The last day of the year!

I welcome it! The holidays have been enjoyable. Fun is a better word! But the usual too much food, drink and partying!

I spent New Year’s eve last year at Sloppy Joe’s in Key West. As yet, I am not certain where I shall be spending this evening in Utica. I have options. We shall see.

It snowed last night. About 6 inches. Absolutely beautiful outside! The heavy stuff! The trees and bushes are covered. Branches bent over. Truly a winter wonderland!

And probably cold! I have not been out as yet. Not in a hurry to do so. TV last night predicted some day this week the high will be 9 and the low minus 1. Key West here I come! Next Friday to be exact!

We had dinner last night at Gus and Mary’s home. Rocco and Mary Ann were there also, as well as Gus’ lawyer daughter Michelle. Rocco and Mary Ann have a time share in Key West. Gus and Mary have visited several times.

Mary cooked a non holiday dinner. The consensus was we had all already eaten too much rich food over the past several days.

Mary is a great cook!

The meal consisted of broiled chicken and potatoes, greens and oil, roasted peppers covered in bread crumbs and Caesar salad. Desert was cheesecake and freshly baked pumpkin pie.

Oh how we deceive ourselves! So much for eating less!

And the drinks! Oh so good! I started with a gin on the rocks. Then had 2 of Gus’ great espresso martinis. I finished the evening with a glass of fine aged port from his collection.

I was on the scale this morning first thing. I am on it every day. I lost 2 pounds! Excited! I had gained 2 pounds over the holidays. Made me paranoid! Was on the treadmill yesterday and the day before for 30 minutes. Watched my food and drink for 2 days, till last night. When you analyze Mary’s meal closely, it actually was good food. Chicken and vegetables! I ate lightly. Had a sliver of pumpkin pie. Except for the drinking, I did well! And the scale rewarded me!

Drive safely this evening! Enjoy!

I am back in the extermination business!

A visitor of the night! Dracula in disguise! A bat!

I do not know which is worse. A rat or a bat!

Anyhow the wife left the garage door and the door from the garage to the house open while taking out the garbage. And the bat came in!

We sequestered it in all of the the house, except for the kitchen. We were prisoners in our own home!

What to do? I have had 2 bat encounters in the past. So experience I have! Ugh! What a scary and lousy job killing a bat!

I also have Pete Aceto. Pete has been my landscaper/gardener for years and also recently has assumed the responsibility for maintaining the Utica house. It is 6,500 square feet and needs a general handyman’s attention constantly. Talented I am not! And probably a bit lazy also!

So I called Pete. He had only 1 bat encounter and that was 15 years ago. So at 2 I was more experienced. Not to matter! I told him it fell under his job duties and was his responsibility. He reluctantly said he would come over. Reluctant does not adequately express his disdain for the job. I had to assure him however that I would assist. Two brave guys!

While waiting for Pete, I found a tennis racket. I read somewhere that a tennis racket is the weapon of choice when hunting bats!

Pete showed up. He had a fishing net with him. A long poled one! Turns out that is how he caught his only bat 15 years ago.

We agreed on a course of conduct. Rather I set forth the rules of engagement. Pete was to go first. A coward I am! I would follow with the tennis racket and protect the rear.

And off we went. We, rather Pete, opened the door to the center hall cautiously. We moved into the hall and the rest of the first floor quietly. We searched high and low. No bat!

We moved up the center staircase. We were quietly chit chatting back and forth to maintain our courage.

Half way up the stairs I spotted the enemy! He was hanging from the ceiling over the doorway to daughter Lori’s bedroom. Not big. Not small. Medium size I would say.

Pete approached cautiously and very swiftly and carefully captured the bat in the net. He then quickly slammed the bat, still in the net of course, to the white carpeted floor.

What to do next? Can’t kill it, even if we had the courage, as it would bloody up the white carpet. So we took a large towel, covered the net and somehow secured the bat alive between the net and towel. Pete then ran down the stairs with me ahead this time opening the doors. No back seat for me at this stage of the operation! Out to the street where Pete released the bat alive. Just as we do with fish in the Keys!

A job well done! We congratulated ourselves with drinks afterwards.

