Monday, December 24, 2007

The Namesake Part 2

In an earlier post I talked about the movie "The Namesake" with Kal Penn, and how I related to the movie because of my own unique name.

I've read this headline many times throughout the years. "What's in a name?" Names become an important part of the parenting process, and in our case with our son, was an evolving process right down to the very day he was born.

I guess I've always wanted to name my son after me, since it's always been such a unique name I figured it couldn't hurt to pass it along. And since my wife is English, I figured having a Roman numeral at the end of a name wouldn't be so unusual, since they seem to do a fair amount of that in the United Kingdom.

But our son is not a member of the Royal family or a noble. Nope, he's just one-half English, one-half American/German/Irish (if it's possible to combine those three into one-half) and all parts darn cute.

We started early on with the name Lucas, and for those of you who know me and are asking if it has anything to do with Star Wars, the answer would be yes. Kind of.

Lucas was certainly at the top of the popular comtemporary names in many of the pamphlets and books we read, so it also didn't hurt that it was also the last name of Star Wars director George LUCAS, or that the main character in Star Wars is LUKE Skywalker. Soon after he was born, I got an e-mail from an old friend. Incidentally, this friend has a son named Indiana (as in another George Lucas franchise Indiana Jones).

The e-mail went like this:

"I have an over/under going with our old friends to see how long it takes you to say ‘Luke, I am your father...’

If it has already happened – I win."

By the time I had received the message, it had already happened, so indeed he had won.

While we then had a first name, and the last name was already a given, the search for a middle name would come to us through a series of unfortunate life events.

Joanne's grandfather Anthony Kassell was an interesting figure, a man with mountain of life experiences that easily translated into captivating stories. As an engineer on UK oil tankers, he had seen the world several times over. One favorite story was the time he had visited New York in the 1950s, when the Verrazano bridge was under construction. Workers on the superstructure were welding at the same time Mr. Kassell's oil tanker was passing underneath, and tensions on board were high as sparks landed on the fume-filled but empty oil storage tanks. The only casualty that day were nerves.

We were lucky to host Grandma and Grandad Kassell in New York last year. They came across on the Queen Mary 2 and stayed in Lower Manhattan right at the World Trade Center site. The empty area that once contained two of the world's largest buildings looked almost identical to the last time Mr. Kassell had seen this part of New York City - in the 1960s, when the World Trade Center site was just a construction area preparing for the towers that would rise here.

It was the last trip abroad for a man whose life was filled with adventure on the high seas. This summer, Grandad Kassell had a heart attack. He survived, and continued through treatment and health problems throughout the fall.

By the time his daughter, my wife's mother, was ready to make her trip across the ocean to be here for our baby's birth, Grandad seemed to be doing better.

She arrived in the states on December 9th. By December 14th, Grandad had taken a turn for the worse and was back in the hospital, and the outlook wasn't good.

We had hoped that we could keep a secret about our decision to give Lucas a middle name. We had decided several months back that it would be a good idea to name our son after his great-grandfather, and right from the first moment we discussed it we both realized that it fit and was the perfect name. And we didn't want anyone to know until Lucas was born.

But some events in life are tough to control, and by December 14th it was clear that if we wanted Great-Grandad Kassell to know, we would have to let the family know and hope he could get the message.

On Saturday the idea of our son's name became a reality when Grandma told Grandad in the hospital that when the baby came, he was going to be named Lucas Anthony Farabaugh.

We found out early the next morning that Grandad Kassell had passed away in the night. It was a tough time for everyone, particularly for my wife, who was going to give birth any day. It was also tough on my mother in law, who had to make the agonozing decision to return to England for a funeral that would happen on Christmas Eve, all the while not knowing when Lucas would indeed arrive.

And then, just one day after we received the news about Grandad Kassell, Joanne started to have contractions.

We entered the hospital early on December 18th, and by noon that day we were proud parents and grandmother. Lucas Anthony Farabaugh, named partly for the great-grandfather who passed just two days before, couldn't have come at a better time. His grandmother would actually be able to see him and be with him before she left to return for the funeral.

