Saturday, October 18, 2014

Off to the Times Union


Effective Monday, October 27, 2014, the Cat’s Pajamas will be relocating to the Times Union. Working with the Capital Region’s largest paper will help generate a wider audience and a deeper interaction with the content. This is an exciting new chapter in the Cat’s Pajamas, and I’m excited to have the readers make the leap with me.

In addition to a more professional site and wider audience, working with the TU creates an opportunity for the Cat’s Pajamas to be featured in-print in the paper’s Perspective Section. Nothing else will change, except the URL, which I’ll keep posted on this site right here. The Cat’s Pajamas goes live every Monday morning and will always be a click away.

Thanks to everyone who reads and occasionally comments. I’m eager to start pumping out new opinion pieces to a larger universe. I believe the Cat’s Pajamas is the best-kept secret in the area, and now it’s time to tell a few more the little secret we’ve shared the last several years. I also believe Pajamas readers are smart, forward-thinking people, and that’s the best part.

The Cat’s Pajamas started with a little blog about my idea to bring back the draft: http://brianhuba.blogspot.com/2010/01/bring-back-draft.html and ended this past weekend with my take on the Hoffman’s Company partnering with Huck Finn’s: http://brianhuba.blogspot.com/2014/10/memories-on-move.html

The almost-five years in between we’ve discussed everything from pop culture, to community events, sports, and music. You’ve heard me praise THE SOPRANOS and defend Barack Obama. I called DMB the best band ever then abruptly took that back. This forum has helped me through some of the hardest losses of my life and the good moments. It’s been a wonderful story--it’s been our story--and the big wheel churns again on October 27th and every Monday after!

The last words go to one faithful fan/commenter who wonders the same thing many have wondered about the Cat’s Pajamas. His name is anonymous (think that’s a Greek name) and he says, “Can someone please explain . . . is this supposed to be funny or witty? My eight yr old has better sense.”

See you again on the 27th!

Brian Huba
10.18.14

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Memories on the Move


Remember the circa-August rhetoric about getting to Hoffman’s Playland one last time? Yep, the Latham-based amusement park was on its last leg, so bring your friends and pose in front of the roller coaster for those final Facebook photos. All that sappy media coverage. All that crap about reclaiming childhood memories. In the end it was a waste. Hoffman’s Playland lives again, as Huck Finn’s Playland, reopening on the exciting Erie Blvd. over Memorial Day Weekend 2015.

If you didn’t catch my sarcasm about Erie in the previous paragraph, I’ll clarify: Erie Blvd. is the most depressing blvd. on the planet. If you don’t know what Erie Blvd. is, let me paint the picture. As you move south on 787, going past the city of Albany on your right side, you’ll see a string of eye-sore buildings and brownish warehouses and rail yards choked in tumbleweed. Bingo was his name-o. You’re looking at Erie Blvd.

I’ve heard the talk about Hoffman’s to Huck Finn’s beginning an Albany boon. But I can’t imagine that stretch of industrial wasteland as a fitting backdrop to little-kid fantasy. And the crowned jewel of this terrifying site is the Huck Finn’s Warehouse itself. I love Huck Finn’s furniture and reasonable prices, but going there on a Saturday afternoon is soul sucking. It’s like they followed the blueprint for Birkenau when constructing that place. The depressing Subway Restaurant. The depressing loading dock. Nothing’s worse than Huck Finn’s on a Saturday.

I don’t know if the Hoffman’s magic can be recaptured there. Even the 787 off-ramp to Erie is sad and scary. You have to turn right at that creepy gas station and nondescript/crumbling edifice behind it. Then drive into nothingness before hitting the first business. The other reality here: the Hoffman’s magic isn’t that magic. It’s been kind of overblown for nostalgia sake. It was a few third-rate rides and a decent ice cream joint. The best part of that place: location, location, location.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope that Huck Finn’s Playland with that terrifying furniture retailer in the backshot is the marriage needed to jumpstart Erie. But I doubt it. The problem is Albany’s not destination now. Don’t believe me? Drive down Central Ave. tonight at eight p.m. Sure, it still has some good restaurants, and the biggest car dealers, and the State offices. But nobody wants to live in Albany or play in Albany. U Albany’s not even in Albany. They’ve been trying to get that Convention Center built since Bush I was in office. One look at the Greyhound Station down there and you’ll understand why that never happened.