Last night we drove to Syracuse to watch my grandsons play basketball in a big time high school tournament. There was my grandsons’ team from Utica, a team from Syracuse, another from Canada and the fourth from New York City. Big boys all! Some even looked like men, especially the New York City team.

My grandsons’ team played the Canadian team. The Canadians were bigger. Even had a 6’8″ shooting guard. That big and he did not play center! For a big guy, he was agile and good at that position. And when he opted to go to the basket, it was 2 leaps and a soft dunk. He only slammed once!

Matt started at point guard. He did well last night. Scored in the double digits. Made 2 foul shots with 12 seconds to go to tie and then put his team ahead. Pressure shots! And performed his job well in getting the ball inside.

It was an exciting game! While the Canadian team was better offensively, my grandsons’ team was better defensively. Two times in the game the grandsons’ team was down 10 and 15 points respectively. And they came back each time! And went ahead each time!

In the end it was nip and tuck! I thought it was won when Matt made those 2 foul shots with 12 seconds to go. No. Canada was fouled and scored one from the foul line. Things got messy. Somehow the ball was back in Matt’s hands. He drove the length of the floor for a lay up with Canada all over him! As he shot, he and a Canadian player collided and ended up on the floor. The ref called a charging foul. The first of the game. I thought the ref was wrong. But I am a grandfather and that was the call. One or 2 of the foul shots were made. The Canadian team won by 2 points.

A great game! My grandsons and their team mates had nothing to be ashamed of. It was all a roll of the dice in those last few seconds!

I rapidly drove the 50 miles home to Utica to catch the 2nd half of the New England/New York pro football game. Watched the second half. Another great game! I was pulling for New York. But all in all, another outstanding sporting event! One for the books!

By the way, I have decided to take the garbage out from now on. To avoid another bat problem! However it is probably something I should have started doing years ago. It is that Italian thing!

Good morning!

Yesterday was a good day!

My father and I had a long lunch at what has become our favorite local restaurant. 99!

99 is a chain. I am going to have to check out its stock performance. I am very much impressed by it. The food is simple. Typical chain stuff. We had french onion soup and boneless wings. Good for what it was! Service was excellent and friendly. Not Paradise Cafe, but acceptable. And the people kept coming in in droves! So it must be good!

Last night was a special evening at the Yahnundasis. The Yahnundasis is our golf club. Actually a country club in disguise. However being snooty, it prefers to be referred to as a golf club. And for those of you who might be unfamiliar with the origins of the name, it is American Indian derived. Utica is in the Mohawk Valley. From thence and the rest of the northeast, 6 great Indian tribes formed a nation. Among the tribes were the Mohawks (of course), the Iroquois and the Algonquins. Yahnundasis comes from the Indian language and folklore of those times past. I am ashamed to admit I am not sure what it means. Could be longhouse. Indians lived in longhouses. I will check and at some point let you know its actual derivation.

Anyhow…..the special evening was jazz night! I did not know when I went. But when in Rome, do as the Romans do!

An unusually large crowd for a Friday evening! Every one appeared in a joyful mood! Saw and talked with many friends I had not seen in a while.

The company, food and music were good. But jazz it was not!

And I was disappointed! And many others also!

It was basically quiet slow dancing music. For the old folks! Since I am an old folk, I can describe it that way! Again disappointing! Larry Smith and his Monday night jazz sessions at the Pier House it was not!

I spoke with Lou Giglotti. Lou is an attorney also. He was law partner with Nick Priori, the 46 year old attorney/friend who died suddenly last week. Lou is just like Nick. A good guy! And a good attorney! I enjoyed seeing Lou again and sharing a few moments with him.

Strangely Lou was impressed with my Key West Lou blog. After Nick died, Lou entered Nick’s name into Google to see what he could come up with. Lo and behold! There was Key West Lou amongst others. You will recall I wrote about Nick last week.

Lou was amazed that I was able to put out a blog! My many years of legal successes have faded into the woodwork. Yesterday’s news! Now I am becoming known for the dithering of a retired old man! Spelled out daily in his reminiscent blog!

Whether this change in impressions is good or bad, I am not sure!

Yesterday was a better day.

It snowed heavy at one point. A blizzard!

I spoke with some one in Key West. The temperature was 78 and muggy. Here it was 37 and damp!

