Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dishing Hockey and Donuts with Award-Winning Author Roland Merullo

Award-winning author Roland Merullo loves hockey (and donuts) as much as I do. He wrote something to that effect to me and then signed his name in the copy of Lunch with Buddha I had purchased.

I haven’t read all of his books, such as the one with a donut on the cover, but I will buy them because I anticipate more hockey, more donut references. But it’s more than that. The magic of Merullo is his thought-provoking style of storytelling. He makes me question my own behavior and beliefs but not in a Thou-shalt, heavy-handed fashion. His fiction is unique yet real, affirming and enlightening, funny, spell-binding.

Characters in his books seem to have a thing for hockey and those halo-like treats that serve as one of this site’s hallmarks, so I asked Merullo about this connection. We traded email, and I now present these six questions and answers.  

Jim Dwyer: I know you shy away from donuts now—but what donut do you equate with paradise?

Roland Merullo: Honey dipped or chocolate honey dipped, but my tastes are eclectic.

JD: When you were twenty-four, you broke your back. So hockey, as you wrote in a 2012 Facebook posting, is "off the table." But you must have played as a kid in Revere or at Phillips Exeter. What are one or two of your fondest recollections of those days?

RM: I skated at the MDC rink in Revere, and play street hockey in front of my house, but I never was on the ice with a stick until 11th grade at Exeter. I made the club all-star team, and have many great memories from those days. I also played a little club hockey at B.U. and Brown, and in a men’s league on an outdoor rink the one year we lived on Martha’s Vineyard (my wife taught at the high school). That was AFTER the broken back. Many great memories but my last goal was a tip-in on a shot from the left point. I just laid out my stick and it went into the upper right-hand corner. A good shot to retire on.

JD: One more real-life question before we move on to your books: Who was and perhaps still is your favorite hockey player?

RM: Eddie Shack, hands down. I liked his nuttiness.

(JD’s note: Eddie once owned a few donut shacks, so to speak).

JD: In Breakfast with Buddha, Otto Ringling has a hockey scar. How would Otto describe the incident that gave him that mark on his neck?

RM: He was on the wrong end of a high stick.

JD: Otto's "breakfast" companion, Volya Rinpoche, loves miniature golf, but what does he think of hockey?

RM: Well, he’s from Siberia, so we have to assume he would enjoy it. He fell asleep at a baseball game, however. I saw one game in Russia, actually the USSR, in 1977, when they still called themselves amateurs. No fighting, a little checking, but the best passing I have ever seen.

JD: If Rinpoche were to meet Jesus in an American Savior sequel, where would they meet for donuts?

RM: The donut shop where Jake meets Janet in Allston in my novel, A Little Love Story. It’s made up, based loosely on a shop in Hadley, MA, on Route 9, with a very talkative Greek owner.

Check out a Merullo novel or non-fiction book from your local library. Buy one from a real or virtual shelf and then have him sign it at one if his events

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Jesus Loves Donuts

Jesus loves donuts.

I know this because I read it in a wonderful novel: American Savior, by Roland Merullo. A best-selling and award-winning author, Merullo tends to inject subtle donut and/or hockey references into his books. I read Breakfast with Buddha in 2012 and Lunch with Buddha in 2013. Both are gripping stories with believable characters. They traverse America in pursuit of food and spiritual nourishment, but neither novel features a character who loves donuts as much as Jesus.

On the campaign trail that crisscrosses the United States—Jesus is running for president—the candidate orders his modern-day disciples to stop at donut shops.

The Savior is no goalie, though, as implied in the Boston expression about Espo scoring on a rebound. But he could be a forward or defenseman, according to the narrator. A wise-cracking and skeptical TV reporter, Russ is a regular Doubting Thomas who wants to believe.

He suggests that this Jesus he’s just met could be as manly as hockey player sitting in the sin bin and a man who has not lost an ounce of his feminine kindness.

Jesus, in Merullo’s depiction, feels like a good friend. The sort of fella with whom I could discuss benevolent anarchy. The kind of guy who would sing a song by the Carpenters with me. A dude with whom I could break bread or donuts. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hockey and Hernias, Part II: Plan B, Plan Let's See

A lot of AMHlers and other hockey friends have asked me when I’ll be back playing hockey.  I’m grateful for their compassion and support.

Not sure, is what I tell them, or I shrug my shoulders.

Have I retired?

No. Well, probably. At least from real competitive hockey. Maybe not, though, from pick-up activity. My return to any form of significant exercise other than walking will depend upon what magic the hockey goods might contribute to my healing. I want to alleviate the pain incurred from surgery to fix what medical professionals refer to as athletic pubalgia and/or a sports hernia.

