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I am getting up for a glass of Pepsi when I get an email. Any writer, author, or journalist knows this email moment. The notice pops up in my inbox and my heart takes a wild, insane, roller coaster ride. First, my heart goes up, way, way up, as my expectations climb. Then, it plunges because I remember just how the deck is stacked against me. I open up my email and my eyes quickly scan, looking for the words, “pleased” or “unfortunately” or “we regret”.

It gets much easier though. I have gotten quite a few rejections. In fact less than half of what I have written has been published. I take pride in the fact I have learned how to isolate someone rejecting my work from someone rejecting me as a person. There are many, many reasons why an article might not be suitable for a newspaper, magazine or blog and not one of these has anything to do with me personally.

If I get a rejection email but it is encouraging and positive, it is even worse. Maybe, just maybe if I had just been just a little better at writing or if I had changed one word in my 900 word article, it would have been acceptable.

I would like to say who the hell cares, but I do. It’s about the constant fight to advance in my craft. If the newspaper had accepted my work, that would have been it. But, seeing as they didn’t, I’m back right where I was, without any hope that I am headed towards my goal of being a respected writer.

Well, this is the part of being an aspiring writer that is much worse than the movies show. This portion really hurts. But rejection is as much an element of being a writer as writing the words onto the page. It’s as much a component of being a writer as the late night editing and the early mornings doing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest marketing. This is as much a part of becoming a writer as is every submission or every query letter.

These are the writer’s baptisms by fire, and the hot coals we have to walk across in order to make this our vocations. I have to constantly sell myself and my writing. If it were simple, everyone would be a writer. Every person that took a creative writing class would be a writer for the Associated Press. Every kid who worked on his High School newspaper would now be writing for The Washington Post. But it’s not that easy. There isn’t any clear path to my goal, no directions.

Rejections just flat out suck. It might slow me down a bit and make me question whether writing is what I really want to do but rejections won’t kill me. It’s great to be a writer the days when the words just seem to flow. It’s awesome to be recognized also, whether it is on the street in a store or in a restaurant. It’s a rush when people ask me questions about my mysterious job, when they say they enjoy my writing.

It isn’t these trouble-free days that separate the weak from the strong, the successful from wannabes. It’s not about the stress-free days. It’s about the hard days where my work is rejected or the days when I get writer’s block. No one told me the life of a writer was going to be painless. But, if I’m still standing at the end of the day, it might just be worth it.

I can’t allow my emotions to get the best of me when I receive those inevitable rejections. So I pick myself up and try again. I question, I edit and I resubmit. It’s just not about me. Those who are rejecting me are making decisions based on my commercial marketability. My personality and personal life play a very, very small part in getting published.

I don’t waste any energy anymore being angry or holding a pity party for myself. I have been to this rodeo before. I still go through rejection, but it’s healthier for my well-being and self-esteem to concentrate my energy on taking the feedback positively and utilizing the information someone gives me to grow and enhance my writing style. To focus on being a better writer.

I work on trying to hone my skills every day, writing and rewriting and rewriting again, reading the periodicals I want to work for to learn their focus and slant on the issues.

In all honesty, being published is an adrenaline high for me, an ego boost. I set my sights high and have my goals. I have to show my passion for writing and be courageous enough to bare my soul. I have to have confidence in my talent but also be willing to learn if I want a successful writer.

So I know the skyrocketing heart rate is normal when opening an email. It’s a very challenging journey that I am on. I can tell you from experience, it is well worth it. But hey, I’m 71 and have nothing to lose, so I continue learning the writing craft. And the best thing is, I will have something concrete to leave my children and grandchildren, yay!

I am a freelance journalist from Lockport.


At the local swimming hole.

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When I was growing up I was fortunate enough to have a few ponds near where I lived. One was behind a transformer station. This is the spot where I would go to catch pollywogs and leopard frogs.

The fun was in catching these elusive amphibians and I practiced catch and release. I didn’t swim there much though. It was a shallow pool, not much more than knee deep and it would pretty much dry up by the end of summer, hardly conducive for swimming.