I visited my urologist. I had a finger exam would have pleased some of my Key West friends!

Good? Better? Not till the evening.

Last night was a fun time. Finally! My wife had a party for her side of the family. My son John, his wife and children also attended. My daughter Lori, her husband and son are in Vail so were not with us. My father and his friend also joined us. And my friend Gus and his wife.

Gus once visited Key West when espresso martini’s were just becoming popular. He turned on to them and their preparation! He brings his own coffee and paraphernalia to properly prepare the drink. He is anal in the preparation. Measures precisely each portion going into the shaker! Only Sassy at La Te Da makes a better espresso martini. Gus is that good!

So Gus and I had an espresso martini evening. My father had a wee bit of one.

It was a good evening!

Two observations.

First, Key West is unique!

I spent yesterday sitting around reading. Then a quiet dinner at home and early to bed.

I am bored.

Although a great town, Utica is not Key West. Not by any means. Nor is any other community. Key West has a flavor all its own. And I am starting to miss it!

Second, today is 2 days after Christmas. And there are still 365 days to Christmas!

I made a mistake yesterday, the day after Christmas, when I said there were 365 days to Christmas. Yesterday there were 366.

2008 is a leap year. Ergo the extra day!

You learned it here!

Several of you were kind enough to e mail me and make me aware of the error.

What will today bring? The only thing on the agenda is an appointment with my doctor this afternoon to have my prostrate examined. Wow!

A very merry Christmas to one and all!

Sorry the blog is so late today. It is the holiday! Too much going on!

Last night was spectacular! Christmas eve dinner is a big event for my family. The most special gathering of the year for us.

And the eating is fantastic! Seven fishes in keeping with our Italian tradition.

My wife has been cooking for 3 weeks getting ready.

Smelts. From the days of my grandmother! Little thin 2 inch long fish fried in oil. A crispy delight.! One of my favorites.

Shrimp. Cooked and fried. The fried are rolled in a light flour/egg batter.

Baked clams. An egg bread crumb topping.

Maine lobster tails. Broiled and covered with melted butter. To die for!

Stuffed calamad. Two to three inch calamari is cleaned and stuffed with egg batter and bread crumbs. Then sewed at the open end. Placed in a deep pot of red sauce to cook. Served over home made linguini.

Finally bacalla. Actually cod. Cod is a dry salty fish. When I was a child it was served hard, dry and salty. We were all required to take a small piece and eat it. The intent was to remind us of poorer days gone by. As I grew older I found this amusing since we were all poor at the time. How much poorer could the family have been!

However no longer is the cod eaten in such a native state. Now my wife has it sit in water for 3 weeks to soften. Yes, 3 weeks. Then it is cut up into small pieces and left to soak in olive oil for another week. On Christmas eve, various spices are added. The end result is great tasting morsels of soft fish! Much better than my youth! And no longer a reminder of poor days gone by. I tried to explain the tradition a few times at Christmas eve dinners, but to no avail. Succeeding generations who have never experienced being poor find it difficult to understand.

And that covers the 7 fishes! The differently prepared shrimp dishes are to be counted as two separate fish. Otherwise the 7 cannot be reached.

Of course there were tons of other food on the table also!

Desert were homemade Christmas cookies. Every morning for 4 weeks my wife bakes cookies. A variety and all good!

Every one got along. Any ill feelings were left at the door. So it was a great evening! And my 93 year old father enjoyed the evening the most!

God bless us one and all!

Ho ho ho! Less than 24 hours till Santa comes!

I think I am cracking up! Already!

Yesterday was a quiet one. Did a little last minute shopping. Saw a few friends. Did not drink. Needed a day off and tonight will be a big one.

My wife has been cooking for three weeks in anticipation for this evening. Christmas Eve is our big holiday. A big Italian one! The seven fishes. The whole family waits in eager anticipation for this meal!

We are up to 21 for dinner. My nephew flew in from Miami Saturday night to surprise my father. His grandfather. My sister flew in yesterday from Tampa. She was expected. My niece and her new husband flew in from Dallas last evening. They were not expected. Surprise! Niece and husband are staying at my house.