It’s the suburbs now. Not just here but everywhere like here. Don’t believe me? Try finding a hotel room in Latham, CP, or ‘Toga tonight. You’ll get laughed at. Try going from Albany to Malta at four pm on a Friday. Hope you got a good book. Jennings had the best idea to build up Albany: do it through the bar scene. It worked for a while then the cliental changed. Party over.

I say Hoffman’s can never be redone in the City of Albany. They should’ve moved it to Ballston Spa or let this past summer finally be the Playland’s last.

Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Hoffmans-bid-final-farewell-pass-park-to-Huck-5809978.php

Brian Huba
10.11.14

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

You Can't Trust a Cat


I saw a posting for a cat in need of adoption. It was a beautiful tiger with gray fur and green eyes. And I thought to myself: 3 dogs AND a cat? We’ve flirted with the idea of adding a feline a few times. Maybe this was the one to move on. Then I read the info and the provider wanted the adopter to pay a $250.00 fee. This wasn’t an agency or humane society. It was a private individual. Instead of paying $250.00 I could walk into any Petco and have a cat for free and/or drive to the dumpster behind Hannaford and have a whole family. It was a frustrating ignorance of the supply-demand cycle in the cat world. I walked away.

You can't trust a cat. I’d pay $250.00, put the cat through the battery of vet fees and fixing procedures, then bring him home, where he’d promptly climb the fence and take off into the neighborhood, never to be seen again. Cats are different than dogs. I’m not sure a cat is even meant to be domesticated. They don’t seem loving. They claw furniture and crap in a box and go "rrreeeerrr" in a scary way. Here’s what you know with a cat going in: The animal’s going to give you nothing super stimulating but will no doubt cost you cash and heartache. The cat is such a selfish animal. It’s like living with a Kardashian.

What does one do with a cat? Do you walk the cat? Do you take the cat on hikes into the mountains around Lake George? How could you? The cat would take off in two seconds. I don’t understand why people get cats. What’s the point? Cat People strike me as people who want responsibility but not that much responsibility. Sorry, Jack Byrnes from MEET THE PARENTS, it's true. A cat doesn’t need human beings. At my mother-in-law’s last month I watched through the window as her cat captured and ate a mouse in two bone-crunching bites. I didn’t even know they owned cats. Yeah, they have several, they live in the basement. You’d know if several dogs lived in the basement.

Nothing rips my insides harder than a news story about dog abuse and/or those ASPCA Sarah Mclachlan commercials. Mclachlan herself has admitted to changing the channel when that spot airs. I refuse to read MARLEY & ME (But argue THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is the best book ever written, except LEGS of course) and bawled at the end of WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS. But cat stories don’t move me. If someone has too many cats and can’t feed them, just open the back door and wave goodbye. Those cats will be fine.

My favorite thing in the world is sleeping late on Saturdays. I did it today. I love rolling over in the wee hours of 11AM and seeing my little Sophie Dog’s face on the pillow next to mine. I saw it today. If I rolled over and saw a cat so close, I’d scream in horror. That cat was about to claw my face to a thousand strips of confetti. You can’t trust a cat.

The first dog we bought was Lola James, in 2007. Eight months later we added Sophie Cinnamon. Back then we lived in an apartment complex that went from young yuppie to the recruiting ground for Al-Qaeda in the two years we stayed there. The couple who lived a few doors down bought a baby beagle named Pepper. That dog was all the rave. Lola and Sophie loved playing with her. But something wasn’t right. There was a fear in Pepper.

