Chuck Warn

Chuck Warn

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A.E. Neuman

A.E. Neuman
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friend of dogs and fan of baseball

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer naps

Triple digit heat predicted for next seven days means August dog days are in full swing with high likelihood of sweat soaked clothing during same.
Thinking of other dog days in Toledo, Washington,D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles during other lifetimes. Visions of iced tea, lemonade and Popsicles.
Sliced fresh tomatoes.
Scallions with sea salt.
Mozzarella slices.
Gin and tonic.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

TRUMP of the week...

Trump disinvited from "red state" event for his remarks about Megyn Kelly of Fox News "bleeding from her eyes and wherever" implying she was hormonal from her period.
By not speaking today, Trump is once again dominating the news cycle.
A remarkable political phenomenon, this Trump thing continues to shake up the 2016 Presidential race in heretofore unknown ways!
I am starting to think Donald Trump is smarter than the average bear!
Can he get elected?
Why not?

God help us...

Monday, August 3, 2015

dog days

August means the dog days arrive to close out the summer.
Dogs are my faves so I have always enjoyed dog days.
My last dog died in January;
my first dog entered my life in the 1950s.

Cucumber sliced thin and chilled
covered with oil and vinegar
refreshing yet tasty
maybe some gaspacho too!

Summer treats come in many forms, none unknown in my time:
iced cold beer, grilled hot dogs and burgers;
baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw.
shrimp and guacamole with corn chips and salsa,
pickles and olives with jalapeno peppers and bean sprouts.

no fan of the heat,
staying in the shade.
keeping cool until
dog days have passed!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

When I'm Gone (One way to go)

 This is a story that moved me but it is not mine.


When I’m Gone

Death is always a surprise. No one expects it. Not even terminal patients think they are going to die in a day or two. In a week, maybe. But only when this particular week is the next week.
We are never ready. It is never the right time. By the time it comes, you will not have done all the things that we wanted to. The end always comes as a surprise, and it’s a tearful moment for widows and a bore for the children who don’t really understand what a funeral is (thank God).
It was no different with my father. In fact, his death was even more unexpected. He was gone at age 27. The same age that claimed the lives of several famous musicians. He was young. Way too young. My father was not a musician and neither a famous person. Cancer doesn’t pick its victims. He was gone when I was young, and I learned what a funeral was because of him. I was 8 and half, old enough to miss him for a lifetime. Had he died before, I wouldn’t have memories. I would feel no pain. But I wouldn’t have a father in my life. And I had a father.
I had a father who was both firm and fun. Someone who would tell a joke before grounding me. That way, I wouldn’t feel so bad. Someone who kissed me on the forehead before I went to sleep. A habit which I passed on to my children. Someone who forced me to support the same football team he supported, and who explained things better than my mother. Do you know what I mean? A father like that is someone to be missed.
He never told me he was going to die. Even when he was lying on a hospital bed with tubes all over him, he didn’t say a word. My father made plans for the next year even though he knew he wouldn’t be around in the next month. Next year, we would go fishing, we would travel, we would visit places we’ve never been. Next year would be an amazing year. We lived the same dream.
I believe — actually I’m sure — he thought this should bring luck. He was a superstitious man. Thinking about the future was the way he found to keep hope alive. The bastard made me laugh until the very end. He knew about it. He didn’t tell me. He didn’t see me crying.
And suddenly, the next year was over before it even started.
My mother picked me up at school and we went to the hospital. The doctor told the news with all the sensitivity that doctors lose over the years. My mother cried. She did have a tiny bit of hope. As I said before, everyone does. I felt the blow. What does it mean? Wasn’t it just a regular disease, the kind of disease doctors heal with a shot? I hated you, dad. I felt betrayed. I screamed with anger in the hospital, until I realized my father was not around to ground me. I cried.
Then, my father was once again a father to me. With a shoebox under her arm, a nurse came by to comfort me. The box was full of sealed envelopes, with sentences where the address should be. I couldn’t understand exactly what was going on. The nurse then handed me a letter. The only letter that was out of the box.
“Your dad asked me to give you this letter. He spent the whole week writing these, and he wants you read it. Be strong.” the nurse said, holding me.
The envelope read WHEN I’M GONE. I opened it.

If you’re reading this, I’m dead. I’m sorry. I knew I was going to die.
I didn’t want to tell you what was going to happen, I didn’t want to see you crying. Well, it looks like I’ve made it. I think that a man who’s about to die has the right to act a little bit selfish.
Well, as you can see, I still have a lot to teach you. After all, you don’t know crap about anything. So I wrote these letters for you. You must not open them before the right moment, OK? This is our deal.
I love you. Take care of your mom. You’re the man of the house now.
Love, dad.

PS: I didn’t write letters to your mom. She’s got my car.

