Archive for the ‘ Parenting & Family ’ Category

Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom FREE June 6, 7 & 8



My ebook, “Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” will be FREE on Amazon on Friday, June 6th, Saturday, June 7th and Sunday, June 8th!

“Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” is a collection of blog posts from this very blog!  From the depiction of the author’s upbringing as a fat, shy Catholic school boy to the vagaries of family life to trying to live hand-to-mouth while on disability, “Sister Mercedes” is a sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes tragic and always human glimpse behind the veil of parenthood, marriage, pop culture and the world in general.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, please spread the word to anyone you think would be interested.  It’s FREE!





When Gods Cry–A Christmas Memory

I was eleven and the world was not less complicated, despite what the nostalgics suggest. I was at the ICU at St. Vincent’s hospital. I was told I was born here, in some faraway place called the maternity ward, but I had never seen this building. It seemed huge and labyrinthine. The lights were too bright on this floor, and the nurses too quiet. It was marked in its difference from the rest of the hospital, and by extension the bright pulse of the city and the rest of the world. This was not a place for celebration, or health.

It was a week before Christmas. I didn’t believe in Santa Claus anymore, but I could still feel the impending joy the thought of him recently engendered. Outside of this place it was in the air, crackling like buzzing electricity above us and through us. A shared connection and liked-mindedness I’d only ever experienced in a sports stadium when the home team player hit a ball long and deep and the crowd stood and waited for it to descend beyond the fence. That anticipation.

This place was immune to it. In the lobby there was a tree with white lights. Ribbons and wreaths adorned the walls. It all disappeared when the elevator doors opened. In the ICU, everything seemed blue, the color of veins returning spent blood back to its source to become replenished. Death returning to life, the daily miracle. I imagined veins to be similarly subdued.

I held in my hands a piece of green construction paper cut into the shape of a Christmas tree. Taped to the middle of the tree was a Polaroid of myself, my sister and three brothers sitting on the stairs that led to our bedrooms, peeking through the banister supports decorated in evergreen. It was taken a year ago. We were smiling and looking off to our right at some real or imagined joy. We were evergreen as well.

Around the photo I had drawn colored bulbs, red, purple, orange. At the top was a yellow star. I was no artist, but I liked the way it turned out, and I liked my mother’s and grandmother’s reaction when I showed it to them. Would you look at that! Ah, the creature. It’s beautiful. I wanted to give it to my Grandpa. Not just give it to him, hand it to him myself. I wanted his validation.

But he was sick, which is why we all piled into our rickety car and drove to the city, to our grandparents’ four-room apartment with the tiny Christmas tree sitting on top of the television. We were there so my mother could visit her sick father. I wanted to see him too. My parents looked at each other indecisively.

I was the eldest of my siblings and my grandfather’s favorite, as I heard in whispered declarations from my Grandma. When I was small I would sit transfixed at the kitchen table and listen to him tell tales of his bartending days in his Irish brogue. I remember few of the stories, but I can recall the cadence and intonation. He taught me to play solitaire and rummy. When my grandparents would come to our house in the suburbs, bringing endless brown-paper bags of food and love, he would sit in a lawn chair in our back yard and throw me ground balls. I loved him with abandon.

Which is why I brought red, green and yellow into this blue ICU. Whatever my Grandpa’s condition, I was stubbornly convinced, it would not be worsened by seeing me. I was his favorite and I loved him and I made this for him. But in this hushed place where the air seemed dense, my convictions wobbled. I felt wholly misplaced, in my color, my redness, my youth. I was an interloper, armed only with a piece of construction paper, and I was overmatched. I was left alone in a sterile waiting room while my Grandma and my parents went to assess whether my Grandpa was up to seeing me. The television droned, unwatched and unheeded. I could feel each second pass.

Visiting hours were nearly over when my father came to fetch me. You have to talk really quiet, he said, and we can’t stay long. You’re Grandpa’s not feeling well. OK, I said. I had lost whatever small will I had to argue. His bed was coming off the right hand wall and my mother and grandmother were standing on the far side. My Grandpa was facing them. His glasses were off. His hulk was contained in a light blue gown and a white sheet. He had an IV in his wrist and a breathing tube in his nose. The room was dim.

