Category Archives: My Journey is a Trip

The Turntable

My life is coming full circle around the turntable.

When I was a child, I remember that first record player. It was in a bright red plastic case with a carrying handle so I could lug it from room-to-room in the house to listen to my favorite records. My favorite was a safari adventure with Sesame Street’s Ernie and Bert. My little sister had one, too. From her room you could hear, “B my name is Benny, I haven’t got a penny, but if I did I would cut it in two and give a half to you.” It cycled the entire alphabet in such fashion. I remember secretly enjoying the rhyme, when I wasn’t annoyed with my sister and the sounds she’d play.

At a garage sale, my mom agreed to buy me an old floor model record player. It was ancient, the kind of thing you’d find in a grandparent’s home. But I thought it looked cool and more grown up. We didn’t have much money back then but this thing was priced to move. It spun a Star Wars soundtrack, Bee Gees disco, and my pet parakeet. Yes, I got a kick out of putting my pet parakeet on a record and starting it. His wings were clipped so he wasn’t going anywhere. He loved spinning around, I think, kinda like we did as kids until we’d wobble off, trying to walk straight.

As I grew into my teen years, cassette players replaced record players. I remember taping Casey Kasem’s American Top-40, trying to time it just right to pause and play in order to capture the good songs, and not the DJ talking or the commercials. It took commitment. When I got my first car with a tape deck in it, I could retire my not-so-portable boom box. Then, my music collection, on cassette tapes, grew at a pace supported by all that I could earn at my part-time jobs.

Meanwhile, old albums collected dust in the attic.

CD’s replaced cassettes. When I finally invested in the state-of-the-art rack stereo system at the time – it had everything – I played the crap out of my CDs. They didn’t scratch or warp like records and they didn’t have tape get tangled up in the wheels of a cassette player after too much use. These rack systems came with all of the components: turntable, radio tuner, cassette player, and CD player. But the only thing that got use was the CD player. Oh, and the speakers would have made Marty McFly proud!

When I came home from the Army, I was jamming Milli Vanilli in the basement while shooting pool by myself. Nobody could know that I was loving Milli Vanilli. Then, I twisted the wrong way and popped my knee out of joint. I laid in agony on the far side of the pool table with only my legs visible from the stairs. The music was cranked to the max. Soon to follow, my dad, a man’s man, came rumbling down the stairs shouting at a volume that cut right through the music, “Turn that crap down!” When he saw my legs and heard me say I popped my knee, did he help? No. He turned, shaking his head, as if he had lost his son, and retreated upstairs, as “Blame it on the rain,” shook the walls.

CD’s had a long reign on the music scene. Then came Napster and the digital music revolution. It was a game changer and gateway to the on-demand culture of immediate gratification.

I was slow to adapt to the purchasing of music at 99 cents per track to listen to on my phone. I remember being at a crossroads of the past and future, staring at an old stereo rack system and all of its components that I wouldn’t use, but wanting it all, badly. It was priced to move but a friend of mine talked me down from the ledge, saying something like,” What would you do with that, today?” There may have been a slap upside my head to hammer in the point.

Fast forward a handful of years later and my teenage daughter asked, “Dad, do you have any old vinyl?”

My first thought was, ya, I think there are siding pieces in the shed. I quickly learned that vinyl records were all the rage with the kids today. I was intrigued so I bought her a record player that came in a case like the one I first had as a kid. The twist was that you could plug your phone into it and upload the music from the records.

I entered into a strange flashback-world. We explored old album bins at flea markets, only the albums were brand new again, unopened, no scratches, ready to spin. And listening to entire albums just felt more natural. It felt good. It felt real. It felt like a richer experience. I was hooked.

Now, having come full circle, I’m ready for a trip back to the future. I need a grown-up turntable, and fast!

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel

My Long Walk Home

A fictional short story by Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel

My hand reached for the withered door. If the wood had consciousness, it would have thought it saw its reflection.

Darkness was blown out by the breeze that flowed through my nostrils and lit up my eyes. I smiled while the world outside came into focus. It was time for my long walk home.

I paused at the curb and waited for a car to pass.

“What was that again, Fred?” were the words gargled from my rusty pipes.

I was relieved that the gentleman across the street could hear me above the engine still reverberating in the car’s wake.

“Sure was – brutal one at that,” I smiled, waved and shifted my weight to the cane assisting me on my way.

At the corner, my head was pulled to the side by curiosity. A teenage boy was hanging out of a side window, desperately clutching the long grass to pull his body free. My eyes squinted to wrap my mind around this peculiar maneuver. An instant later, my head was lured in the opposite direction to see a man enter the front door.

Shaking my head as the lad hopped away and into his pants, I shifted my weight to the cane. It assisted me another way to pretend I didn’t see a thing. But a belly laugh blew my mouth open.

Joyce was tending to her tulips. Once my memory pieced her together, I tried to flee, but it was too late. That added 20 minutes but it could have easily been 60. The whole time she kept turning up the same dirt.

I dusted off and continued on my walk home.

A young man, grinning ear-to-ear, hammed it up for a pretty lass to snap his picture. He pulled a real estate sign out of the ground and pointed to the word “sold.” As if it were my reason for being, they recruited me to take a snapshot of the two of them in front of their home. I held up my shaky hands and snapped away hoping one of the shots wasn’t too blurry.

I tried to make my break – in slow motion – before they analyzed my work. But a tender touch halted me. The woman planted a gentle and kind kiss on my cheek that made me feel like all of the spring bloomed in an instant.

Ten steps down the road I managed to swing my cane in my hand. It was a daring maneuver. One that I didn’t repeat. The smell of flowers, or maybe it was her perfume, danced in my head.

Another fella on the opposite side of the road was walking one of those “don’t mess with me” dogs. Then, my eardrums were pierced by so much yapping I could have sworn it was my late wife scolding me. The thought of her yammering away made me feel warm all over.

Several miniature dogs ran up to the invisible boundary separating the big dog from their onslaught. The big dog cowered and whimpered, wrapping his body around the man’s legs, nearly tripping him. It was shameful.

Then, with a touch of bravado, the big dog extended his leash and stopped just before the imaginary line where the other dogs clamored. With leg raised, the big dog brought silence back to that curb.

I smiled and tipped my hat to the man. He looked rather relieved.

Ah, the dandelion house came into view. I loved the dandelion house because it sang out its unabashed brilliant color for the world to see …and judge. I would never keep a lawn like that, but I was glad they did.

A small group of little girls called out – “Lemonade!”

It sounded perfect to me, so I trekked over to their makeshift stand. I noticed that the plastic tabletop, where they mixed their concoction,  was filled with Kool-Aid packets and lots of colored powder that had spilled. There was no lemonade in sight. They were silent, bursting with anticipation as I raised my Dixie cup and threw back the refreshment in one big gulp as if I were downing a shot with my war buddies. I went bug-eyed. I gasped and asked if they had water. Of course, they didn’t. But they sure had a whole bunch of sugar and who knows what else to make their “lemonade” as sweet as could be – much like their precious souls.

“I think you just rotted my teeth out,” I said, setting up my joke.

Then I pulled my false teeth out of my mouth giving a gummy laugh.

Those poor little girls ran every which way, shrieking for the whole neighborhood to hear. I moved with a fleet of foot that I hadn’t known for decades.

A house and a half separated from the mayhem I caused, I slowed to catch my breath.

As I stood still, drool fell from my mouth onto my shirt. I’ve learned to accept my undesired lack of bodily control at times. Then my stomach lustfully cried out, “Where’s the barbeque?”

A moment later, I quickly ducked and almost shouted, “Incoming!”

Someone had lit off fireworks, and the series of explosions that ricocheted through the trees scared the crap out of me. Hell, it was broad daylight and at least two months before Independence Day.

I pressed onward with my journey home, my heart still racing, my mind flashing back to…

As I walked with my cane again, the hammering of roofers drew my attention upward. When I neared – it took a while – this small group of 20-somethings sat down in a row across the peak of the rooftop for a water break. I thought it was strange that they looked straight out, nobody talking at all. They looked like birds on a wire.

My eyes followed their line of sight to a house across the street. People were on an opposite low hanging roof over a front porch. I squinted and realized that that roof was shingled with bikinis so small it left little to the imagination.


Right in front of me, a teenage boy rode his bicycle straight into a mailbox. He caught the attention of roofers and bikini girls alike.

“Son, are you okay,” I asked with genuine concern.

I could tell he was hurting badly, but he shook it off as if it were nothing and acted all cool as he pushed his bike away, flipping it back on its rear wheel, holding the crumpled front end by the handlebars.

The roofers hammered away again as I turned the corner, heading for home.

At the end of my street, I was reminded it was trash day. Old lady Thompson had left hers on the curb already. Every week, her trash amounted to nothing more than a stuffed little plastic grocery bag. It made me wonder how that could be.

Although I am old as well, I have always referred to her as “old lady” because she was old the day we moved in all those years ago. But she was young at heart. Everyone loved her energy. There she was weeding her flower beds. That spunky thing popped up when she saw me coming and asked if I could start her lawnmower. Chivalry washed over me, so I even offered to mow her grass. Although there wasn’t much grass to mow, I couldn’t do it, and we both knew it.

“No-no, I really enjoy cutting the grass,” she insisted. “I just don’t have the strength to start this mower anymore.”

So I played hero one more time.

Halfway down the street, a group of young boys and girls lined up on a lawn to race from one driveway to another. I watched them do this back and forth several times as I walked by them. Then, one of the boys stumbled and skidded his knees across the concrete driveway. He stood up, paused and looked down. When he saw blood, he cried until some lady threw open a door and ran to his rescue before I could get there. She held his little sobbing face against her as she kneeled low to comfort him.

His sob muffled.

