I’m a fan Fridays!

4017-scroogedOh, I love Christmas!  And, I love movies!  So, surely it will come as no surprise to anyone that I love Christmas movies.  Well, the good ones, of course!

My favorite Christmas story (as you know) is, “A Christmas Carol” (which I’m performing for the last two times this year, tomorrow and Sunday at The Media Theatre, btw…).

In honor of this great story, and all of the films that are based upon it, I give to you, for this edition of “I’m A Fan Fridays” my favorite clip from my favorite of them all…SCROOGED!



All I want for Christmas is your two front teeth

princetonxmasI’ve been working in a local bookstore for some supplementary income, lately.  It’s Christmastime, and shoppers are searching for that special gift for their loved ones who enjoy a good read.

Add freezing temperatures and snow that periodically continues to fall before its ancestral flakes that have come before have had the chance to melt away for good to the usual Christmas shopping craziness, and you’ve almost got yourself a good ol fashioned Christmas panic!

Most of the people I see coming into the store have very serious looks on their faces.  They need something, some not sure what it is when they first come in, and this weather, coupled with this time of year, raises the bar on the Stress-O-Meter to almost unbearable heights.

Everyone feels it.  The air is thick with it–tension, stress, weariness.

But all of this heaviness in the air can be lifted as easily as the lightest of Christmas turkey feathers by the simplest thing in the world.  The simplest and most glorious gift that we each have to give, and one that can be given over and over without ever running out.

A smile.

I didn’t come to this realization on my own, I can assure you; it took a little girl to remind me.  She couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, and came into the store with her mother to shop for a gift to give her friend.  When they found just the right book, they brought it up to the counter for me to ring up.  She was so excited, the girl, smiling from ear to ear in anticipation of giving this amazing gift to her pal.

Then, as if things could get any better than that, her mother asked me if I could gift wrap the book.  I said, “Of course!  We have three types of paper to choose from.  Which of these would you prefer?”

I pointed to the three choices, and the little girl came closer to the counter for a better look.

“Ohhh! The snowflake one will be perfect!” she said.

“Snowflakes it is, then, ” said I.

I took my time, wrapping carefully.  When I finished, I held it up to see if it would do.

“Oh, Mommy!  Molly is just going to love this!”

Her mother looked at me and smiled a smile of her own.  “Thank you, so much.  Have a wonderful Christmas!” she said, as they headed out into the snowy day.

“It was my pleasure,” I answered.  And it was.

As I watched them through the window, they crossed the street and disappeared into the afternoon.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the window’s reflection and realized that I, too, was now smiling.

Outside the snow began to come down with a greater determination, promising a treacherous drive home, but for that moment, everything was just as it should be.

I’m a fan Fridays!


It’s late in the evening, but not too late!  For what, you ask?  For the latest edition of…

I’m A Fan Fridays!!

For this edition, I give you an absolutely beautiful version of one of my favorite pieces of choral music for the Christmas season, “Messe de Minuit pour Noël” by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.  Here is Part 2: Gloria.  Enjoy!


snowyprincetonI’m not usually the type to blame the media for things, but I have to say that since I’ve become a “grown-up” (and yes, I put that in quotes for a reason…) it seems that the media is making far more mountains out of what were mole hills when I was a kid.

If you were an alien and came in from outer space yesterday, you might have thought we’d never had an inch of what we Earthlings call snow before!  And, by the way, when did we decide to start naming every storm with a “pocalypse” suffix?

It’s not the end of the world, people!  And, if it were, relax!  Buying up all of the bread and milk isn’t going to give you more than a couple of days of extra life if we’re all going down anyhow.

Whatever you do, don’t panic like Vic Dibitetto.  Poor guy’s gone around the bend!


It’s Kind Of Like A Marathon (A Feature Story)

The following article of mine appeared as a feature story in “Exit Zero Magazine” in the November 2011 issue. 

Cape_May,_New_Jersey_1777I’m a marathoner.  I guess I became a marathoner shortly after I became a runner on April 19, 2010.  I know the exact date because it was the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.  We were living there in 1995 and, on the day of the blast, my wife and I felt our apartment building rumble as our three week old daughter lay between us on our bed.  We felt a significant loss that day.  So, on April 19, 2010, I set out on a run that would honor those who could no longer run for themselves.  It was a quiet gesture, one that only I would know about, but I felt certain that those for whom I was running would somehow know I was doing it for them.

Until that day, I’d never run more than a three mile stretch in my life and every step I’d endured on any run prior came with the mantra, “I hate running…I hate running…”  On the evening of that anniversary day, however, I was somehow compelled to run five miles.  It was a distance that seemed long but possible.  So, with my thoughts fixed on those who had passed and the loved ones left behind, I set off.

