Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Firsts

I find it hard to believe The Dark Knight came out nine years ago. I remember sitting in the audience thinking it was one of the most amazing movies I’ve ever seen.

Why so serious?
Why so serious?

I also find it difficult to comprehend how much time has passed since Titanic came out. Has it really been nineteen years? Incredible.

My wife tells me we’ve been married for over twenty years. Well, she doesn’t need to tell me, I already know. Yet, when I think about it, it doesn’t seem as if time has passed at all.

Where have I been since I first heard Katy Perry‘s massive pop album Teenage Dream hit the charts? That was five years ago.

Then there is the time Friends went off the air. That happened twelve years ago.

Everybody Loves Raymond
Everybody Loves Raymond

And let’s not forget about Everybody Loves Raymond. I remember lying on my couch eleven years ago watching the final episode.

Is this how I mark time, by the passing of entertainment units? It seems like it.

Although, I beg to differ. I remember the first time I told my wife I loved her. The next thing she did was hop on a train back to Nova Scotia. Was it something I said?

How can I forget the time when my first child came into the world? We were in tears. Nope, I wasn’t watching a TV show at the time, and I don’t remember a swelling soundtrack playing in the background.

My first car was a Honda Accord. The memory of that day, when I went into the bank to ask for a loan, is still in my head. The interest on the loan was eleven percent. I thought the bank at the time had given me a great deal.

The first time I landed my dream job was such a pleasure that my family and I went out celebrating. It was also the first time I could afford to pay for everyone’s meal.

I can’t forget the first guitar my dad had bought me when I was a teenager. It was an imitation Gibson Les Paul. I played that thing so much that I had worn the frets to a state of non-existence.

Whenever I think of summer, I think of the first time I had gone in the deep end on my own. It was also the first time when I had almost drowned. After that incident, I learned how to swim, and have never forgotten.

I read somewhere that a person’s greatest fear is speaking in front of an audience. My first experience addressing a large crowd was when I was fifteen years old in high school, running for Ninth Grade class president. I stood on stage behind a podium, pointed a finger at the entire student body, which was close to five hundred kids, and said, “I want you to want me.” The entire assembly erupted in laughter. That phrase was from a song made popular at the time by Cheap Trick. It was also the first time I had felt absolute embarrassment.

But you know what? I won that election. One of my teachers later said to me, aside from having moxie, that if I could get up there and make a fool of myself like that, I certainly belonged in politics.

I guess when it comes to memories my entire life is not a set of vignettes centered around entertainment, even if I sometimes think it to be that way. No, I enjoy reminiscing with family about our firsts, our seconds and thirds, what we’ve learned, and if we had the opportunity, what would we do over.

Come to think of it, I wouldn’t change a thing of my past. If I did, then I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Do you remember any of your firsts? What do you like about those memories?

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

Raymond Barone

A lot of folks will disagree with me for choosing this lovable television character as a Wednesday Warrior. After all, he doesn’t strap on a shotgun to kill zombies, nor does he sport a muscular physique that would deter criminals from robbing banks, nor is he some kind of superhero ready to save the planet from alien invaders. He’s simply Ray Barone (Ray Romano), the father of three growing kids and the husband to Debra (Patricia Heaton), the woman who does it all.

Everybody Loves Raymond's Cast
Everybody Loves Raymond’s Cast

If you haven’t watched Everybody Loves Raymond before, then let me summarize the show with one word–family. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s all about family.

When I first began watching the show back in the early 2000’s, I thought Raymond was nothing more than a wuss. He complains a lot. He fixates on insignificant things an ordinary person would dismiss as minor. And, in some miserable but lovable way, he’s annoying. In other words, he’s the typical dad with all the bad habits intact, including watching TV when he should be out doing the lawn.

Which reminds me, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ray cut the lawn, despite the perfectly shaped hedges and manicured plants. Then again, he could have a service do the job for him. He is a sportswriter, therefore he can splurge on the nice things in life while everyone else slogs away at holding the line on the family budget.

Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton as Ray and Debra
Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton as Ray and Debra

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the show is about family. What family wouldn’t be complete with the parents living across the street? They appear when Ray and Debra are eating, sleeping, taking showers, taking the kids to school, cleaning, working, painting and in between all the other little errands that make up The Barone’s ordinary lives. Without Frank (Peter Boyle) and Marie (Doris Roberts), Ray and his family would be normal, but then there wouldn’t be a show.

Ray’s brother Robert (Brad Garrett) also plays a part in driving Ray crazy. He shows up at the most inopportune time always asking the question “Is this about me?” If you thought Ray has a problem with a mind for detail, Robert has him beat. If he’s eating, he touches his chin with his food. The habit stacks up next to all the other bad habits he has, like overthinking things, moping around the house without a girlfriend, and having a hidden crush for Debra, Ray’s wife. Of course, he’ll never admit it, but that’s another element to Robert’s character that makes him endearing to the audience.

