Saturday, May 20, 2017

THE NUCLEAR FAMILY HAS EXPLODED...

In the liberal/progressive world there are no rules. There are no taboos. There's no sense of right and wrong, moral and immoral. Everything goes and nothing is sacred. If it feels good do it no matter the cost or consequences.
Could the loose life of today be the reason so many children turn to drugs as an escape? Do they get high because they are so low?
All of this, I believe, is because the nuclear family, you remember, a female mom a male dad who are married and stay that way for better for worse until death, and children who know their gender has exploded. It's for all intents and purposes become a relic of a stodgy un-progressive past and good riddance so progressives and liberals say.  Instead their celebration of gender neutral human beings, moms and moms and dads and dads, and gender changing offspring, marriage in any form one desires as well as people shacking up playing house and having children then breaking up, has brought about the corruption of the most basic family values. If you don't believe me, just watch a few episodes of Judge Judy. You'll see a mom and dad and five children all with different last names trying to be a family again. Studies have documented three out of five births today are to unwed mothers cohabitating with someone unrelated to the children. And one wonders why the children become pawns in the estranged parents lives as they try to punish one another. In fact, most common child abductions are perpetrated by estranged fathers. And that's only the tip of the iceberg.  From 1950-1958 12 children for every 100 were born into broken homes. In 1992 that figure rose to 58 out of 100. In fact studies have found that a child from a broken home is five times more likely to suffer damaging mental problems and three times more likely to display conduct disorders and act them out sometimes violently.
And while liberals and progressives celebrate the single mom or dad, studies in the UK have found that children in single parent homes are more likely to do poorly in school, suffer from poor health, substance abuse and depression.
Their conclusions stated that broken homes, serial fathers, and children in single parent households usually filled with chaos and conflict are detrimental to a child's mental health and future fulfillment.
But do liberals and progressives care? Do they realize how harmful their celebration of the serial man or woman is to their offspring?  They've exploded the nuclear family for their own selfish pursuits, and children are the collateral damage.

IMAGINE!

May 20, 2017 would have marked 37 years since ordination to the priesthood. I can only imagine what I could have done with my life all those years, I mean if I had graduated from Pratt Institute School of Architecture and had become a licensed Architect, All I can do is imagine. God only knows of the successes I would have enjoyed.  I could see myself designing beautiful buildings, and magnificent houses. Making a name for myself so that when they saw a building, they would know it was designed by the famous architect Sopoliga. I could see my company name: "Michael J Sopoliga, Architect - offices in New York, Miami, Los Angeles."
I could see myself with a couple of houses. Clients would walk in to my offices and see shelves filled with awards for excellence in design. I could see myself receiving accolades from my peers, from clients and civic organizations and the like for my talent and abilities. I would have earn the respect and admiration of the architectural community.  I would have a great staff of designers and draftsmen.  Commercial projects is where the money is, and I could see myself a millionaire by the age of 50, if only I didn't give it all up for something sold to me as more noble, more rewarding, more meaningful, namely becoming a priest. Well I am here to tell you I was sold a bill of goods.  These past 37 years have been nothing but one disappointment after another. One unrewarding meaningless experience. In short, a let down.  Instead of receiving the accolades of my peers, their respect and admiration, all I have received starting with the bishops had been no support and no justice. And from the people of God, all I received was suspicion, distrust, slander and calumny. Assigned to the poorest of mission parishes other priests basked in the monetary glory of  their predecessors who left their parishes flush with cash. And like bad stewards, some couldn't wait to spend like drunken sailors wasting that money on frivolous phylacteries and fluff to satisfy their own egos beautifying their empty tombs while their parish rosters shrunk faster than an un-Sanforized shirt. Those churches will make for beautiful museums, restaurants, gyms, or mosques.
In the business world, you are rewarded for your talent, looked up to in admiration because of your abilities. Not so in the priesthood. If you have talent, the hierarchy sees you as prideful, as someone looking to aggrandize themselves, not to mention being a threat to their mediocrity. And in the parish, the moment you make a decision that doesn't play well, you're excoriated. I call it the Palm Sunday syndrome. The people welcomed Jesus with palms and branches praising him, only to five days later be the same people shouting at the top of their lungs to crucify him. So it is with the priesthood. You're welcomed to a parish with great fanfare yet by doing your job like correcting the back stabbers, encourage better giving, or you chastise the gossipers, preach against of all things politicians who support partial birth abortion, you become the enemy. As a priest, you're supposed to be the moral authority representing the teachings of the Church, and subsequently being the conscience of the parishioners that no one wants to listen to, the good angel sitting atop their shoulder, while they prefer to heed the devil's advice instead. Need proof? When you're Googled by hateful churchgoers hoping to find dirt on you, and when they accuse you of being delusional, authoritarian, bi-polar and a fraud, only because you're seen as a threat to their entrenched way of life so far removed from Christian tenets that they act more like jihadists than Jesus.
So as I reflect on my ill delusional decision 37 years ago and today as I write this, having nothing but regret, I can only take solace in the fact that I never gave up my day job all those years. I remained active as a residential designer owning my own business for over 20 years. And while I never realized my childhood dream of becoming an licensed Architect, I have at least reaped the reward of my talent and effort as a residential designer all these years and I consider that my  only consolation for wasted years in the ministry.
However, like  President Trump said before he won the election as president: "If I don't win in November, I would have seen this effort as the greatest waste of time, talent and treasure in my life." I could not agree with him more.
If only I had it to do all over again. I can only imagine the life's successes  I would have experienced, instead of the ministry filled with disappointment, despair, and disillusionment. And it does not end here. While I can't divulge the details a pending lawsuit against the diocese, at a later date I shall expose them for who they really are, namely white washed tombs. Imagine that!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

