Friday, December 12, 2008

Can you do one or more things better than the vast majority of people?

They say all of us can. That's probably true, but how many of us actually discovered that one thing? I imagine that not everyone has, otherwise we'd all be famous or at least well known for something. I figured out early in life what my one thing is. Unfortunately, it's the stupidest (G-rated) talent in the world.

Why couldn't I be a great artist, or musician, or a great football player? Noooo ... it had to be arm-wrestling, of all things. How ridiculous. What can a guy do with arm-wrestling anyway? And who cares if he's good at it? The President of the United States isn't going invite a great arm-wrestler to the White House. There's no Pulitzer prize for it. Time Magazine isn't going run a cover feature on him. Hell, arm-wrestling isn't even in the Olympics! Canoeing and Figure Skating is. Canoeing and Figure Skating? What-the-fuck? But never mind; that's another story entirely.

Let's see ... I'm 52 now; my arm-wrestling career began at age-11. My stepfather got me started in it. He was a blue-collar construction worker who's worked with his hands all his life. He was strong but a mediocre arm-wrestler; I doubt he won many contests against his workmates.

The very first kid I arm-wrestled was my age and he had 20-pounds on me. I held him to a draw three-times. And that instilled in me the confidence to challenge every kid my size or bigger. Most were willing. I went undefeated until age-14. That opponent was the only person my size to ever beat me twice. He then moved away. Nobody my weight would beat me twice-in-a-row again. (I'd love to hunt that guy down for a rematch now).

On a rough guesstimate, I'd say I've arm-wrestled about 5,000 times, including a couple hundred rematches. And of those 5,000 or so, not a single opponent was lighter than me. In my mind that would have been cheating.

On another guesstimate, I'd say I lost somewhere between 300 and 600 times, and maybe 100-or-so draws. That means my lifetime winning percentage is probably no worse than .800 and maybe as high as .940. Not bad for a small-boned, underweight stick-boy who grew up never to exceed 176-pounds. And that on a hard but average six-foot frame.

I lost most of my matches while between the ages of 20 and 30-years-old. All that booze I was putting down had robbed my body of valuable vitamins and minerals. I had become a full-blown alcoholic. Also, I had no arm-wrestling technique whatsoever. Brute strength and the will to win got me a lot of wins, but determination alone would get me only so far. Plus I lost to or tied the same guy at least thirty consecutive times over the course of about five-years. (Those matches really dipped my overall win-loss record). I weighed between 140 and 150-pounds. He was a six-foot-five, 225-pound bouncer at The Blue Dolphin, one of the local local strip-joints.

Then, one day, I finally beat him. It was my finest victory up to that point. The following year I joined the Army. there, I met a real hodgepodge of strong GI's. Only one guy my weight would defeat me, but I avenged that loss in the rematch. I defeated or drew against the rest. By that time I developed a reputation, and off-base soldiers came to the NCO clubs to take me on for money.

After the Army, I continued to arm-wrestle in bars for bets. At a local college frat bar, I challenged two Monmouth University football linemen. They both went down fast, and they were so amazed that a 160-pound guy could beat them, they wound up buying me beer all night.

By age-35, I improved my cardio by learning the game of tennis. (It turned out that tennis and I were made for each other). And still weighing 160-pounds, I also perfected the ideal arm-wrestling technique for my body type.

Losing just wasn't happening anymore, and I took on all comers, no matter how much they weighed. Then I remembered that old TV program, Wide World of Sports as a kid. Occasionally, they aired the Professional Arm-wrestling Championships. And I had to wonder ... could I hang with the pros? Was I really a "freak of nature", as a guy once called me?

New Jersey isn't exactly a hotbed for pro arm-wrestling, but I put myself on the schedule mailing list... and waited. A few months later I found a flier in my mailbox. There was to be a New Jersey championship double elimination event in South Jersey. And it included a 160-pound weight class. The problem was: I was given only two-weeks notice. Not enough time to prepare, so I went in raw and untrained.

Unfortunately, the event was to be held at 9:00 PM. That meant I'd be drunk by that time. So I recruited my best friend as my impromptu chauffeur/bodyguard.

We arrived at a crowded and noisy nightclub. They were drilling the arm-wrestling table into the floor as we walked in the door. be continued...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

By MMA analyst Joseph Lupoli

These ten great MMA matches are right off the top of my head...hardly written in stone. I’ll stick with the two heavyweights of MMA productions: The UFC and the late, great Pride FC. I’ve seen so many great fights over the years, it was very difficult to whittle them down 10, let alone in order, so I’ll just spit out my ten random picks, in no particular order at all.

1) Phil Baroni vs. Ikuhisa “The Punk Minowa” 1 in Pride FC, 2005

I swear this thing looked just like Rocky 1, except that Minowa is no Apollo Creed. After Round One, which included some takedowns by both fighters, both decided to just stand and duke it out. In Round Two, they stood in the pocket and traded bombs (most of which connected). They both forgot about leg kicks.

Baroni and Minowa were on a mission. Nearly every punch landed. The normally subdued Japanese crowd was going nuts! The last 30 seconds saw both fighters on spaghetti legs, but they were still trading bombs like Popeye and Bluto.

Finally, midway through Round Two, Baroni landed a weary left-right combo that put Minowa down for keeps.

2) Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira vs. Mirko Cro cop Filipovic in Pride FC, 2003

It was a match made in Heaven—an undefeated stand-up striker versus a grappling submission specialist. In Round One, Big Nog had a lot of trouble with Cro Cop’s lightening fast sprawl. And Cro Cop found out early that his vicious left leg kicks weren’t stopping a determained Nog from moving forward.

When Nog started getting takedowns, he found Cro Cop’s submission defense surprisingly competent. Big Nog never stopped trying though, and he finally arm-barred Cro Cop early in the Round Two. (It was to be Cro Cop’s first loss).

3) Royce Gracie vs. Dan Severn in UFC IV, 1994

Yes, to the untrained eye, a snooze-fest...but riveting to anyone with ground-attack knowledge. Gracie was undefeated and winner of UFC I and II (He was unable to continue in the UFC III tournament after defeating Kimo Leopoldo).

A much decorated wrestler, Dan Severn, breezed through his first two opponents. Gracie was extended to over four-minutes by a crafty Kenpo specialist, Keith Hackney. Severn outweighed Gracie by 80-pounds.

Within a minute of the opening bell, Severn shot in and took Gracie down (not that Gracie minded). And for 16-minutes Severn lay in Gracie’s guard trying to choke, punch, head-butt, and elbow his tiny opponent, but landing nothing significant. At last Gracie pulled a sneaky triangle choke, and Severn finally tapped.