The family is coming together for my father. A nice thing. And a not so nice thing when you think about the underlying motivation. A last big party! Although Dad has been failing, I would not be surprised if he was here 10 years from now. And I would hope so! I remember a New Year’s eve some 7 years ago when my father and I sat alone in my living room before the fire till after midnight talking about nothing and everything. Everyone else had gone out partying. I had this weird feeling this was going to be our last New Year together so I opted to be with him that evening. It is now 7 years later and the whole family is opting to do the same thing on Christmas eve. I hope their underlying suspicions are as wrong as mine were 7 years ago.

Preparation for this evening’s meal creates a kitchen disaster for several days. The meal preparation is my wife’s work. Not mine. I am Italian.

Proud that I was alcohol free for the day, I went to bed at 7 pm with a book. And my dream of sugar plums was a good night’s sleep to ready me for Christmas eve!

No way! My unannounced niece and husband showed up at 8. Being the good host, I was downstairs in robe entertaining them till midnight. And had a drink or two of course!

Christmas eve morning is upon us. I have a 10 am manicure appointment. The phone just rang. My sister fell on the ice at my father’s house. Emergency room here I come!

This is going to be an interesting Christmas eve dinner tonight. Half the people do not talk to each other. They have not sat at a table together in years. I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds!

Good morning world!

Not to disappoint my Key West friends, the Utica weather report: It is gray outside. No sun today.

Yesterday was a good day! Experiences were many.

My father and I had lunch together for the third consecutive day. At 99. That is the name of the restaurant, not my father’s age. Though close, as he is 93. 99 is a chain. Good solid basic foot. We both had onion soup and wings. We both had great conversation.

After lunch I suggested we drive over to my daughter Lori’s home and visit with her and my 6 year old grandson Andrew. My grandson and my father’s great grandson! Unfortunately no one was home.

As I was backing out the driveway, I made my cut into the road too soon. My car ended up with its right back end sitting on top of and into a four foot snowbank!

I tried rocking the car out to no avail. No rock at all! I looked for a shovel in my daughter’s garage. No shovel! What a wonderful country! Shovels are no longer required by some. Just pay and someone will be by to keep your driveway and walks clean!

Anyhow I telephoned the whole world for assistance. On the Saturday before Christmas, I could reach no one. Except for my son John. He was at the wake I planned on attending later in the day. I reported my plight. Told him to get his twin sons and come to the rescue. The boys were at basketball practice. So John and his wife arrived alone. And John brought a shovel! Oh, the little things in life!

He shoveled. And shoveled! And shoveled! His wife tried to rock the car. No luck! It was in too deep. I had done a good job!

By this time I was beginning to feel like an asshole. In defense, I would tell you that the last time I had a car get stuck in the snow was at least 40 years ago.

It suddenly dawned on me I had an AAA card. Not sure whether the organization responded to snow stuck vehicles, I put in a call. In 20 minutes the rescue wagon appeared! A tow truck with a big electric chain on the back. The service man hooked up the chain to the back of my car and voila it was pulled out. Cleanly and slowly and gently!

I have not used my AAA card in ten years. I have sometimes wondered why I pay them $200 a year for nothing. Many the year I have been tempted not to renew. Yesterday I found out why I have need for the card!

Last night we had dinner at the Turning Stone Casino. In the heart of upstate New York, in the middle of onion farming country, only 14 miles from Utica we are blessed with an Indian casino. An American Indian casino.

It is Las Vegas in the middle of no where. Besides the gambling rooms, it has great restaurants in all price ranges, a fantastic spa, 4 great golf courses and whatever else an outstanding resort offers. Hard to believe!

After a great meal in the upscale Wildwoods restaurant, I visited the new dancing room which just opened. I refer to it as a dancing room because that simply is what it is. It is called Lava. And is it hot!

I am 72 and have been all over the world. Never anywhere have I seen something like this! Two floors of great huge semi moon leather couches and a very very very large dance floor. And smoke and flashing lights from every direction covering the dance floor! What a visual experience! What a physical experience!

The best thing that ever happened to the Indians was our government screwing them 200 years ago! We done them bad! Now what has gone around has come around for them! And justifiably so!

One last piece of information. The Casino is the largest employer in central New York. It employs approximately 6,000 persons. This area has been economically depressed for over 50 years. I doubt even back when things were good that we had any employer who employed 6,000 people or anywhere near that number! Turning Stone has turned out to have been a blessing in disguise for not only the Indians, but for all their neighbors here. It is Thanksgiving every day in central New York!