MOM...FROM CARNAIGE HALL TO CLIFTON NJ....A MOTHER'S DAY TRIBUTE

Ann Sopoliga...could have been a star.....no doubt with a name change that is....she decided instead to be a mom.....not only a mom, but an accomplished woman in so many more ways. She passed away on January 13, 2009.  She and my dad would have been married 73 years.
Married at the young age of 17 to a man her father choose to be her husband because he was a hard worker and would be a good provider. She came to America in 1935 by boat with her sister Mary leaving behind her mother, three sisters and two brothers in their small town of Stropkov in Czechoslovakia, the eastern "Slovak" side of the country. She never forgave her dad who promised that he would bring the rest of the family to the New World. My grandfather was in the merchant marine and would travel back and forth across the Atlantic a few times a year. So he probably could have brought the rest of the family over and I believe he really wanted to were it not for what was to become World War II which broke out in 1939. A lot of plans were changed because of it. In fact, I always wondered about the timing for mom and dad to have children since Emil was born in 1937, then ten years later my sister was born in 1947 a ten year pause. Once again, I now know that the War had something to do with that as well.
Grandfather had an apartment ready for the two daughters in Passaic NJ, which was a stones throw across the Hudson River from New York to where most immigrants arrived.
The canal in Passaic NJ. The church towers are where mom and dad were married.
Married in 1936 a year after her arrival, in St. Michael Church in Passaic NJ, a few blocks from where they lived, they had their wedding reception in downtown Passaic at the Ritz Ballroom just above the only hotel in Passaic at the time.

L-R Grandpa, mom, dad and wedding party.

Not happy with living with her dad and new husband, mom looked for a new apartment away from what was known as the "hunky ghetto" which covered three blocks around the various ethnic churches catering to Polish, Czech, and Slovak immigrants coined by the Italians and Irish and Dutch who dominated the landscape. So she found an apartment in nearby yet undeveloped Clifton area a few miles west. Clifton then mostly owned by Dutch settlers who farmed vast amounts of land was quickly becoming a manufacturing town. Factories at the Passaic/Clifton border like Manhattan Rubber Company, Velveray Rubber Company,  and Pantasote Chemicals, and the like were looking for laborers.
When the 5 o'clock whistle blew it was time to head home a few blocks away.
As a direct result communities were rapidly being developed. Not wanting to work in a factory, my dad got a job helping deliver milk for George Balco who owned his own business. At the prompting of my mom, dad took the opportunity to buy the business milk truck and all from Mr. Balco who was looking to retire.
Sopoliga Dairy Co was formed.

Dad with his first milk truck with Emil & Lydia.
One thing about my mom, while she may have been brought to America against her will, got married and had a child, she wasn't about to be just another 'green-horn' 'hunky' immigrant. She was going to become an AMERICAN! She wanted to become an American so much so that she looked for ways to separate herself from the popular and safe ghetto mentality she saw too many of her compatriots opt for. The new apartment in Clifton would be her ticket out. Her husband's new business was the best thing she could have hoped for, exactly for the same reason. All the other immigrants worked together in those factories, drank together in the many bars that sprung up on Van Houten Ave in Clifton (once named for having the most bars on a single street). My mom had other plans, plans that would have taken her to Carnegie Hall. It was a few months in 1937 after the birth of her first son that she tried out for a singing competition and won. You might say this was the first American Idol show only TV was just becoming popular. She sang in area theaters, and then winning competitions was to sing at Carnegie Hall. She even had a professional photo shoot with "Voss Studios" in New York City. The photo graces this article.
This is the photographer's address who did mom's photo shoot.

Susan Hayward
A Hollywood talent scout saw the photo and approached mom with the promise that he would make her a star. She would be the new Susan Hayward! But mom had other plans and turned down the offer as she recalled to me. She just came to America two years earlier, got married and had a son. Who knows what was in store for her in the future. She opted to make her own plans in her own good time. 
Mom had moxie. One of her plans was to move out of the cramped apartment on Speer Ave in Clifton NJ. She new as the family grew there would not be enough room in the one bedroom second floor flat. It just so happened that she would take two year old Emil for walks to Third Ward park about a half mile away. To get to the park she would walk up Speer Ave a few blocks past the yet sparsely populated streets past three new houses which were just being built. Of the three houses in a row, it was the corner house that caught mom's eye. Week after week she would pass the house as it was rising from the foundation to the framing stage. They were two family houses which really interested my mom since one flat could be rented out for income. 
With the house in its framing stage, mom recollected that she began to inspect the interior. She walked through the house many times seeing what she would change if she were to make an offer on it. So one that's exactly what happened. She met the builder Mr Wouls on site one day and asked if the house was for sale. He said it was and she asked how much was it. He said the house would cost $5,999.00. Back in 1940 that would be akin to a $250K house today.
Mom in front of her new house!
A day or so later she went back to the house to speak with the builder, and this time she brought him $500.00 in cash that she had been saving for just this occasion. When she presented it to the builder he looked at her and told her to bring her husband back to make the sale. In typical mom fashion she  said "I'm buying the house and I haven't told my husband yet, so let's make the deal!" The builder, with a bit of reluctance since women did not buy houses back then, accepted the offer. Oh yes, she finally did tell dad what she had done that afternoon. It probably went something like this: "Mike, (she called him Mike because I was called Michael), I took Emil for a walk up Speer Ave to the park this afternoon. On the way there, I saw that there were three houses being built so I bought the one on the corner!"


