Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Farewell to Arm(y)s - At Least for Now

    I must apologize to those who have actually consistently viewed and read the things I have written over the years here at  From my dashboard I see I have well over 51,000 views.  Of course many of those are people just looking up photos of things, but maybe some of them stop to read and to all of you I say thank you.  I know I haven't posted anything since last January and for that I'm deeply sorry.  It has been a rough road of trying to find myself since that August day in 2012 when my family and I entered the grounds of Sunrise DayCamp.


    The trip for us to ride across the country and raise money for the kids of Sunrise was one of the most important and amazing things I have ever done in my life and I would do it again if I could (and if my wife wouldn't decide to leave me as she would be certain I had lost my mind).  To see the country from three feet up every single mile of the 3,000+ miles was an incredible experience and to share that with my family was a wonderful blessing.
  But who am I anyway (Am I my resume? For all you Chorus Line fans)?  What am I now since I began the journey of what started as Connor's Army 10 years ago?  I am 53 years old, the father of three teenagers and the husband to a wonderful and amazing woman.  I am a teacher of theatre (sometimes life?) at Syosset High School.  I am an EMT for the Northport Fire Department.  I am a Unit Head (or at least I was this summer) at Sunrise Day Camp for the Teen Tracks program.  And after all this time, I'm still an avid cyclist - despite my many bump, bruises, aches and pains. 
   Ten years ago I was 43, still the father of three amazing children and husband to an incredible woman.  I was still performing when I could, directing and choreographing anywhere that would hire me while entering my tenth year as a teacher at Syosset High School.  I had recently rediscovered my passion for riding (a passion that began at the ripe old age of six) and I was searching for a way to use that passion to make a difference in the fight against cancer.  My mother and three of my sisters had recently fought (and won) their battles with cancer and I wanted to find a way to give back out of gratitude for their health.  And so Connor's Army was born as a way to create a not-for-profit to raise money for cancer research and to find ways to help the cancer community. It has been an amazing ten years with more than 30,000 miles having passed beneath my wheels (I actually added it up).
    But here we are in 2016 and while I still believe in using the power of two wheels to make a difference, big cycling challenges are no longer my focus (although the boys and I still periodically talk about taking a long bike tour when they graduate from college).  Instead, I've been focusing on smaller events such as The Great Cycle Challenge, events that just need me on my bike to make a personal difference.  Even my ReCycle for Sunrise has begun to wind down as I find I just don't have the time to continue with that offshoot of Connor's Army any longer.  Between no longer having the space to store all of those bikes in need of TLC, I just don't have the time to devote to them any longer.  So I will sadly be putting Connor's Army on hold for now, ready to come back when it's needed (sort of like the mythical Arthur), but for now, decommissioned as it were.
     It's said that when he finally stepped away from being our country's first (I know, I know - you history buffs will say he wasn't actually the FIRST) president, George Washington was delighted to be leaving public office. He was 65 years old and anxious to spend the remainder of his life away from the stress and responsibilities of the presidency (he believed he was near the end of his life; few people at that time lived past their mid-sixties).  He gave his Farewell Address, a 32-page hand written text - tell that to your teenager when they complain about a five-page research paper.   (Just a side note, I gleaned that tidbit from my currently reading material, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.)
     I can't say that I am delighted to be stepping away from Connor's Army but I think for now it is the best thing.  I can no longer devote the time and energy I need to devote to it as a not-for-profit entity and I need to spend more time just riding and when occasion arises doing so to still raise money for the cancer community.  I will also still use the power of two wheels to help others as I serve as the Bike Squad Coordinator for the Northport Fire Department Rescue Squad.  Hopefully by being there on my bike I can still make a difference for my immediate community.  I'll also continue to go to Sunrise every summer and try to make a difference there.  But most importantly, I'm going to continue to ride because I don't know what else to do. 

     The thing that has always drawn me back to riding every since that first solo bike ride is that it's a place where I can be free and alone with my thoughts.  When I was a kid I once saw a poster with a saying that was attributed to the late, great Satchel Paige;

    Now I can't say that all my thoughts are gold as some of them are most definitely scattered and nonsensical but what I will be doing is jotting down some of the thoughts I have while riding in a new blog that I be starting up called The Contemplative Cyclist.  It won't always make sense, it won't necessarily be consistent, but it will be a great ride and I hope you'll join me on it.
    I have no regrets about starting Connor's Army, letting it be such a driving part of my life and all that it has brought me - the places I've seen and the people who have come into my life because of it.  But what type of theatre teacher would I be if I didn't close the book (at least put it on pause) on this chapter of my life without a great musical theatre number.  And since I'm reading the biography that inspired it all, here is the cast of Hamilton performing the song "What I Did for Love".

