Friday, November 9, 2012


I don't think I've ever seen so many viscous attacks during an election season as I did this year -- and most of them were not from any candidate but supporters airing their views on Facebook.

Maybe it's just because I wasn't on Facebook during the last presidential election, but I was stunned at how vindictive the postings became, especially towards the end. And it wasn't by any one side; people of both parties in the election were just as adamant that their candidate was the one to save the earth while his opponent was the one who would destroy it.

I can see having a passion towards the person you support in an election, but seriously I can't imagine why anyone would feel they need to make such nasty and often personal attacks on people who don't agree with them. Isn't that what America is all about? The freedom to have your own opinion? I felt like posting the number of Facebook friends I had and then announcing who I voted for, just so everyone could watch the number dwindle as I was un-friended by people who voted contrary to me.

So the election has come and gone, and I'm figuring the vitriol will come to an end. Wrong! Now the posts are starting that it's time to flee the country before it's too late and how the end is near. And those are two of the nicer things that were posted.

Can't we just all get along and work for the common good? Or is that something that has been lost in this time of Internet turmoil?

Thursday, October 11, 2012


There's probably nothing that perturbs me more professionally than when someone insists I should do a big expose article on some scandal.

Mainly because anyone thinking I'd be interested in relating such a thing has obviously never actually read any of my stuff.

Political discord? School administration salaries? Governmental shenanigans? Drugs in the water? Sure, there's plenty there you can probably get steamed over. But that's not my thing -- I see my role as the opposite of the conveyor of the bad news. I want to bring to light the good news as much as possible instead.

There's certainly enough people who excel at reporting the bad news ... the world doesn't need me to do that.

It isn't always easy to be on this mission. Sometimes when I'm looking for stories while laying out the wire service pages in the paper there isn't a lot offered by the Associated Press with anything good to say. Often I have to come up with five or six different ways to say someone is dead just so all of the headlines on a single page have varied terminology if not a varied theme. Many of the pages lately have made me queasy with the abundance of vile news, and if you think the news that is printed is bad, you should read the stuff we don't put in because of our all-ages audience.

Obviously, it is the bad news that attracts people to read any paper. If there's a huge calamity I expect my stuff to be bumped for the hotter news, because I would make that decision to ax my stuff as well. Sales increase when there's a major disaster, and again I'm just as guilty because that's when I'm also more interested in reading the paper, too. It's like driving by the scene of a car crash -- you can't help but look. You probably aren't glad the crash happened, but at the same time find it oddly intriguing. Likewise, if you are reading a novel there's got to be some kind of a conflict or it will be pretty boring.

Luckily, the majority of our local stories are usually good news about good people. But once we get into the wire service accounts of the goings-on in New York City, Washington, and overseas that ratio is invariably skewed towards evil.

So in an effort to compensate for all of that bad news, I strive to relate the good news. That's what I perceive to be my role in the world.

It doesn't matter what you do, whether you write, build bridges, teach school, wait tables, or crunch numbers ... taking some time to define your own role is a great organizer and a great motivator to your own endeavors. Give it a try!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


So I'm walking down the street yesterday not too far away from my new apartment, when my buddy stops his lawn mowing to strike up a conversation. We chit-chat for a couple of minutes and he asks how I like my new "bachelor pad," and I tell him it's fine. Then he gets all serious, and tells me how many people envy my freedom in being single -- and from his tone I'm thinking he might be near the top of the list himself.

I admitted that certainly there are moments when I might wish I had a significant other, but it doesn't take too long to look around and realize just how miserable many of the couples I know are in their lives. And if that alone doesn't make me feel better, I can always read the Annie's Mailbox column in the paper, because it is riddled with unhappy people who are battling spouses, ex-spouses, and in-laws.

Somebody I know just announced he was getting married -- for the third time. I think that after I touched that hot griddle and burned myself once, it was enough to discourage me from doing it ever again. Another friend spent most of the night last night waiting for her hubby to come home. That's not something I feel shows much self-respect, or respect for a spouse from the absent husband. I was at a small board meeting recently where all of us knew each other pretty well, and suddenly one of my compadres noted aloud how every one of the four of us around the table was divorced. The man and woman there who live together agreed they were never going to marry, because what was the point?

It seems marriage has become more a business for attorneys than a loving institution in this day and age. Living together without being married can actually be more of a sign of love because they are doing it because they want to, rather than because that wedding ring obligates it.