4) Royce Gracie vs. Kimo Leopoldo in UFC III, 1994

Bare knuckles were a beautiful thing. Kimo was all muscle and he outweighed Gracie by at least 60-pounds. At the bell Kimo raced across the octagon like he was on crack, and he swung a wild hook looking to decapitate Gracie.

Gracie ducked the punch and they both clinched. Gracie pulled guard, and from then on it was non-stop movement. Gracie got the full mount, but Kimo reversed it. Kimo never stopped trying for the knock out, and Gracie was fighting for his life. Finally, Gracie arm-barred Kimo at the 4:40 mark.

5) Fedor Emelianenko vs. Kazuyuki “Iron Head” Fujita in Pride FC, 2003

This one was supposed to be a no-brainer. What Japanese pro wrestler deserves to be in the same ring with Fedor?

But, at the bell, Fujita stands and trades with Fedor! Then a Fajita left hook puts Fedor on Queer Street! Amazingly, a staggering Fedor didn’t go down and out. Instead, he kept his cool and clinched Fajita up until the cobwebs wore off. He then took down Fajita and tapped him with a clean rear naked choke four-minutes into the Round One.

After the fight, Fedor was still wobbly. Talk about a close call!

6) Takanori Gomi vs. Luiz Azeredo in Pride FC, 2005

Gomi “The Fireball Kid” and Azeredo traded punches from the opening bell like dueling airplane propellers. The action was non-stop, and I don’t recall the referee breaking them once. Then at about the six-minute mark of Round One, Gomi knocked Azeredo out cold with a combination.

As if the fight itself wasn’t exciting enough, after the referee waved Gomi off, he proved himself a classless punk by jumping on his unconscious opponent and he continued striking him while being pulled off by the ref and eventually by both corners.

A mini riot broke out in the ring. And Gomi was still trying desperately to strike Azeredo! Finally, they pulled Gomi out of the ring and calm was restored. Suspiciously, he was not disqualified.

7) Chuck Liddell vs. Alistair Overeem in Pride FC, 2003

How could this fight not be exciting? Not much to say here except that they both delivered. These two strikers were looking to end matters early. Alistair built a comfortable lead with his vicious knee-strikes. Things weren't looking good for Chuck, but he was striking back with bad intentions. Nobody took a break in this nail-biting barn-burner.

Midway through Round One, Chuck caught Overeem along the ropes with punches in bunches. The referee waved Chuck off as Alistair slumped to the canvas.

8) Fedor vs. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in Pride FC 2005

This long anticipated matchup was slightly tarnished in that, purportedly, Fedor came into the fight with a broken right hand. But both fighters brought their “A” game.

Fedor was handling Mirko pretty well in stand-up striking, but I couldn’t help but wonder when Cro Cop was going to unleash his cannon of a left high kick. The fans didn’t have to wait long. And when his left kick started landing, Fedor’s body and face began bruising up in a hurry. Yet Fedor displayed better striking. And Cro Cop had no answer to Fedor’s ground came except that he was able to weather Fedor's ground-and-pound storms.

By round 3, Fedor rarely threw his right hand, and I’ve got to wonder what if? Without that busted hand, would the fight have gone the distance? Fedor couldn’t stop a very game Cro Cop, but he did win the decision very convincingly.

9) Frank Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz in UFC XXII, 1999

It’s the only fight I ever rooted for Frank to win because he’s not quite as classless as Tito. Great action-packed give-and-take fight here. I was getting a bit worried because Tito was slowly pulling away by out-grappling Frank. It seemed to me that Tito had built a comfortable lead going into the Round Four.

Then, in Round Four, Frank surprised Tito with a right hand, and the next thing I know, Frank is standing and punching Tito’s big melon while Tito is turtling up on his hands and knees and tapping! Imagine that? Tito tapping from strikes?

I was quite the happy camper after that one! How fitting was that win after Tito donned that disgusting T-shirt after he defeated Frank’s Lion’s Den stable-mate, Jerry Bohlander?

10) Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama in Pride FC, 2002

Okay. Look closely at the stare-down. Now tell me Yoshihiro didn’t look like Don Frye’s aunt. And a very ugly woman, I might add.

Nevertheless, he was a Japanese pro wrestler who Don Frye was supposed to dismantle. And he did just that. Only this was no ordinary MMA match. It was more like a hockey fight. And not just any hockey fight. This brawl reminded me of the old Islanders vs. Flyers games/fights when the Islanders were winning all those Stanley Cups.

These two went right hand crazy from the opening bell. They punched like like Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots! Takayama’s face soon looked like it greeted an 18-wheeler at 70 mph. And he was hideous to begin with!

After what seemed like an endless exchange, Frye took down Yoshihiro and landed a few more shots shots until the referee stopped it in the first round.

This is a fight that you should YouTube immediately.

These are definitely my Top 10 .... as of today ... as of *right now* today. These may change tomorrow; I'll let you know!

I have nightmares every single night ... and I remember most of them. My night terrors and nightmares go back to my early toddler hood.

For the last 30-years or so my dreams usually involve having to decide whether to be brave and take a stand, or flee. Sometimes I come close to risking my neck, only to scram at the last second. Other times I'll stand my ground and battle it out. Occasionally, I have to murder a person or two. But I can explain, honest.

I have PTSD accompanied by ESR and unrelated organic major depression. That means If I stopped taking my psych meds, I would turn manic. The major depression thing was a gift from my mother. She was pure Highland Scottish. And and those people have been known to produce their share of fruitloops.

The screwball part of my brain was genetically predisposed. My grandmother was also a nutcase who passed it down the line. Who knows how far back it goes? And I'm not even part German. Those Germans, I don't know ... even their dogs are fucked up.

And my father? Just some Italian guy who was a low/mid level Cosa Nostra banana from Conn. He died of lead poisoning ... from a .22 to the back of his head. According to my data sources, he was just a mean fuck without any diagnosed mental illness. His mean genes didn't infiltrate my DNA.

Anyhow, the dreams. All but one killing was in self defense. In the sole premeditated murder, I choked the guy out until his soul zoomed to the heavens. All because he ratted me out. (That guy actually did rat me out in real life, but I only threatened to kill him). Apparently it worked because he never ratted me out again. The other killings had to happen because those people (often times soldiers) were looking to waste me first.

I average about two-murders a week. There have been months without a single death. Then all of a sudden, I'll mow down 15 or 20 men in a single dream.

Of course, not every altercation ends in death. In fact, most do not. Usually, a few people attack me and I have to punch, choke, or armbar my way out. See? Even in my dreams I try to stay away from fire arms.

We all have our crosses to bear, and I've got the dreams. I got off the hook easy though. I'm really a nice guy in real life. If you don't believe me, ask what I do for a living.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

By Joseph Lupoli

Remember me, Harry? I was the skinny, painfully shy kid with freakish physical strength who beat your giant sized nephew, Bobby, and just about everyone else around, in arm-wrestling. That's right. It's me, Joe. And at age 52, I'm still going strong and Beethoven is still my favorite composer and...well, you get the point.