About an hour later, I returned home triumphant. I had pounded out the five miles and, to my surprise, had done so with a purpose I’d never had before.  The feeling of joy that accompanied my conquest was at once satisfying and emboldening.  I felt like I had done something important; something that, in a very small way, had lifted my spirit to connect with something greater than myself.

My wife Malisa and I were able to enjoy a brief vacation in Cape May this past July.  A year ago, we found one of our favorite B&Bs, The Bacchus Inn and were pleased to be able to return this year.  On the second evening of our stay,  Malisa and I were sitting on the porch when a man named Jim Crist came over and introduced himself to us.

“I understand you’re a runner!”  he said, with his hand outstretched.

“Yes, I am!” I answered, with confidence and a bit of wariness at the same time.

“I saw your ‘26.2’ sticker on the back of your car and thought maybe you’d like some company on a run, say, tomorrow morning, 6:30?”

“Sounds great,” I said.  “I’ll meet you right here on the porch.”

The next morning, I met Jim out on the front porch, bright and early.  We limbered up a bit and set off, Gps watches firmly locked onto their satellites.  We turned down Howard St. toward the beach and crossed up to the Promenade and headed south.  As I took in the morning sea air and felt the wonderful morning ocean breeze, I looked over to the businesses across the street.  The night before, long after the sun went down, virtually every store and miniature golf establishment was still brimming with business.  That’s fine now, but how’s business in November?

Now, I’m not completely naive.  I know Cape May is a seasonal town, but I couldn’t help but wonder what local merchants who live and make their living in Cape May do after Labor Day.  After the summer months have gone, how do they stay afloat  the rest of the year?

Jim and I fell into a nice steady pace and when we arrived at the end of the Promenade, turned around and moved into the street.  I let Jim lead.  He’s been coming to Cape May for vacation with his wife since before they were married over 30 years ago. He led me through the downtown, passed the waking Washington Street Mall, out to Sunset Beach and back along the sand.

As we made our way back to the Inn after what amounted to a 10 mile tour of the island, I thanked my new friend for the experience and such good company and headed upstairs for a shower.

I could live here.  I could run a little business right here in Cape May! 

Whoa!  Let’s not get crazy here, ScottThat’s a marathon of a different color! 

People often compare things to a marathon.

“Getting through that Statistics course was like running a marathon!”

“Yeah, well, my business meeting was a marathon.”

In truth, though, while many things can take a long time, there really isn’t  anything quite like running a marathon.  At least that’s what I thought until I came to Cape May this summer.  A marathon is more than just the race day event itself.  For me, it’s about the journey: training, ups and downs of eating right and at the right times, getting enough sleep, and many other preparation activities that take up the twelve to fourteen weeks that precede race day.  The entire experience of running a marathon, from the training right on through the actual running of the race itself, is a commitment to a way of life. When all is said and done, a runner spends an inordinant amount of time preparing for something that lasts a relatively short time. But, in the end, it’s all worth it.

“A marathon is a great analogy to what we do,” says John Matusiak, owner/operator of The Bacchus Inn on Columbia Ave..  “Our race really takes off in May and is an all out push to Labor Day.  After Labor Day, things definitely slow up until they come to a final halt after New Years.”

John and his wife, Lisa, run their Inn for the same reason I run marathons: they love doing it!  As I talked with them, I could tell how much joy it gives them to run their business.

“I get to spend people’s ‘happy time’ with them. It’s great!” said John.  “People come here to get away from it all, to be on vacation.  Lisa and I get to know them and do what we can to make them comfortable.  It’s really a wonderful thing.”

And, they make it all look effortless.

When I first got serious about running, I re-watched the movie, Forrest Gump. If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember the section of the story where he sets out on a run and just keeps on going.  Soon, he gets some company and, before too long, Forrest has unwittingly become a leader and a symbol of the American running boom of the 1970s. At one point, as Forrest is recounting his running days to a friendly stranger on a park bench, we see Forrest running alongside beautiful scenes of nature, and he does so with ease and grace in his stride and carriage.  Forrest made me want to find that effortless joy in running, just as John and Lisa inspired me to help make people feel comfortable and at home.

Dolores, at Cheeks Apparel on Ocean St., gave me that same feeling of ease and comfort when I walked into that interesting little boutique. Jim and I had passed it on our run, and it looked like the epitomy of a quaint, small town shop.  When I walked through the front door, Dolores greeted me with a warm smile.  I told her my name and what I was writing about, and she was more than eager to talk with me.