The garage with dad's milk truck on the Wonham St. side of the house.
  It was a good thing too, because dad's milk business was growing and he needed space for the milk truck and cars. That's why our backyard was the size of a postage stamp because as the house was being completed, not only did my mom make changes to the floor plan like eliminating all the door jambs, typical of houses being designed in the 40's, replacing them with ellipse arches instead, but also had the builder build a three car garage. That would be the homestead for the next twenty years until dad, who I guess wanted to outdo mom in house buying, decided to move to the suburbs. He found a house in Great Notch, one of many houses he would take us all to see. This one was a split level design on Long Hill Rd. It was exciting to move in and we enjoyed all the extra space, but after a while, living in the suburbs had its limitations.
Our split level dream house.
I can remember my mom asking us kids to run down to the corner store for something only to realize she would have to drive a few miles instead.  That was the great thing about living in a city.  You could walk to school, to the candy store, drug store, barber, and even the diner on the corner! That was a line my mom used when we didn't like what she was serving for dinner. She would say:"you don't like whet I made? There's a diner on the corner!"
But I have to admit, living in the country was great for us kids.
The 'woods' behind the house. The Fiola's pool down the hill.
We had woods to run and hide in and build forts, friends with pools, and a basement large enough that we would put on plays just like The Little Rascals did for the neighborhood. But is was hard on dad and the milk business. Zoning laws prevented him from leaving the milk truck which was considered an eyesore in the driveway.
Dad's milk truck in the driveway of the Great Notch house snow chains and all. This was the eyesore which would not be tolerated in the uppity neighborhood.
So he had to wake up in the middle of the night drive back to Clifton (luckily they only rented the house just in case) do the route, leave the truck there and then drive back to the suburbs.  The suburbs weren't for us city dwellers. Mom decided that we needed to move back to civilization as she called it. She always knew what to do, and didn't hesitate to do it.
Mom was never afraid to learn. She took piano lessons and was pretty good at playing her favorite tunes like "Autumn Leaves" to which she would beautifully sing.
Mom in her later years still tickling the keyboard.
She took up painting. One of her paintings, a warf scene hangs in my bedroom to this day.
Mom's style was very Henri Matisse.
Even though she didn't finish high school, she studied and learned as much as she could so that she could help us with our homework though the years of grammar school. She was active in PTA, she was a Cub Scout leader. She was so popular that all the kids wanted to be in her troupe.  Once she baked a cake for the School 13 bake sale, and when my dad stopped by to buy one to bring home for dinner, he wound up buying the very cake my mom baked. When he brought it home my mom yelled at him saying why did you pay for the cake I made? He said I didn't know you baked it, and besides, I bought it because it was the best looking one there!
That was the relationship my mom and dad had. They were not lovey dovey. They were not the Nelsons or the Cleavers more like Mama's Family! Once my friend hearing my mom and dad converse asked me why are they always yelling at each other? I said, they're not yelling. That's the way they always talk! Whether it was right or wrong, they were together for life. Back then everyone was concerned with what the neighbors would think. I remember my mom insisting that if we wanted to try the new delivery restaurant "Chicken Delight" even though they delivered (one of the first delivery restaurants), dad would have to go pick the food up because mom didn't want the neighbors to see a car with a chicken on the roof emblazoned with "Free delivery Chicken Delight" because she was afraid they would think she was lazy and didn't cook for her family. 
Home life as a kid compared to the kids today was night and day. Back then, the only rule mom had for us was to be home when the "whistle blew' (at the Manhattan/Raybestos factory a few blocks away). "Mom? Mom?," I'd call out when I got home from school walking the twelve blocks from School 13 up Van Houten Ave stopping at the candy store along the way. 
There were two places I could find her: the kitchen, or the basement where she would do the laundry and where she had her sewing machine. Mom made many of the dresses she and my sister wore. I remember watching her cut out the Butterick patterns with amazement and she would even show me how to use the machine which came in handy when I needed to make curtains and scenery for my puppet stage.  If you were to ask me what sensory trigger reminds me of my mom, I would have to say: Bleach. Yes bleach. She used it for washing clothes, she would soak the whites in it so she would wipe dirt or jam off my face, her hands would smell like bleach. Oh she wore perfume too. L'Air du Temps to be exact. I've managed to keep her last bottle and when I take a whiff, I feel her presence. But aside from French Perfume, bleach wins out because she wore it all the time!
And speaking about bleach, I would love watching her wash clothes. I learned simple things like separating the colors and whites for example. The first washing machine I remember was a large simple tub-like one with hoses that connected to the sink. It had an attached wringer that she would put the clothes through. I remember the Hotpoint machine which was the precursor of today's washers. But back then washers did not have all the safety features of today. I would be able to watch the clothes be sloshed around then watch the spin cycle twirl away. And I never stuck my arm or fell in it!
And then she would take the clothes upstairs go to the window in our room and hang the clothes on the line. There's no better smell in the world than clothes that have been dried on a clothes line especially sheets and pillow cases. I guess that's why I would never live in communities that have rules and regulations, like "no clothes lines." And yet they talk about energy saving. Imagine all the power that would be saved if people would dry their clothes on a clothes line. I have a seven hundred dryer that does everything but put the clothes away, and I still hang them on the clothes line in my back yard. (I don't live in a gated community, and I can walk to a diner too!)
And when she was at "the window," as you can see in the photo mom had a birds eye view of the neighborhood. (The trees were saplings back in the 50's)
"The window" with mom's clothes line  the three car garage in the foreground, and panoramic view of Wonham St. The area by the cardboard box is where dad would stack his milk cases. Under that area was a 500 gallon gas tank (the pump was in the garage) which he used to gas up the truck, and that we used especially during the gas shortages of the 1970's. 
I would go out and play with my friends after school knowing I needed to get home when the five o'clock whistle blew. If not mom would be at "the window" calling us home. We didn't have play dates, nor did we sit at a friends house and play video games. Our game were reality games. We'd ride our bikes all over the place; by the factory yards, the railroad track loading areas, we'd watch trains go by, find junk to bring home. We'd ride to Third Ward park with out homemade boats to float in the lake. That was the same park mom was heading to when she bought our house on Speer Ave. No one worried about being kidnapped. In fact the increase today I believe is caused by broken homes multiple moms and dads and the hatred caused by divorce among the parents. Besides if anyone tried to kidnap us, we'd beat the guy up. We were tough kids, mischievous, inquisitive and wouldn't wimp out in the face of danger like the kids today. Our days as a kid remind me of the movie Stand By Me. We went wherever our little feet could take us, and did whatever we wanted to. None of us had helicopter parents back then thank God.
As we got older and mom didn't have to be home for us as much, she then got interested in working. She went to school learning to become a PBX operator.
But no machine could replace mom "the operator." She excelled at her work. People would call her just to chat before they remembered they needed to speak to someone at the company. And it was a big company: Shulton, you know, the company that makes Old Spice. Their headquarters was in Clifton NJ a few miles from our house.
She took me to work sometimes to show me what she did and I was amazed at her prowess, pushing and pulling the phone plugs that connected people together with ease, personality and a cheerful voice. When Shulton moved its corporate office, she landed the same job at Farmland Dairy, again bringing her charm wit and personality to her job. I know where I got mine!
Mom was a fashion plate.