A long time ago I worked for you at the ceramic store. And now you're dead. So I thought this might be a good time to pen an amusing little true story about 1973.

Most people don't write to dead men, but I believe that you, like those before you, have discovered something only the deceased can know: not all of you died, just your body. Your soul lives on because that's the only part of our being which is not tangible. The soul can't be leased. In other words, one must consider: If this were not so, what would be the point of dying...or living, for that matter? The beautiful thing about mortality is immortality. But I'm still alive, so how would I know all this? Am I some genius or clairvoyant?

 Of course not. It's just that due to unusual childhood circumstances, truths could not be revealed to me by traditional means, so I had to turn inward to seek it. Hence the classical music, international film dramas, and constant reading of encyclopedias and classic literature, rather than the standard forms of entertainment other kids my age preferred. All in search of the truth. So by virtue of happenstance, you could say I drew the inside post on premature knowledge.

Anyway, I recall the very day you hired me. I was fifteen and my life was one big jittery rent-a-wreck.

You were a decent boss--affable, funny, good-natured, and generous too. And I was a hard worker.
Plus your endless supplies of jokes and wisecracks were a great source of amusement for me.
Yet in hindsight, another agenda may have governed my work ethic somewhat--a nearby girl, perhaps.

Undoubtedly, you've heard some falsehoods long ago from your inner circle regarding that particular girl and I. Now, the time has come for you to finally know the real truth straight from the protagonist himself. And rest assured, a man with nothing to hide punches these keys.

This, then, is the accurate, sequential story about the long seasons of 1973 and beyond...

Warm and hazy it was, that June morning when I first laid eyes on your daughter. At first glance, she imparted no real first impression on me one way or the other. She was pretty enough; her dark wavy hair and large brown eyes projected a light-hearted demeanor that came with an easy smile. But the girl was over two-years my senior. And she also worked at your shop. So I shrugged her off.
Well, that strategy didn't work. To my amazement, the girl soon developed a fondness for me. She made this very clear by displaying obvious romantic overtones. At the time, I really didn't need the distraction of personal human interaction, let alone romance.

Intuition told me to stay put; to keep one foot on land. After all, the scorecard on my overall self-esteem read zero. I was ashamed of my roots because, well, I had none. Back then, I was unaware of from where I came; essentially, my roots began and ended with a few still pictures in my head. Even my name wasn't real. Only decades later would my true identity and family history finally be revealed to me. And sure enough, it wasn't a pretty picture. For instance, it turns out my real father was a hood and a killer; a mid-level guy in la cosa nostra, and it was my own mother who bumped him off. Then came the foster homes and the orphanage. And that was just the prelude!


Curiously, your daughter's overt fondness for me actually escalated. I sensed that such a fiery attraction (by any girl) aimed toward me with flames that high couldn't possibly be sincere. So I heeded my playing stupid while trying not to appear rude. That didn't work either; the girl would not stop hovering around me. And over the following several months she ceaselessly pursued, gradually wearing down my resolve. So ignoring better judgment, I finally gave in and recklessly allowed the cards to fall where they may, but I was only partially aware of the risks...risks that normal people rarely have to endure.

Things were good...maybe a little too good, and the days and months rolled on. The girl and I talked daily and for hours on end. We went on long bike rides. She confided very personal information to me, and I to her, (even my night terrors and and whatnot). We trusted each other, and I was the perfect candidate to trust. My Italian code of omerta was never broken. To this day, I've not revealed to anyone a single word she said in confidence.

The thing that stunned and embarrassed me the most was the girl's peculiar, off-the-cuff remarks about my looks--something about muscles and, "He's so cute," etcetera. She usually made sure her mother was within ear-shot of her bold pronouncements. And her mother was none too pleased; she often scolded her for it:

 "He is not cute!" Yes, the whole setup was steeped in bizarre paradoxes.

Such out-of-sync behavior aroused my suspicion even more, but the throes of seemingly perfect chemistry overruled common sense. Then one day I found myself sucked into a blender of scrambled amore. And from that day on, any idea of getting out unscathed was no longer within the realm of reality.

You found it all harmlessly amusing. Hell, I even sensed indications that you were more-or-less supporting this...umm...well, I guess you could call it a budding romance of sorts. Especially given the way she would lean all over me every chance she got and hold my hand or arm whenever no one was looking...or was looking, depending on her mood, I suppose. Bear in mind, we never did kiss, much less anything beyond that. Sure, there was plenty of touching, but only appropriately.

I was a decent kid (too damn decent for my own good), who never pressed the physical element of the relationship. In fact, the girl did subtly try to kiss me on several occasions, but I quelled her through crafty diversion. She gleefully took the physical lead; I hadn't yet worked up the nerve to change that.

Then I turned sixteen...and worked up the nerve. It was time to stop being a kid; time to initiate things, for a change.
And that year I left her. Abruptly. I had to.

What the hell? Why? Well, it's really very simple: Every time I took that brave gamble and met her flirtatious advances even halfway, she coyly backed off and played the sanctimonious platonic card. And whenever I stepped back, she would again move brazenly forward, all touchy-feely. The girl would not permit me to orchestrate anything; even harmlessly putting my arm around her was rejected.

Her crazy game of cerebral ping-pong went on for months, and it was severely compromising my already fragile sanity.

What was her motive? Did she find joy watching me flounder like an e'ubazze? (crazy person)
Did she really think I would accept the role of modeulle (idiot) indefinitely? But most importantly, how many other poor bastards fell prey to her absurd folly since then, I wondered? Only she could know.

Or could she?

At the time it never occurred to me that maybe, just maybe the girl was acting out a learned behavior. But apprenticed by whom, I wondered?

On the other hand, she may have been slightly cuckoo--not really nuts; just a half-finger shy of a North Jersey borgata, maybe. That in her minds eye, she was functioning with absolute purity of intent.
But did she earn a pass based on that? After all, I wasn't the one who created and directed the whole facade between us.
No matter. Either way, I finally walked on one eggshell too many.

 So, "Good bye, kid," and she cried, but not too hard.

The moment I bailed out I regretted it. And even though my hard-earned trust was breeched, I probably should have gutted it out right to the bitter end. But that bridge I impulsively burned could not be extinguished in time. Also, in hindsight, I'll bet it took her all of about two-days to forget me...if not less. And that assumption is always worth a good chuckle.

We would, by chance, cross paths several times since, but not a word was ever exchanged. There was nothing left to say to each other. I failed the Adolescence 101 Course: How to Survive One-Sided Love Affairs, for Dummies.