For all of you who donated, followed this blog, liked our Facebook posts, came out to watch or ride with us, and just helped us create and sustain Connor's Army for so long, I thank you all for being part of the ride these last ten years (and giving me over 51,000 views).  There are not enough words to express all of my gratitude and so for now I'll simply say,

So long and I'll see you on the road!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Rising from the Ashes

A few months ago my family and I completely geeked out and had a Harry Potterfest in honor of my son William having finished reading the entire Harry Potter series.  We pretty much lived in our pajamas for the entire two days and lived on everything from Waffles to Devile Eggs to Ice Cream Sundaes for dinner one night and sushi the next.  One of our favorite characters in the entire series never spoke a single word - Dumbledore's phoenix Fawkes.  It struck each us how sad it was that at the end Fawkes was left without anyone, after he had spent so much time with Dumbledore he was now without a companion and flew off alone across the lake, after giving us such wonderful moments as this;

And this;

And although he is one of my favorite fantasy literature characters of all time, Dumbledore needed help to kick butt as is shown in this little discourse which pits Dumbledore against my favorite wizard of all time;


And if you want to know how Sir Ian was able to channel all of that Tolkienesque persona into a mere mortal package, you have to listen in on his conversation with Ricky Gervais;

Now when Harry first meets Fawkes he bursts into flames.  Harry, never having seen this occur is of course shocked when he tells Dumbledore about it and he responds, "And about time too, he's been looking dreadful for days."  Not to compare myself with a truly memorable character, I myself have been looking dreadful for days, uh weeks, okay really since last November.

You see, I somehow managed to either injure myself or exacerbate a previous injury in my back to the point that riding my bicycle had become painful.  I couldn't make it for more than five or six miles before the pain would start up.  That pretty much has been going on for almost a year.  I've had injections, I've had epidural treatments, I've had chiropractic work (thank you again Dr. Scott!) and I've worked on my core.  The result is its better (I can ride about 30 miles non stop) but I'm far from back to my 2012 Ride Across America shape.   Instead, I've been making excuses not to ride (it's cold, I have things to carry, it will be dark) and I've seen my fitness languish to a level I haven't seen since my ankle surgery.  Although I did manage to briefly raise my head from my this self imposed torpor currently feeling like some sort of sun worshipping lizard,

Flat_tailed_horned_lizard_sunning_on_a_rock.jpg (1800×1200)
(Could Someone Put Some Sunscreen Between My Shoulder Blades?)
in that I created a fundraiser to try and send a child to Sunrise for one week which I called 467 for Sunrise (based on the idea that 46 children are diagnosed with cancer every day and seven will perish from the disease).  I ended up raising $800 ($100 short of my goal) but it got me back on the bike and riding almost every single day.  Unfortunately, after logging almost 500 commuting only miles in the month of September, I lapse back into my sunbathing lethargy.  It's been that way pretty much every since.

Well no more!  I'm starting to feel better and I have to stop babying the back.  Of course, this is not to confuse the issue with Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back";

Trust me, at this point I got my own big butt!  But that's only part of the issue - a big part.  I just went today for my Northport Fire Department physical only to find out that although my blood pressure is great (116/76), I am now the heaviest I have ever been in my entire life.  I've decided that not only do I need to get my body back, I need to get my passion back - I need to ride!

But as I have been doing since 2007, I don't just ride for me and that's why I feel the most guilty.  Since 2007 I've been riding for others, trying to raise money either for research or to make possible a life changing summer for a children (or children) fighting cancer.  As I've written many times before, I don't have a lot of money but I feel I need to give something back to the cancer community in gratitude for the fact that I have three sisters and a mother who are all now cancer free.  The odds that four people related to you would be struck by cancer in an eighteen month period are astronomical - that ALL of them beat it is a miracle. 

And that's why I ride. 

To see the faces of young children, many of them either fighting this disease or in remission, having the time of their life for nearly three months is a true gift.  To know that I had a hand in helping them feel like just in other kid doing things that other kids sometime take for granted (but my campers never seem to do so) and being able to express themselves in a way they haven't before is a blessing.

And that's why I ride.

