What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?

I’m currently working on a book that has time travel as a central device. The story is about a character that finds a way to travel back in time and uses this ability to go back and try to change decisions that he made in the past and influence the course of his life.

Writing this book caused me to think about this phenomenon and the age-old question, if you could go back in time and give your younger self advice, what would you say or do?

I think my message to my younger self would vary based on my age at the time.

Infant Me:

Don_Baby_-_1963

At this age, there wouldn’t be much that I would tell myself. Whatever I would say probably wouldn’t have much of an impact. I was a fairly calm child that was a late bloomer in many things. I didn’t walk until I was 16 months old and my parents wondered if I would ever talk. Arriving at milestones later in life has been a common theme for me, but I’m okay with that.

Two-Year-Old Me:

My love for music started very early. My favorite instrument to play, the piano, would be something I would discover later in life. I dabbled with the guitar and drums at an early age and was focused on the accordion. It wasn’t until I was 10 or 11 that I began to play the piano,. I wish I had started earlier and would tell my younger self this.

Five-Year-Old Me:

Laurel1

I had an interesting childhood growing up on the Italian north-side of Syracuse, New York. We lived in a 100-year-old two-family house with my maternal grandmother. There weren’t many kids to play with so I was a withdrawn, insecure child. This was when I discovered my love of books and writing stories. I kept the writing to myself. This is one great regret. I didn’t let this part of my life blossom until I was nearly 50 years old. There were so many lost stories and so much lost time.

Fourteen-Year-Old Me:

This was a tough age for me. I spent a year in a body cast after spine surgery to correct a severe curvature. The surgery may have saved my life although I’m paying the price for it later in life. I was at my most insecure and depressed during this time period. It was my first year of high-school and I was extremely awkward. Music really got me through. If I could go back and talk to this kid, I would tell him to hang in there and that things were going to turn out okay.

1970s4Sixteen-Year-Old Me:

This was such a pivotal time in my life as far as career choices. I was in every conceivable music group in high-school and outside of school as well. I auditioned for, and was accepted at two great music schools. Then reality hit. My parents couldn’t afford the tuition and, despite some scholarships, I had to enroll in a community college and pay my own way by working as much as possible while going to school. This would cause me to abandon music for business school and not earn my bachelor’s degree until some 20 years later. If I could go back to this time, I would tell my 16-year-old self to hold fast to my dreams and find a way to do what I could to follow them. I took the safe path, but I could have taken a risk and I often wonder where my career path would have led. I would also tell myself to ditch the sweater vest.

Family007Twenty-Two-Year-Old Me:

I would change nothing at this age. I would just affirm with myself that at this time in my life, I made the best decision possible in marrying my wife, Caryn. She has stood with me for 32 years through good and bad times and we have made it through. When I look at her today, I still see that 21-year-old beauty that I married. I would, however, tell myself to get rid of the moustache.

me 40sForty-Year-Old Me:

This was a turning point for me as well. I had just earned my Master’s Degree and left the security of my long-time corporate job to work for a start-up company. It was one of the happiest work experiences of my life until it wasn’t. A year in, the company changed leadership and I found myself without a job with a mortgage and two kids. In hindsight, I would still go through the experience, but wouldn’t enter into it without a contract. My trust that my sweat equity would be rewarded was a bad gamble.

Conclusion:

As I look back, there were good decisions and bad along the way, but the net result is positive. The one regret is waiting so long in life to begin writing seriously. Writing a book on time travel caused me to do this introspection and, unlike my character, I wouldn’t change much in my past.

How about you? What would you tell your younger self?

 

 

My Top Ten Buddy Movies

My Frank Rozzani book series has worked well because my main character, Frank Rozzani has a friend and sidekick to bounce his ideas off of. I have gravitated toward that type of configuration in the books I read and the movies I watch.

To give you a glimpse into what makes up my personality, I wanted to do another list where I share a genre of movie that’s fun to watch. These buddy films are the kinds of movies that I will sit and watch if I see them on the cable TV guide or if they pop up in Netflix of Amazon. They are all movies that I enjoy for different reasons. I’ll briefly explain why I like each one.

dumb-and-dumber

Dumb and Dumber (1994)

I’m not a huge Jim Carrey fan although I think he has his niche and has done some great films (Man on the Moon, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). What I like about this movie is the unconditional friendship between the main characters, Harry and Lloyd. I also like the inspired casting of Jeff Daniels. He was not afraid to put his dramatic acting career at risk to do this comedy. He has since done some of the best work of any actor in shows like The Newsroom. The switch from drama to comedy for actors is a hard one and he does it well.

