I used to love the band Chicago. Yes, I was in my teens in the 70’s and in concert band to boot. So it was natural that I would love a band that had a great horn section. They also had a string of hits that seemed to speak to me back then. I was always in love, or should I say with hindsight, lust, and those songs just hit me right in the heart (or some other piece of anatomy).
One of their big hits was Old Days. It’s easy to be nostalgic for the Old Days. The problem is, however, while you can be nostalgic for them, you can’t go back to them. Sure, they seemed like simpler times, but only because the times now seem so challenging.
Sure, they seemed like simpler times, but only because the times now seem so challenging. What we forget is that those Old Days were pretty challenging as well. Hell, if you don’t believe me, find time to watch Tom Hanks’ series on The Sixties. The 1968 episode alone will quickly teach you that the Old Days weren’t so great as we’d like to think they were (the Tet Offensive, USS Pueblo attack, assassinations of King and Kennedy, the Democratic convention in Chicago – I could go on).
I know that my fellow white guys are feeling pretty put upon these days. For many, the world has passed them by. They want to return to the days when manufacturing jobs were plentiful, women knew their rightful place in the home, minorities stayed on the other side of the tracks and children kept their mouths shut, unless they wanted a bar of soap in in it.
Well, get over it.
These Old Days aren’t coming back, not even if you put a guy in the White House that tells you the big lie that he’s going to make America great again.
Why? History should teach us all a lesson. Just open up your history book and read all about how the world works. Change is constant and inevitable. If it weren’t, we’d all be still living in caves.
Probably the best lesson lies in the turn of the 19th century. This is the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Thousands of craftsmen lost their jobs as factories became mechanized and automated. The world turned and some people didn’t turn with it. They became anachronisms. Craftsmanship became a niche. Mass production ruled the roost. The economy changed. Workers changed. The world changed.
We are in a second revolution right now. Turn to page 220 in your history book. Go ahead, I’ll wait. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, postal carriers, fast food clerks, data entry keyers, food service managers, electrical assemblers, prepress workers, file clerks, florists, farmers and loan interviewers will all be in the career dustbin by the year 2020. Technology will have replaced most if not all of their skills and responsibilities.
It is the Information Revolution. There’s no escaping it. We aren’t going back to the Old Days – any more than we decided to go back to quill pen and parchment after the printing press came along.
One only has to look at what Boeing is doing with the new 777X to see where manufacturing is going. Robots are doing all the riveting and assembly work. Even the painting is being done by robots. At Amazon, warehouse pickers are being replaced by robotic pickers that never need a break, never call in sick and work nights and weekends.
I know a lot of us are feeling left behind. But it’s not really the world’s fault. Change has always been there, nipping at our respective heels. It comes with or without our approval or participation.
The world changes. There. I said it. It always has. The only difference is that we now have technologies that report the changes to us every second of every day. We can’t escape change, if only because we are addicted to it.
Just look at the folks glued to their smartphone screens. They walk down the street, staring at it as if it is some wise sage that will tell them the meaning of life. They don’t want to miss a second of any of it, even if it is all relatively meaningless.
It wasn’t so long ago that people had to wait for letters to get news. It wasn’t even that many years ago that you would miss a call if you weren’t home because no one had invented the answering machine.
Somehow we all survived. We managed to remain disconnected to some extent from it all. This is largely why we perceive change being so brisk these days; because our methods of communication are immediate.
I remember the so-called Old Days. They weren’t really that great. I know my parents certainly would have looked aghast if you had said those were the good Old Days. It was a struggle for them back then; my father sick, us on welfare, my mother trying to be both father and mother to her brood of four rambunctious boys. She would have loved some of the wonders we take for granted these days.
Me? I could have reveled in the Old Days. I could have taken a manufacturing job at Boeing or Skyway Luggage. I could have found a comfortable blue-collar life and toasted to it with my friends at Dino’s on Sunset Boulevard. I could have just stayed in the past and not relish the future.
I could have given up on my dream to start my own business and remain where I was safe, stuck in the Old Days while I became something of an anachronism because the world changed and I chose not to.
I know that the Old Days are just that, Old Days. They are history. And even if we could magically go back to them, the experience would be different because we are different. We have lost that innocence that came with the rose-colored glasses. Because deep down, we know that those good Old Days weren’t really that good at all.
