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Sparky, even your name was perfect. You were my spark at the exact moment I needed one. Back in early 2012 I found myself alone for the first time in over 30-years. A few months later while visiting a friend out of state, there you were. I was in the backyard when, out of the blue and like a bolt of unbridled, passionate energy, you came barking and running through a couple fences towards me as if you wanted to eat me alive.

Instead, as I got down on one knee, you proceeded to shower me with complete affection. It’s almost like you saw me and knew – this is my guy, this is my destiny.

I left after a couple days, but a couple weeks later I got a call. It seems you had gotten into some trouble. You’d killed some chickens (allegedly) on a neighboring farm and the call was asking me if I’d like to come get you and take you home. I did, and from that point onward you acted as if you were exactly where you were supposed to be.

And Sparky, you were right. You gave me focus, someone I was responsible for. You were exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

Spark, since that day you and I have been inseperable. It didn’t take me long to realize that you were special. You weren’t just smart, you were scary smart. You did things that absolutely astounded me. In fact, it wasn’t long before you were reading my mind. From the beginning you knew me. You always knew me.

Spark, from that first day to the very last we were best friends. We were inseperable. You did everything with me. Over the past 9-years years, whenever I watched TV, you were beside me. When I slept, you were there against me. When I drove, you rode shotgun. Man, were we best buds.

Spark, you’ve been to more places than a lot of humans. You’ve been on the floor of the West Virginia University basketball practice facility during an actual practice, you’ve walked on more than one bar at local watering holes, and you’ve walked the beaches of the Outer Banks, Oak Island and more. You’ve also strutted that strut of yours down the streets of Key West, Washington DC, Cleveland, Chicago and many many more. And you received belly rubs and ear scratches from many of the people that you encountered. Everyone loved the little dog called The Spark.

Spark, a friend of mine in California read my stories and was inspired to get her dog Nikko just because of you. That’s how amazing you were. Even though you were a little guy you made a huge impact with everyone. My stories of your escapades were read by so many people. Nearly 1500 people responded when I posted that you were gone, and everywhere I go people keep telling me how much they loved you. I’ve gotten many cards in the mail about you, someone sent me a photo of you, another sent me a bracelet to remember you by, and someone even anonymously paid for your veterinarian bills! Everyone loved you. You were a legend, Spark!

Spark, you knew my secrets. I told you everything. When I was sad or upset you knew. When I was happy you were happy with me. You loved me unconditionallly and never judged me.

Spark, I only wish I was 1/100th of the man you thought I was.

Spark, I’ll always think of you when I see a seagull or a chicken or a person begging by the roadside. Hell, I still say “I’ll be right back, Spark” whenever I leave my car, and I still look for you when I return. Sometimes at night I think I feel you hop onto the bed, and sometimes I think I hear you drinking water from your bowl in the other room. Sometimes I swear I hear you sigh in the middle of the night, and I reach for you to make sure you’re OK like I always did. When you’d have a nightmare you’d come to me for comfort, and when I had a bad dream I’d reach for you.

I still do.

The other night I had a dream that I could feel your head on my chest. Of course you weren’t there physically, but I know you were there in spirit. The truth is you’ll be there the rest of my life, right next to my heart.

Spark, a few weeks ago you started acting like you didn’t feel well, and when you didn’t improve I took you in to get checked out. Turns out you were really, really sick and there was nothing that could be done. Afrer a couple days of preparing myself, I did what I had to do. Sparky, I wasn’t going to let you suffer. I couldn’t let you hurt anymore, man. I loved you too much. You’d meant way too much to me for me to let that happen. I held you as you crossed over, rubbing your head and scratching behind your ears and telling you what a good boy you’d been and how much I cared about you as you left me. And Spark, you departed this life with the same strength and dignity I’d seen in you since that first day we met.

Sparky, you helped me through the deaths of my mother, my father, my sister, several old friends and a former girlfriend. You were there when I lost a job that I dearly loved. It seemed like everyone around me was dying and you were always right there beside me to comfort me. You gave me focus and someone to talk to. And unfailingly, you listened to me. It was so comforting knowing you’d be there at home waiting for me, with that smiling face and wagging tail.