There was a pond on the property just across the street from my house where I would catch catfish. This pond was in the middle of a 100 acre farm that had gone fallow and was a spring fed pond. As such the water was always cold and not very pleasant to swim in. When I did swim there, I could feel the catfish nibbling at my toes. Catfish will eat almost anything that they can fit into their mouths so I guess they had to see if toes were edible. All that you needed was a rod, a reel and a can of worms to catch them. Catfish are good eating but because my mother refused to cook what I caught so what I hooked was released and lived to swim another day.


This pond was deep enough for a small boat. I found an old Refrigerator that I used as a boat using a branch to maneuver around the pond like a Venetian gondolier. On the back of the pond, I made a small shelter from some branches and two old metal Vernor’s Ginger Ale signs that I found. I would watch the dragon flies and the birds and animals stop by for a drink. Mostly songbirds and the occasional deer would stop by. One year ducks made a nest and raised their young at the pond. It was fun to see them grow up. Eventually they tolerated sharing the pond with me. It helped that I would feed them.

These ponds were adequate but my favorite “swimming hole” was off Millersport Highway. It was at the back end of the property belonging to a construction company. It had a sandy bottom and had a shore line of sand wrapped around it like a warm, cozy scarf. This was about as close as I usually got to going to the beach during the summer. I figure the company had mined the sand for use in their business. This pond offered it all. We would fish for sunfish, chase frogs, go swimming and sunbathe on the “beach”. The pond itself was about chest deep making it ideal for swimming but it was shallow enough to heat up quite quickly only requiring a few sunny days to warm to an ideal temperature for swimming.

I would grab a towel and go to a friend’s house. There I would meet up with a few buddies and we would head off to our swimming hole, trekking through the brush and fields toward our goal. Along the way we would go “grocery shopping”. I love the taste of Concord grapes and fortunately, we would pass near rows of grape vines on our route. I used to carry a folding knife with a hook blade that I used for harvesting grapes and I would always grab a bunch to eat on the way, cutting them from the vine. I would puck them one at a time from the bunch and squeeze them, causing the tasty flesh to pop into my mouth. I would then discard the skin and enjoy the delightful, sweet flavor. Even today I prefer Concord grapes.

A little further along on our route, we would come across a field filled with corn where we would grab a few ears apiece for later. There is a way to tell if an ear of corn is mature enough to eat without tearing back the husks. You just feel the end and if it comes to a sharp point, like a pencil, it isn’t ready. But if it feels rounded like a well-worn crayon it is time to eat it. There were also some tomatoes in another field along the trail which we would grab and eat like apples. Nothing tastes like a tomato ripped from the plant and eaten this way.

We would then follow the path thru the scrub brush and across a grassy field until we reached the swimming hole. There we stripped down to our shorts or maybe just our skin. The pond was far enough away from the road and behind enough foliage that it couldn’t be seen from the highway so it didn’t matter what we were wearing.

After a day of swimming, we would gather up some dried grass for tinder, small sticks for kindling and some firewood and build a small campfire. We would warm ourselves by the fire and roast the corn. It was delicious. As it got late, we would head back home before it got too dark to see the trail, besides, I wanted more grapes before dinner time. I loved my pond so much. It was a place of peace and nature. That pond still has its effect on me even after all these years. Whenever I have to go to my “Happy Place”, I go to my pond.



Reel to Reel: Beautiful Boy




Beautiful Boy is centered on the two books “Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction” written by David Sheff and “Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines” by Nic Sheff. The movie stars Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, and Amy Ryan. It deals with the stressful relationship between a father and his son who was addicted to drugs.

New York Times writer David Sheff notices his son, Nicholas has gone missing. Two days later, he shows up in their home again. Seeing noticeable signs of of his son’s drug use, David takes him to a rehab clinic. Progress is achieved, and Nic asks to be transferred to a halfway house where there is less security and unsupervised time is permitted outside of the facility. Both Nic’s doctors and David agree. A few days later though Nic does not return home and David locates him in the streets.