Look who’s here to see you, my Grandma said, and my Grandpa turned in my direction. He couldn’t make me out without his glasses. Who? Who is it? It’s Brian come to visit you. There was a jolt of recognition in his face, then he turned away and began to cry. I had never seen him cry. I didn’t think such a thing was possible. Can gods cry? I wept myself for causing his tears.

I didn’t want him to see me like this, he said. He came to bring you something, my mother said, something he made for you. I was struck dumb and lifeless. My father took the Christmas tree from my hand and handed it to my mother. My Grandma said, put your glasses on and look. He wiped his eyes with the heel of his hand and reached to the nightstand to fetch his glasses. They were thick, and when he put them on his eyes were magnified. I could see the leftover wetness from his tears. Look at that Jeremiah, my Grandma said, it’s a picture of the kids. My Grandpa nodded. Ah now that’s nice, he said. We’ll tape it up here on the wall, my mother said, so you can see it.

It was dark when we left the hospital, but lights abounded. Taxi headlights, storefront blinking lights, the red and green of the the stoplights extending down into the recesses of Seventh Avenue, turning from one color to the other in a rolling, endless spiral. The city was impossibly big and vibrant, and I was infinitesimally small. Holiday lights hung in odd apartment windows. Reds, greens and whites, shining boldly with arterial life and expectation. The air was cold and bracing. Vital. There was no blue.

The Christmyth List


Halloween is behind us, so you all know what that means. We are hurtling head-long into the holiday season at 1000 miles-per-hour. The decorations that were being barely held at bay in the Wal-Mart warehouse have now erupted into our consciousnesses with a saccharine vengeance. Time to be jolly and spend lots of money, for Christmas sake!

Now I am no Scrooge. In fact I love Christmas. I love most of the music, and I enjoy buying gifts for my family. I like the shiny lights. I’d get into the whole “special feeling in my stomach” stuff too, but I have a reputation to uphold here. Nobody likes an enthusiastic cynic, unless he’s being enthusiastically cynical.

For all the wonder, joy and profit the season brings, it also brings a bunch of big fat lies we all have to live with, especially as we start turning the corner of our 40s and head, screaming and kicking, further down the road. OK, maybe they are little white lies. But they’re lies all the same. Such as…

Wouldn’t it be magical if there was a white Christmas this year?” Well…no. Not really. Here in the Northeast, we’re going to get pounded with snow from January to mid-March—and I don’t want to start early, thank you. Plus, the whole snow on Christmas thing is a pipe-dream for most of the country. Unless you live in Maine, upstate New York, northern Minnesota, Wisconsin or Colorado, odds are you’ll be wistfully looking out the window through your breath-frost, wishing in vain for a stray flake. Everybody loves that first sprinkling of snow. Then reality sets in, and you find yourself with a heating pad attached to what’s left of your spine after shoveling your car out of nine feet of blizzard hell. Ask the folks in Buffalo, Green Bay and Denver how much they love snow. You’ll get a tired, disgusted look. They’d punch you in the face, but they can’t lift their arms.

There’s nothing like the face of a child on Christmas morning!” Says anyone who has never had kids, or has conveniently forgotten the truth. You know what the majority of parents would like to see on Christmas morning? The backs of their eyelids. Or anything but their dear children, shaking them awake at half-past-too-friggin’-early-to-breathe to come out to the livingroom and watch them tear apart their presents. My wife Mary Ellen makes a breakfast casserole the night before so she can come out in a blanket, see the first fifteen minute of destruction, then return to her blissful sleep. That’s the kind of thinking that gets you promoted in this man’s Army! I fight the good fight with the help of copious cups of caffeine, but by 10am or so I’m a cranky, sleep-deprived zombie who doesn’t want to play any more games, and doesn’t want to put anything else together, and JUST WANTS TO BE LEFT ALONE TO SLEEP, DAMMIT! Merry Christmas, boys, now get out of my room! I don’t care, go play with reindeer! Nothing to do? You have 1,251 dollars worth of something to do under the tree! I don’t know, ’cause Santa showed me the bill. Now go away!

