Thursday, February 22, 2018

Today's MOZEN: Au revoir, My Friend

F LoBuono

Today, I had the great privilege of seeing my dear friend, Michael Novita, one last time. He is dying of terminal lung cancer and will be removed from life support tomorrow afternoon. When I first got the news that this would be happening I unabashedly shed a river of tears. And, he was worth every one. Michael is one of the most gentle people I have ever met - so much so, that he couldn't even watch violent cartoons! But, his race has been run. There is no escape. His life has become a series of tubes, wires, beeps, and clicks of the machines that artificially keep him "alive".

It's time to go, my dear friend. And, I told him so.

At the hospital, I found him tethered to dozens of machines who's flashing lights made the room look like something out of a science fiction movie. The nurse told me that he had a difficult day, so he was heavily sedated. Despite his lack of consciousness, I sensed a certain awareness was still within him. So, I stroked his hair gently and whispered, "I love you, my friend. Don't be afraid. It's OK for you to go." Perhaps, he didn't really hear me but I did notice him close his eyes a little tighter at the sound of my voice. Besides, the loving sentiment can only do good and no harm.

Of course, when it struck me that this would be the last time we would communicate on this earth, I wept deeply again. I will miss my dear friend. But, after my tears dried, a feeling of well being came over me. I began to realize what a great privilege it was to be there for his final hours, helping to shepherd him to the other side. Death is every bit a part of our existence. No one gets out of here alive. So, we'd better get used to it. Because it is part of who we are, we should not fear it. The more we understand this the easier it is to deal with. In fact, it should be seen as a sacred event - every bit as much as birth is!

After about a half-hour, it was time for me to go. There was nothing more that I could do there. I stroked his hair, whispered in his ear how much I loved him, thanked him for being my friend, and told him not to be afraid one last time. Then I said, Au revoir - because it doesn't mean GOOD BYE - it means UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN.

And, I stepped out into the pouring rain . . .

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Today's MOZEN: I Am Not Afraid

F LoBuono
In an interesting debate on social media concerning, what else, the Second Amendment, a friend stated that he was concerned with the attacks on its premise that all Americans have a right to bear arms. In his argument, he stated that he believed the amendment to be "the most important in the Constitution". Of course, not believing that, I countered, "Really? Even more than the 1st Amendment which protects our freedoms of speech, press and assembly?" Another person whom I did not know countered with "that's why our Founding Fathers passed the 2nd - to protect the first." My friend agreed with him.

Really.

What and whom are these people afraid of???

Every American has a weapon that they were born with: it's called A VOICE. And, it's more powerful than any weapon ever created. Generations of Weapons of Mass Destruction have come and gone through the history of mankind - from the club to Atomic Weapons. But, ultimately, non have proven more powerful than that of FREE SPEECH. No weapon will EVER take my voice away. No threat of violence will EVER keep me from speaking MY truth as I see it. A million atom bombs would not make it less so. Therefore, in the end, what is truly more powerful?

This has been proven again and again. Preachers of the Truth of Non-violence have been gunned down - literally. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and countless others have all met violent deaths at the muzzle of a gun. Yet, their truth, their words, live on and will do so forever.

Guns took them and guns could not SAVE them. And, they knew this. Still they persisted in their message because it is the WORD that will live on. It is the freedom that they sought - the freedom against violence created with our obsession for guns - that has made them immortal. And THAT, my friends, is real power. No gun in my hand or anyone else's can change that.

So, allow me to end with a statement and a question:

I am not afraid.

Are you??

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Today's MOSTLY TRUE SHORT STORY: Make The Photo

F LoBuono

It had been a long day. Work called me first thing in the morning to extend my shift from 4p-12a to 4p-4a. There had been breaking news concerning the terrible school shooting in Florida. So it was All Hands On Deck. Plus, we had a mixed snow/ice/rain storm in the evening that would make the driving from my work in NYC to my apartment in South Nyack, NY (about 25 miles) hazardous at best.

By the time I finished my shift, negotiated the slick roads, and made my way home, it must have been near 5 in the morning. One would think that I would be pretty exhausted by then. After all, it had been a hectic 12 hours at work and another 2 commuting. So, I was indeed tired. But, in order to maintain such a challenging schedule, one of the things that I do is mentally pump myself up with adrenaline.  I've trained myself over the years to be able to cope in the hectic, maddening world of TV News. Besides, it is not in my best interest to fall asleep on my drive home. So, now I'm hyped up and will NEVER fall asleep as soon as I get home. It usually takes me an hour or two with equal measures of bourbon to eventually even consider heading for my bed.