Mom (R) with her sister Mary


Mom (R) with her sister
Not only did she make clothes for herself to save money, but when she would be able to buy clothes she bought the best. Levy Brothers in Clifton NJ in Styertown Shopping Center, was a store in the late 50's she would frequent. Upstairs was the Millinery Shop (that's women's hats) as well as the dress shop where all the sales staff knew her and warmly welcomed her. She also loved to shop at Wechsler's in Passaic, Rowe-Manse, which took over the old Levy brothers store, Ann Taylor, and Sterns in Bergen Mall, Paramus NJ,  where I got my first job.
Mom with my brother Emil at her granddaughter's wedding.

Mom also loved nice cars, and dad was all to eager to make sure she drove one. Whether it was the 55 Lincoln Capri, the 57 Imperial, the 63 Imperial, her 65 DeVille convertible or any of the others, she loved them all. And she was no slouch when driving sometimes leaving squealing tires as she sped away.
Mom showing off her 1963 Chrysler Imperial.
She was a homemaker, dress designer, singer, almost movie star, a wife, mother, home buyer, telephone operator, Cub Scout leader, in short a woman of many talents.
We just called her mom...and every time I smell bleach, I think of her!
Mom's first time on the stoop of her new house 1940
Mom's last time sitting on the stoop of the house she bought 50 years earlier.

Happy Mother's Day!







Friday, April 14, 2017

The Classic American Car...Nostalgia over Knowledge?

They say knowledge is strength. That adage may be fine as one lives their lives since knowing things enhances how we react to life situations. It starts as a young child. The faster we learn that we could burn ourselves touching a hot stove the faster we avoid injury. 
However, when it comes to classic cars, ignorance, or at least looking at those cars with rose colored glasses on...is bliss when in reality, knowledge about the cars of yesteryear should bring us to a different opinion of them. 
Nostalgia takes precedence over knowledge, because when confronted with how these cars are really ran back in the day, its owners of these classics choose to not remember. 
I remember learning to drive in my mom’s 1963 Chrysler Imperial.  It was a land yacht. The view looking over the hood was likened to being on the bridge of the aircraft carrier Nimitz with its large flat hood extending outward. The steering was so loose that you could turn the steering wheel an inch or two either way before the car would head in that direction.  The same goes for our 1965 Cadillac DeVille convertible.  It was a marshmallow not only because it was white on the outside and white on the inside, but I think the steering and suspension was also constructed out of marshmallows!  American cars back in the day were noted for their soft ride, terrible driving geometry, and terrible build quality.  Even though the muscle cars were as fast as snot on a bowling ball, as long as you hit the gas and drove straight ahead you had no problem, but the minute you had to maneuver or turn, well you did that at your own risk. 
When I rolled my 1970 Triumph Spitfire on a country road, my dad insisted I get a safe car. Well, he decided that the car for me, being a college student at the time, was a 1979 Pontiac grand Prix. It was a beautiful car, maroon with red interior. While I enjoyed driving in the lap of luxury, what I didn't enjoy is that every time I hit the gas, I could watch the fuel gauge needle drop like a stone. I would have to fill the car up every other day. Sure gas was cheap back then but back then minimum wage was a buck fifty. Driving in luxury was short lived. 
I remember my 1973 Pontiac Firebird.  It was a dog.  It rattled, gulped fuel like it was Kool Aide, and had the most uncomfortable seats in the world, a ride that rivaled Fred Flintstones.
Then when I moved to Florida, I bought a Pontiac Fiero, you know the one whose engine would catch fire a lot?  I believe it was a 1983 model the first year it caught fire, I mean the first year it came out. It overheated constantly, and was in the shop more than it was on the road. Once when I left it at the dealer for repairs, it was stolen while sitting on the lot. The thieves even got approval from the dealership for the local repair shop to sell them a part to fix what else, a broken radiator hose because the heat of the manifold would melt it. They never recovered the thing. It was then that I believed there was a God. After that I lost my senses and went cheap and bought a Vega. I and the car were put out of our misery a year later when it died on the road.
Then there was dad's 1973 Pontiac LeMans that I drove when home from college, It was ugly and it drove awfully. I could go on, but suffice it to say, while we love the look of the old cars, when you really wipe away all the nostalgia that comes with them, they were not great cars. Sure many of their present owners were teens back in the day and remember good times in them, and it is those memories that gloss over the knowledge that they were just not good cars.  
So everyone collecting these cars today all you have to do is go back in the way back machine with Dr. Peabody and Sherman to take a cold hard look at the cars as they came off the assembly line to realize that these cars were not the pinnacle of engineering prowess. Instead they were a combination of a chassis with a body attached to it with tires, a steering wheel, and an engine, and as long as you weren't doing anything that went contrary to the way it was designed like maneuvering, you could get from point A to point B. Even though the cars of today are treated more like appliances rather than automobiles, their light years ahead of their predecessors.  But I dare say that cars like the Hyundai would ever be on someone's collection 50 years from now.  