Every Christmas album ever made is an instant classic, and I want to hear it over and over as I shop!” OK, here’s the deal: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” may be indispensable for many, many 12-year-olds during the holiday season, but the rest of us JUST DON’T EVER WANT TO HEAR IT AGAIN! Please, for the love of all that’s holy! Let us shop in peace. Play some Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, the Halleluiah Chorus. Play Phil Spector, Burl Ives, Nat King Cole, Springsteen. The Ray Coniff Singers, the Peanuts Special soundtrack, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, The Muppets, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” I’m easy, I love lots of it. Stop pounding Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber into my brain like a metal spike, over and over and over. And as wonderful as the Beatles may have been and continue to be, those Christmas songs John and Paul cut are soooo baaaad. Paul’s sounds like it was written on the back of an envelope in the limo on the way to the studio (probably the one his big ol’ check came in). And Yoko…oy vey. If I wanted to hear high-pitched shrieking on Christmas I’d visit my family. War is over, but what is this fresh hell? Plus, Christmas albums are the number one cynical, sell-out, quick buck stratagem for any artist with at least 15 seconds of fame, and some who are famous already and should know better. Susan Boyle, Rod Stewart, Jewel, the guys from Duck Dynasty. And noted goyim such as Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan and the irrepressible Barbra Streisand, who has about 12 of them now because she obviously needs the money. I don’t think I want to hear an album that would make the artist’s mother cringe and give a disapproving look.

And don’t get me started on movies. ABC Family starts showing the most treacly straight-to-video Christmas-themed crappola in existence in mid-November and calls it the “25 Days of Christmas” even though it takes six weeks. And “Home Alone” is a mean-spirited, nasty movie about mean-spirited, nasty people and it has about as much to do with Christmas as emergency surgery. And I should know, because I’ve had a few and none of them reminded me of Jimmy Stewart.

Christmas presents need to be wrapped within an inch of their ever-loving lives, like skin stretched on a drum, secured with enough tape to ensure that said present can be used as a flotation device and is impenetrable to human tampering—then festooned with an impossibly knotted colored ribbon and a kicky bow.” Again, this may be split along the children-having divide. At 3am Christmas morn, I would cover their presents with tin foil and chewed gum if I had to. And since the tape usually runs out an hour before I’m done, I’ve frequently had to. What the presents look like before they are opened matters to grown ups, NOT kids. Kids want to get from “A” to “X-Box 360” as quickly as humanly possible, and are only annoyed by the delay of well-wrapped presents. Ribbons and bows? Lost in the flood of paper garbage that is piled shin deep in the livingroom 45 seconds after Christmas commences.  

I think people who spend a lot of time wrapping air-tight presents are a. childless or have grown children, b. gay, c. people who want everything to be absolutely PERFECT this year! or d. really nice people who I just happen to disagree with about this topic. A, b and c can also be d.

So let’s end this on a positive note. I’m the big fat liar. One of the best Christmases I ever had was when we had a huge snowstorm and we couldn’t leave the house to visit anyone. The kids and I went sledding on a neighbor’s hilly lawn and nearly killed ourselves, but it was a blast.

Then we went inside to hot cocoa, a Bob Dylan Christmas and “Home Alone”.

Eat, Spray, Love


You know what’s a lovely smell? Cat spray. It’s like the natural aroma of the Siamese jungle. If there’s a jungle in Siam, I’ve never been. Though I have seen The King and I.

Actually, cat spray doesn’t have an aroma, it has a pung. An earthy stench most closely related to stale urine covered in sticky maple syrup. Sorry to all of you who had to put your coffee down after that one.

Why bring up such an unpleasant topic? One guess. Our damn cat Shea, whose feral hindquarters have been christening our new apartment since we got here, causing the stock of Kids ‘N Pets to spike precipitously.

We first found Shea under the house we were living in in Pine Bush. He was uncollared, untagged and freezing cold and cried until we found him. We saved his cross-eyed, Barbra Streisand-looking face, and he loved us in that big, retarded, tom-kitten way of his. Our female cat Tess found a playmate, our older fixed cat Max found a new place to aim his resentment, and a new member of the family was anointed. Everything was swell.