As for Debra, I’ve always said this to my friends–she reminds me so much of my wife. She’s strong-willed, tough and incredibly intelligent. The other thing about Debra is that no matter what happens with Ray, the screaming matches, the fights, the slapstick humor, Debra loves Ray with all his flaws and all his little quirks intact.

But then there’s Ray. I can’t say much more about Ray except he’s your typical father trying to make it in today’s world with an above average income and a family who he loves very much. Is he a wuss? Sometimes. But as annoying as he can get, Ray’s heart is with his family. That’s what’s important above all else.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Have you seen Everybody Loves Raymond? What do you think of Ray?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Marie Barone

In a middle-class suburb in Long Island lives Ray Barone (Ray Romano), sportswriter, with his beautiful wife Debra, and their three wonderful children. Across the street, live his parents.

Doris Roberts as Marie Barone
Doris Roberts as Marie Barone

Women Who Wow Wednesday once featured Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Debra Barone (Patricia Heaton) as the assertive, do-it-all homemaker who doesn’t take lip from anyone, including kids’ activity coordinators who’ve set themselves on a pedestal waiting for her to knock them off. Strong-willed, independent, Debra wears the loving mom moniker well. She also does it all.

Ray’s mom, Marie Barone (Doris Roberts), has the best job in the family. She spoils her kids rotten, except Ray’s brother Robert (Brad Garrett), but that’s another story. Perpetually caring for Frank (Peter Boyle), her husband of forty-five years, she’s learned a couple of things along the way. For instance, toenails don’t magically crawl into the garbage, nor does dirty underwear jump into the hamper all by itself.

A typical day in the life of the Barones goes something like this:

[Frank is eating lasagna from the platter]
Marie Barone: Frank! What are you doing? You can’t eat it from there! Your fork was in there! Now nobody can eat it!
Frank Barone: That’s all I have to do? In that case, the fork’s been in the ice cream, too!
Ray Barone: [comes in] Hey.
Marie Barone: Hi, Raymond. Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat? Only you can’t have lasagna… Or ice cream.
Frank Barone: [sticks his fork in cake] Or chocolate cake.
Marie Barone: Look at him! He’s like an animal, marking his territory!
[Frank sticks Marie with the fork]
Marie Barone: Hey!
Frank Barone: What? That’s a compliment.
Ray Barone: God, how I wish I could say this is the wrong house…

Marie Barone
Marie Barone

Her “Are you hungry?” line defines Marie as the selfless mom who is always willing to go out of her way to make life comfortable for Ray. Her relationship with Debra is a different matter. To Marie, Debra’s never been good enough for her son. In that respect, she has said less than flattering things about Debra’s cooking “Did another dinner get away from you, dear?” However, make no mistake; Marie loves Debra like her own daughter:

Marie Barone: I bought tickets for the whole family to go to Italy!
Debra Barone: Me too?
Marie Barone: Of course, dear. You’re family.
[Debra jumps with joy]
Robert Barone: Me too?

What makes Marie is not her intrusive, critical, overbearing attitude, although some may find that off-putting, but it is her unapologetic nature when defending her family. This is what makes her a formidable opponent, should anyone dare attack The Barones:

“I wanna tell ya something, there is nothing wrong with this family. We’re very close, we’re very open, we’re very loving, ‘cause I make sure of it.” ~Marie Barone

And it’s true. She may seem like someone you may not want to be with for long periods, but she certainly knows how to show her love. “Are you hungry, dear?”

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Have you seen Everybody Loves Raymond? What do you think of Marie Barone?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Carmela Soprano

On the evening of June 19, 2013, I came to learn actor James Gandolfini, star of the dramatic series The Sopranos, died of an apparent heart attack. He was 51.

Carmela Soprano
Carmela Soprano

The first time I’d watched The Sopranos, a scene from one episode on a free pay TV weekend here in Canada, I didn’t know what it was. I thought of it as some goofy comedy I’d surfed to on my way to watching Everybody Loves Raymond. It wasn’t until the fall of 2000, when CTV, one of our national networks, decided to broadcast the entire series uncut, that I took interest.

Being Italian-Canadian, I felt the show typified, with realism, how I grew up in the rough part of the city. Back then, you either held your own or became the punching bag for those who needed to prove their worth to society. I didn’t need to prove anything. I knew who I was.

Some critics had panned The Sopranos for its often-brutal display of violence, nudity and coarse language. When reading their reviews, it became obvious those critics did not grow up on the streets, and had privileged lives in some Ivy League institution.

What I like most about The Sopranos is its portrayal of life being Italian-American. The food, the characters’ mannerisms, the dialect language, the food, the gorgeous vistas of Italy, the large families, the weddings, the food, all make up our culture in an extraordinary way.

Portrait
Portrait

At the center of every Italian family, keeping it together, ensuring we remain in contact with one another, that we don’t forget about each other in the good times, is mamma. In The Sopranos, mamma is Carmela Soprano, Tony’s wife. Since the events of the past few weeks are still fresh in everyone’s mind, I thought I’d include Carmela in my Women Who Wow Wednesday series.

