty years ago today, and I have never recovered from the shock of that feeling of not knowing my lines.

Thank God for that.

It was September 3, 1971, and I finished my last day as a mail clerk at Lorillard Corp. It was the best job I ever had. I learned so much, not just about mailing parcels or postage meters but more about people.

We were a typical group of guys from New York City.

We could have easily met at a Yankee game, sipping a beer in the bleachers as we had sipping coffee in the mailroom.

It was a Friday.

It was payday.

As we often did, we went to our local Blarney Stone for lunch, where we dined on a fine roast beef sandwich and a few cold beers.

The meal was topped off on the way back to the office with a Tiparillo Cigars.

I was entering my senior year at St. John’s after the Labor Day weekend, which is why it was my last day at Lorillard. I wanted to enjoy my last year of college and opted not to work after school that year.

It so happened that it was my mother’s 64th birthday (How young that seems to me now!), so I couldn’t go out for a drink after work as I wanted to be home for a birthday cake celebration for mom.

I also had to pick up something for her, which I did at the Parkchester Pharmacy on Hugh Grant Circle when I got off the six train.

We had a nice dinner (which my mother made, of course) and sang Happy Birthday, and I gave her my gift of perfume and other cosmetic items included in the boxed set I purchased at the drug store.

After dinner, I went out with my friends as usual on a Friday night.

We met at Al’s Wine and Liquors, where Freddy was working, and PJ was already endeavoring to cut out the middle man by sipping Bali Hai before we went bar hopping.

Actually, I don’t think we called it bar hopping in 1971, and anyway I was intent to stay at the first place we visited, a bistro on East Tremont Avenue known as The Castle Keep.

Others in our group wanted to go to the Hollow Leg, formerly known as the BIC or Bronx Irish Center. I did not want to go there having traumatic memories of the place from my high school days.

But as luck would have it, the Castle Keep was dead.

We were the only people in the bar, and it appeared that the castle might have had a moat keeping others out, especially feminine people.

So, we made our way down Tremont Avenue to the Hollow Leg.

Now to be fair, I was already on my way to a full night if you will allow me my euphemism.

I was well into a bob and weave as my friends left me stranded as they pursued other interests.

Then, the lights came on.

The curtain rose.

I was in the middle of the stage, but it was not the drama that I anticipated.

It must have been a comedy.

Because as I looked over to the bar, I saw a beautiful redhead. A very young gorgeous redhead.

She was laughing at me.

I approached her but had no clue as to what my lines were. And there was no director to cue me or coach me or save me from falling on my face.

I may have stammered, but I did say something coherent if nonsensical.

“I’ve been admiring you all night.”

She almost fell off the barstool. Her fits of laughter were so explosive.

That was it.

That was the mother of all momentous moments from which I never recovered.

For some reason, we connected that night back in 1971, and before we left each other’s company that fateful Friday (now Saturday), we somehow knew that I’d be writing about that moment fifty years in the future.

We didn’t know that there would be three children and a grandson who might be interested in how this all came about.

So much has happened in these fifty years, not all of which has been pleasant, but I don’t think either of us would have done anything differently.

Thinking back to that Friday night, I had no idea as I left apartment six at 1261 Leland Avenue that Friday evening that when I returned, my life would have changed forever.

You just never know when that’s going to happen.

It has left me in awe every time I think back to that night.

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