THE "MOAB"...A SHOCK TO ISIS AND THE SNOWFLAKE GENERATION

When the MOAB the Massive Ordinance Air Bomb, or as it is more commonly referred to The Mother of All Bombs, did send a message to both ISIS terrorists as well as the Snowflake Generation. It proved that there are no safe spaces for either of them! The comparison is apropos in the sense that terrorists act with impunity because they think they live in a safe space world brought about by the ineptitude of foreign governments as well as our own during the Barack Obama administration. They did what they wanted and there were no repercussions from the civilized world. The world was their safe space. That has changed dramatically.
Likewise, these misguided little cream puffs that infest our campuses we call snowflakes which by the way give snowflakes a bad name, seek something that any red blooded American should shun namely safe spaces.  It's un-American.   A snowflake by nature is a beautiful creation. The snowflakes I am talking about give new meaning to the word ugly. Who in their right mind would want to appear as so insecure, so unsure of their own self worth gifts and abilities that they would seek to retreat to safe spaces. What happens when they get there? What is discussed, debated, and who is challenged? The only safe space we had as human being would have been in our mother's womb, and right as we were hauled out to see the light of day what happened?  We were smacked on the rear end to get us to start crying, reacting... breathing! We were separated from our safe space forever.
Yet now we see these fragile little darlings cower and tremble not when someone is threatening bodily harm, we see them cower and tremble when confronted with an opposing point of view. They are afraid of words. They fear the words of others because the words they believe are not heartfelt. They listen to others and like lemmings, follow them into the abyss of safe spaces. Imagine patriots like Paul Revere, or Francis Scott Key seeking safe spaces instead of seeking liberty and justice.  No matter what BLM or LGBQ, or any other acronym tells you, safe spaces are for wimps and cowards.  If you do not know who you are and what in your heart of hearts truly believe, then you can never learn about others or accept their points of view in a fair way. If you are not convinced in what you believe and only seek others who reinforce your own ignorance, then you are destined live a life replete with uncertainty and defeatism.
If the only thing these Snowflakes seek is safe spaces for every social minority, where others are shunned, then humanity is in big trouble.

HOLY WEEK FOR UNHOLY PEOPLE

Holy Week is supposed to be the time when people renew their commitment to faith and life in Jesus Christ. Being like him in every way. This week as they go through the motions of the end of his life, that commemoration is supposed to restart theirs. But after 35 years watching Christians, Byzantine Catholics to be specific fail year after year of the goal described here, they instead stay unholy betrayed by their speech, actions, demeanor, and spiritual vapidity. So who are these unholy ones of whom I speak?
At the top of the list is the bishop. He parades around in gold and jewel vestments and recites long prayers for all to see. Yet he looks to remove the gnat in your eye while he ignores the camel in his. You might observe what he tells you, but do not do the works he does for he preaches but does not practice. He ties up heavy burdens for you to carry but does not lift a finger to help.  He does his deeds for others to see.
He'll makes his phylacteries long and his fringes wide and he loves the places of honor at feasts, and the best seats in the church. He demands 8% tithe from your parishes, but neglects the weightier matters of the law like his priest's wages, since the laborer is entitles to them. He cleans the outside of the cup and plate but the inside is filled with greed and self-indulgence. Outwardly he appears righteous, but inside he is filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. He has the opportunity to do the right thing, to be moral, fair, honorable, but so far in my case specifically, he remains obstinate, unmoved and cowardly.
He is a white washed tomb filled with dead men's bones.  You'd think that denying what is rightfully mine would cause him great moral pain, instead  brings moral turpitude.  Of course it's all about the dollars he does not wish to part with, sort of like Judas getting his 30 pieces of silver on this Good Friday.
Why is it that he can write lengthy articles in his newspaper spewing nice words and calling people to a higher plain, then in his own life sink to the lowest form of life? How can someone who claims to be a successor to the apostles act more like the Sanhedrin and Pharisees?  So you see, this supposedly holy week does not make a bishop holy at all. Jesus' words are just as foreign to him as to the unbeliever.
Then you have the people. The Byzantine Catholic Church is inexorably shrinking and dying. Why? Because with all the ritual, liturgy, and theatrics, it does not move people to seek to know Christ and possibly enrich their lives as a result of all the ritual, liturgy, and theatrics.  After spending many Easters on the other side of the communion rail, I can attest to the reality of what I say.
The many and varies and somewhat moving services of this week were sparsely attended. Reenactments of Jesus' passion brings no passion among the people who are more concerned with the size of their Easter ham than the size of their donation to their church or of their time to attend all of the services. Year after year I would exhort my people to attend. Year after year my exhortations fell on deaf ears. Instead the people became like the Hebrews in the movie Ten Commandments. They see their church as boring and unfulfilling, probably because they really never gave their so called faith a fighting chance in their lives, so instead they build a new Golden Calf to take its place.
However instead of giving over their jewels, they give over their goodness, morality, fairness, compassion, caring, community, in short everything Jesus asks them to keep unto themselves. And the new Golden Calf is manifested in parishes like mine. Parishes and parishioners filled with hate, slothfulness, hypocrisy, suspicion, evil, and unholiness. That's why they're dying.
Like Cardinal Lombarto said in The Godfather III. "Look at these stones, they have been in this water for a long time." Then breaking one he exclaims: "Look inside. It is completely dry." He continued: "Christianity is the water and people are the stones. Like the stones, Christ has not penetrated the people. They are dry..." I would go one further. They are not just dry... they are unholy.
 Jesus summed it up this way:
"I send you prophets, wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth from the righteous ones you murdered. See your house is left to you desolate..."
One can only pray...