When she stood to take the boy inside, she smiled at me and said, “It’s good to see you. It’s been so long.”

Finally, I arrived at my driveway.

I paused for a car to pass.

“What was that again, Fred?”

Fred repeated himself.

“Sure was – brutal one at that,” I smiled, waved and sauntered up the hill to my porch to sit in my chair.

With the sun on my face, I closed my eyes and leaned my head back.

When I heard car doors shut and a bunch of footsteps pitter patter up the drive, I rose to greet them.

As they poured up the hill, I rose even higher.

That’s when I saw me on that porch, head back and eyes closed.

I had a smile that radiated like the sun. Much as the smile I felt as I drifted through my porch roof, higher. Not just higher but all around and through and through. I seemed to be everywhere and touching everything. And everything was touching me.

That’s when I realized that this wasn’t about me. It never was.

The harmonious connectedness of everything, as one thing, was something that that old mind on that porch could never comprehend.

But now everything made perfect sense.

It was beauty words cannot describe, and minds cannot comprehend.

I was home.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel


The Last Road Trip

A Farewell to Another Generation’s
Traditional Family Vacations

Rocco Satullo, your tour guide to fun!

The all-American family vacation harkens images of the Griswold’s out on the open road trekking cross-country in a station wagon to the sound, Holiday Road. And it repeats with each generation. It’s a rite of passage that comes and goes in about a 12-year period from when the kids are old enough to remember something to old enough to fly the nest. But it goes by in the blink of an eye. Thousands of dollars are spent seeing places like Disney, Yellowstone, and countless other destinations and attractions. Littered along the way are tourist traps and roadside gimmicks to lure the weary family to break up dad’s power-drives to get somewhere special.

In the end, what does everyone remember? The moments between geological wonders and architectural gems. The unexpected.

After a dozen years of summer vacations, we decided to take one more before our daughter heads off to college. Some call this the senior trip. In all likelihood, it marks the end of an era. Never (most-likely) will just the four of us be packed in a car for two weeks forced to get to know each other better. It isn’t always rosy times, but even the meltdowns are remembered, fondly. Every trip, I’m good for one earning the nickname – Travel Dad.

“Uh-oh, Travel Dad just got behind the wheel,” could be uttered from the backseat when I cuss out loud at a traffic situation.

Alas, it really is about the journey and not the destination. Here are some of the more memorable experiences our family had together over this blip in time. I’m sure our stories are your stories or at least they’ll get you talking about yours, too.

Our first real vacation had us flying on a small, bumpy flight with one row of single seats on one side of the plane. I sat in front of my six-year-old son and behind him was another six-year-old. The seatbelt sign was on. We descended before our stomachs. That’s when I heard two remarkable imaginations echo through the hollow tube with a play-by-play for everyone to hear. “We’re going to crash!” One boy yelled at the other. “Ah, that was close.” “Holy moly, there’s an alligator on the wing.” The plane bucked in the air and then tilted to turn. “The alligator is gone, but seaweed clogged the engine, and now it’s smoking.” I tried to squeeze my face in between the back of my seat and the metal wall with desperate “SHHH” noises, but these two were on cloud nine all the way down.

On a long driving day, we approached a small town I had read was one of the 100 you had to see before you died. The distance was deceiving, and it came in and out of sight as we rolled over hills and turns for about 10 minutes nearing it. Coming closer, we “oohed and ahhed” looking for a place to pull off and snap some photos. In town, I had stopped and started at a few signs and lights before a flashing light caught my attention. When I found a place to pull over, it was revealed in short-order that this popping mad policeman was in slow pursuit of us for …miles. After he spits his displeasure and ripe words at me he returned to his cruiser to write my ticket. That’s when my daughter wondered out loud if I was going to prison.

In a desolate part of the country, I was proud to have found a motel close to a remote national monument that Triple-A didn’t even know existed – and for a good reason. Our cinder block accommodations overlooked nothing for as far as the eyes could see. There was a cluster of filled-in bullet holes head-high in the door. The “inn-keeper” fetched my son his bead (cot) from a shed and when she turned to leave, I asked for the room key. She said there was none. There was a pause between us before she turned away, laughed, threw her arms in the air and said, “Besides, where ya gonna go?”

There’s nothing like hiking to the top of a mini rock mountain searching for Petroglyphs when lighting strikes. What had been a careful ascent due to the multiple “Beware: Rattlesnakes” signs became a mad dash for the car. The winds and rain whipped up, but we managed to get to our four-wheel shelter before the brunt of it nailed us. Winds still churning albeit it not as powerfully, I rolled down my window trying to get a better look at an anomaly headed our way. “Roll up the window!” my wife screamed, but before I could, a wall of sand slammed into our faces and all over the car.

I withdrew some cash before stepping out of our hotel and into the early morning sun …and the chest of a homeless man. He asked for forty-nine cents or some odd number like that. I only had twenty dollar bills. When I said that I couldn’t help now but certainly would later, he yelled and threatened, “You won’t always be together,” waving his finger at my children in a threatening manner. Now I know he probably wasn’t playing with a full deck, but I couldn’t help myself. I stopped, turned around and said, “Did you just threaten my family?” He proceeded to shout at me and called me this and that for an entire block.  He crossed a street, so we walked a bit more before we crossed. But first, I paused to see which way he was going to head on the other side. He turned and scanned my side of the street until he found me. Then he waved me over in sharp motions as if to say, “Bring it on!” I laughed to myself, and we walked away.

After police confiscated all of our water before entering a building (plus snacks, sunscreen, you name it), we walked for miles from one site to another on a record hot day all over a city. But if you ask anyone in our family, what was the best thing you ever ate on all of your trips, the answer is unanimous. Frozen lemonade from a food truck. We scrounged up just enough coin to splurge on one five-dollar frozen lemonade. The four of us lined the curb, each taking a spoonful of heaven and passed it down. We were that desperate and elated.

A cottage stay put us on what amounted to a cul-de-sac street in the woods with every cottage in the cluster having been rented out by college kids, partying like there’s no tomorrow. Every cottage except ours and one other, kitty-corner from us. Ours was remarkably soundproof so as long as we could sleep, I wasn’t complaining. But kitty-corner family had this to say, “In the middle of the night, my worst fear came true,” said kitty-corner dad. “Someone was banging on the back door yelling, ‘let me in.’ I yelled back, ‘You better get out of here, this isn’t your cottage, now go away.’ To which the drunk on the other side pleaded, ‘Come on dude, stop mess’n with my head and just let me in.’ This exchange repeated a few times before the stranger at the door fell silent.” He couldn’t open the door in the morning because the college kid had passed out against it.

While waiting at a street corner, a strange sight grabbed our attention. A lady was walking backward ever so casually at a pace somewhere between not too fast and not too slow. I quickly reminded the kids (and myself) not to snicker when she neared. We missed our “walk” sign and stood still, gawking, as her back-side passed us and now shown her front side. She kept walking backward, looking at us, us looking at her. She crossed a couple of streets as if she had eyes in the back of her head and finally turned a corner, all the while walking backward. When she finally tuned out of view, we looked at each other and said in unison, “Well, you don’t see that every day.”

The stories go on and on. There’s the time we were trapped on a back road trying to navigate through a herd of wild bison. There’s the coffee cart sermon from a crazed vendor talking about end times as he waited on a long line of snickering, but caffeine-addicted customers. The coffee was to die for by the way. Then there was the white-knuckle Cliffside drive up and down a mountain dirt road. Oh, and who will ever forget those black flies and cockroaches! Falling off a horse charging through the water was a good one. And there are the slap-happy moments where you laugh so damn hard you think you’re going to be asked to leave a restaurant. But the time together always leads to the most memorable times of all – conversation that tighten bonds in ways that only a family vacation can.

My favorite memory was from a generation ago when I was the kid. My mom was reading a plaque inside a museum aloud to my sister and me. We lost interest just like Dad and faded back. Filling the void came interested tourists hanging on my mom’s dramatic reading. Soon, we couldn’t see Mom because a whole horde of folks gathered around her. When she finished, she turned to see the sea of people gathered around her. Without missing a beat, she waved her arm and said, “Now if you follow me over here…”

And so it goes, the all-American family tradition. Happy travels to you and yours.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel



Kids Shoveling Snow

It was the day after a blizzard – time to make some scratch.

Just after breakfast, the gang received the relay call. Bundled up and raring to go, we hit the streets with our shovels. Door-to-door, we knocked out driveway after driveway at about five to ten bucks a pop.

We headed back to my house for warmth and lunch. On the way, we crossed paths with the competition. A snowball fight ensued.

The doorway pooled with the melted, dark, gray slush from our boots. Our socks hung in front of every heater we had in the kitchen, dining and family room. Grilled cheese and hot cocoa never tasted better.

Recuperated, we trudged out into the great white again, shovels over shoulders.

“No-no-no-YES-no-no-no thanks,” pretty much summed up the afternoon.

It was approaching dinner time and we were determined to get one more “yes” before calling it a day …and before frost-bite set-in.

We ventured down a street we normally didn’t travel on and found a nice long driveway still buried in fluff that was almost waist-high. This was a ten dollar job. The house was behind the garage, a peculiar set-up. A middle-aged woman opened the door. She gave us the creeps. Age had not been kind to her. But, she smiled, strangely, and said we could shovel her drive. We set the price and went to work.

This job nearly killed us. It was the deepest snow of the day because of a drift. It was also the tail end of our grueling labors. We were tired, aching and oh so cold! It was difficult to feel our fingers and toes. We were anxious to finish.

The apron of the driveway was particularly tough. The snow there was higher than the rest. Actually, it was more of a hardened sludge, compliments of the snow plow. We muscled our way through and collapsed on our backs when we finished.

