Category Archives: Dad

Tis the season!

The holidays always bring out the cheapness in Dad D. My favorite story might be the Christmas where after opening all our gifts we kids were asked if we noticed a theme. I think it was Alicia who noticed that the barcodes had been cut off each boxed gift. Lo’ and behold my Dad had got all of the gifts free after coupons and rebates!! Merry Christmas!!!

This year I learned a new story.

My parents were recently married and were hunting down Christmas trees. Money was tight but they still wanted a Christmas tree for the family room. They went to a Christmas tree farm and found the scrawniest most affordable tree available. Dad D then went around and collected all the fallen branches off the snowy ground.

Upon getting home, Dad D drilled new holes into the trunk of the tree. He stuck the fallen branches into the holes. Voila! Lush Luxurious Christmas decorations! Brilliant!

Love Thy Neighbor – Manstae

A week or two ago I was visiting my folks when my father excitedly beckoned me to the computer.

Back when Dad D was in his teens he was in a band called Love Thy Neighbor. They played mostly honky tonk ragtime sort of covers that were fun and lively. He and his buddies even made a record. When I was a kid, we’d put that record on the record player in the basement and dance and sing along with his group.

It turns out that some music lovers found the Love They Neighbor LP and have talked about it online. One of the guys in Dad D’s band even found one of the two originals posted online. The song is called Manstae. It is delightfully 70’s. Check it out.

How sweet is that? My Dad’s band getting air time 40 years after releasing their LP. Way to go Dad D!

The Battle of the Bunny

My parents are truly wonderful people. It’s hard to put into words their general awesomeness. Not only as individuals, but as a pair. This past weekend being Father’s day, we DiDonato children had a bonus opportunity to pour praise and thanks onto Dad D.

Before I dive into the depths of the joyous celebration, I must first detail the battle of the bunny.

A bunny has wreaked havoc on Dad D’s vegetable garden. From the damage, one might assume it was a bunny invasion – but in fact the perpetrator is a single cottontail. Dad D, very passionate about his vegetable plot, promptly procured a fence. Mom D quietly watched from the sidelines as my dad built his blockade, secretly hoping that the cute little bunny would prevail.

Mom D: “I call him Spot because he has a little white spot on his forehead shaped like a heart. And he has a cute little white fluffy bunny tail.”

In fact, the bunny did prevail. The fence was not structurally sound and the bunny was able to get through. Which is why my sister Theresa and I decided that the best Father’s day gift would be a Bunny Defense Kit (BDK).

The BDK consisted of 30 meters (100 ft) of special bunny proof fencing, a special organic rabbit defense spray (egg solids, garlic, nasty smelling stuff etc), a NO BUNNIES sign, a spotlight for evening reconnaissance, a rabbit stew recipe, and the VANQUISHER: a pump action watergun capable of drenching at 12 meters (40 feet).

Here’s Dad D. with his BDK, ready for battle, ready to topple the rule of the rabbit:

Dad D with the Bunny Defense Kit

Please note Dad D’s extreme look of dedication. One of the best traits of Dad D is his relentless drive towards his goals. See how he holds that Vanquisher? That’s dedication.

And sure enough, Dad D started constructing his new barricade almost immediately. Mom D reports that after installation of the BDK, there have been no further reports of vegetable annihilation. In fact, apparently a neighbor just noticed that his produce has been eaten by a small furry creature… perhaps it’s the defeated Spot finding himself a new grocery store.

Before I conclude this post I want to publish a picture of Mom D. She was walking towards me through our backyard and as I held up my camera to snap a picture she kicked a leg and did a crazy pose! She’s an adorable mom.

Mom D!

Best parents ever.

The Mortise Falcon.

Dad D. sent me a beautiful story regarding his trials and tribulations surrounding his exploration of the anatomy of a Mortise Lock. It’s an awesome story and a brilliant mechanical device. Enjoy!

“The Mortise Falcon”

My jaw was clenched on that dark and stormy morning as I stumbled out of that small local church that I called my own. This was not the cathedral that inspires the soul to leap but a quiet, yet pleasant, rustic building where very few parishioners were left from a once mighty congregation. Oh yes, there had been hundreds, but that was centennials ago.

Why the clenched jaw? I had another assignment! There is a rule among those that “do” that 10% of the crowd does the work and 90% come along for the ride. Well, when typical attendance is 12, 10% is not a whole lot of people. And when the average age of an aging church is 92, if you‘re under 60, you’re it!