In the Emerald City, enjoying Chicago’s Old Days, but not wishing to return to my own,
As most of you know, I am family challenged. Thirty-five years ago, my brothers ended their relationship with me, all because I had my hand in someone else’s cookie jar, a hand in jar that would lead me to divorce while I was still something of a child.
Years later, I discovered I had a half brother. How cool was that, I thought? Another family. Well, long story short, half brother was not much more than a victim of a sperm donation by my dad. We had nothing in common because, well, nurture is far stronger than nature, at least in my very selective family.
Though the “biologics” came up a bit short in the family department, I have still been able to cobble together a wonderful family of my own, thanks to some really good friends who have always had my back as I have had theirs.
Some of these “brothers” and “sisters” go way back in time, some 35 years back when my own brothers ditched me. Cassie and Mike have pretty much been my sister and brother from another mother for all those years; sticking by me through thick and thin, even through all the bone-headed decisions I’ve made.
Somehow, we always found our way back to one another. And while my mother stayed in my life for much of my adulthood, my father passed on when I was just 24.
Again a new family member stepped in to fill that void. My dear friend Bobby came into my world those 35 years or so ago, and he has been a surrogate father figure to me for these intervening years, providing me with friendship, love, acceptance and a world of sage advice.
So, as you can see, I do have a family, one by choice not by birth.
As with any adoptive family, my family has changed a lot over the years. I am only reminded of this as I wended my way through the old crewe pages in The Pyrates of the Coast website over the weekend. There, before my eyes was a collection of some two dozen acquaintances who never quite managed to become my sisters and brothers from another mother.
As I scrolled through the pages, I found myself laughing a bit. These were all people I thought important enough to let into my family, thinking that I had given them a safe harbor to play in, to be themselves and, in turn, give me back a little friendship as well as loyalty.
Yes, loyalty. If I agree to watch your back, then you damn well better watch mine. If you choose to be family, you are in the inner circle, and I will follow you through hell and high water to keep you safe and sound.
This is, after all, what families do.
Case in point. Years ago, one of my good buds suddenly headed off to Alaska. This was before the Internet, so it was easy to lose touch. We did. The whats and whys of it really don’t matter; it’s just something that comes along with the territory sometimes.
Fast forward to this year. Through a series of events, we found one another again through the miracle of Facebook. “Long Gone” John is back in Washington, back in the town where I used to live even, and back in my life.
It’s as if no time has passed at all. We simply picked up where we left off. He has my back and I have his without each of us even asking for it. And when we’re together, it’s like the old days, whether we’re out pirating together or playing music. Family.
Back to the list of former crewe. As I looked through it, I could almost instantly remember why we never jelled, why we never came to watch one another’s backs and why they drifted away. We never became friends, let alone family.
Now, if I were to come across them again today – and I have had the good fortune to do so on occasion – it’s been nice seeing them again. They moved on with their lives, I moved on with mine, there are no hard feelings, life goes on and it’s all good. We exchange pleasantries and go on our respective ways, no knives in the back, no back biting. It just didn’t work out.
But there have been a few that couldn’t seem to let go with any measure of grace. They didn’t seem to understand what makes a family. They never accepted my invitation to be family, for whatever reason, and decided not to become a true part of it.
And so we went adrift. Instead of being like brothers or sisters, we ended up feeling more like first cousins who hooked up one drunken night in the hills of West Virginia. The next day, all that remains is an awkward silence and an avoidance of eyes. Neither one wants to be the one to bring the episode up, so each ends up pretending it never happened. They person suddenly finds other places to be, anyplace except together.
Can these disconnects be fixed? In my experience, they rarely have. You can’t make someone like you if they don’t. It’s not that I’m being mean or that I wish anyone any harm in life. If you’re not friends, you damned well can’t become family.
I’m too old to give it much thought really either. People come and go in your lives, for whatever reason. Life goes on. I recently had this epiphany that I am one of those in the world who gives and gives, while others are more than glad to take and take. I sacrifice my own happiness for the happiness of others and that crap is rapidly coming to a crashing end in my life right now.
I finally figured out that having a small family is just fine; that a large family can suck a lot of life out of you. Quite frankly, I don’t know how Mike Brady ever managed all that drama in his brood.
In the Emerald City, loving my friends who have become my sisters and brothers from other mothers,
I’ve been sailing along now in life for almost six decades. There have been many times I’ve been without a compass, certainly a moral compass. I’ve been shipwrecked, sidetracked, hornswoggled and downright lost at times. I’ve let others tell me where north is, well, at least the north they wanted me to sail toward and I’ve even let them grab my tiller a time or two and do all the steering for me.