Nic reveals that he has been consuming not only marijuana and alcohol, but other drugs for example cocaine, ecstasy and crystal meth back at the rehab facility. After Nic completes his rehab program and when he sees his improvements, combined with a big dose of wishful thinking, David decides to send him away to college to become a writer.

Nic’s newfound freedom and sobriety are off to a great start and starts a relationship with an attractive classmate. At his girlfriend’s parents’ house however, during family dinner, he discovers a bottle of pills while nosing around in their medicine cabinet. He takes one, and then goes back to dinner. After this, he slowly relapses. This causes his girlfriend to break up with him, and his substance abuse to intensify.

Ultimately he starts using heroin using the money his father sends him. About this time, David begins to become suspicious at his son’s slowly changing behavior. When David finds Nic’s diary he decides to read through it. Much to his shock, Nic had filled half the diary with drawings that described his growing addiction. On one of the last pages, Nic mentions that it is hard to obtain crystal meth in college, but he managed to score some heroin. We flash over to see Nic is looking into the safe techniques for injection online.

For more than two hours, I watched the Sheffs’ agony become worse as David attempts to help his son in any way he can. What was even worse was seeing Nic become substance free for over a year where he worked in a working in a rehab facility before he relapsed.

The story jumps around a bit Ala Pulp Fiction with flashbacks inside flashbacks that sometimes were reminiscent of Pulp Fiction.

Nic Sheff’s story is unfortunately, not uncommon. What is uncommon, though are his circumstances. The viewers can deduce by the Sheffs’ Bay Area home, from the Los Angeles skyscraper that Vicky lives in, from the breaks Nic had in college and in rehab that they have money. A limit to these resources is mentioned just once in the film, that’s when David and Vicky reject a rehab option due to the fact it would cost $40,000 a month.

This doesn’t imply that this story isn’t worthy of being told, but it’s not a coincidence that it’s Nic’s story that is being told. Beautiful Boy is a movie because the Sheffs were able to secure numerous book deals and caught the attention of producers and agents. It’s not just any drug addict movie that is being distributed by Amazon Studios. It stars the extremely popular Timothée Chalamet. There’s is Oscar buzz about it since the trailer was released in spite of the fact that it’s just one of many addiction movies.

Beautiful Boy doesn’t gloss over the horrid portions of addiction. Nic is occasionally depicted as a monster and statistics regarding how discouraging the success rate for rehab is. This is discussed during the course of the movie. The mental and monetary toll on families is clearly shown. The film also shows that addiction crosses all classes and having a good family, wealth and a beautiful house doesn’t insulate you from this problem.

Beautiful Boy doesn’t skirt around anything. It shows Nic diminished to stealing $8 from his younger step-brother and pushing his girlfriend to use. This is important to see, the drug culture at it’s most troublesome.

It was disturbing to witness Nic descend more and more into his drug addiction, but I was happy to read the in postscript that Nic is, alive and drug free in 2018. That Nic is staying sober today through effort and is taking one day at a time.

It’s about as happy of an ending as Beautiful Boy can have. It’s just not inspiring or triumphant. It underscores just how few addicts will end up like Nic. However I am glad he has remained clean and sober long-term and I’m thankful to the Sheffs for allowing others look at their pain on the big screen.

I give this movie 8 out of 10 popcorns  popcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37f


For home-style breakfast, try Toast and Roast Cafe



In my quest to try and hit as many eateries in Niagara County as I can, Donna (my wife), Ed (my buddy) and I popped into the Toast and Roast Cafe for breakfast one Saturday. They have an ample parking lot and we had no trouble getting a place by the door. When we entered I noticed how fresh and clean the place looked. They also had memes posted on all the walls.

This quaint little place is near the intersection of Military Road and Saunders Settlement Road. The atmosphere is homey and comfortable. The diner is very small, maybe 15 tables and a counter and they serve breakfast all day and lunch.

We grabbed a table by the door and Michele came over to take our drink order. Donna had water with lemon, Ed had his usual coffee ($2) and I opted for a Pepsi ($2.25).

They have a rather limited menu so it wasn’t hard to select our meal. When Michele came back, we told her we needed separate checks and she didn’t flinch. Sometimes it is a problem to get severs to separate the meals for you.