It was time to get paid and go home. We were whipped but smiling.

We went around the garage to the front of the house. It took some determined knocking before the woman finally came to the door. She seemed angry at our incessant pounding, but we weren’t going anywhere, we knew she was home. In short, she snarled that she didn’t know who the hell we were or what we were talking about.

All of the pleading in the world wasn’t going to change things. We got ripped off.

Defeated, we backed off the porch and down the steps. The door slammed and we heard a cackle inside. She sounded like a witch.

We rounded the garage and saw the streetlight illuminate a perfectly shoveled drive. Then, out of the blue, we mustered an unexpected energy. Justice had to be served. Dinner was calling and we weren’t coming. We had more work to do. For some reason, cold and fatigue were gone. We buried that driveway in the snow that we had previously removed and then added more snow from elsewhere. This wasn’t your fresh fallen snow, it was packed!

Days later, even the competition couldn’t chisel away our concrete-like concoction.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel


Home for the Holidays

It was just several weeks past basic training and my 18th birthday. I walked to the travel office at Fort Gordon, Georgia to book a bus to Cleveland, Ohio for Christmas. It would be my last chance to go home before I shipped off to Europe.

I congratulated myself for thinking months in advance to secure my passage home so that everything was set well ahead of time. No worries. But when the lady behind the window handed me my ticket, she had a peculiar smile. Something was off but by the time I walked back to the barracks and stuffed my ticket away, I had other things on my mind.

One of my best friends from home joined the Army with me. We were stationed on the same base for basic training – Fort Jackson, South Carolina – and now resided here for our advanced skills training to learn our Army jobs. Even though we were so close, we only saw each other twice. Back then, to communicate, we had to mail letters to each other at the post office even though we were just minutes away. He had procrastinated getting his bus ticket but sometime after Thanksgiving, he assured me it was in his hand.

When I showed up in a vast parking lot jammed with damn near the whole base, leaving, I scrambled to find my bus. I had an overstuffed duffle bag hoisted on one shoulder, weaving around buses with signs to Memphis, Denver, Boston, you name it. Then I saw Scott. He was hanging out the window of the bus marked for Cleveland.

I flashed a big smile of relief and pointed to him as if to say, “Save me a spot, I’ll be right there.”

Then, the unimaginable happened. The bus driver said the bus was full. I shoved my ticket into his chest with pleading eyes, unwilling to take no for an answer.

He looked at the ticket and said, “Nope! No good. We’re full.”

He boarded, the doors closed and my buddy cruised by me making hand motions and expressions, saying, “WHAT THE….”

One by one, buses kicked into drive and pulled out.

I desperately grabbed a sergeant and rattled off the horror of my predicament.

“Private, in about three minutes, you’ll be the only person in a ghost town. My suggestion is you land yourself on any bus with room headed north,” asserted the sergeant.

I turned and saw “Pittsburgh” in the window of a bus right in front of me. I stepped on and saw plenty of vacant seats. As a Browns fan, the humor didn’t escape me. I told the driver my story as he glanced at my ticket and waved me on.

Somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia, we pulled off for a 15 minute break to get gas and food. I used this opportunity to make a collect call home. Fortunately, my mom picked up the phone.

“Mom, listen carefully, there was a mistake with my bus ticket and now I’m headed for Pittsburgh. You will have to pick me up there,” I spoke clearly but concisely.

“What…” she responded and began to babble.

“Mom, I have to go now. I can’t explain. Just pick me up at the Pittsburgh bus station at about Midnight. I will not have another chance to talk. I’ll see you there.”

She had no choice but to say, okay.

And just like that, I was off the phone and just made it back on the bus before it pulled out of the stop.

My parents got in the car and headed for Pittsburgh. There was no GPS or even an Internet to get directions. Time was of the essence so they just got in the car and drove, looking at a roadmap that had been stuffed in the glove compartment. When they neared the city, as luck would have it, they saw a greyhound bus on the road.

“Follow that bus!” Mom yelled at Dad.

And that’s what he did. They figured if a greyhound was headed for the city, it must be headed for the station. Quickly, they realized that the bus station was in what seemed to be a rundown part of town.

When I got off the bus and waited in the Pittsburgh station, I wandered aimlessly. I saw all walks of life up close. Most of the people wandering at this desolate hour were the kind that triggered a little voice in my head that said, “You need to get the hell out of here or at least keep moving.”

“ROCKY!” cried out my mom.

I wrapped my arms around her and my dad. It had been months since I had seen anyone I loved. And in this lonely, dark and cold terminal, they were a sight for sore eyes.

There I was, a grown man enlisted in the Army about to depart America for nearly three years before I’d see family again, enjoying the fact that my mom and dad traveled through the night to rescue me. It made this the most special trip home for the holidays I had ever had. And although I would never have wanted this to happen the way it did, I wouldn’t change the fact it had, yet I would never want it to happen again.

My dad picked up my duffle bag and said as any Browns fan would, “Pittsburgh sucks. Let’s go home.”

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel



It’s Thanksgiving! What Could Go Wrong?

We were hosting Thanksgiving for the first time! How exciting.

Our first arrivals were my mom, sister, niece and nephew. They came a day early. The men would arrive on Thanksgiving Day.

Based on previous visits, my mom’s rescue dog earned a reputation as “a runner” among other things. So we learned to leave an opening in the garage for the crew to pull inside. Then we shut the garage door and let everyone inside the house through the connecting side door.

What was easily forgotten was that the poor dog had been traveling for hours. Coming straight into the house among the happy greetings and hugs between family members who have not seen each other in months, he instinctively headed for the back door. But nobody noticed. Then, he decided that the large cloth chair would suffice to do his business.

He’s a big dog, and he took a big leak down the side of the chair and then shifted to thoroughly saturate the carpet – of course missing the adjacent tile floor by mere inches.

After supper, my sister had pies to cook. Don’t ask me why but something went terribly wrong!

After my little sis bellowed – “Oh noo!” – we all came running to find the oven was caked in hardened pie remains.

Good grief, what a mess it was! So we figured we’d just set the oven to self-clean and let it do its thing overnight.

In the morning, the oven was long cooled down, but the doggone door wouldn’t open. There was a 20+ pound turkey to cook! We burned up Google for a solution, but no matter what we tried, it didn’t work.

I looked at the time. I glanced out the window at the patio. I looked at the time again.

“Let’s just grill this bird!” I yelled.

People looked at me like I was crazy – as they often do.

I sprang into action and grabbed the propane tank to get it filled. I just knew that if I didn’t, it would probably run out halfway through cooking. Besides, my Google solution for grilling a turkey said I needed indirect heat so I needed a cooking sheet that would fit. I found an aluminum solution at the hardware store while I waited for the propane tank to be filled.

When I returned home, I fired up my modest grill. Within a minute my aluminum solution caught fire. I cleaned up that mess and zipped to the grocery store and back with a commercial grade baking pan. I slipped it under the grate. Perfect fit.

My dad and brother-in-law arrived about an hour and some beers into my roast.

“What are you doing?” they both asked at the same time.

“Barbecuing turkey,” I smiled casually with a slight buzz.

Their jaws dropped, and eyes grew wide in disbelief.

“This is going to be a bust of a meal,” I could read them saying in their minds.

I weathered the cold, tending to the manual temperature controls toggling around 325 degrees for hours. Sometimes the temperature reached about 350 degrees, and at others, it went down to 300, but I managed to keep it as steady as the pouring beer.

I couldn’t jeopardize the temperature by opening the lid. I had to wait for the halfway point to finally get a glimpse at what was happening inside.

That’s when I flipped the bird.

It looked pretty darn good but my dad and I both suspected looks could be deceiving. It might be one raw mess deep inside that meat.

I kept at the controls catching parts of the football game while fetching sanity refills.

On one trip to the kitchen, tensions grew, and some stereotypical sibling squabbling exchanged between my sister and me. Others joined in. Oh, this was going to be a Thanksgiving to remember.

I huffed off to my patio retreat. My sister simmered over the top of the stove. Inside the stove, her pie disaster from the night before remained trapped. Its warming aroma wafted in the air as the burners on the stove top heat the side dishes.

Then came the moment of truth. I shoved a thermometer inside a breast. Then I took the turkey into the house for my brother-in-law to carve it. At this point, nobody trusted me with sharp objects.

My brother-in-law’s heart sunk because he couldn’t get the carving knife through the bird. He was afraid to say anything. He just stared and wondered how he’d break the bad news. When he looked down again, he realized the thing was upside down.

We sat around the table – everyone silently praying for a meal that wouldn’t send us to the Emergency Room.

One by one, noises of pleasure passed around the table. Some declared that it was the best turkey that they ever had.

And when nobody got sick, I gave thanks.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel



I was always an early riser. When I slept in a strange bed, I’d rise even earlier. So it was the case when I spent the weekend at my mother- and father-in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving.

Already familiar with the layout of the house, I walked into the kitchen to get myself a cup of coffee after retrieving the newspaper out front. Before I sat down, I had to clear a spot to open the paper. The kitchen table sat four, but it was stacked high with books, magazines, archeological stuff and other research. It was typical for the amount of collecting my in-laws did. The clutter/treasure was extreme.

Once I settled into my paper cave, I sipped my coffee and found a good read. I enjoyed the silence of the wee hours – until a faint rustling noise caught my attention. I raised my head, lowered the paper and parted a couple of stacks. Then, with bug eyes and the hair standing straight up on my neck, to say I was startled would be an understatement.

A tiny, frail woman, well into her 90s stared at me through the trench I made. Her eyes looked magnified behind her saucer-sized glasses. There was no looking away.

It was “Mamu.”

She had blended into the stacks so well, I never noticed her. She was up before me. Maybe she never went to sleep. Maybe she slept where she sat as she was prone to do.