Yes, I have been a pleaser. I have done things in life largely so others will like me, be my friend, love me, and even, on occasion, just put up with me. I have sold out so many times I should be on back order. All because I wanted others to enjoy their time, have what they wanted or get what they want out of life or me.
I’d like to blame it on a faulty compass, but it’s operator error. All this time I’ve been sailing toward magnetic north when I should have sailed toward true north, that place your internal compass points when you are aligned with your purpose and place in life.
You know it when it happens. It feels a lot like being on the deck of a sailboat. When you catch the wind perfectly, she heels over and locks in the wind, picking up speed as she goes.
Any sailor will tell you that this is hard to achieve, this perfect wind, but when it happens, you never forget it.
I found the perfect wind on Saturday. I finally shifted off my fixation with magnetic north, and felt true north again.
How do I know? Well, I’ve been there before. Like the sailboat heeling and locking, you never forget when it happens and when it happens again, you know it almost instantly.
For me, it was Saturday. I was over in Port Orchard to go sailing on the Lady Washington. That was my entire responsibility. We had no gig to play. No schedule to follow. No crew to babysit. And there was no one to please except me.
True north was bound to appear on the horizon. The conditions were perfect.
Now, there’s a funny thing in this life of mine. I get the rare honor of being a pirate entertainer. I get to carry around a sword, travel the world and become pirate Hurricane. It’s the E-ticket at Disneyland, if you’re old enough to remember those. It’s the best ride you can ever have in life; if you’re brave enough to get on it.
My own E-ticket on this particular day were the kids. Kids are so cool because they don’t have to pander to anyone, they don’t have to pretend they like you, and they don’t have to soothe any wounded egos of playmates. They just get to be in the moment.
Yes, the moment. That magical place where you are sailing on a true north course. You are who you are without apologies, without pretense.
I got to sail that course again. There are those in my peer group who like to think I am a snob or a bit of a prima donna. I’m not. Those who truly know me know that I will readily put others in the limelight and play the part of the buffoon. I certainly do that with kids. And I think that’s part of the secret to being a great entertainer.
I could have done something to belay that impression on Saturday. But I learned long ago that entertaining pirates is a fool’s errand. I’m there to entertain people; that’s what I do well and that’s what I was put here to do.
So that’s what I did. In the process, I found true north again, that place where kids get to always live because they are in the moment. No future to worry about, no past to consider. They are in the moment, right here, right now.
When I’m there, everything else just fades away. There are no worries, no random thoughts – it’s just the here and now. It is so cool to be there because you experience stuff you could never otherwise. The world comes alive with stimuli, stuff you’ve never seen before, even if you’re in the most familiar of surroundings.
God, it’s fun. It’s damned intoxicating, being aligned with who you are and who you were meant to be. No worries about what others think because you don’t really care. You are who you are. It’s a bit of an out-of-body experience, really.
So there I was, standing aboard the Lady Washington. We had been sailing for about 90 minutes. Resisting temptation, I didn’t return the guitar to the car as always. Instead, I took it aboard ship. But I didn’t start playing until we were about a half hour from port.
True north! I couldn’t resist the temptation. I had been having a blast interacting with people and getting into a rather long, hilarious exchange of false oaths and comebacks with Long John who was aboard the Jolly Rogue as we exchanged broadsides.
But then I just had to play. The wind, the water, the luffing of the sails. It was all too perfect. I just had to sing a couple songs, with or without anyone’s permission.
Pirate. I just let go of life and lived in the ever-elusive moment. I didn’t have to worry what others thought. Hell, I didn’t have to even worry about what I thought. I just had to be.
And in that moment, I discovered true north again. In the ensuing day, all sorts of things were to become realigned, realizing that I no longer had to pander to the needs of others or put their happiness ahead of my own. I could revel in having my compass aligned with where I needed to go, with the wind to my back, clear sailing ahead and all the reefs and shoals that I once feared put asunder by a new sense of calm and direction. True north, dead ahead.
In the Emerald City, rising with the tide,
One of my favorite movies is Dave. If you haven’t seen it, Kevin Kline is moonlighting as an impersonator of the President of the United States, doing personal appearances in some nondescript rural town. Through an unfortunate series of event, he finds himself at The White House, standing in as the President.
