Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Night Before Christmas

From 1974 until 1988, my extended Stevens family had a tradition of reading "The Night Before Christmas" on every Christmas Eve. After we participated in what could best be described as a constant ripping and opening "gift orgy," we capped the night with the classic Christmas tale.

A total of 15 Stevens family members attended Christmas Eve during the stretch from '74 and '88, and each one read the book, starting with the oldest.

So my Grandpa Stevens read first when I was only 15 months old. I am the youngest of those 15 Stevens, so I read last in 1988 when I was a sophomore in high school.

I am not sure everyone feels this way. But for me, looking back, I had such comfort, excitement and good feelings during the holidays and on Christmas and Christmas Eve.

After we had Christmas Eve at my parents' house at 9911 Garfield Drive, Garfield Heights, Ohio, we opened presents on Christmas morning. We then had Christmas day at my maternal grandparents in Slavic Village, then Christmas evening at my paternal grandparents on Edgepark Drive in Garfield.
All of my grandparents have passed away with my Grandma Stevens the most recent to pass away in October 2010. Shortly, after that, my Stevens family turned topsy-turvy with pain and death as my dad, the XMan, unexpectedly passed away in February 2011. Then my Aunt Nancy Stevens was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August 2011 and passed away this March.

Only 11 of the original Stevens 15 remain, and despite conventional wisdom, the Stevens family is mortal. I am flooded with good memories from the great times the 15 of us shared during the holidays and engaged in our gift orgies.

I venture to say that all of us 11 - Uncle Ed, Sally, Ed Jr., Jen, Uncle Bob, Aunt Lynda, Rob, Melissa, my mom, Fred Jr. and me - share similar memories. We are adapting to our new lives, and if I ever truly need to hear "The Night Before Christmas," I will click on the video below.



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12

The plans for 12-12-12 are not happening.

Of course, the Stevens family is absolutely sad and shocked that there is not "The Biggest Party in the History of Parties" on this day. The fact remains that somehow my father, Fred "X" Stevens, passed away 22 months ago and will not be celebrating his 65th birthday today.

Although it is a Wednesday, I had planned to get to Cleveland to be with the XMan no matter what. I did that for his 60th birthday and surprised him at his favorite restaurant, Mallorca, and that remains an awesome memory. Nobody let the XMan know I was coming in from California that day, and when I saw him, he gave me a bear-hug embrace I will never forget and shed a couple tears. Damn, man, I love that guy.

So what am I to do today? I will not be going to Cleveland (until later this month), and I guess I will have to go through with the day "as usual" and not weep as I teach. Somehow, the XMan passed away before the coolest birthday date I can think of, and I understand that I must accept that he is gone. The only problem with that is that I do not want this, still pretend he is here and would give anything for just one more day with him.
Yeah, I am forced to buck up, deal with my new reality and understand that to be human is a strange, precarious situation. Just as the seasons pass, so do we — or something like that.

My mom says that the XMan planned to retire completely on 12-12-12. I do not deny that he probably said that, but I am not sure he could fully walk away from his law practice. He was semi-retired for about a decade, and I think he would remained that way. But who knows?

Not only is 12-12-12 the coolest birthday I can think of, but Dec. 12 also is the birth date of Francis Albert Sinatra, who shares the exact same initials as my dad, whose official middle name was Alan. They both did things their way.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holidays replace unexpected soccer pain

Phew! I made it to December. Thank God!

I am not the type of person to count down the days to something new, but this past November presented difficulties to me because of the unfortunate and painful end of the Lavender Ladybugs. I found myself crying - yes, literally crying - in the bathroom of a place called Frog's Bounce House, and when that happens, something has gone drastically wrong.

The Lavender Ladybugs were a tight group of 11 kindergarten girls that featured my youngest daughter, Chloe (pictured on the right with her best friend). I coached the team, and I enjoyed it way more than I thought possible. I vaguely got into the mind of 5-year-old girls and enjoyed the experience of thinking about unicorns, rainbows and princesses.

We had a vibrant team with supportive parents, great assistant coaches and a dedicated team mom. I contend that we were the best team in the league because we had a lot of fun and nearly all of the girls looked forward to our practices and games. Also, we were good. Every girl scored during the course of the season, and more than half of the girls plan on playing for sure next season.

We even had a catch phrase promoted by me. It was simple: Soccer is awesome! (TM)

On the final weekend of the season, things took a drastic turn, and I was extremely hurt. It happened to be my daughters' weekend with their mom. For our final game on Saturday, Chloe was a no-show. Later in the day, Chloe's best friend (pictured on the left) had a birthday party in which the entire Ladybug roster was invited. Chloe was not taken to the party.

