Tag Archives: Philadelphia Eagles

Philly Sports Radio Personality Trevelise on debut episode of The Liberty Belle Hour on BTR

One of the many things I am incredibly blessed with are good friends who consistently look out for my best interests, as I do theirs. This kind of reciprocity makes life not only fulfilling, but also rewarding — I can’t think of anything better than to be in a position to truly help someone with real talent achieve their dreams. Many continue to assist me in this regard, particularly my good friend, ardent supporter and fellow writer, Don Smith, who called me excitedly last night with some pretty welcome news.

Seems Don, who now writes for Patch.com as well as InvestComics, made the acquaintance of Philly sportsradio personality Steve Trevelise, from 610 AM, WIP. After apprising him about me, The Liberty Belle Hour, Water Signs and my passion for Philly teams like the Eagles, Steve expressed an interest in being a guest on the debut episode of The Liberty Belle Hour on BlogTalkRadio on August 5 — as well as bringing me on to his show, which runs from 11 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Steve and I confirmed everything via email this morning, and I am really looking forward to it!

As readers of Water Signs know, the Eagles and Phillies play a prominent role in defining my characters and painting the portrait of the Philly/suburbs/South Jersey culture. Being an avid Giants fan, I am sure Steve will take me to task over a few things — like the fact that unlike the Giants — the Eagles have yet to win a Super Bowl. But maybe we’ll bond over a shared dislike of the Dallas Cowboys! ūüėČ

Anyway, I hope you’ll tune in to both the debut of The Liberty Belle Hour on BlogTalkRadio and my appearance on Trevelise’s show on WIP on August 5.

And thank you again to Don for being a stellar friend and staunch supporter of me and my work!

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The Food of Water Signs: Provolone Cheese & Tomato Pie

In Water Signs as in life, regional foods were an integral enhancement to every celebration and sporting event. My mom was the party planner extraordinaire, the hostess with the mostess — the family organizer and Philly sports fanatic who would create well-thought-out or impromptu gatherings centering around every milestone. Whether it was a First Holy Communion, the Flyers in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Phillies in the World Series or the Eagles confronting an NFC Division rival, Mom made sure there was plenty of great food to complement the occasion.

Good thing too, because as anyone who’s been a lifelong Philly sports fan can attest, more often than not, the food is the only thing left to celebrate after the clock runs out. A certain January in 1981 comes to mind when — off of the high of beating the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game (an event I was lucky enough to attend in person with brother Paul and sister Carolyn…brrr!), the Eagles completely collapsed under pressure, losing to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV, 27-10. ¬†The 1981 NFC Championship that preceded the Super Bowl letdown is recounted in vivid detail by Maddy during a scene in which she and Ken have dinner with her mother and Aunt Maria in Ocean City, New Jersey.

In Chapter Six, Ken and Maddy share a picnic on the beach featuring Italian wedding cookies, provolone cheese from South Philly and tomato pie — all of which are popular delicacies in the Southeastern PA/Philly/South Jersey area. Every Christmas, my mom used to drive down to the 9th Street Market in South Philly specifically to buy provolone, along with other things not typically done as well in the suburbs. Sometimes this entailed standing in line for hours, but in the end, it was so worth it when said provolone was accompanied by roasted peppers and fresh Italian bread (yum!) as a prelude to a fabulous meal. Now, that’s what I call Italian soul food!

Tomato Pie: Wildly popular in the Philly suburbs, Philly and South Jersey, but still an unknown phenomenon north of Trenton.

Last September, I was invited to speak at the Hawthorne Writers Group by my good friend, Don Smith. After some collaboration about the event, we decided it would be fun to include a few of the foods mentioned in Water Signs as refreshments. At the time, I was visiting my parents in Newtown Square, PA so baking the Italian wedding cookies was an easy proposition. However, I felt it would be best to actually purchase tomato pie somewhere in and around Hawthorne (which is located just 22 miles from Manhattan in North Jersey), rather than schlep it in the car for the 2 1/2 hour ride. It never occurred to me that this delicious variation of pizza had not yet been discovered  in Central and/or Northern New Jersey.

But when I went online to find some bakeries and pizza places in the Hawthorne area and began to make calls, you might have thought I was inquiring about some obscure, exotic foodstuff known only to a select group of elite chefs. Most of my conversations went something like this:

Hello, do you have tomato pie?”

“Uh, what? Tomato pie? Never heard of it. What’s that?”

“Well, it’s kind of like pizza, except it has a special kind of dough with tomato sauce and grated cheese sprinkled on top.”

“Uh, no we don’t have that, but we do have the best New Yawk style pizza around!”