It’s a hilarious movie. At one point, he even says one of the most amazing things about the position of President of the United States — “Somewhere along the way, I forgot to do my job, a temp job at that.”
Every four years, we fill this temp position. Sometimes we keep the incumbent around for another contract period. Other times we look for someone new to take on the assignment.
It’s hardly a glorious role to take on. The pay (at least by corporate standards) is mid-level management at best. The accommodations are nice, but you’re basically a prisoner inside its walls. The hours are unpredictable and often long. The pressure? Well, you’ve seen the before and after photos of Lincoln and Obama. It takes its toll on you and you end up aging decades in just a few years.
In my current role job with the state’s government, I manage a few staff members. This includes hiring and firing them. It’s not an easy task. You want the best person for the position, but gauging who is a good fit can be dicey, even if it’s clearly one person over another.
This is certainly the case with the President of the United States this time around. As I’ve noted, and in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve voted for Republicans and Democrats equally over the years for the nation’s highest office. I tend to choose the best person for the position, since really, as voters we are all HR managers.
Any smart hiring manager wants the best person for the position. For example, I have a senior communications staff member. That role requires a lot of experience in branding and design. It’s not an entry level position by any stretch. I would never hire someone right out of college to fill the role, as it would be setting that person and my department up for failure.
It’s nothing personal. I’m just not going to take the risk on someone who is unproven. It’s a critical role in my department and in the state. I can’t afford to experiment with an unknown.
I certainly wouldn’t hire the guy from the mailroom to take the position. He definitely wouldn’t have the experience or skill set to step into the job and be successful. Again, I would be setting us all up for failure.
When I was casting about for a candidate to fill the ultimate temp job, I admit that I was initially drawn to a certain person who was brave enough to not be PC in a very PC world. I liked the fact that someone is willing to call it as he sees it. It was the same qualities that caused me to support Ross Perot back in the day.
But ultimately, I came to realize that Ross would have been a horrible choice for the temp job. He was the guy in the mailroom. Sure, he was a billionaire and a CEO, but he had no idea how government worked or how to navigate the often delicate and mystical waters of government.
I’ve been found the transition fairly difficult. I came from the private sector. And I’ve been schooled over the last four years in how government actually works. The machinations are very different from what we perceive as outsiders or even voters. There’s are way more rules and regulations to follow than you can imagine and the political waters alone take a lifetime to learn to navigate.
Perot would have failed miserably because everything that made him successful in business – the top down decision making, the risk taking, the bold acquisitions and takeovers – are completely worthless when you’re called on to govern. Governing is a completely different skill set, so much so that while I toil away successfully at the middle level of government (the Governor is my boss’ boss’ boss), I could have never transitioned successfully from CEO of CommuniCreations to Governor of Washington State.
The sad truth is, governing is not something rookies should be tasked with. It’s complex, it’s taxing, it’s thankless and it’s often immovable. A former CEO just can’t wave his hand and erase legislation. There are laws layered upon laws that are meant to keep the government running no matter who is in charge of it. The system is designed to protect the Republic and ensure that change is slow and deliberate, not quick and random.
While I was indeed swayed early by this candidate for this particular temp job, the manager part of my brain finally took over.
Just as I wouldn’t hire the mailroom guy to step into a strategic communications role, I find it hard to “hire” someone with no government experience into the job of President and Commander in Chief.
This doesn’t mean, however, that I am a fan of the other candidate for the position. Hardly. I don’t feel I can trust her.
Here’s how I like to put it:
Say I’ve have two candidates for the chief of surgery role at my hospital. The first guy has actually worked in a surgical suite. Yes, he has had a malpractice suit or two and yes, he’s been known to steal some painkillers now and then from the pharmacy. The second candidate lists his medical experience. He’s never been in a surgical suite, but he has visited the doctor regularly, largely because he’s a hypochondriac with Tourette Syndrome.
Who am I going to hire? Well, the surgeon, of course. At least I know going in that I’ll have to watch him like a hawk, but I’m not about to hire a guy with no experience to operate on my patients.
In this scenario, I ultimately have the responsibility for the health of the hospital and the safety and well-being of its patients. Likewise, as a voter and employer, I have a responsibility to my fellow citizens and the Republic to put the most experienced person in the position. I may not like who I hire this time around (I never liked Carter, Bill Clinton or George W either), but as history has shown they were the best choices available at the time. Except Carter, of course.
