Meet the New Friends; Same as the Old Friends

LetoAs I was driving out to Clearwater beach to attend the first of two, 35th High School reunion events, my mind was a mix of emotions.

When asked what it was like when I attended Leto High School, I always respond that I have nothing, but fond memories of those days. It was (sadly it no longer is) a good school with good kids. It didn’t matter if you were the captain of the football team or a member of the chess club, most everyone treated everyone else with kindness and as equals.

Now, 35 years later I was wondering; would these people, 95% who I haven;t seen since I was 17 yrs. old, still be the friendly group I remembered? What would we have to talk about and won’t it feel awkward? In just a few short moments, my questions were answered. After a quick beer and bite to eat at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, the few dozen of us that attended this evening’s “pre-reunion” get-together, ventured out near the beach to chat, share cigars and catch up on 35 years of life. There was very little “remember when?” and lots of “let me show you pictures of my kids/grandkids.” Over the next couple of hours, we shared a beautiful sunset along with a huge platter of smiles and laughs. The following night’s luau would bring more of the same. It was heart-warming to see the more we’ve changed the more we’ve stayed the same. With apologies to Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend of The Who, it was wonderful to realize that my new friends are same as my old friends.

Cheers to Leto High School’s class of ’78. May the coming years bring all of you good health and joy and more laughs than tears.

Thanks for visiting my website. You can also follow me on Twitter - @Lee_Silverstein and connect with me on LinkedIn.

17 Days

17. That’s the number of days that Linda and I have had as husband and wife where my cancer wasn’t a part of our life. 17 days after we were married, my oncologist expressed his concern about a spot on my liver. The rest, as they say, is history. Now that I’m a little more than a month away from completing chemo (3 more treatments) I’m getting excited about getting our “normal” life back. This includes a “post-chemo” steak dinner with my family (probably right around my birthday in September) at Bern’s Steakhouse; one of the finest steakhouses in the country, starting on my MBA in October and a post-chemo celebration weekend with our dearest friends, in New Orleans in November and my son’s graduation from Florida State University in December.
I tell everyone, especially my wife, that I married the girl of my dreams. I can’t wait to resume our “normal” life of good health, love and happiness together.

My Name is Lee and I Like Country Music

Eric Church

I admit it. I was “that guy”; the one who would tell anyone who would listen, “I love all kinds of music…except Country.” I would then follow that up with “What do you get when you play a Country song backwards? Your wife back, your job back, your truck back, your dog back…..yuck, yuck, yuck.” That all changed when I started dating Linda.

A Polk County, Florida, born and raised girl, Country music is mostly what she listened to. As we spent more and more time together I slowly realized that gee, some of this stuff isn’t bad. Then one day she played Keith Urban’s Making Memories of Us and I was hooked.I thought it was one of the most beautiful love songs I’d ever heard. Listening to it for the umpteenth time on the ride home from one of our dates, I promised myself that one day this would be the song we would dance to at our wedding. On December 1st, 2012, I kept that promise.

As I began to listen to more and more Country music artists, it began to sink in; I’ve liked Country music all along. You see, I’ve long been a fan of artists like Jimmy Buffett, The Allman Brothers, John Fogerty along with the whole Southern Rock genre. Listen to any of this music and the roots to Country music will be crystal clear.

Now that I’ve confessed the error of my ways, let me try to get the rest of you haters to stick your toe in the Country music pool. Here are some of my favorite Country music songs along with links to their YouTube videos and a brief explanation why I like them:

Artist: Eric Church
Song: Jack Daniels
Why I like it: After seeing Church perform live with Kenny Chesney, The Eli Young Band and Kacey Musgraves, I must confess, I have a man-crush on this guy. He stole the show with his performance of this song. Any fan of great guitar licks will find themselves hooked on this one.
Best line from the song: “I’ve thrown a punch or two and gave a few black eyes, but Jack Daniels kicked my ass again last night.”

Artist: The Pistol Annies
Song: Hush Hush
Why I like it: The lyrics of this song about not sharing family secrets around the Christmas dinner table is hilarious! I dare you to listen to this song and tell me that your toe wasn’t tapping half way through.
Best line from the song: “Well cheers to the vodka Mama’s been sneaking, let’s all gather round and pray.”

Artist: George Strait
Song: Check Yes or No
Why I like it: My sister, Layla, recently introduced me to this song. She said it was the song that got her hooked on Country music and I totally get it. I don’t know why, but this sweet song about puppy love (and then adult love) always chokes me up.
Best line from the song: “Do you love me, do you want to be my friend?….Check ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

Artist: Kenny Chesney
Song: I Go Back
Why I like it: In this song, Chesney sings about, how when he hears songs that were popular when he was growing up, it takes him back to those memories.
Best line from the song: “We all have a song that somehow stamped our lives, takes us to another place and time.”

Artist: Zac Brown Band
Song: Knee Deep
Why I like it: From their velvety harmonies to their outstanding musicianship, the Zac Brown Band brings it. How could you not like a song with the line “only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair?” Check out the opening mandolin solo on this song.
Best line from the song: “Mind on a permanent vacation, the ocean is my only medication. Wishin’ my condition ain’t never gonna go away.”