I wanted to flee!

Before I could make a break for it, she spoke in Langish, alternating sentences between Latvian and English, “Good morning. Jums ir līdz agri līdzīgi man.” So, I heard, “Good morning ….man.”

Good enough. I returned the greeting of the day while I racked my brain for a reason to excuse myself. Unfortunately, my mental powers lay in the nearly full cup of coffee cooling before me.

“When I was a meitene Latvijā …”

I knew I was trapped.

Twenty minutes went by. I was confused. My attention span had met its limit 20 times over. I made occasional loud noises hoping to wake another house guest, preferably my wife so I could slip away.

Mamu’s crackly voice continued. Her head barely cleared the tabletop, blending into the stacks of who-knows-what lying everywhere.

Another 15 minutes dragged by before words I recognized like “jail, freed and fled the valsts,” – well okay; “jail, free and fled” – raised my eyebrows.

Then a strange thing happened. I was leaning in.

Not only that, I said, “Repeat that part again.” …“No, in English.”

TWO HOURS LATER, I was hanging on her every word, whether it was in English or Latvian. It was World War II. Mamu, her husband and four – now five – young daughters were roaming war-torn Europe, homeless. A wagon wheel broke, they missed a boat, it was bombed and sunk. They slept in a farmer’s field and woke to a glow of fire consuming the house they had been invited to sleep in. There was a train they missed, a bomb, and I didn’t need to translate the Latvian, I knew what happened next.

Someone walked by me and said, “Mornin’,” and turned on the TV, ending one of the best stories I had ever heard.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel


Free Range Kids

The creek was long, and on one side it had rolling hills. Shaped like three sides of a square, we’d pick it up at a corner where our trail led. There was nothing but a mile or so of woods between our backyards and this “playground.”

One day, we followed the creek up around another of its bends. Next to the grocery store was the American Legion. It was the time of year they would have live fire shooting ranges – turkey shoots I think they used to call them. I imagine if you missed the target, the round ended up in the woods. They weren’t shooting so we didn’t have to get our feet muddy in the creek. The creek on this stretch had no hills, but its earthen walls were steep, camouflaged by bushes and saplings.

We decided to venture up to the grocery store. Men were at the dock unloading huge sides of beef. Out of the truck, they would slide one slab at a time down a cable attached to a hook. It would slam into the other slabs at the end of the tilted line. We sat on the concrete ledge and whooped it up when we heard a solid slam. We went nuts when meat parts flung off. The workers were grinning as they worked, allowing us to carry on.

When they finished, they took a break. We slipped inside to see what happened next. The saw noise was deafening so when a guy yelled at us we only saw lips moving. We exited at the nearest door and were now inside the store by the meat department and a water fountain. We strategically hit an assortment of free sample tables and satisfied our hunger.

Eddie suggested we play hide-and-seek. The game had never been this much fun. After a while, we decided on one more round. Then, we’d go back to the creek and woods.

I found the perfect spot. It was the cereal section. I moved enough boxes to slide my body behind an outer wall of cereal. Then, I pulled one box over to hide my face. I was so proud of my creativity. I knew nobody would ever find me.

About the time I was cramping up and dozing off, I thought about ditching my spot to see what everyone else was doing. That’s when I heard someone closing in. They were onto me. They must have been. Box after box was being moved to see what was behind it, I presumed. My anxiety from the anticipation of being found was off the charts high.

That last box I placed in front of my face moved. I looked out and saw the slacks of a lady. She was holding the box between us. It looked like she was reading the back of it because staring at me was Count Chocola. I held my breath and remained motionless. I don’t know when she sensed me, but when she did, she dropped the Count and screamed so damn loud, I felt like bursting from my hideout and sprinting for the exit. But my body would not move.

In the manager’s office, I got a good scolding, but before he finished, someone came in and alerted him of more boys creating mischief.

He pointed at me and said, “Don’t you move!”

He disappeared, and so did I.

Cautiously, I walked out of the office, looked around, turned the corner and strolled right out the front doors. Once I was in the parking lot, I sprinted around the far corner of the building into an open field heading for the woods. I kicked into overdrive when my friends flew around the opposite corner of the building and into the field. Three men were in hot pursuit. We made a “V” toward each other and the creek.

We ran right up to the edge of the creek and jumped. We knew we couldn’t clear it and that wasn’t what we had in mind. We splatted into the far bank, righted ourselves and splashed down the middle of the creek in the direction of the American Legion. The men weren’t far behind.  They drew closer quickly, running along the upper edge of the creek peering down when their view wasn’t obstructed.

We stopped when they stopped.

Everyone took notice of the gunfire.

One of the men made a motion with his finger for us to come his way thinking we were at a dead end so-to-speak.

My friends and I looked at each other, smiled and then bolted toward the gunfire …and to “safety.”

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel



When I was seven-years-old, Dad took Grandpa and me to a ball game. It was my first.

Grandpa told me how he fell in love with the sport when he was around my age, several years after emigrating from Sicily. Dad went to get some foot longs and I sat there next to my grandpa, holding onto my little league glove. I heard the crack of the bat and saw the ball coming closer – Closer – CLOSER. We were in the upper deck down the third base line. When that ball whizzed directly over my head I yanked back my outstretched glove because I wanted no part of it.

I shook Grandpa afterward and screamed, “Did you see that!”

He grunted, “See what, see what?”

He had no clue what just happened. Little did he know that was the moment I became a fan of the game and his team, just like my father before me.

Decades later, it was time to pass down the family tradition.

My daughter, Cara, was only 4-years-old and we were going to move away because of a job offer. Before we left, I wanted to take my little girl to experience the magic of Jacob’s Field.

We got on what Cara called “the train ride” and settled into a seat that happened to face backward. She liked that. I didn’t.

The man sitting in front of us had big hair.

“Dad – look, that man has a comb stuck in his head.”

I saw the big hair shift but not make a complete turn.

After that, we arrived, stood at the end of the line and walked into the ballpark.

I don’t give my kids a lot by today’s standards but I flat out spoiled my daughter on that day. Program – yes. Hot dog – yes. Peanuts – yes. Cracker Jack – yes. After all this and three innings, Cara saw a man with a big tray of clouds on sticks, colors dancing in the light one section over. She followed him with her eyes. Finally, she asked about this strange sight. Now, her only mission in life was to try this thing called cotton candy.

Half an inning later, she was twisted backward, thumping my shoulder without looking, as she panted, “He’s coming, Dad. Dad, here he comes.”

I decided to make her earn this treat and said that she had to get his attention to come down to us or she would be out of luck.

She asked how to do it so I told her to just yell, “Cotton Candy here!”

So she did! LOUDLY and REPEATEDLY.

Seeing how she handled the entire transaction by herself, many in our section gave her a standing ovation.

Her head swelled.

I had to tilt my head back to contain the pooling water building up in my eyes.

When the game was over, we soaked in the experience for a while longer until we were some of the last people there.

“Dad, I love our team. Did they win?”

“I’ll always remember this day too, honey.”

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel


Bulldozing Paradise

My parents moved to Avon Lake before even the highway stretched that far west from the city. Over the years, it slowly evolved from a farm community to a full-fledged suburb.

The first sign I ever saw that one day the woods would be cleared and farms would be paved was when my neighbor friend, Jacob, and I stumbled upon a tractor at the edge of our blueberry spot in the woods behind where we lived. Our blueberry spot was pretty much a secret. My family used to go back there, regularly, and pick until we filled one or two buckets each, Dad had four. The blueberries came in all sizes. Our freezer was crammed with plastic bags-full all winter long. Mom made plenty of blueberry pies. My sister and I later turned picking blueberries into a business. We picked fresh blueberries for Mom’s boss and co-workers. We even sold some to a nearby orchard so they could resell them.

Our woods were a paradise. Often, I woke up in the summer when Dad was leaving for work, which was around 5:30 a.m. He had to drive to Cleveland. Sometimes, I went downstairs when he was still there. It always seemed to surprise him. But once he left, I left too. I’d run to a friend’s house and we’d go back to the creek to catch crayfish or just explore deeper reaches of the woods. We’d only come home when called.

Our mothers used to stand on the back steps and holler at the top of their lungs something like, “Ro-o-o-ockyyyy – suppertime!”

Voices carried far, echoing off trees and over open fields until we stopped, shushed each other and listened carefully for the second call to see whose mom it was.

Waking up to see the sunrise allowed for about six hours of uninterrupted time to do what we wanted and go where we wanted, no questions asked.

On this morning, we decided to hit a different stretch of creek than normal so we cut through the blueberry fields. And there it was; a backhoe-loader. Of course, we climbed all over it, got in the driver’s seat and pretended to plow things over. Almost without warning, Jacob started it and smoke gurgled from the pipe right in front of my face. We were moving.

We were in a state of pure joy motoring deeper into the field, laughing all the way. It was surreal – until we wanted to stop. For some reason, Jacob couldn’t turn it off. We panicked. The machine slowly marched on. We watched the machine smash over brush, a wall of blueberry bushes, and it was headed for a tree line and just beyond that was the creek. I wanted to jump out.

Jacob messed around with some controls and I gave a play-by-play of things we were running over. He only looked up when we made a severe roll downward and then back up as the terrain turned wavy due to an old grape vineyard that used to stretch across the land.

About 20 feet from the trees and creek, Jacob brought the tractor to a complete stop and turned it off. We sat there like two farmers on a break, legs kicked up, laughing our nerves back to normal. What was most comical to us was the long path we made with the tractor through …everything.

“Imagine when the workers come to find the tractor way out here,” I said.

We laughed and laughed at the thought of it.

Then, the imagery in our heads appeared before our eyes. There they were, far away but you could tell they were not happy.