We started having Pepper over to our apartment in the evenings. I’d come home from work, go get Pepper, and we’d keep her till dinnertime. When I brought her back, the woman who owned her would deliver Pepper to a blanket-covered cage, then lock her inside. It was eating me alive knowing Pepper was living like that. Then one day, that woman came to our apartment and asked if we wanted Pepper. She told me she’d charge us $250.00.

Check or cash?

Now Pepper (Pepper Jackson AKA "PJ") is part of our family and will be forever. She lives the good life. We don’t speak about her first family. I would’ve spent twice that much to have her freed from that woman. And I wouldn’t give any of my dogs up for all the money in the world. Money means nothing to me. But $250.00 for a cat: Are you crazy?

You may ask: How can a guy called the Cat's Pajamas write something called "You Can't Trust a Cat?" hmmm, ummm, ugghhh ... shut up!

Brian Huba
10.4.14

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Friday, September 26, 2014

I'll Repeat Myself


Last Monday I came across a story. It was about a bar fight at a place called the Paddock Lounge in Saratoga. The story said a 31-yr-old man (Aaron Huggins) and a 25-yr-old man (Jeffrey D. Mann) bumped into each other, exchanged words. This encounter climaxed when the 25-year-old man grabbed the 31-year-old-man and smashed his face into the concrete floor. The victim was rushed to Saratoga Hospital in critical condition. The 25-yr-old man was arrested on felony assault. Last Monday I came across a story.

How could this happen? This bone-chilling account of drunken violence, this poor man’s face messed up for life. It doesn’t get more important than the face, does it? Every time he looks in the mirror for the next sixty years he'll see a reminder of the night he drank too many G&T’s and made beef when some lug bumped him. And his 25-yr-old attacker’s going to be staring down the barrel of a legal M-80 for years. How could this happen?

Then I came across an update . . . the victim passed away on Wednesday.

Bang-bang, manslaughter charges cometh.

Read here: http://www.saratogian.com/general-news/20140925/saratoga-springs-man-dies-following-assault-at-local-club

His name was Aaron Huggins. He was 31. He’s dead now. He was beaten to death in a bar fight. He’s going in the ground this weekend. His name was Aaron Huggins.

Can anyone make sense of this? Whose life ends like that, from that, because of that? And my second thought: Aaron Huggins, what were you doing at the Paddock Lounge at 31 years old? You were too old to be there. You put your life in the hands of a barroom full of drunken twenty-somethings. There’s nothing more dangerous than a barroom of drunken twenty-somethings. I could’ve told you that when I was a drunken twenty-something. Back in my bar-going days I never said boo to anyone. If some guy bumped me or bad talked me, I tucked my chin and walked the other way. I went to the bars for one reason: girls, girls, girls. Can anyone make sense of this?

One day I outgrew the bars. I knew it when it happened. I sensed it. I felt it. I was 27 years old and the party was over. If I tried hanging on into my thirties, something bad would’ve happened. I would’ve gotten hurt. I would’ve done something dumb and blown the rest of my life apart. Aaron Huggins had outlived his expiration date on the bar drag. I bet you this attack happened at 2am. Huggins had no business being anywhere around 25-yr-old Jeffrey D. Mann last Saturday night at 2am. Why? Because Mr. Mann is nothing but a boy. And boys do dumb s#*t when they’re S#*t-faced. One day I outgrew the bars.

When I turned thirty my life became a closed campus. Now I’m thirty five and it remains so. I don’t go anywhere or do anything if I’m not in control. I don’t go to bars. I don’t drive down to Giants games anymore. Big crowds are a no-no. I trust me to take care of me, and the only thing that matters is what’s under my roof. Before I go to bed, I trace my property with a flashlight, inside and out. I lock every window and door. The dogs are micro-chipped, and only one person on earth is trusted with them when we’re gone. I don’t hand out spare house keys and I never leave anything to chance. When I turned thirty my life became a closed campus.

This is my life. I will never put myself in a position to be floor-slammed by some 25-yr-old who's had too much to drink. I’m going all the way in this life. To do that I have to stay alive. You have to stay alive. That’s the name of the game. There's no room for unwarranted risk. The world already provides plenty of that. I’m certainly not adding to it. This is my life.