In the Emerald City, wishing there were more candidates for the position,
My life is one gimmick after another. I don’t mean this in the negative sense of the word. I’m not talking about “a devious aspect or feature offered up so that you’ll purchase something.” No, I’m talking about the more classic form of gimmick: “a novel or ingenious device, something that is supposed to attract attention.” In short, schtick.
You can use schtick if you like, but I prefer gimmick. I just got used to the word back when I was first learning to be an entertainer. It all started with the band my brothers and I had. We mostly played novelty songs, you know, Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor and My Boomerang Won’t Come Back.
Yes, pretty gimmicky. Downright schtick, actually. Like all gimmicks, I knew early on that this style of schtick wasn’t my schtick. As soon as I could figure out how to unravel my sad little life, I left it all behind in what became know as “The Renton Years.”
By then, of course, I had found the Seafair Pirates. The old timers in the group were gimmicks personified. The master of all gimmicks was Weaver Dial, a guileful rogue if ever there was one. I could finish this entire RobZerrvation talking about his gimmicks alone, but I will give you just one. Famously, Weaver had a really long striped sock. At the top, he sewed the clasp of a small woman’s coin purse. When it came time to pay for a drink, he would reach deep down into his seabag, pull out the sock, unroll it ever so slowly down the bar, labor to unclasp the clasp and reach way down to the bottom. This took him so long that the bartender usually just said with a smile, “Forget it, it’s on me.”
I fell in love with gimmicks. One of my favorites was Spike the Wonder Dog, a battery-operated dog with an eye patch and earring. He would bark, then sit down in the street. I knew his actions, so I could make it look like I was commanding him. “Sick ’em!” I would yell, and off the dog went. When he sat down, I would remonstrate him loudly, then wag my finger. As I did, I would stealthily slip my finger into his mouth and act like he had bitten me, running down the road, trying to shake him loose.
Yeah, cheap schtick. But it sure made people laugh, almost as much as my Kid Catcher and my radio control shark, which is hilarious to see in action. It’s an inflatable shark, mind you. On a bright orange car. Yet still, the kids jump and run when it heads their way.
That’s the beauty of good schtick. As a performance artist, a well executed gimmick is as good as a top hat and a dozen rabbits to pull from it. The crowd, young or old, in a park or half drunk at a bar, loves it universally.
Over the years, I have had many gimmicks. Some have stayed with me forever, like the 24 Hour Marriages and Mark the Shark. Others have come and gone. I still have Bob the Mobster Lobster that I can tie onto my buttocks. Every time a kid points out that it’s following me, I run faster. For some reason, I simply can’t get away from it. (Cue the laughter now.)
I’ve also met Mom over the years. I met her most recently in Edmonds. She’s always unaware that her “son” is about to walk up to her yelling, “MOM!!! Why did you leave me in the Kmart parking lot!? Look what’s become of me!? I’m a pirate (with pathetic, mock dread and sadness).”
I used to worry that if I shared my gimmicks with others, they would steal them. A few have tried. Famously, a fellow mate tried to do the Kid Catcher gimmick. The net he used ended up wrapped around his legs and the kids yanked on it, dropped him to the ground and caught themselves a pirate.
Not quite the way it’s supposed to work. That’s usually the case though. The beauty of a gimmick is that it has to be performed. Without the performance, it’s just static stuff that may not make a lick of sense to the person who sees it.
I’ve always been blessed with that ability to see things that aren’t there. I like to think it’s because I always misunderstand the world around me. I misinterpret what I see.
Thank God. While others see an innocent ponytail scrunchy, I see a five minute improvisation about the Tidy Bowl man and his missing life ring. If nothing’s around, I can simply say the word “Cocoon,” and go off on a Scottish accent tilt-a-whirl that will have people projecting beer from their snot boxes.
I can’t seem to stop either. I have several reduxes of past gimmicks; one is the fencing sword that looks like it runs through someone when you poke them with it. It’s still in the undone pile. The shark was much easier. A quick trip to eBay and Amazon and all that was left was to blow hard and charge some batteries. Wait, that sounds a bit dirty.
And then there’s the desire I had one day to save some pirate’s mortal soul. I will admit this inspiration came from dear Paisley, a pirate I knew in Tampa who would dress as a nun and perform last rites, reading random scripture from the Bible while offering up communion Nilla Wafers.
About a month ago, I thought I could improve on that a bit. Sure enough, Amazon has cases of communion wafers and grape juice so that I can save sinners wherever I go. I still have to figure out how to substitute cheap wine for the grape juice though.
When I do, you’ll find me in a bar, tossing over one of these kits whenever it appears someone is about to stray. Too much lust in their heart – communion kit and a quick smack on the forehead to absolve them of their sinful ways. Too much drink – a communion kit, a smack on the forehead to absolve them of their sin and prompt removal of further temptation, which I will pour unselfishly into my tankard.
I know. I just can’t help myself. Gimmicks are everywhere in this world of ours. But I have come to learn that a gimmick has to speak to you; it has to be yours and yours alone.
Originally, Weaver tried to give me an old piece of wood with a rope on it. The schtick (and everyone can play right along here) – that I was “walking the plank.” Groan. Weaver could have made it work though. He could make anything work. I let him walk the plank in the end. It wasn’t me. But he did give me an appreciation for the magic of performance art, one where anything and anyone, can become part of the act.
In the Emerald City, ordering up a party cup of Communion wafers from the Lowest-Price-Christian store on Amazon,
My revisionist thinking would like to believe my generation was better than the current one masking as America’s youth. Of course, I don’t really have to be revisionist, because we had parents who would just as soon smack us across the phase in public than watch us act like neanderthals.
Manners were beaten into us, literally. Wolf down your food at dinner and you were likely to get a dog dish for a plate the next night. Treat someone with disrespect and we’d be treated to a bar of soap in your mouth. Throw a tantrum in public and you’d wish to god your life would end right then and there once your mom said, “just wait until I get you home, mister!”
Today, we indulge our children to the point where they are just a step or two up from neanderthals. I really do think that neyoungerthals is a fitting term for these little monsters, for it would be far more fitting for them to live in caves than in our own homes, or even in our own communities.
I’m sure that sociologists and behaviorists will be studying these little sh**s for generations to come. It’s as if we simply gave up as parents and gave all our kids carte blanche to be self-indulgent, prepubescent little pukes.
I’m sure the germ of this regression lies in those kooks who thought we should give everyone participation trophies for sports, even though a team finished dead last. We piled self-entitlement upon self-entitlement and stroked egos when we should have been dealing out a healthy dose of reality therapy. We have created our own monsters, all because we wanted them to feel good about whoever they were rather than helping them transition into a world filled with often harsh realities.
Of course, it didn’t help that we jumped on the PC bandwagon at the same time. Yes, we do need to be sensitive about the labels we use, but now the neyoungerthals have taken it to a new level, bandying about -ists like there’s no tomorrow.
Everyone seems to be an -ist in our world these days- leftist, racist, apologist, ageist – hell, I can’t even keep track of all the -ists out there these days. It’s like a second language to the neyoungerthals though. Every post on Facebook, every text, every word spoken in school seems to have an angle to it. You can’t even be honest with someone close to you now as you’ll be labeled an -ist, then end up chastised, shunned, beaten and finally, Unfriended.
Yes, Unfriended. This seems to be a big thing to people these days. I don’t think it is to my generation. I have been unfriended many times and in a few instances it took me months to notice. No wonder they weren’t returning my phone calls.
I get it. Admittedly, it used to be simpler in the olden days. We didn’t have all this new-fangled technology where our lives could be posted and paraded 24 hours a day online for all our “friends” to see.
Back in the day, people were more decent about it. They would simply talk about you behind your back and spread rumors on the playground or around the water cooler. Word spread at a snail’s pace about your -ist behavior; so slow, in fact, that people forgot all about it over a long Memorial or Labor Day weekend.
Still, that doesn’t explain the neyoungerthal problem we’re facing. These folks seem to be absolutely clueless about that little thing called life. Oh, sure. There are exceptions. I hear these amazing stories about other’s children who have managed to get a decent job and even move out.
But then I see those terrifying stories about children, neyoungerthals, living with their parents until they are 34. I think they just want to outlast you, hoping you’ll leave the house and maybe even the car in the driveway to them in your will when you finally find a way to get them out of your lives, even if it meant dying.
They just don’t seem to be evolving as quickly as we did back in the day. Sure, we were still kind of infantile when we were in our late teens and even early 20s. Maybe that’s because we didn’t get awards for just showing up for things. We didn’t get a cap and gown or graduation ceremony at the end of kindergarten. Or elementary school. Or middle school. Or…
No, we got one cap and gown. It took us 18 years to get it. Our parents expected it. We earned it. We didn’t get all get a trophy just for showing up to class. We had to get good grades, because if we didn’t, our parents would give us a good paddling or at the very least, take the keys away to the only car the family had.