Essentially, it’s an injury affecting the pelvic floor or inguinal canal. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, diagnosis is difficult because MRI’s usually don’t reveal the damage that we know is there and that will not heal on its own. (Any doctor who tells you to “give it time because you’re old” and who is not familiar with this conditions probably isn’t the right doctor for you.). Surgery tends to be the only recourse to find the torn tissue.

For those of you who’ve benefited from surgical repair, more power to you. I wish you continued hockey happiness.

For those whom surgery has not healed, or who too often feel even worse, you may find company at this Mayo Clinic online forum or perhaps here, where I’ll continue to share my experience.

I don’t fault my surgeons for their baffled reactions to why my pain is just as intense and more widespread than what it was before surgery in 2010; they were clear from the outset that about five percent of surgeries are unsuccessful. The reasons, from what one of my surgeons has told me, are all over the map.

The surgeon can inject steroids to the painful area and call for additional MRIs. In my case, these steroids haven’t helped, and additional MRIs (from different providers) have not shown any evidence of damage. Exploratory surgery is not something the surgeon wants to do, and I don’t blame him.

Rather than waiting for MRI technology to improve, I’ve researched options for those of us who want to get back to focusing on sports, fun, family…whatever arena that gives us purpose and contentedness.

Pelvic floor therapy. My new Plan A. This is not about “strengthening the core,” what traditional physical therapists help their clients with; this is about releasing what might be an entrapped nerve.

Trigger point massage. Probably Plan B. Larry Warnock here in the Boston area has been a terrific resource. He’s proactive in the TPM community and responsive to email. If you’re outside New England, ask a local TPM therapist about what Larry “Thejocdoc” Warnock calls a “pelvic unwind.” My insurance doesn’t cover massage, but the cost is reasonable and not prohibitive.

Cold-laser light therapy. Plan C? Proactive and responsive to email also describes acupuncturist Craig Armine. He’s based in Phoenix, AZ and tells me that it’s important for cold laser administrators, typically chiropractors and acupuncturists, to use 500 milliwatt lasers in a cluster formation at a wavelength of 810 nm.

Magnetic Resonance Neurography. Partly because MRN is a relatively new procedure, it’s much more expensive than an MRI. I’m not sure if insurance would cover it. And I hear that the MRN may not define the problem.

I’ll let you know more in August, after I visit with a pelvic floor specialist.

Please email with any questions. I’m happy to help. 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Top Twelve: “Happy” Hockey, Happy Canada, (Happy Donuts)

Last week I asked co-workers about earworms. “Happy,” someone said, but the song gets too much airplay.

AMHL Tuesday Champs: The Penguins
Never heard of it.

But now that I’ve listened to Pharrell Williams’s hit, the song has stuck itself to my psyche and has prompted my fingers to Google the heck out of “Happy,” hockey, Canada (and donuts). The investigation spawned these personal reflections about gratitude, so I present—may sound unreal what I’m ‘bout to reveal—these Top Twelve “Happy” highlights:

1.      Team Italy Sledge Hockey: They could complain about their missing limbs but instead have chosen to be “Happy.”
2.      Happy in Kelowna: Happy (and a hockey player) beats hate.
3.      The Happy Donut: Free Fritter Friday makes me smile like the blue-eyed donut logo. Myrtle Creek, Oregon is on my to-donut list.
4.      Happy Hockey in Hingham (MA): An eleven-or twelve-year old, awarded a penalty shot, juked the goalie—and himself. The goalie flopped, and the skater toppled before the latter could shoot. As the forlorn youth skated to his bench, an opponent skated behind him and offered encouragement or empathy or some “Happy” thought. At least I hope that’s what happened.
5.      Happy for Can-Am Connection # 1: Our friends from PEI, attending the Hingham hockey tournament, paid for dinner. Good times talking about hockey and (lemon) donuts.
6.      Bruins vs. Canadiens: I’m happy that Shawn Thornton accepted P. K. Subban’s apology.
7.      Happy in Montreal: McGill students go overboard in Underground City.
8.      Happy in Halifax: The patients and staff at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre find their “Happy” place. I especially enjoyed the Hula-Hoopers.
9.      Happy to read about St. Andrews, NB in the Boston Globe: See you, St. Andrews—the safe house, Niger Reef and Honeybeans, in six weeks.
10.  Happy Youth Hockey: Jay Atkinson’s piece in the Boston Globe Magazine highlights the need for more fun, less fighting for a scholarship.
11.  Happy for Can-Am Connection #2: The AMHL Photographer and I will return to Montreal next weekend. Round Two between the Bruins and Canadiens will be over, but Puckbite and I will still be friends.
12.   AMHL Championship: Happy to hear that Tim Cook won his first-ever AMHL championship as a goalie, leading his Penguins to a 3–2 victory over the Leafs.
13.  (Baker’s Dozen) Happy to be writing: Not so much on this site as I’m writing offline to rebuild Seamus J. O’Sheehan’s Castle.