Lucas's birth was both a proud moment and a bittersweet occasion. The week began with the passing of one member of the family and ended with us bringing home another new member of the family. Two people who will unfortunately never have the chance to meet in this life, but will be forever connected by one simple name - Anthony.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lucas Anthony Farabaugh

He's here!

Lucas Anthony Farabaugh arrived at 11:08 AM on Tuesday, December 18, 2007.

Weighed in at 8 pounds, 5 ounces. 20 and 3/4 inches long.

Mother and baby are doing great! So is Dad and Grandma!

I'll update more later with more pics. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Namesake

I gotta say. I love Netflix.

We watched a great movie the other night. It's called "The Namesake," and stars Kal Penn, of Harold and Kumar - and most recently "House" - fame. He plays a character named "Gogol."

Gogol is South Asian, and is born in America. Gogol is a name that has special meaning to his father, and I won't divulge too much more of the plot - you should rent it and see it. It's one of the more heartwarming and better movies we've seen this year.

But suffice it to say that growing up with the name "Gogol" wasn't an easy prospect for a young boy, and despite standing up for himself early on, he grows to hate the name and starts going by the name "Nick."

I can relate to "Gogol" and sort of identified with the movie. After all, my name isn't Henry or Jack or Michael. It's Kane. But where Gogol and I differ is that I have never been ashamed of my unusual name. I've embraced it for the most part. It hasn't always been easy.

The taunting started early. One particular name calling incident that sticks out, which must have happened in 1st grade, was "Kane went down the main drain in Spain." Sound innocuous, right? Not when twenty other kids start chanting it because it seems like the thing to do.

Kids can be cruel.

I didn't have many friends when I was much younger, and I guess it's because my name was so easy to tease, and other kids didn't want to hang out with the kid who was always called "Candy Kane." What's the saying, "That which doesn't kill you only makes you stronger"?

The name calling didn't kill me. And as I grew older, I embraced the fact that I had never come across someone with the same first name. Some "Cains" had showed up here and there, but I was the only "Kane" I had ever heard of, and certainly the only "Kane Farabaugh" in the world.

Sure, the bad guy on "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" was called "Kane." And it was the name of Orsen Welles immensely revered film, "Citizen Kane." Didn't bother me. And then, sometime in Junior High School, someone had asked me for the first time, "How did you get your name?"

WOW! How did I get my name? It took several years and several sources to get a fair and accurate accounting, but from what I can gather, mostly from my father who sometimes embellishes the truth for storytelling flair, it comes from the oldest person in our family when I was born.

Her name was Hilda Kane.

She was my grandfather's cousin, and had lived through the toughest times encountered by her generation. She worked in the Kaufmann's department store in Pittsburgh most of her life, and had never married after a relationship she had when she was younger left her heartbroken.

At a family get together one day before I was born, she asked my Dad if he had decided on a name. He hadn't, and she asked him if he wouldn't mind naming the child after her. On the surface, this might sound presumptuous, or at best, bold. To actually ask someone to name their child after you does take some courage. But if you knew this sweet and tender woman, arrogance and boldness are words you would not use to describe the quiet and wonderful Hilda. My dad agreed.

When I was born, and I wound up being a boy and not a girl, my Dad correctly decided that naming me "Hilda" would have made my life hell, and so they named me "Kane."

Hilda lived for the first 11 years of my life, and was in her late 80s when she died. I have to admit, I did not know the woman as well as I would have liked, but I am proud that I carry her name with me. A gesture by my father for a woman who did not have the good fortune to have a child to name for herself.

I am Hilda Kane's namesake.

And when I found this out, it made me embrace my name that much more.

These are important things to remember or look back on when you have a baby coming. My wife and I have spent many nights blurting out names for our baby. We've poured through a few baby naming books, and have searched and searched the internet for relevant and meaningful names that also sound good. There's been a few doozies that I must admit I've chuckled at. Heathcliff is one of them.

But because I've had a unique name, I would like to pass that on to my kids. There's something in the uniqueness of a name that makes you work a little harder to set yourself out from the rest.

We think we've got our baby's name picked out.