We casually jumped down from the tractor, waved bye and disappeared into our shrinking paradise.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel


The Gas Chamber

We were marched out to a clearing in the woods. There before us stood a non-descript building. It was the size of a modest ranch house, maybe half that or somewhere in between.

There’s nothing like the fear of the unknown unless the fear is known.

We went from bad to worse as soon as we were told, “At ease!”

“Welcome to the gas chamber!” shouted a drill sergeant.

Even the toughest wore faces of uncertainty.

Quickly, the ranks filled with a murmur of questions and answers: “Do they really gas us? …With what? …How bad is it?”

One group at a time put on their MOPP gear to prepare to enter. MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) is a head-to-toe protective gear used in the Army in toxic environments such as chemical warfare. It includes gloves, pants, jacket, and gas mask with hood. We had spent hours in training to get it pulled over our BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms) in seconds flat once a signal was given. Sometimes we wore it for hours in the blistering, August, South Carolina heat. Usually, when we were about to pass out, we got the all-clear sign.

We were in a line parallel to the rear of the building so those of us in the back of the line could see the first group coming out, one by one, victims. Some yelled, a couple puked, but most just groaned and flapped their arms in the air as tears streamed from their burning eyes. With this haunting imagery set against the thick woods, it was like watching a horror movie unfold. Anyway, it begged the question; would it be better to go in oblivious to the outcome or see the agony of those going first?

Some wondered, what’s the purpose of having to go through this? I figured the answer was probably so we’d understand just how real this threat was in modern warfare. Granted, the gas used in training was not life-threatening, but it did make your skin and eyes feel like they were burning up.

“Forward, ma-a-a-a-rch!”

I entered with my group, in full MOPP gear. The first thing that went through my mind was that I hoped every zipper and fastener was sealed properly. We stood in three different lines and one-by-one walked up to a drill sergeant. I was struck by how clear it was inside. It looked plain and harmless. I thought, seriously, how bad could it be?

The first three were ordered to remove their gas masks then walk out the door. It was funny watching them turn stupid all of a sudden. They bumped this way and that way, feeling in front of them as if they were trying to escape a dark room. Of the sets of three, there was usually one who seemed to have little trouble, probably because he pre-planned his route. Then there was one who probably tried to pre-plan but found it more difficult to carry out. And the typical third one never even contemplated it, with fear probably being his foremost thought. One, in particular, actually bumbled around, bumped back into a drill sergeant, and walked into the corner of the room where there was no door to escape.

It was excruciating to watch this. Many of us, I included, wanted to break rank and lead him back in the right direction. The drill sergeants seemed to be enjoying this inept soldier’s “malfunctioning” moment. Finally, even they showed mercy and walked him out with assistance.

When it was my turn, I had already pre-counted the number of steps to the door and had an idea of what angle I needed to take to find it. As soon as I unmasked, the searing pain tore into me. My skin was burning from the get-go. Even closed, my eyes felt like they were incinerated to nothing. I held my breath but the scalding was through and through. I had no idea of how many pre-counted steps or where in this fiery pit of hell I’d find the door. But, I did – and not a moment too soon!

When I exited, I knew it because the fresh air was anything but. I flapped my arms and walked and walked, feeling fried and nauseous. Through my gasping, wheezing and choking, soon I returned back to normal, except for one thing – I had been gassed.

It was a rite of passage. We sat in the grass, later, eating lunch, already reminiscing about our “war” stories.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel


Topino – The Tooth Mouse

The tooth fairy is a celebrated legend in much of the world. So, too, is the tooth mouse.

My dad was born to a Sicilian immigrant. Growing up, my dad and his siblings were told of “the little white tooth mouse.” Instead of a tooth fairy, it was a tooth mouse who would appear at night to exchange the baby tooth for a coin.

Although Dad shared his childhood tale of the tooth mouse with my sister and me, we went with the American standard – the tooth fairy.

When I had kids of my own, I decided to reintroduce the tooth mouse tradition of my dad’s childhood, but with a twist. First, I discovered the tooth mouse went by different names throughout the world. In Italian, the name was Topino.

I told my kids that when their grandpa was a kid, there was a mouse in his house named Topino. Topino emmigrated from Sicily with the Satullo family. His job was to check the childrens’ teeth every night and when he found a wiggler, he’d put the tooth fairy on high alert. She was very busy so it was helpful to have a tooth mouse in the house. He would give her a head’s up so she could better plan her route each night. A tooth would be exchanged with a coin by the tooth mouse and a dollar bill by the tooth fairy. When kids grew up, so did their tooth mouse. The tooth mouse would have baby mice, all named Topino. When the kids started their own families, a Topino would move in with each of them.

My son, Dominic, not only believed in Topino, he was so fascinated by this peculiar mouse, he took things to a new level. One night, my wife came into our room after replacing the tooth with a coin and bill and handed me a note. Our son was asking the tooth mouse questions like what does he look like, where does he live, what else did he like to do, and can he read this?

So began a strange pen pal relationship between my son and me. Our minds worked together to open a whole new world. It didn’t matter if a tooth was loose or not, I had to check his desk to see if a letter was left for Topino. The fun wrapped around this communication between father and son was something for the ages. There were great adventures, head-scratching questions, revelations and more.

One of Dominic’s favorite storylines revolved around the mischief Topino got into at night when he’d play with Dominic’s toys. One time we awoke to a toy car stuck in the chandelier. Don’t ask, it’s a long story! Topino also seemed to get into the same life situations as my son, at the same time, so it became the topic of conversation between them. Until one day it stopped.

We had carried on the letter writing for a couple of years. Sure, there were some long pauses at times between letters so when they stopped altogether, I was slow to notice. Finally, I asked Dominic if he still left letters for Topino. He showed me the last letter he wrote that had gone unanswered.

“Why did you put it here?” I asked, aware that it was not the usual spot.

“I don’t know,” he answered.

Since it was not in the assumed usual spot, I explained that Topino may have missed the note. Dominic then moved the note to the old spot. But there was more to Topino not finding the letter than it just being in the wrong spot. Topino, too, had been in the wrong spot.

Dominic ran downstairs the next morning with a wad of papers in hand.

“Look – look, Topino, he’s back!”

“Whattaya mean, back?” I asked coyly.

“He hid in my bag the last time we went to Avon Lake to visit. It took him forever to get back and he waited a long time after that for me to write him. He didn’t know that I did because I used a different spot for the letter so you were right about that, Dad.  I can’t wait to hear about his adventure!”

So there were stories that lasted another year.

Then one day Dominic looked on in horror as I put out mouse poison in the garage, cautioning him to stay clear of it. I had to convince him that I bought a special blend that targeted unwanted mice versus a beloved tooth mouse like Topino. He preferred all mice live. I had other ideas considering the bag of seed they feasted on all winter.

Eventually, it all ended as most childhood fairytales end; by just growing too old to believe anymore.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel



I looked up from my chair, which was attached to my desk, and wondered if I had heard my teacher correctly.

Yep! She said it again – “…brownies!”

I put my pencil down from doodling on the desktop and refocused on the classroom.

“…So if you want to stay after school tomorrow for brownies, you’ll need a note from your parents,” she concluded at the bell.

When I got home, I promptly remembered to relay the information to my mom. She didn’t bat an eye, wrote a quick note and tucked it inside my folder for tomorrow.

At the end of the next day, my mouth was watering. I gazed at the clock three times and all three times the long minute hand didn’t budge. One minute to go and it seemed to take an hour.

Then, finally, brownie time!

“If you’re staying after for brownies, line up here,” my teacher directed.

Bam! I was second in line, eagerly waiting to satisfy my sweet tooth. My focus slowly turned foggy as background noise penetrated my one-track mind. It was laughter.

“Rocky wants to join the Brownies, Rocky wants to join the Brownies …” was the chant gaining volume around me.

I looked around. I was the only boy in line. My teacher looked at me with an expression of …unease.

“Rocky, boys can’t join the Brownies. Brownies are Girl Scouts.”

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel

Big Shots

It’s funny, but I don’t remember any of my childhood friends or classmates being Cleveland Indians baseball fans. Maybe it was too painful to admit openly.

When I was in high school, the manager was probably best remembered for charging the mound at an opposing pitcher, pathetically failing to land a karate kick. To add insult to injury, the pitcher dropped our manager with one punch. But this was my team, my lovable losers. I played in a world of possibility whereas nearly everyone else I knew played in a world of probability. Life is safer their way. But perhaps it’s with my mindset that I entered an essay contest by a Cleveland newspaper – “Why Do You Like The Indians?” At this age, I was reading the sports section daily so I wrote and sent in my essay.

I won!

Thinking back, I wonder if I was the only one who bothered with the contest.

Nonetheless, the prize was “dinner” with the Indians and a free ballgame. Dinner with the Indians meant I got to invite a friend to accompany me to the stadium for a luncheon that launched the team’s winter press tour. Only the manager and a couple players showed up to talk to the room full of reporters and afterward, I got to wait in line to shake the hand of a forgettable rookie infielder.

When we got there, Mom dropped us off and my friend, Steve, and I walked in. Immediately, we seized a plush booth. It was long – very long – and center stage. It was located in the back of the room next to huge windows high above the ground outside. It had our names all over it, so to speak. It was ours! Until some lackey in a suit scrambled across the room to us as some old guy and his entourage entered.

“Hey kids, you can’t sit there!” he said with alarm.

“Sure we can,” I said.

“We are,” said Steve, shooting a smile my way knowing he just slipped in a cocky remark under the radar.

The man demanded we move.

“But I won the contest,” I said matter of fact.

He looked dumbfounded. Then, he saw the entourage nearing and looked back to us in desperation.

“You gotta go, now,” he pleaded, reaching for my arm.