“Tell me what Cape May is like after Labor Day,” I asked. “What happens to this town once the ‘money months’ have gone by?”

“It’s a completely different town,” she said.  “Those of us who stay through the winter look forward to the special occasions like the Jazz Festival and Christmastime but it’s certainly not what you get in the Summer.”

“How’s business in the off season for you?  What do you do to stay open?” I asked.

“Well, we have a pretty strong online business.  We’re a destination store.  People go online or call and order from our warehouse, so we stay pretty busy,” she said with confidence.  “People will sometimes make special trips to purchase older stock.  We’re definitely busiest in the store in the summer, though.”


Heather Wright, who works at Soma New Art Gallery, grew up in Cape May.

“A marathon is about right,” she said, as we talked the day after Labor day.  “It sure does feel like one!  I work virtually everyday between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Everyone does.  But once Labor Day passes, well, you can see, everything changes.”

She was right.  The race was clearly over, or at least it was down to the last few walkers.  A town that, only a few days prior, had been, to put it mildly, a difficult one in which to find a decent parking spot, was now replete with spots convenient to just about anywhere one wished to go.  The Summer race run, most everyone had moved on to their Fall pursuits.

“There’s definitely a bit of seasonal depression that goes on,” Heather told me.  “When I say there’s nothing to do here sometimes, I mean, there’s nothing to do.  It’s literally like a ghost town.”

“How do people combat that?” I asked, concerned. “What do they do?”

“Well, a lot of people take the off time to travel. Some go lay on the beach somewhere tropical because they couldn’t find the time to do it here during the summer, or some people just go somewhere to get away.  When they come back, they’re ready for a new season.  Getting away renews them.  It refreshes them.”

I can relate to that.  Resting is so important.  A runner has to give himself time to recover before he plans for his next big race.  If it’s too long a time, though, he might get too used to the complacency, and that’s no good.

John and Lisa can relate to the need for rest as well.  The couple take their family away during the winter months.  With The Bacchus Inn’s shutters closed, the Matusiak family head out for their own respite.

“We’ll go away after our last guest leaves after the New Year,” said Lisa, with a warm smile. “We like to travel around and see what’s working at other B&Bs.  If I find a neat new breakfast entree, I’ll tinker with it and try it on our guests.  We like to give them something new once in a while.”

“We try to use our downtime wisely,” John continued.  “I go through the house and work on little projects.  Last year, we made some renovations and we needed the time to get it all done.  When you guys got here in July, we were glad to see you all.  We were ready for people to get here, you know?”

One of the main reasons I love to run long distances I find hard to explain to someone who doesn’t like to run.  Running quiets me, giving me a sense of peace and harmony with the world, as if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing at that moment.  Thankfully, running has helped me transition that kind of consciousness to what I do for a living.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life.”  I don’t know who said it, but it makes sense to me.  And when I come to Cape May and meet the business owners in this small town who break their necks with the greatest of ease in order to serve their clientele, I smile; mostly because I know they love what they do, but also because I know the joy of a marathon accomplished.  So, congratulations, Cape May.  You did it again.  See you at the starting line next year!

I’m a fan Fridays!


I’m a fan of Sting.  I’m not his biggest fan, I’ll admit, but I’m a pretty big fan.  Some people, when it comes to Sting, get their nickers all up in a twist whenever he departs from his usual musical ways and attempts something new.  This, on the other hand, is exactly why I’m a fan of Sting.

A couple of years back, Sting made a “winter” album.  Some songs have to do with Christmas; others have simply to do with the season.  It’s a wonderful album, and one I highly recommend you add to your collection.

For this edition of “I’m a fan Fridays” I thought I’d share one of my favorite songs from this album called, “Soul Cake.”  If you listen closely, you can hear a wonderful weaving in of a another favorite Christmas melody.  This piece is a lot of fun.  I dare you not to dance while listening to it!

Here’s a live version with Sting and a brilliant group of musicians absolutely killing it!  Enjoy!

One woman’s quest for the sweet smelling Christmas candle.

imagesYesterday afternoon at a local bookstore, I stood and watched a woman bring every candle on the display table individually up to her nose, take a deep inhale and, each time, shake her head in disapproval.

“Those are pretty candles,” I said, passing by on the other side.  “Not finding anything good?”

“They look pretty,” she replied.  “but they don’t smell very good.  You’ve got to find the right one.”

“Oh, I can’t really tell much of a difference, I guess.  I, uh… Wow, you’re going to smell each one?  They’re all the same, aren’t they?”