When I have to deal with the frustrations of the day and this crazy hectic world pushes down on me and makes me want to curl up in a ball I have an escape, one that I have been neglecting for far too long.  It makes me feel alive, reconnects me with the joy of my youth and reminds me that there is beauty in even the flight of a small bird or the bounding of a rabbit running in the grass as you roll along.

And that's why I ride.

So it's January, one of the coldest months of the year.  I wake up early in the morning and I allow the excuses to compile and mount until I roll over and refuse to get out of bed.  It's time to stop the madness.  It's time to get out and ride.  It's time to get rid of my big butt before Sir Mix-a-Lot comes after me. 

And it's time for me to lose 20 pounds.

So here I am publicly vowing that I will lose 25 pounds in the next three months.  By April 15 I will be down to 155 pounds for the first time since I got married.  Yes, you read that right I weighed 180 pounds on the scales during my physical - I just hide it well.  My plan is to lose 14% of my body weight in the next thee months and I am going to update this blog at least once a week (every Friday) to let you all know how it's going.  This will also take care of the doldrum that has infected my blog upkeep in the last year.  Well, really since we did the Ride Across America.  So my writing will serve dual purposes.

You see I have a plan.  This summer I am going to do something else to raise money for pediatric cancer.  I'm not sure yet what it is but suffice it to say I will never be able to do it if I don't lose weight and get myself into shape.  I am going to once again ride for the kids and for those who are fighting this disease. 

And maybe, just maybe, when baby no longer got back, baby's back will hurt no longer!

Stay well my friends and I'll see you on the road!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I Am Anomaly

(Warning!  This content is dated as it was originally written in July but never posted and has been sitting here languishing in cyberpurgatory waiting to be paroled!  I hope you still find it interesting!)

I know it's been over a year since I last posted and many of you (okay the dozens of people who actually read my blog) have probably been wondering, "what the heck happened to him, he uwsed to update us regularly on his bicycular adventures and now.....nada.  The esoteric answer is I've been in such a state of flux since the ending of the cross country ride that I still don't know what I'm doing or what direction Connor's Army should be traveling.  The realistic answer is much simpler....I'm a lazy git and I can't find the proper time to really sit down and write posts on a consistent basis, but I am trying to get back into the swing of things.  But that's really fodder for another post.

 Recently a friend of mine shared a link on Facebook (the all and powerful Oz of the cyberworld, just don't peek behind the curtain) which was a list of NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction Books of All Time.  The idea is to check off how many of the 100 you have read to see how big of a SciFi Geek you are (take the challenge - you'll love it).  NPR even  has a link to help you choose a book from the list in case you're at a loss and you need a new book to read.  On a side note, my own personal total was 63.

One of the books listed (which I've read) is I Am Legend.  The plot goes like this;

Robert Neville is supposedly the only survivor on Earth of a pandemic that causes its victims to have vampire like symptoms. Neville resides in Los Angeles and dedicates his life to researching the disease that wiped out humanity. Throughout the novel, Neville recounts his life through flashbacks. The present demonstrates Neville’s daily routine and his emotional journey of being alone.
The vampire-like creatures are former humans and animals that were bitten by the infected. These beings can be corpses that had the bacteria implanted or living hosts. The infected humans have human-like characteristics yet possess more dominant vampire-like qualities. The beings come out during the nighttime and repel from garlic.
        Neville captures a creature who is out in the daylight and she has human-like qualities. The “human” is named Ruth and though at first Neville is suspicious of her truly being human, he soon begins to embrace the company of having another companion. Ruth is highly opposed to killing the infected beings even if they are attacking. Ruth lives with Neville and the two eventually form a sexual relationship.
Neville, on his quest to discover a cure to the pandemic, samples Ruth’s blood. He discovers that Ruth is indeed infected. Ruth knocks Neville unconscious as soon as he reveals her secret. He awakes to a note from Ruth that explains how many of the infected have adapted and plan to rebuild society. However, Neville stands in their way and has killed many of their kind. Due to this, the new colony of infected sent Ruth to investigate Neville and possibly convert him. However, she realizes that he must be executed for the betterment of her “people”.Thus, the novel concludes with Neville’s final thoughts before his execution in the colony’s prison: “I am legend.”

Of course, in the grand tradition of Hollywood, they took this great classic SciFi novel and "improved" it.  The changes are too much to list so here's a link to the synopsis of the movie starring Will Smith.