For the next day, the Ladybugs had our final season banquet at Frog's Bounce House. Despite my offering to pick up Chloe (as I did for the other events), Chloe again was a no-show. I gave out trophies to the other girls, but I had to give mine to Chloe when I saw her Monday after school. By the way, Chloe was uncharacteristically sick for school Monday and Tuesday following the weekend stress.

The purpose of this blog post is one last effort for me to put the pain of that November weekend behind me. I felt wronged. But what hurt even more is that my daughter, Chloe, was wronged.

Coaching the Lavender Ladybugs was an effort to add more normalcy into my daughters' lives, and it worked for a while. It all came crashing down, and I realized a lot about the reality of the situation that I am living.

OK, yeah, the holidays await. A Christmas tree was put up this weekend. I also put up 1,320 Christmas lights on the outside of my home. I had never put outdoor holiday lights out until now, and they are classy.

I appreciate Snooze Button Generation Nation for taking the time to hear the tale of the Lavender Ladybug drama. Now, it's time to embrace the holiday season and continue to love my daughters as I do.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Big Red: Precursor to Viagra


No little cinnamon gum freshens breath longer than Big Red, and because of that, Big Red has been named "The Greatest Gum of the Snooze Button Generation."

You can kiss a little longer, stay close a little longer and hold tight a little longer while chewing Big Red. In fact, your fresh breath goes on and on while you chew it. Actually, if it allows all that to last a little longer, Big Red must be considered a precursor to Viagra.

It's true that with Doublemint gum, a double pleasure is waiting for you. Doublemint has a double great feeling that makes you realize Doublemint is the one for your.

Also, with Juicy Fruit gum, it's going to move you, and it's got a taste that gets right to you. Ultimately, the taste is going to move you when you pop it in your mouth.

Yeah, that's all true. But still, Big Red is "The Greatest Gum of the Snooze Button Generation." In the commercial below, Peter Billingsley, the child star of "A Christmas Story," has a role. That may sound impressive, but Billingsley was in 120 commercials and at 12, was once quoted as saying, "After 100 (commercials), you lose count."
Actually, after learning that chewing gum repeatedly pounds sugar into teeth, many members of the Snooze Button Generation have eschewed gum chewing. As teens, many of us rampantly chewed Big Red. Perhaps we understood its animalistic charm with the opposite sex.

For some, the Big Red jingle is not a mere commercial, but a way of life. R&B singer Ne-Yo released a version of the tune this summer. Although the statistics were not available at press time, the Big Red anthem may be the second most frequently sung tune - second to "Happy Birthday."

Say goodbye a little longer. Make it last a little longer. Give your fresh long lasting freshness with Big Red.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The World's Most Dependable Man

The World's Most Sophisticated Man's name has changed, Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens revealed today.

The World's Most Sophisticated Man is now known as "The World's Most Dependable Man." Stevens stressed that the individual himself remains highly sophisticated, but the World's Most Dependable Man is also a fitting moniker.

 "When Steve was dubbed 'The World's Most Sophisticated Man,' I was trying to give him the highest title I could think of because I hold him in extremely high regard," Stevens said. "Apparently, one problem with the name was that it was so grandiose, that some thought it may be an opposite nickname. And it isn't!"

Apparently, nicknames have been a major part of Stevens' entire existence. His father was known as the XMan, and several family members have nicknames. There is Meathooks who became Know-it-All. There also is Scrappy Boy and Sphincter, who became the Sphinx.

As for close friends, the list is lengthy. Some key friends with nicknames are Cato and Heifer, who became Hefner. And of course, there is Big Bear, who became Big Ass who became Fat Ass and now is simply Killer.

"Look," Stevens said. "I think it is an honor to have a nickname as long as it's not rude, and if there were ever any nickname in my life that was bad or mean, I apologize. Now, are we done with this interview? Any more questions, Mr. Dick Glasses?"
As we enter September, The World's Most Dependable Man again had a key role in Stevens' summer fun. He visited California for 10 days, and then Stevens visited him and the rest of his family in Cleveland for two weeks.

The World's Most Dependable Man is indeed the world's most dependable man. He helped with various odd jobs around Stevens' Polish Mansion West to add classiness to the place. He also had a lot of fun with Stevens' daughters, which included having parades, playing with remote control cars and teaching them Nintendo.