Today, kids are getting a Mercedes when they turn 18. A used one, granted. But still, a Mercedes, just for turning 18. Me? I got nothing memorable when I turned 18. I did, however, get a Sears electric typewriter as a graduation present. I still can remember that it cost $256.00.
I’m not even sure that covers a month’s insurance premium on the Mercedes these days.
And we wonder why all our kids are turning out as neyoungerthals. We give them trophies for making their first poopy, a cap and gown for making it through preschool, a Mercedes for their birthday and we cap it all off by paying for their college education.
We have created our own monsters. We have set our own evolution back a hundred years or more, churning out a new generation of useless children, children who are supposed to be our future leaders.
It’s days like this that I feel blessed to be on the waning days of life here on this rock. I don’t have to endure another 50 or 60 years of the neyoungerthals and their misplaced entitlement. I get to check out of this crazy place sooner than later. I only hope I get a trophy when it’s time.
In the Emerald City, wondering what we hath wrought, spoiled children, rotten to the core,
While I don’t pretend to have a solution to every malady, or worse, tragedy striking our fair land these days, I do think that this loner culture of ours may be due in part to the fact that we don’t have drinking buddies like we used to.
You know the type. Your drinking buddy. That guy or gal who has absolutely no other life, someone you can call at 6 and by 6:30 they are on the stool next to you at your favorite watering hole.
We seem to have fewer of these in our lives these days. I certainly have had my share over the years: Buckwheat, Big Nick, Animal, Waterrat come to mind. These were my go-tos: people I could call up while on a moment’s notice and they’d beat a path to the bar without a second thought. They had no need to cancel other plans because they probably didn’t have any to begin with.
That’s not to say they didn’t have a life. They just knew their priorities and one of them was to keep their drinking buddy, me, in check.
Under the influence of certain alcoholic substances, we would come up with seemingly endless fiendish plans of foolishness. It could be an overtly called out decision to take the party to the beach in a snowstorm in January or fly to Cayman Brac at the behest of a very drunken female co-pilot. It could be the idea to go home with a lovely lass, only to get the hell out of their when her boyfriend arrived home unexpectedly. Or, after a questionable night of flirtatious tom foolery, waking up next to someone who looks a lot like Mister Ed.
This has all happened to me at one time or another, largely because my drinking buddy had neglected his sacred duties to keep me out of trouble or because he actually convinced me that it was indeed a great idea.
More often than not, though, my drinking buddy was able to correct my often false logic while under the influence. I would say something that seemed sane and he would quickly chime in that I must have been ‘freakin’ nuts’ to think that.
These ‘freakin’ nuts’ moments over the years have kept me from voting for a total loser for president, buying that car that I was sure was a steal (and it probably was stolen), or hitting on a comely lass who was way out of my league.
Yes, my various drinking companions have kept me from making some potentially fatal errors in my life, all because of their inebriated, but sage, advice.
The door swings both ways, of course. I have famously stopped my drinking buddy from making the same errors in his life. At various times I have called him to task, called him on the carpet and called him the next morning to see if he was still alive. I have done so much of this work that I consider myself a Certified Drinking Companion.
This is not an easy certification to acquire. It takes years of study followed by years of practice, followed by more years of being tested night in and night out. It is an arduous process that few can successfully undertake, let alone master.
But I have persevered, even against all odds. I have even managed to weather the dark years when my drinking buddy insisted that we frequent a yuppie bar or a new trendy hot spot. This is not a place to do your best drinking buddy work by any means.
No, you need a dive bar to fully engage in the work. These are the working man bars that open at 7 a.m. and run a tab behind the bar in chicken scratches for the regulars. They are the place that have any beer you like on tap, as long as it Bud, Bud Light, PBR and Rainier.
As a Certified Drinking Companion I would knowingly walk up to the taps and point to the one that I wanted without uttering a word. This was so I could drink all night long without slurring my order and getting cut off. Instead, the pints just kept arriving, as if by magic. My drinking buddy would do the same in our time tested ritual of trying to drink each other under the table, a slightly more civilized version of a dog hiking his leg to mark his alpha status.