Donna ordered a #4, 2 eggs and toast and homefries ($5.95). When Michele asked how she wanted her eggs cooked, Donna told her poached and put them on the toast. Michele informed her they don’t do poached. Who doesn’t do poached? Michele said they could have them basted. We had never heard of “basted eggs” so Michele explained they cook it under a metal cover. She said it was like poached so Donna selected this way. Ed picked the #8. A bacon and cheese omelet with homefries (8.75). I picked a #4, 2 eggs, over easy, homefries and toast ($5.95).

Our meals arrived rather quickly and Michele even brought ketchup and hot sauce. The one thing I was missing was a “set up”, a placemat, napkin and silverware. She corrected this quickly and we all dug in to breakfast.

Ed pronounced his omelet delicious and that it had a good amount of bacon in it. He also said his coffee was good. My eggs were fine but the homefries were definitely not homemade. They were like uniformly sized, short, fat French fries. I thought they even seemed deep fat fried and were a bit crisp for my liking. My toast was thicker than most but it was so lightly buttered that I could not tell which side the butter was on. There was plenty of grape jelly packets table side though. Grape jelly is my favorite. Donna’s basted eggs weren’t at all like poached eggs and her yolks weren’t soft, more like medium.  Donna loves having runny yolks that she can soak up with her toast.

Like most small local diners, the staff and the customers seemed to know each other and engaged in small talk and chit chat. It looked like they had a number of regulars.

The bills arrived just as we were finishing our meal and when we looked at them we noticed neither the prices nor the totals were on them. They just listed what we had for breakfast.  Off they went to get this error corrected. I joked with Michele saying that I thought maybe breakfast was free.

Open daily, Monday thru Saturday 6:30am till 2:00pm and Sunday 8:00am till 1:00pm.
Takeout available.
Phone 716-297-4172

I give them 7 out of 10 spoons. 

Surviving childhood in the 50’s and 60’s


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If you grew up during the 50s or 60s, then you are familiar with how laissez-faire things used to be. We didn’t have very many “low calorie” foods, ate what we wanted, and we were afforded much more leeway than we should have had. There’s a pretty good reason why kids today aren’t allowed to do half the things that we did, but maybe, that’s a good thing.

Parents then were much less worried about what they gave us to play with. I’m referring to toys with choking hazards, lead paints and sharp metal pieces. I remember playing mumblypeg. This is a game kids (mostly boys) used to play on the playground where they stand with their feet shoulder width apart while throwing a pocket knife between their own feet. The boy who gets closest to his own foot wins. Getting the knife in your foot was an automatic win. It’s a surprise that we made it out of childhood intact. Why more kids weren’t injured playing Jarts or using easy bake ovens I’ll never know

We were never forced to wear seatbelts by your parents. Hell, most vehicles didn’t have more than lap belts in the front seat. The absence of seatbelts indicated that you could sit anyplace you wanted. The most coveted seat was then the middle seat in the front. This is when front seats were bench seats.

When you sat there, you could control which radio station you listened to. I always flipped it to WKBW, 1520 “The music people.”  WKBW dominated the Top 40 radio market in the Western New York area during the 1960’s. You also got the security of mom’s arm flung across your chest if your father stopped quickly. My favorite spot, riding in the car although was the “way back” as I called it. This was the cargo area behind the back seat of my parent’s station wagon.

However the very best place to ride was in the back of a pickup truck. No seat belt, no roof overhead, just sun in your face and the wind in your hair. A friend’s father even had an old school bus seat in the back of his pickup where we could sit.


Back then, parents really didn’t grasp the need for safety. Kids raced around on their bikes or roller skates without head protection, knee or elbow pads. You learned how to fall so you didn’t land and split your head open, skin your knee or break any bones.

Probably one of the biggest of the “what the hell were we thinking” moments of the ’50s and ’60s was “skitching.”  is a combination of SKIing and hITCHING. In its basic form, skitching was as easy as finding a slippery, snow-covered road or parking lot, and a passing car bumper.

