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ImageI knew very little about Eric Spicer.

He was a marketer who pitched himself as a motivational speaker and a social networking consultant. Twitter is full of guys like him.

I never met the man. But tonight, I think of Eric.

For years, I’ve wondered about social media, and its purpose. My personal Facebook page is updated carefully, and like my Twitter feed, it offers only a glimpse into my personal life. I’ve reasoned that if 1,500 people follow me on those two social media platforms, it’s better to be reserved.

I decided to go pruning, and went through the list of nearly 800 people I followed on Twitter. I started to cut away at the long list of people I’ve never corresponded with. There were liberal activists, right-wing zealots, one-issue blowhards, and a couple of random sports fans in states I’ve never visited. There were also plenty of accounts that had gone more than a year without a single update. Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow. The chopping was pathetically easy.

But I was stopped in my tracks twice. The first time, it was when I found my dad, who rarely ever tweeted. In fact, the official Twitter stat book on Thomas Reich is closed: He tweeted three times before he died last year. Twice he wanted to wish President Clinton a Happy Birthday.

The only other time I froze? When Spicer’s @speaker99 account came up. He was a prolific tweeting machine. He was friendly. And while he was hardly controversial, Spicer’s absence should have been obvious. But in the noise that is social media, I didn’t notice the man had been silenced. That’s on me.

It turns out Spicer died of a heart attack only a couple of weeks after we exchanged pleasantries about pumpkin spice coffee, and whether it was socially acceptable to drink it after Halloween. More than two years have passed, and I remember the brief discussion.

I’m not much into listening to motivational speakers. I’m driven. That’s never been a problem.

But tonight, Eric, you inspired me to update this site for the first time since I posted my dad’s eulogy.

This writer thanks you.

And thanks for the conversation. Clearly it meant something after all.

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I delivered this eulogy at my dad’s memorial on March 4 in Doylestown, Penn:

The last phone call from my father came on the day before he died.

He had left a voice message stressing that I needed to call back because he had “a question.”

I called. He asked if my wife had any interest in tickets to the St. Patrick’s Day parade. I responded, tersely, “why am I being asked this? Ask her.”

And with that, I advanced the conversation, knowing that was not why he really reached out. There were usually two reasons for his calls. So I set myself up and asked “What else is new?”

First, he wanted to know what his two grandkids were doing. The little boy was playing Angry Birds on the iPhone. The girl was playing with her princess toys – which he gave her a few weeks earlier.

Second, he wanted to make a political point.

“The Republicans in Wisconsin are bastards.”

After a few minutes of banter, we left it that he would call again the next day – and that I should watch what was happening in Ohio, Indiana and a few other states, because the Republicans were out to destroy the middle class and that unions were being scapegoated. Teachers, elevator operators and bricklayers were not the people who got us in this mess, and the middle class was being pitted against each other.

Of course we never had that follow-up call. His heart finally gave out for good.

But the fight he believed in lives on through the Doylestown Democrats, an organization he fell in love with. I heard about the organization all the time. He beamed about his role, and the group’s purpose. And like with everything he ever involved himself with, he cared. Deeply. Heck, I never saw him speechless, but after Election Day last November, when the vote didn’t go the way of the Democrats, I didn’t hear from him for two days. My wife, at one point, asked “is your dad ok? Someone should check on him.”

It took him about 48 hours to bounce back from the crushing local losses to start talking about the importance of 2012. And while he won’t physically be here to help, he’s watching. May President Obama win Pennsylvania, and the election, again. And may Rick Santorum go away. Oh, how he didn’t like that guy. Really, who could?

He also lives on through his family, even if our cell phones ring a little less. Ok, a lot less. I’ll keep him close, and honor him in my own way. Last year, three generations of us went to Citizens Bank Park to see a Phillies game. My dad, brother, my son Donovan, and me all went to South Philly. I stoically watched the game, while my dad doted on Donovan’s every move – even when my little boy, in the spirit of Brotherly Love, yelled to everyone’s delight “If you root for the Braves, I’ll cut your brains out.” Oh how he laughed at that. Confession – so did I.

I had planned to go again this June – the whole gang again. Donovan and I are still going. And everywhere we turn, dad will be there, because we were there, and memories, unlike the human body, don’t die. Donovan still talks about last year’s trip – and how Uncle Jeffrey and Grandpa helped him eat chicken fingers and saw the Phanatic imitate Lady GaGa.

I think of dad’s passing and think of the good times, especially those he spent with my kids – because it took me having children to understand how important I was to my parents. I think that’s the way it usually works. So, I’ll just give thanks to having two. And I’m grateful he met them both. They’re better off for it.

Thanks.

Oh, and dad, I agree, “the Republicans in Wisconsin are bastards.”

Thomas Reich’s obit, courtesy of Doylestown Patch.

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All he wanted was $2.

The guy standing outside the Dunkin’ Donuts in North Babylon asked for money to buy a cup of coffee. I had little doubt that he had little desire to go inside and order, and so I instinctively pulled back and told him I didn’t have any cash on hand. I generally don’t. That’s what the debit card is for.

But the truth is I had plenty in my wallet, having just stopped at the local credit union to withdraw money for the weekend, and for coffee, munchkins and whatever else I felt like buying.

So I reached into my pocket, and gave him $3. I suppose the extra $1 was a surcharge for questioning another man’s motives for no good reason.

We exchanged pleasantries. I asked him if he was a Giants fan. The winter hat with the team’s NY logo should have given it away.