The new Ian Somerhalder movie The Anomaly, lists the plot of this movie as "an original action thrill that follows the efforts of a traumatized ex-soldier who wakes up in the back of a van, alongside a kidnapped boy, to find that he only has nine minutes and 37 seconds of consciousness to work out why and how he got there."

Now personally, I have had much more than nine minutes and 37 seconds to figure out how I got here and I have to say I have enjoyed the ride (both figuratively and all the ones on my bicycle).  But now after a half a century of journeying to where I am now I have definitively decided that I myself am an anomaly.  For those of you who don't know me well, by day (and many nights) I am a high school drama teacher.  I got here after a lifetime of meandering from one career to another and after having a successful career as a performer (and yet always being on the road and not with my loved ones) I decided to stop and become a high school drama teacher.   I've always been more drawn to the young adult actor rather than those in college and "the business" who think they know it all.  I've always wanted to be someone who could inspire kids to follow their dreams and take the chance.  However, I realize I'm not the typical type one thinks of as a drama teacher.  It became all the more clear to me in the past year as I reflected on some of the other models most of my students have had exposure to their lives.  There is Mr. Francis Corelli from Hannah Montana;

Now I have to admit I have done my share of musical interludes with my acting classes but I'm not prone to bow ties or the bizarre hair.  Although I DO share his affinity for hand puppets, I'm not much for wearing Hawaiin shirts and bow ties!  Nor am I quite like Erwin Sikowitz from the show Victorious;

I admittedly have creepily freaked out my acting students but I really don't do the whole hippy thing, drink fermented coconut milk in the hope of having visions, wear flowing baggy shirts (I'm more prone to dance clothes and flannel) or invite kids to stay over at my house to a party in which they must stay in constant character or lose the game.  In this day and age that would be consider creepy at the least and probably illegal at most.  And as any fan of the show knows, that is the least of his wacky traits.

Annnnnd, gender reversal nowithstanding, I'm not very much like Ms. Darbus from the High School Musical franchise....I never use building the set as a detention setting (although I'm sometimes sorely tempted), I don't use energy balls (much), and I only wear flowing scarves and dresses when I'm dressing up as Maid Marian (to my wife's Robin Hood). 

In general I have to say I'm probably pretty boring as a drama teacher.  I love my job, I can't imagine doing anything else for a living right now in my life.  I get paid to have fun and to try to help kids follow their dreams.  Yes, I sometimes take a hell of a lot of flak from these same kids because of casting but as we've seen in at least two of the three examples from above, it's not that unusual - from Sharpay to Jade, they've all had to deal with those unhappy with the casting.  So I go to work thinking my day is going to be great because I get to create art.

But at the same time, I also realize that I don't have to be so immersed in the drama that it's all I do for my life.  I have friends and colleagues for whom drama and theatre is the be all and end all of what they do.  You walk into their offices and all you see from floor to ceiling is theatre artifacts and pictures of themselves in roles or with famous people with whom they've worked.  On their shelves are every acting book ever written and show posters in the spaces untouched by other decoration.  On their radio all they listen to is the Sirius Broadway channel and their favorite playlists on their iPhones contain all the top songs from the latest Broadway craze.  Their idea of the perfect night out is to see the latest Broadway show and perhaps go to the stage door afterwards to get the autograph of the star.

I do love Broadway shows and I wish I had the money to go see them constantly but with a family of five I just don't have the expendable income.  My idea of a great evening is to sit with my family and watch fun, nerdy shows like The Big Bang Theory and eat ice cream sundaes.  If I go into the city I'd rather see friends and take my family to a museum rather than wait in line to spend $150 on the latest show craze.  After four summers of spending time teaching theatre to non-theatre kids at Sunrise Day Camp I've come to realize that teaching drama is what I do but there is so much more to me than just "drama teacher".  I'm a husband, a father, a cyclist, a friend, a closet musician, a geek, a sci-fi fan, a son, a brother and an EMT.

Yes, for those of you with whom I haven't bee in close contact, last spring I entered an EMT basic course and after much sacrifice on the part of my loving and patient family, this past July I received my certification in the mail;

It's sometimes frightening to think that I can be in charge of someone else's life.  I'm use to it with my kids, after all that's a parent's job.  I'm used to it as a teacher because that's what we do, try to set a good example and hopefully impart some knowledge and passion along the way.  However, as an EMT I now have to periodically refresh and keep up to date on my protocols so I can be ready at a moment's notice to help out in the case of an emergency. 

