The Wild One, Forever

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AND POSTED MAY 2011.
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The hours that were yours, echo like empty rooms
The thoughts we used to share, I now keep alone
I woke last night and spoke to you,
not thinking you were gone
It felt so strange to lie awake, alone
No Regrets
Tom Rush

So, here I find myself banging on the keyboard with the one woman who won’t leave me (mother’s don’t count), my cat Lulu. I am not saying she may not split if I let her out the front door, but she’d probably just go far enough to chase birds. Lulu and I share that in common, we both chase birds and both seem to end up in the same chair, alone, listening to all kinds of sad bastard music. Currently spinning on the digital Wurlitzer is the master of romantic verisimilitude, Tom Petty and his appropriately named Heartbreakers.

The X is still gone. She said she would think about what she wanted. I foolishly believe she may actually be doing it. Those of you who think I am a cynic or negative, I defy you to find someone with my degree of optimism. What cynic would really get back together with the woman who pounded on his  heart once before?

Here the Lu and I sit, listening and thinking. Sure, I hope she is thinking about the relationship and just how foolish her reasoning was for leaving, but the reality is in what she said and not in the tears she held back. “You’ll never be what I want you to be” followed by “I love you.” Seems conflicting doesn’t it? It’s not. I know she loved me. And this time around I felt it. But, I do think she sold the whole relationship short. Sometimes when you short the market you win (see Goldman Sachs) and sometimes you lose (see everybody else).

The truth is I never will be what she wants. Not out of malice or stubbornness, it’s just that the ideal person for her, or for anyone, does not exist. You love the whole person or you don’t. Love is all encompassing and not selective. You can’t pick what you love about someone any more than you can pick who you love. She doesn’t understand that…yet. She will. Yes, there is behavior I could have modified and changed. Most of it I probably would have over time. Could she say the same thing?

“They call you the wild one, said stay ‘way from her
Said she could love no one if she tried”
The Wild One, Forever
-Tom Petty

I met her four years ago at a friends birthday party. The funny thing about the party is that I knew no one. They were all up and coming comedians and I wasn’t. I had been drinking…a lot, and had forgone dinner in exchange for one more pint of Guinness.

It was about midnight when we finally met. I had spent most of the night talking to one girl thinking I could sweet talk her into coming home with me, but she flatly told me she would never date a white guy. She looked pretty irritated when I said “Who said anything about dating?” Furthermore, who says six hours of drinking removes any charm?

Now, I recall talking to her, but I have no recollection of any formal introduction and certainly had no idea what the hell I said. After meeting her, I remember three things. The first was when I was talking to her, my buddy who’s birthday it was called me over and literally said “be careful with that one dude”. I had no idea what he meant. The second thing I recall was drinking scotch on his roof and smoking a cigarette. And the third was going to a bar and closing it out. I remember not having any idea where I was and her offering for me to stay with her. OK, so that’s four things.

We’re all adults here, I think we can surmise what happened next, even if no one can recall it. In the morning, I tried to sneak out because I had a writing workshop to get to, but she convinced me to stay…well into the afternoon. As I was leaving, I got her phone number, wrote in on my hand because I had not yet grasped the idea of putting someone’s phone number DIRECTLY into my cell phone. I was on the fence as to whether I would call her.

I knew we worked for the same company, so I checked her work stuff out. Did the requisite Google searching and the like. I did a little internet recon (myspace, etc) and decided to email her at her work because, in what will come as no shock, the phone number got all mucked up with sweat and grease and was illegible by the time I got home. I emailed, she replied and we agreed to have dinner. Although she would come to admit later she almost bailed on that date.

Blah blah blah, we fall in love, we move in together, we fight, it goes poorly, she asks me to leave (it was her place), I leave but stay in the neighborhood because I naively think she will come to her senses. All of that happened in the span of about 14-15 months.

We broke up and I began acting out, like ya do. Mostly just drinking too much and going into some very dark places emotionally. Fortunately, I have good friends who pulled me out when it looked too dark. I eventually righted myself and moved on. It’s the only option. Well, it’s the only option I considered.

About 14-15 months go by and she initiates contact with me again after seeing a photo of me on my web site with my then girlfriend. You see, while she may not have wanted me, God forbid someone else want me. I was with someone, it was a fine relationship and I just wasn’t terribly interested in moving backwards in my life. She doggedly pursued me. “Let’s get coffee.” “What time are you taking the train in the morning?” , etc. In no great surprise, the relationship I was in spiraled downwards and I ended it…poorly.

“Baby, time meant nothing, anything seemed real
Yeah, you could kiss like fire and you made me feel
Like every word you said was meant to be
No, it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me.”
Even the Losers
-Tom Petty

For the longest time, I read that song that HE was the loser and today for the first time it dawned on me that SHE was the loser. “No, it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me”, for years that line never registered. And you know what? Today it sounded clearer than it ever had in the past 30 years.

So the X and I reconvened and do you care to guess how long Act II lasted? If you guessed 14-15 months, you would be correct.

The X attacked this second round of the relationship with a ferocity I had never known she had. She wanted me, me. She wanted a future with me. I, because I am an optimist, bought it hook line and sinker and am a sap. I believe in the power of love (damn you Huey Lewis and your News). I made it a little difficult at first because I had never gotten back together with someone after that amount of time and there was some blood under the bridge. Wrong girl at the right time, I suppose that about sums it up. But I was dumb enough to think she was the right girl at the right time.

I had said the only way that it would work is if we were honest…and we were. We talked openly and honestly about everything. I don’t think she withheld too much from me. It was good and more often than not it was great. We talked about kids, we talked about places we would go, things we would do. We made love, we had sex, we fucked. We laughed, we cried, we sat in silence. We did things, we didn’t do things. We had a relationship. Apparently, we were having two different relationships.

I’d by lying if I said it was all great. It wasn’t. We fought, sometimes viciously, but we always righted the boat. It would take one of us (usually it was me) to clear the air by clearing the head and putting perspective on what the real problem was. Intelligent discourse is something I can get on board with, even when it comes to emotions. Yes, it may take a day or two to get there.

It’s funny to think about it. I have been in love a few times and I have loved some terrific women. And everyone has “the one that got away”. Well, all things being fair, there is a reason why everything ends and time taints your ability to see those reasons. So in some cases, what we see as “the one that got away” may, in fact, just be the one that ended before it got tragic and sad.

I’ll end up some story the X tells her kids. The one about the older guy she dated and who “got away”, how “he was maybe a little much too handle, but he was good and treated me well. He really loved me.” She’ll tell her girls to not make the same mistake. And they will, we all do. She’ll tell her sons to treat their girlfriends the way I treated her and they will…and then they won’t. The circle will never be broken, it’s the way of this sort of thing.

In a previous post I had mentioned that my parents represent a spirit of rock and roll because they have stuck it out for almost 50 fucking years now! And no, maybe their relationship is not perfect (whose really is though) but they made the commitment to one another and come hell or high water they have slogged through it. And THAT says more than a thing or two to someone like me.

Here we are, about 16 months after our reconciliation (is it just me or is this 14-16 month thing a trend) and it’s done…again. I love her. That will never change. I want her. I desire her. I want her to want that with me. But she feels there is someone else out there who is going to fulfill her in some way I don’t. And I suspect that is true. I also suspect it will last for less than two years. I’m not entirely convinced she will ever know the meaning and value of what it means to be in love.

Love is what it is, a word. It’s the emotion behind it that defines the word. And unless you can understand and wrap your head around that emotion, love is, and will always be, just a word. Love is also the easiest part of a relationship.

The government has the military industrial complex and those outside government have its romantic equivalent, a relationship. Both are expensive to maintain, contradictory, invariably involve some degree of deceit and covert activity and always end with people getting hurt.

“You better watch what you say
you better watch what you do to me
don’t get carried away
Girl if you can do better than me
go…yeah, go
But remember, good love is hard to find,
good love is hard to find,
you got lucky babe
you got lucky babe, when I found you.”
You Got Lucky
-Tom Petty

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, pop star for the broken hearted. I mean really, the songs are unending, “Stop Draggin My Heart Around”, “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, “Straight Into Darkness”, etc. Some broads really put their hearts through the ringer.

The Lu and I sit and write and listen to the sounds of the people who could put this sort of thing to music. The type of music that resonates with everyone. Rock and roll knows A LOT about a couple of things and one of them is love and lost love.

The X is still gone and I don’t anticipate her return. I anticipate a call when she sees me with another woman or in 14-16 months, whichever comes first. Life is about choices and you can’t always make the right one. And with love, you never know if it’s right. You only know when it’s wrong.

Maybe I am just wrong for her. I’m no saint and I sure as hell am not the easiest guy to get along with, but I am real. I am always me. I stopped trying to be someone I wasn’t in my early 30’s. I don’t want to hurt anyone and I don’t want to hurt and I find that the easiest way to do that is to be honest. Honest with myself and honest with those close to me.

She has an ideal in her head, don’t we all? The X owes it to herself to see if that person exists. I never said she was the right one for me, did I? No, I simply know I want her. Big, big, BIG difference. I never promised I’d spend the rest of my life with her, that would be a lie. I know I WANT to, but I can’t say for certain. If I made that promise, rest assured that is what I would strive for, but to make it now would be a lie.

Who knows, maybe that Hollywood ending of true love forever exists for her. But my experiences, my friends experiences, every artists experiences, every musicians experiences, every writers experiences, tells me that love has more to do with work, compromise, acceptance, understanding, hurt, empathy, respect, pain, tenderness, support, understanding, laughter and ultimately sacrifice and so much much more. And all of those can change on the drop of a dime.

When you fall in love, and I mean true love, you strap yourself in, put your helmet on and go for the ride.

Lulu and I both share a love/hate relationship with birds. Both are bipeds, but one has literal wings and the other has figurative wings. I pine for them out in the word while pines for them through the window. While our desires are similar, something tells me our motivations are different.