I'll repeat myself . . .

His name was Aaron Huggins.
He was 31.
He’s dead now.
He was beaten to death in a bar fight.

And that’s how his story ends.

Brian Huba
9.26.14

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

I'm So Torn


I’m so torn. I’m the biggest Jimmy Fallon fan. I’ve followed his entire career. I think he’s the hugest talent we have in entertainment. Heck, I even went to the same college he did and walked the same city streets he once did. My connection to him is almost personal and I’m happy we have one of ours in the TONIGHT SHOW. I believe he’s the face and sound and barometer of our generation. So why am I so torn? Well…because the TONIGHT SHOW is a terrible, unfunny, boring watch. And every week it gets worse and worse.

Last night was Jimmy’s 40th Birthday Bash. It was must-see TV for us. Wow, Jimmy 40yrs old and on top of the world. That makes me feel successful and on top of the world by extension. After a tragically-unfunny monologue that starred a dancing panda and some cringe-worthy segment called NFL superlatives, the first surprise of the night was rolled out in the form of a three-tiered celebration cake. Inside said cake was the talked-about surprise guest. McCartney! Joel! Timberlake!

This was going to be big, except it wasn’t. It was a shirtless Seth Rogen and a shirtless and shaved-headed James Franco, playing stripper-gram cop. Ugh, who the hell cares? I guess it was supposed to be funny and shocking. It was neither. It was moronic. Talk about a letdown.

But alas Rogen wasn’t the surprise guest. They were just the tease. Thank God. And now the surprise guest… Drum roll please… Ladies and gentlemen: Mr. Stevie Wonder. Huh? Now Stevie Wonder’s out there with his big shades and piano singing, “Happy birthday, Jimmy” over and over and over and over again, as Rogen and Franco dance inside the open cake. After the commercial we got Thank You Notes. "Thank you, meatloaf, for having a name one level better than meat wad." What?! This is just old-fashioned bad.

My epical love for J-Fall aside, it’s never funny. I didn’t even crack a quasi-smile last night. The awkward monologue, the amateurish segments with the cheap props, the stale, same-old-thing interviews with stars who aren’t interesting...at all. This isn’t a knock against Jimmy, but more against the TONIGHT SHOW format and its PG-Rated sensibility, which are both unbearably outdated.

A guy dancing in a panda suit isn’t funny to me. This is 2014. You need to come way bigger than that. In the beginning of this TONIGHT SHOW thing, Jimmy just being Jimmy was enough to salvage the swing-and-miss jokes and dullest Cameron Diaz spots. Even that’s not enough now. And that’s saying something.

Of course when I checked the transom this morning, it was one on-line story after the other raving the hilariousness of Jimmy’s Birthday Bash. If nothing else he has Social Media on his side. And that’s huge in this day and age. And, of course, he has guys like me behind him. But how long does that last? How long can this Open-Mic night level of entertainment sustain in TV’s top spot? Will we watch out of loyalty alone?

Jimmy has the talent around him. Higgins is brilliant. The Roots are an A+ operation. It’s such a fun vibe and cool feel. And there've been moments, no doubt about that. But generally the show just isn’t funny. It's kind of amateurish. Objectively speaking: Leno was better. It was flat-out lame last night.

I have no doubt Jimmy will survive and thrive and get very wealthy off the TONIGHT SHOW. That’s not what I’m saying here. And maybe asking anything to be funny five times a week is unrealistic. Funny is hard. Even Stern took his radio show down to three days a week.

Maybe I’m overthinking the whole TONIGHT SHOW concept. Maybe dancing Pandas and meatloaf humor is right on with their target market. Like I said, Jimmy’s the successful one, and I’m the tool writing a blog on a sunny Saturday afternoon. So maybe I’m way off. Maybe shirtless Seth Rogen is gut-busting humor. I’m so torn.