It's sometimes nerve wracking but it also makes me proud to be a part of the Northport Fire and Rescue and to try to live up to the example of so many E's who I look up to and admire.  With the drama of life that I see on a constant basis it reminds me of how precious life is and how much we need to enjoy what we do.  So, as a drama teacher I think I truly am an anomaly since I don't let theatre define my entire existence.  As an EMT I am somewhat an anomaly as well, since I don't know too many others who do what I do in the day time.  And as a half century human being I am an anomaly because I still can't let "middle age" become the victor -- I still find the humor in clips like this;

So being an anomaly may be sometimes smelly, but it's a lot of fun!

Stay well my friends and I hope to see you on the road!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Night of the Lepus....uh, Killer Bunny

There are many things I enjoy in life.  Long walks on the beach (or anywhere for that matter) with my beaugtiful wife, deep-fried cinnamon rolls the size of your head, the laughter of my children, The Princess Bride (and Star Trek, Star Wars, The Big Bang Theory) and Monty Python.  That being said, it will come as no surprise to those of you who know me that I recently had a Monty Python day of sorts.

I have now been in the process of gathering bicycles and restoring them in order to sell and give all of the proceeds to Sunrise Day Camp.  I call this project ReCycle for Sunrise and its the latest fundraising effort of Connor's Army.  As much as my beautiful wife Amy likes to take romantic walks on the beach with me, she's not too keen on my riding across the country again anytime soon.  So I've been converting my corner of the basement (meine kleine mannhöhle) into my bike repair workshop so I can fix the bicycles that have been so graciously donated to our cause.  Some I find on the road and others have been given to me by friends or family (thanks be to Joan!).  In working on them I often find myself feeling a bit like F.G. Superman in the sketch below;

Of course, I don't always change clothing before I get to work but you get the idea.  I've lost track of how many bicycles I've sold in the last two years (the project really started before the Ride Across America) but I know we've made over $2,000 from the sale of these bicycles alone.  I don't sell them for very much, basically for about half of what a comparable bike would go for on Craig's List.  I clean them all up, lube them up, replace any parts that need to be replaced, and true the wheels if they need to be trued.  I then look for a comparable bike and then print out a sign and place it on my front lawn here on Main Street in Northport during the weekends.  I've even had people come by and say they've heard about me and were wondering if I had a particular type of bike.  Word of mouth can be a powerful marketing tool I guess.

But aside from Bicycle Repairman, there is another connection I had last Sunday with my Monty Python side.  To really understand this Pythonesque moment, I need to give you a little background.   Way back in the day, although not completely "old school"(which from the graphic below you can see is a bit behind the front haunches but not all the way to the mid spine), I had a summer job with my friend Ed Trevorrow.

We worked for the German Civil Corps of Engineers which was attached to the military base at Katterbach, Germany.  Our summer job was basically to cut all the grass in the area below;
It really wasn't such a bad gig since we had self-propelled mowers for most of the work (every now and then we had to use sling blades) and for the first part of the summer we got to ride behind them on these trailer seats until someone decided it was too dangerous for fifteen-year-old kids to be doing that and they took them away.  It was also funny as hell because the four of us would show up about 8:00 every morning but we would never roll out until 8:30.  It would always take us 30 minutes to get there and then our German supervisor would have to take a break at 10:00 which would last half an hour.  We would work until 12:00 and then head back for lunch which would take an hour.  It would then take us about half an hour to get back to wherever we had left off.  We'd work until about 2:30 when he would have another half hour break and then finish up about 4:00.  It wasn't until half way through that we learned these "breaks" basically consisted of all the civil service employees meeting back at the garage to drink a beer or two.  I guess civil service can be the same everywhere.
So it was usually up to me, Ed and the other two summer hires to do most of the grass cutting.  One day while out cutting grass we came across a couple of baby rabbits.  Now, we were curious as any teenage boy might be and we wanted to gete a closer look.  Big mistake!!!!!  As we edged closer to get a look at the "herd" (yes, that is actually the technical term for a group of rabbits) big mama bunny decided we were a threat and came right at us.  Did you know they make a hissing sound when threatened?  And they do have a crazed look in their eye when they attack.  Now this was probably the summer of 1979 but since I had been in Germany since 1976 (and Augusta, GA before that) I had not really seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  It wasn't until years later that I saw the movie and realized that the "killer rabbit" was probably just a mama bunny protecting her young ones;

Of course, blasting it to bejeezus with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch was probably a bit extreme.  This experience left a lasting impression of me and I've always equated the most protective act of a mother for her children with this mother rabbit's actions.  Needless to say we backed off and went to cut another section of the field.