Until his testicles started to explode in a testosteroney rage. He grew about 10 times his size, like the Grinch’s heart, and began mounting the laundry on a regular basis. All of a sudden, his “play” with Tess resembled the late-night fumbling of sex-starved teenagers at the drive-in. (If this were the 1950s, apparently. Timely reference, Brian!) Our little tom-kitten was turning into a tom-cat. With pimples and the beginnings of a mustache. And the sex drive of souped up Lamborghini.

Coinciding with our darling boy’s growth spurt was our move to a new apartment. Dealing with Shea’s burgeoning ball-sac had to be put on the back burner. We had to come up, somehow, with the money to pay off electric, cable, etc. while scrounging up a deposit and first month’s rent. With some creative accounting (and the help of a family member), we were able to pull it off. We stumbled into our new apartment exhausted and poorer than ever.

The whole deal was even harder on our cats. We live in an apartment complex and they can’t have the run of the place anymore. They had to go from inside-outside to inside only. Needless to say, they were a little on edge for a while. Boundaries needed to be set, claims made, territories divided. Apparently our front door and our son Conor’s bed have been commandeered by Shea, because he sprayed there like he had a runaway garden hose. Which, in essence, I suppose he did.

When we could finally afford it, we made an appointment with the local spay and neuter van, which collects its mewing victims at a Petsmart parking lot in Middletown. We stood on line with the other owners and stray-finders, talking about how our homes were beginning to smell like a WWII Parisian whorehouse. After VE day. With maple syrup. Ewww.

Mary El made with the Kids ‘N Pets and the steam-cleaner, fighting the battle to reclaim our front door (the mattress was beyond repair). After a few hundred passes, it almost began to smell like new rug again. Our wayward Shea returned to a brand new, unsullied home, minus most of his testicles and all of his mojo.

Or so we thought.

Shea’s mojo is apparently stronger than modern science, ’cause within three days we recognized the tell tale stank of the renegade male feline. This can’t be, we thought. He left the best part of himself back there in that spay van! They can’t grow back, right? Did the vet have bad aim? What gives here?

Apparently…having your male cat fixed is NO GUARANTEE that the sprayer will stop spraying. According to the internet, which is of course never wrong.

Okay, what!?

Seventy-five bucks to do right by the damn cat and we still have to live with a four-legged spray machine? What do we have to do, convince him he’ll make himself blind? He wasn’t raised Catholic to my knowledge, so I doubt that would work. Maybe we should have had him circumcised instead of neutered.

I am RIGHT NOW, as soon as I finish writing this, going online to buy more Kids ‘N Pets. I hope you can order it by the gallon.

Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom FREE 9/20-22

Beginning September 20th through Sunday the 22nd, my ebook “Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” will be available as a FREE download on Amazon. If you haven’t read it yet, download it! If you know anyone who’d be interested, please share! Thanks.

Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom

Non-Fiction/Humor, 5 stars/19 reviews


“Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” is a collection of blog posts from playwright and author Brian C. Petti. From the depiction of the author’s upbringing as a fat, shy Catholic school boy to the vagaries of family life to trying to live hand-to-mouth while on disability, “Sister Mercedes” is a sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes tragic and always human glimpse behind the veil of parenthood, marriage, pop culture and the world in general.

Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom–FREE 6/10-14


My ebook Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom will be offered for FREE on Amazon from 6/10 to 6/14!  Here is the description:

“Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” is a collection of blog posts from playwright and author Brian C. Petti. From the depiction of the author’s upbringing as a fat, shy Catholic school boy to the vagaries of family life to trying to live hand-to-mouth while on disability, “Sister Mercedes” is a sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes tragic and always human glimpse behind the veil of parenthood, marriage, pop culture and the world in general.

Funny, inspirational and moving. ”Edward Hayes  |  6 reviewers made a similar statement

Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom Radio Interview

sr merc 3

If you’re near a computer or radio (Catskill Hudson area), tune in to WGXC 90.7 or at 2pm today (5/16) to hear my interview with Ann Forbes Cooper.  You can hear me read selections from “Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom”, my new ebook on Amazon

If you miss it on the radio, the interview will be added to their website for download as well!