Nonetheless, I think perhaps I will join the Lu and just look at them through the window for awhile.

“Birds”
Neil Young

Lover, there will be another one
Who’ll hover over you beneath the sun
Tomorrow see the things that never come
Today

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go

It’s over, it’s over.

Nestled
in your wings my little one
This special
morning brings another sun
Tomorrow
see the things
that never come

Today

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go

It’s over, it’s over.

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Circle Jerkin’

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go.
You lead by going to that place and making a case.”

— Ken Kesey

The annual broadcast network, advertising and media buying circle jerk known as the upfront is underway. Yesterday saw both NBC and Fox release their fall 2013 schedules.  Today, ABC releases their schedule and tomorrow it is current network king CBS’s turn, and for those who care, Thursday is the CW.

These four days are traditionally the time when the majority of advertising is booked on each specific network, based upon their programming. It’s the way the business has operated pretty much since…well, it’s the way it’s always operated.

It’s also been a time when all the programming executives get an opportunity to self flagellate their brilliance in front of an increasingly skeptical advertising community. In the case of NBC, skepticism from the ad community is now bordering on outright hostility.

No other broadcast network in history has had a more difficult time than NBC trying to regain some of their viewership. They continue to stumble and make programming decisions that not only baffle advertisers and viewers alike but also leaves them scratching their head wondering what on earth is going at the once blue chip net. For a few years I was convinced NBC was on a path to deliberately broadcast the worst television shows to attract viewers.

Maybe something is afoot at the Circle K though. Since the Comcast acquisition, NBCU CEO Steve Burke has cleaned house, from the top down, and got rid of a lot of the human detritus left by Jeff Zucker. I might argue there is more to be done, but I digress. In so doing, Burke and Comcast made a solid commitment to re-building their NBC prime time schedule and re-building the bridges that Zucker and team so cavalierly blew up…repeatedly.

After watching their upfront presentation yesterday, I am happy to say that it appears as though NBCU CEO Steve Burke and NBC Programming head Robert Greenblatt might actually be on the right path. They’ve done what no one thought was possible, a really good job.

I honestly didn’t think there was any hope for NBC at all but to my utter amazement, they presented a nice slate of shows. NBC presented a really comprehensive and interesting schedule. Here is a list of some of the new shows:

Million Second QuizUnscripted and stupid. I may be wrong here, but this looks absolutely ridiculous. If ever there was a show pitched from a cocktail napkin, this is it. I’m not going to even describe it. If you want to know, waste your own time and look it up.

The Michael J. Fox ShowScripted Comedy. I have to be honest I was beyond skeptical about this show. NBC ordered a complete season without a pilot. It seemed like a huge gamble based on Mr. Fox’s illness. It also seemed like a desperate grab to go back in time. BUT, from the trailer I saw, it looks really funny. I laughed out loud twice! Michael J. Fox is still incredibly charming and very funny. I suspect the Parkinson’s jokes and storyline may get old quick but provided the peripheral players are able to hold their own and support Fox, this show should really work.

Shame on NBC for flagrantly using their other news programs within the context of this show. It’s contrived and extremely hollow, I hope they re-think that. Aside from that gripe, this show actually looks really good.

About a Boy – Scripted Comedy. Based on the Nick Hornby book and the Hugh Grant movie from 2002, this just looks dumb. It won’t work. Nice try and may achieve some modest success in the short run, but this will eventually be a dud.

Sean Saves the World – Scripted Comedy. Sean Hayes plays a gay dad raising his teenage daughter. Linda Lavin plays his mother. No one does befuddled gay guy better than Sean Hayes and Linda Lavin is always a nice treat, it’s just too bad this is the vehicle they chose. NBC appears to be fixated on branching out and capturing the gay audience and expect this show to go the way of The New Normal, that is to say, cancelled.

The Family Guide – Scripted Comedy. Blind divorced dad J.K. Simmons gets a guide dog and young son feels replaced. Jason Bateman and David Schwimmer are producers with Bateman providing the voice over. I like this for a number of reasons, J.K. Simmons is always great, it has a dog, Jason Bateman is involved and so is the diverse and always fantastic Harold Perrineau. Unfortunately, the day they announced the series order, lead actress Parker Posey quit. That is an awful sign, but presuming they get a solid replacement, let’s all hope for Mary Louise Parker, this could actually be a break out hit.

NBC also didn’t acknowledge Posey’s departure during the upfront (HUGE faux paus… sure, everyone already knew, but they should have owned it, acknowledged it and moved on.) It’s nice to see NBC still hasn’t lost their ability to stick their head in the sand.

Nonetheless, this could actually work…mary louise parker, mary louise parker, mary louise parker…

Undateable – Scripted Comedy. Unwatcheable.

Ironside – Scripted Drama. Blair Underwood recreates this 1970’s classic. Much like most shows in the cop genre, this is entirely resting on the cast. We all know the stories and the formula by now. The success of any of these shows rests solely on the cast and how they can make it resonate with the audience. Could go either way, Blair Underwood is extremely likeable but buying him as a paraplegic is going to be a tough sell.

Blacklist – Scripted Drama. This is the show getting the most attention and deservedly so. It looks good, has an interesting story line, a mysterious angle and it has James Spader playing crazy! Spader plays the world’s most wanted criminal, who turns himself into the FBI and offers to give up everyone he has ever worked with in exchange for working with a newly minted agent whom he seemingly has no connection. The “blacklist” in question contains the names of 20 of the world’s most wanted criminals (I suspect most will be Chinese, Hispanic and Russian).

If NBC has half a brain, they’ll get in front of this show and nail it down for an entire series run of 20-30 episodes, long enough to capture the people on the “blacklist” and then wrap it up. If they did that, this could be a defining moment in NBC’s history.

Don’t look for that to happen.

Welcome to the Family – Scripted Comedy. Look for a divorce from viewers.

The Night Shift – Scripted Drama. Medical show. Trying to recapture ER. Not gonna happen.

Chicago PD – Scripted Drama. Spinoff from Chicago Fire. Again, all dependent on the stories and the performers. Could work given the appeal of Chicago Fire. Unlike the flagrant crossover in The Michael J. Fox Show, these two shows would do well to air back to back and have a ton of cross pollination.

Crisis – Scripted Drama. Here is the official logline:
When Washington’s most powerful players are pulled into an international conspiracy, an unlikely puppeteer will bring everyone from CEOs to The President of the United States to their knees by threatening the things they hold most dear.

Here is how that logline translates: Someone kidnaps a bunch of rich Washington D.C. kids (from a yellow school bus, as if anyone believes rich D.C. insiders kids travel to school like that) in order to get back at CEO’s and the Washington elite. While no one likes to see kids suffer, perhaps NBC missed the memo, no one gives a shit about Washington politicians or over paid CEO’s. Absolutely arrogant in its premise and I’ve no doubt this show is DOA.

Dracula – Scripted Drama. Starring the exceptionally talented Jonathan Rhys Meyers (seriously dude, fire your team), this show just looks silly. A big period costume drama about Dracula. DONE and DONE and DONE and DONE…ENOUGH on the re-treads! Maybe a mini-series, fine. A PERIOD PIECE ABOUT DRACULA ON NBC! Ugly attempt to capture the Downton Abbey phenom…with vampires. Awful.

Believe – Scritped Drama. JJ Abrams & Alfonso Cauron. Blah, blah, blah, something about a gifted girl, they travel, some guy saves her and everyone is touched along the way. It could work, but not a long term show. This would be another show I would suggest NBC sign up for a specific number (I’ll say 26, two seasons of 13 ep’s) and then call it a day. If they do that here as well as with Blacklist, these two shows could help re-establish the network as both visionary and a destination for good content.

Don’t look for that to happen.

These are some of the shows I saw during their presentation and after listening to everyone and sitting through their respective pitches, along with the dreadfully unfunny taped pieces; I have to say NBC did a great job. I don’t think this is the type of slate that will put NBC back on top. However, it is the type of slate that indicates exactly how hard Burke, Greenblatt and company have worked over the past 18 months in doing exactly what they said they would do, invest in creativity and talent. Keeping your word and delivering is a sign of true leadership, well done!

Sadly, NBC, just like all the other nets, have their nose so far up the advertisers’ asses they can’t wrap their head around the future of broadcasting. I’m not an idiot, I get it; there is a ton of money to be had in this world of advertising sponsored television. And, wait for it, “it’s the way it’s always been done.” (YAWN)

Look, there is a place for this business model; it is just no longer with scripted shows. Sporting events, talk shows and unscripted shows have that sense of immediacy that prompts destination viewing and will always work hand in hand with commercial advertising.

In case you’re not paying attention, we’re moving toward a world where scripted shows will be viewed en masse. And no matter how hard each of the networks tries to jam that ad sponsored model down our gizzards, it’s simply not what we want. I’m not saying it’s going to happen next year or even in five years. I’m certainly not saying networks need to embrace the Netflix business model. What I AM saying is that it would behoove them to take it under consideration. SERIOUS consideration.

For example, let’s just say NBC decides to take my idea to book and market Blacklist as a complete show. We’ll say 26 episodes. Sure, air it on the network with the 12-15 minutes of commercials and get the revenue (at least until you accept the inevitable). But THEN, charge advertisers for the privilege of being the SOLE sponsor on a commercial free digital replay on the NBC site (preferably not the NBC site because it sucks). This way, everyone gets what they want.

OR Partner with Netflix and charge them the premium for the commercial free web replay. But do this while the story is moving forward. In the case of Blacklist, maybe you do the commercial free digital replay after each person on the list is caught. Just don’t wait 12 months after the first season!

Re-think your model for chrissakes.

Yes, there is Hulu and Hulu Plus…but, Hulu sucks. TV Everywhere has been fumbling along but shows no signs of gaining any real traction because it is confusing as all hell. Amazon is still a wildcard. HBO Go and Showtime Go are solid players. Even though Wall Street keeps yammering and hammering on about how Netflix will eventually fail, I am extremely suspect about their analysis and motivation. More their motivation.

At the end of the day, all the networks, despite their efforts to own and control the digital distribution, are simply going to have to partner with either Google, Apple, Netflix or Amazon and embrace this commercial free model. It’s the cod liver oil modern media in transition.

In the case of NBC, I would strongly urge them to start the process now. The network was built upon forward thinking vision but, with the bungled shenanigans of Jeff Zucker (good luck CNN!), they lost in less than ten years what it took almost 100 to achieve.

NBC finally has an opportunity to recapture that which built the company, true leadership and real vision. With the NBC upfront yesterday, I felt something unusual for the first time, hope…and just a small tingle of pride.

Simple Things

JOHN LENNON

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”

“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”

“As usual, there is a great woman behind every idiot.”

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”

“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.”

“Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.”

“My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.”

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”

“If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it.”

My Dog Is A Jerk

Rufus 1

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.
– Roger Caras

My dog is a jerk. Now look, I’ll be the first to admit Rufus had a tough start in life, what with Parvo and double pneumonia. He was also kept in isolation during his treatment so he never got to make friends and has difficulty doing that now. I’ll also admit his breed, Pit Bull, can be both energetic and troublesome. But seriously, how much longer can I keep making excuses for him?

You know that feeling you get when you are super excited to do something? You have that level of energy that makes you feel like you could win the gold medal for the decathlon? That excitement you had as a child on Christmas Eve? The exhilaration of taking the first spoonful of your favorite ice cream flavor? Yea, he’s like that…almost all the time.

After hogging most of the bed and covers during the night, he jumps to life very early in the morning. Typically, about three hours before I need to be at work. He hops off the bed, does his morning shake and then comes to my side of the bed and starts staring at me. He doesn’t bark, sniff or cry he just sits a few inches from my face and stares at me. To be honest, it’s pretty creepy and far more jarring than any alarm clock.

I grumble while I get up, trying to explain it is much too early and curse him seven ways from Sunday. I fumble around with my clothes and make my way downstairs. He’ll usually race past me and wait impatiently at the bottom of the stairs while I plod my way down. When I try to explain to Rufus that I need to use the bathroom before we go out, he looks at me blankly. I suspect he is wondering why I simply don’t use the myriad of fire hydrants, street signs or garbage bags in our neighborhood.

Grabbing my coat and trying to take the four steps to his harness and muzzle, while he frantically paces around my legs, is a daily reminder of the Albert Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus. After a terse one way discussion about how he can’t go out without these things, I get him muzzled and harnessed and it’s off to the elevator. The pre-dawn hour means we’ll have an express ride down the eight flights, which is good considering he seldom likes to share the elevator space.

Getting off the elevator and out the front door almost always results in a fear that one day Rufus is going to rip my arm out of its socket. And so our morning sojourn begins.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn is typically loaded with people during the day so these morning walks are a time when we have it all to ourselves. No baby strollers, no skateboarders or bicyclists, no tourists, and thankfully, no terrified looks at seeing Rufus with his muzzle on. It is on these walks we both get the quiet and peace that is so often lost in an urban setting. It makes us both so much more appreciative of what we actually have. More importantly for Rufus, he gets to survey his doggie kingdom, get his scent on and do his business. He transacts a lot of business on these walks; he’s like a four legged hedge fund.

As we walk around the multitude of apartment buildings already here and those under construction, past the hip stores selling over priced dungarees, we’ll occasionally run across a bartender closing their bar after a night of millennials who had consumed too much Pabst Blue Ribbon. After all the detritus has been examined and the signage and garbage bags have been appropriately sniffed and marked, we will make our way home. As we get to our corner, Rufus will usually stop and look back as if to say “Yea, this is going to be a good day.”

We’ll come back upstairs to wrestle and growl at each other for a few minutes while the cats look at us with complete contempt. Eventually, I tell Rufus that I need to start getting ready for work. Trying to explain the concept of work to a dog is like trying to explain the musical importance of Supertramp. As I walk into the bathroom to shower, he’ll sit at the foot of the stairs and look at me as if to say “Come on, call out sick, we’ll hang out”. I simply shake my head and say “I can’t buddy, I have to go to work” and then I close the door and start the shower.

As for Rufus? He doesn’t wait at the door so when I come out we can have a few more minutes of discussion and play time, no no, not him. He goes back upstairs, hops on the bed, burrows under the covers and goes back to sleep.

That is why my dog Rufus is a jerk.

Guest blog post published on Pet Center News.

Boston Marathon

boston-marathon-bombings

“Humanity should question itself, once more, about the absurd and always unfair phenomenon of war, on whose stage of death and pain only remain standing the negotiating table that could and should have prevented it.”
– Pope John Paul II

I don’t think I could officially call myself a blogger unless I expressed some sort of feeling about the bombings on Monday at the Boston Marathon. So, here goes…it sucks and I am truly sorry that yet another tragedy has befallen our country. My heart goes out to the people who lost a loved one and those that were injured. And I don’t think enough thanks could be expressed to those that helped the hurt ones. Patton Oswalt said it far better than I could.

Whether you believe this to be a terrorist attack, either foreign or domestic, or some sort of governmental conspiracy, you’ll have to accept that we may never know the truth. The odds are that you will choose a narrative that fits your own personal belief system or one that you were raised with. Sound familiar? It’s getting to a point in America where knowledge gathering is beginning to look a lot like religion in that you go to the sources that subscribe to your beliefs.

Thankfully, there are tons of media outlets to choose from to get your (mis)information from. And in times of peril, like Monday’s bombing, the media turns to experts. The sad fact is that there are simply too many media outlets for any sort of true “expert” to cover and we’re left with news producers scrapping the barrel, willing to except almost any dolt as an expert. What follows are some  “experts” who recently appeared on some of the “trusted” news outlets:

ON CNN:
Former Lubbock, Texas Sheriff Tex Jackson was an “expert” because he once had a car explode in his driveway. And in a shocking display of Zuckerness, CNN ran a lower third during the interview of the coyote (of roadrunner and coyote fame) getting blown up.

ON MSNBC:
14 year old Bryan Watson was an “expert” because he lost his right hand when he put an M-80 in a beer can.

ON CNBC:
Goldman Sachs SVP Levon Jenkins, III was an “expert” because he once ran the Boston Marathon.

ON NY1:
Stacy Levicciochi, a 24 year old actor from Staten Island, was an “expert” because she was going to run in the Marathon but missed her flight.

ON NBC:
Brian Williams had an awkward interview with Watertown, MA Mayor, Jesus Jones, who actually may have been an expert. No one is sure because NBC just kept running a video loop of the bomb going off coupled with Brian Williams incessant “Uhmmms” and it created a trance like feeling for viewers.

ON CBS:
Shrieking MA DMV worker LaTonya Freeman, who kept bellowing “Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, they blown up my baby.” (no indication she or anyone related to her ran or was injured).

ON C-SPAN:
Surprisingly, no coverage. Only coverage of a senate vote to extend the Patriot Act to include Drone Missions on American soil.

ON THE CHRISTIAN BROADCAST NETWORK:
Pat Robertson ordained his cameraman, Tony Maloney an expert because of his two tours of duty in Iraq. Apparently, Robertson got the phrases “Worked with comestibles” confused with “Worked with combustibles”. Things got strange when Maloney asked Robertson to bless his avocado.

Across the radio and the web, celebrities and news actors weighed in:

Glenn Beck:
“President Obama was seen by that trash can two hours before the explosion. FACT!”

Alex Jones:
“THOSE OILY TOWEL HEADED MONKEYS WORKING FOR THE CIA DID THIS AND I CAN PROVE IT! LET ME TELL YOU WHAT, IF ONE OF THEM WALKS 500 FEET WITHIN ME, I AM GONNA SHOOT ‘EM. I’M GONNA STAND MY GROUND!!!”

Rush Limbaugh:
“Has anyone heard from Darnell, I am out of Oxy…and the femi-nazi’s…WELL THEN GET ME SOME SCOTCH GOD DAMMITT!”

Keith Olberman:
“Is anyone out there, because I have something to say.”

Westboro Baptist Church:
“God hates faggot runners.”

The list goes on and on, sadly. Fortunately, with the wide range of media and opinions, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding one that fits your belief needs.

As for me? Well, I’ll wait until I gather some more information from across the media spectrum, and globe, to try and sort out what I think. But I am fairly convinced we’ll never really know the whole truth.

While the talking heads and media pundits definitely need more help, right now, all I am really concerned with are the people who lost someone or who are hurt. And to those people, my heart and prayers are with you.

New Yorker Cartoons Debunked April 8, 2013

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” Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.”
– Noam Chomsky

I have lived in New York City for years now and I am still not sure whether reading The New Yorker makes me a snob, an egg head douche, an old fart, someone keenly interested in good, albeit somewhat snotty, writing by east coast blue bloods ivy league twats or just someone who wants to have a look at what is going on in the area. But one thing I DO know is that the cartoons they scatter throughout the mag are sometimes odd, sometimes interesting and sometimes so wildly esoteric that if you admit you don’t understand it, you feel dumb and if you admit you do understand it you are more than likely lying.

For years, I found the cartoons just plain silly, but over the past few years, for whatever reason,  I have begun to understand them. I think. At the very least I have been able to apply some semblance of my life view to them which has allowed me to enjoy them a little more. When all is said and done though, I think the cartoons represent, what I can only presume, is The New Yorker’s demographic. Which from what I can tell is somewhat educated (both traditional and non-traditionally educated), white, middle class and above, left leaning folks.

I selected a few cartoons from this weeks issue (April 8, 2013) and provide a couple of different interpretations.

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LOVE, Part 1

bed

 Interpretation #1 – Marriage and relationships are hard, regardless of gender preference. So anytime you through two people together in close quarters they are bound to fight and sometimes the distance manifests itself in the boudoir. My guess is the illustrator was trying to show that it has been 97 days since the last intimate contact took place in that bedroom. 

 Interpretation #2 – A less likely interpretation would be that the illustrator was making a statement about a serial sex offender in recovery. This interpretation carries less weight as it seems anathema to the New Yorker’s high brow humor approach.

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LOVE, Part 2

lifeTHE CAPTION: “Boy, I hope we never end up like this.”

 Interpretation #1 –The illustrator, without showing the contents of the plate, is indicating that all the food has flooded into each other, making a statement about gentrification by stripping each food of its plate independence. The joke being that the woman hopes she doesn’t loose her independence while being in this relationship.

 Interpretation #2 –The couple is dinning at a cannibal themed restaurant.

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 Cost Efficiency

spoon

THE CAPTION: “The hotel is full, but I’ll see if I can work out a spooning arrangement for you.” 

Interpretation #1 –In an effort to cut costs, big hotel chains are now randomly pairing up people to accommodate more travelers. As the “spooning” comment indicates, all the rooms with two double beds must be full leaving just the rooms with king size beds. Rather than turn the road weary traveler away, and loose the revenue, he offers the new “spoon” package.

 Interpretation #2 –The hotel clerk has placed secret cameras in one room and is in the process of filming an adult orientated “spoon” fetish series for Cinemax.


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Capitalism, Part 1

capital

THE CAPTION: “It may be the rood of all evil, but it’s also the root of all this.”

Interpretation #1 – A wealthy, guilt ridden, left leaning corporate 1%’er tries to rationalize his accomplishments to his cube dwelling 99%’er college buddy.

 Interpretation #2 –The guy is just a dick.

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Capitalism, Part 2

lackey

THE CAPTION: “This is Abramson, our new pinata.”

Interpretation #1 – Abramson is the new corporate HR executive or PR executive, either way, his future looks grim.

 Interpretation #2 – Abramson is the token new state university recruit at the all virtually all ivy league Goldman Sachs, in which case he may, in fact, literally end up a pinata. 

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Doctors

dr

THE CAPTION: “It’s either conjunctivitis or twin pools of desire .”

Interpretation #1 –A favorite source of humor for The New Yorker, doctors. This is an attempt at trying to find the lighter side of medical practitioners. Clearly, the doctor knows what it is.

 Interpretation #2 –The doctor is making a pass at the patient.

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Millenials

process

THE CAPTION: “Nobody asked me about my process.”

Interpretation #1 –Millennials are often keen to extol what they do and how they got there in order to receive as many accolades as possible. Completely oblivious to the fact that no one may even care.

 Interpretation #2 –Actually, I am pretty sure that is whats happening here, the only thing missing are the tattoos.

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Nostalgia

noogie

THE CAPTION: The Noogie Kings

Interpretation #1 –The offspring of the original Noogie Patrol.

 Interpretation #2 – What became of Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels.

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Racism

catTHE CAPTION: “Look who’s moved in next door.”

Interpretation #1 –A guarded, yet clever, approach to the undercurrent of racism that permeates New York, and most communities across the country. The two fish represent the ruling white class while the cat in the fishbowl represents every non-white. A bold statement New Yorker, well playedwell played.

 Interpretation #2 –The fish represent every non-white culture and the cat represents the pending gentrification of their communities.

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Esoteric

bearsInterpretation #1 – Bullying is the premise here. You’ll notice there is only one seat available for the bear to fish through the sun roof and with the neighborhood bear bully on his way over,  either the other bear is coming over to rob him of his catch and/or chase him away from his fishing spot. Either way, it looks like the sitting bear is going to have his paws full.

 Interpretation #2 – A sublime statement about global warming because bears are usually hibernating during winter, so the image infers, despite the snow, that it may not be winter. As the bears are ice fishing, this is presumably a pointed remark about climate change.

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Where there is art, there is no hell.

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
– Andre Gide

Yesterday, I watched a documentary. And while that, in and of itself, is about as interesting as peanut butter, what I watched was interesting, Born Into This, a documentary about Charles Bukowski.

I first discovered Charles Bukowski from the script he wrote for the Barbet Schroeder film Barfly, starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway. To be fair, it’s been a long time since I have seen it and I can’t recall what I thought of it but given my pathetic attempt at being a film snob and my man crush on Mickey Rourke at the time, I am sure I LOVED it. But I have never seen it again, so I guess that says something.

Thanks to The Red Hot Chilli Peppers I got reintroduced to Bukowski a few years later and read in quick succession Women, Factotum, Hollywood and Post Office. I muscled through those four books and frankly, I hated them. It wasn’t the writing that I hated so much as his characters. They were repellant. I mean seriously horrible people. As misanthropic as I was back then, even I found these people awful.

My contempt for poetry kept me away from the Bukowski poetry cannon. Based on his fiction, I wasn’t keen to dive into a genre I didn’t like with I writer I didn’t like. To be honest though, and to avoid offending any poetry readers/writers, it’s not contempt for poetry I have so much as I just don’t have that kind of brain. I’ve read a lot of it, and even written some horrible teen angst verse, but as a whole I don’t “get it”. And I’m not a good enough bullshitter to pretend to “get it”. For whatever reason, poetry doesn’t have any emotional impact on me…and yet song lyrics do, go figure.

After watching Born Into This, I walked away with a new found respect and appreciation for Charles Bukowski. So much so that on my way home from work I stopped off to purchase a book of his poetry, The Last Night of the Earth Poems. I have to say, so far, his verse is breathtaking.

Admittedly, I’ve grown up a lot since those first introductions and with that growth comes life and experiences, good and bad alike, along with some gray hair. In the process, I’ve come to see the world through a different lens then the one when I first read those books. And as distorted as my lens was then and may be now, it’s not even close to the Bukowski lens. However, in growing up and with experiences, you can begin to see the world for what it is. A fucked up place. With fucked up people. Doing fucked up things. To each other.

Bukowski characters, as deplorable as they are, are real characters. Underneath all that depravity though, are just people trying to do what we’re all trying to do. Get by and find a way to slice off a little piece of happiness pie for ourselves. Sure, they may find happiness in places we don’t understand and can’t respect, but Bukowski shows us time and time again that their journey is our journey.

Clearly, this is an over simplification (I’ll leave the more robust literary analysis to the folks behind the ivy walls with thicker and grayer beards, who study this professionally) but as Longfellow said, and Bukowski shows us, “..the supreme excellence is simplicity.”

Obviously, the legacy of any artist is their work. True art, real art, will speak for years and years, as Bukowski’s does. In Born Into This there is a scene where he is reciting his poem Dinosaur, We (written in 1993) and these lines screamed out to me:

Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes
Born into this
Walking and living through this
Dying because of this
Muted because of this

To dismiss Charles Bukowski as a simple and misogynistic drunk writer is to diminish not only his artistic contribution but also his message. His was a message for those of us not birthed into any entitlement. It was a message from the underside saying “We’re here too. We exist.” In between all the despicable characters, the women, the booze and the shitty behavior is the one thing that transcends everything, even entitlement, the human condition.

Where there is art, there is no hell, only our own journey. That journey may be hell, and who we seek for armistice and guidance can make that journey easier. Thankfully, we have the work of Charles Bukowski, and so many others, to help us find our own way, creatively or otherwise. And that ain’t a bad thing baby.

DInosaur, We
by Charles Bukowski

Born like this
Into this
As the chalk faces smile
As Mrs. Death laughs
As the elevators break
As political landscapes dissolve
As the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree
As the oily fish spit out their oily prey
As the sun is masked
We are
Born like this
Into this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes
Born into this
Walking and living through this
Dying because of this
Muted because of this
Castrated
Debauched
Disinherited
Because of this
Fooled by this
Used by this
Pissed on by this
Made crazy and sick by this
Made violent
Made inhuman
By this
The heart is blackened
The fingers reach for the throat
The gun
The knife
The bomb
The fingers reach toward an unresponsive god
The fingers reach for the bottle
The pill
The powder
We are born into this sorrowful deadliness
We are born into a government 60 years in debt
That soon will be unable to even pay the interest on that debt
And the banks will burn
Money will be useless
There will be open and unpunished murder in the streets
It will be guns and roving mobs
Land will be useless
Food will become a diminishing return
Nuclear power will be taken over by the many
Explosions will continually shake the earth
Radiated robot men will stalk each other
The rich and the chosen will watch from space platforms
Dante’s Inferno will be made to look like a children’s playground
The sun will not be seen and it will always be night
Trees will die
All vegetation will die
Radiated men will eat the flesh of radiated men
The sea will be poisoned
The lakes and rivers will vanish
Rain will be the new gold
The rotting bodies of men and animals will stink in the dark wind
The last few survivors will be overtaken by new and hideous diseases
And the space platforms will be destroyed by attrition
The petering out of supplies
The natural effect of general decay
And there will be the most beautiful silence never heard
Born out of that.
The sun still hidden there
Awaiting the next chapter.

What time is it? It is now.

banksy

The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use — of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public.
Robert Kennedy

It’s hard to write about class distinctions on a personal blog without sounding like either a lunatic or an entitled and spoiled twit. Admittedly, I probably skew a little more towards the lunatic side. I’ve never felt entitled to anything, except maybe my last piece of gum. However, I do feel frustrated by the lack of opportunity available to me so maybe I could improve my station. And I suspect I am not alone in that feeling.

To say the American economy is in recovery is to deny the facts. Sure, unemployment is down, but what about UNDERemployment and those who are simply no longer receiving benefits? Why has federal and state welfare spending increased almost 19% over three years? What do we define as recovery?

I did what I was supposed to do. I went to college (actually, I went to A LOT of them) and got my receipt (degree). I even went one step further and got a Master’s receipt (degree). I have the credentials, and debt, to prove it. Neither of my degrees are from an Ivy League nor are they highly specialized. They are both in the Liberal Arts world, which should indicate I am a well rounded cat. Could it be that no one is looking for a well rounded cat in a rat race?

Before I prattle on too far…left, let me say I am uniquely blessed. I have a job, I make a liveable (barely) wage, I have a roof over my head, I don’t go to bed hungry, I have people that love and care about me and I am very lucky. I shudder to think how many in my country, let alone the world, don’t have such things. I am hyper aware of my good fortune and I should just be happy and shut my mouth, right?

Love. I have people that love and care about me so who the hell do I think I am to bitch? I’m a human.

Feast or Famine. I don’t go to bed hungry and neither do my pets. I am blessed.

Four walls and the truth. I live in a great place and I am ridiculously lucky.

Middle Class (harrumph). I make a liveable (barely) wage. By all accounts, my salary places smack dab in the middle class. And if my bank balance is any indication, I still struggle. Part of that is on me, for sure. I live in NYC, by choice. I have credit card debt and student loan debt. I take ownership of those even if I personally believe credit card debt and student loan debt are almost mandated. But let’s just look at a couple of the things hacking away at my middle class status:

  • FICA tax jumped from 4.2% in 2012 to 7.65% in 2013 for employees and it remains at 6.2% for employers(?).
  • Starting this month, NYC mass transit monthly pass increased 7%.
  • The national average price for a gallon of gas is $3.74 (after nine weeks of increases).
  • Utility bills are increasing nationally for reasons unclear to me (those bills should simply be in Sanskrit, they’d be easier to translate) mine jumped 50%.
  • Food prices continue to go up. Ironically, food that is bad for you (yet, delicious) like pop tarts and all things sugary and fattening remain relatively level. I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy nut, but aren’t a large portion of those companies owned by multinational’s? Hmmm…

Occupy my cube. I have a job. While I may not have a career path readily available to me, in spite of the company size, I do have a job. There are in excess of 100 employees managed by eight people. 88.5% of the staff is managed by the 12.5%, with virtually no management tier. It’s as though it functions as a small family business…until there is a problem or new idea to consider, then the myopic pace of a big company kicks in.

Is this a departmental or corporate mandated structure? My intuition tells me it is simply more of a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Make no mistake, it’s busted, but fixing it involves change and change sucks. But even more than that, change is expensive and even in a billion dollar company, money is tight. I recently had my review and it was seemingly quite favorable and yet my contributions and performance for 2012 were rewarded with a pay increase that is less than the national average for 2013. I shudder to think how lesser valued employees fared. I am also looking forward to seeing how our CEO was remunerated.

I suppose I could have gone on record as dissatisfied, but experience has taught me that resistance is futile. I’m more angry about my own apathy.

PART II
Naomi Klein‘s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism cites numerous examples of what happens when a government is overthrown and then placed in the hands of charlatan economic theorists and corporations. In Klein’s cross-hairs is the economic theory designed by University of Chicago Economics guru Milton Friedman and what Klein refers to as “shock & awe”. Sound familiar?

Typically, the first phase, or “shock”, is a revolution (think Chile in 1972 or Iraq, most recently) and is something that shocks the citizens. Then comes the second phase, or “awe”. Economic policies are put into place that benefit, almost exclusively, multinational corporations and the societal top tier. Not surprisingly, built into the economic policy is a long and strong arm of suppression, specifically designed to eliminate dissension. I’m not sure how the “awe” works other then leaving jaw dropping historical proof of its inefficiency, which is certainly awful…horrible pun, I know.

Could it be that the financial crisis of 2007 and its subsequent trillion dollar, and counting, bail out was the American version of “shock & awe”? Of course, the government wasn’t officially overthrown. The bail out seemed to only benefit huge multinationals and the really rich (and continues to do so). Was this crisis designed and this current “recovery” simply the domestic implementation of an economic plan that has proven time and time again to be a horrendous failure for everyone except the few?

I think the fact that we continue to see record corporate profits, record corporate tax refunds, record executive pay, record high productivity numbers, the continued eradication of the middle class, pay increases that don’t cover a cost of living increase, anxiety and depression numbers rising, etc…yea, I kind of think there are some very serious similarities. And I think the 2007 financial crisis gave all corporations the free license to do these things. Legally.

And the fact is that no matter how many people write it, say it, or scream it, it seems as though no one wants to do anything about it. The Occupy Wall Street movement tried and while it was a decent idea it was eventually silenced by the hands of the state and the media.

Let me state this emphatically, I believe in capitalism and democracy which is, presumably, the foundation of our country. Perhaps it’s my own naivete, but I think these two should stand independent of one another. But I will live with that naivete over the cynical acceptance that they are forever linked and we can’t change it.

I don’t believe that corporations should hold our government hostage while the masses suffer. I don’t think corporate leaders should rape and pillage any economy to line their pockets while marginalizing or crushing the population. I am fine with a super rich class, I am not fine with a greedy super rich glass that expands its wealth at the peril of the citizens, the very people expanding their wealth. I am proud to be an American but lately, I am not proud of America.

To ingest the dreck that media companies jam down your throat and present as news is to miss the message. Make no mistake, it is a one-sided conversation controlled by a media oligopoly. “Control the media, control the message” was the famous quote of media theorist and philosopher Marshall McLuhan, so don’t fool yourself, the “news” is presented as information but specifically designed to keep you uninformed.

And please don’t try to make any distinction between mainstream and non mainstream media; it’s ignorant, misleading and wrong…no difference exists. Far left OR far right media is simply extremism and at no point in world history has extremism ever been the answer. The egalitarian nature of the Internet provides a wealth of opportunities to find a more accurate message or, at the very least, different messages for you to form your own opinion. GASP! It won’t always be this way as history teaches us that the Internet will take the shape of the current media landscape.

So, what is my point? It’s OK to say WTF to corporations, to politicians. We should be challenging them, always. Unless we change things, we’re screwed and the following generations are screwed. We all need a collective Howard Beale moment and we need to stand up for what’s right for the people. To let multinational corporations dictate what we will or won’t be or what we will or won’t have and shape our government policies will only continue the income inequality. Without taking action we’ll be complicit in to our own continued marginalization. As a society, as a culture, as a people, we can no longer continue to let corporations do this.

We, as human citizens, have to think bigger and better and force our elected officials to wake the f*ck up. Yes, yes, I realize how naive that sounds but isn’t it better to fight a little then get rolled over again and again? Perhaps collectively we can stop the Facebook and Instagram updating, the tweeting, maybe turn off your television and engage in a conversation, do some research, write a letter, start a book club, do something, anything, to better your environment.

Hell, I’m not writing anything new here. I’m not writing anything most people don’t already know. I’m simply using this as a platform for my Howard Beale moment. This isn’t a question of liberal or conservative, right or left, democrat or republican, it’s about being a citizen and caring for one another. It’s about finding the courage to do what is right for the masses. It’s about questioning the messages. It’s about saying maybe it’s time for something better and then setting the wheels of change in motion.

To think that there is no glass ceiling in our society is to deny the facts. Actually, it’s not so much a glass ceiling because that implies you can break through. What seems more apropos is that it is an invisible force field.

It’s not too late to change things. I promise.

Here is a great video on inequality: http://tinyurl.com/b3jll79.

“A revolution is coming — a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough — But a revolution is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability.”
Robert Kennedy

Songs for Slim

sfssigning1“And we’re standing in the shadows
forever on the brink”
Someone Take the Wheel
– The Replacements

If you’ve never heard of The Replacements then you’ve never felt alone, alienated or out of place. Gob less ya. But if you have heard of them and listened to them then you know they are one of those once in a lifetime bands. But don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with a historical piece about the band. I’ll leave that for some Ivy League editor from a music magazine that’s only worth reading for the articles about anything other than music or some bearded, irony riddled, skinny jean wearing trust fund music blogger putz in Brooklyn.

I just want to tell you about The Replacements new EP “Songs for Slim”. First things first, it is a benefit for former Replacement guitarist Slim Dunlap, who replaced original guitarist Bob Stinson.

On February 19 of last year Slim suffered a serious stroke and, as a result, needs long term medical care. Obviously, this being the American health care system and all, his insurance doesn’t cover all the long term care he needs. So former Replacements manager and Minneapolis music guru Peter Jasperson stepped up and rallied the troops and thus “Songs for Slim” was born.

But “Songs For Slim” is not just a Replacements reunion EP, the concept “was devised to raise money for Slim and his family by having various artists cover his songs, pressing them as a limited edition series of split 7” vinyl 45s in beautiful, numbered picture sleeves and putting them up for auctions.” Artists participating include Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Craig Finn, Tommy Keene among others as well as a host of local musicians, all covering some of Slim’s songs.

“Songs for Slim” is an auction based endeavour, so the fruits go to the highest bidder. On the block first was a limited edition run of 250 numbered copies of a brand new, deluxe 10” vinyl EP package by The Replacements, their first new release in over 20 years. Of course it only made sense that The Replacements had the first release. Turns out, ‘mats fans came a running, raising over 100K on that auction. The EP became available for digital download on Tuesday, so that 100K should continue to trend upwards.

Hearing brand new Replacements music gives me the same feeling I get every two weeks when I get my paycheck. It’s that feeling of the knots and anxiety leaving your stomach, that feeling that “OK, I’ll be able to get by for a little bit longer.” To be clear, my paycheck is not enough to fly to Fiji for the weekend (not even close) but it is enough to keep me alive (albeit, barely). In other words, hearing brand new Replacements music makes the intolerable more tolerable.

The bad news, Chris Mars participated fully, but did not play drums with Tommy and Paul. He contributed a song, did the artwork and was present. Mars has become a rather well established painter and visual artist and, by all accounts, has little interest in playing drums.

The good news, Tommy Stinson and Paul Westerberg reunited for a day last fall and cut some new songs…and it sounds pretty effing good. To be fair, they did reunite for some contractually obligated “best of” that came out awhile back but those songs were pretty mediocre*. These are not.

In typical ‘mats fashion, no one from the band has said much beyond the coy acknowledgement of the “Songs for Slim” existence. For the geeks and ‘matheads, Westerberg friend, touring guitarist and replacement Replacement Kevin Bowe talked a little about it here. (worth reading if you are a fan)

THE REPLACEMENTS
Songs for Slim
Song by song.

Side A
Busted Up (Slim Dunlap)
Having the EP open with a bluesy piano boogie seems about right for the first Replacements recording in 20 years. Sure I wanted some kick ass power chords that matched my excitement, but that would have been completely out of character. “Busted Up” is lyrically pretty simple, it’s about the shitty feeling after you loose someone. ’nuff said. You can almost picture the guys sitting around warming up with this track. It’s a great intro to what follows.

Radio Hook Word Hit (Slim Dunlap)
While Chris Mars didn’t record with Tommy and Paul, he did cover a Slim song. This is that song. The one thing that has always stood out about the Replacements is the same thing that stands out about any great band. The sum is greater than the parts. Which in no way means the parts are inferior, as this song proves. This is a catchy little number that fits nicely here. The title says what its about.

Side B
I’m Not Sayin (Gordon Lightfoot)
Now, THIS is The Replacements. The count in, the chords, the sound, the simplicity and the genius. While it’s not a Westerberg composition, it’s certainly a REPLACEMENTS song. The trademark brattiness, contradiction, irony, playfulness, honesty and soul are all signature markers of a Replacement track and they are present, loud and clear, here. In a perfect world, this would be a hit. We don’t live in a perfect world.

Lost Highway (Leon Payne)
The song was initially made famous by Hank Williams and is a tribute to Slim’s love of rootsy country music. Diehards know it is not the first Hank song the band has covered, “Hey Good Lookin” was a live staple and recorded around the “Let It Be” era. Obviously, the song is rooted in country & western and then put through the filter of The Replacements where it comes out something entirely different. Not better, not worse, just different. It’s fun and playful which brings us too…

Everything’s Coming Up Roses (Stephen Sondheim/Jule Styne)
According to the Kevin Bowe interview, this is the one song they spent the most time on and it begs the question, WTF? Look, hearing the band cover the leather lover Sondheim classic is great. Again, all the Replacement trademarks are there, the irony, the humor, the playfulness, etc. One of the reasons it works so well is because you don’t expect it to work, at all. The Replacements were masters of making shit work that has no business working. This song should be a disaster and it’s not. Quite the contrary and while I remain befuddled by the choice, they did what they always do, they made it their own.

So, is the first Replacements release in 20 years worth the time and money investment? Without a doubt. If you are a fan. If you’re not a fan, odds are this won’t convert you. That’s not to say it’s “only for the fans”, it’s certainly not. The band and it’s die hard fan base (the previously mentioned ‘matheads) share a common sensibility which is “Great, check it out, if you like it, awesome, welcome…if you don’t, bugger off.” But if this is your entry to the wonderful and whacky world of the Replacements, you’ll probably walk away scratching your head wondering what the fuss is about.

But don’t forget, this is about much much more than a Replacements reunion, it’s about helping an ailing musician and his family get the type of care they need and deserve. So, pony up the money regardless you cheap bastards.

Cheers!

LINKS
Songs for Slim
Paul Westerberg
Tommy Stinson
Chris Mars

* – even mediocre Replacements is better than most peoples best stuff.

And this too shall pass.

AKAlice H. Kanner
1931-2013

“I left in love, in laughter, and in truth.
Wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.”

– Bill Hicks

Much like every teenager, I was a rebellious and moody kid. Which provided a fair amount of tension in our household, especially in the conservative enclave of Centerville, Ohio. Suffice it to say, the ear piercings, underage drinking, pot smoking and overall recklessness did not go over well with anyone, but mostly, my parents. Accordingly, sometime in my last semester of high school my father entered into negotiations, as secretive as the 1971 Paris peace talks, with my aunt and uncle in Chappaqua, New York for me to spend a month with them after I finished high school. Presumably to get me out of the house and maybe slap some sense into the 18 year old.

It’s not that my family, immediate or extended, was, or is, particularly close, we’re not. There is plenty of love just not a lot of chatter. And my interactions with my aunt, uncle and cousins probably numbered under five at that point. Nonetheless, one month after I graduated high school, I went out to Chappaqua to attempt to figure out a future game plan for my life with the aid of my aunt and uncle. I’m not entirely sure I understood that was the objective then. Looking back, it most certainly was, but at the time I suspect my thinking was more of “I’m spending a month with the cool side of my family.”

Now my uncle was an advertising executive and seemed, to me, to be one of the most powerful men on the planet. Watching him enter their home when he came home from work, you’d think he was 6’11” and unafraid to snap you in half, and I suspect in his suit, he could have. But then he’d go upstairs to change and come back down in his blue cords and his red stripped Rugger polo, hop on the counter in the kitchen and have a vodka on the rocks in his juice glass and just be my uncle. Of course, I’d heard horror stories of how stern he could be, but, thankfully, I never saw any of that.

Now my aunt was just about the warmest and kindest person you could ever know. And easily one of the smartest and most intuitive people I have ever known. She was always quick to make anyone feel welcome in her home, your home, ANY home. My aunt was just one of those people that made any house she entered immediately a home. She had the most infectious smile and the most genuine laugh. When she laughed, she laughed with her whole body and her mind and it was real. There was no pretense or falseness in her or anything she did. Being on the receiving end of my aunt’s love was to know that, whatever it was was going to be OK.

Hindsight has taught me that the one-month visit after I graduated was a trial to see if I would drive my aunt and uncle as crazy as I drove my own parents and to find a post secondary school that fit for me…and I could get into. My aunt drove me to a number of interviews at colleges whose names have long since escaped me, but I am fairly certain Columbia University was not on the list. It was on these sojourns I got to know her better and learn a little about my family. More importantly, I learned why everyone called her “lead-foot” and quickly realized that she may have done extremely well as a New York City cab driver. But to no great surprise, all of the college interviews went poorly. It turns out a sullen 18 year old with a high school GPA of somewhere south of 2.0 does not make a strong collegiate candidate. Who knew?

It’s worth noting that I was a pretty rudderless 18 year old and my parents had the intelligence to ignore my high school guidance counselor’s advice of “Well, maybe he just shouldn’t go to college.” I can’t imagine their decision to send me off and live with my aunt and uncle was an easy one, but my parents are pretty good at seeing the bigger picture…or maybe they had just had enough. Probably a healthy combination of the two.

Apparently, I passed the “not driving my aunt and uncle too crazy” test because during one of the nightly kitchen talks during the CBS Evening News, with my uncle on the counter, my aunt cooking and me standing off to the side with a Rolling Rock in hand, I decided that it would be best to start at Westchester Community College and then transfer out. At the time, I was under the impression that this was mostly my decision. Hindsight and maturity have made me realize that my aunt and uncle pointed me in that direction and when I made the decision let me believe it was mine. Brilliant.

So after that month was up, I went back to dull and boring Ohio and waited out the six months until the second semester started in January. I recall those six months being a snapshot of what my life might have become had I stayed there.

January came and I moved out to live with my aunt and uncle and started classes at Westchester Community College. For the first time in my life, I had some educational success and it’s hard to put into words what good grades can actually do for ones self esteem and sense of worth. More importantly, I learned that I had a voice and an opinion and that it mattered. I learned I was capable of having intelligent discussions with adults. I learned that if you work, you will be rewarded. I learned that there is way too much truth to Woody Allen’s classic saying, “90% of success is just showing up.”

Despite the growth I was experiencing, the things I was learning and the positivity, I was still 18 and kind of a moody fella. While I am sure it drove both my aunt and uncle a little batty, my aunt’s positivity and good nature made it almost impossible to stay down for too long. She had a way of luring me into some sort of innocuous discussion that eventually led to me talking about whatever it was that was bugging me. She’d listen, really listen, and help me sort it out. And without fail, every single time, she would say to me “And this too shall pass.” It never really made sense to me then because the problems of an 18 year old are devastating. But now I can think of no phrase that rings 100% true 100% of the time.

The six months I spent with them had as much influence on me as almost anything else in my life. Certainly on par with the jolt I received when first listening to The Replacements “Let it Be” (coincidentally, discovered while living with my aunt and uncle).

I got to see my aunt and uncle in October of last year and was able to say some of these things to them both. I didn’t say all I wanted to, mostly out of my own cowardice, but enough that she seemed genuinely surprised that six months had such an impact on me. Over dinner I said, “I shudder to think what would have happened if I had never gone to live with you guys all those years ago.” My aunt looked at me and simply said, “You wouldn’t be sitting here now.”

Those six months shaped much of who I am today (even if I took one, two or three detours to get here) and my life was changed in ways I’m still figuring out.

My aunt passed away last weekend.

I’m sad and I hurt that my aunt has moved on. But I, along with so many others, am blessed to have known her. And even with this loss and all the sadness and emptiness, I can still hear her saying “And this too shall pass.” These feelings will pass to be sure. The love she showed me, the things she taught me, along with my memories of her, no, those will never pass.

To my father and my other aunt, your big sister was the worlds big sister.
To my uncle and cousins, your wife and mother was the worlds wife and mother.
I am thinking of you all and I love you all.

You need not be a world leader to lead a world. My Aunt Alice led her world and, as a result, changed our world.

Aunt Alice, thank you and I love you.
Keith

NYTimes Obituary

Oscar Picks 2013

Award season is somewhat akin to high school “Most Likely To…” awards, which is to say they are pretty much popularity contests. Hollywood’s annual circle jerk is in full flex tonight with the Oscar Awards and far be it from me to miss an opportunity to chime in on the annual orgy of self flagellation.

In a perfect world, Zero Dark Thirty would sweep the Oscars because, simply put, it was the best movie of 2012. As if we needed reminding, Hollywood will once again show us we don’t live in a perfect world.

Nonetheless, here are some of my predictions for tonight’s bukkake:

BEST ACTOR
Will Win – Daniel Day Lewis

Should Win – Daniel Day Lewis
Yep. He’s that good. The movie itself is boring (gasp, how dare I?) but if you appreciate amazing acting, there was no better movie in 2012.

BEST ACTRESS
Will Win – Jessica Chastain

Should Win – Jennifer Lawrence
Both performances are worthy and Jennifer Lawrence was great. Could go either way. I actually just changed this to Jessica Chastain.

BEST DIRECTOR
Will Win – Steven Spielberg

Should Win – Anyone other than Steven Spielberg.
Which is not to say he doesn’t deserve it, he does. But he has raised the bar so high that continuing to reward him is to neglect what the award would mean to someone else. It’s like giving acting awards to Meryl Streep. We get it, they’re amazing.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will Win – Alan Arkin
Should Win – Alan Arkin.
Alan Arkin should always win. Period.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will Win – Helen Hunt
Should Win – Any of them.
Sally Field could upset, but if awards are truly based on performance (which I admit they are not) then this should be Helen Hunt’s.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will Win – Quentin Taratino – Django Unchained
Should Win – Mark Boal – Zero Dark Thirty
Tarantino has proven time and time again to be a real voice for American cinema and Boal is just as deserving here. Could go either way, but I suspect we’re still too emotionally close to waterboarding for Boal to win.

BEST ADOPTED SCREENPLAY
Will Win – Chris Terrio – Argo
Should Win – David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
Sure, Russell has a bit of a reputation as being an asshole, but he has always tackled deeper issues in his films (Spanking the Monkey, anyone?) and somehow makes them work, very very well. His reputation could haunt him in the Directors category, but for writing it shouldn’t. Sadly, I don’t think the Academy can pass by the opportunity to slap itself on the back. The fake movie within a movie concept to save lives is about as clever as Hollywood can get. Added points for historical relevance and emotional impact.

BEST PICTURE
Will Win – Argo
Should Win – Zero Dark Thirty
I’m not sure the Academy can pass an opportunity to stress Hollywood’s importance or pseudo relevance to history or saving lives…or the fact that they ignored Ben Affleck for Best Director.

Make your own picks HERE.

Introducing My New Clothing Line – CLUB47 – “Hi My Name Is…”

Suit4

“Men in general judge more from appearances than from reality. All men have eyes, but few have the gift of penetration.
– Niccolo Machiavelli

It’s about time I threw my hat into the proverbial fashion ring. My thinking is that if Pharrell, Jay-Z, Sean “Puff Daddy, Puffy, P Diddy, Diddy” Combs, Martha Stewart, Jacklyn Smith, Sarah Jessica Parker, Nelly, Gwen Stafani, 50 Cent and Tate Donovan can all do it, why can’t I? My lack of fashion sense and fashion knowledge notwithstanding, I am grabbing the American entrepreneurial bull by the horns and am proud to introduce a clothing line, adeptly called CLUB47.

The inaugural line is geared to the everyday suit wearing business man. Day in and day out these men are in meetings, on sales calls, at board meetings and always dressed to the nines. But so often we are left wondering, “What was the name of that dapper looking man who just took my money?” Well, I have solved that problem.

Inspired by my love of suits and the “Seinfeld” episode where Kramer suggests everyone in NYC wear name tags, and with an obvious nod to Eminem’s breakthrough “My Name Is…”, I am introducing CLUB47’s first line of men’s suits called “Hi My Name Is…”!

Suit1

What makes this line so unique is my signature red “Hello, My Name Is” patch. The name area on the patch was created by the CLUB47 scientists in Denmark and has our patented and trademarked erasable vinyl, just like the white boards at work! So while you may be Nigel to the wife or on your birth certificate, you can now be Clive on your next sales call or even Todd at your next meeting.
Also unique to Club47’s “Hi, My Name Is…” suit selection is the interchangeability of the name tag. We can sew it on either the left breast (shown above) or the right breast (shown below):

Suit2

These suits were designed to take the anonymity out of the office. You no longer have an excuse to forget that debonair man who you just met with.  Perhaps more importantly, I designed these suits to be not just business practical but also evening practical. CLUB47’s suits are perfect for that meeting dinner, fund raiser or even the red carpet.

Suit3CLUB47
MENS SUIT COLLECTION, “HI MY NAME IS…”

Everywhere Summer 2013

Complete line of women’s suits and clip on Windsor Knot ties, Fall 2013.

Some Wednesday thoughts.

You may in fact be richer than a country in Africa.

US government suing Standard & Poor for $5 billion in response to the financial crisis and yet Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, BOA, etc remain untouched.
This is like suing Nielsen for NBC’s “1600 Penn” debacle.

Am I the ONLY one amazed that Radio Shack is still in business?

Jeff Zucker, newly anointed head of CNN, strikes again!
SERIOUSLY, does ANYONE really consider this man a visionary?

Marc Boal on “Zero Dark Thirty”:
“I’m not trying to have it both ways. It is both ways,” Mr. Boal says. “Saying it’s a movie is a fair and accurate description. Saying it’s a movie based on firsthand accounts is a fair and accurate description. That’s what gives it its power.”

Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail by Matt Taibbi.
Perhaps the government should simply give out complimentary K-Y.

Competition is often a good thing. In this case, it could be a revolutionary thing.
I am kind of convinced people are publicly down on Netflix but privately watch EVERYTHING they do. You know why? BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE WE ARE HEADED!

My thoughts on broadcast television and its future.

Sorry Sean “Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy” Combs, it is NOT all about the benjamins. Corporate culture rules the day…Stay classy Zappos.

The digital conundrum.
It begs the question, exactly how much money do rich people REALLY need.

Why is Facebook’s e-commerce offering so disappointing?
Umm, because Facebook is relatively useless. Just because you have the eyeballs doesn’t mean you have the engagement.

Well, well, well, perhaps SOMEONE in television has an idea of the future.

Thats all folks

Many thanks to Jason Hirschhorn.

Happy Valentines Day

marely

“You may not be her first, her last, or her only. She loved before she may love again. But if she loves you now, what else matters? She’s not perfect – you aren’t either, and the two of you may never be perfect together but if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break – her heart. So don’t hurt her, don’t change her, don’t analyze and don’t expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.”

– Bob Marley

Business Lessons in “The Walking Dead”

the-walking-dead-wallpaper

DALE
“I like what, uh, a father said to son when he give him a watch that had been handed down through generations. He said “I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire, which will fit your individual needs no better than it did mine or my father’s before me, I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you may forget it for a moment now and then and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.”

Business academia and film theorists have often cited “The Godfather” as a film that can exemplify the “top down” business philosophy. And for a long time, that was the standard business practice. In the “top down” world of the Mafia, the decisions pushed down from Vito Corleone, and then Michael Corleone, were then executed (pun intended) by the families underlings. This is pretty much the perfect representation of that type of hierarchical business structure which is all but ingrained in corporate America. But both the Mafia and corporate philosophy have changed so much since 1972. And while the Mafia is still somewhat beholden to the “top down” paradigm, large corporations have attempted to shy away from the “top down” philosophy, albeit unsuccessfully.

There are two upsides to corporations continued inability to adapt and move beyond a militaristic “top down” regimen. One, they have quarantined great minds and two, technology is evolving ever more rapidly which is in turn providing ample opportunity to those quarantined minds. As these technology companies continue to compete with the staid monolithic companies new business ideas and practices are coming into play; ones that are less dictatorial and more empowering to the lower strata.

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is the perfect cinematic allegory for these new and continually evolving business philosophies. Where “The Godfather” represented the structured classical business model, “The Walking Dead” exemplifies the always in flux and fast moving modern day business model. The zombies represent the drones suffering through the myopic cubicle culture of large corporations and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his group on the run represents the “on the fly” philosophy of the tech companies or start ups.

Just as Facebook has Mark Zuckerberg and tumblr has David Karp, the zombie apocalypse survivors on the run have Rick Grimes. He is the determined and focused leader who isn’t afraid to step up, accept the challenges, make the hard decisions and lead his group toward someplace safer, if it exists. If there is a better allegory for entrepreneurship on television, I would like to know.

Rick Grimes is the consummate leader. He recognizes the importance of empowering other members of his group, he redistributes responsibility, encourages other members to take risks and work within their strengths as long as it serves to benefit the group. Grimes will make the ultimate decision but not without consideration from the group, like any good leader would.

Some leadership lessons to be learned from “The Walking Dead”:
(This list is neither all inclusive nor definitive.)

  • Lead by example – Subscribe to an ethical and moral code you want your team to have. And then follow it. A title does NOT denote a leader.
  • Empower your group– Let others in your group take charge. Not all decisions are going to work and as a leader you may not like them, but you have to let them happen.
  • Take Responsibility – The decision may not be yours and you may not have supported it, but you approved it…it’s yours. Own it.
  • Teamwork – Gotta have it. You won’t survive in a zombie filled world, or the real world, without it.
  • Transparency – Critical to helping your group stay alive and understand your vision.
  • Coach – Pull you team up and let them in to help them understand what is working and what isn’t working.
  • Get Your Hands Dirty – Don’t rely on your team to constantly dig the graves. Get in there and do it with them.

One thing both “The Godfather” and “The Walking Dead” have in common is that they both suffer from some gender role problems. While “The Godfather” keeps women out of the day to day operations entirely, “The Walking Dead” represents a modest nod to the women’s movement as women are allowed to fight, when necessary, allowed to carry guns but are still expected to cook and clean. Even though Rick Grimes is a modern leader, his trusted right hands have all been men, to date. The difference being, of course, “The Walking Dead” women do fight and contribute to the decision making process, but are not necessarily part of the leadership. This is sad fact of many corporations today; but not all.

The “top down” philosophy shown in “The Godfather” still has some merit as a business practice to people who have family owned business but it should have no place in today’s corporate environment. Unfortunately, whether spoken or unspoken, the practice still permeates that world.

Where corporate culture may not have evolved as much as it should, at least cinematic storytelling has evolved to a point where it can represent some more solid and modern business practices. Certainly, the more fluid and transparent leadership shown by Rick Grimes in AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is representative of a more modern and ideal work place and points to a substantive move away from the “top down” practice of “The Godfather”.

Who says you can’t learn from a television show about zombies?

WD

Duke, Part 1

Duke as Pup“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”
– Milan Kundera

The first dog I ever got as an adult was a Rottweiler.  His name was Duke.

Duke was not my first dog. As a family we had dogs growing up, Barney the Malamute/Shepherd mix and Fifi the Toy Poodle so I had a good idea about what having a dog entailed. I knew that puppies are cute but puppies grow up to be dogs and dogs are a responsibility. I was a bartender back then, so I had a fair amount of free time and figured a dog would be a great companion as I had just ended a five year relationship. Dating was not of any interest to me and loving a dog seemed a safer way to give your heart and not have it get broken.

Now, as a bartender you actually get to know a lot of people. You get to know a great cross section of personalities and classes, so I tapped into this resource and let my customers know I was looking for a pup. Of course, everyone had opinions about what breed I should get, how the dog should be trained, yadda yadda yadda. I listened enthusiastically, not because I wanted the advice, I listened because I wanted the tips.

The next couple weeks went by with me kicking my breed selection around my bar, playing with names for the dog and throwing out feelers for a place I could get a Jack Russell Terrier. That was the breed I had selected for absolutely no discernible reason. In a bid to emphasize my rapier wit, I had determined it would be fun to juxtapose a big dog name like Duke with a little dog like a Jack Russell.

I was told that Jack Russell’s were high energy whirling dervishes and while I am a little more sedentary, I was undeterred by the horror stories I had heard. I wanted what I wanted. As luck would have it, one of the bouncers at the bar had a brother who was breeding Jack Russell’s and there was a litter due in a few weeks. I was sold…until he told me they were 400 dollars a pup. That was more than I could really afford, so I had to seriously rethink that. Which worked out for the better because I had, and still have, very mixed feelings about purchasing a dog. I wasn’t going to breed or show, so it seemed silly to pay that much, especially when I knew there were rescue groups and shelters. So I shelved the dog plan…for a couple weeks.

One Tuesday afternoon I was having lunch with a friend and we were looking at the local paper and I came across an ad for Rottweilers. I asked my friend if he wanted to take a trip up to Sandy Hook (yes, that Sandy Hook in Connecticut) and take a look. We had nothing else to do before our shift that night, so we decided to do it.

I had my tip money from the previous night on me but I was convinced I wasn’t going to buy a dog that afternoon. Besides, I had to work that night so getting and leaving a puppy alone in my apartment on the first day seemed unfair so I told myself I was just going “to look“. Ah, the naivete of youth, you can never go to “just look” at puppies.

My buddy and I drove up to Sandy Hook and found the shack where this guy was “breeding” the dogs. Following a dirt road for about 1/2 a mile we found a series of faded green shacks that were on cinder blocks and looked like they belonged to coal miners from Harlen County. We pulled over, parked and got out of my two door Honda Civic and were greeted by a barking German Shepherd behind a fence to our left. To our right were two free roaming, huge, mean looking Rottweilers. Yep, this was definitely the place. The owner came out and shouted from below “Don’t worry about them, they ain’t gonna do anything.” We started walking very slowly down the make shift 2×4 as stairs towards the shack as the two adult Rotties just sat and kept a close eye on our movements. If you have been stared down by a Rottweiler, you know that, regardless of the dogs disposition, it’s a tad intimidating.

Finally we got to the shanty on blocks, shook hands with the guy and made small talk. He asked if we wanted to see the puppies. I said “Sure”. As we walked in, I noticed all of the appliances were on cinder blocks so either the guy had a problem with vermin, was concerned about flooding or he was testing a blue collar post modern new aesthetic.

Just before the door closed the momma Rottie plodded, apparently to oversee the activity. The guy went to open a door and out flooded the six little puppies to see their mother. If you have ever seen bumper cars with a lot of people, you know there is a lot of bumping and directionless movement taking place. The puppies were sort of like a bumper puppies clamoring around their mother, bashing into one another like bumper puppies. They all were vying for her attention and oblivious to us. You could almost hear the puppies giggling as they bashed into one another and rolled around while the mother looked at us as if to say “So, you wanna adopt one of my pups huh?”

My buddy asked if she was gonna attack us and the guy laughed and said “Nah, she’s a softy. She just looks mean.” I noticed all the dogs still had their tails and I asked why they weren’t docked. He said he couldn’t get the vet to come out when they were born and doing it now would cost too much. He figured if someone wanted to dock the pups tails, they could pay for it. It made no difference to me whether the dog had a tail or not.

As I bent down to sift through the puppies, I noticed one off in the corner sniffing around. This one didn’t seem too interested in the puppy shenanigans taking place. So, I went over to that one and the puppy looked at me for a couple seconds, became quickly disinterested and went back to sniffing. Against my better judgement, I sat down on the floor of the shack to get a closer look. The puppy looked back towards me, seemed to sigh and then did the puppy waddle to check me out. After doing the 360 degree sniff around my perimeter, the pup came back and sat down in front of me, looking at me as if to say “Now what?”.

I took a look at my friend who was talking to the guy while they watched the bumper puppies. I called over, “How much for this one?”.
“250.00”.
I looked at my friend who just shrugged.
I said, “I only have 200 dollars.”
The guy looked around and simply nodded.

Paying for a dog was then, and still is, anathema to me. BUT, I knew the home I could provide for the dog would be better than his current surroundings. I also knew that with me, this puppy would have a pretty good life. As I sat there looking at this little Rottie I realized I had no choice. To me, it was a form of rescue.

So, I stood up, reached into my pocket and counted out my money. Borrowing a trick my grandmother had taught me, I had money in both front pockets just in case I had to haggle. I counted out the nine 20 dollar bills and just as I looked up at the guy to say that was all I had, my buddy chimed in “Oh here dude, I have twenty bucks.” I handed the guy the money and walked over, scooped up the puppy, who seemed rather nonplussed. The momma Rottie followed us out the front door and sat down on the porch as we walked back up the dilapidated stairs to the yammering of the German Shepherd and the ice cold stare of the daddy Rottie.

I put the puppy in the back seat and I got in to drive. We made it about 1/4 mile and then we heard whining so I pulled over and told my friend to drive and I got in the back. I tried to rationalize with the young dog what was gonna be happening. I’m not entirely convinced it registered, but the whining stopped.

We made a stop at the pet store to get a collar and toy. My friend took the photo at the top of this post as I was going into the store. I came back out and got back into the back seat. As we left, my friend said “Dude, you gotta work tonight right?”
“Yeah.”
“What are you gonna do?”
I didn’t think about it too long. I lived around the corner from my parents.
“I guess I’ll ask my parents.”
Mom and Dad to the rescue…again.

I dropped my friend off at his car and the pup and I went over to my parents house. It was late afternoon so my folks were still at work. I let myself in and their two dogs greeted me with their usual enthusiasm. I put the pup down and let the three of them get acquainted while I went to the garage and got their old dog crate. I set it up in the basement with some paper and the squeaky stuffed shark toy I had gotten at the pet store. I still had to go home, shower and get ready to go to work, so I went back upstairs picked up the pup and brought him downstairs. I put him in the crate and once again tried to explain what was going to be happening. He sat down and stared at me. As I stood up to leave, he quietly started to whine. And while it broke my heart, I knew I had to go to work . I also knew that he was in safe hands with my parents. Closing the basement door, I heard the squeaking of the stuffed shark. I told myself that the little bugger understood it was gonna be OK.

I walked upstairs and left a note for my parents:
“Hi Mom and Dad. Please go downstairs immediately. His name is Duke.
Love, Keith.”

No time like the present.

seth

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”
– Thomas Jefferson

This guy looks like a lunatic, right? I guess he is to some degree…if you define lunatic as someone with radical ideas. I’m not gonna give you Seth Godin’s bio but I will say he is an interesting cat. Some of what he says may come across as pedestrian, but a large majority of what he says provides some of those “A Ha” moments many of us long for. Especially if you battle with the banality of day to day existence and the desire to do something more, something different.

So, I thought I’d share with you one of his recent blog posts that I found particularly interesting:

WHO GOES FIRST?
Initiating a project, a blog, a wikipedia article, a family journey–these are things that don’t come naturally to many people. The challenge is in initiating something even when you’re not putatively in charge. Not enough people believe they are capable of productive initiative.

At the same time, almost all people believe they are capable of editing, giving feedback or merely criticizing. 

So finding people to fix your typos is easy.

I don’t think the shortage of artists has much to do with the innate ability to create or initiate. I think it has to do with believing that it’s possible and acceptable for you to do it. We’ve only had these particular doors open wide for a decade or so, and most people have been brainwashed into believing that their job is to copyedit the world, not to design it.

That used to be your job. It’s not, not anymore. You go first.

If you want to do something, do it. Try. No, it won’t always work. It may end up being dreadful. You may be racked with self doubt and fear and that is totally normal. No one hits a home run the first time at bat. No one. Believe in yourself and what you are doing and eventually you will find your voice, whether it is jewelry making, singing, photography, writing, painting, beer making, etc. You may need an editor or mentor to help guide you, but if you feel the need to create, do it. You’ll get there.

In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

SETH GODINS BLOG