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Richard Travia

December 1st, 2005

August 13, 2005.

On that Saturday, Richard and three close friends were body surfing in Manasquan, NJ. Richard was a strong, experienced swimmer, but on this day, he was unable to successfully pull up and out of a very powerful wave, which drove him headfirst into the bottom of the sea floor, breaking his neck.

His longtime friend, Scott, who was swimming nearby, saw him face down in the water and motionless. Knowing something was wrong; Scott quickly swam over to him and rolled him over. Richard then tried to explain that he couldn't move his body. His other friends swam over to help also and fought the pounding waves to get Richard to shore, which was no easy task.

He was taken to the trauma unit at Jersey Shore Medical Center. Richard received his first operation within six hours of the injury in order to stabilize his spine. The surgeon explained that Richard sustained a spinal cord injury to his C4 and C5 vertebrae. In fact, Richard's C5 vertebrae had been shattered. Two days later, Richard received his second surgery, which replaced his C5 by inserting a metal cage in his spinal cord to support the C4 and C6 vertebrae.

Richard was admitted to Kessler Rehabilitation Institute in West Orange, NJ four days following the second surgery. After only one week at Kessler, Richard was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston, NJ, because his oxygen level and pulse rate were dangerously low. He then battled serious respiratory issues including a collapsed right lung. Ever the fighter, Richard bounced back quickly and was re-admitted to Kessler the next week. He is still currently recovering at Kessler, where he receives physical and occupational therapy anywhere from four to six hours a day, six days a week.

Richard has strong shoulder, bicep and wrist movement. He is able to feed himself, brush his teeth, use a cell phone, and turn pages while reading a book, among other things. He has sensation everywhere in his body and remains optimistic that new pathways will be found in order to recover the rest of his mobility.

I met Rich in college. We've been friends since our Freshman year. I cannot say enough about who he is, but I will say a few things. He is truly the most good natured person I have ever met. Never too shy to entertain an entire room, he kept us in good spirits for our four years of school. Always there with a kind word, he's the kind of guy you would want to date your daughter. He has given so much to everyone he has met and never asked for a thing in return.

Tragic is the only word I can think to use to describe the accident at the beach this summer. My demons surrounding the lack of attempts I have made to contact him directly since the accident are my own, but he has had close friends by his side at all times and they have kept me apprised of his rehabilitation. I cannot and will not try to imagine how difficult this has been not only on Rich, but also his friends and family. I know how hard it has been for me so many miles away from New Jersey; each day wanting to ask someone how he is. I do not want to be a bother to anyone or pester them for information and I have actually hid behind that, using it more as an excuse than a reason. Thankfully another of Rich's friends has set up a website for everyone to watch Rich get better.

Keep him in your thoughts, or prayers if you are so inclined. He's in mine. And Rich, I hope to see you soon, buddy.

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Nick and Kristin Kray

November 30th, 2005

A long overdue thank you and congratulations to both Nick and Kristin. They were married on a beautiful day in October; a wedding I was actually able to attend. Nick and Kristin

I have known Nick and Kristin both since college from classes we had together. Two men who love cheesesteaks...and the woman who loves one of the men. Seems like a friendship that should be the basis for large volumes of poetry.

As long as I have known the two of them they have been one, so it was no surprise to me when Nick told me he had proposed, nor that she had accepted. It was still an honor to be present for the wedding.

It was an opportunity to see two friends get married, see some old friends from college that I'd not seen in a while, and see a priest (or whatever religious title is bestowed upon him) chug a half gallon of the Blood of Christ.

Adult beverages were consumed, pictures were taken, people danced, people laughed, and two best friends became a family.

Thank you to Nick and Kristin for my invitation. I was glad that neither work nor school conflicted with the timing so I was able to be there with you. I do apologize for the time it has taken me to actually make this post. I had an amazing time in Virginia with you and everyone.


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Old men and the barbershop.