My assignment? “The door knob had been ripped off a back door, could I fix it?” There had been a theater group that had used the church; and unfortunately, when they could not get the back door open, they applied significant leverage and the door knob exploded into their hands. An emergency exit for the church had been murdered, and as Sam would say to Bridgid, ”When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it.”

The church is well over 100 years old. There had been a fire around 1930. We should assume that this door mechanism was at least that old. There is no question that I expected an adventure and the discovery of a mechanical marvel that would rival any “figurine of gold and encrusted with jewels.” With trusty multi-blade screw driver in hand, I began to remove the Mortise lock.

The trick to removing the mortise lock is to remove all inside and outside handles, remove the screws that hold the mechanism into the door mortise (hole in the door jam), and most importantly, remove the cylinder that contains the key coding – this cylinder simply unscrews once the long set screw on the face plate of the mortise is removed.

I chose to do this myself since the church does not have a lot of money. As Sam would say, “to keep family troubles in the family.” Sure, it would have been easy to get a locksmith to come over and fix it, but the web clearly suggested that a replacement mortise lock would be as much as $500 for an antique replacement and locksmith labor is a premium cost since they are always busy getting car doors open when electronic or mechanical keys are left inside.

So once the Mortise lock is removed, this is what it looks like.

The Mortise Lock controls the deadbolt (#1), the override buttons (#2), the latch (#3), the thumb clip (#4) exterior handle, the inside door knob (#5), and the key access (top left corner).

There’s the lock cylinder which unscrews (the image above shows in screwed back in).

This is a lot for a 6” by 3” by 1” antique mechanism to do.

Immediately, being minimally versed in high tech communication systems, I began to look on the web for instructions, hints, or exploded views. And there was not much. So whatever I found had to be posted on the web to close this information hole! The name on the Mortise Lock was RUSSWIN and it was inscribed with “P1213”. I found the RUSSWIN company (now Corbin-RUSSWIN) and wrote an email. The answer: “Sorry, we don’t carry information nor parts for something that old.”

So I took it apart! And this is what it looks like:


(1) Deadbolt and Deadbolt thumb Knob Socket
(2) Override Buttons
(3) Latch
(4) Outside Thumb clip*
(5) Inside door knob socket

After I took out each precision mechanical part, the case looks like this.

Balloon 1 points to the Murder Victim – a broken cast pin.

And then I found the problem, the pin (identified in the above jpg) had broken off so all motion from the knob was no longer rotating the adjacent mechanism but simply sliding it to the left in the picture. The pin was a few thousandths more than ¼ inch. A standard size! The inner diameter of the brass pieces that surrounded that pin were 10 thousandths wider – perfect ! All I needed was a new ¼ inch replacement pin.

Not thinking that I would even try to weld this, I found a threaded standoff, cut it to 3/8”, drilled a hole where the old pin had been and screwed in the new pin with a new brass screw from the bottom. ($0.70). The new knob $8.00.

Success! Now all I have to do is hang this Mortise lock back into place with hope that my new pin would work and would last.

And as Sam Spade said to the guilty murderer:

”I hope they don’t hang you, precious, by that sweet neck… The chances are you’ll get off with life. That means if you’re a good girl, you’ll be out in 20 years. I’ll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I’ll always remember you.”

And now that I know what a Mortise Lock looks like, I will be ready to replace the pin again after 20 years to life.

*Thumb Clip isn’t the best description for the device. When you push that with your thumb, the button pushes a bar that hits this little clip . The clip transfers the motion to push the latch open bar which needs to rotate around that pin that broke.

Thanks Dad D! Awesome exploratory look into the depths of the Mortise Lock.

Back in Action!

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday. Dads are pretty great. They always seem to know everything and be good at everything.

I’ve compiled a little list of things my dad is exceptionally good at. Enjoy!

My dad is a wizard when it comes to adventure. There were weekend trips to the science museum, sailing races at lake Quannapowitt, spelunking the ‘lemon squeeze’ in NH, and my first climbing adventures up Castle Rock. My dad turned mundane trips to the recycling center into something that could be talked about at the dinner table. We hiked Lincoln, Lafaette, and Haystack in NH and went to a lego dinosaur robot building event. Do you need to read that again? Lego Dinosaur Robots. Can you think of anything that could possibly be cooler to an 8 year old DiDonato?