The World's Most Dependable Man also went on a lengthy walk with Stevens from Cerritos, Calif., to Long Beach. He also went on a bike ride from Long Beach to Seal Beach and back. What was discovered was this - man, it really sucks if you don't have a car in L.A.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Diplomacy spurred on by cocktails


Many Americans are afraid of the French. Frequently, I've heard this phrase: "Paris is beautiful, but the French are so rude!"

I have never found that to be the case and in a recent trip to Spain and French, befriended a glorious artist named Augustin. He is very cultured and wears ascots.

As I dined with my awesome girlfriend Tova in various French restaurants, I prepared a speech to French servers if they ever were rude to either one of us.

My speech was this: "Listen, Frenchy, we gotta meet halfway, and you must follow my three rules. Number 1: You gotta cut the French b.s. Number 2: You must get us some goddamn creme brulee, and Number 3: You gotta stop pretending you don't know what I'm talking about."

Luckily, I never had to present these three rules to any of the evil French.

When I ran across Augustin Frison-Roche, it was at an art opening of his in Bordeaux. I quickly discovered that not only was there art at his opening, but there was free wine. After about three glasses of this wine, I explained to him that not only did I love his ascot, but I loved the free wine. He looked confused as to who exactly I was and in French, most likely responded, "Who the hell are you?"

Ah, that Augustin -- what a kidder!
Strangely, I had a similar experience in Figueres, Spain, Salvador Dali's hometown. Staying at the Hotel Plaza Inn, owner Joaquin Falgas has a by-invitation-only party on the rooftop of his hotel every Saturday night. One look at Tova and me, and, of course, we were invited to the party.

On the rooftop, overlooking the Dali Museum and Spain countryside, Joaquin thrust beer after beer at me and wine at Tova. He gave us fish and shrimp. As we consumed, I realized that my perception was getting hazy, and I took several photos with Joaquin. This experience with Joaquin was much different, though, because unlike Augustin's odd French, I actually knew what Joaquin was saying in Spanish.

Most people rate their European trips based on the free drinks they receive, and for Tova and me, our voyage was topnotch. We also saw Barcelona, Bilbao, the running of the bulls in Spain and San Sebastian, but I must give it up to Augustin and Joaquin for the cocktails.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We love the Score in Cleveland


Back in the mid-90s, it was easy to make fun of Herb Score.

"There's a deep fly to center field. It's going, going. Wait a second. The shortstop Vizquel camps under the ball."

Herb Score also frequently said something that bordered on incomprehensible. He often said "down she low," which my friends and family deciphered to mean "down too low to be a strike."

OK. Herb was getting old at that point, but his voice brought calmness and happiness to Northeast Ohio. Herb was the Indians' broadcaster from 1968 to 1997, and it was easy to love him like our flawed Tribe. Yes, he mispronounced and forgot names now and again, but that added to his charm.

Memories of Herb Score are bouncing around for Snooze Button Generation CEO and founder Joe Stevens because he has been listening to Indians broadcasts this year on exotic Internet radio. The Tribe has been in first place in the American League Central for parts of the beginning of the season, and that's an unexpected bonus. Stevens feels at home and comforted by the voice and descriptions of Tom Hamilton, who worked with Herb from 1990 to 1997.

Herb Score's life story screams to be a film. In 1955, he notched 245 strikeouts, the most of any rookie. That record stood until Dwight Gooden came along in 1984. Herb was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1955 and an All-Star. In 1956, he was an All-Star again and had awesome statistics, going 20–9 with a 2.53 ERA and 263 strikeouts.

In May 1957, everything changed when he was struck in the face by a line drive and broke numerous bones in his face. He missed that entire season, and during his comeback, he tore a tendon in his arm. In essence, his career ended.
As a Cleveland sports fan, you are forced to subscribe to something called "love of the game." I would argue that being a Cleveland sports fan teaches humility and many key lessons to games and even life. Is the whole point - or only point - winning? It better not be, if you remain a Tribe fan.

Tom Hamilton, the current voice of the Indians, is a better, crisper announcer than Herb, but he certainly does not have the mystique that Herb had. In a tribute in The Cleveland Plain Dealer when Herb died in 2008, Hamilton was quoted as saying, "Herb tells me, 'Look, this isn't a very good team, but you can't let that affect how you do a ball game. Every game has to be treated equally.' It was the best advice I've ever gotten."

Herb's death in 2008 at age 75 followed 10 years of health problems that stemmed from an automobile accident in 1998, when he was driving to Florida one day after being elected into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He was severely hurt in the accident with a long list of injuries, including a fracture to the orbital bone around one of his eyes.