Sure, it would be great to be in love with a soul mate. But I'm sure not going to cry away the days looking for one. Plus hopefully I'm setting a good example for my daughters, showing them that they don't need a husband to complete them ... they just need to grow into the best people they can be first and to worry about becoming a couple second.

If it's meant to be, that's great. If it's not, then that's the way it's meant to be instead. 

Friday, September 21, 2012


Anybody who uses Facebook has inevitably stumbled -- or stalked -- across a special someone from the past who he or she would like to get in touch with again, but might feel a bit tepid about actually sending that friend request. It's a big step ... especially if you aren't sure that person wants to hear from you again.

I've been there several times, and most recently stalked -- I mean, stumbled -- onto my first love from way back when. There was a moment of indecision as I stared at the "send" button, recalling our breakup and whether or not it was one where we vowed never to speak to each other again. Luckily, I've never had such trauma. Most often we just go our separate ways without all the drama, for better or worse. Maybe it's just because I've never had a truly passionate relationship where the breakup is devastating; I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if I'm missing out on something, but maybe someday it'll happen.

So now I can say I am friends on Facebook with just about every girlfriend I've ever had and it's really not so bad. We "like" each other's photos and make comments on posts when the mood strikes, although there isn't too much reminiscing about the past. Actually, there hasn't been any reminiscing about the past. It was a little odd when one of my lost loves sent my daughter a friend request as well, though, but that's OK too.

Facebook offers the perfect buffer to keep those wounds from reopening -- a cyberspace bandage that maintains distance while allowing all parties to stay in touch. So, if you've ever sat there staring at that friend request button while perusing an old love's homepage, or sent the request and then wished you could get it back, I'm sure you are in good company. Excepting in cases where there is still a restraining order in place, I say to go for it.

The worst the recipient can do is block you from further contact. Or get another restraining order ...

Friday, March 16, 2012


I always say after nearly three decades of working in retail, I am going to write a book about my adventures serving the public.

But, on the other hand, nobody would believe some of the stories I have to tell.

Working in a home center might seem mundane to people who have never done it -- certainly, nobody would consider it as exciting as my other career as a writer if they have never lived through a day at the store. Well, let me tell you, there are people who are ALIVE today because I happened to wait on them, and, most often, talk them OUT of doing the dangerous and potentially deadly projects they thought they had the know-how to do for themselves.

Take the person who came in for stove pipe the other day (OK, it was a woman, but whether a man or a woman doesn't necessarily mean the client knows what they are doing. I think the husbands send their wives in not so much because they are too busy at home working on the projects but because they have no idea what they are looking for themselves and don't want us to know). We sell stove pipe ranging in diameter from four to 12 inches and in both black and galvanized metal. I showed her to our display and figured it would be an easy sale, until I asked what she was using it for and she said to run natural gas to the stove.

Not what stove pipe is for, ma'am.

So I am preparing to hook her up with the right piping for natural gas over in the plumbing department with all of the proper accouterments, but when I ask what size fittings she needs she has no idea. A voice inside tells me this person is now heading for the award for being the most likely to meet her maker in a blazing fire ball. I recommend she finds out what fittings it'll take from the person doing the job, so she goes home to do more research.

But to prove I'm not being sexist and dogging women -- we certainly do welcome women to the store and will help as much as possible -- we'll take a look at the guy who was trying to find a circuit breaker the other day. He doesn't have an old one to match up (that would make it too easy) so I ask what amp size he is looking for, but he doesn't know that either. Than he asks what size he needs when the house wiring he installed is 22 gauge.

For the non-electricians out there, 22 gauge is so thin you could pretty much bite it apart. There hasn't been a home since Edison that was wired with 22 gauge wire. I ask if he's sure, he says yes, and I ask if maybe it might be the more popular, and a heck of a lot safer, 12 gauge wire, figuring the confusion stems from the fact that they both have a "2" in them. He said that might be what he used; he wasn't sure. I'm thinking here's another jack of all trades heading for a shocking experience.

Hey, I'm not about to stop helping the people out when it is a reasonable project for a reasonable person. But when someone is wiring their house with dental floss or running gas through anything other than factory approved piping, I figure the best way to do the job safely is to hire it out. That expense is a small price to pay compared to the price of a new home, or paying for that hospital stay. And just because someone saw the project done on TV doesn't make him or her an expert.

I can't tell you how many times someone has held up the line at the register because he or she left the money in the car.  Or the people who ask me to mix the same color paint they got three years ago, and then get mad when I don't remember what it was. Or the times people come in to have something cut to size without bringing along their measurements.