November 29th, 2005

There is perhaps no greater experience than walking into the barbershop and waiting for your turn in the chair while a handful of "old timers" converse. When I walked into the barbershop today and saw how long the wait was, at first I was disappointed. I would need to extend my lunch if I stay, or I have to roll the dice and try to come back later in the week to see Ken the barber and hope the line was shorter. Then I noticed who was ahead of me and was more than happy to stick it out and wait my turn.

One story. That was all I wanted. I am not picky, and I definitely did not want to push my luck.

So I took a seat and waited. There were four of us waiting our respective turns; one in the chair. The windows were cracked, for today it smelled like men in the barbershop. I was the youngest by more than one, if not two, generations.

There I sat, patiently reading my book. Eyes on the page. Ears waiting, ready to pounce when it happened, if it happened. And then it did.

"Ken, you should get one of them young fillies in here to do manicures," one man blurted out.
"Oh yeah? Should she do pedicures? Would that interest you?"
"I'm interested in cleavage," he said and then added, "As long as she has to bend down for it, I don't really care what she does."

And all is right with the world.

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Shayne Graham

November 21st, 2005

I guess it is not all that often that I am very impressed with one particular professional athlete's performance. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all professional athletes (except baseball players) for the hours of training I know they put in and hard work and dedication they have exhibited towards their craft. Beyond that it is rare that any one individual can draw more of my attention. That said, Shayne Graham did just that yesterday. Yes, the kicker for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Shayne had three field goals (43,41,44) and made all four extra point attempts in the 45-37 loss to the league leading Indianapolis Colts. This, though what some may call an "above average" day for a kicker in the NFL, was not what impressed me so much. As the game drew to a close, Cincinnati kicked a field goal to bring themselves within 8 points of the Colts. With just under a minute and a half left in the game, the team was forced to onside kick.

To me there are two heart-stopping events in professional sports. Hockey's penalty shot and Football's onside kick. It does not matter which two teams are involved, the level of excitement is through the roof to watch.

An onside kick, as an effort to recover the ball for your offense is a highly skilled art. In a kickoff formation, the ball must travel 10 yards from the spot it is kicked before it may be touched by the kicking team. Once past 10 yards, it is fair game and the kicking team may recover the ball; stealing the possession from the other team. Rarely, however, is the other team fooled by an onside attempt. When the game is almost over and one team is kicking off and does not have time to hope for a defensive stop, an onside kick is inevitable. The art comes in where to place the kick. As the receiving team knows an onside attempt is looming, the guessing game begins.

Against the Colts, Graham kicked a nearly perfect pooch kick. The team overloaded the right side to show that is where the ball would go. He placed the ball just behind the second row of Colts players away from the focus. He kicked left and had it not been for a heads up effort by Dallas ClarkJ, Cincinnati would have had a great chance to recover the ball.

Flag on the play.

A holding penalty on the Colts prior to recovery of the ball gave the Bengals the opportunity to kickoff again. The problem now is that your surprise kickoff is no longer a surprise! Graham needed to try something else.

The Bengals again overload the right side of the line showing they will kick that direction. Graham kicks the ball along the ground directly in front of himself and chases after it. Knowing full well he does not have a chance to beat the Colts players to the ball instead of diving for the ball he opts instead to dive at an opposing player to disrupt his chance to recover.

A very intelligent play by the kicker to give his team the best possible chance to recover the ball was again thwarted by a big play by the Colts. Reggie Wayne dove on the ball and was able to hold on to it.

The pressure had to be intense and Shayne Graham's ability to not only perform in that situation, but also deliver a hit earned my respect. Say what you want about kicker's in the NFL or any level, but I will see at least one of them in a totally new light from now on.

Hey, I was impressed enough to devote an entire post to him. That has to mean something, right? I mean any player who takes the "screw it, if I can't get the ball I might as well hit someone" mentality is ok in my book. It may even be expected from most players, but not from the kicker.

Good show Shayne Graham. Good show indeed.

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My Chicago weekend.