The skitcher grabs the bumper, flexes their knees, and skis on the bottom of thier shoes through the snow. The car does the work and the skitcher enjoys the ride. Skitching is believed to have originated in urban areas in northern New York, probably cities like Buffalo with a regular snowfall (


In the playground in the summer I remember swinging with my buddies so vigorously that the legs of the swing set would come off the ground. We would jump off the moving swing and would be flying through the air. You had to learn how to “tuck and roll” so when you landed, you would not break any bones. We also had the burns that we got going down the blazing hot metal slides during the summer. We would steal our mother’s wax paper and slide on it. Waxing the slide would make it that much faster.

There wasn’t a nice soft rubber landing area in the playgrounds back then, either it was dirt or asphalt. And of course we had the Playground merry go round. That steel disk that went in a circle powered by your legs and could whip you around and around. Hang on tight!

If you had a younger sibling, then you would be given the task of watching them after school. You didn’t require any special training to be able to babysit. As long as you were 13 and could dial the operator, then you could babysit the neighbor’s kids when they went out. It was an acceptable practice during that era.

There weren’t health foods either things like quinoa, tofu or kale weren’t readily available back then. The less time it took your mother to pack your school lunch, the better. A whole generation grew up on Skippy PB&J sandwiches on Wonder Bread, a small bag of Wise potato chips and a pack of Hostess Twinkies,

There was no escape the pervasive cloud of cigarette smoke in the 50’s and the 60’s. From airplanes to restaurants to automobiles. There weren’t any limitations on where you were able to smoke. We most likely breathed in much more secondhand smoke when we were young than most people do today in thier lifetime.

We played stickball in the streets and went swimming in the quarry on East Amherst Street. There were no structured play dates and no cell phones. Yeah, being a kid in the ’50s and ’60s wasn’t without it’s hazards but we managed to survive.


The Wall :) /s

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This is a satirical piece. Be sure to read it to the end before you blow a gasket. We need a wall! I know this is might prove to be a very unpopular article but it is just the way I feel. I have never steered away from controversial topics and I am not going to start avoiding them now.
We need to keep the unwanted types from entering our great country. I am not referring to the very controversial boundary wall along the Mexican border but a wall between the United States and Canada. I know it might be hard to build a wall up the middle of Lake Ontario, Erie, Huron and Superior but maybe we can come to some kind of compromise between the Canadians and us.
Maybe they can help us build the wall. This could be a retractable wall so it could come down in the summer to allow us all to enjoy our great lakes. We put up an ice dam every winter to protect the power plant, maybe we could just make it a floating wall like that is. But the wall between us in the lakes will have to be very high to stop this foreign invasion.
Every year, during the winter the border crossings increase and I am sick of this. It has to stop! Canada should keep their problems on their side of the border. INS seems to be helpless in stemming this problem and I don’t know if they can. I don’t think they have the ability, the finances or the manpower.
We don’t seem to have this problem in the summer but as soon as the weather starts to change and the temperatures start to drop, the trouble starts all over again. Some years are better than others but we just can’t always predict how bad it will be. Many have tried but few have succeeded.
This invasion is so bad that you can watch it’s progress every night on the local news. Sometimes it has even made the national news. Our neighbors to the north don’t seem to care or even do very much about these border crossings. This invasion is even worse than the one caused by the “Mexican Caravan” as it effects every person living in Western New York. If we know it is coming then why, oh why, can’t we prevent it?
Sure we have customs and border patrol at all the main ports of entry but much of this blows right past them or even crosses the border in unprotected places. When this incursion reaches my home, I try to stay inside with the doors closed and latched, hoping that they will hold well enough to prevent the infiltration that could cause me to become another statistic.
Sometimes I stay in my bed, trying to ignore what is going on bet it seems like every television station had a person dedicated to telling us how bad it is going to be.
The problem I am talking about of course is the Arctic blasts that we get here every winter in Western New York. That Canadian import that comes across the lakes and dumps snow on all of us. We have to put up with school closings, shoveling, sub-freezing temperatures and icy roads because of them.
Just so you know, I have nothing against Canadians in fact I love our neighbors to the north. Both my grandfather and my wife’s grandfather are from Canada. I just don’t care for their weather. Be safe, stay warm and drive carefully.
Norb is a writer from Lockport, New York.