Hamilton has done an exemplary job for his 22 years with the Indians. He picked off great where the legend left off. "Down she low."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's officially OK to be nostalgic about dial up

I am sick and tired of how fast the Internet is!

I would like to be reminded with a fun, 30-second array of crinkly sounds of how mystical the Internet is with the dial-up sound.

Yeah, maybe the additional time is a waste, and it might be annoying to hear that on smart phones. But most reasonable people would dig it. A lot of hipsters prefer the sound of vinyl records to anything digital, and I prefer the sound of dial-up Internet to the vapid silence of wireless.
We members of the Snooze Button Generation are in a curious spot when it comes to Internet technology. With dial-up Internet long gone, it is officially OK to be nostalgic about it. What does that dial-up sound make you think of?

A younger member of the Snooze Button Generation recently reminisced to me about how the sounds of dial-up immediately brought up memories of it being 2 a.m. at his parents' house and him preparing for a porno session. As I keep his name concealed, he reported that he preferred the longer loading time because it added an element of masturbatory romance.

My first dial-up experience came after I had moved out of parents' place, but the dial-up sound makes me think of when I lived in New York. Yeah, sure, a lot of people will say it's great that dial-up is dead and gone. But it would be pretty damn cool to see some dial-up routers appearing in vintage shops.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sophie Stevens pumps it up

My baby is 7.

Of course, I am shocked at this ridiculously fast passage of time. Not so long ago, I was giving Sophie Stevens a bottle and napping with her lying on my chest. I imagine most parents go through these type of feelings, and although everyone says it: Man, time goes fast.

Sophie's birthday celebration was unique to me because it was the first time I had a birthday party for her outside the house. I had it at a place called "Pump It Up." It's full of classy indoor bounce houses, and the kids seem to love it. The adults like it, too, although we get injured when we go in the bounce houses.

Approximately five adults, myself included, partook in the bounce-house fun. Three of us bled. Curiously, none of the 12 kids at the party got hurt at all.Pump It Up was cool and all, and come to think of it, I don't remember ever having a birthday party outside of my home as a kid.

Strangely, I do not have much profound to say about Sophie's 7th birthday. I love her age now. We can do so much, and with Chloe 4, we have a lot of fun and can play a zillion games.

For a long time, I had an identity of some sort of writer guy, but now, my main identity is as a dad. I loved my childhood, and when the girls look back on theirs, I hope they feel the same. OK. Now it's time for some Neosporin on my elbow.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Father of Garfield Heights

The worst year of my life ends today as I reflect on the unexpected and painful loss of the XMan.

One year ago today, the XMan passed away from a heart attack in Hilton Head, S.C. Time got funky for me when I heard the news. For some incomprehensible reason, I vividly recall every detail of the hour before hearing the news and the hour after. Who knew the hour before would remain so vivid?

The good news about today's date is that my mother has succeeded with her first step to some sort of recovery: She has survived the year.

Yeah, I'm not very religious, but the majority of the members of the Snooze Button Generation aren't either. Most SBG members are "spiritual not religious." I guess I'm that.

This entire XMan fiasco has made me realize there is much more in the world than meets the eye. I do not exactly know what the heck is beyond the human mind and physical world, but something is there. We are limited as humans. Right?

Something else I've realized is that heaven exists.Heaven is being a 10-year-old boy with a 15-year-old brother, beating the heat of a humid Cleveland summer by hanging out in our basement and playing APBA baseball. At about 6 p.m., the XMan would come home, get out of a suit and have dinner with the family. We'd then play APBA, or other games, until we had to go to bed. I can hardly think of a better way to spend a day - or childhood.

For a long stretch of my youth, the XMan was practically "The Father of Garfield Heights." He was me and my friends' official quarterback in pickup football games. He coached our little league teams. If we were playing Yahtzee, he'd join in. My friends and I called my home, 9911 Garfield Drive, "The Establishment." It became a given that we'd have no more fun anywhere else.

Wow. The XMan has been gone a year. I have never had to go through anything close to as painful as this year. Yeah, I'm persevering through the days. I just hope I can be half the father he was to Sophie and Chloe.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Real Housewives of Parma Heights

Although we have no official TV deal, it is obvious that my family can easily have a reality show called "The Real Housewives of Parma Heights." Technically, none of my relatives are housewives in Parma Heights, Ohio, but my brother and his bride, Judi, live there, so that might work.