Nobody was tougher or more of a fighter than you. Heck, you even fought a coyote once. And Spark, I know you’d have fought a lion to protect me.

I will think of you every time I open a bag of chips, every time I see another dog, every time I walk into my house, every time I get into or out of my car, every time I drive with the windows down, every time I go to the beach, every time I take a walk, every time I go to bed and every time I get up. I’ll think of you every time I eat a pizza because boy did you love the crust. I’ll think of you every time I look at my recliner. It leans a little lower on the right side because I always sat on that side. Hey, I had to make room for my buddy after all. 

Spark, it’s like all the lights in the world have been dimmed a little bit since you left. That’s how special you were.

Spark, I’m proud that I gave you a pretty amazing, comfortable, happy life. But that can’t touch what you gave me  – pure friendship, loyalty and unconditional love.

I know you’re up there chasing all the ducks, birds, and everything else with wings, including the angels. I can see them all laughing and rubbing you behind the ears, just where you like it. I can picture my dad when he sees you. He always loved you. Oh how his eyes will light up as he sees you and calls your name.

So goodbye for now my sweet, beautiful, smart, loving, loyal friend. My life will go on, but it will never, ever be the same. I cannot wait until the day you spot me from afar, those beautiful big ears perk up, and you come racing toward me and leap into my arms again. That will be a great, great day.

You’re gone, Spark, and you took a big part of me with you. But I’ll see you again.

I love you Sparky. I loved you from the day we first met until the moment I held you and felt you slip away. You’ll always be a part of me, and you’ll always be my guy.

Goodbye for now Spark. You were the best friend I ever had.

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers

SPORTS PEOPLE;
Steeler in Disguise

The New York Times

March 23, 1983, Wednesday, Late City Final Edition

The patient who entered a Shreveport, La., hospital for surgery earlier this month was registered as ”Tom Brady” and his medical condition was likened to ”tennis elbow.” But the name was an alias, his doctor revealed yesterday, and the ailment was an analogy.

It could more appropriately have been described as ”football elbow.” For the man Dr. Bill Bundrick really operated on, he said, was Terry Bradshaw, the Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback. ”He’s doing well,” Dr. Bundrick said, noting that Bradshaw had been released from the hospital a few days after surgery to repair tears in the muscle near his right elbow. ”It’s the same thing as tennis elbow,” said Dr. Bundrick, who disclosed that Bradshaw had suffered from the condition for about a year. Dr. Bundrick said Bradshaw would be able to start throwing a football in June and should have no further problems with the elbow.

Wait. On March 23rd, 1983 Tom Brady was 5-years old. And Terry Bradshaw’s, I mean, Tom Brady’s, doctor was named Bill Bunderick, sorta like Bill Bellichick? Definite glitch in the matrix, man. That’s some sort of time and space continuum stuff right there, although I’m not entirely sure what I just typed. Anywho, for some reason the fact that Tom Brady has won 7 Super Bowls and is still playing great football at 45-years of age makes a hell of a lot more sense now.

My Aunt Alice Litter is simply one of the kindest, most caring and amazing human beings I have ever known. She will be 100-years old in January. Read the information below to find out how she’d like to be honored on this historic occasion:

Join us in a celebration of our mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great grandmother, aunt, friend, parishioner, and a woman who leads her life with the guiding force of faith, family, and friendship – ALICE SHOEMAKER LITTER. Alice is turning 100 in January 2022 and how does she want to celebrate? By giving back, of course. Aside from her home overlooking scenic Rt. 50, the place Alice loves more than anything is the Bourneville Christian Union Church. Alice is the sole living founding member and has welcomed thousands of faithful followers through its doors. But now, the church is in need of some necessary renovations and updates. Your donation would directly go toward:

  • 1) New asphalt paving;
  • 2) Metal roof repainting;
  • 3) Handicap restroom installation.