November 15th, 2005

What a weekend. What an incredible weekend. I had so much fun. My thanks go out to Nick, his parents, and everyone who attended for making those few days such a blast. Nick's birthday was last week and for the occasion, his parents put on a little shindig of sorts. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was not just Nick's college buddies (and me the lone high school invitee), but aunts, uncles and Big Nick's hunting buddies as well. This is the actual recipe for disaster. Especially when Big Nick paired us all up. One member of one generation with one member of the other. The goal was then, to simply drink more than he with whom you were paired come Saturday night.

I was lucky enough to be able to get out of work at 3pm on Friday which got my journey underway. I drove myself to Lansing and parked at the airport. Buddy picked me up from the airport and drove me to Nick's house in St. Joseph, MI. We arrived by 7, which was in time to grab a piece or 4 of pizza, have the first alcoholic beverage of the trip, and mingle. The party bus left at 8.

What, you ask, was the party bus? Imagine a shuttle bus that may seat nearly 40 people, gut the insides, insert limousine interior. There were maybe 20 of us occupying the all leather interior on the ride down; sharing stories, snacks and drinks.

Yolanda, the driver, managed to only get us lost a little bit. In no way does that excuse her apparent natural ability to break things in Nick's bathroom, however.

After we were settled in our rooms at the hotel, we went to Nick's parents' room. This was also party headquarters for the weekend. A little of both rubbing elbows and some hobnobbing before we headed out to the bar. We went to Hangge Uppe at Elm and Dearborn. We had a decent time there downstairs. Upstairs was more contemporary music (oh...and tiny), downstairs was significantly bigger and had music from the 50s through the 90s (from what we heard). It wasn't too long before Nick decided he would rather move on. To where? Neo. He described it to me as like the club in the beginning of Blade, but it was actually rather tame. I was more than a little disappointed, but I am sure the Goth/Industrial hotspot that it is was a bit disappointed in me as well. I did have the opportunity to see a few things I hadn't before. I saw a girl ask her boyfriend if she could kiss another girl, I saw a man in a fishnet shirt, I saw a man in a camouflage miniskirt, and I saw a more full figured woman in some corset/bustier thing with a mask on. My life seems to have more meaning now. Just the two of us had changed bars, the others stayed put. So that means it was only me that Nick tried to convince to go hop the fence at the zoo. Shame it didn't seem my idea of a good time.

We met up with all of the younger crowd in the early afternoon for lunch. We grabbed a bite at some pub on the side of the road. We weren't picky at this point, they just needed to have chicken fingers. Lunch at the Exchequer on Monroe was unremarkable.

We needed to be dressed and ready for dinner by 6:30. After lunch, some of the group headed to Michigan Avenue to do some shopping; the rest of us went back to the hotel for a short nap. Our dinner reservations were for 7pm and it was excellent. I absolutely love the food in Chicago. They are most well known for their pizza, but it really is a city full of great restaurants of all kinds.

After our meal we were shuttled to Blue Chicago for a night of live blues and enough alcohol to kill a small village. We were treated to some classic motown, hip hop and blues by Willie Kent and the Gents ft. Patricia Scott until the bar closed. We did manage to have a few cocktails as a part of whatever game Big Nick had thought up. I would like to thank the Admiral for taking it easy on me. I am well aware that I did not stand a chance, and truth be told I am not one to push the envelope. As things progressed we were able to see one member of the group sink in his attempt to out drink Nick's Uncle Tim while still maintaining his attempt to hit on a girl who was clearly at the bar...with another girl. Poor Andrew, two competitions he lost that night. When the bar closed we said goodbye and goodnight to the older generation. We strapping young lads then headed back to Hangge Uppe; the night was just beginning.

It was great because now that it was after 2am, many people were going home. It was crowded when we arrived at the bar, but it then began to thin out somewhat. The dance floor was nearly vacated, which was nice when the DJ switched formats. He had been playing dance tracks, but then moved into more ballads. Songs that everyone knows the words to played for the next few hours. We all stood in a circle and yelled out the words at the top of our lungs. It may not sound like much fun, but all good times shared between old friends and new ones should end in true sing along fashion like it did in Almost Famous and Sleepers.