So, it was the case last night.



On my way home, I noticed that because the snow was so wet and heavy it was clinging to the trees lining the roadways. And, in the reflected street lights, it was incredibly beautiful. The next day was supposed to warm and, therefore, I knew that the scene wouldn't last. So, a few blocks from my house, I decided to make some photos of my neighborhood. Taking advantage of the contrast between the brightness of the still pure white snow and the dark shapes it covered, I decided to create the photos in Black and White. I was pleased with the results. After about 10 minutes, I finally entered my apartment where I quickly fell into my usual routine; a little TV, a snifter or two of bourbon, and, perhaps, a bite to eat.

After about an hour, I finally started to feel groggy. I got my clothes off, put on my nice, warm fleece bathrobe and a pair of slippers and prepared to hit the sack. But, then I noticed that the sun was beginning to rise, producing the most faint but glorious light. In combination with the freshly fallen snow it made everything appear a delicate shade of pale blue/green.


It was a scene that I simply could not resist.

In my bathrobe and slippers, cell phone camera in hand, I went back outside to make more photos! And, I'm damned glad that I did. I only made about a dozen photos but of which I really liked 4 or 5. I was grateful that it was early on a Sunday morning and, therefore, was  hoping that no one would catch me running around on a 30 degree morning, in the snow, in slippers and bathrobe. But, I'm sure that even if someone did see me, it would have been no big deal - my neighbors have given up trying to make sense of me a long time ago!

But, for me, this IS the creative process. It is rarely planned but, rather, organic in nature. If I see something, I make something. I am compelled to do so. It doesn't matter what time it is or what day it is. It is inconsequential what I may be wearing or what else I may be doing. If there is a photo to be made, I'm going to make it.



Many years ago, I didn't make a shot that, in hindsight, I sure should have. It is the one that got away. I was producing a documentary in China with another gentleman who happened to be an Orthodox Jew. One evening, as the sun was setting in the hotel room we shared in Beijing, my partner started his traditional prayers in front of the window. In the background, the sun was a blazing red disc framing the legendary Forbidden City while in the foreground my friend bowed and chanted. The juxtaposition between these 2 ancient cultures struck me both immediately and viscerally. However, because it was a private, even sacred moment, I felt that the noise of my camera's shutter would have been disrespectful to my partner. So, I never made the photograph. And, I've regretted it ever since.


Well, I swore that would never happen again. And, it hasn't.

See the photo.

Make the photo.

Always.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Today's MOZEN: Love in the Face of Hate

F LoBuono

Don't you get it?

It's EASY to HATE.

Perhaps, this song from the popular '70's band, 3 Dog Night, says it best:

How can people be so heartless
How can people be so cruel
Easy to be proud, easy to say no
Easy to be gone, easy to say no
Come on, easy to get read
Easy to say no
But too easy to be cold
Easy to say no
But too easy to say no


Our Country is awash in violence. We suffer more gun related deaths* than any other country in the industrialized world. It's as shocking as it is shameful. 17 innocents recently taken in Florida by mass murder is just the most recent example.

And, the debate rages as to WHY?

It's a gun issue.

It's a mental health issue.

It's a freedom issue.

ALL of them are worthy of discussion. But, ultimately, they are not the MAIN issue. And, that is HATE.

Simple, unabated, seething, viral HATE.

Despite our many advances in civil and human rights, we still hate wantonly - those who are different or come from strange places, speak weird languages, engage in behaviors beyond our norms, are of a different color or culture, etc. There seems to be an unlimited number of reasons to hate another human being.

And, this in turn creates a never ending cycle of death and destruction.

Let's take the young man who recently perpetrated the heinous crime in Florida of which we speak.

It's EASY to HATE him, to call him a monster and the devil incarnate. There certainly is no defense for his unspeakable crime. But, we must resist the urge to hate him. That's simply too easy and, in the end, gets us nowhere.

Rather, I ask from everyone to attempt the inconceivable - show compassion by understanding that this is still a human being - one that is seriously ill and, so, has lost his ability to show good judgment. Perhaps, he was born with the mental deficiencies that prevented him from feeling compassion. He allowed his anger and his HATE to overwhelm him to the point that the only way he could feel better about himself was to create great pain in others. But, if we allow ourselves to fall into the same patterns, to hate him the way he hated the world, are we truly any better?