An unusual day in Utica! The sun is shining! Brightly! And it looks terrific reflecting off the blankets of snow covering the rooftops and ground!

Big night last evening! I saw my first high school varsity basketball game where my twin grandsons were playing. Exciting! Proud!

Matt and Mike are juniors at Notre Dame. Matt is the starting point guard and also one of the team’s leading scorers. Mike gets in on occasion and is doing his time on the bench in readiness for next year.

Big game! Notre Dame vs. New Hartford. At New Hartford. A deep rooted rivalry. Prior to last night’s game, both teams were tied for second place in their division. The whole world came to watch the game! Parking was impossible! A half hour before the game, ticket sales stopped. There was no more room in the gym.

Cold outside. Sweaty warm inside.

The first half was close. Notre Dame was down by 6 at half time. The second half was a disaster! Notre Dame lost by 20 plus points. Notre Dame lost for 2 reasons. They did not control the backboards and never got its offense going.

The offense problem was Matt’s problem. He was the point guard, the general for his team. It was not his night. The coach had him on the bench for at least half the game. And he scored no points.

Mike got in towards the end of the game. An opposing player was fast breaking towards the basket and Mike threw him a body block. Not an intentional or mean body block. Rather the right move at the right time under the circumstances. I was surprised that both of them were able to get up off the floor. Mike was called for a foul and to add salt to the wound, his opponent made both foul shots.

In spite of the defeat, I was one very proud grandfather watching the blood of my blood playing. Matt will continue leading his team this year. They will win many games. Matt will continue to be one the team’s high scorers and one the league’s high scorers. He will distinguish himself in the future as he has in the past. Mike will get to play more and will have his moments in the sun. Rare is a team that wins all its games. And sometimes a good kick in the ass helps! There is no question in my mind that when these two teams meet again in February at Notre Dame, the result will be different. Such is life!

I am getting on in my years. It had been a long time since I was at a high school varsity game in my home town. I saw many faces from the past. And these faces brought back memories! Some interesting, some thoughtful!

There was the Monsignor. Now old. Walks with a cane. Still distinguished in his bearing. And still the warm soul I remembered!

There was a time in the early 1960s when a woman came to see me. She worked in a rectory. She said the priest had made advances towards her. She was totally distraught. The situation had shaken  the foundations of her faith. What to do? I wrote the bishop. The Monsignor visited with me in response to that letter.

Nothing happened. The Catholic Church was in denial even back then.

Sitting in front of me was Joe, a basketball coach for many years at Notre Dame. A revered man! We spoke like long lost friends reunited. Joe is 3 years older than me. We had attended high school together, though he was a senior when I was a freshman.

The conversation got around to who of the old class mates did each of us see. The answer was none. Some were dead, some moved away and the rest…..well the paths never cross. Sad. But it is that time in our lives.

I saw the father of what was a young client from many years ago. The father is older than me. He had been a great basketball player in high school which lead to a scholarship and his playing basketball in college. He subsequently became a vice president with a major insurance company. As he used to tell me, he got an education because he could put a ball in a round hoop! That simple. The free ride was his because he was born with a talent.

His son was equally as talented on the basketball court. It is in the genes!

His son wanted to transfer from one high school to another. He was not getting appropriate playing time and his opportunity to shine and move on with a basketball scholarship would be lost. So a change to another high school was required.

There was a high school administrative rule at the time that a transferring athlete had to sit one year out before he could play. Obviously to discourage such transfers. There were exceptions to the rule.

The boy transferred. The league said he could not play for one year. So I was retained to represent the young athlete in a hearing whose purpose was to qualify him to play immediately. It was a tough fight! Administrators do not take these matters lightly. And rightfully so!

However my young client prevailed. The decision was that he could play immediately at his new school.

The sports page of the local newspaper had been following this case closely. The day after the decision it reported that the boy could play basketball and that Petrone played hardball! I was always proud of that comment and the result which lead up to it. Excuse my moment of self gratification, but it felt good seeing the father last night and remembering the incident!

Today will have its sad moments. I have to attend the wake of my departed lawyer friend Nick Priore.