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon (1987)

If you can separate Mel Gibson from his recent strange behavior, this buddy film is a good one. Gibson’s deeply depressed, slightly psychotic Martin Riggs character is paired up with Danny Glover’s grumpy, soon to be retired Sergeant Murtaugh character. Murtaugh wants to coast to retirement. Riggs wants to take suicidal risks and pulls his partner along with him. Once Murtaugh understands what motivates his partner, the two become inseparable and help to make each other better cops and men.

waynes-world

Wayne’s World (1992)

Okay. It was a slightly annoying SNL skit that was turned into a full-length movie. It was also the launch of Mike Meyers’ movie career. His style of comedy was on target with people in my generation. He made fun of the music and the styles that we lived. Meyers’ Wayne Campbell character, when teamed with the neurotic Garth, played by Dana Carvey, jumped from one joke or site gag to another. The plot was lacking, but the chemistry between the characters made the movie memorable.

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Grumpy Old Men (1993)

This movie featured a classic reunion of two actors that were magic together. Walter Mathau and Lack Lemon successfully paired up in The Odd Couple (see number 4). This time they were two single men in the Winter of their lives that lived to play pranks on each other. Regardless of the anger portrayed between them, you could see the friendship that these two men had for each other, both on screen and off. Add in 90-something year old Burgess Meredith as Lemon’s father, and you have some great dialog shared by these acting giants.

the-sting-newman-redford

The Sting (1973)

I know this movie isn’t the first pairing of Robert Redford and Paul Newman, but it’s a memorable one for me. This was the first movie that my parents let me see in the theater that wasn’t rated G. It is my first grownup movie and it was a memorable one. I loved the time period, the twists and turns of the plot and the ragtime music of Scott Joplin that accompanied it. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had an 8-track tape of the soundtrack that I wore out from overuse. Redford and Newman were a great onscreen pair and this was a memorable film for me.

Tommy Boy

Tommy Boy (1995)

This is another film where real-life friends use their chemistry on screen. Chris Farley plays the bumbling Tommy who is trying to help save his late father’s business and David Spade is charged with helping him. Spade is the straight man who knows the business and tries to keep an infantile Farley on track until he finally finds himself. There are a lot of great site gags and memorable lines. I’m one of those geeks that listens to DVD commentary and, for this movie, the director told a great Chris Farley story. When they were filming his father’s wedding to Bo Derek, the outdoor set required the large cast to remain perfectly silent for 60 seconds so the sound man could get levels for the ambient noise. At about 45 seconds, Farley loudly expelled gas and then turned to Bo Derek and asked her how she could do such a thing when they were trying to be quiet. The cast could not stop laughing and the outdoor screen had to be shot the next day.

odd-couple

The Odd Couple (1968)

In the case of this movie, I was introduced to it because of the 1970’s TV show of the same name starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. The show was great, but when I went back and watched the movie, the chemistry of Walter Mathau and Jack Lemon, along with Neil Simon’s writing, eclipsed the TV show. These two were great actors and brought their talents to this film like few others.

road films

Road Films (1940-1962 – 7 films)

These films are old Hollywood with all seven films made before I was born. I was introduced to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby through television and then discovered their films on late night television. The chemistry between them was evident and their off-screen friendship was a strong one. I had the occasion to read one of Bob Hope’s memoirs and he talked about the relationship he had with Bing Crosby. They were known to skip a day of shooting only to be found on the golf course.

bluesbrosThe Blues Brothers (1980)

Like the friendship of David Spade and Chris Farley mentioned above, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were friends from their days on Saturday Night Live. In this movie, they play brothers that always have each others backs, even when being attacked by an RPG launched by Carrie Fisher. The music in this movie is great and some of the sequences and lines will stay with me forever.

SilverStreak66Silver Streak (1976)

Gene Wilder and Richard Prior were also a magical pairing in several films. They actually had a chance to be paired sooner. Wilder stepped in for the original actor in Blazing Saddles when alcoholism made it impossible for him to work. Richard Pryor helped write the film and was supposed to play Black Bart. The studios, however, didn’t view him as reliable and Cleavon Little was cast instead.  The uniqueness of the film’s casting was supposed to be about them being two different races, but, as a viewer, you quickly forgot that one actor was black and the other was white. Instead, you realized that they were both brilliant and made a very good comedy team.