So what became of me after I quit that job? Ha! Funny you should ask. Well let's see, about a week after ditching her, I started drinking first to escape grief, and eventually to avoid withdrawal. Despite that, I continued with what would become a 20-year tutelage in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, eventually to the point of expertise. Jiu-Jitsu is a form of non-damaging self defense which (in theory), involves no striking. (The stuff really does work in emergency street altercations).

The rest of my time was used by taking hellish, nightmarish walks on the sands of bleak February beaches and in snowy woods to lament and second-guess myself, thoroughly unable to get the girl out of my head.
How could I have blown the opportunity? Or did I completely misconstrue her intentions? What did I do to destroy the whole thing? I would wrestle with that bitter 'what if' residue for many years to come.

Charming, isn't it? But there's more.

One day, at age 17, while in a drunken stupor and on a whim, I walked into an army recruiting office, signed on the dotted line, and wound spending 11-months being taught basically how to assassinate people. It was no ordinary army AIT (Advanced Infantry training). Idiotically, I chose Spec Force OP because it was peace-time, so what could go wrong? I soon found out there is no peace-time in Spec Force OP. They pray for conflict. Any global hot-spot will do.

After advanced training, we were flown to a "relaxing vacation paradise" to frolic in the deep, hilly wastelands of Angola, Africa for a couple of eight-month sweat-box summers. Seems there were several violent groups of militant puppet regimes who were violating human rights issues while trying to force a government overthrow. In a nutshell, everybody was killing each other. Now there's a broken record news item, huh?

So picture this: Me, the former 15-year-old bashful stick boy, now the real "fool on a hill." I was transformed into a brainwashed, grizzled, cold-blooded killer, by experts; I was part of a company split into platoons of four-man teams, armed to the teeth and moving only by night.

That's right, me, smoking weed and sucking down beer and cheap whiskey every chance I got. All that plus taking occasional mortar and small arms fire by some prepubescent rebel snipers, or their grandfathers. Twenty-minutes of terror, followed weeks of utter boredom, then more terror, and so on. The whole time my mind was occupied elsewhere, such as knowing another one like her would never come my way.

Pretty bizarre? I thought so too.

Of course my premonition would turn out be false. There would be other women. Life does dictate that broken souls must be voluntarily purged so they can heal. My soul did mend over time. All except for one small crack.

And to my dismay, the overall healing process took much longer than I expected. All those subsequent girlfriends did ugahts (nothing) to expedite my recovery.

Decades later, I would locate your daughter again, in a manner of speaking. But not to rekindle a soaked branch, that's for sure. I needed answers in order to finally put this thing to rest, to fix that one last crack in my soul. The computer age affords us such blather.

I decided to write her a letter. What was to lose? Those paralyzing fears that once governed my brain were expelled long ago by harnessed power and confidence. I was too well trained and born again hard for life, by the experts.

So, who cared whether or not my questions might temporarily disrupt some woman who probably scarcely remembered me in the first place? And even if she did recollect anything at all, would she have given a damn? Hell no, I had to figure.

I was correct.

Realizing this might be a one-shot chance to get answers, I worded the letter in a direct yet lucid tone. Placing blame was not my directive. I layered in vivid detail the events of yesteryear, inviting her to correct me if anything she read was inaccurate. Once I sent the letter, the only question left was: would she have the emotional integrity required to respond truthfully, if at all?

Alas, the letter was read but no return text was sent. She took the easy way out. Only sometimes there is no easy way out; not in the long-run. So I let three-months go by before sending a reminder.

No doubt, your daughter feared I might harass her to no end, because she finally threw together several hastily written sentences which answered absolutely least not at first glance. She just wanted me to disappear.

They were not kind words, or even legitimate. Evidently, I overestimated her inner fortitude. She refused to address any of my questions in the original letter, claiming not to understand them or why I asked them.

And for the kicker, she dismissed me by suggesting I'm not the only person in the world who has problems. I found that hilarious considering my chosen career (helping other people to overcome their problems). Jesus.

Her deflection was interesting...and revealing. It doesn't take a psychiatrist to ascertain that at some point in her life, ill fate must have hit her very hard. Could the girl have been ousted? Widowed? Or worse? Worse is my guess.

Le conseguenze dell'amore? (The consequences of love?)

Your daughter's minimalistic response was disappointing, but not that surprising. And I sensed that her poor grammar may have been a deliberate dissuasive tactic. (At least I hope it was deliberate). Otherwise, God bless the public school system's hooked-on-phonics policy. (Laughing my ass off here)! Err...sorry.

Having to take countless hours of boring psychology in college to become certified as an alcohol and drug counselor (at age-42, no less), I know what emotional evasiveness is. It is a defense mechanism subconsciously designed to prevent other people from entering their emotional domain, no matter how damaged and fragmented that domain may be. The problem is: they, themselves, get locked out too.

I could not help but feel deeply sorry for the woman. Not a pity sorrow, but a sorrow of hope...hope that she would one day regain her easy smile; that wonderful laugh, her light-hearted disposition...for her own well-being. It was no skin off my ass. Not anymore. If she feared harassment from me, it was a wasted worry. These days, what non-sociopath has the time and inclination for that? Few, I'm sure.

Still, in a moment of compassion, I composed a small letter explaining to her, (in a very gentle manner), that it's okay if it was not within her to face the music of yesteryear...that it is probably unrealistic to expect any person to address supposed transgressions that far back. And that I harbor no ill will; merely a wish that her life is (or will become) happy and content. Not even desiring a response, I shipped it.

Then I reflected and laughed.

My war with booze ended a long time ago. It turns out my alcoholism was genetically predisposed. My biological mother passed it down to me, her mother passed it down to her; who knows how far back it goes. It wasn't life's situations that exacerbated my addiction. It was my genetic destiny, no matter what my lot in life would be. Eventually, and against great odds, I dug deep and sobered up for good, ending the family booze cycle once and for all. It was the hardest thing I have ever done... and the most rewarding.

Your daughter deleted the letter without clicking the open button. It went unread.
Turns out it didn't matter.
By not pressing the open button, she handed me the true degree of her embittered spirit on a silver platter.

Right then and there, I knew for sure: It never would have worked anyway! The chasm of stability and forthrightness was just too wide for the woman to negotiate. And that is what really answered my questions, albeit in a 'round about twist.

In the end, your daughter did, unwittingly, repair the tiny crack in my soul. Think about how ironic that is. 
Tremendous weight off my shoulders? You bet. I felt giddy...and philosophical.
pondering the big picture, I asked myself: How odd is it when a person's direct questions are often answered by a smokescreen of denial and omission--which is often how, quite by accident, the truth is revealed to us.

Yes, gut-level truths are hard for us to understand, much less face, especially from a protagonists point of view. Yet we ought to meet them head-on them anyway, don't you think?

So, once and for all, the whole story has finally been told, and with absolute precision. And this is the only version you'll ever hear that can be trusted as one-hundred percent true.

