Friday, December 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: No Grey Areas by Joseph Gagliano

Joseph Gagliano was a central figure in the Arizona State University basketball point shaving scandal of the 1990s.  He has published a book about that event, his role in it and how his life took him there - and beyond.  I was asked to read the book and publish a reviews.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I was provided a complimentary copy of the book by the Cadence Marketing Group however the review is completely my own and I was never influenced by Cadence.

Admittedly I started reading “No Grey Areas” by Joseph Gagliano with healthy skepticism regarding motive.  He states in his introduction that he wrote the book in the “sincere hope for this story…to influence your thinking as you take your own steps.”

I didn’t buy it.  Even as I started reading it I wasn’t buying it.  It was as if a convicted felon was just trying to find a way to profit by his misdeeds under the veil of remorse.
An interesting thing happened from cover to cover.  By the end of the book, I cared about Joe.  I cared about what happened to him and I truly believed that he cared about what happened to the reader.  He transformed from Gagliano the felon, to Joe the walking, talking, cautionary tale.
He decent into bad decision making was gradual, but steady and unflinching.  An action junkie, Gagliano was seduced by the Chicago commodities market and the lure of easy money.  Scamming came easy for Gagliano, even as the voice in his head was telling him it was wrong, be it rigged Super Bowl squares, 900 numbers or, eventually, game fixing.
It was easy to push that voice back into the depths of his consciousness.  His story is even made more compelling by the legitimate success Gagliano attained through restaurants and then later in car washes.  He had the mind and the spirit to succeed in legitimate business but was unable to avoid the seduction of short cuts.  Eventually even doing the right thing couldn’t work out right and Joe found himself back in jail and writing his story.
While the allure of the book is the Arizona State basketball point shaving scandal of 1993-94, Joe’s story is much more.  More scams; more internal conflicts; more contradictions and, eventually, peace.  His road to redemption becomes more compelling as you read.
Most appealing is Joe’s writing style.  He’s good but not a professional – and it works.  Because it is his story and you can hear it in his voice.  At a time when life was bleakest he found salvation in an ex-football player preacher, an accepting parish community and true love.
I went from skeptic, to empathetic almost a fan.  I am rooting for Joe to make a go of life legitimately.  The breezy read will keep you engaged throughout and by the end you’ll want to see Joe make it as well – and maybe examine some of your own life choices.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Happy Holidays?

"This is for all the lonely people,
Thinking that life has passed them by"

- America, "Lonely People"

The holiday season is a time for family, friends, fellowship and goodwill.  The holidays are also, however, a dark time for many.  In several ways I’ve been reminded of this over the last week or so and it has made me tremendously sad.

Through a variety of events – both natural and man-made – my wife and I found ourselves flying solo for Christmas.  Christmas is also my wife’s birthday.  Because of the dual purpose of December 25th in our lives, we split the day into morning Christmas and afternoon birthday.  Usually we take the gang bowling at our local casino resort and make a night out of it – mostly because it’s the only place open!  This year it would be just the two of us with one friend along.  We would stay the night and have fun.  An ice storm pushed our departure to Christmas Eve and we had two nights there and I spent a lot of time walking around and observing.

He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there.”  

- Phil Collins “Another Day in Paradise”

One woman, loud and apparently exuberant, was playing a machine and loudly chiding it – talking to no one in particular but hoping someone would listen.  The sparkle in her eye was deceiving. It dissolved swiftly to an emptiness; a longing to be heard; to communicate; to have contact with another person. Funny at first, her act wore on those around her and they stopped playing along.  The more desperate she was, the more outrageous she would become.  Negative attention was still attention.  She eventually left, broke and broken. A smile on her face but a terrible sadness behind her eyes.

An older couple at the otherwise empty bar after midnight.  Eve was becoming Day but here last call was approaching and another drink was in order.  Faces red from time at the bar not from the ice storm outside, they talked at each other.  Heads down, no signs of closeness but a shared sadness was evident.

“Merry Christmas,” he said to her with not even a trace of a smile.

“Yeah…” she replied, never looking up.

No more words were spoken between the two.  Any intimacies they once shared were gone, beaten down by time and circumstance.  What it was that caused such obvious sadness wasn’t evident, but it was there.

“So many faces in and out of my life
Some will last
Some will just be now and then
Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes
I'm afraid it's time for goodbye again”

-          Billy Joel, “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”

On the eve of the Eve a friend passed away in Vegas.  Young guy.  Bright, talented, larger than life in many ways.  The circumstances were sad but ultimately, after losing his wife suddenly a year ago, I believe that he gave up.  I cannot imagine the magnitude of that loss on someone and for him it was the beginning of the end.  Only a couple of days before Christmas he lost his battle with infection and a series of small strokes and went to join his beloved wife.

One of my very dear friends, family really, lost her dad a few days before Christmas.  The man could light up a room and everyone in it.  Now that light was gone. A husband, father, grandfather and all around wonderful man was gone after a very long and courageous battle with cancer. For nearly 20-years I was able to call him my friend and, while my sense of loss is deep, it does not compare to his wife, children and many grandchildren that will now see the holiday season as a sad time.

Are these life’s blows that cause one to find themselves in a casino bar on Christmas Eve, unsmilingly drinking away heartache or causing an isolation so painful that in a desperate desire for human contact you resort to making a spectacle of yourself?

I’d like to wrap this up in a neat bow and a deep and meaningful conclusion, but I’m not sure that there is one.  It just “is”.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Letter To My Hetero Life Mate

A Letter To My Hetero Life Mate


I was going to write a blog about procrastination, but I put it off until later *Rim Shot*. I will be here all weekend and don’t forget to tip your waitress and for sure order the salmon special!

There are times when I think that the only reason we are still friends is because we know too much about each other and that the statue  of limitations isn’t up for most of the stuff we have done. Then there are times like last week, when you constantly checked up on me, even with a quick text or call. You have no idea how much that meant to me. You are by far the best man I know.

There are things that will always remind me of you:
  •  Any time I see or hear a reference to “Remember the Alamo”
  •  Any time I see a hot dog vendor or hear a really bad Italian accent
  •  When I find myself lying in bed, with the same clothes on from the night before, but there are holes in the knees of my pants and my palms are filthy and have gravel pressing into them. (Dick move by the way)
  •  Any time I hear Batman’s girlfriends name
  •  Any time I see a Lamborghini and wonder how a fat guy could get in and out of that car
  •  Any time I take a 4 hour lunch break to play craps or miniature golf
  •  Any time I find out that somebody was “raised by wolves”
  • Any time I run into somebody named “Jose Marimba”
  •  Any time I turn a rental car in and they need to just throw it away instead of clean it out
You know, every day stuff!

And there are not so funny memories we share, breakups, illnesses, watching the fall of the World Trade Towers.  You were with me during some of the hardest parts of my life. Every step, and you and I know how rough some of those steps were.

Today we live 1600 miles apart and you are still there for me when I need you. Always giving me advice based on what’s best for me and not just your opinion. It’s like having my own Jiminy Cricket. You are also not afraid to tell me things I don’t want to hear or disagree with.

So today I am sitting here in my favorite pub, drinking bad coffee and laughing at all of our old mishaps and adventures. I miss seeing you every day but know you’re only a call or text away so I can get some of that old fashioned New England wisdom.**Chowda**

I will end this by saying it again; you are the best man I have ever known and thank you for all these years of your friendship. I look forward to many more years of this.

With love and affection (not in THAT way, but there’s nothing wrong with that…)

Your Buddy Chris