Mail order drugs.

bunch of white oval medication tablets and white medication capsules
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At my age, I take several medications. Many of these I get at a local pharmacy. The only one I can’t get from them is an oncology drug. I get that from an out of state pharmacy.

I have been taking this drug for over 2 years and receive it monthly. I recently had to reorder this medication as I was going to run out on January 22nd. I hadn’t received a call from them so I started calling them on January 18th. I called their 24 hour “help line” and listened to all the options and selected “1” to be whisked to a live customer service representative.

Four songs later, Corrine, asked me to verify my name, date of birth and address. This, I will call my PI (Personal Identifying Information) in the interest of brevity. So far so good. They accessed my file and asked if I was calling on my beetledopper (not the drug’s real name). Well, that is the ONLY drug I get from them, so yeah. I was asked how much medicine I had left and I told her I was running out on January 22nd. She put me on hold so she could check with someone. I think she went for a cup of coffee.

When she came back she told me my copay would be $2437.59. I told her this was wrong because I am enrolled in 2 programs that help me pay for my drugs and I was looking at a letter from my secondary provider that stated my initial deductible for the year would be $1303.00.

She asked if I wanted some financial assistance and I declined saying I already have two plans and I was happy with them. She said she would take care of this for me and that she would call me back later. In the meantime I called my secondary carrier, pushed buttons, listened to some music and finally talked to Mike. I gave him my PI and he verified the $1303 yearly deduction.

On Friday, I called my pharmacist again and talked to Jasmine. I went through all the PI again and she reviewed my file. When I asked what the holdup was she said they were waiting for a response from financial assistance. I told Jasmine I had no interest in financial assistance and was put on hold. Five songs later she came back and asked me if I was ready to proceed with my order. I said yes and I once again had to give her my PI (Didn’t I just give this to her 5 songs ago?).  Things were going well until she told me my copay. Again it was $2437.59. I told her this was wrong. That I was holding a piece of paper dated December 1st indicating my deductible for the year would be $1303.00. Apparently the larger sum was just the deductible from my primary carrier.

On Saturday, 1/19/19 I called the pharmacist (They have a 24 hour “help” line, which is an oxymoron) and I went thru all the button pushing and song listening until Latasha came on the line. Again I gave my PI and explained that I would be out of drugs on Tuesday. She told me that they were ready to ship as soon as they got an override from my secondary insurance. Well at least I was getting somewhere. Called my secondary insurance and they were closed for the weekend.

On Monday morning 1/21 I got up early, and called the pharmacist and was told to call the secondary insurance to get the override. I called the secondary and was told by Shannon that the pharmacist had to call them for this. I started to feel like I was on a merry-go-round. Back to the druggist and got on a conference call with Felicia and Ashley from financial and explained I didn’t want assistance from them and THEY had to call my secondary to get the override. I called back at 1:55 and was told by Evita that they were “working on it” and not to worry, they could send my prescription overnight. She said to call back later. At 4:20 I called and talked with Arianna and she said they were closing the office due to the snowstorm and there was no one there that could help me.

January 22nd, I called the druggist at 7:55 AM. Regina told me my payment would be $1758.86. Getting better but still not right. I was told to call back later. When I called back later I was told my deductible would now be $1502.  I gave up. I was now out of my chemo drugs. They said they would rush my drugs to me. On January 23rd, I received a call from them that delivery was delayed and I would get it January 24th. It didn’t arrive that day either so Friday I got up early again to call the pharmacist. As I was waiting for Amanda to check on my order I saw someone walk up to my door and ring the bell. SUCCESS!!!! The drugs I tried to order on the 18th had finally arrived one week later. Someone keeps calling me wanting me to order all my drugs online, telling me this is easier. This doesn’t seem any easier to me. I can’t wait till next month to see what happens.

Norb is a writer from Lockport. Follow his blog at