“No, I am looking for tomato pie, not New York style pizza.”

“Sorry lady, can’t help you!”

In the end, I ordered two tomato pies from Genuardi’s Supermarket, which I managed to keep fresh and uneaten during the trek north. And both the wedding cookies and the tomato pies were a big hit with the crowd — almost as big a hit as Wilbert Montgomery’s touchdown run against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. ūüôā

Next Post: Regional brands including Wawa, Tastykake and Herr’s.

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More On The Men of Water Signs

In Maddy’s Men, I explored the fictional male characters Maddy dates before and after Ken’s entrance into her life — all of whom were based on actual people and circumstances. With this follow-up post, I want to touch upon one not previously mentioned, and expand upon one I already covered, Mark Donnelly, since the character merits more than two paragraphs. Ironically, he is also connected to Tag Russell, both in real life and fiction. It’s only through flashback however, that readers learn of this association.

Chapter 26 opens with Madeline approaching the Guard Gate at Journey’s End, a lovely community of single-family homes in Lake Worth, Florida. Her dear friend Audrey Solomon (based on an actual person, my treasured friend Martha J. Solomon) has arranged a luncheon in Maddy’s honor, to celebrate her new work promotion as a Content Manager for an e-marketing firm in downtown Fort Lauderdale (in another post, I will explain how this is a fusion of fact and fiction).

Being in the neighborhood again reminds Madeline of another joyful memory — that of her 40th Birthday Party, which took place in the Journey’s End Clubhouse:

Though initially not quite thrilled about reaching that particular milestone, Maddy perked up when she and Audrey developed the celebration’s original theme, incorporating a lifetime of the birthday girl’s most cherished things, from the Philadelphia Eagles to Italian wedding cookies. The catered event also included a deejay and personalized decorations, ¬†including Madame Alexander dolls, original “books” written by Madeline as a child, and even well-placed packages of Tastykakes.

And yes, the above paragraph is true-to-life; Marti (Audrey) gave me the idea ¬†for the party’s theme as we sat around the kitchen table over coffee one night at her house. As one creative idea led to another, I kind of got over the significant “number” aspect of the birthday, choosing instead to celebrate all of the people, places and events that had shaped my life up to that point. Besides, a girl can never get tired of hearing people say, “You’re how old? You look like you’re about 28!

Also true: my collection of Madame Alexander dolls; two journals I’d used to write my first “books” as a nine-year-old, complete with illustrations; Philadelphia Eagles & Phillies memorabilia, Tastykakes, soft pretzels, Italian wedding cookies and photos in¬†Lucite¬†frames everywhere.

More on all of this in another post, including the female friendships of Water Signs. But back to the men.

As she continues through the entrance on her way to Audrey’s, Madeline also remembers the recent past, specifically Tag Russell, a man she’d met soon after purchasing her new condo in Boca Bayou. A loan officer at the bank for which she worked at the time, Maddy knew him for nearly a year before ever actually going out with him:

For almost twelve months, she regarded his constant flirting as nothing more than a pleasant workday diversion; after all, Tag never behaved inappropriately, nor  did he initiate any gatherings outside the office.

Here’s where a significant public event makes a personal impact on Maddy’s life. When the horrific events of September 11, 2001 unfolded, she — like so many others — was engaged in what she thought would be another typical day at the office. Overcome with emotion, a hysterical Madeline seeks out the comfort of Tag’s embrace. In the aftermath of lingering fear and worry about the future — coupled with an intense desire to have someone special in her life — she embarks upon an ill-fated romance with the handsome charmer, who in the end breaks her heart:

The relationship’s failure had mainly been a function of Tag’s inability to move beyond the dissolution of his marriage and an early childhood tragedy — two events that had rendered him emotionally unavailable. A handsome man with wavy brown hair, blue eyes, a mischievous smile and ready sense of humor, he and Maddy shared an intense chemistry, along with a mutual affection.

…But no amount of concerts, Marlins games, Harley rides or pool-playing sessions at Gatsby’s could save this doomed relationship. Whereas Madeline fell in love with the highly successful, hard-working loan officer, the most he could offer was an occasional good time — on his terms of course. And when his insecurity about being twelve years her senior finally got to him, he ended the dalliance altogether.

This is all very reflective of real life, down to the physical description of the character. There were moments — albeit fleeting ones — when this guy would let his true feelings out, which, while indicative of genuine affection for me, were also admonitions to run as far away as I could, since he would only end up hurting me.

I should have listened the first time, but unfortunately an intense physical attraction tends to obscure the underlying, critical facts.This is also where Tag Russell and Mark Donnelly have much in common.