My dad paid for much of his younger year lifestyle with the proceeds from his band. It’s name was “Uncle Sam’s Love Thy Neighbor Ragtime Band.” They even put out an album! He played for weddings, in parades, and various town events. The band is still together and when they play, smiles can not be avoided. Dad’s also in another band called “Tabasco Fiasco.” They play more regularly at bars and locations in NE. It’s a great group of guys and the music is really fantastic.
I first got into the Saxophone through my dad. I started learning at age 7 and still get much joy when my dad and I can get together and play some sax duets.

For over 20 years my dad provided to his children a Super Duper amazing flamazing zippy-zappy fantastic sensational extraordinary etc… etc… Present! at Christmas time. the name always changed, but the concept was the same. We’d wake up Christmas morning to find an envelope buried within the Christmas tree. In it, there were a series of puzzles and challenges that lead us to an awesome group gift.

Some of the gifts included:

a computer!
an hour long tap dancing class (my personal fav.)!
A family Oragami lesson (a close second)!
Stock options!

My dad cooks extravagant meals. Most of the time they take forever. And most of the time we hear shouts of “OH NO!” coming from the kitchen. But the end result is always great. Included in this food section should also be Breakfast. My dad makes a great breakfast. One breakfast in particular stands out. It was the day of my SAT and I came downstairs to find a full breakfast feast awaiting me. Bacon, Pancakes, Eggs, English Muffins, Juice… it was glorious!

Saving the Day.

One of the many adventures my dad took me on was a trip where we learned about the geology in Boston architecture with a tour guide. A group of about 12 of us were told what types of rocks were used where, and where they came from.

While we were walking around, two men joined the group suspiciously. But they paid attention to the presentation and seemed interested.

Not far from Government center, we stopped to look at the foundation of a building. I stood near the back, my father behind me.

Suddenly there was motion.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” my dad shouted.

When my dad shouts… everyone listens.

I spun around to find my dad gripping one of the men’s wrists tightly.

“what… what?” the man shook with fear.


The woman who my dad was referring to quickly tightened her grip on her purse. The purse had been open, her wallet showing.

“no, no… I…. ”
“listen man… you got it all wrong.”

the man quickly left.

“YOU TOO! GET OUT OF HERE NOW!” My dad ordered the other stranger.
“I didn’t have anything to do with this! I’m just watching!”
GET OUT.” my Dad commanded.

he left. Our tour group relaxed, safe again because my dad saved the day.

Interested in more stories from Dad D? Click here.

Happy Birthday Dad! You’re the best!


My dad has a lot of good stories, this is one of them.

My friend Ricky was a wizard of electronics.

I was working late at McDonalds and Ricky came over and rewired my van. He mounted some stage flash bulbs above the visor and wired the car so that when I would turn on the car the bulbs would go off. Sure enough, at 2am after my shift, when I started it up… whew…. I jumped out of the van so fast… I thought it was on fire.

I did get him back though. He came to McDonalds while I was there to laugh about his little story and I grabbed an apple pie and I SMEARED it across his windshield. Now mcdonalds has never been known for a SMALL amount of grease… so for the rest of the life of that car whenever he turned on the windshield wipers it would leave streaks.

“Like the hobos”

My dad has a lot of great stories, this is one of them:

Dad: In high school we had a bunch of guys in the band and chorus. We were the band and chorus nerds. We put together a group to perform at an assembly. A school concert really. Not an assembly. Anyway, we put a lot of effort into it. We thought we’d start of as a jug band, but realized no one could play a jug… so we decided to do a JUNK band. Rick was playing the Anvil. He was the head of the AV group, and the biggest nerd you could imagine, so he got an igniter for an oil burner. Basically it generates a spark.

mike d: Like in the grill?

Dad: yeah. But bigger. You plug it in.

He hooked one wire up to the anvil and the other up to a sledge hammer. So he’d hit the anvil and then when he pulled the sledge hammer away there was a huge ARC.

I played banjo, because we had to have someone play something that resembled real music. Mike played guitar. He was driving along one day and found a barrel. A big giant wooden barrel. He put straps on it and wore it as a costume. Like the hobos. In general everyone wore costumes. That was the big deal. I got this thing like an oriental robe… it had all sorts of sparkles and gold… something that a movie character might wear… and I had a blue feathered clown wig.

Mom: you know listening to this, I can’t believe I married you.

Dad: By the way, this same group became the parade “love thy neighbor” group – Tom had a 6 foot tie that was about a foot wide. Everyone had some kind of percussion instrument like an iron pipe… all sorts of crazy things.

ANYWAY. so… the performances… what we did was took cute little harmonizing songs and throw in little things that would be totally BAZAAR.

Mom: read that as “They took cute little harmony like things and ruined them.”

