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.

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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.


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!!!!