How else to explain why Madeline (like me) even has  anything to do with Mark after he stands her up for a SunFest date he himself initiates just the night before? Too damn nice, for one thing. But I digress.

That “Hey, I changed my mind about taking you to SunFest” scene in the novel mirrors my real-life experience, happening just around the time the married guy at the pool asks Madeline if she would go out with him if not for the small matter of his lifetime commitment to another woman (sorry to say, also true). At that point in my life, based on my dating adventures both in Pennsylvania and in Florida, I was beginning to think all men were vile creatures — with the only exceptions being my father, brothers, assorted family members and friends. ¬†To some extent, I still feel this way, although thanks to having a solid foundation of faith and engaging in constant spiritual development, I’ve managed to keep from turning into a bitter man-hater — something I once feared might happen.

While I could find lots of women (and even men) to validate such a personality transformation based on legitimate grievances, the last thing I would ever do is give anyone else the power to change who I am. Not even a man who has hurt me deeply and in most cases, unnecessarily.

But back to the connection between Tag and Mark. Through Maddy’s reflections, readers discover that Tag and Mark had once worked together many years prior, and it is this acquaintance that ironically solves a mystery for her:

…Maddy had briefly reconnected with Mark Donnelly, who at first appeared to be very impressed with her budding banking career and obvious maturation. However, after three wonderful dates wherein they shared meaningful conversation as well as endless, passionate kisses, he disappeared again from her life. No goodbye call or farewell visit — just an abrupt departure after promising to contact her upon his return from California, site of his “all-boys” motorcycling vacation.

In an interesting twist, Tag had unknowingly referenced Maddy’s former flame many months later when the two of them attended that year’s SunFest (another irony right out of real life). Turned out, Tag and Mark had worked together in the lending department at First America Bank. And as Tag and Madeline browsed the multitude of artists’ tents at the West Palm Beach festival, he told her all about his unexpected run-in at Publix with the newly engaged Mark, who’d happily announced his impending fall wedding. Though she did not disclose the details of her brief romance, Madeline silently pondered if Mark’s¬†fianc√©e had been the real reason for his disappearance the second time around. If so, it was certainly a strange and recurring pattern.

Interesting Side Note: Over a year ago, I met “Mark’s” first wife on Facebook via some mutual friends. And after getting to know her, I am still scratching my head over why he’d ever leave such a beautiful, vivacious woman in the first place. I don’t think I will ever figure out some men and I have given up trying. Learning the other side of the divorce story and tales of the various other women he’s hurt over the years (much more deeply than me) was rather eye-opening, to say the least. But as with “Tag”, I do wish him well.

Next post: Thoughts on the character of Ray Smith.

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Eagles Training Camp Opens on July 26

I will dedicate a post to the Philly sports teams that figure prominently in Water Signs — most especially the Philadelphia Eagles — when I am wide awake and thus better able to string some coherent sentences together. Suffice it to say, when it comes to NFL football, Maddy and me are one and the same! ūüėČ

So I am pretty psyched that it’s getting to be that time of year again when we’ll all be talkin’ fitball (an inside joke between my brothers and me, who never forgot the way I pronounced the name of the game as a little kid — on purpose of course), and making predictions for the upcoming season.

And to the person who emailed me a few months ago about my feelings on the loss of Donovan McNabb to the Redskins, if you are reading this blog (assuming it was actually you, and not the same prankster from the LinkedIn incident), I am absolutely thrilled that he’s gone.

Yes, the talented QB did make it to an impressive five NFC Championship games with the Eagles, and no one can deny he is a great player. But his “poor-me-I-get-no-respect routine” had long grown tiresome — along with his frustrating inability to effectively rise to the role of leader, and professionally conduct himself in the manner expected of a highly compensated, seasoned champion.

His constant whining, whether about Rush Limbaugh’s comments (which were neither racist, nor inaccurate) or the tough Philly fans’ criticisms was unbecoming of a top NFL quarterback making a helluva lot of money for playing an admittedly brutal game.

How many aspiring athletes even make to the NFL to begin with?

Sure, the Philly faithful can be unforgiving and barbaric, but they’re also loyal: the Eagles play to a packed stadium each and every home game. And if you can’t take the heat, you’d best not play in the City of Brotherly Love.

Let’s face it: the guy’s a headcase and I’m happy to see him go.¬† Of course, I’d feel a lot better about it if he’d flown away to the AFC, or any other division in the NFC, instead of an NFC East Division rival the Eagles will have to play twice during the season. Wonder if he’ll lose his Chunky Soup when it’s time to face his old teammates?

Update: I must stop blogging (or at least publishing) in the wee hours of the morning. Thanks to my bro Paul for picking up on the minor corrections!