The real challenge in life is getting people to pronounce "Farabaugh" in the first try... something few people throughout my life have been able to do... without a little help from the namesake.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Storm's A Comin

We're gearing up for a big snow storm here in the New York Metro area. At least that's what the news organizations here want you to believe so you tune in to their station for constant weather updates.

The media onslaught about the pending storm began last night, under a clear sky with the stars shining. Weather anchors and radio stations all had the top story as the storm that will be, rather than the storm that is.

They're projecting 3 to 5 inches of snow, with rain and sleet right after, and then another "wallop" (Weather Anchor terminology) from a "Nor'Easter" that's headed in for the weekend.

I am concerned. My wife is pregnant and due any day, so any storm that comes in now needs to factor into the plans on getting to the hospital on the big day. But 3 to 5 inches certainly isn't the worst I've seen. Not even close. In Syracuse, they measure this stuff in feet, not inches.

And so I began reminiscing... about snow and its pitfalls.

The biggest storm I remember might also be the first real significant snowfall I ever witnessed. It was 1991, and we had just moved to Illinois from Indiana. We lived outside a small rural town called Marseilles, and our house was in a subdivision surrounded by farmland just off Interstate 80.

We might have only been in the house several weeks when the snow storm came in. And it kept coming. When we woke up in the morning sometime in February, we tuned in the radio to learn that school was cancelled because there was at least a foot of snow, and that's not counting the snow drifts.

When my Dad went to the garage to head to work early in the morning, snow drifts had completely blocked the garage door, and were at least six feet high.

We started shoveling the driveway, and as I remember, it lasted an eternity. But the challenge wasn't just getting my dad and the car out of the driveway. As he headed out on the road that leaves the subdivision, he got stuck in snow drifts several times and we had to bail him out. I believe it was almost six hours after he first opened the garage door that we were finally on the road. At this point I say "we" because I was drafted to accompany my Dad, ostensibly to give me something to do on my day off, more to the point, however, I was cheap and ready labor to shovel the car out if it got stuck again.

My Dad worked as a manager at a lumber yard, and by the time we got to work, his buildings were in a precarious state. The sun had come out, and was starting to melt the snow. Only the snow was feet deep on top of tin corrugated roofing sheds, and when the light fluffy stuff started to become heavy as it melted, portions of the roof collapsed. I remember walking in to the store and the ceiling had caved in right in my Dad's office. Other notable events to remember was my Dad shoveling the snow off of the rest of the roof with other workers to spare the rest of the complex the same fate as my Dad's office.

We had several days off of school for that storm. It was a doozie. There was no way anyone was going anywhere for a while until the drifts were cleared and the weather relented.

But I don't remember such a buildup before the storm, either on the news or by the people around me. It happened. It was massive, and people just dealt with it when it came.

And that's about all you can do with a snow storm. Deal with it when it comes.

I know it's good to be prepared, but today as I took the train in to work, I couldn't help but notice the emptiness of the car. Same thing on my walk to work... streets of Lower Manhattan a bit lonelier.

As I got to work, there have been a number of e-mails detailing that quite a few people are on sick leave.

It seems the storm came a little early today, even before the snow fell. Or it's all just a coincidence.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Eating Crow

I'm humbled by the Patriots defeat of the Steelers this weekend.

I'm increasingly hoping that the Steelers look more like a playoff team by the end of the year by winning all the rest of their regular season games.

But they're not going to go far playing crappy on the road. Especially against the Patriots. And if the Steelers encounter the Patriots again the post-season, they'll do it in Foxborough again this year. They need to be on their game, a better team to get through.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Signs of Aging

I think I officially became old sometime in 2006.

That's when I discovered the usefulness of the pocket that comes, usually on the left side, with a button down shirt.

My entire life I've worn these shirts, and have never found the need to use that pocket. Dare I say it would not have been cool to do so in front of fashion conscious friends or peers during my high school years, lest I subject myself to teasing. Imagine that guy with the pocket protector. Such a useful tool, such a ridiculed accessory.

But I find myself using that shirt pocket to hold everything from plane and train tickets, to my cell phone and even my glasses. It's been a ground breaking discovery for me.