Dad: FOR example. We took the song “you are my sunshine” and we sang it beautifully with three part harmonies for the first line of the song and then we’d all go “Whaka-do! Whaka-do!” Then we’d go back into the harmony. We were inspired by Spike Jones. He was a famous orchestral comedian who worked with musical groups. He’d add sounds and little entertaining tidbits to a well known piece. He had one famous song “you always hurt the one you love” and then there’d be two gun shots. BOOM BOOM.

Spike Jones.

Typically we’d tell a joke… do a song. then tell a joke. And the jokes were very bad.

Always little one liners: they dug up beethoven’s grave – most of the jokes were about classical musicians… because we were emulating them. – but he was missing and finally they found him in a cave. And he was sitting there with all his music and a pencil and eraser, erasing all his music and they said “Beethoven what are you doing?” and he said “I’m decomposing!”

So one time we played the Toreador song “bap bap bap bap (he sings it)” This was the time that we were influenced by P.D.Q. Bach. Bach is J.S. Bach… PDQ bach was a play off that. He used instruments that were rather unique. he wrote a piece for slide whistled…. So we made Paper towel tubes… you know the cardboard tubes… and we actually took two tubes together so you could slide them up and down then blow into them. The piece de resistance was at the very beginning… we told the audience that we needed music because it was a complicated song… we took a piano roll: a strip of paper with holes in it so the vacuum tubes of the automatic piano could play the music… he held one side of it and then threw the other end so the paper would fly across the stage. We all walked to the beginning of the stage and as we played the song we’d slowly walk along the stage. When we got to the other side of the stage we’d yell REPEAT and then all run to the beginning again.

Needless to say we were QUITE popular. Now we’re getting to the good story

One evening after we had just played a concert and were all in costume driving home. We’re all piled into my VW van and I’ve got Rick and Ernie in the back seat and your mother in the front seat. We drove up to your mother’s house and I walked to your mother’s back door but she was very angry because of something stupid I did. She was very angry and I was being “DISCUSSED AT.” So the two guys in the –

Mom: A WELL DESERVED, long overdue “Discussed at”

Dad: So the two guys in the van didn’t know what was going on and were getting bored. One of them was the anvil guy: Rick. He was known for his sneaky tricks.

Mom: He had a wild and whacky sense of humor

Dad: so Rick and the other guy, Ernie, decided they would take the van and roll it out of the driveway down the street. I hadn’t left the keys in it… so they pushed it. They pushed it out of the driveway down the street and onto a side street. So after the discussion with your mother. The Lengthy discussion. After I participated in the HEARING part of the lengthy discussion.

Mom: the much deserved lengthy discussion

Dad: I came out to the front of the house and the van was gone. And I‘m standing there in my GOLD outfit with all the sparkles. Full length gold.. with my BLUE feathered wig on. And up comes a police cruiser. It’s late at night too… 1am. And the policeman opens the window

“What’s the problem son?”

I’m distraught from the arguement. So all I can say is: “I lost my van”

The crusier takes off and drives around … comes back and says
“Your friends are down the street.”

So I went down there and the two of them are ROLLING laughing because they watched the whole thing. And as we left the street where your mom’s house was and we got down to the end of the street… there’s the police cruiser.

He pulls us over and walks up to the window and says “you should probably turn your lights on.” Then he points to my friends and says “don’t do that again. Go home boys.”

High School Burnout

My dad has a lot of good stories. Here’s one of them:

In 1966 I was in my high school band. We used to have marching rehearsal on Saturday mornings and halfway through my friends and I would take our break and go out to lunch. This particular Saturday we went to a sub-shop.

As a 16 year old, my pallet was not yet mature. So I went in an ordered an Italian Sub. Now, keep in mind, my mother wasn’t Italian. So at home we never really had Italian food.

mike d: What did Grandma typically make for dinner?

well, a typical meal was meat, potatos, and green beans. She had a great recipe for scalloped potatos. Never Italian food though. In fact, ironically, I don’t think I really got a taste of Garlic until I married your polish mother.

Anyway, the guy behind the counter asks me what I’d like and I ordered my Italian Sub.
He asked me “You want peppers?”
“Sure!” I said.
“Are you sure you like peppers?”
“Sure, load ’em on.”
“You want a lot of peppers?”
“Load it up.”

So he packed that sub so it was bursting with peppers. Bursting with peppers. But these weren’t normal peppers, these were HOT peppers. After I ate that thing my stomach and digestive track were SMOKIN’! I spent the rest of the day marching around the field with my insides burning up.