My Top Ten Favorite Books Turned Into Movies

It can sometimes be very disappointing when you go and see a movie that was made from your favorite book.  Once in a while, it gets done correctly. Here is a list of my favorites. What are yours?

christmasstoryA Christmas Story (1983) – This movie was based on the book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. It’s somewhat autobiographical. The movie was low-budget and did poorly at the box office, but has become a cult holiday favorite. My family and I can’t start the Christmas season without watching it at least once. Every time someone uses a power tool or knife in my house, someone is likely to say, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

misery

Misery (1990) – This is one of two Stephen King movies on my list. You would think that with all of the adaptations of his books that have been done over the years that more would have made my list, but, unfortunately, that is not the case. It takes a special director and actors to nail King’s vision and in this one Rob Reiner’s direction and the acting of Kathy Bates puts it over the top for me.

a time to kill

A Time to Kill (1996) – This movie comes from my favorite John Grisham book. It is a powerful story that works well on the screen. Matthew McConaughey has his breakout role in this film as the young attorney, Jake Brigance, who defends a black man in a hot bed of white supremacy featuring Kiefer Sutherland in the role of one of their leaders. Throw in Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock and Ashley Judd and the cast is loaded with talent.

jurrasic parkJurassic Park (1993) – When you take a masterful author with a keen sense of detail like Michael Crichton and give one of his best stories to Steven Spielberg and you end up with the magic that is the Jurassic Park movie. The special effects were state of the art for the time period and the ‘Jaws-like’ tension kept us on the edge of our seats as we waited for a glimpse of the T-Rex.

the martian

The Martian (2015) – When Andy Weir began writing The Martian, the self-proclaimed space nerd posted the chapters of the story on his blog. When someone asked him to put it in a downloadable form, he published it on Amazon for $.99. It’s popularity spread like wildfire and he earned a movie deal. That’s not why it’s on my list, however. It’s on here because the movie was very well done and mostly true to the details of the book. Matt Damon does a great job of bringing the intelligence and humor of the main character to the screen. Weir’s knowledge makes the science plausible and believable.

the green mileThe Green Mile (1999) – Here is another Stephen King book adapted for the screen. Like the ones that were adapted the best, it is the director that does a masterful job of helping the audience see King’s true vision. In this case, it was Frank Darabont who wrote the screenplay and directed the film. He had earlier success in the same capacity with The Shawshank Redemption taken from a King short story. This film is magical and well cast with Tom Hanks and the late great Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey.

harry potterThe Complete Harry Potter Series (2001-2011) – Of the eight Harry Potter movies, there are some that are not as strong as others. There were multiple directors and even multiple Dumbledores. One thing rings true. Every movie is based on a solid story with a long unifying arc through all of them. We watched the young actors grow up before our eyes much like the characters in the books grew up with each new volume. These were magical movies that will entertain both young and old for years to come.

lord of the rings

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003) – I read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy as a child. From that time, I always hoped a good film adaptation would be done. There were animated versions and very poor, low-budget live action versions of parts of the story, but nothing approaches the masterpiece that Peter Jackson brought to the screen in his film adaptations. After seeing the first film, I re-read the trilogy and was amazed at how true to this dense work of prose Jackson was in the films. Yes, he left out Tom Bombadil, but perhaps Tolkien should have left him out as well.

godfather

The Godfather (Parts I and II – 1972 and 1974) – The Godfather was the first adult book that I read. I was probably around 11 or 12 when I read it and it had a profound effect on me. Granted, it is a book about organized crime among Italian-Americans in the early 20th century. The dichotomy of the book is the strong sense of loyalty among family and friends that permeates that ugly underworld. It was the same dynamic I saw in my own Italian family. when I saw the movie I was amazed at how true to the book Francis Ford Coppola was with his adaptation. Over the two movies, he fully explored the dynamics in Mario Puzzo’s book. It’s a shame that he made the third Godfather movie which was absolutely horrible.

TKAM

To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) –  It’s fitting that my favorite film adaptation of a book that I read is from my favorite book of all time. I’ve mentioned before that this book has meant something different to me each time I’ve read it. The movie came out the year I was born. I have watched it a few times and I’m amazed at how well it was done. Gregory Peck embodies Atticus Finch who is the literary embodiment of Harper Lee’s father. In fact, the pocket watch that Peck wears in the film was given to him by Lee after she saw his screen test for the role. It belonged to her father.That is a very strong endorsement from an author that wrote such a personal work.

I’m sure that there are other good book adaptations that I left off this list. My criteria was, did I read the book and did I like both the book and the movie. Please feel free to chime in with your own entries.