This event also tied into another childhood memory of mine.  When my father was stationed at Fort Ord, CA we used to go to the drive-in movies quite a bit, to the UA Marina Auto Movie in Monterrey as a matter of fact.  It used to be something we did almost once a month and I remember seeing quite a few movies there.  I remember The Black Scorpion, The Blob and one that stuck with me for years, The Night of the Lepus.  What's that you ask?  Well, here's the trailer;

Go ahead.  I can feel your shudders of terror out there in cyber space.  But hey, for a seven-year-old it was pretty scary exciting stuff.  I had a great time but I have to admit it was a long time before I would touch a bunny.  And Easter would just freak me out.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't suffer from Leporiphobia I just happen to have a healthy respect for what these animals are capable of doing if you get them riled.  Which brings me to Sunday night.

It had been a wonderful day playing with the kids and enjoying National Ice Cream day.  We had home made pancakes and vanilla ice cream for breakfast.  We went to Baskin-Robbins for lunch and for dinner we had ice cream sundaes.  A little before dinner we noticed we had a rabbit in out back yard.  Now we had noticed this rabbit about a few times in the past but hadn't thought anything of it but this time the rabbit stayed and even came up fairly close to the kids.  It was a bit brazen in fact.  When it came time to move the bicycles off the front lawn and into the shed the rabbit didn't hop off like one would think.  No, it decided to lie down under the swing set and take a little siesta while I moved the bikes around not ten feet away from it.  The kids thought this was all fantabulous and we even got a few great pictures of our bunny pal.  Here he is placidly planning his next foray;

And here he is making an incursion into enemy lines to test the preparedness of our defenses;

Ultimately the entire family was delighted by our new lagomorphian friend.  He stuck around for quite some time and then moved to the front yard when the real fun began.  You see, I didn't want to scare him off but I did need to take out the garbage and move the car to the drive way.  But I was convinced he (or perhaps she?) would run off as soon as I got onto the walk.  So I kept checking every fifteen minutes or so which amused my wife to no end.  She started teasing me that I was afraid of the bunny.  Of course I reminded her of the killer lagomorph of Pythonian fame which only served to amuse her more.  But I didnt' want to scare the bunny!  I was enjoying the fact that we have a wild animal that is so at ease in our yard and I don't want to scare it off.  Of course the glint in its eye didn't help;

Beatrix Potter my henie, that thing is mocking us!

In any event I finally had to give in and move the garbage out to the curb and move the car to the drive way.  The bunny did move to the other side of the front yard but it did stay in the yard.  I guess it's not afraid of me lobbing the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch at it.  I'm just glad it didn't morph into this Pooka;

Now that one I may need to lob a grenade at, or maybe just pummel with a baseball bat.  It's enough to give you leporiphobia.  Of course, it would all be easier if like Raj, I were the King of the Rabbits;

Stay well my friends and I'll see you on the road!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Relative is as Relative Does

I have had a long association with the movie Forrest Gump.  When it first came out I think I saw it three times.  Then way back when Amy and I were "single" (which is what we call the period before we had children) we used to go away for our yearly "honeymoon" which basically meant we would take a brief vacation with just the two of us  to celebrate our anniversary.  On our second "honeymoon" - well, technically the third since Ireland was the first and Cape May was the second - we travelled to Savannah, GA to exhilerate in the Old South charm of the city that provided us settings for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and JFK among so many others.  Also the birthplace of Johnny Mercer of "Moon River" fame.  And since I had in the not so distant past performed for nine months with Andy Williams in the "Moon River Theatre" it was pretty cool to make that connection.