Then there was the guy who cashed out, went into the parking lot, and came rushing back in to say someone stole his car while he was in the store. Luckily, the customer in line behind him was an off duty State Trooper, so he quickly radioed in the description of the vehicle and put out an all points bulletin. The local Thruway exit was the likeliest destination for a car thief, so he notified the Troopers there to keep an eye out for it. We were kind of excited in the store because it was like watching a cop show come to life.

Suddenly the guy peaked out the door, and sheepishly said, "Oh, I forgot; I parked on the other side of the lot this time."

Our Trooper buddy was really glad he stopped to shop that day.

To be fair, I'm sure there are plenty of places I shop where they look at me with bewilderment when I ask dumb questions. I have left my shopping list at home, and gone to stores without the proper measurements figuring I can eyeball things. Wrong! So out of my element I am just as clueless as anyone else. It certainly takes the pressure off having to know what I'm doing all of the time ... and I know I'm in good company thanks to my own experiences in customer service.

I even imagine some people leave the store after a discourse with me and say, "Boy, that guy was an idiot!"

To prove the point, and to show that just as I bust chops of others I can take the heat as well, here's a favorite moment that the rest of the crew likes to bask in every now and then. Some years back, my co-worker Pat was out of work for awhile so I decided to give her a call to cheer her up and let her know how much she was missed. I checked our master employee telephone list for her number, dialed, and when that computerized generic answering voice finished, left a flowery message to the extent of "Pat, we miss you and can't get along without you," or some such.

The next day I'm figuring this is likely good medicine for her, so I call again. This time, I say, "Pat, the place is falling apart without you -- get back here ASAP!" As the week went on, the messages got sillier, until the last one where I said, "Pat, we miss you and love you! We can't survive without you!"

I hadn't heard anything back during the week I made the series of calls, but I just figured she was busy. Then, as I was ringing up a sale on the cash register, the phone rings and a guy asks for me. Since we were short-handed, I attempted to complete the sale while talking to the guy. But I lost my concentration on the sale at hand when he suddenly asks why I've been calling his son all week, why I keep asking the kid to come back when we fired him, and especially why I said I loved him.

It turned out the "Pat" on the phone list wasn't "Patricia," but "Patrick" -- a teen who we had recently let go because he was a slacker.

Try explaining that to an irate dad on the phone! Needless to say, there and then I decided anytime I get an answering machine that doesn't confirm it belongs to the person I'm calling, I don't leave a message...  

Friday, March 9, 2012


It was an odd trip from the start ... Samantha was driving and the roads were mostly clear, even though it was the middle of winter. We were taking an unplanned and longer-than-usual trip that evening, but the extra distance seemed strangely calming rather than a nuisance. It was almost like right from the time we left there was something strange about to happen, although strange in a good way.

Sam crested a hill out on the backroads out in the woods and suddenly hit a patch of ice. The car started to slide, and as she corrected her steering the car slid even more treacherously in the other direction. Suddenly, we were spinning out of control, speeding backwards down the steep icy hill.

I remember putting my left hand firmly on the steering wheel to keep it steady in a likely-futile attempt to right the car and save us from rolling over in the ditch. Then Sam said aloud that she was sorry.

The next thing we knew, we had come to a stop in a small snow bank near the bottom of the hill, facing forward with the car stalled out. Shifting into park, I had Sam restart the car and gently ease out of the snowbank to continue on, figuring to get her going again ASAP so she wouldn't lose her nerve about driving in the winter. I dropped her off, and then went back alone to look at the tracks in the snow where we spun out. I found we had crossed both lanes twice to then spin completely around before somehow ending up safe in the snow.

This was a time God wasn't just our co-pilot -- He actually climbed into the driver's seat!

Oddly, when I got home I was scheduled to write my previous blog, the one about the ghost hunters. I was a little scared when I was thinking about the belief that ghosts don't know they are dead, so I called Sam to ponder whether we might have only thought we survived the crash. Even more scary was that she said she was thinking the same thing. Of course, it didn't take long to get back into the normal routine of work and to realize that if this was the afterlife I'm really going to be ticked.

Reflecting on what could easily have been a destructive if not fatal crash, it's hard to rationalize why this happened. I asked Sam what she remembered about the incident and she recalled the same as I did -- spinning around backwards and speeding up as we came down the hill. Then opening her eyes to find ourselves in the snow facing forward. Neither of us remembered any moment of actual contact, and if it hadn't been for the tracks in the snow and the place where the snowbank was disturbed I might have thought we hallucinated the whole thing.