I pulled away and scooted farther into the wrap-around booth.

“What seems to be the problem?” asked the old man arriving next to the table. His entourage fanned out around it.

The scared looking man (lackey) sounded like he had diarrhea of the mouth so I explained.

Laughing, the old man said, “You boys have a good time,” and he left us to the enormous booth.

Then, he and his entourage pulled tables and chairs together in the center of the room, displacing some adults.

As they crowded around a hastily made large table by clustering together smaller tables right in front of us, we sat back and ordered meals fit for kings. I sat at one end of the long booth and Steve sat on the far end. You could have sat five adults on one side between us.

This was our day and nobody was going to take it away.

Later, the old man was introduced as the general manager of the Cleveland Indians. My natural instinct was to boo, but I bit my tongue. We all knew how the Indians were mishandled, but I couldn’t help but appreciate the kindness he extended toward us.

On the way out, Steve and I shared an elevator with a “rising star.” He had a giggling girl under each arm, thereby making him a bigger hero than just a moment earlier, even though he didn’t notice us in the tight space we shared going down.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel

Gore Orphanage

We moved a temporary “bridge out” sign so we could drive our car across. Clearly, the bridge was not out, but we were, for a good time.

We had driven well across rural Lorain County, a route so many teens have come to know. Mike and Bobby had the munchies. We pulled off at a rickety old roadside store and they went inside.

“Look, is that someone leaning out of the window above the store?” asked one of the girls in the backseat.

I rolled the window down.

“Do-o-o-on’t go-o,” the stranger lobbed down to us.

We looked at each other inside the car. When we looked back up, the stranger in the window was gone.

“What the hell was that?” asked one of the girls sitting behind me.

Surely it was just some guy having fun with us.

Mike and Bobby jumped back in the car. They didn’t believe a word out of our mouths about the stranger in the window.

Eventually, we arrived at a desolate country road which led down a steep, narrow hill. We noticed but ignored the “no trespassing” signs riddled with bullet holes. Near the bottom of the hill, there was a turn-off to the left that veered so sharply it was difficult to see. This offshoot was even steeper and narrower and led to blackness. Our other option was to continue on the main route and ascend up the other side.

We chose blackness.

With windows rolled down on a crisp night, we listened as we puttered up to “heartbeat bridge.”

“Kill the engine!”

We listened. Then, we got out and leaned against the metal bridge.

“I heard it.”

“Me too.”

“I didn’t hear **it.”

The legend was that long ago, there was an orphanage that burned to the ground taking with it dozens of kids. If you listened closely, you could hear their faint cries echoing through the valley. Oh, and if you turned your car off on heartbeat bridge, it wouldn’t restart until you pushed it off. So, we intentionally left it out of gear to spook the girls. They even gave it a try before we pushed it to the other side. Wouldn’t you know it, it started right up. You could probably catch us winking and smirking at each other on the sly if you were looking in the rear-view mirror.

We continued down the all but forgotten road, winding around a bend one way and then back another before pulling over to park.

“They say the foundation of the orphanage is that way,” Mike said, pointing a flashlight in the direction of the trailhead, where the woods met an open field.

Before going there, we ventured up the road on foot. There was a lonely house at the end of a long wooded driveway.

“Holy crap! Someone lives down here!”

Uphill, around a bend, the road was barricaded. We went back to the car.

“Oh no, cops!”

“Those aren’t cops, they’re teenagers.”

And they led us to the foundation. At the tree line was a lone pillar. Large graffiti warned, “You are now entering Hell.”

We sat on the remaining foundation blocks and befriended the new carload of strangers. They decided to leave before us but we weren’t far behind.

As they drove away, I went for some kicks. I threw my flashlight as hard as I could, end over end, high over their windshield, freaking them out. They sped off. Pleased with myself, I ran, laughing, to pick up my flashlight. Within minutes, it died. Worse, unbeknownst to me, my car keys bounced out of my unzipped jacket pocket.

We knew we were up a creek without a paddle after our failed attempts to search for the lost keys. The other flashlight went dead. So, Mike and I left Bobby with the girls and went to the old house to ask for batteries or a flashlight. It was pretty late at night.

A freak rain shower drove down upon us forcing us to return to the car. Everyone bitched up a storm.


“What the …”

We were all staring out of the back window at an old-looking pickup truck pulling off the road near our car.

“Get down.”

Peeking over the back seat, we all witnessed a man jump from the truck. He was carrying something long. He let three dogs out the passenger door and they all ran into the field together and out of our sight.

“What do we do?”


“What the hell was that?”

“Was that a gunshot?”

“Here he comes!”

The man emerged with two dogs, hopped in his truck and motored away.

When we finally peeled ourselves from the floor mats, the rain had stopped. It was past midnight. We were stranded …far from home.

Amazingly, another vehicle appeared. No, it was two cars carrying more teenagers. They were locals. One agreed to drive me back to his parents’ house so I could call my mom. She would have to come out with a spare key.

“Now, listen carefully, Mom. At that point, you’ll have to get out and move a sign that says bridge out but don’t worry, you can cross. Ignore the no trespassing signs. Go down the road that looks like a car should not go down. It gets really steep and narrow …”

It was close to dawn when we got home. But it would be a long time before any of us saw the light of day again.

By Rocco Satullo, your tour guide to fun!


Stirring Up A Hornets’ Nest

We had been in position for 30 minutes, firing our BB guns at the hornets’ nest.

It wasn’t just any hornets’ nest – it was the mother of all hornets’ nests! Our BBs seemed to have no effect. We shifted our strategy to the base where it hung in the tree but we were just too far. Granted, it was a safe position when calculating how far the hornets were seen buzzing around the nest. However, we needed to get closer since our target went from a huge gray mass to the base where it clung to the tree branch.

Some of us dressed in green camouflage, others in white tee shirts, blue jeans and ball caps. We low crawled through the waist-high, light brown brush of the open field and found a new position much closer.

It was close enough to put the sling-shot into action with more accuracy.

“Wow! Nice shot!” was the consensus as the hole was visible and the flurry of hornets thickened.

Twenty minutes later, several holes torn into the nest, we realized this could take all day to bring it down. We needed a bolder plan.

“Manny, run up closer and throw this at it.”

“Screw you!” was the reply.

“C’mon, man,” the peer pressure poured on until Manny, the youngest of our group, went home.

Down a man, we re-examined the pecking order.

“Don’t look at me, you go,” Jacob said to Kyle.

“Heck no,” said Kyle.

“Wussies!” I yelled as I sprinted in an arch pattern at the nest with a chunk of shale and whipped it like I was skipping a rock. It missed.

“Crap, I think I got stung,” I said when my adrenaline level came back down as I returned to our position.

Like a dam giving way, the throbbing-stinging pain spread across my left hand. I tucked it into my gut, bending over.

“Who’s the wussie now,” said Eddie.

Jacob and Kyle laughed.

Meanwhile, I had spotted what looked to be a section of telephone pole on my loop back. We low crawled to it. Weird as it was, indeed, a small cut section of a telephone pole lay in the brush. It was the perfect size to get two of us on each side and have room to spare. Plus, it was light enough to …

“Ahh, this’ll be awesome!”

“Did you fall and crack your head or something,” they replied.

But when I really wanted to be persuasive, I could usually bring my friends around to doing the most stupid of stunts.

So there we were, rushing at a mega hornets’ nest with what can only be described as a battering ram. We hit it solid, launching it straight into the ground where all hell broke loose.

We scattered, running for our lives, running for our homes – more to the point, our moms – screaming bloody murder the entire way.

At first, I was okay, running through the field. I laughed heartily seeing Jacob fall, get up and cry his eyes out he was getting stung so badly. Just when I thought I might have escaped unscathed, it felt like I was sprayed by tiny, potent bullets from a machine gun. From my fingers waving frantically in the air, across my outstretched arms to my head, neck and shoulders, even down my back, butt and legs, I went from thinking this prank was hysterical to being hysterical.

I stumbled through my back gate, crying like there was no tomorrow.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel



Sea formed me – I splashed – And became the sea

Humankind struggles with self-absorption. We want to live forever. Then we want life after death. But no matter what awaits in the afterlife, we live on.

After all, matter and energy cannot be destroyed or created, and there is no end or beginning to time and space. We are eternal.

The universe is in perfect harmony. Good cannot exist without evil. Everything connects. That is our destiny. A drop in a pool of water sends ripples to its furthest shore despite the obstacles.

We may just be drops in a sea but without drops, a sea does not exist. Subtle splashes ripple forever in calm waters. Thunderous splashes may go unnoticed in stormy waters.

We are mostly water; without it, we die. After we splash, what is the ripple effect?

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel


The Disease

Amid the heat, the drills, the lack of sleep, a heady bunch of kids were being torn down so Uncle Sam could build us back up – his way!

We had no weekend passes, no television, no anything. We could stand in a two-hour line to call home from a phone booth on Sundays but I never did. I could crank out letters to everyone in that time. Although tensions would bring some to fisticuffs from time to time, we became tight.

Several platoons joined for a road march to go sit in classes assembling and disassembling M16s or whipping on MOPP gear – gas mask and all, in seconds flat. It was hours before we were given a break. When we finally got it, there was one problem. More than a hundred guys needed to use the facilities and there were only three port-o-pots. As the grapevine leaked, there was an option-B. The port-o-pots formed a privacy barrier. This allowed about six of us at a time to slip behind and back, unnoticed, to do our business.

It was efficient and …

“Drill sergeants!”

We scrambled back in line before the drill sergeants saw, first-hand, what was going on. But someone obviously snitched!

Called to formation, a big stink was made out of urinating behind the port-o-pots.

“There’s a diseeeeease among us!” said a drill sergeant.