Saturday, April 8, 2017

DAD...MEMOIRS OF A MILKMAN'S SON

He'd wake up in the wee hours of the morning. Whether it rained, or snowed, it didn't matter. In the winter it would take him longer to get dressed layering just enough warm clothes to withstand the cold yet keep his arms and hands nimble so that he could manage the milk crates. They say Johnny Bench could hold seven baseballs in his hand. Well my dad could hold three quart size glass mike bottles in each hand. Who needed a carrying basket?  The longer he's gone now, it seems the more I can remember more and more about his life as a dad, He was a self-made man. Probably the greatest feeling for anyone is to see their own name on their business. And since his business was delivering milk, or perhaps today one would call what he did a purveyor of dairy products, (I prefer milkman myself) I know his heart filled with pride as did mine actually seeing "Sopoliga Dairy Co" emblazoned on the sides of his first milk truck, an open bed Dodge. 




I believe that helping my dad as a young boy allowed me to be comfortable interacting with people at a young age which to this day has been a valuable tool in my life unlike the kids of today who bury their noses in their video games and cannot put more than a couple of words together when you speak with them. My video game was living life, going from house to house collecting milk bills from customers, answering questions, dealing with problems, looking to my dad for guidance and direction which he generously gave.
And speaking about generosity, dad was just that too many of his customers. Little acts of kindness were hallmarks of his business dealings. I remember him leaving a pint bottle of cream to a new mother, and a bottle of chocolate milk for a family with lots of kids but a little budget. 
I remember one time when my sister came home very late from a date, while dad was getting ready for his milk run about 1AM. While he was not happy about her being out so late, he knew that she would reap the whirlwind from mom if she found out. So he walked upstairs into the house with my sister so mom who asked him what was wrong responded "nothing, I forgot my gloves" or something to that effect, while my sister sneaked into her bedroom safe and sound. That was dad. The peacemaker.  

There were a few tests of his patience with fly-by-night customers. I remember one time, we would deliver milk to an apartment on Friday night and then Saturday morning as we went to collect the weekly milk bill and knock on the door of the same apartment, to our surprise, the place would be empty. They had moved out in the dead of the night taking the milk with them!  If those antics by his customers bothered him, he never showed it. He would chalk it up to doing an act of kindness. And speaking about acts of kindness, not only did he spend the wee hours of the morning delivering milk, he would also watch out for the welfare of others. 

There were times after it snowed all night at one of his last stops a church school where he delivered the little half pints of milk for the school lunch when he would go over and above the call of duty. After he cleared an area for the milk under a canopy near the school kitchen where he always left the delivery, he would drive around the corner passing the front steps of the church. He would stop his milk truck in front of the church, take out his shovel from the back of the milk truck, (the one he would need on rare occasions if we got stuck in a snowbank because the milk truck was like a tank plowing through the snow with ease).  When I asked him what he was doing since we weren't stuck, he said nothing as he walked up to the church steps and start shoveling a path up those steps. When he returned to the truck he said he did it so the old ladies going to morning mass would be able to get in to the church.
Winters were always a challenge for him. Dad would be saving stacks of old newspapers as winter approaches, and I always wondered why. Well it turned out that he would have to take the time to wrap milk bottles in the newspaper so that they wouldn't freeze especially when he had one of his first milk trucks, which was a 55 Dodge open bed truck. After that, he traded up to a 1/4 ton Dodge closed in milk truck,
which was very comfortable, but it did not have the one feature he wanted. A dual drive system where you could stand up or sit down and drive. That ingenious feature was only offered on the Mak Daddy of milk trucks. It was akin to the pinnacle of every child's dream, a Flexible Flyer sled. It was a milkman's dream...the 3/4 ton Divco Twin milk truck.
A Divco Twin ad

The "sit/stand" driving position.