For the next 100-days, we invite you to honor Alice’s life and legacy and contribute any financial donation you wish so we can ensure that the parishioners of the Bourneville Christian Union Church and the surrounding community can continue its mission of welcoming those of all walks of life through its doors for the next 100+ years. Help Alice realize her vision to breathe a new life in to the Bourneville Christian Union Church by giving what you can to honor her legacy. If you know her, she’s probably touched your life in a special way either by welcoming you with a warm hug, sincere smile, feeding you a humble meal or putting you to work. If you’ve never met her, you’ve probably heard a story or two about how she raised 9-children, was widowed early in her life, held countless babies, attended countless ballgames with her lucky purple hat, tends to her yard (even to this day no one can drive a zero turn quite like her!), and prays for countless family and friends every day. As it stated in the church charter, “Where there is no vision the people perish, Proverbs 29:18.” Join us to continue the good work this church does for the community and assist in Alice’s vision to give back. March 8, 1938 marked the occasion of the official opening of the current building with the ringing of the church bell and with your help, 2022 will be another big year for the Bourneville Christian Union Church and a big year for Alice as she welcomes turning 100 years young.

YOU can make a difference by donating today to Bourneville Christian Union Church. Please click the link below to find the GoFundMe page that has been set up for this incredible woman:

HELP HONOR 100-YEARS OF DEDICATED SERVICE

Thank you!

It’s true. Time really does fly. Enjoy.

Kurt Cobain’s daughter Frances Bean us now older than her father at the time of his death. He was 27, she’s 28.

Frances and Kurt.

[click to enlarge & scroll the rest, man]

These are guaranteed to make you say “W-h-u-u-u-u-u-t?” Science, man.

  1. Sharks existed before trees.
  2. The Appalachian Mountains are older than the Atlantic Ocean.
  3. The first pyramids were built when wooly mammoths were still alive.
  4. George Washington didn’t know about dinosaurs.
  5. If you are trapped in a car, you can avoid freezing to death by lighting a single candle.
  6. In a span of just 66-years, we went from flying the first flight to landing on the moon.
  7. Humans landed on the moon before we thought to put wheels on suitcases.
  8. The coastline of Maine is 51-miles longer than the coast of California.
  9. All the planets in in our solar system, if placed end to end, would fit between the Earth and the Moon.
  10. Los Angeles is east of Reno, Nevada.
  11. Picasso and Eminem were alive at the same time.
  12. England’s Oxford University is older than the Aztec Empire.
  13. Stonehenge was a tourist attraction for ancient Romans.
  14. If you shuffle a deck of cards, it is statistically likely that you’ve shuffled them in an order that has never existed before and will never exist again. Essentially, you were the first person in history to shuffle them in that exact sequence.
  15. The can opener wasn’t invented until 40-years after the can.
  16. The stickers that are placed on fruits are actually edible.

Remember when people could laugh at anything and not get all hurt and worked up? You know, get all up in their feelings and get offended? Do you miss those times? Yeah, me too. Thank God for Norm Macdonald, who somehow survived these times without giving a damn about anyone. I mean, funny is funny, right? Being able to laugh at something has nothing to do with you compassion for it. Hell, I was horrified by 9/11 but I laughed at some of the jokes that popped up afterwards. Random thought – If I die in a weird accident, like my refridgerator toppling over on me or something, you hereby have my permission to joke about it. Anyway, watch this hilarious video from 2009 and imagine the late great Gary Giraldo getting away with it today. Be forewarned that it’s really off-color.

Animals, man.

And we all enjoy a good old fashioned gourd blowing, amirite? Seriously, some of these facts will shock and amaze you. Read on readers . . .