They walked past the ranks, eye-balling us one by one, speaking loudly the whole time about the “disease” and how to keep it from spreading.

“We know who it is. You get one chance to step forward, disease, and the decontamination process can be abbreviated. Otherwise, you’ll be quarantined for the remainder of your training.”

I wasn’t about to step forward. Neither was anybody else. Hell, there were probably two dozen of us at fault, but they just wanted to make an example of one. The only question was who would be the sacrificial lamb. Perhaps the drill sergeants only had one name to work off of – no doubt from whoever snitched.

In my head, I kept rattling off, “Please don’t be me – please don’t be me – please don’t be me.”

One of the drill sergeants said, “You had your chance,” and walked directly at me.

I knew I was screwed.


I almost peed my pants and stepped forward but just when I was about to move, I realized that wasn’t my name. It was one of my closest friends.

The public humiliation he withstood was relentless. I felt relieved and guilty just the same.

His bunk in the barracks was separated from the rest of us, taped off in the open bay. He marched separated from us. He ate alone. He showered after everyone else. He was forbidden to look at another human being let alone speak out loud. He was outcast but present.

Two weeks later it was just cruel.

He was going to crack. I could see it on his face, his walk, his everything. I felt so bad for him. It could have been any one of us. As time dragged on, we counted our blessings it wasn’t any of us though.

In the mess hall, I was in line with a couple of close friends. I suggested we sit with Serrano. There were no takers. Hell, they blasted that idea from the start. Stationed for basic training on Tank Hill in summer at Fort Jackson was already considered the equivalent of drawing the short straw in the Army. Nobody wanted to make a bad situation any worse. But I couldn’t let this ride. Not anymore.

We sat down and I made one last plea for a group effort to come to the aid of our friend. They wouldn’t even look me in the eyes. So, I got up, alone, and walked over to Serrano. He was so closed off to the world, mentally, he never saw me coming.

I plopped down across from him and said, “The Yankees suck.”

He looked up and for the first time in weeks, his face turned flush with life.

A huge smile spread across his mug and he deadpanned back, “F-you, Satullo!”

That’s when my head drill sergeant towered above me, “You’re going to catch the disease if you don’t move!”

I could tell in his eyes that he respected my effort. I could also tell he was not going to reward it. In fact, he was giving me one chance and one chance only to undo what I just did. Strong as I wanted to be, I didn’t know if I had the strength to go through what Serrano was going through.

I looked at my friend. He gave me a quick wink. This told me I gave him all he needed to get through from here. I got up, returned to my other friends and the small, cramped mess hall filled back up with the usual noise.

Serrano was cured and rejoined our ranks with a clean bill of health just a couple days later.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel


Spring Break for Old Dudes

Spring break means different things to different people in different stages of life. For me, as a middle-aged man, married with two young children, it meant a long weekend getaway for Easter break with family and friends.

Every January my friend Mike and I get both of our families together for a three night stay in a nice large cabin with a hot tub somewhere in Ohio. But for whatever reasons, this time January drifted into February and then March. So we decided since both of our wives were teachers, we’d book a place over their spring break. That way, the wives and kids all had time off. Perfect.

When we arrived, it was not what we had expected. First lesson; don’t trust what you see online. It was a mini cabin in the woods, located on a cul-de-sac road, and nearby a lake. The surrounding cabins were bursting at the seams with college kids on SPRING BREAK! That is, every cabin but ours and as I would later learn, one somewhere across the street.

Mike was unusually quiet as we drank some beer and fired up the grill. Bon Jovi music was bouncing off the trees all around us. I guess that’s what the “kids” considered classic rock these days. The only good thing was that these small cabins somehow had thick enough walls, soundproofed enough, to block out the noise from the all night partying going on next door. Fortunately there was a vacant, tree-filled lot separating us. We decided to brave the night and express our disappointment to management at the main lodge in the morning since it was already getting late and the kids were ready for sleep. Our kids that is!

Stepping out back, Mike and I drank beer a little faster than we had in a long time. That’s when “Mr. Buff” appeared. Buff had a chiseled …everything.  I tried to stick out my chest but realized it was left behind in Germany when I was in the Army years ago. Either that or the good life had grown my stomach.

Anyway, Mr. Buff said, “We were talking over there and decided, ya know what? Let’s give these old-dudes our cell phone number so if they need us to pump down the volume, we’ll know.”

I was puzzled and looked around for these old dudes. It was like a truck hit me when I realized Buff was referring to us! He was so nice though, in that fake, but believing he was sincere, kind of way.

I kept having visions of us being in the middle of one of those insurance commercials – “LIFE! It Comes At You Fast!”

Well, inside the cabin, all things were quiet – proof that miracles do exist.

The next day, we did some sightseeing, ate lunch at a nice place and then someone suggested we go antiquing.

Although I wanted to, something inside me screamed, “Noooo!”

So after we spent two hours in the antique mall, we went to the lodge, swam, played games and had a fine time. On the way out, we stopped at the front desk and said we hoped there would be patrols to keep the college kids at bay, but that there were no complaints at this time.

We drove back to “cul-de-sac Ft. Lauderdale” to see nearly every rooftop shingled with girls in bikinis and guys with no shirts. Below, there was a wiffle-ball game going on at the end of the cul-de-sac. Our kids asked if they could play too. Yeah right.

At dusk, I had to take some trash to a nearby dumpster. There were raccoons. Yippee! So I got the kids, walked back and showed them “wildlife.” After the little scavengers entertained us, it grew darker so we headed back to the cabin.

Fortunately, only I saw the streaking from afar. At least this night, the party was at the cabin across the street instead of next door. Things were definitely getting wilder.

In the morning, we decided we’d had enough. After packing the van I had to make another walk to the dumpster. On my way back, I was startled to see a family of four emerge from a cabin kitty-corner from ours and next door to last night’s party.

Here’s their story:

“In the middle of the night, my worst fear came true,” said kitty-corner dad. “Someone was banging on the back door yelling, let me in. I yelled back, You better get out of here, this isn’t your cabin, now go away. To which the drunk on the other side pleaded, Come on dude, stop mess’n with my head and just let me in. This repeated a few times before the stranger at the door fell silent.”

And so it goes.

I could tell us “old dudes” had a new story to tell.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel


Wrestling a Bear

We were minding our own business in a back room of a bar, shooting pool. It was on the western edge of Avon Lake. We were celebrating Steve’s 21st birthday. Both of us were fresh out of the Army and our other best friend, Mike, was home from college.

A stranger walked in and casually asked if we wanted to wrestle a bear. No’s quickly turned to contemplation quickly turned to hell yah, as long as we’re all in.

We were led to the parking lot to sign our “rights” away on some forms. Years later, the same owner of Caesar the Wrestling Bear would be in the news for one of his bears mauling a man to death. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how a captive bear trained to bar fight night after night would turn. On this night, we were wrapped in a cocktail of invincibility that combined bravado with ignorance.

We needed to capture this life experience, or death, for the record so we called – of all people – my mom. She agreed to drive across town, bringing her camera. Later, we’d get grainy copies of a video tape shot by a neighbor’s friend who was there that night. The neighbor thought he was just watching a bunch of crazies on film until he recognized me, so he dubbed a copy of the tape to give to us.

Caesar was a full grown black bear. He looked enormous, especially when he stood. Plus, he had his teeth and his mouth was not taped closed as some anticipated. He also had massive bear paws and claws that were not restricted at all. The smell of real danger began to seep in as we were introduced to Caesar and given some pointers. Sudden movements, loud noise and over aggressiveness by any of us could make the bear “defensive” and not “playful.”

Oh, and one particular pointer stuck with me, “Just make sure he doesn’t accidentally hook you in the corner of the mouth with a claw because he’ll rip your cheek straight up without knowing it.”

The handler sized us up and looked at Mike, Steve and me saying, “Usually, smaller people have a better chance of pinning him down because he is more playful with them.”

The reward for doing so was something like a cool grand – certainly incentive to give it our best shot. The pecking order went Mike, Steve, then me.

Mike was a tall guy with a pretty solid build. He entered the closed off mat (a.k.a. dance floor) and definitely had a serious look on his face. The bear must have gotten a bad vibe from Mike because he got rather aggressive. The trainer separated the bear from Mike and gave Caesar a firm reprimand. Meanwhile, Mike looked at us as if to say, I want out. But he was in – up to his neck in. The match continued. Mike tried hard, maybe too hard, and the bear got all crazy again – even rearing up on his hind legs. They ended the match and took the bear out to the parking lot to calm him down.

I was so happy Steve was next and not me. When that thing came rumbling back in, it was ready for business. Steve’s a scrappy fighter and wasn’t fazed by much in those days, but he quickly hit the mat, hard, and looked up …fazed and then some. You could tell there was nothing to be done once that bear had you. Its weight and strength determined your range of movement. It wasn’t up to you what happened in there, it was entirely up to Caesar. Moving Caesar would be like trying to move a brick house. It wasn’t going to happen unless he allowed it to happen. He wasn’t allowing Steve to do much. When Steve came off the floor, he was dripping in sweat, exhausted by the energy he expended.

My turn came. I had tried to learn from observing Mike and Steve plus remembering the pointers the trainer gave us.

Once in the ring with this beast, a voice popped in my head screaming, “What the hell are you doing here?”

I wasn’t fairing much better than Steve and Mike. The bear used one paw and swatted me down like a rag doll. Before I knew it, he was on top of me and I couldn’t budge. It took every bit of strength I could muster just to move my hand an inch, even then I could only manage to do so because Caesar allowed it to happen. I talked with a friendly, playful and calming voice. I moved slowly and didn’t look him in the eyes.

That’s when the unthinkable happened. We were both on our feet. I moved in and he went down – because he was playing and took himself down. In an instant, I was on top of this massive creature.