Read More:http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/jimmy-fallon-surprised-by-seth-rogen-james-franco-for-birthday-video-2014209

Brian Huba
9.20.14

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fair Eastside


This past week the second security video came. It's official: Footballer Ray Rice punched his then-fiancĂ©e Janay Palmer in the face. The Ravens running back was suspended and his contract was stripped. You may remember the original footage from several months ago: Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer off the elevator in an AC casino. Now, thanks to TMZ and ESPN and Anderson Cooper, we’ve seen what happened inside that elevator again and again and again. Imagination no longer required.

The questions swirled: Did the NFL know about this second video all along? More importantly: Did League Commissioner Roger Goodell lie when publically stating he’d seen it for the first time this week? The collective outrage came (as it always does) and the calls for Goodell’s resignation raged. Forget ISIS. We’ve got a serious threat to the national wellbeing now.

Even if Goodell saw Video #2 before last Monday, what do you want him to do? The NFL has degenerated into Eastside High (that’s a LEAN ON ME reference) and Goodell has been cast to play Principal Joe Clark. It’s literally one player after the other being busted. As I’m writing this, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is being booked for child abuse. The NFL’s players union is fighting to get a stable of stars reactivated off drug suspension. The 49ers' depth chart reads like a rap sheet. Who could forget bounty-gate or bully-gate? What about Michael Vick’s dog-slaughtering ring? It’s literally never ending.

If Goodell dragged every NFLer who engaged in criminality onto the proverbial stage (Joe Clark style) and tossed them out, we’d be left to watch the PGA Tour on Sunday instead of football. There'd be no football. That wouldn’t jibe with the sponsors (It’s Jake, from State Farm) or the owners. If Goodell lied to cover Ray Rice, believe me, he was ordered to do so by someone behind the Oz curtain. Have you noticed the support he’s seen from NFL owners this week? Hello, McFly!

The two strongest forces in the world are nuclear missiles and suburban moms. The NFL's personnel is on the decline because suburban mom is no longer allowing little Caleb to play organized football. Not when there’s lacrosse and ultimate frisbee. Football’s becoming an urban sport. And the NFL is drafting these urban kids. They’re showing them real money for the first time, telling them to play this blood sport, or the bling-bling goes poof-poof. And make no mistake: You better have a touch of something like crazy to pass, punt, and kick with the big boys. It has to be hard to turn that kind of crazy off when the whistle blows. These guys must live their whole lives in the echo of that whistle. It’s Richard Sherman’s world now.

How outraged are we supposed to be about this Ray Rice mess? Ms. Palmer took the punch, picked herself off the carpet, and married him a month later. When the second video leaked, she bashed the media and stayed right by his side. Suddenly everybody's so righteous about DV. Exhibit A: This week, when asked by a beat writer about domestic violence, NY Giants’ Head Coach Tom Coughlin said there was no place for it in the NFL. Then he was reminded by said writer that players he’d signed on his own team had been involved with DV. Oh yeah. Cue coach’s angry face. Next question!

Now I have to hear that phony Drew Brees bash Goodell as a hypocrite. How’s this for hypocritical: Ray Rice is going to be back in the league next season. If a team was willing to sign Michael Vick, who’s as despicable a human being as you'll ever encounter, then Ray-Ray will make his way-way back. Believe me. You haven't seen the last of #27.

This past week, hundreds of women were seen wearing Ray Rice jerseys to the Ravens vs. Steelers game on Thursday night. When asked by ESPN why they’d do that on the heels of punch-gate, they explained their fandom for Rice and shrugged off the elevator incident. The fans don’t care. The owners don’t care. Janay Palmer doesn’t care. But I should care?

I watched the just-mentioned game on TV. It was halfway through the second quarter. The Steelers were driving. They were feeding the rock to a running back named Le’Veon Bell. He was cutting and juking and jiving. He looked great. And I thought: Here’s a kid who made his NFL dream happen. He’s doing it the right way. I felt good for him. I felt good for the game. Then Phil Simms, the CBS commentator, remarked on Bell’s arrest this past summer for DUI and marijuana possession. Oh yeah. I forgot about that.