  1. Crows are currently experiencing their stone age, similar to ours, but we will never see these cool modern crows because we will be long gone before they reach the next stage. Basically they have been creating tools which researchers are saying are actually more advanced than ones that early humans made. They also have been studied domesticating wolves! They hunt with them, sleep with them, and individual crows have been seen specifically bonding with individual dogs, like humans do with pets.
  2. After 9/11, firefighters had to hide in the rubble for the rescue dogs to find them because the dogs kept getting depressed that they couldn’t find anyone alive.
  3. We’re closer to the year 2051 than we are 1991.
  4. A woman named Henrietta Lackscancer cells were preserved and found to be practically immortal. This led to a ton of discoveries and breakthroughs in the medical field. Her family still cannot afford their own medical bills and this was all done without their knowledge or consent. She passed away in 1951 from cancer. She was black and very poor and didn’t get great care in the hospital. A doctor had been looking for cells that lasted longer and harvested her cells, separating the cancerous and healthy cells. The healthy cells died while the cancer cells seemingly never stopped replicating. Her cells are named HeLa cells and have replicated so many times apparently they’d weigh a total more than 50 million metric tons. A pseudonym for her has been Helen Lane. She didn’t know her cells were taken and neither did her family until way later. The family has been through a lot. If you want to know more, I highly suggest reading the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I couldn’t put the book down.
  5. Sadly, the #1 cause of death for pregnant women worldwide is murder.
  6. People joke about Australia having so many dangerous animals, which they do have. However, the #1 enemy to Australians is the sun. Australia has the highest skin cancer rate in the world. An average Australian is four times more likely to get skin cancer than any other type of cancer, and two-thirds of Australians will probably get it by the age of seventy.
  7. Everyone celebrates their birthday each year. But we also have a deathday we unknowingly pass each year because it hasn’t happened yet. We simply don’t know what day it’s on.
  8. The TSA missed 96% of contraband during inspections in 2015.
  9. Around 40% of all murders go unsolved.
  10. About 50 kids in the US are backed over by cars every week.
  11. Many wasps hunt spiders. They don’t eat them, though. They paralyse them, make a little mud cocoon for each one, and before sealing it off, lays a single egg on the now trapped spider. The egg hatches, the larva eats the still alive (and still paralyzed) spider, and then breaks out of the cocoon as a wasp. If you ever see a wasp dragging a spider, that’s what’s going on.
  12. The funny T Pose that an anteater does? That’s Mr. Anteater telling you he’s seconds away from literally disemboweling you with one swipe. Yep, anteaters can kill a lion with one swipe.
  13. Suicide Squad has won more Academy Awards than The Shawshank Redemption.

The eagle was tracked for only 1-year. It’s interesting that he avoided flying over the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman.

Interesting. If you want info on any of the photos gimme a holler.

Man, check out that Tullimonstrum Gregarium. Cute as a damn button but not really. Also known as The Tully Monster, this dude is an extinct genus of soft-bodied bilaterian that lived in shallow tropical coastal waters of muddy rivers and streams during the Pennsylvanian Geological period, which was about 300 million freakin’ years ago. And get this – the only place the ol’ Tully Monster has been found is in the Mazon Creek fossil beds of Illinois in these here United States of America. That’s cray, man. Also, it’s such an odd creature that scientists don’t know if it’s a worm, a mollusc, an arthropod, a conodont (sort of like an eel), or a vertebrate. ‘Tis a mystery. Anywho, Tullimonstrum Gregarium.

[click to enlarge for the beauty]

Pretty incredible.

  1. Dragonflies are the most effective hunter on the planet, catching 95% of the prey they go after.
  2. There is a psychological disorder in which people believe they are a cow and it’s called boanthropy.
  3. The Mona Lisa doesn’t have eyebrows.
  4. A single spaghetti noodle is called a spaghetto.
  5. Pigs will eat the entire human body except for the teeth.
  6. The distance a squirrel would need to fall in order to die is 4,800 miles. This is because squirrels cannot die from a terminal velocity fall; they would have to fall far enough to die from starvation.
  7. The longest word you can make using the top row of a keyboard is typewriter.
  8. The annual migration of birds was only discovered in 1822 when a stork turned up in Germany with a 30-inch African spear through its neck.
  9. According to Mattel, Barbie’s real name is Barbara Milicent Roberts. And Ken’s last name is Carson.
  10. Mr. Rogers personally replied to each piece of fan mail he ever received.
  11. Mosquitoes have 47 teeth.
  12. Two-thirds of U.S. civil war deaths were caused by disease.
  13. Captain Crunch’s full name is Horatio Magellan Crunch and he captains a ship called the Guppy.

A good friend and former player of mine put this video together. Sparky was loved far and wide. I miss that little dog every single minute of every day.

Yeah, that’s Texas there in the middle. Africa is BIG.

Surreal. That’s Sean Lennon at the bottom though. Bet that’s why John visited the set.

Classic.

Interesting.

If that title sounds familiar, I wrote a story a few years ago entitled Sparky Takes Flight. You can read that one by clicking here. It and what you are about to read have similar themes. Here’s what went down . . .