Now, I don't call myself a Christian. In fact, I do not subscribe to ANY religion. However, I do follow the teaching of the Christ and others who preach tolerance, understanding, and compassion for ALL. They ask us not to judge but, rather, to understand. In fact, they take it one step further - they implore us to LOVE our enemies. THIS is the only way to break the endless cycle of violence. If we can find some way to do this - to love the most abhorrent among us - we will truly become divine.

This, for obvious reasons, if incredibly difficult to achieve (if not downright impossible). But, I do believe that if we love in the face of hate, we will win - every time.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/americas/mass-shootings-us-international.html



Thursday, February 15, 2018

Today's MOZEN: MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

F LoBuono

It's been said before - too many times! Unfortunately, it's time to say it again:

You get what you pay for.

We buy violence in almost every aspect of our lives - from TV to movies to video games. Almost all problems are solved through brutality.

Our society WORSHIPS guns and violence. Until we acknowledge this FACT (I can easily show you the facts that outside of, let's say places like, Syria and Somalia), we are the most violent on the planet, and we will continue to devour our own children.

Now. we are burying 17 more. . .

If this is not a fucking call to action then I don't know what is!

The problem is that we've heard it all before and nothing gets done. The NRA backed Republican Party (with many Democrats also in tow), continue to prefer PRAYING to acting. So, keep voting with them.. But, prepare to lay in a big supply of body bags - yes, the smaller ones that can accommodate a child's body.

And, I'm going to keep SCREAMING (and VOTING) until it STOPS!!!

That is all . . .


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Today's MOSTLY TRUE SHORT STORY: Shit Happens

Stella LoBuono

It was all planned - some of it even in advance. Now, any who may know me, personal planning is not my forte. In fact, I refuse to use that declaration in its entirety, preferring to refer to the process as The "P word". Now, it's not because I'm lazy - from from it. But, planning, often down to fractions of seconds, plays such a huge part of my professional life, I prefer to leave it there.

Stella, my mother, was turning 94 on Saturday. Traditionally, my family has never made big deals out of anyone's birthday. Certainly, there were exchanges of love and affection, often with a nice dinner thrown in. But, creating a fuss was just not our thing. However, when you're over 90, EVERY birthday is a BIG deal.

And, I wanted Stella to know that.

So, in an effort to make that happen, I went in to Producer Mode: I posted on my Facebook page a photo that I made of her at the Ol' 76 House in Tappan a while back that is one of our favorites - it's pure Stella - she looks right at me with the Celesti-Vitanza stare that her mother had - Yes, I AM here!

Well, she gets HUNDREDS of responses. I mean, it's overwhelming. I am incredibly grateful - and, a bit jealous, too. I pray that my posts would get such acknowledgement LOL!  It really is a testament to her life, well-lived. I wanted her to see that.

Now, and here's the very rare advanced planning part: a few weeks ago there was a sale at one of my favorite "ladies stores" in town; Maria Louisa. With my older sister in tow, we found a beautiful, brightly colored, print scarf - in purple - her birthstone and favorite color. Because of the sale, it was a solid value, too. I asked my sister, who lives with (and, TG, cares for) my mother, to keep it for me so that we could give it to her on her actual birthday.

I was working in the late afternoon of her birthday. But, there was sufficient time to stop by for a visit on the way in. The "P word" was put into action. I packed up my small, personal computer to show her the birthday post, signed a card, and got on my way. I'd get the scarf from my sister when I got there.

When I arrived at my sisters, I found Stella on her favorite chair watching her favorite TV show: HSN (a story for another day). She greeted me warmly and I returned her affection adding "How's the birthday girl! I also asked to turn off the TV.

After chatting a bit, I told her of the Facebook post and the incredible response she got. After scolding me for "being too public", she warmed up to the idea of connecting with so many friends. As I was setting up the computer to show her, I asked my sister to bring the scarf in.

Well, that was the PLAN!

For some reason, I couldn't get my Wi-fi to work to allow me to connect the internet. It so strange because in the few times I had used it in the past, there was no issue. No problem, I'll figure it out, I thought. In the meantime, my sister would find the present.

Did I say, that was the PLAN??

I had forgotten that my sister had switched her internet plan and that would prevent me from connecting to the internet and showing her the post! Then, after 10 or 15 minutes, my sister declared, "Well, I put it away so securely that I can't find it"! My sister was also in the middle of a business presentation on her computer rendering it useless as I backup.

So, in another words, I had a whole-lotta-nuthin'!

Strangely, for a moment, I felt a real flash of disappointment and even anger. After all, I wanted to make the day special for Stella. But, it only lasted a moment. It disappeared as soon as I refocused on what was most important: we were together, in the moment, and there was love. Nothing else mattered - when my sister was finished with her report she would share the post with her. And, as for the scarf - that'd show up at some point, too. I mean, it's SOMEWHERE in the house. Hopefully, it will be found at another appropriate time.

