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.



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