Sweet Lilly

Last week I went to Paint Valley, a school where I taught, coached and am currently a school board member. I had some business to take care of, and as I usually do I took my dogs Sparky and Lilly. After I was done at the school I let the pups run around a little, then packed them up to head back home. Spark was in the passenger seat and Lilly was in the back, both just chillin’ per usual. Suddenly Lilly jumps up into the front seat on my lap, clearly scared of something. She was looking over my shoulder towards the back, and as I gave a quick glance backwards I saw the culprit – a huge fly that had come in through the open window of my Jeep. Keep in mind that Lilly had been stung on the snout by a bee a couple weeks ago and has henceforth been scared to death of winged creatures.

Note: Sparky is the exact opposite. It’s been well documented on this site how much Sparky hates anything with wings. Birds, ducks, chickens, bees, wasps, and a kid running on the beach pretending to be an airplane have all suffered the wrath of The Spark.

Anyway, back to the story. At that point I gently lifted Lilly off my lap and sat her next to Spark, told her it was ok and that we were almost home. I rubbed her head and thought we were good.

That would prove not to be the case.

As I cruised down the highway at 60 mph, out of the corner of my eye I saw it happen. In what seemed like slow motion, Lilly suddenly went up and out the window. As Sparky stared at me in amazement, I looked in the sideview mirror to see my sweet little rescue dog bouncing high and rolling through the weeded ditch, legs and head flying loosely like a stuffed animal.

Shocked, mortified and sure she was a goner, I pulled off the road and ran back towards where she’d landed, fully expecting to find my little dog (who’d already had a tough life to put it mildly), dead from a broken neck or serious physical trauma. I mean, no way an 18-pound Maltipoo/Moodle could survive a leap from a Jeep traveling at 60 mph, right?

Wrong.

As I approached where she’d hit the turf, another car was coming. They’d seen what happened and had slowed down. Then, to my disbelief, I saw the passenger door open as a little blonde furball raced from the ditch and leaped into their car. At that point my concern went from my dog’s health to whether or not this car was going to race away with her.

Luckily for me, it was someone I knew so they pulled over. They’d seen Lilly take the leap and were as amazed as I was that she was alive. I got Lilly, took her back to my Jeep, rolled up my damn windows and headed home, which was just a couple minutes away.

Bottom line, other than a small scrape on her paw which bled lightly for about 5-minutes, Lilly was fine. And she hasn’t limped or otherwise shown any signs of injury since.

I still can’t believe it.

PS: I’ve been putting off getting doggie seatbelts for too long. Looks like I’ll have to pull the trigger.

I’ve been reading up a lot lately on why people can be so negative and hateful. You know, those people who simply cannot quit holding a grudge. We all know people like this, folks who spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how they hate you when you rarely give them a second thought. Sometimes this hatred can last years, even if it all began with a relatively minor disagreement. Most people get past it pretty quickly and move on with their lives, others not so much. They cling to that hatred for reasons unknown.

You know the type.

What I’ve learned through reading and research is that people who are attacking you are almost always suffering themselves in some way. They’re unhappy. It’s called Displaced Aggression when they come after you. They’re miserable and feel like they need to bring others down as a misplaced way to feel better about themselves.

I also read how about how holding a grudge can do tremendous damage to your health. The alternative is healthy anger, which demands reflection. It requires that we take time and exert the effort to empower the rational mind to override the emotional mind. Healthy anger typically fades over time with appropriate resolutions, such as talking it out and resolving the misunderstanding, reaching acceptance, or simply ending the relationship. Either way you can move past the problem and get on with your life. In contrast, holding a grudge entails the opposite—not letting go or accepting a resolution of any kind, and with that comes negative health issues.

Basically, healthy anger calls on us to embrace a major aspect of our humanity – our capacities to reason and problem solve. Pretty powerful stuff when you really think about it.

I’ve spoken about this before, but part of the problem is the attitude that some people justify their behavior by saying, “That’s just who I am” or “I have no filter, I’m gonna say what I’m thinking.” Man, that line of thought has never made sense to me. To me it’s a sign of immaturity. As an adult it’s your responsibilty to try and be a better person. Making ourselves better is an ongoing process and continues as long as you live. Believing that people will just have to deal with you the way you are is an incredibly immature attitude.