Hey, SHIT HAPPENS, I laughed to myself. All is well.

I stayed another hour or so and then had to leave to make it for work on time. I kissed Stella warmly, wished my sister goodbye and made my way to the car.

And, I felt good . . .




Friday, February 9, 2018

Today's MOSTLY TRUE SHORT STORY: The BIG Dance.

F LoBuono

It was nothing short of a miracle; we, the boys at The Madonna Parochial School of Fort Lee, NJ, would be allowed to attend the annual Spring dance - with the girls not only from our own school, but from the so-called Fort Lee Intermediate School (our town's version of a Middle School). Only 7th and 8th graders would be eligible to attend.

I was in the 8th grade and maturing early. So, I would certainly be going. I was already shaving once a week and much to my embarrassment at the time, starting to grow hair in some very private areas! In other words, puberty was not such much knocking at my door as it was looking to break it down. So, the idea of meeting a new bevy of girls, ones not required to wear the proper, conservative uniform that Catholic school girls were forced to on a daily basis, was, shall we say, appealing to say the least.

We had dances before at Madonna but they were segregated to just the students attending our school. And, the nuns, like some type of fierce penguins, enforced order with the strictest of discipline, especially when it came to "slow dancing". If you asked a girl to dance, a proper distance would have to be maintained between yourself and the subject of your desire. That distance was measured by the length of your elbow to your fingertips. If that gap were to be closed, either accidentally or, god forbid, intentionally, one of the good Sisters was all over you like a cheap suit to re-establish order!

And, we didn't know any better - so, that's the way we always did it.

The BIG DANCE was scheduled for a Saturday evening at the Recreation Center on Stillwell Ave. - perfect for me - I lived up the street, so parental transportation would not be necessary. And, best of all, it was not necessary to wear our standard, Catholic school uniform: grey slacks, white shirt, and "clip-on", plaid tie. I could actually add a dash of style to my ensemble. I think that I may have even shaved. Needless to say, I could scarcely control my excitement as I walked down the block to meet my buddies at the Rec Center.

When I arrived, I noticed the standard prepubescent dance protocol: boys milling about on side of the room, girls on the other, and a DMZ in the middle. The lights were dim and the music loud. After some good 'ol fashioned male bonding, the dares began - as in "I dare you to dance with so-and-so". Seeing how pretty the girls were, especially the Public School girls, I didn't need much coaxing.

My eyes was drawn to a dark haired girl standing across the way, talking with a group of friends. I knew her a bit from town. She was an Italian-American girl named Loretta Costa (not her real name) and lived not to far from me. It took me a few moments, but I finally mustered the courage to cross the DMZ and ask her to dance. MUCH to my surprise, she didn't hesitate at all when I asked, "would you like to dance"? She said "sure" and approached me with great enthusiasm. Since it was a "slow dance", I prepared to take her hands and hold her at, literally, arms length. Instead of following my lead, Loretta grabbed me and pressed me hard against her body. She grabbed me so close to her that if she squeezed any tighter, she would wind up standing behind me! I may have been shocked at first but it didn't take me long to not only accept it, but truly enjoy it! Oh, my god, is this how a girl feels - AND, smells ( she held me so tightly that I could smell her hair)? I mean, I knew that girls had breasts but this was the first time I would experience them firsthand (so-to-speak). And, I liked it - a lot. Of course, we were just kids - but, we were on the verge of adulthood and these are the moments that prepare us for it.

After the song ended, Loretta released her grip and I stood back to catch my breath and said, "GEE, thanks"! She smiled and responded, "Sure. Anytime". I believe that she meant it, too.

And, I took her up on her offer - that night and for every dance for the rest of the year. It's been fifty years since that dance and I STILL think of her and the night that she helped me on my way to becoming a man. . .






Sunday, February 4, 2018

When You Think About It: The Stupid Game

F LoBuono

It's a stupid game. Violent and bellicose. It has rocked me to my core; physically, mentally, and emotionally.

And, I loved it.

Football is not for everyone - and, perhaps, THAT'S why I played it.