     
It was his trophy, his Oscar for his performance as a hard working dedicated...milkman. 
I remember holding on to the side bar as he made left turns swinging out into the street.  He never thought I would fall.  
I remember mom needing to learn to drive a stick shift when on a cold icy morning while carrying glass milk bottles in his hand, slipped and fell the milk bottles shattering and deeply cutting hi tendon on his left hand. He wrapped his hand in the newspaper he would use to insulate the milk bottles and drove to the emergency room at Passaic Hospital.  After minor surgery and seven stitches he went back to work because that was what he needed to do. However after the Novocain wore off, dad was in pain and could not drive the truck. So mom all five foot six inches of her and 120 lbs. learned to drive a four thousand pound when empty milk truck! She did a great job going where dad told her, while he and my older brother Emil delivered the goods. 
While dad probably had the best working environment in the world being that he was the master of the mornings. No traffic or people to deal with. He would double park right in the middle of the street. The police knew him. The peaceful mornings however were sometimes sadly becoming dangerous especially around the projects. Dad always tried to serve all customers no matter their color. He had customers living in those projects who appreciated my dad delivering milk to them. But one morning, when he was on his routs he got mugged in the stairway of the Aspen Place projects in Passaic NJ. He usually would take the elevator to the third floor and walk down to save time, but the elevator was not working that morning. So he had to walk up the three flights of a stairway which was usually so dark he would need his flashlight to see where he was going. On the second floor two muggers stopped him in the landing and demanded money. My dad recounts that he told them he had no money but he could have the milk he was carrying. That was not good enough and angry that dad had no money beat him up pretty badly.  I think that was the day my dad decided that in the long run he would have to give up the milk business. Another sign of the end of an era were the "Jug Stores" as they were called. They sold full gallons of milk at cut rate prices. They started to pop up all over the place. They spelled doom for the milkman.
So what does he do? He buys a 14 family apartment house for $85,000.00. Twenty years later, he sold it for $750,000.00, but not before he lost a sales commission and closing fees because he backed out of a contract to sell. The reason he backed out speaks volumes about the character of the man. The deal was signed sealed and about to be delivered just when my dad, who knew a doctor was purchasing the building, found out that this doctor performed abortions. 
Dad never wore his religion on his sleeve. He was a prayerful man who I rarely saw pray except in church, but he lived his faith. Something sorely lacking among so called Christians today.  And in this case, his faith guided his decision to back out of the deal at the last minute loosing thousands of dollars stating that if he sold the building to the doctor it would be paid with blood money like Judas.
He's gone 20 years now but I remember his words and his simple wisdom always reminding us to "do proper thing". I have a wooden plaque with those words inscribed hanging in my office.  He did that all his life.
He was supportive when I entered the priesthood and was ordained he was supportive when I left the priesthood. I remember when my older sister was getting married to her high school boyfriend in New York City at the church off Central Park.  Mom wouldn't go because she did not accept the marriage but dad went. He did "proper thing."
They say blessed are the peacemakers... they were talking about my dad. 
We never suffered from want. My dad worked hard worked two jobs even won a job that he had when he came to America as a presser in the clothing factory he returned to that job just to make some extra income. 
You knew I had a talent for design and the love of architecture and instead of going to public school he paid the tuition for me to go to Don Bosco technical high school to pursue my dream later on being accepted to Pratt Institute School of Architecture in Brooklyn NY.  
I remember going to Newark airport a few years after I had graduated high school and seeing a huge display showing what is now Newark International Airport. One thing that caught my attention was the design of the circular gate design.
Notice the circular gate design. Should have copyrighted it!
It looked like my senior project which was a new Pan American airport terminal. I thought it would be cool to send Pan Am my project. I did get a nice letter from them saying how nice my design was and that they wished me all the luck in the world. My dad led me to believe that they took my design and used it for the new design and that when I became a famous architect I would be famous because of it! He was so proud of his children back in a day when parents always wanted their children to succeed. They wanted them to have a better life than theirs. How things have changed today. 
He had a grammar school education but he was smarter than the smartest PhD that ever lived because he had common sense I love for his family and his country and he loved to work. You never took anything from the government even when during the depression they live from day to day. 
He wasn't the dad was big on sports never took me to a ball game never got involved in that way. He saw himself as a provider providing the best opportunity that we could have to better ourselves. He was a dad who did not want someone to succeed him in his business. He wanted more for us you always wanted more. 
That happened almost every year that I can remember when the new cars came out in September and October the show rooms would have paper over the windows because back then the new car display was a big deal and on a Saturday after we were done with collecting the bills we would stop at all the car dealers and he would inevitably leave deposits on cars that he liked only to have my mom say that the car was too big too ugly.  Dad probably would have been able to buy a car with all the deposits he left.  Chrysler Imperial's and Cadillacs' was the car of choice and even on a milkman salary.  He had a 1957 Lincoln Capri, a 1963 Chrysler Imperial,
Mom's pride and joy her 1963 Imperial.
a 1965 Cadillac DeVille convertible we called the marshmallow, because it was white with white interior, not to mention the driving experience! And speaking about driving, mom would be a speed demon, dad would drive a car like it was his milk truck stop and go.  I remember taking him to look at a car I was interested in buying, with his financial help that is, and I learned an upgrading technique that was fool proof knowing my dad as I did.  When we got to the showroom I would not show him the car I really wanted, I would show him the car a few feet away that was the cheapest least optioned car on the showroom floor. One thing about my dad, he never ordered a car. If it wasn’t on the showroom floor he didn’t want it. If they couldn’t have it ready the next day, he’d walk away.
Dad and I beside my 1971 TR6
So, my tactic was to let him look at the cheap car, knowing that his eye would peruse the showroom floor and inevitably he would slowly but surely go over to the same model car but with all the bells and whistles. He’d look, he’d kick the tires, and they he would say to the salesman the two words I was waiting to hear: “How much?”   Then he would call me over while I appeared disinterested still standing by the other model and say:”... Hey Michael...How about this one? This is what you need not the other car...!”  He’d continue:”...look, this one has power windows, brakes, a bigger engine....nicer interior...” and I would say but dad it’s more money.....He would respond: ”Yea but look how much nicer it is....” The deal was done! My plan worked. The next day I would be driving the car I wanted all along! Actually, I think I learned that tactic from my mom!

He'd wake up in the wee hours of the morning. Like the mailman, rain, snow, sleet, hail, muggy mornings or freezing nights, dad was on his milk route. Even when I wanted to go on the route with him knowing I would have to wake up at 2PM or 4PM when he stopped by the house to unload the milk cases, he would at least try to wake me up. He would shake me as I lay asleep saying “Michael, wake up, time to go to work...” I would just turn over and pull the covers over my head. The spirit was willing but...
Now as I run my own business showing up to work faithfully at 6:30 in the morning, I can feel the same pride in ownership my dad did. It was his business. His name was on that truck for all to see. Sopoliga Dairy Co. 


AND SOME MEMORIES OF MY BROTHER EMIL:
  When Daddy prepared us for that ship voyage on the Queen Elizabeth from NYC to Cherbourg, France   (could not dock at port so we had to transfer from ship to a small boat to get to mainland),  he put 20 dollar bills wrapped in cellophane and placed into Gerbers' baby food jars which were Lydia's food. Monies were for family in Eastern Europe.  

Friday, April 7, 2017

MY FIRST PAYCHECK

I think we all remember getting our first paycheck. It's one of the things we could remember since most of us got our first job aside from getting paid for shoveling snow, or cutting lawns. I mean the first paycheck from a bonafide job.
I remember getting mine. I was just turning 18 in 1967 when I got a job for the Christmas season at Stern's (Also called Stern Brothers) an upscale department store owned by Allied Stores.





It was a lovely store all four levels of it as you can see in the photos. It was located in the Bergen Mall in Paramus NJ, the city where the first "Mall" Garden State Plaza a mile or two down the road was built.  I worked for the Christmas season in the boys clothing department more precisely the Boy Scout shop. I loved the fact that I had a whole display area to take care of. I would rearrange the items in the display cases to make them more marketable. My design genes were kicking in I guess!
  