I noticed the significance of this on a train home from Washington D.C. yesterday, when I placed the ticket stub in my pocket, and there was little room for it between my cell phone and glasses. But I did have open spaces on the inside pocket of my blazer that were not occupied, and so I started to fill that one up too.

And then I asked myself, "Self, what has changed in you that causes these pockets to swell with nothing and everything in particular?"

I guess I used to use my pants pockets more. But when you want easy access to something while sitting down, it's easier to reach your phone if it's up higher. And your glasses.

When I was younger (read in my 20s) I wore an awful lot of cargo pants. They were cool, and useful if not all together practical. Cell Phones, Passports, tickets, small books.... you name it, they fit in those side pockets on the pants. But it seems that cargo pants don't go well with a button down shirt and blazer, so I'm left without that option more and more. And that fad train seems to have left the station.

Some people graduate to a "man purse" or a "fanny pack." I got married, and have spared myself this embarrassment by politely annoying my ever tolerant wife by asking that she keep everything I can't in her purse. So when an occasion calls for us to bring a camera, and all the regular amenities of life, my wife looks like she is carrying a watermelon in her purse. She does admonish me for my lack of practicality by only owning that which I can keep on my persons.

I've ranted before about those people who wear the bluetooth device on their ear while eating and socializing in a fancy restaurant. I continue to hate it, and think people just look stupid doing so. There is a time and place for everything. The Macaroni Grill on a Friday night is not one of them if you want to tell Jackson about the latest bling you've bought that's mad crazy off the hook. The three year old at the table in front of you and me and my wife in the table behind you don't care, and continue to not understand.

But I wonder if the people who do that have realized better than I have that their pockets are all used up, and the ear is the best kept secret, and the next place to start storing things while you are in transit.

Call me old fashioned, or just old. I'm sticking to my shirt pocket. Give me a ring. My left breast pocket might vibrate. If I'm not having steamed mussells over linguine I might answer it. I just hope I don't look uncool by reaching into my shirt pocket to get it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Dynasty For All Time

I can't help but be irritated by the New England Patriots. It's not that I don't admire their ability or their record... I just don't think they deserve the attention. And like Barry Bonds and his record with an asterik this year, I believe the Patriots deserve the same for cheating early in the season.

I recently read an article in the Dallas Morning News about the Patriots:

"Patriots Not Quite at Level of Greatness"

In the article, it gives credit to the Steelers teams of the 1970s and the Dallas Cowboy teams of the 1990s. And those are teams much more deserving of the credit than the 2007 New England Patriots.

Indeed, the Steelers, Cowboys, and San Fransisco 49ers are the only teams with 5 Superbowl victories. The Cowboys have been 8 times, the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers have been 6 times. The only Superbowl the Steelers have lost was in 1996 to the Cowboys.

If the Patriots make it to the Superbowl this year, they will tie Pittsburgh and Denver for second place for most Superbowl appearances.

Do I sound like one of those guys who is obsessed with the game and likes to quote football statistics? It wasn't always like that.

I grew up in Pittsburgh in the 1970s. I was young, and didn't really understand the sports history unfolding around me. But it was clear that something on the television set got my Grandfather excited. And perhaps the reason why my favorite color is black is not because I am dark and depressing (I certainly am not), but the colors I associate with happiness are black and gold, the earliest colors I seem to remember, the colors Pittsburgh was and still is adorned with... the colors of its teams - the Steelers and the Pirates.

I am a product of Pittsburgh in the years it held the title "City of Champions" - centered around the 1979 Steelers Superbowl and Pirates Word Series victories. One of the few, maybe only city that holds the distinction. It was precisely what Pittsburgh needed at that moment in time. Life was dismal in the gas-crunched and inflation soaring years in the late 70s. Jobs were leaving as the steel mills shut down, and there wasn't a lot to be happy about if you happened to live in the rusting shadow of Pittsburgh's greatness.

The Steelers are such a part of my own family history. It's the team that's been with us through all of our moves around the country. When we lived in Eagles country and later Bears country, everyone knew I was a Pittsburgh Pirate and Steeler fan. But honestly, I wasn't REALLY a fan of the Steelers yet... I just associated myself with the team because I was from Pittsburgh. I certainly followed the Pirates because as a youngster, baseball was the coolest.