Tony and Carmela married young. They were high school sweethearts who went to Montclair State University until dropping out. She’s a devout Roman Catholic who has issues with Tony’s dealings in the underworld. She feels he trusts her enough to confide in her with very limited “family” information. But her main focus is her own family, even if Tony’s behavior, running off at all hours of the night, threatens their marriage.

Although Carmela’s nature is that of a materialistic hoarder, in her loneliest times, when Tony’s not there to pay attention to her, she attempts to remain close to her faith. Despite her behavior, getting too close to other men in a play of sensual tension, she remains loyal to Tony. It isn’t until Tony admits to multiple affairs that she kicks him out of the house. Imagine that, Carmela Soprano kicks out her mob boss husband who in an instant could have her disappear into nothingness.

Regardless of what anyone might think of Carmela, she tries her best to live a life befitting the morals given to her by her loving parents and faith. She loves her children very much and keeps them safe, even brandishing an AK-47 if she hears an intruder at the window.

Whatever anyone says about The Sopranos, Carmela proves life in isolation can have a positive impact, in particular, the children.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you ever seen The Sopranos? How has James Gandolfini’s death affected you?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Debra Barone

“Debra, Debra, lovely wife, why am I stuck with you for life?” So says Ray Barone, sports columnist for Newsday. Well, Ray, I wouldn’t say stuck, buddy. I would say blessed. Debra Barone’s the first comedic character I’m including in my Women Who Wow Wednesday series.

Debra Barone
Debra Barone

Strong-willed, temperamental, the ideal organizer—Debra Barone makes the perfect compliment to her otherwise silly husband, Ray. Played by Patricia Heaton on Everybody Loves Raymond, Debra is the homemaker who will take it and equally dish it out. In her family there is no dictator. She says what’s on her mind, and she’s never afraid to stand up for herself. How’s this for telling her husband how she feels? “You know what, I’m tired! Could you just call yourself an idiot?”

Lovely Debra
Lovely Debra

Never one to pine away the hours in a depressed state of vomit-inducing withdrawal, Debra cleans, cooks, looks after the kids, takes them to their activities, does the laundry, does the dishes, hires exterminators, plans the family vacation, runs for school president and, and, and more. Nothing is too large a feat for her. She does it all. Ray may try to act manly and all, “Let’s try and get it spot free. This isn’t like at home where I let that stuff slide.” But in the end, Debra is the one who strikes fear in the hearts of men:

Debra: Where did you just come from?
Raymond: I went to the bathroom.
Debra: No, you didn’t.
Raymond: I’m doing it right now.

Debra’s mere height of 5′ 2″ doesn’t deter her willingness to fight Robert, Ray’s brother who stands 6′ 8½”:

Debra
Debra

Debra: Okay, Robert, listen. Stop feeling so sorry for yourself.
Robert: I’m not feeling sorry for myself.
Debra: Yes, you are. Spouting off at the family and insulting everybody. You just love playing the victim, don’t you?
Robert: OK, thank you, Debra. You can go back to being princess fabulosa now.
Debra: Hey, you better be nice to me, pal, because I’m the last person in the family that doesn’t wanna climb up there and strangle you!

But you know what? As strong as she is, she still cuts Ray some slack. Who else can put up with Ray’s greeting to his beloved wife? Precede these phrases with the customary “Hey, _______”:

Auntie Em, Baby, Baby-Bop, Baloney Bosoms, Banjo Pants, Blubber Head, Boobala, Bubble Wrap, Bully, Cap-a-Loo, Cheese Doodle, Clive, Cornflake, Cranapple, Crazy Broad, Darth Debra, Delilah, Eight Maids a Milkin’, Fat Legs, Girlie, Groucho, Honey, Honey-Bun, Hot Little Chuckle Monkey, Hot Mama, Hot Muscle Mama, Huck a Poo, Jambalaya, Jelly Cheeks, Krispy Creme, Lucky Pants, Ma’ Lady, Miss Hippy Go Free Free, Miss Smarty Pants, Miss Teen USA, Mommycakes, Moonshine, Mrs. Holey Moley, Muck-A-Luck, Nickel, Noodle, Pepper Squat, Pinky, Puddle Pants, Puka Shell, Pumpkin, Sister Girl, Skinny Girl, Slim Fast, Smelly Tramp, Sniggles, Snuggle Pants, Soda Pop, Squeezioli, Sweet Sister, Sweetie Pie, Sweetness, Swizzle, Teletubby, Thanksgiving Day Hooker, Tiny Dancer, Witchy-Poo, Your Highness.

Ray and Debra
Ray and Debra

In spite of the arguing, complaining, and explaining, Debra is your typical wife who achieves greatness with the ordinary. If she had a shotgun strapped to her thigh, she’d make the perfect zombie hunter.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

What do you like about Debra? What do you like about Everybody Loves Raymond?