So the day came when my boss, a Lainie Kazan type, said that today was payday and that I should go up and get my check. Sterns was a huge store. The personnel department was on the 4th floor just behind the Skyline Restaurant, where we ate lunch regularly.  It was designed to resemble a French street cafĂ© and they had the best BLT's and Vanilla Shakes around!
So I waited on line and when I approached the very nice lady at the counter she asked what my name was and what department I worked in. I gave her my name and said I work in department 440. She rifled though a long box of envelopes searching for my department then last name. After a short time she said "here you are dear" and handed me something that I never received in my life. I forgot the amount I was paid or even the amount of the paycheck, but I can tell you that as I opened it, pulled it out, and saw the Stern;s Logo on an official looking piece of paper that represented the work I was doing for them, and then seeing my name typed into the "Pay to the Order of" line, I was thrilled. A feeling of real worth came over me, even though I helped my dad on his milk truck for many years before and got a few bucks in return.
This time I was paid by a real company for real work that I actually enjoyed! What a feeling! It only made me want to increase the size of the amount written on it. So at every opportunity, I would volunteer to work extra hours to keep up with the Christmas rush, and week after week, my paycheck grew and grew. Getting paid for work was becoming addictive!  I just wish I would have made a copy of that paycheck, but in 1967, there were no copier machines around when you needed one.
My point is that today you have in my humble opinion too many people who want to game the system, receive handouts from the government. Lie about about being disabled to collect benefits, and frankly have an aversion to hard work.
You have some who are clamoring for a $15.00 minimum wage. I think I was probably paid a quarter of that at Sterns. But I didn't care because t was my first job. As a matter of fact, after the Christmas season came to a close, my manager asked  me to stay on and become a full time employee. I got a raise. Then a year or so later, I took over the college shop called The Quadrangle (Dept 409).


I excelled in merchandising, and did everything I could to promote the department. I got a raise.
Then, the manager of Men's Furnishings: (Men’s Accessories Dept. 412 • Men’s Furnishings Dept. 410 • Men's Dress Shirts Dept. 415 • Men’s Sportswear Dept. 430 • Men’s Sweaters Dept. 430...) asked me if I would like to work for him, I sheepishly asked in what capacity? He said as Assistant Manager! I got a raise. My point being, if people today would stop complaining about not getting paid enough would spend that time and energy in excelling at what they do, the raises would come. If they don't come as quickly, at least you'll enjoy what you're doing.
So that was my first job and my first pay check as an adult. It was a time I will never forget. My job made me realize my potential. My past experience dealing with my dad's customers on the milk route gave me the ability to communicate and dealt with customers and employees alike. My design ability allowed me to merchandise assisting the flamboyant Head of Merchandising who really, I mean really liked me in a way at that time I did not fully understand!!! He liked me so much so that he asked me to come up with a design for the Christmas Shop which was always constructed on "The Promenade" at the back of the store which connected Stern's to the other shops on the mall. It was a 25 foot wide by 200 foot long two story space with floor to ceiling windows on the exterior wall, and a balcony on the second floor overlooking it. The two opposing entrances had "air curtains"  which, when opened kept the heat in and the cold out using air instead of doors. The doors would be raised up out of the way to create a wide open walk through area. It was ingenious at the time, and I was intrigued by its design.
I presented my concept for the Christmas Store to the head merchandiser, you know, the one who liked me a lot...My concept was to replicate an Alpine Ski Resort complete with a ski lift as the focal point which would have small motorized gondolas with small dolls in winter gear and skis in them suspended from it on wires. They would glide the entire 200 foot length of the space.
Aside from Stern's affording me the first opportunity to receive my first paycheck, my employ there did one other thing that made me feel almost as good as that first paycheck. I designed something on paper that in a few weeks became a reality at the hand of workers scurrying around following my design to the letter! What I had conceived in my little brain then put on paper, became a reality right in front of my very eyes. It confirmed what I always knew, that I wanted to become an architect, and that as much as I loved retail (it was that year that my manager wanted me to attend buyers school which would make me pursue the field of retail) seeing my creation come to life had me hooked. It was 1970 that I left Sterns and started to hone my skills as student of architecture getting a job as a draftsman with Fred Klenk Architect in Oakland NJ. It was there that I became as Fred termed his project architect that propelled me into Pratt Institute School of Architecture in Brooklyn NY.

I got a raise!
From then on I worked got paid until I started to have to pay myself in my own design business. Yes, now I not only sign the back of checks like most people do, I also sign the front!  That's what comes with talent and hard work.

MASS HYSTERIA...CATHOLICS GONE WILD

No this is not a video akin to the Girls or Guys Gone Wild ones. They would be more interesting.
The Latin mass is a mess filled with people who have no sense of the sacred. Lay persons walk around the altar area like it was a playing field. They grab the wafers from the tabernacle like they were snacks in the pantry. The priest tries to be relevant and hip instead of being prayerful and holy. 
It's worse in the Eastern Churches (Orthodox and Catholic) of which I can speak from experience. They are just the opposite of the Roman Mass mess witnessed in churches across the world.  They parade around in gold and finery. Empty ritual of which the people are ignorant is celebrated to excess. The results of this gaudy display had to measure. People go for the show, but do they leave a better person?  But why should I describe what they do? Jesus himself did as we read in  Matthew 23, and I highlighted the pertinent lines: 

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi[b] by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.[c]9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.[d] 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell[e] as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous,30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

I couldn't agree more, and that not only goes for the clergy...but also for the people.
Speaking about the people, when at services I have observed them watch dispassionately, hardly participate and as a result, their faith produces no good fruit. 
Easter is coming and the many services especially in the Byzantine Catholic churches the week before will be sparsely attended as usual.  I know.  I scheduled the full panoply of them all week long, and year after year celebrated those lengthy services in an empty church, was disappointed in the lack of participation, in fact the lack of faith. 
Oh, the "faithful" will  show up on Easter Sunday in droves as most Catholics  will only to show off their Easter finery and get their "get to heaven ticket" punched. So much for the strength of Jesus' words. Most who say they follow him would not be impressed even  if he rose from the dead.