The bar closed at 4:30, we were back at the hotel by 4:45. I went upstairs, packed, changed out of my been-spilled-on, smell-like-smoke, worn-all-night clothes and headed downstairs to get a cab to the airport. I had a 7:15am flight from Chicago back to Lansing (where my car was waiting for me). Remember, it was Sunday now. I had class at 1pm, otherwise I would have been on the party bus's dramatic return voyage to St. Joseph later in the day.

I was afraid to close my eyes in the airport before my flight because I knew no one would come tap me on the shoulder to wake me so I didn't miss the plane. I did manage to close my eyes for part of the 26 minutes we were in the air between cities though. I tried to sleep in my car before class, but could not get comfortable.

I am tired now, but in no way to I regret any single moment of this trip. I would much rather be tired having been a part of such a weekend instead of rested having missed out. I had a great time, not just at the bar with the boys from K but with the members of Nick's family that I had not seen in so long and even the guys from deer camp that I met for the first time.

I am working on getting some of the pictures taken on the trip. I didn't take a single one; but I am only slightly disappointed in myself. Others took enough.

Good times.

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Dry clean only.

November 11th, 2005

That is not just the instructions on many items of clothing, it is now my mantra. Even on nicer shirts that try to use their powers of deception to coerce me into washing them myself; they too will be dry cleaned.

Stick to your strengths. Mine lie in washing socks and underpants. I can't shrink that stuff.

Looking for my motivation to make this post? Read into it whatever you want...

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Old Friend Etiquette.

November 10th, 2005

I have taken a good amount of flack on this topic from my family in the past few days. My mother even cut me off mid sentence during my explanation of my clucking. I was simply telling her why I did what I did, or didn't do as were the case.

"Buk buk buk buk..."

A little less subtly, she then just interrupts.

"You're a chicken."

Yeah, I got that part, mom. But why? I do not think what I had done was so bad. Decide for yourself.

Tuesday night I was wife-sitting (don't ask, it's another post all in itself). The plan was dinner and we chose an Italian restaurant in town. When seated at our table, the gentleman told us our server's name is Nick and that he would be with us in just a moment. Glancing around the establishment, as this was my first time inside, I immediately knew who our server would be. Three tables away was a young man who had been a classmate of mine.

"I know our server."
"You do?"
"Yeah, we went to school together."
"...Elementary school."
"You remember that?"
"I could tell you not only his last name, but also his older brother's name."

So obviously I talked to him and told him who I am and how I know him, because obviously he would remember me and we would laugh like two fools reminiscing over the good old days, right?

Well, you see, no. I didn't do anything more than tell him how good the food was and thank him for refilling my water. I have not seen him in what, 13 years or so. What part of our business relationship, he as representative of the restaurant, me as hungry, made this the appropriate time to point out our former connection? We were friends then, that was a long time ago. We are not friends now, not that we couldn't be, but he was at work and the restaurant was busy.

Would you prefer that I had pointed it out as soon as he had first come to our table? Or did you want me to wait until I was walking out the door to mention it?

Please allow me to list my excuses reasons for not saying something:
1) I have what has, in some cases, been called an "above average" memory. I am often able to recall events, people and specific details from situations others cannot. Based upon this, I do not like to place myself in an awkward situation where I figure everyone remembers the things I do. Nor do I want to make someone feel slight for not remembering something I do, let alone as vividly. Why bring up a friendship that happened more than 50% of my life ago when maybe only 50% of the two of us remembers? Maybe if I had the time to refresh his memory.