He made me stop crying with his bad handwriting. Printing was not easy back then. His ugly writing, which I barely understood, made me feel calm. It made me smile. That’s how my father did things. Like the joke before the grounding.
That box became the most important thing in the world for me. I told my mother not to open it. Those letters were mine and no one else could read them. I knew all the life moments written on the envelopes by heart. But it took a while for these moments to happen. And I forgot about it.
Seven years later, after we moved to a new place, I had no idea where I put the box. I couldn’t remember it. And when we don’t remember something, we usually don’t care about it. If something goes lost in your memory, It doesn’t mean you lost it. It simply doesn’t exist anymore. It’s like change in the pockets of your trousers.
And so it happened. My teenage years and my mother’s new boyfriend triggered what my father had anticipated a long time before. My mother had several boyfriends, and I always understood it. She never married again. I don’t know why, but I like to believe that my father had been the love of her life. This boyfriend, however, was worthless. I thought she was humiliating herself by dating him. He had no respect for her. She deserved something a lot better than a guy she met at a bar.
I still remember the slap she gave me after I pronounced the word “bar”. I’ll admit that I deserved it. I learned that over the years. At the time, when my skin was still burning from the slap, I remembered the box and the letters. I remembered a specific letter, which read “WHEN YOU HAVE THE WORST FIGHT EVER WITH YOUR MOM”.
I ransacked my bedroom looking for it, which earned me another slap in the face. I found the box inside a suitcase lying on top of the wardrobe. The limbo. I looked through the letters, and realized that I had forgotten to open WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR FIRST KISS. I hated myself for doing that, and I decided that would be the next letter I’d open. WHEN YOU LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY came right next in the pack, a letter I was hoping to open really soon. Eventually I found what I was looking for.

Now apologize to her.
I don’t know why you’re fighting and I don’t know who’s right. But I know your mother. So a humble apology is the best way to get over this. I’m talking about a down-on-your-knees apology.
She’s your mother, kid. She loves you more than anything in this world. Do you know that she went through natural birth because someone told her that it would be the best for you? Have you ever seen a woman giving birth? Do you need a bigger proof of love than that?
Apologize. She’ll forgive you.
Love, dad.

My father was not a great writer, he was just a bank clerk. But his words had a great impact on me. They were words that carried more wisdom than all of my 14 years of age at the time. (That wasn’t very hard to achieve, though).
I rushed to my mother’s room and opened the door. I was crying when she turned her head to look me in the eyes. She was also crying. I don’t remember what she yelled at me. Probably something like “What do you want?” What I do remember is that I walked towards her holding the letter my father wrote. I held her in my arms, while my hands crumpled the old paper. She hugged me, and we both stood in silence.
My father’s letter made her laugh a few minutes later. We made peace and talked a little about him. She told me about some of his most eccentric habits, such as eating salami with strawberries. Somehow, I felt he was sitting right next to us. Me, my mother and a piece of my father, a piece he left for us, on a piece of paper. It felt good.
It didn’t take long before I read WHEN YOU LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY

Congratulations, son.
Don’t worry, it gets better with time. It always sucks the first time. Mine happened with an ugly woman…who was also a prostitute.
My biggest fear is that you’d ask your mother what virginity is after reading what’s on the letter. Or even worse, reading what I just wrote without knowing what jerking off is (you know what it is, right?). But that’s none of my business.
Love, dad.

My father followed me through my entire life. He was with me, even though he was not near me. His words did what no one else could: they gave me strength to overcome countless challenging moments in my life. He would always find a way to put a smile on my face when things looked grim, or clear my mind during those angry moments.
WHEN YOU GET MARRIED made me feel very emotional. But not so much as WHEN YOU BECOME A FATHER.

Now you’ll understand what real love is, son. You’ll realize how much you love her, but real love is something you’ll feel for this little thing over there. I don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl. I’m just a corpse, I’m not a fortune teller.
Have fun. It’s a great thing. Time is gonna fly now, so make sure you’ll be around. Never miss a moment, they never come back. Change diapers, bathe the baby, be a role model to this child. I think you have what it takes to be an amazing father, just like me.

The most painful letter I read in my entire life was also the shortest letter my father wrote. While he wrote those four words, I believe he suffered just as much as I did living through that moment. It took a while, but eventually I had to open WHEN YOUR MOTHER IS GONE.

She is mine now.

A joke. A sad clown hiding his sadness with a smile on his makeup. It was the only letter that didn’t make me smile, but I could see the reason.
I always kept the deal I had made with my father. I never read letters before their time. With the exception of WHEN YOU REALIZE YOU’RE GAY. Since I never thought I’d have to open this one, I decided to read it. It was one of the funniest letters, by the way.

What can I say? I’m glad I’m dead.
Now, all joking aside, being half-dead made me realize that we care too much about things that don’t matter much. Do you think that changes anything, son?
Don’t be silly. Be happy.