So, in a nutshell, what really happened in the summer of 1973 and beyond?

Everything and nothing.

I'm still grateful you gave me the job though. Granted, the price-tag may have been a little high, but that gig taught me a lot more than how to make ceramic trinkets. I'm a smarter and tougher for it now. And I owe much of that to you. I'll miss you, Harry.



Sunday, September 14, 2008

Yes, that's right. Me, finally Married for the first time at the tender age of 51. Sounds strange, huh? Especially in this day and age when the divorce rate in America is over 50%!

It's not that I'm any stranger to long term relationships, but it always wound up that either they, myself, or both of us ultimately fought like cats and dogs once the luster dulled. I like a strong woman, but the problem is that I'm a strong man...okay, stubborn.

My wife is a good woman. Even-tempered, supportive, passionate, intelligent, and she's even a great cook! Plus there's real chemistry between us. So, in a nutshell, it all boiled down to simple arithmetic: what were the odds of finding a woman with all those qualities who would actually fall in love with me? Oh...maybe 1 in I don't know how many thousands. With those odds, fear of legal binding commitment was outweighed by the sheer luck (or destiny?) of having that woman share my life for the rest of my life - and beyond.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Top 'o the morning, bloglanders!

The Great Wall of China has very steep steps. Can you really see this wall from outer space? And yes, Beijing air pollution is for real. Still, I've been to worse places.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My laziness has prevented me from writing lately. But I did begin my personal spring training for Summer Camp! Basically, my training consists of working the Camp Spring session and playing tennis with my co-workers after work. For me, tennis is grueling. I make it that way, but I try to hit the ball to where my co-workers don't have to chase it down. The beauty of it is: I'm fortunate to be more mobile and accurate than my work-mates. That means I get to run around chasing the ball more than they do. They're great tennis partners! And the game sure does wonders for my waistline and cardio. Next to dancing and arm-wrestling, tennis is my favorite physical game.

Anyhow, enough of that.

So...who remembers having an unexpected pleasant visit with one of your elderly neighbors when you were a kid? Perhaps a visit that left a positive impact on you, maybe even for life? I'll bet you can recall somebody eccentric who lived on your street. You know, maybe an important or even a revered person.

I vividly remember a childhood conversation with such a neighbor, and I'd like to share my experience with you.


by Joseph Lupoli

My eyes were tired. I had been reading for about four hours. First it was The Happy Hollister's and National Geographic, then I had just finished reading the “H” volume of my new pictorial encyclopedia set. “I” was next. The aroma of something being fried wafted into my little study from the kitchen—liver and onions? My mother was preparing supper to have ready for when my father came home from work. And then, over the noise of rattling pots and pans, she announced the dreaded words:

“Frankie, I think you should visit Aunt Margaret.”

I rolled my eyes and rested my head on my hands while searching for a clever and convincing excuse.

But the best I could offer was a meager, “Aww, c'mon. Do I really have to, Ma?”

She stood there, hands firmly on hips. “You can’t sit in the house all the time. I want you to visit the neighbors…it’s nice and sunny out.”

There was no getting out of it this time. My mother had been asking me to visit Aunt Margaret for two weeks now. I thought it was enough that my parents presented me to all their relatives, friends, and everybody they ever knew, on a whirlwind tour starting from the day they adopted me two months ago. But apparently they weren’t done. Now I was expected to walk around the neighborhood and knock on strangers’ doors and say, “Hi, I’m Frankie, and I’ve come to visit you.” When would it end? Or will this ‘let-us-show-off-our-new-son' business go on indefinitely?

“Come on, Frankie," she said, her tone now a bit softer. "Put on your coat and walk across the street. She’s old and hardly ever gets visitors.”

Great. Just great. "Okay, okay,” I mumbled with annoyed resignation.

My mother watched from inside the door as I slowly meandered down the driveway toward our wooden gate. I remembered that my father told me Aunt Margaret was a retired grammar school principal and she won all sorts of awards. And that she had upwards of forty cats. I heard him and Ma talking about her being jilted at the altar—according to him, the groom never showed up and she never dated again. She became a spinster. It was all said sympathetically.

I thought about how terrible it must have been for her to live with a heart that broken. I had to laugh to myself though—my school grades were sure broken, but I still had to go to school. And who knew what my loud-mouth father told Aunt Margaret about me. He probably spilled his guts about everything. I hoped I wasn’t paying a visit just to be lectured to. After all, Aunt Margaret wasn't really my aunt; she was just a neighbor.

As I reached our gate-latch I stopped and looked directly across the street at her home. It was a large brown clapboard house with a windowed, closed-in porch surrounded and completely shaded by large pine trees and maples in her little front yard. Those five unruly Hartwick kids who lived next door to Aunt Margaret were playing in the street. They were very loud, but incomprehensible—just a lot of screaming and stuff.

I stood behind my fence and peered out at the street just like we orphans did from the huge back yard at the Children’s Home in the city. My new yard was small and bordered by a white picket fence; not like those tall black iron gates at the orphanage. This neighborhood was not at all like the city. It was just a quiet dead-end street with houses and trees and fences—not much else. Plus, I was an only child; I even had my own room. So why would I care to venture out beyond our little fence? I never felt the inclination to wander outside those big gates at the orphan…

“Frankie! Go on.”

My mother opened the screen door to coax me. Then I heard it slam shut.

“All right, all right, I’m going!”

So I warily maneuvered my way past the staring Hartwick kids to Aunt Margaret’s chain-linked gate and, once through, I saw the two brick steps that led to her maroon front door. Those steps reminded me of the morning I noticed her sitting on them. She was in a nightgown and house robe, and on her lap sat a squirrel eating nuts from her hand. There was another squirrel at her feet waiting patiently. I found it amazing that a wild squirrel would trust a person enough to sit on their lap.

The doorbell made a deep rich series of pleasant lyrical sounds. A couple of minutes went by as I waited. Great! She’s sleeping! I can tell my mother nobody answered and I‘ll get a reprieve. But just as I turned to leave, the doorknob turned. My heart sank. What was I supposed to say to her? And how long was I supposed to stay?

As soon as the door opened, a new scent rushed to my nose. The smell was not unpleasant and it calmed me somewhat. Then Aunt Margaret appeared from in the doorway. Her soft grey eyes greeted me first, welcoming and non-judgmental. Hi, Frankie, please come in. It’s so nice to see you. Then she smiled and spoke:

“Hi, Frankie, please come in…”

“Hi, Aunt Margaret, I umm…I’ve come to visit you.”

“Well, I’m glad you did,” she said with honest enthusiasm.

She gracefully extended her hand toward a light tan couch. “Please sit down. I’ll hang up your coat.”