Now, let me slow this description down and zoom in. I went from not knowing what happened to staring at powerful jaws inches from my face, breathing in the animal’s hot, stale breath. I slid one hand over and Caesar let me press his paw to the mat. To get the other paw stretched out and down meant I’d basically have to get close enough to kiss Caesar on the mouth, my neck fully exposed.

“A-A-A-A-And we have a …” before the DJ could say “winner” Caesar was up and I was down.

And that’s where I stayed for the rest of my time.

When I regrouped with my friends, none of us felt well. The acid in our stomachs, the exertion out on the floor and the rancid bear smell all over us was all we could stand. We went behind the building, saturated in sweat, and heaved everything from our stomachs and then some.

When I looked up, one of my friends said, “Dude, your neck is bleeding.”

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel


Caddy Days

I was called into the principal’s office at my middle school to be told that I was too young to work, according to child labor laws. So, I had to quit my job as a caddy at a nearby country club. Instead, I rode my bike twice the distance to caddy at a different country club across the county line – at least until school let out for summer vacation. Then, I returned to the closer place, which was still a long bike ride.

As I left Avon Lake on a country road, over the railroad tracks, I pedaled as fast as I could down the slope on the other side. I had to gain enough speed to coast by an old farmhouse with my feet up by my handlebars. There he was, barking and running right into the road, nipping at my empty pedals. No sooner than he gave up the chase did my momentum slow enough to force my feet back to the pedals. It was always a close call.

At the caddy shack, the caddy master called me over to a foursome ready for a loop. There was snickering behind the first tee. Later, I heard that someone had intentionally matched a preacher with a foul-mouth. Not until the third hole did the foul-mouth know he was in the company of a man of the cloth. That’s when everyone except the foul-mouth burst into laughter. Soon, more cursing drowned out the laughter. Later, I heard people say they could even hear the laughter and cursing all the way back at the clubhouse.

My golfer was on the quiet side compared to the others. I didn’t know if he was new, subordinate or just quiet by nature. He was a stroke or two in last. I handed him a wedge for a chip shot out of the sand trap. He got a hold of that thing and it screamed out of there so fast and hard that I thought I might have to yell, “Fore!”

It ricocheted off an oak branch overhead abruptly sending it into the flag of the pin where it fell straight down into the cup. It happened in the blink of an eye. I had never seen anything like it so I broke character and roared in delight. It was a fantastic shot in my mind. When I caught the facial expression of my golfer, I was puzzled because he looked downright embarrassed.

I asked him, off to the side, “Wasn’t that incredible?”

He gave me half a smile on the sly, tasseled my hair and walked to the next tee. Later, he tipped me the most I ever got that summer.

After my morning round, I decided to hang out for some caddy baseball and try to get a second loop after lunch. One of the caddies in this group was just plain tough as nails. He was older than I and from the inner city. His golfer was one of those who had to insult people to act like a big shot, and he demeaned his caddies.

Nobody wanted to caddy for him but inner city caddy said, “I don’t give a shit, a loop’s a loop.”

It was a scorcher of an afternoon so we rolled up our short sleeves to try and fade out the infamous caddy-tan lines on our arms. Inner city caddy was sporting homemade tattoos.

His golfer insisted that he keep his sleeves down, “A little more class here, boy.”

I saw inner city caddy drop a mouthful of spit into the guy’s golf bag when nobody else was looking. He took a lot more abuse than I figured he could stand. I began to think he must really need to make a buck. He sucked it up, rebelled a little behind the scenes and marched on like a real trooper.

It was somewhere along the back nine that fate and justice crossed paths.

The big-shot golfer sliced a shot off the fairway into a tree. You could see the ball fall down but not out. It rested on a branch about 15-feet-high. The golfer out cursed the morning foul-mouth. During his tirade, he spun around and released his iron. The golf club flung round and round, landing in a pond.

“Get my club! Then, get my ball!” he said to the inner city kid.

To his credit, the kid casually walked to the pond, never uttering a word. Then, he turned and waited for the golfer to look.

“Come on, come on, we don’t have all day,” the golfer said for the kid to hear.

That wasn’t all that he said. When he turned toward his friends, under his breath, he added something about that kind being lazy. His friends didn’t look at him. They looked past him and nodded that he better look for himself, too.

The kid was standing with the entire golf bag, and all of its very expensive contents, over his head.

“What the …”

Before the big shot could finish his sentence, the kid spun around much like the golfer did before he launched his club. Only this time, it was the kid launching the entire bag …deep into the pond. Then, he turned, flashed two flagrant middle fingers and walked off into the sun, never to be seen again.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel


The Agony of Defeat

Mike was “Mr. Ski Club.” We stood atop a hill at Brandywine ready for the first run of the day for him and my first run ever.

He was checking down with all that I needed to know and I just ya-ya’d him, impatient and ready to go.

Finally, I said, “Got it!” And shot downhill like a bullet.

I heard, “But …” and nothing else as my friend’s voice faded.

I sailed so fast over the snow, straight down the hill, that I freaked out. I could not turn, stop or even slow down!

As I bore down on a man skiing up ahead, I cringed. He crisscrossed effortlessly, kicking up powdery white stuff. I was sure he was going to be knocked from here to eternity when I collided with him in about two seconds flat.

Why didn’t I stick around to listen to Mike explain how to turn, or better yet, how to stop?

As others described later, it looked like I was shot out of canon and about to kill somebody. They watched from above in horror, waiting for my impact with this unsuspecting stranger. Precisely at the very last moment, everyone closed their eyes or took a deep breath, and I woosh-wooshed around the man. In two quick movements with my feet, I skirted disaster – barely. My friends said the guy stood straight up, shocked by the brush back but was otherwise uninterrupted.

When I got near the bottom, I managed to wipe myself out to stop along a flat straightaway.

Mike came down the hill like a pro. This was baby stuff to him. Near the bottom, he hit a raised area to get fancy in the air. When he came down, he injured his ankle. Go figure.

Later in the day, the guys either thought I was ready for the meanest slope at the resort or were willing to see me die for laughs. As the saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

The ski lift got to the top but I was snagged and couldn’t shift myself to get off. The chair turned and rose higher off the ground, circling the control shack at the top. I mentally foreshadowed the humiliation of returning to the bottom of the slope, alone on a chair lift.


I flung my body in a pathetic but successful last attempt to free myself. The problem was that I was not as close to the ground anymore but I landed on my feet, and then fell to my butt with quite a thud.

The lift stopped and a guy popped his operating shack door open yelling, “You alright?”

Laughing uncomfortably, I said, “Ya.”

He laughed, said “crazy,” shook his head, shut the door and started the lift again.

Looking downhill, it was clear that this course was not for beginners. In fact, it looked wickedly dangerous for someone like me. My depth perception was off. The slope was laden in terrain characterized by a large number of different bumps, or moguls. Not only that, but this slope was the steepest by far.  Much like the beginning of the day, I became a human, heat-seeking missile.

Unlike earlier in the day, these moguls posed a different experience altogether. Quickly, my knees vibrated violently up and down at high speed. I should have wiped out, but instead I found myself lying straight on my back but upright on the skis. I could see the lift chairs overhead, off to the side, even though my head bounced violently off the never-ending moguls.

From my friends’ perspective, when my skis finally turned in on each other and I wiped out, it was like a scene from “The Agony of Defeat,” which was an infamous ski jumping sports clip gone oh-so-wrong. When I tumbled, it was bad. My body looked like a rag doll plummeting down the slope amidst an avalanche of snow and debris. By everyone’s account, they thought I broke every bone in my body. I lost both skis, poles, one boot and the other had every buckle burst open.

Mike was the first to get to me. “He’s conscious!”

The others gathered my stuff strewn all over the slope.

It was all we could talk about the rest of the evening as everyone recalled, in vivid detail, my spectacular flight down the slope. The laughter roared like the fire we perched in front of with hot cocoa.

I never skied again.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel



Three houses down; that was the length of my leash on a bicycle.

I was a beginner and loving the freedom my new wheels gave me. Our street didn’t have sidewalks, at least not down by my house. Still, it was safe.

The third house was approaching. I was on the edge of the road traveling opposite traffic. A car was coming from behind me as I turned into the middle of the road. I was startled when the driver beeped at me. Not a hello beep but an angry one.

Back home, I came to a stop against the side steps. This was the only way I could end a bike ride without crashing to stop. We had a long driveway. Mom was outside and I was about to go in for a glass of water when a police car pulled all the way up to the house. This was an incredible sight for me. The officer spoke with my mom and I didn’t quite understand what it was all about. Finally, he approached me. Mom just stood off to the side.

Mesmerized by the uniform, holster and all, I didn’t pay one bit of attention to a word he said. But I caught the gist. It was a lecture about bicycling safety. I was intimidated to say the least. In my mind, when you do something wrong and the police come, there’s but one conclusion – jail!

“I have to go to the bathroom,” I squeaked out.

The officer paused, looked at my mom and she said to be quick.

I was quick all right. I sprinted to my bedroom, grabbed underwear, a shirt, my favorite stuffed animal (a monkey) and then found a towel in the bathroom in which to wrap it all up. I only had cartoons and kids’ shows as a guide, so in lieu of a stick to tie it to, I improvised and used a yard stick. I slipped out another door and was headed for the woods when my mom saw me.

“What are you doing? Where are you going?”

When I stopped and turned, the yardstick snapped and my sack flung to the ground.

Now I really did have to use the bathroom.

Instead, I had to listen to the rest of the safety lecture and then got the bonus lecture on running away. It all seemed so threatening to me. As the black and white pulled out of the driveway, I remember being very surprised that I wasn’t in cuffs in the backseat.

After my bust I felt on the lam, always looking over my shoulder.

By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel