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.