My Favorite Mark Twain Quotes

Twain2“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

Twain3“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Twain4“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”

Twain5“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

twain6“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

My Favorite Rockford File Answering Machine Messages

Rockford 1Photo Credit: www.amazon.com

This post is going to give away my age just a bit. As a child of the 70’s, there are a lot of T.V. shows that had a lasting influence on me. One of them was The Rockford Files. 

For those of you not familiar with this show, it centered around a private detective named Jim Rockford played by James Garner. He was an Oklahoma-born Korean War veteran who returned to the states and was wrongly imprisoned. Despite being eventually pardoned, Rockford has to deal with the stigma of being jailed for a felony.

He is not a wealthy man. He lives in a dilapidated trailer in a parking lot near the beach in Malibu, California. The trailer is often the site of attacks on Rockford and break-ins. He also has a love-hate relationship with the police as he solves their cold cases, but also annoys the police brass.

If you read any of my Frank Rozzani novels, you will see some parallels with my title character. I liked this show a lot due to its quirky nature and the gritty realism of Rockford’s financial status.

One of the unique devices on this show was used during the opening. Rockford had an answering machine. Each show would open with someone leaving him a message. These messages often gave great insight into the way Rockford lived. I’ve collected a list of ten of my favorites for your enjoyment.

Rockford 2Photo Credit: www.youtube.com

10) “Jim, It’s Norma at the market. It bounced. You want us to tear it up, send it back, or put it with the others?”

Rockford 3Photo Credit: www.thrillingdetective.com

9) “Hey Rockford, very funny. I ain’t laughing. You’re gonna’ get yours.”

rockford 4Photo Credit: www.tumblr.com

8) “It’s Morrie. Got a call from Davis at the IRS. You were right. They bounced your return. Call me.”

Rockford 11Photo Credit: www.tumblr.com

7) “It’s Laurie at the trailer park. A space opened up. Do you want me to save it or are the cops going to let you stay where you are?”

Rockford 6Photo Credit: www.mysteryplayground.net

6) “It’s Audra. Remember last summer at Pat’s? I’ve got a twelve hour layover before I go to Chicago. How about it?”

Rockford 7Photo Credit: weber.ucsd.edu

5) “I staked out that guy only it didn’t work out like you said. Please call me. Room 234, County Hospital.”

Rockford 8Photo Credit: www.tv.com

4) “Mr. Rockford? You don’t know me, but I’d like to hire you. Could you call me at…my name is, uh, never mind. Forget it.”

Rockford 9Photo Credit: www.dvdtalk.com

3) “This is Mrs. Lindis. Three times this month I come to clean and it always looks like people been fighting in there. Furniture broke, things tipped over. I’m sorry, but I quit.”

Rockford 10Photo Credit: www.cinemaparadiso.co.uk

2) “This is Shirley from the bank. The answers are: no, no and yes. No, we won’t loan you money. No, we won’t accept any co-signers; and yes, your account’s overdrawn. I get off at 4:30.”

rockford 5Photo Credit: starcarcentral.wordpress.com

1) “Hi, Jim, it’s Jamie at the police impound. They picked up your car again. Lately, they’ve been driving it more than you have.”

Political ConventionTrivia

With the U.S. Republican Presidential Convention in full swing this week and the Democratic Convention ready to kick off next week, here is some trivia about the cities in which they take place to entertain (distract) you during this all-American process.

donald-trump-cartoon-luckovichblogs.denverpost.com

1. The favorite? Chicago — host to nine conventions since 1936, the last of which was in 1996 when the Democrats nominated Bill Clinton for a second term.

June 25, 2014politicalhumor.about.com

2. Big cities rule: Chicago, New York and Philadelphia account for nearly half (17) of the 38 conventions since Cleveland last played host.

donald-trump-cartoon3selfdeprecate.com

3. Tri-cities: Three California cities — San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco — have hosted a combined six conventions.

hillary_clinton-4004. Threepeat: 2016 will mark the Republicans’ third national convention in Cleveland, following previous conventions in 1924 and 1936.

Though Cleveland has gone through a slump of sorts in this regard, hosting for a third time is select company. Since 1920, just four cities top that number — Chicago (11), New York (5), Philadelphia (5) and Miami (4).

98d5ef8df6ad85cb18bb63a8e6d2290dwww.pinterest.com

5. Twofer: Miami is the last home to both Republican and Democratic national conventions. Those 1972 conventions nominated Richard Nixon and George McGovern.

Branco-Trump-and-Hillarywww.progressivestoday.com

6. Winners and losers: Cleveland delivered one general election winner (Calvin Coolidge in 1924) and one loser (Alfred Landon in 1936).