Many similarities exist between my housewives in Parma Heights, and "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." For example, a stir was made when a Beverly Hills housewife revealed that she bought sunglasses for $25,000. The other day in Venice Beach, Calif., I successfully bought $9 shades, after talking a vendor off his ridiculous asking price of $10.

While the Beverly Hills housewives have argued about infidelities, tackiness and plastic surgery, my brother recently engaged in a brief debate with my fabulous girlfriend Tova regarding the game Monopoly. This is what ensued:

Brother: I'm normally the banker.
Tova: So am I.
Brother: Would you like to be the banker?
Tova: Yes.
Brother: OK.Because of the salaciousness of that above conversation, I am certain viewers would tune into "The Real Housewives of Parma Heights."

Lucky viewers also might see debates on homemade cakes vs. store-bought ones, the ladies getting their nails done in a Vietnamese-owned shop in Long Beach and the use of aerosol spray cans for deodorant. Watch what happens! ... By Bravo.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Collection is beyond him

Life continues to be strange for Snooze Button Generation CEO and founder Joe Stevens as he recovers from giving away his Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon collection.

The collection had ballooned to 43 in December, and in a Yankee swap white elephant type of game, he gave away his Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon collection and a bonus gift card. With a month passing, Stevens expected the collection to return and be at three. But the collection is only at one.

"Look," Stevens said. "I'm not collecting them any more. I might get a new can opener. What's so wrong about that?"

During the Yankee swap, a friend Liz picked the nicely concealed 43 coupons. She appeared quite happy and/or confused. Later in the night, the coupons were stolen, all within the confines of the game, by a friend Dave. Even though Stevens fully said he knew the rules of the game, that seemed to confuse him.Stevens' daughters have recovered from the loss of the Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons. Stevens is full of some sort of odd regret that the collection went from 28 in December 2010 to only 43 in December 2011. The collection stood at eight in Sept. 2009.

Although Stevens repeatedly says he is "amazed" and/or "baffled" by the accumulation of 43 Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons, intense mathematics have shown that a coupon tends to come once a month.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hyperreality at Factory of Sadness

"I'm Fred Stevens. Welcome to Jackass!"

Although my brother never said those words, our trip to the Factory of Sadness during the Cleveland Browns' final game of the season turned into our version of "Jackass."

Apparently, my cousin Carlos, AKA "Know It All," has a history of hurting and/or attempting to hurt my brother at Browns games. Two years ago, he randomly tackled my bro as they approached the Factory.

As a gift to his groomsmen, my bro gave tickets to his best man J.T., me, Know It All, the World's Most Sophisticated Man and Scrappy Boy to the last game of the season. Jack, Know It All's 5-year-old son and my nephew, also joined our wolfpack.

Some sort of hyperreality ensued at the Factory of Sadness as we tailgated and cheered for our hapless Browns, who lost 13-9 to Pittsburgh and finished their season 4-12. At one point, Know It All wore of necklace of links.Eventually, snow came to the Factory of Sadness, and I am unsure what to conclude about my first trip to this place.

I guess that the event was a success because our wolfpack had fun. The Cleveland Browns, of course, have been a laughingstock since returning to the NFL in 1999. That followed a three-year hiatus as ridiculously immoral owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore.

Not to be too morose, but I have a theory that the Browns will continue to be horrible until Modell physically dies. Yeah, it's a bit strange and dark, but mark my words, the Browns will continue to be bad until that happens. Happy New Year, Mr. Modell!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Useful international economists are hard to find. Many times, the economist has ulterior motives when prognosticating on currencies, or the economist is simply wrong.

Luckily for 2012, Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens has become an expert on the world economy, following just one trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

"Really, poverty in other countries is way worse than in the U.S.," Stevens said. "And another thing, you got to always talk vendors down. Why pay 780 pesos when it's not necessary?"

Stevens' 780 pesos comment was a reference to a death-defying zipline tour he took with his fabulous girlfiend, Tova. The tour was listed as costing 780 per person. Stevens got the tour for 550 pesos for the two of them.Stevens remains traveling this holiday season and is in Cleveland for the first week of January. Blogging has been difficult for him because of the travel and the fact that he has made himself available for interviews about the world economy.

The holiday season is about family, friends, happiness and pie. Stevens is happy that 2011 has ended because of the various tragedies he encountered in 2011. But there are signs of a good year coming now, including Tova becoming an aunt three times on Dec. 28 (her sister had a girl, and her brother had twins - wow).

Feliz Año Nuevo!