I would always wait for the next moment, the next letter. The next lesson my father would teach me. It’s amazing what a 27 year old man can teach to an 85 year old senior like me.
Now that I am lying on a hospital bed, with tubes in my nose and my throat thanks to this damn cancer, I run my fingers on the faded paper of the only letter I didn’t open. The sentence WHEN YOUR TIME COMES is barely visible on the envelope.
I don’t want to open it. I’m scared. I don’t want to believe that my time is near. It’s a matter of hope, you know? No one believes they’re gonna die.
I take a deep breath, opening the envelope.

Hello, son. I hope you’re an old man now.
You know, this letter was the easiest to write, and the first I wrote. It was the letter that set me free from the pain of losing you. I think your mind becomes clearer when you’re this close to the end. It’s easier to talk about it.
In my last days here I thought about the life I had. I had a brief life, but a very happy one. I was your father and the husband of your mother. What else could I ask for? It gave me peace of mind. Now you do the same.
My advice for you: you don’t have to be afraid
PS: I miss you

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Life Lessons...

Every year, July 31 is the Major League Baseball trading deadline. Since 2003, July 31 has carried the additional weight of marking the anniversary of my Mom' death.
Today is July 30 and the ticking clock is now getting ever more insistent.

 Last year, my beloved Detroit Tigers helped salve my emotional wounds about my Mom with the great gift of getting ace pitcher David Price to join Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in our starting rotation! The Tigers fifth World Championship suddenly seemed a mere formality!

It did not play out that way.

Now Scherzer is pitching for Washington and Justin just won his first game of the season this week.  David Price is likely to be traded and my Tigers won't win their fifth consecutive American League Central Division crown.

Life has a lot of ups and downs.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sorry Mom...

Friday, July 31 marks the 12th Anny of my Mom's death.
As I count down the days until that landmark of my life, memories from that last spring I spent with her come flooding back. As with most time spent lamenting past life lessons that ended badly, the images in my mind bring back regrets that never fade.
In February 2003 when Mom called me at my Oscar PR production office with the news she had esophageal cancer, my friend across the hall legendary writer Hal Kantor counseled me not to follow my gut and "get very drunk" but I did anyway. It did not help.
This Friday, July 31 is the 12th Anny of the day my Mom died.
In February, 2003 she called me at my Oscar PR production office to give me the news that the doctor had diagnosed her with esophageal cancer. My pal across the hall was legendary writer Hal Kanter and he counseled me against my gut reaction which was to "get very drunk" but I did anyway. It did not help.
My Mom was going to die and all I could do about it was drive home to Toledo from LA after the Oscar telecast to help out. Which I did.
It was my third road trip to Toledo in one year, all with my two dogs and two cats in my leased Jeep Cherokee. After round the clock driving punctuated only by truck stop interludes to walk the dogs and stop for gas, coffee and naps, my first stop in Toledo was to visit Mom at her medical rehab facility before setting up HQ for me and the animals at Mom's house near South and Broadway.
She was happy to see me and we had a good talk about what she was facing. I agreed to take her to her chemo treatment the next day and thus began ten weeks of her final days during which we spent more time together than we had since 1967 when I moved away from Toledo.
The thing about my relationship with my Mom is that despite our unconditional love for each other, we always found something to argue about!
Her final days were no exception. We spent hours every day in her hospice room arguing over the who,when and where of hundreds of family photos. Arguing in our good way during that time remains one of my fondest memories.
But there was also a dark side. Much like what happened during the 1960s, my own angst and frustration got the best of me by the 4th of July and I acted on my perceived need to get back to LA and find a job. Mom was being sent home from the hospice after one month there so I announced my intention to leave Toledo again.
I drove a personal best cross country time of 42 hours door to door from Mom's house in Toledo to my house in Van Nuys.
Big mistake. I shoulda stayed with Mom in Toledo until the end but spoke with her often by phone until her neighbor Sarah called me with the news she had passed on July 31.
Guilt is a complex and confusing emotion.
I will always believe I let my Mom down when she needed me most.
Sorry Mom.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Life's Biggest Regret?

Yesterday was July 24.
Thus begins my personal countdown to July 24, 2016.
364 days until the 50thAnny of meeting the girl who would become the love of my life, Karen Lee Shinn of Toledo, Ohio. She was 15 years old then and it was love at first sight for me. I was 16 and would enter my senior year at Woodward High School in  September.
Karen was beautiful at 5'9" and 115 with long bare legs beneath gold short shorts. My opening line to her asked when the band would start playing ( it already was) which she luckily took as me being funny and the rest is history: high school sweetheart until June 1967 then girlfriend then wife December 28, 1967 until September 13, 1977.
Messing up my first marriage is the biggest regret of my life.

I am sorry Karen.