An interesting side note here: My grandfather died the same day as the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Art Rooney. I remember this because my Grandfathers brother, Father Clinton Farabaugh, presided over the funeral and made mention of the fact in a humorous anecdote that made everyone laugh, though the exact reference eludes me.

I didn't really become a true fan of the Steelers until 2001. It was the year that PNC Park and Heinz Field officially replaced Three Rivers Stadium. I had volunteered to cover the opening ceremonies of both stadiums for my employer at the time, WOWK-TV 13 News.

At Heinz Field on opening day, which was a pre-season game against the Detroit Lions in August, I was left on my own when my photographer said he couldn't make it. Thankfully, my uncle Randy, a semi-pro still photographer, was eager to snap up the extra press credential and we both attended that pre-season game. I admit now I knew little about the Steelers that warm August afternoon. It was clear when Kordell Stewart, the quarterback at the time, starting messing around with my camera shot on the field for warm-ups before the game. I didn't know who he was, and my uncle had to fill me in. In the elevator on the way up to the Press Box, team owner Dan Rooney came up to me and shook my hand and looked at my credential to get my name. I think he asked me how I liked the field, and I can't remember what I said. I thought he looked familiar, but it wasn't until he was leaving the elevator we shared up to the Executive level that I finally realized who he was.

That's when I decided I should get to know the team better if I hope to cover them if they made it into the post-season. And so I began reading all the Steelers Media guides I could get my hands on as well as watching NFL Films highlight reels and so forth. By the end of the 2001 season, when the Steelers made the play-offs, I was informed enough to cover the games without having to dip into a guide for reference stats. Not enough knowledge to do the play-by-play, but enough to take on any amateur fan who thought they knew the stats.

Another interesting note: That first game at Heinz Field against the Detroit Lions was also the first time that a Pittsburgh fan could attend a Steelers AND Pirate game in the same day. The two teams shared Three Rivers Stadium for thirty years, and couldn't play on the same day. So when the Steeler game was over, Uncle Randy and I did what hadn't been possible in both of our lifetimes - we attened both games in the same day.

In learning the stats and the history, it's hard not have an affinity for the team. It took the Steelers forty some years to have a winning team. A lot of heartache and hurt laid the foundation for the dynasty that persists to this day.

It's a legacy the Steelers have that isn't tainted by cheating or scandal. A team that is still owned by the family who founded it. A team that is loved by the city it represents and the fans that city has produced. But it isn't isolated to Pittsburgh.

I was in Atlanta last year for training related to my current position. I arrived on a Sunday when the Steelers were in town to play the Falcons. I didn't have tickets to the game, so I popped into a bar with my friend Brian Steep to watch the game on TV. The announcers mentioned that there were a lot of Steelers fans in black and gold at the stadium. The banners in the bar proclaimed "When the Falcons are away, the Steelers will play." The stadium was down the road from the downtown bar we were at, and when the game was over and we left the bar, the entire downtown area was a sea of Black and Gold, most people sporting Ben Roethlisburger jerseys. I was amazed... and it certainly appeared as if there were more Steelers fans than Falcon fans in Atlanta. Whenever there is a nationally televised game of the Steelers, I often hear announcers mention things similair to that. It happened this year in Denver. The Steelers lost that game in the final seconds.

You don't hear things like that about the Patriots. Everyone said the Patriots were destined to win the 2002 Superbowl, vaguely referencing the show of patriotism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. I heard "Americas Team" casually thrown out to describe the 2002 Patriots. That's what people call the Dallas Cowboys. I tend to dispute all those claims.

Pittsburgh is America's team, if not in some reference to the team name certainly by team spirit. I would also place Green Bay at a close second.

I was rooting for the Baltimore Ravens yesterday, who almost defeated the Patriots in Monday night football. It unfortunately didn't happen.

As of today, the Patriots are 12-0, on track to be the first team to have a perfect 16-0 season.

But there is an obstacle in the way of that record. It's a game scheduled for this Sunday, at 4:15. If the Patriots have at least one blemish on their almost perfect season record, it deserves to be the real team of America. One that didn't cheat to get where it is. The Pittsburgh Steelers.