Obviously, death was not meant to be that evening. But I wonder why. Is there something I'm supposed to be doing with this new lease on life? What is the meaning of this whole experience? I keep looking for an explanation, but so far haven't really seen an answer, other than to be the herald of the Divine intervention that saved us from pain. That, plus the fact that Samantha got an invaluable lesson that will likely make her a safer driver for years to come...

Sunday, January 22, 2012


It all started as a challenge from my beloved brother-in-law Ken Ernenwein, who balked at a picture I posted on Facebook showing what was said to be an orb. Taken at the Spirit Fair in Morrisville, N.Y. last October, the pic became the hit of the event as host Madis Senner saw it and called everyone in attendance over to take a look.

But then Ken posted that in reality it wasn't an orb at all.

I admit I don't know an orb from a knob; I just enjoyed Sammy and I suddenly becoming the highlight of the show, as well as Madis' own blog, also found at But Ken -- the head of Verona Paranormal Investigations -- intrigued me with an invitation to come out and see first-hand a live search for something otherworldly.

We met last November at Rutger Park in Utica to inspect two unoccupied and dilapidated buildings, one of which was formerly a nursing home. Joined by Marcus Zwierecki and Cano Davy, co-founders of New York State Paranormal Research, plus a handful of other volunteers, Sammy and I tagged along to watch as they set up video and sound recording equipment. Once the apparatus was in place, we all went silent as questions were posed to the attention of any ethereal presence that might be with us.

Ken checks the computerized audio and video recording equipment as he prepares for a question and answer session in one of the rooms at Rutger Park

Ken would introduce himself, then ask questions like, "Do you know today's date?" and "Who is the president of the United States? Do you know her name?" (That, he later explained, is asked purposely to arouse a response in any paranormal who might not be aware of the year it was.) I even got to ask a few questions myself. Although we constantly tried to maintain our quiet, occasionally we made a noise that was then explained aloud on the recording. Voices would come over the walkie-talkies every now and then and someone would announce, "radio chatter." Sam's shoe squeaked at one point, and she said, "That was my shoe squeaking." My stomach growled; I had to preserve for posterity the confession to that fact on the recording.

At the scene, the only real evidence we heard was captured by Cano's group in the nursing home building; when someone asked, "Do you need help?" a weak female voice could be faintly heard on the recording saying, "Help me."

Sammy inspects one of the old telephones in the building that used to be a nursing home.

Recording of video and audio went on in various rooms throughout the home for several hours, and then it was time for what Ken called his favorite part -- listening to all of that audio and watching all of the video at home looking for things that seemed out of place. Sammy and I got the chance to hear some of the results of that recording this past Saturday night, as Ken invited us over to hear some of the unexplainable instances they had captured that evening.

Several times in the videos we saw strange, small yet bright lights that were out of place given the location of their own lighting. At one point there was a weird triangular object that fluttered through the frame and then out, much like a fishing lure as it is cast. The audio was a bit more revealing, as at one point Ken asked, "Have you lived here long?" and a subtle murmur seemed to respond, "A long time." At another spot there seemed to be a chant, although we all heard different words. And then there was the response to Sammy's squeaking shoe -- we heard the squeak, heard her announce it was her shoe, and then suddenly a voice with the same character as before sounded like it said, "What the frick?" (Yes, frick.)

Ken, left, shows me and Sammy's friend Alisha some of the video he collected from our Rutger Park visit. Something is definitely going on over there!

I think that Sammy was a little disappointed that there wasn't a concrete, on-your-face ghost that came right out and said, "Hey, I'm here!" But I tried to explain that no matter what kind of high technological and high price equipment people have and whatever level of ability and experience they boast, contact with the paranormal is a fleeting experience at best. Those quick shadows passing by that disappear when you look for them could be a presence, and I will still always believe that the huge crash I heard one night as I drifted off to sleep -- which yielded no fallen object other than the wallet I had tried to find -- was a friend who passed away the day before helping me locate it.

I do believe in what Ken discovered. But the thing paramount on my mind after joining them is what to do with the information -- mainly as I think of a lost soul calling from the nether asking for help. How can I help? What possible use can I be to a spirit in need? And how does any of this information benefit either one of us?

There are definitely unexplained phenomenon in our world and beyond. If the day comes when Ken or someone like him discovers a link to it a world of new information will be opened for us. That in itself is reason for these guys to keep up their work. There is more to existence than simply what we see on our world with our eyes, and hopefully some day I'll live to see it.

Or maybe I'll die to see it. Whatever -- it's got to happen some day.