Like I said, when people are struggling, whether it’s problems at work, low self-esteem, conflicts in their marriage or relationships, it feels much better to funnel their negative energy into blaming someone else than to confront their own role in their own problems. Because of this they lash out. There’s a great song by Rick Brantley called Hurt People and it describes exactly what I’m talking about. Here are a few of the lyrics:

Tommy Walker was a small town don
The scourge of every kid from three or four blocks
He had messed up teeth, he was ugly at best
Just as crazy as a rabid dog on meth
.

Well he broke my jaw once, said I looked at him funny
Cracked three of my ribs just for my lunch money
And I remember thinking boy, one of these days
That cold hearted son of a bitch is gonna pay
So one day I had enough, finally had to face him
I screwed up my courage and pedalled over to his place
He was sitting on the porch with his arm in a sling
And a welt on his face the shape of his daddy’s high school ring

And then it hit me

Hurt people hurt people.

I’ve had disagreements with people and I’ve had people try and do me harm, but I’m well past the point of holding grudges. It’s simply not worth my time. As I mentioned earlier, those types of negative feelings eat you up inside. I’ve learned to just let things go. And knowing there are reasons behind people’s negative reaction towards me helps me to understand and not go on the attack, to just take a deep breath, step back and stay above the fray. That’s almost always the best response. Have I always been successful doing that? Nope, and I have no problem defending myself if the situation require sit. But, the older I get the better I am at dealing with negative people and I know I’m a better person for it. So, if someone is out there hating you just understand there are reasons for it that may have absolutely nothing to do with you, smile, and go about your life.

Because you’re better than that.

PS- I had a good friend tell me the other day that I illicit strong emotions from people, that people either love me unconditionally and are extrememly loyal to me or they dislike me intensely. Why? I have no idea. However, I am fully aware of my inadequacies and I freely take my share of the blame in any conflicts I’ve had with people over the years. But like I said, personal improvement never stops, right?

Love these.

[click and scroll to enlarge]

Tastiness for a hot day.

[For more awesome food ideas, simply type the word “Behold” into the search box on the left]

Check out that Whip-Tailed Vinagroon, man. Dude looks like a lobster from hell. Most commonly seen in the desert, summer rains bring Vinegaroons out of their burrows in search of food and love. Vinegaroons are about 3-inches long and relatively benign unless you happen to annoy them, and then you’re in deep shit. They can pinch with their heavy mouthparts and shoot a well-aimed spray of 85% acetic acid from the base of their “whip” to protect themselves. Diabolical. Anywho, Vinagroon.

[To see a gazillion more cool animals, simply type “Cool Animal” into the search box over yonder]

I’ve written several stories regarding my trips to Montserrat, the amazing little island in the British West Indies. I first went there in 1995 to train their National basketball team and have been back several times since. It’s a beautiful island with amazing people. There are no McDonald’s, Walmarts or big resorts, but if you want a taste of the old Caribbean it’s for you. I was supposed to go back in early April of 2020 but you know how that went down. Montserrat is still closed to everyone but locals, contract workers and people like that but once it opens back up I’ll be heading back once again. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the place a lot recently and thought I’d repost some old stories and videos for your perusal. Hopefully they’ll give you an idea of how special Montserrat truly is. Enjoy.

Basketball, An Island, and a Volcano: My Journey to the Caribbean

This was my account of my very first trip to Montserrat. I ended up looking into a volcano that erupted 24-hours later for the first time in recorded history. Looking back, an ncredible story.

1996: Montserrat vs. The World

The story of my Montserratians coming to Boston and taking on teams from all over the world.

Nearly Maimed By A Cricket Ball In Montserrat

Yeah, the title sort of explains it all. Really short video.

Montserrat: Old Sugar Mill

Quick video of when I stayed in the Old Sugar Mill.

Thwe next few videos show us driving around the island.

Navigating Montserrat

Navigating Montserrat: The Original Main Road

Navigating Montserrat: The Original Main Road II

Navigating Montserrat: Nighttime

Navigating Montserrat: Daytime

Mighty Montserrat

Adventure in the Caribbean

Here’s some interesting info regarding the volcano:

Montserrat Lava Flows and Zones

For more awesome maps, just type Map of the Day into the search box on the left!