Sing with me now, “Fair Eastside . . .”

Brian Huba
9.14.14

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Almost 35


At the end of this month I turn 35 years old. That means I officially made it to almost 35. So I started thinking about some of the things I’m probably too old to wear, or eat, or do. I came up with 15 of them. Here’s the list.

Fashion

1.Wearing my sunglasses pushed up on my forehead: I’ve never done this and never would. But now that I’m almost 35 I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to.

2.Wearing sweaters with un-tucked dress shirt underneath: I can’t think of anything sadder than an almost-35-year-old man trying to pull this look off. I say this with all respect to TV’s Ted Mosby.

3.T-shirt half tucked and half un-tucked around the beltline: Bro, are you serious?

4.Wearing clothes where the manufacturer’s insignia is displayed: The days of shirts with the Express Lion on the breast are done. I now uniformly wear plain shirt and plain pants. There aren’t graphics or name brands or logos. I take daily two fish oil pills to promote cardio health. I’m not wearing a graphic tee.

Everyday Life

5.Going out to the sports bar for the big game: Discount wings, draft beer, and a wall of flat screen TVs all showing different NFL tilts was once my idea of an epic night out. Now it sounds like a super hassle. I’m too old for the sports bar.

6.Pulling up somewhere with loud music blaring from my car: In high school having the big speakers booming in the back was cool. Then that phase ended and you just ripped into parking lots with your super-cool Third Eye Blind rocking. “I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend.” But now . . . I’m just not sure how "gangsta" I’d look with Dan Brown’s INFERNO audio-CD on full blast when I rolled through.

7.Being seen walking around the mall: Here’s the deal. If I have to go to the mall these days it’s most often to hit an anchor store. So I park outside Macy’s or Boscov’s or Sears, go in, do my shopping, directly exit that store.

8.Having a picture on a wall in my house that isn’t framed or behind glass: Take down the Bob Markey poster or that other one of John Belushi from ANIMAL HOUSE. You’re almost 35, my man. Time to put on your bog-boy pants.

9.Being a groom’s man: This has nothing to do with being 35. When I got married that ended.

Entertainment

10.Alive at Five/Rocking on the River/Outdoor Music Fest: Back when I went to see the Tom Petty cover band it wasn’t for the reconditioned music. It was because the place was packed with hot girls in their twenties. Now I can’t get hot girls in their twenties so I’m just going to the actual Tom Petty show.

11.Adult-themed cartoons: It stopped being clever and quirky and ironical when you were a junior in college.

12.Watching E! Entertainment Television: If you’re a TV network that airs a reality show starring Giuliana Rancic, umm, I’m too old to watch you.

The Other Stuff

13.Having crumpled McDonald’s bags anywhere I live, work, drive, or hang out: On a seventh grade field trip to Proctor’s I ate six cheeseburgers, a large fry, and chocolate shake in one sitting. But that was then and this is now. And now I haven’t been to Mickey D’s in five years at least. Is it still the best food on the planet? No doubt. I could inhale ten cheeseburgers right now, and I just had lunch. Lo and behold the cheeseburger champ has retired.

14.Pleading with my wife to throw out all wood-colored wedge heels: Now that I’m almost 35 years old, I need all parts of my life to look the part. This is going to cost me a pretty penny on replacement purchases, but I’ve convinced my wife to let the Kendall Jenner footwear go.

15.Rocking the baseball cap: I’m done wearing the NY Yankees hat to Home Depot. The baseball cap can only be donned when going out to watch the big game. But, as I indicated earlier in this list, I’m too old for going out to the game too.

Looking back I can’t believe I made it to almost 35. I’ve gotten lucky and been blessed. But this life has not been easy. It’s been hard. But it’s the wounds and the loss and the hurt that makes the great so great. Only one great thing has ever happened to me. Just one and no more. See what I mean? And on we go.

Brian Huba
9.7.14