I started playing football as a prepubescent boy in my hometown of Fort Lee, N.J. My first Pee Wee football team was called the Jets after one of the NY franchises (as a Giants fan, I was mortified -even then). But, instead of green jerseys, we wore red. I remember my first coach like it was yesterday - Mr. Hangenmeuhl (sp). And, we dared not call him anything but MR. Hangenmeuhl, or COACH. Anything else was deemed disrespectful and was not tolerated. Discipline, in every way, was to be an integral part of the lesson. Coach dished it out in spades. Tardiness was not tolerated. Talking back was not tolerated, nor was slovenly behavior. And, Coach always practiced what he preached. He was never late for a practice and gave himself totally to his charges. He only asked the same in return. Also, as a gesture of respect for the players, their families, and the game itself, he dressed in a jacket and tie for EVERY game we played. He taught me that there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. And, we were ALWAYS to try our best to do things correctly.

It was one of the many lessons that transcended the game and has stayed with me my entire life.

And, there were more.

My career in football continued through high school, college, and even a bit of semi-pro ball. And, I got pretty good at it, too. I was never an all-star much less an All-American. But, I was good enough to captain both my high school and college teams. Of course, I dreamt of playing professionally. It was one of my life's ultimate goals and I dedicated myself to the cause. But, I was simply not skilled enough, big enough, strong enough, or fast enough to compete on that level. Now, I don't live for regrets; it's not my style. However, if I did have one, it would be that I couldn't find a way to play professional football. Others my relative size and speed made it - why didn't I? I have to console myself with the fact that I did the best that I could for as long as I could. It just wasn't meant to be.

But, the question remains, why would I be so enamored of a game that promotes the violence I now abhor.

I suppose the answer lies not in the violence itself, but in our ability to overcome it. I mean I've been hit so hard by an opponent on the football field as to knock me into an altered state of consciousness. There were moments when the collisions were so violent that I felt like my teeth had actually been knocked lose. And, as often as I was dealt blows, I could dish them out, as well. I loved to tackle and, despite being one of the smaller players, set my college team's record for the most tackles in a single season. I would hurl myself, often grunting and screaming, at my opponents without fear or hesitation. I made myself a human missile - and, an effective one to boot!

As a news cameraman, I have filmed many spectacular events including a Space Shuttle launch and multiple hurricanes. Still, as spectacular as those events are, standing at the 50-yard line of a professional football game is as awesome as any of them. When the ball snaps and players start running towards you, it is as if someone has taken the oxygen out of the air. It is that intense. And, when they collide, often screaming at one another, it's like a steal door slamming. The crowed roars and they get up to do it all over again - and, again.

This is, I suppose, in addition to the raw excitement of the surroundings, is the greatest part of the game: you are going to get knocked down - repeatedly. In fact, sometimes, you will be knocked down so violently that you question your own ability to get up. But, you do. And, THAT'S the point - that's the attraction: it's not a question IF you will be knocked down, IF you will hurt. That is inevitable. It remains to be see not only if you CAN get up, but how MANY time that you can, and if you can achieve your goal despite it all.

That's why I love it.

Enjoy THE GAME!!!






Today's MOZEN: A Deep Well

F LoBuono

I am a deep well. Many have drowned within its depths.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Today's MOZEN: Mea Culpa

F LoBuono

It comes to me at odd hours and, often, in strange places - this deep feeling of sadness. I may be sitting on the couch watching TV and a movie scene triggers it. Or, perhaps, I'm driving to work and a song on the radio will bring me there. Sometimes, I'm not doing anything in particular except lying my head down to sleep when the sadness drifts over me like a blanket of thick fog.

It's not a classic case of depression. The feeling, luckily, is generally fleeting. However, even though it may be brief, that does not detract from its powerful effect on me. It reaches down into the depths of my soul to fill me with an almost overwhelming feeling of sorrow and regret. I think of all the wonderful people who have done nothing but love me and, yet, I still so cruelly rejected. I am confronted by all of the very worthy lovers that I have had in my life who appear in tears before me asking, "why, Frankie, why?" I have no answer for them except my own tears in return.

Because I have a healthy ego; I am never falsely modest. I know that I have a good heart and I have loved deeply, too, often without reciprocity. This is the Yin-Yang of life that I have often written about on this very blog; pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin. So, I accept the feeling, even welcome it. Perhaps, it may be because as I age, everyone around me does, too. That means dealing with the fact that I will lose, at some point, everyone and everything that I love. If that doesn't intensify your feelings then, maybe, your dead already and didn't notice!

Anyway, as I mentioned, the feeling tends to pass quickly. But, I still feel a need to, in a sense, counter it. It is too powerful to ignore - there is an important message contained within the emotion. It must not be allowed to fester. So, I commit myself to being more open, more accepting, and, in the end, more loving.

LOVE - ALWAYS!