“They look the same, but you never know when you’ll find that special one.”

I couldn’t think of anything else to say, so I just left her to the table and her quest for the elusive, sweet-smelling candle.

I have to say, I admired her tenacity, but couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for her.  Smelling the same kind of candle over and over again and expecting a different scent.  Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

Hey, knock yourself out, my dear.  Smell your way to the baby Jesus!  It’s Christmas time after all, and who am I to say nay to a possible Christmas miracle?

Sniff on.

What’s an onus and what are you putting yours on?

081712_Set_Sail_To_Your_Future_1725x810-PAN_19866We Americans are a bootstrap people.  We expect that we’ll always be able to pull ourselves up by our own couple of pieces of leather and when we do, we get what we deserve.  It’s part of the spirit that went into making America great, and I get it.  It sounds like a very nice idea–the harder you work, the greater your reward.

We’ve been taught that if you want something badly enough, you’ve just got to focus on it. Take a picture of your dream, put it on your bathroom mirror, and look at it every time you brush your teeth.  You become what you think about, and thoughts are things.  A couple of catchy sayings right there.

I heard something this past Sunday that I’ve heard many times over the years, but yesterday it really hit me. I’m a big Philadelphia Eagles fan, and after their win against the Arizona Cardinals, virtually every commentator said the same exact thing: “The Eagles now control their own destiny!”

What they all meant by this, of course, is that all the Eagles have to do is win the rest of their games and they’ll be in the playoffs.  The onus is on the Birds, and when you think about it, it’s a nice position to be in–Take care of your business and nothing can stop you.  Never mind the other team that’s playing against you with a destiny of its own to control.

Most of us look at our own lives this way.  We each want to control our own destiny.  We want the opportunity, and we’ll take care of the rest.  If we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, then we’ll be in control and everything will work out for us.  We just need to work really hard.

That’s a really nice sentiment, except for the fact that it’s completely untrue.

I’m not knocking hard work.  I think it’s essential and often does separate the successful from those who continue to find themselves wanting.  Hard work is something each of us can control and it matters a great deal.  But our destiny?   That is another matter altogether.

What is our destiny?  Is it that ultimate something?  Is it that plateau that, once we reach it, we will have every need fulfilled and will no longer want for anything?

Isn’t it interesting that the second the final whistle blows to end the Super Bowl, to crown the “World Champions” of football, we immediately start thinking and talking about next year?  Even if the Eagles (who “control their own destiny”) win the Super Bowl this year, it won’t be a matter of weeks before we Philly fans will start asking, “What have you done for me lately?”

It’s a very scarey thing to not feel in control, to not have a fool-proof plan.  My trouble with “fool-proof” plans is that every plan I make has a fool as its creator to begin with.  So, I’m doomed from the start.  But, I do take solace in one thing: The one who promised to “make all things new” is constantly and continuously at work in me and in the world.


What does that mean to me in a practical, “real world” sense?  It means that with all of my failed plans, with all of my hard work that is met by someone else’s decision to cast another actor in a role I’m up for because they think I’m too short for the part or because they’ve worked with another actor before or whatever, with all of my desires to get things right, my failures are not the last word.  My failures are building on who I am and not tearing down what I dare to become.

I keep coming back to moments.  I find my greatest sense of peace when I concern myself less with how the outcome of something is going to make me feel and more with what I’m experiencing and learning during the process.

We all set out on a thousand different paths along our way during this life and with each path we desire a destination.  Our focus on that destination can sometimes keep us from noticing everything that’s going on along the journey.  We don’t know where we’re going anyhow, and even if we do end up at the place we’ve dreamed of going to, the destination ends up being a disappointment before too long and we set out on another path.  It’s the mystery that gives us the pleasure, even while we insist on going after certainty.

Can we dare to change that on which we place our onus?  What if the onus of our joy and satisfaction were not placed on the destination but on the journey itself, because, in the end, we have no idea where any of our paths will eventually lead.  I have a faith that propels me to believe that what lies before me is more wonderful and amazing than anything I could possibly dream up on my own.

I inevitably end up meeting people I never planned on meeting who, just by having gotten to know them, enrich my life in unexplainable ways.  I always, and without fail, end up making choices I never anticipated having to make when I planned out my journey in my head.  I put my onus on the outcome of a journey without realizing I have no right to do so.

I’ve decided to rethink my onus.  From now on, I’m going to try to not give it away at all, not place it on anything.  I still have dreams and desires, and I’ll work my tail off to be able to continue doing what I do, but I’ve got too much to worry about without placing my onus on something I can’t control.

Can you dare to release your onus?

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