So I sat on the couch and Aunt Margaret took a seat in a large padded chair with a colorful shawl draped on it. We were just a couple of feet apart. The couch was very comfortable.

That sure was simple.

Aunt Margaret wore a similar gown and robe as when I saw her that earlier morning. She was a smallish and frail woman, but not underweight. Everything about her appeared soft—her voice, her small nose, her long white hair; even the few wrinkles on her round light colored face were soft. Her face exuded a sort of gentle understanding.

And it looked to me as though her eyes have felt pain, a kind of pain I couldn’t identify with and may never experience. Aunt Margaret’s entire stature radiated life and humility and compassion. I thought lousy students like me were supposed to feel nervous around school principle's—even if they were retired. It then occurred to me that a sermon about my poor grades was probably the last thing on her mind.

“Your eight years old, Frankie?”

“Yes,” I answered as a calico cat brushed up against my pant-leg.

“That’s Pinky…Pinky, say hello to Frankie.”

I reached down and petted Pinky. She was a friendly cat.

“How many cats do you have, Aunt Margaret?”

“I have forty-two little darlings. Do you like cats, Frankie?”

“Yes, cats are great. I don’t like dogs though.”


“Well, a dog bit me once,” I minimized without going into detail.

The last thing I wanted was Aunt Margaret digging into uncharted territory—such as why I was sent the orphanage in the first place.

And so Aunt Margaret and I talked about cats for a while. She told me how she took in stray cats and how she was able to hand-feed squirrels. As we bantered, I began to look around and noticed an endless array of crystal and porcelain figurines neatly arranged and displayed in various locations about the room. There was also a large grandfather clock and many pictures and paintings on her walls. Everything was placed just so and there wasn’t a speck of dirt or dust in sight.

“Can I get you something to drink, Frankie?”

My earlier nerves made me thirsty.

“Okay, may I have a glass of water?”

“Yes, of course. I’m going to have some tea. I’ll be right back.”

Aunt Margaret left then returned with three cats trotting closely behind her. When Aunt Margaret sat down, one of the cats, a black and white kitten, jumped on her lap and immediately curled up and closed its eyes. The other two lay sprawled near her feet. Pinky leapt on the couch next to me and put her head on my lap and began purring. This was tuning into quite a cozy visit. Aunt Margaret told me their names as I petted them.

“How do you like your new school here, Frankie?”

Uh oh—maybe not that cozy. Here was the set-up I had suspected. But maybe I’d be able to steer her away from school talk by being direct right off-the-bat.

“I don’t like school because it’s boring and I can’t do math…but I like to read,” I answered while defiantly looking her square in the eye, almost daring her to scold me.

Aunt Margaret surprised me by laughing. She leaned close to my ear.

“Boys aren’t supposed to like school,” she whispered. “And I can tell you read a lot because your pronunciation is perfect. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t learn mathematics. I was terrible in math too, you know.”

At that, we both laughed. My laugh was from relief.

Even though I found it hard to believe that an award-winning teacher could be weak in any subject, I was just grateful that Aunt Margaret mentioned nothing more of school. She was a perceptive lady and I was a very thankful kid.

Then she reached and took a thick beige photo album from a self and handed it to me. In it were childhood pictures of her, her only sister, and many animals, both wild and domestic. The second half of the album contained newspaper articles and pictures of her as a teacher and then as a principal, some with smiling students and faculty members surrounding her. Aunt Margaret seemed to find joy pointing at each picture while telling me the names of all the people and what they were like. Her memory was astonishing. Some of the pictures went back to the 1930’s. She described every photo in vivid detail and her enthusiasm appeared to heighten when I asked her questions. I truly was interested in all those pictures and articles. I liked learning about what life was like in the old days.

Aunt Margaret and I chatted and laughed as though we’d known each other for a long time. It was that easy. While petting Pinky, I noticed a little black box on a small round table next to her. Since that box sat at arms length from Aunt Margaret’s chair, I surmised that its contents must be very important. But despite my curiosity, I made no mention of it.

At some point, I sensed she was tiring. As I was about to thank her and bid my good bye, the enormous grandfather clock suddenly announced another hourly chime.

Amazingly, I had been there for four hours!

“Umm…thanks for letting me visit you, Aunt Margaret,” I clumsily told her as I stood up. Pinky wasn’t prepared for my departure and she hooked a claw in my pants pocket to protest my taking away her headrest. I gently unhooked her little paw.

“Frankie, I’m so glad you came to see me. You’re a very unusual young man; you’re fun! And you should steer clear of Those Hartwick and Mulligan boys’", Aunt Margaret exclaimed, with a bit of fury in her voice. "They’re so loud and mean.” She shook her tiny fist in the air. “If I ever catch them throwing rocks at my squirrels again…!”


“Oh I’m sorry for getting get so worked up, Frankie. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“That’s okay, Aunt Margaret; I understand.”

And I did.

“Frankie, please feel free to visit me as often as you like, even when you’re sad and worried.”

Hmm. So my folks did tip off Aunt Margaret that I am a "disturbed child." And she remembered. There was no getting away with much around her—not that I cared to. Aunt Margaret did seem want my company with no ulterior motive. Maybe she just liked me? I wasn’t going to disappoint her.

“Yes, Aunt Margaret; I’ll visit you a lot.”

With that, her eyes tilted joyfully again. She believed me.

And I did visit her often. My school grades grew even worse, but Aunt Margaret never bugged me about it—as though she knew the real reason why, even if I didn’t. As the years rolled on, I fell in and out of friendship with the Hartwick and Mulligan kids—and I made sure they never went near her squirrels, even if it meant fighting them.

Then one day, Aunt Margaret died. I was fourteen and it was my first funeral. She looked happy; like she was just napping. I was surprised so few people were there—only a handful. How could that be, I wondered. Wasn’t she renowned as a great teacher and motivator? And even the few mourners there seemed indifferent, as though inconvenienced into a disagreeable courtesy call. They weren’t really mourning Aunt Margaret. I was very put off by the whole facade and later, while alone in bed, I wondered if a normal person would morn and cry. It was easier for me to justify that if there was a Heaven—and there had better be, then Aunt Margaret’s soul probably zoomed right up there the moment it left her body.

The next day, my father told me that Aunt Margaret’s little black box contained nitro-glycerin tablets. She had a severe heart condition—she suffered numerous small heart attacks for many years. I guess God needed her up there to lend the insightful understanding of her listening ear to those in need.

Around the following year, some big-shot politicians named Aunt Margaret’s old school after her:


A few decades too late, I thought. Her former pupils and faculty coworkers had long forgotten about her living alone in her brown clapboard house. Isn’t it sad how certain people aren’t recognized as great until they leave?