But he answered anyway, tugging on the blue cap.

“Yeah, man. That was a tough loss this week.”

I asked if he watched. His answer was inaudible. By then he had started to make his way away from Dunkin’ Donuts.

I opened my car door as he turned around to wish me a Merry Christmas. I nodded and slowly drove off. Perhaps he turned around and bought his cup of coffee. Maybe he pocketed the money to pay for food later. It really doesn’t matter.

Here is hoping he has a Merry Christmas, and that he never has to ask me for $2 again.

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TVBarry Beck wouldn’t shoot the puck, Don Maloney didn’t always get back on defense and when Doug Soetaert was in net, well, I don’t remember a damn thing about Doug Soetaert.

These are names I haven’t thought of in 25 years. Back then, however, they were Gods. I’d have hockey cards littered throughout my grandmother’s New York apartment, ripping open pack after pack, looking for that elusive Phil Esposito or Mark Howe card to complete a random team set.

At night, if I was lucky, my older cousin would come over and watch the game with me. I’d chronicle the game on a yellow sheet of paper, trying to impress him with my ability to write down names based on jersey numbers. Laidlaw was No. 2. Beck was No. 5. There were two Maloneys, so I can’t remember which was which, but I think one was No. 26, the other No. 12. If I’m wrong, a Rangers fan will let me know. Here’s hoping Eric – that’s my cousin – reads this. He’ll weigh in. Trust me.

If Eric came over, the winter night was complete. Me, him, my brother – who was playing with Matchbox cars and couldn’t care less about the game – with Jim Gordon and Bill “The Big Whistle’ Chadwick on Channel 9. My grandmother’s old television could barely handle the stress, and no matter how often we moved the rabbit ears, the picture would flicker so wildly that only a punch to its side would fix it. There was no science to it, but smacking the clunker worked.

It was during those early days of my life that I first hoped to be a journalist, a chronicler of life. It was those broadcasts, when it was too cold to go outside, that I would take game notes and wait to see if Gordon and Chadwick had some of the same observations I had, all of which was scribbled on the yellow paper.

Last night, those memories flooded back after Chadwick died at 94.

Those WOR broadcasts helped shape my future. I still use a yellow legal pad whenever possible.

Had I known Chadwick lived on Long Island before his death, I would have found a way to thank him. May this post be my posthumous thank you. I hope his family reads this.

And in heaven, I hope for The Big Whistle’s sake that Beck shoots the puck. But I wouldn’t count on it.

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filephoto-obama-11It seemed innocent enough. In a basement room of a Queens apartment complex, we celebrated the first birthday of a cute little boy with more hair than me. There was plenty of food, including vegetables and water, which is pretty much my diet. I felt right at home.

Elmo was there … as were the seven people who thought George W. Bush did a good job as president. My mistake? Questioning their sanity. It took a great escape in the 2003 VW Golf to get out alive. Here’s what I learned:

1) We in the media are God-damn socialists.

2) We’re about to become a welfare state

3) How dare we take money from people just because they make, say, $50 million a year. Socialist!

4) This economy wasn’t nearly as bad when Bush was president.

5) Mega-dittos, y’all.

6) We won the war in Iraq back in 2003.

To a bystander it must have looked like one of those old-time World Wrestling Federation matches where three bad guys take turns slamming the steel chair against the good guy’s skull. Where was Hillbilly Jim when you need him?

Anyway, the RNC meeting I stumbled into aside, it was a great time. A real pleasure. But I leave them tonight with some comfortable bed-time reading.

First, here’s the New York Times story today that reports most AIG bonus recipients have given back the extra check. Look at what a little shame will do.

And this from CNBC, where the latest Geithner/Obama plan seemed to go over well on Wall Street, home of the finest Americans. It looks like our president has some street cred, though to be fair the plan to buy up bad assets was also floated by some Republicans.

Let freedom ring.

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stethoscopeA little more than four years ago, Long Island Business News conducted a health care summit and some of the top voices on Long Island were on hand. Michael Dowling, who runs North Shore-LIJ was there, as was Rep. Steve Israel, the Democrat who happens to be my representative.

I remember talking to Israel in a stairway and asking him if he had any idea on how to make health care more affordable. He said the United States should allow cheaper drugs from Canada into the country and have government pitch in to help small businesses pay for health care.

Yesterday, while in Connecticut I spoke to a small business owner who began to talk about how difficult the economy was. He also said he doesn’t offer health benefits because he flat-out can’t afford to.

Then today the New York Times editorial was on the possibility of a national health care system.

There are 46 million Americans without health insurance and as the job market shrinks, that number could easily go up. And many people who are covered still can’t afford to pay for their medicine.

But why is the health care debate coming to a head now? Yes, sure, some of it has to do with having a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress. But it could be more than that. Here’s an interesting post by John Sinibaldi, who writes for the Health Care Blog.

He writes:

It isn’t the employees of government (local, county, state or federal) who will demand immediate change. It isn’t the employees of institutional companies (the Motorolas, GEs, Microsofts of the country) who will demand change. It isn’t those on Medicare or Medicaid or the VA who will demand change. It isn’t the wealthy. It isn’t the poor.

He continues by saying the middle class can no longer afford their health care. By the way, Sinibaldi is a health insurance agent who concludes by writing “Let’s see what the president and Congress come up with, and try to work with it – because it is inevitable that the reforms will be major, because we’ve waited too long to save our current system as we know it.”

Good for Sinibaldi, because getting cancer is bad enough. Going broke fighting it is  reprehensible.

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