But the connection we really had to make was sitting on the bench in the spot where they filmed the bench scenes for Forrest Gump.  I'm sorry to say that I don't have the digital photos to share since we don't have on file anything before 1999 but use your imagination and imagine me where Forrest is sitting above.  Of course, when it comes to the movie, I guess the character I would most resemble is Lieutenant Dan (a.k.a., Gary Sinise below with his Lieutenant Dan Band)

(Gary Sinise)
(Not Gary Sinise)
As a matter of fact, that's what a lot of my ACT students used to call me when I first started teaching at Syosset High School.  Since the movie had only come out in 1994, it was still fresh in their minds.  Especially this scene;

Now where was I?  Oh yes, Relativity.  I'm not necessary speaking of the Theory of Relativity (not to be confused with Theory of a Deadman - a Canadian rock band) which as we know was developed by cyclist Albert Einstein while on a cycling jaunt;
(Let's see if I divide how fast I'm going by the number of wheel revolutions.....)
Nope, I'm talking about the feeling we all get when we accomplish something we've been planning for so long and then it happens and you're left with that feeling of "Now what?"  That feeling of wanting to still be relevant.  I've written about it in the past, in fact on numerous occasions

And I'm not alone in this feeling.  Recently I was speaking to a long time suporter of Connor's Army who runs a few philanthropic activities of her own.  I won't mention her name her in order to protect her anonymity (but you know who you are) and she was relating how frustrating it feels to do so much work and not reach the goal she had reached for herself.  I certainly do understand.  I had set a goal for myself of raising $50,000 last summer - the goal of trying to send ten campers to Sunrise Day Camp.  We only reached half of the amount when all was said and done.  And I have been feeling so incredibly adrift for the year since we got back because I felt like my family and I worked so hard and sacrificed so much (both financially, physically and emotionally) and now its as if we never did it.  No one remembers what we've done or appreciates any longer what a normal American family did just becuase it was a good thing to do. 

And then there have been the last three weeks at Sunrise Day Camp.  This past week alone have been an amazingly rejuvenating experience as I have been reminded daily of why my family and I gave up our summer, why I risked completely rupturing the disc in my back, why we risked out healthy pedalling in 115+ heat.  I have seen the joy in the faces of the kids that are attending the camp.  I'll never know which kids have been able to have the experience of Sunrise because of my efforts but these past three weeks have been a daily reaffirmation of why my fundraising makes a difference and continues to be relevant.  Moments such as seeing the looks of complete joy when the campers got the chance to experience the carnival with all the bouncy rides during the second week of camp.  I realized that except for the fundraising I and others had done, some of these campers would never experience that kid of joy.  Yes, here on Long Island we get spoiled by all the parties at Pump it Up and other establishments.  But for many of our campers who come from a more urban environment, this was the first time they had ever had the chance to do this sort of thing.  And there will be many more such experiences this summer.

And then there are the things the kids have said to me over the last three weeks.  The first week, five or six campers thanked me for what I did last summer.  Then the second week I was sitting at lunch with some campers from the Leadership group and one of the campers said to me, "I want to thank you becuase you've really inspired me.  I want to do something to make a difference."  As I simultaneously tried to hold back the tears and not choke on my sandwich I had enough blood flow in my brain to be truly thankful for that moment.  Becuase if there was one kid who was brave (and self aware) enough to voice that thought, there are probably more who are having the same thought and just haven't said anything.  And that made me feel definitely relevant.

And then this past week we suffered through and incredibly heat wave.  It wasn't like what my family and I went through in middle America last summer but it was hot and it was stiffling and it was hard on these campers.  And yet, one of the campers came up to me on Thursday and said, "We have drama with you today, I'm so excited!".  Now normally that wouldn't be such a big deal.  Except for the fact that this girl is one that I've known for three years now and who hardly ever cracks a smile. when she sees me.  Yet this time she was smiling and saying how much she was looking forward to doing drama with me!  Now that is certainly relevant and was just the reminder I needed that what I do at Sunrise matters to someone.

So yes, I will still continue to try my best to make a difference in the lives of others, particularly those fighting their individual battles with cancer.  And I will now also get the chance to help make a difference in the lives of my neighbors in Northport as part of the Northport Fire Department.  And I will continue to try to make a difference in trying to help instill the love of drama in just one more young person.  No, I may never again be in the papers (or host the weather for that matter), but that's really not what its about or why I do any of this.  To be relative, I have to act relative and try to make a difference every day.  No matter if it's not good enough for anyone else but me.

And as I voice these thoughts, I'm glad to say I'm back on my bike and training almost every day in order to be in shape for my next assignment as part of the Northport Rescue Bike Squad - you never know when my being able to pedal fast might help someone in need!  And if all goes well, I will start EMT-B classes in September!

So Stay well my friends and I'll see you on the road!

Oh, and for a little dessert after reading all of this about being relative, here is a clip of a song called "All or Nothing" from the band Theory of a Deadman. Hey, they're not bad for a bunch of Canadians (although the road in the video looks strangely familiar);