I’m swimming in the Country music pool. Come join me; the water’s fine.


Just When I Thought I Was Out…

I was immediately reminded of Al Pacino’s line from the (God awful) made-for-tv movie, The Godfather Part III; “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

I was done with cancer. My successful surgery for colon cancer back in April 2011 seemed like a lifetime ago and in many ways it was. My semi-annual check-ups at the Moffitt Cancer Center here in Tampa had become just another “to-do” on my calendar. God: however, had other plans.

By the time I had recuperated from my surgery for colon cancer two years ago, my life was on a trajectory to fairy tale status. I had fallen madly in love with Linda, who I had first met 12 years prior and had been dating for six months. I already knew by then that come New Years Eve (one year after our first date) I would ask her to marry me.

Fast forward a year later. We had moved in to a beautiful high-rise overlooking the Hillsborough River in Downtown Tampa and had both taken new jobs. Our wedding plans were in full swing. We would be married on December 1st, 2012 on the 10th floor deck of our building, overlooking the Tampa skyline. Two months later our friends and family, and even the photographers are still talking about the wedding and all saying the same thing; it was a beautiful celebration of love and affection. I couldn’t agree more.

We spent six days in Jamaica for our honeymoon and then came home to begin our married life together. Next on the list, my semi-annual check-up at Moffitt Cancer Center. When we met with Dr. Jonathan Strossberg to review my test results, I knew from the moment he entered the room that it might be time to strike the word “routine” from my cancer vocabulary. He informed us that a small lesion on my liver, that had tested “negative” over a year ago in a PET scan, had grown in size. He wanted it biopsied. While I was more concerned with how to fit a biopsy in with my busy work schedule, Linda fell to pieces. “Sweetheart, it’s nothing” I tried to reassure her. “It’s already tested negative once before. I’m sure it will be fine.” The biopsy was scheduled for December 28th.

Our third New Year’s Eve together arrived a few days later and we had reservations for a romantic dinner at Charley’s Steak House. As we were driving around that day, buying a bottle of champagne for our midnight toast, my phone rang. “Dr. Strossberg” the caller i.d. flashed. “I’m sorry to call you on New Years Eve with this news…..”

With that phone call it seemed like my fairy tale life had come crashing down. One day shy of our one month wedding anniversary God decided it was time for a new challenge. Once again, my concern was not for my health, but for my new wife and my sons, parents and family to whom I would have to tell, yet again, I have cancer.

We met with Dr. Strossberg two days later. He said there were several positive factors including the fact that the lesion was still small and slow growing. I informed him that I was interested in seeking a second opinion at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He arranged for us to meet with Dr. Peter Allen and Dr. Diane Reidy in two weeks.
Both doctors concurred with Dr. Strossberg’s treatment plan of surgery followed by six months of chemotherapy, and their prognosis can best be described as “enthusiastically optimistic.” Both Linda and I felt much better after meeting with them.

I recuperated from my surgery at my sister’s home in Connecticut. Looking at the newest addition to my scar collection I now realize my dream of becoming a model for Abercrombie & Fitch can now be laid to rest. My dream of a life of happiness with the woman of my dreams? That one lives on.

A Most Surprising Santa’s Helper

Today I went shopping for some gifts for colleagues of mine.  I decided something in the chocolate family would fit the bill; no need to worry about sizes, plus, who doesn’t like chocolate?? What? You don’t?  Go read another blog!  I digress…..

I made my first visit to Leena’s Chocolates in Valrico, Florida, not far from my home. “Welcome to Leena’s Chocolates” the smiling, enthusiastic associate said to me as I entered the quaint, shop. “Are you shopping for a gift?” he inquired.  “Um, yes I am” I stuttered, pleasantly surprised by the warmth and helpfulness of the associate.  He asked if I had a price range in mind and I told him what it was. “Have you seen our wonderful, chocolate Christmas trees?” he asked, walking me over to the display.  “These Christmas trees are made here in our shop and are solid chocolate” he said as he handed me one to hold.  “You can tell by the weight that they’re solid and not hollow” he proudly proclaimed.  “You just peel off the pieces, one by one; they’re delicious and come in your choice of white or milk chocolate”.  ”I’ll take two of the milk chocolate ones” I informed him.

As we were concluding our transaction I noticed another gentleman behind the counter.  I asked if he was the owner, as I could tell that the associate assisting me was not.  “I am, Anthony Caligiure, nice to meet you”,  he replied.  I proceeded to tell him how impressed I was by the service I received in his store.  Mr. Caligiure beamed like a proud parent.  I told him that these are the types of associates I loved to hire during my retail career.   Associates that are enthusiastic, self-confident, have a positive attitude and are sincere, tend to be very successful in sales and customer service.

“By the way, what’s his name?” I asked Mr. Caligiure.  “That’s my son, Anthony Jr.” he said proudly.  I turned to the younger Anthony and thanked him for his outstanding service and wished him a Merry Christmas.  He shook my hand and thanked me and wished me a Merry Christmas in return.

“Anthony?” I asked the younger Anthony.  “Yes sir?” Anthony Jr., politely responded.  “Can I ask you a question?”. “Sure” he said. “How old are you?” I inquired.

“I’m twelve” he replied.

Merry Christmas!!!!