Still, those of us who have suffered losses devastating enough to lead us into head-first tailspins of self-loathing and worse; we know the score. The lucky one's among us who do recover from such spirals, know to hold tight a piece of our heart to a glorious person once known; we see her forever alive and wishing with her last breath to turn an old photo album back into the people she loved so dearly. Ultimately, Aunt Margaret's lesson to me was that there is no futility in mortality. And I realized that sometimes the worlds best medicine for a troubled child can be rendered by the simple, serene wisdom of an elderly person with enough understanding to let life happen at its own pace.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Good morning, fellow readers and writers in Blogland!

Philip, who's autistic, joined us for a week of camp (the day after Summer camp ended). That one week is reserved for children with severe autism. The program is called "Capers".
(I have no idea why it's called that). Does anyone have an autistic loved one? They're a handful, and any parent who raises one has my admiration. Some autistic children have a tendency to try and flee. They can also be extremely loud. Just to have the kids for a week leaves me dead tired.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Is it me...or do most writers blogs contain no stories at all? What I see mostly is blog after blog of people telling everyone else how to write. Okay then, it seems to me that they should lead by example. Why not write and post something first and then tell us how to write?

Without a sample, do they really think I'm going to take them seriously? What are your thoughts on that? I'd like to know.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hello, fellow readers and writers!

Sleep disturbance. So it's 2:10 AM and I forgot where the shut-off button is in my brain.

Summer Camp: It's the hardest job I ever worked, and I've had some tough jobs. What makes it even harder is the New Jersey humidity. The summer turns the air quality into a barely breathable pasty goo. It's a real energy thief. But the physical nature of this occupation really keeps me in shape.

Two things make this job different than your average gig. For one thing, the salary sucks in ratio to the responsibility. The other thing is this is the first job I ever worked that's actually rewarding. I mean, where can you go and hear hoards of special needs kids yell, "Joe, Joe, Joe!" when you arrive at the canopied picnic tables in the morning? The only thing those kids want is your personality. And unlike many mainstream people, hate or meanness never dwells within them.

Their minds have no concept of deception, back-biting, or cruelty. Fortunately I have an outgoing personality, and I don't mind sharing it with the kids. I'm not sure who has more fun, them or me. Also, I get to talk to their parents or caretakers and gather important information about each kid. A shy or stoic person who's unable break out of it wouldn't be happy in this career.

Being in the 'trenches' in this job means singing, dancing, organizing games, birthday parties, field-trips, being in camp shows, wearing wigs and hilarious outfits on theme days, and so on. Often times I can't believe they actually pay me to go there to play and to be my goofy self. The best part is I get to work there all year around! This is my fifth year there and I have no plans to leave anytime soon. To me, it's not a job, it's a way of life. And those kids want my laughter and enthusiasm.

See? There is a spot for a born ham after all.
Top of the morning, everyone!

My career is really strange, but in a good way. There's a few buildings situated in a huge park. The park has a two pools, a spray ground, a play ground, tennis and basketball courts, a baseball field, a football field, three field hockey and soccer fields, a roller-hockey rink, and a really long walking path. In the Summer, all the other counselors and I have to report to the Therapeutic building at 8:00 AM. At about 8:30 our developmentally disabled kids start trickling in. I call them 'kids' even though some are in their 30's and 40's.

We have five groups. The groups are divided according to age levels. For instance, group one has the youngest kids. Group five is for the adults. That's my group. A client from my group is in the picture with me. Robert. Robert has Down syndrome. In fact, about 70% of of our Therapeutic Summer camp program kids have Down. Their functioning abilities vary a great deal. The other 30% have other developmental disorders such as neurological impairments, general retardation, brain damage caused by accidents, and so on.

When Summer Camp closes, all of the Summer camp counselors leave and go back to college. Only Mary (my group leader) and I stay for the Fall, Winter, and Spring programs. Mary and I are the only counselors there who are in our 50's. Four other non-Summer camp counselors also work those programs.

I have to leave now because it's Saturday and I need to get a haircut. And after that, I have to watch Ultimate Fighting from my enormous private DVD stock. I know, it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. In my next post, I'd like tell about joys of my occupation.
So long for now, folks.
And have a wonderful day!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I’m sitting here at 4:00 a.m. even though I didn’t have to wake up until 6. Normally, I’m an early to bed, early to rise type guy, but lately I’ve been going to sleep later in the evening than usual. The Pride Fighting Championships that I own or order from Netflix are to blame. Call me an addict, but I can’t get enough of mixed martial arts (MMA). Tonight, I’m going to sleep early, just like I promised myself last night and the night before that. Wait—something is wrong with this picture *yawn...*

So how many of you did some detention time in junior or senior high school? Do you remember what you saw and how you felt? Well, there’s no way of knowing for sure, but I may hold a record for total detention hours from the 4th grade through the 9th grade. I wasn’t a bad kid—never loud or disruptive in class. But there was one thing I didn’t do which always landed me in detention—school work. To me, school was the most boring institution on earth. The law states that school attendance is mandatory, but I don’t recall any State or Federal laws saying that I must pay attention while in class or to do homework.

Actually, detention wasn’t so bad. It lasted only an hour, though a major offense could land you two-hours. And although we inmates were supposed to be studying during that hour, I always hid the book I happened to be reading inside of a larger textbook. Detention whizzed by as I lost myself in a good story. But a few times I forgot to bring a book and I had to draw pictures instead. It was during those times that I was keenly aware of my surroundings for that one long hour.

The following would be a typical detention day - minus my book. If you were a detention regular as I was, let's take a trip down memory lane and let me know if you can identify with any of this.


Lock Up

By Joseph Lupoli

The crew of apathetic teachers here expect me, a 14-year-old kid, to sit at home and voluntarily do homework. That’s quite a laugh. You’d think they would have gotten the message by now. I have despised school since my first day of Kindergarten. I’ve never really studied before, I don't plan to start now, and I have refused to do homework since the third grade.

Being in detention is not my favorite pastime, but the mere thought of bringing schoolwork home is far more repulsive. It’s like having a job and being forced to work overtime for free. All things considered, the price tag of not doing homework is affordable.

It’s a light day in this hell-hole of a study hall.

The usual thugs are shifting around restlessly in the back-row seats. There’s Jimmy, the class bully, a long-timer. Jimmy strikes me as a sociopath in training. Next to Jimmy sits Victor, "The Ripper." Victor is Jimmy’s co-extortionist and loan-shark. Oh, and there’s "Michael the Mauler"—also an aspiring sociopath. He's a future lifer, plus 90-years. Michael is doing hard time in detention probably for loansharking or refusing to rat on a fellow hood under investigation. He was once voted ‘Most likely to join the Mafia.’ Michael has sideburns and a five o‘clock shadow which make him look about 20-years-old. For added emphasis, he smokes non-filtered Camels. All of this I find most disturbing. Michael the Mauler once threw a kid off the school roof for not paying his ‘protection’ tax on time. They tried to extort from me, but not only won’t I do schoolwork, I don't respond much to demands either. Interestingly, when I refused to pay them off, they just shrugged and shuffled away. I guess they were too lazy that day to kill me.