2) Timing. Had I said something to him at the beginning of the meal, I feel that things may have then been awkward for the rest of our stay. So you talk for a minute about what you have been up to for the rest of your life and then before you know it he has to get back to work, he has other tables. So now, each time he comes back do you pursue further conversation? If yes, he slows down his service to other restaurant patrons and my dinnermate would get down right bored not to mention annoyed at the interruptions in conversation caused by routine food service visits. Or do you let that first conversation be the first and only and then there is an awkward silence each time he then returns to the table? Do they let crickets into Italian restaurants?

The little lady brave enough to endure dinner with me had plans to visit with family from out of town after our reservation so I did not want to delay her by making conversation as I left. Nor did I want to then have to deal with the awkward "Oh, you recognized me from the beginning, but you didn't say anything until now? Imagine the catching up we could have done during your meal."

3) I paid the bill with my credit card. A cop out, sure. But now he had my name, and could choose to bring it up if he so desired. And guess what, he didn't either.

It would have been nice to say "Hello". I can admit that, but the possibilities for things to be weird were too great. I know where he works and should be able to find him if the feeling comes over me.

I have never worked in the food industry. I do not know if saying something, anything, at one time or another would have been deemed acceptable or not.

But I have now seen him for the first time in years. He did look exactly the looking taller, older, slightly heavier (happens to the best of us) oh, and I don't remember him having the 5 o'clock shadow at recess.

Maybe next time.

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November 8th, 2005

What's that? You're a sucker for any new product from the Google team, no matter how pointless? Me too!

Should I be slightly ashamed that I am such a Googlite? Maybe. Will I show you Frappr! anyway? Yes.

Frappr!So the idea is that you can join a group and add your location. For example, say you browsed to the Privatjokr Frappr! Map, you would have the ability to see where certain jokers hang their hats (by zip code only) and add yourself as well.

Before you know it, we could have three whole dots on the map; me and my two readers. (I love you mom and dad.)

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Photo Gallery

November 7th, 2005

For a very very very long time I have been keeping the few pictures I have taken on the site in a bare bones directory structure. There are countless off the shelf applications that I could use and offer to you a more presentable format, but I have *surprisingly* been stubborn about it. I wanted to actually code my own page. I wanted to customize it and make it my own.

Well guess what, as it turns out, I don't have the time. Oh, and I am a horrible programmer.

Fast forward my frustration for weeks and weeks. Stop the tape on last week and you'll be just in time for the unveiling of my selling out.

Photo Gallery

This is and will continue to be an online repository for pictures I have taken and others I host for you since I am such a great guy. The "Pics" link in my sidebar will also take you to the gallery. More coming soon...

I hope you enjoy it.

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We are not alone.

November 7th, 2005

So I forgot to post this on Friday. Maybe that was part of the plan. Perhaps it was by design that I didn't find time on Friday for this post. I take it that I have extraordinary brain power and was able to fight at least part of the memory erasing I received Thursday night as I was plucked from the bed in which I slept.

Ok, do I honestly believe I was abducted? No. But it would be pretty cool. But the basis for this is that when I woke up Friday morning I could not imagine what happened.

This is hard to picture unless you have actually seen me sleep, which severely limits the number of you who will understand fully. For those of you who haven't, I will do my best to explain. I sleep on my right side, on the right side of the bed and I clutch my body pillow like I would never sleep again if I don't protect it from harm. Yes, I have a queen sized bed and I hardly utilize the majority of the space. I am ok with that.

When I went to sleep Thursday night, as with most nights, again I found myself on my right side, on the right side of the bed, body draped around the body pillow, under the covers.

When I awoke to my alarm Friday morning, a hard-slept four hours later, I found myself on my stomach, in the middle of the bed, above the covers, freezing. For what it is worth, the body pillow remained exactly where it had been, on the side of the bed, under the covers, when I'd shut my eyes a few hours prior.

Historically I will wake up in the middle of the night when cold to readjust the blanket(s) for warmth. I cannot fathom why this did not take place last Thursday night. It is very unlike me to remain asleep when cold. Oh, and the kicker, HOW DID I GET OUT FROM UNDER THE COVERS?

Best answer I can provide myself is the conclusion I am sure you all jumped to as well.