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History in the Making

Little did I know when a very dear US Army veteran friend invited me to the Phillies-Marlins game in Miami last night that I would be a witness to some pretty amazing baseball history. Initially, Dave’s (a passionate Mets fan) motivation was to experience Phillies baseball with a crazy Philly sports fan like me, having seen me in action during Eagles football season. But it turned out we both got so much more out of the bargain when Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game:

And like a true gentleman, he gave credit to his catcher, Carlos Ruiz, stating that he “followed his lead”:

How refreshing to watch an accomplished professional athlete who attained the pinnacle of success in his particular position refrain from self-aggrandizement in favor of sharing due credit with his teammate! ¬†It was an incredible evening for a Phillies fan, with my only complaint being directed toward the Marlins organization, for 1.) Failing to acknowledge our men and women in uniform this Memorial Day weekend, and 2.) Failing to play even one patriotic American song to go along with the fireworks display afterwards. I very much enjoy Latin music, but on this weekend in particular, much like Independence Day, they could have dedicated at least a few minutes to a tribute to the USA and those who’ve honorably served.

This is no way diminishes Halladay’s achievement, and I am thrilled to have had the chance to watch it live and in person. I just hope the Marlins organization won’t make the same mistake again when presented with the perfect opportunity to honor America (and really, what’s more American than baseball?) and the US Military. Maybe next time, instead of handing out tambourines, they could put the money toward hiring a band to remind baseball fans how lucky we are to live in this country, and to have men and women willing to put on the uniform to defend it.

Update: The Marlins organization responds to my email –

Thank you very much for taking the time to write your comments to us. Since the office Memorial Day is Monday, May 31, all baseball team will be paying their tribute on that day. Our team will be wearing a special cap in honor of all past/present military personnel. We do apologize but that you for your comments.

I politely thanked them for their quick response and stated that because it really is an entire weekend, I still believe the Marlins could have employed patriotic music for the fireworks and acknowledged any veterans in the crowd. While it’s great that all MLB teams are paying tribute on Monday, would it have been too much to ask for the Marlins organization to do something special for our troops last night? A few minutes of Stars and Stripes Forever and America The Beautiful would have nicely preceded the Latin music. Oh well.

Update Two: I should have noted in the update above that I copied and pasted the email from the Marlins organization exactly as it was written, thus the erroneous usage of the word “that” instead of “thank” is not a typo on my part (although I certainly catch plenty of my own mistakes when I write commentary!). My guess is that the person writing it was so quick to fire off a response that she didn’t take the time to proofread prior to sending. Or maybe her nails got in the way (something I can also relate to). I chose not to post her name with the email because most likely she was simply parroting a contrived response from the higher-ups, and is not the one responsible for the regrettable Memorial Day Weekend omission.

On a related note, I am also disappointed in the Marlins for cashing in on Halladay’s perfect game by selling unused tickets. Guess they had to profit from it somehow, since very few fans actually attend the games (which is a shame). This just after they did a very classy thing by giving Halladay the pitching rubber as a souvenir. It’s too bad the Marlins haven’t garnered the passionate following of other baseball teams like the Phillies, whose every game is pretty much standing-room-only. So why exactly are they investing a brand-new stadium?

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Creating Ken, Part Two

The process of transforming a real person ¬†— in this case, a former romantic interest — into a heroic, fictional character was quite interesting, to say the least. As I noted in Creating Ken, Part One, memory can be ¬†a tricky mechanism. At first, when the floodgates had unexpectedly burst open in my mind, overwhelming me with thoughts of the real guy and what had taken place sixteen years earlier, the way he’d treated me, the things he’d said, the way he’d looked, etc. all I could think about were the good times, and all I could do was cry over what might have been.

I remembered our unusual meeting at the club, his initial attraction to my statuesque girlfriend and the means by which we ended up spending the night dancing and laughing until the 2 a.m. closing time. I cracked up reminiscing about going around the traffic circle to The Point Diner with him afterwards as a compromise, since I’d rebuffed several offers to go back his place for coffee (I didn’t write this dialogue¬†in the scene in the novel, but I was apologetic, explaining that although he didn’t look dangerous, I couldn’t take a chance. He just sort of made a funny face in reply, prompting more laughter).

On and on these wonderful mental recreations went, moving into our first real kiss at the top of the Taj Mahal; a weekend spent going to a dinner theater on Saturday evening, followed by an Eagles game on Sunday; hanging out at his place looking through photo albums from his time in the US Navy; and of course, fighting the internal battle between physical attraction and fear, desire and morality.

And just like Madeline, I simply could not express in words what I was feeling. Thus, the occasions when I’d make him drive me back across the 9th Street Bridge from his bachelor townhouse in Somers Point to my family’s vacation home in Ocean City, where a houseful of people provided the comfort of knowing there would be no danger of caving in to temptation.

Then came the painful stuff: my mom’s uncharacteristic meddling in the relationship simply because the guy had not yet completed his undergraduate degree (to be discussed in a future post) which led me to write a Dear John letter in spite of the facts that I 1) wanted to continue the relationship; and 2) had the support of everyone else in my family.

Ken, after all, had a wonderful sense of humor, an infectious love of life, a quick-wit and obvious intelligence. Moreover, he was cute, romantic, manly and apparently enamored of me. In short, since he was the polar opposite of the jerk who’d dumped me over the phone a few months’ prior, I didn’t quite know how to handle his penchant for regularly telling me I was beautiful, and complimenting me on everything from the way I was dressed to the way I spoke in enthusiastic energy bursts (especially when the topic centered around the Eagles/NFL football and politics).

Then came anger. Anger at myself. Anger that, in spite of years of dating, I’d not yet found, nor married anyone who’d demonstrated the same sort of affection and respect.

Anger at him for also being human and for doing some pretty darned hurtful and stupid things, like picking a fight with me one summer evening when I casually stated over the phone that I didn’t “care” what time he got off from work — that I would meet him whenever he was done for our date. What I’d meant was that I understood and did not hold against him the fact that he had to work a late shift, and although I perhaps could have stated it better, he did react immaturely. In the end, we made up at the same club where we’d originally met each other. And unlike the book, “Ken” and I danced to Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight that evening, whereas Madeline and Ken partake in a “dance” of a different sort while this song plays in the background in Chapter 34.

And — lest I forget — anger at him for standing me up for a ski date without so much as the courtesy of a phone call (to this day, I have no idea what really happened, but suspect he was already either living in Florida, or ¬†in the process of moving south); calling me out of the blue six months later to announce his relocation to The Sunshine State; and withholding the minor detail that his so-called “platonic female roommate” was actually his¬†fianc√©e (not even coming clean after I’d finally declared my intention to make the move to Florida myself).

Was this payback for hurting him?

I’ll admit, I folded to unfairly imposed pressure, which led me to cancel out on attending both a family wedding and a work party as his date, then subsequently break up with him (before we got back together in a sense, a month or so later). So it’s fair to say that we each dished it out as much as we took it. Still, it hit me like a ton of bricks — notwithstanding women’s intuition — the day he showed up at my apartment and confirmed what I already knew in my heart to be true.

This particular portion of the memory reel was akin to watching a tragic movie in which — no matter how hard you might wish for a different ending — the hero succumbs to his illness, or dies valiantly in a dangerous rescue effort on the battlefield. Shedding my selective, 14+ year-old, self-imposed amnesia was not only incredibly painful and ultimately fruitless on a personal relationship level, it was also quite healing and inevitably useful in a professional sense, as it led to the creation of Water Signs. ¬†As I’ve said, writing is therapy. And when people actually like what you’ve written, it’s also unbelievably fulfilling.

While reliving the good, bad and the ugly, I realized that “Ken”, like all people, ¬†had his faults. He was not above pettiness, nor was he immune to the foibles of human nature. When his heart and ego were bruised, he responded by bruising back in kind. I doubt he ever expected me to work up the courage to uproot my life “up north” and relocate to a tropical paradise where my only known contacts aside from him were former schoolmates of my parents I’d never even met, but who nonetheless opened the doors of their home to me until I could secure my own living arrangements.

I can only imagine what must’ve gone through his mind as another woman’s betrothed, knowing that a former romantic interest would now be living in the vicinity, blissfully unaware of the truth. This is yet another example of something I had to completely fabricate in the novel — thus fictional Ken embarks on a lot of soul-searching in the wake of Maddy’s unsettling news, prompting him to meet his mother for a heart-to-heart at the Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier, during which he expresses his “torn between two lovers” dilemma.

Was this the case in real life? Did “Ken” experience an emotional tug-of-war, featuring conflicting feelings for two distinct women, or was it simply guilt for withholding important information from me? Who knows for sure, although in another entry I will share some real-life events and conversations that transpired as a parallel to the novel’s manifestation. Suffice it to say, there are some¬†occurrences¬† in life about which we don’t always receive clear, ¬†genuine answers, and that is certainly true to some degree in this instance. The best you (I) can (could) do is (was) learn from the experience and draw from it whatever is (was) helpful, uplifting and positive.

For me, that was creating an amazing network of friends and contacts in my adopted state, and writing my first novel.

More to come in another post.

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