Now, normally, this would be a routine day in my life.

Only today is no ordinary day. For the first time ever, the brilliant and beautiful Amy is here in lock-up. Yes, Amy. Amy is a sacred entity complete with a blue misty hue and everything. Just her mere presence purifies the air within a hundred yard radius of her. To me, she is light-years beyond human, and I fear her far more than all the school bullies put together. So why on earth is Miss Britannica/Americana in detention? What could she have conceivably done? Being the loner I am, the answer will never be revealed to me. I’ve never heard of her getting any grade lower than an B+, and she actually cried over it! Amy never missed school that I know of, and she's made the honor roll probably from the moment they cut the umbilical chord and gently slapped breath into her. I love Amy and I dream about her in color. But she has every reason to hate my guts—to her, I'm probably just lowly scum lumped together with all the other under-achieving trolls. The only difference being, I feel more comfortable operating alone. I don't want to belong. That clique bullshit is for sissies.

I'm positive that most of the smart and pretty girls find my entire being revolting. How could they think otherwise? I spend more time in the Principals office and in detention than I do in the classroom. (general population) It’s really too bad that I’m so socially inadequate, few girls even glance my way, let alone talk to me.

Amy made sure she took a seat in the front row to the far right, near the door. I’m also in the front row, but to the far left. Though tempted, I dare not sneak a glance directly at her for fear she might happen to look my way at the same time. What if our eyes accidentally locked? Fuck, what a harrowing thought! What’s to say I wouldn’t have a heart attack on the spot, or experience some sort of embarrassing epileptic seizure? So, I begin to sketch an elaborate schooner with a pencil and a ruler on a sheet of writing paper. That should take up the whole hour.

Meanwhile, Jimmy is busy cutting dirty words into the top of his desk with an unnecessarily large hunting knife. I've seen his pearls of literary wonder engraved on other desks. I’m slouched down so low in my chair that I’m practically laying on the floor. Victor and Michael are engaged in a spirited spitball fight. They never bully me because I’m the one who taught them how to make the perfect spitball, very round and with the right weight-to-size-ratio. And I showed them how to assemble and utilize two spliced and taped McDonald’s straws as the barrel to achieve maximum distance, velocity, and accuracy. Prior to that, they used hollowed pens as their weapons. Their weapons often jammed because the barrel was too narrow and the spitballs were not round enough. Spitball and projectile manufacturing combined with test practice and adjustments are really a fine art and it should be included in the school curriculum in place of say, metal shop.

Of course, there’s Miss Camp, our math teacher, at her desk grading papers or something. I feel sorry for her. So few of us legitimately pass her class, yet the system pushes us ahead anyway. That’s urban life for you. Poor Miss Camp -- burned out like the rest.

My mind wanders aimlessly. I feel my forearms and biceps. Today my muscles are hard and well defined. It's scary. Yesterday I was a skinny toothpick. My bones have been annoying the hell out of me for over a year; A frequent dull ache. I’m growing too fast.

It sucks in this prison, but I imagine they're all the same. I wonder why I’m always so bored in school. Obviously, it's not because I'm too smart. I just compromise doing the right thing, then wind up in miserable detention. Will I ever pull it together? No time soon. I'll start learning after I hit 16, when they can expel me. By then, the stakes between learning and not learning will become much higher. Who knows? A decade or two from now, maybe I’ll wind up back in school on my own free will.

Isn’t it comical that because of my stubbornness, anything I’m forced to do usually remains undone, yet that same task might be fun if only I had the power of choice?

The hell with them all—I’ll do it my way; take the long way around, the hard way, the uphill way. Sure it’s stupid and getting there is a long shot, but if I make it, I’ll wind up stronger than the rest because I’ll have paid more than then them.

If suffrage doesn't bury me first, it will temper me, and ultimately I'll have developed too much self-confidence to even remember what a hue looks like.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hi, fellow readers and writers!

I've written a few things over the years, most of which disappeared when an ex-girlfriend crashed my computer. Whether or not I have any literary talent - I have no idea, but either way, I don't plan on quitting my day gig anytime soon. Becoming rich and famous doesn't really interest me. Just being read is enough keep me happy.

Recently, I was encouraged to start this blog and share my stories and to network with others.

The smaller stories I create are born when I look at photographs or paintings. A while back, I came across an old U.S. Civil War photograph of a young teenage boy in uniform waiting to have his picture taken. His facial expression and his body language told me all sorts of things, so I decided to pen my impression of what might have been going through the boys' mind as he stares into the camera.


The Soldier

by Joseph Lupoli

Now I sit forever in this hot, humid room waiting for a light flash. For hours, it seems, I wait, still and numb. At only 15, I am prepared to die for The Mighty Cause.

My sentence is already decided by the Confederate Army.

I will die.

Surely, I would have fled had they not conditioned me into trading my life to take two so that freedom for the Great South may live forever.

Everyone sings and boasts loudly, but at night I hear anxious whispers. The Union is fast pushing south.

I wonder what would happen if I just stood still on the battlefield while everyone else thrashed about, loading and firing and stumbling and cursing? All the muskets and cannons would miss me. But no, my own side will shoot me for that.

There’s a funny yet chilling feeling in my gut as I recall that only a couple of weeks ago, I was fishing along the banks of the beloved Mississippi and skipping stones along its nearby estuaries without a care in the world. Then two important looking officers on horseback came riding tall in shiny boots and gold buttons. They told me to “Sign this paper, son, and make your mother proud!”

Pretending to know how to read and write, I looked at the tiny words on the paper and then I marked an ‘x’ after the ‘X’.

The men squared up and one boomed, “Were looking for a war hero just like you, young soldier. Follow us!"

Hurry up and take the damned picture, please! This too-tight, wool uniform itches something awful. Why didn’t I pay attention in Sunday school and later in church? Is my soul clean and good? Is it pure? I think now is a good time for a solemn prayer: God, please forgive me for stealing that ladies’ underwear catalogue from Rodger’s and Drysdale’s. And please forgive me for anything else I did wrong, too.

I wonder if the other soldiers in my outfit are as scared as I am. Our grim, dirty, hungry expressions all look the same, despite our age differences. I feel drained and swindled. God forbid if all these people in here should realize how terrified I really am. My never-ending fatigue is all that keeps me from trembling or from even allowing a big tear welling in my eye to fall noticeably down my cheek. Why do we do this? Why don’t I know anything?

At last, the light flash is seen and heard, and that little puff of smoke seeps upward. I wipe my eye.

Frozen within myself, I now wait for somebody to tell me what next to do.


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