Eventually, the crazy ideas would strike and we would consider, reject or ridicule each one as they spilled into the room from our booze-soaked minds. Most of the big ideas never made it past this string of reminiscences, wishful thinkings, bold ideas and stupid thoughts.
A few, however, were spoken into the world and stuck to the walls of our collective brains. From there, they were brought to life, all the implausible angles worked out, the illogical assumptions properly justified and the unworkable details ironed out.
Time for action. Well, time for thinking about action at least. Being that these brilliant ideas struck us around the same time as last call, we couldn’t act on most of them in the moment.
Instead, we would shake on the plan in the parking lot before we wove our respective ways home. We would agree to get a good night’s sleep on it and when we awoke, we would bound into action.
This is where the drinking buddy is key. Waking in the morning, more often than not we didn’t recall the plan at all. If it emerged from the haze, we’d eventually call our drinking buddy and make the vaguest of pleasantries. If he never mentioned the “plan,” we would hang up, thankful that we didn’t have to go through with it. But if he did remember the plan, we’d either tell him that he was freakin’ nuts for thinking about it in the first place and remind him that we tried to talk him out of it the night before. Still we would congratulate him for the boldness of “his” ill-conceived plan and go to our list of alternate drinking buddies for the next adventure later that night.
Thanks to our drinking buddy, the world remained safe from our crazy plans for another day, even longer if we went with an alternate.
In the Emerald City, currently accepting applicants for the next Certified Drinking Companions workshops,
The soulless armchair quarterbacks are at it again. At a time when we should be opening our hearts and questioning who we are becoming as a society, the meme merchants and soulless pundits are on the ball, seeking to drive even more wedges into our fractured society.
It’s not that America hasn’t been fractured for decades. Democracy is messy stuff. We all seem to have a pair of dice with no pips etched in them. Yes, that’s what the dots are actually called, pips.
Every time something happens in this country, we roll the dice and come up with some crazy combinations.
As we all know, a tremendous tragedy happened last Saturday night in Orlando. Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, children and parents died at the hands of a terrorist.
Rather than grieve or even offer our condolences, those with an agenda have wasted no time in pushing those agendas off on us. There are the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun factions, the Islamaphobes, homophobes and the Bible beaters. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a cause for what is nothing more than a tragedy and violent act against humanity.
Yet, rather than all come together as one, we suck up the pablum of the media and special interest groups, of the politicians seeking our votes, and of the 1% who seek to divide us.
And we seem to suck it up so willingly. On Facebook, the posts go on and on. I’m not going to dignify any of them here. And I’m not going to give you some pop culture analysis of what was the cause of this latest act of violence in our society.
I will say, however, that we must begin to question who we are as citizens of this great land. Each of these acts of violence seems to be bigger and more horrific than the last. Our hearts bled as small children were shot down in Sandy Hook. We all looked for the exits when we first returned to the movie theater after that shooting. And now 49 are dead and countless wounded at an Orlando nightclub.
Why? I’m not sure we will ever know. Yes, there will be the inevitable ties to extremists in the Middle East somewhere. We will hear from his ex-wife or girlfriend. We will hear from co-workers who never trusted him. We will try to slap labels on him and his cause because it’s easier than doing any real soul searching.
We will share sound bites and memes: Get rid of the guns. Make it harder to buy guns. Put more money into mental health treatments. Ban Muslims. Build a wall.
Yes, the easy answers. We love easy. Because the hard answers take too much work, and worse, it requires us to look at ourselves individually and our society as a whole Tough stuff, like coming to grips with our own lack of civility or humanity. Our lack of compassion and empathy. Our readiness to turn away from someone in need rather than spend a minute or two to be of service.
We are becoming a nation of silos. We don’t need a wall because we’re already building them ourselves. We ignore the homeless man on the street. We don’t wave back at our neighbors. We flip the guy off next to us for cutting us off. We have a complete meltdown because our fast food order was wrong. We short the overworked waitress because she forgot to bring us a spoon. The list goes on and on…
We are becoming a nation of Me’s, not We’s.
We live increasingly in fear of our own shadows. We look upon others with suspect rather than curiosity. We blame everyone else for our problems but never ourselves. We complain about the world as being too PC when really, we just want to justify our own ethnocentrisms and racist leanings because it’s easier to that than change.
And the 1% is laughing all the way to the bank. For as long as we turn on each other, we can’t turn on them.
I sometimes think that smartphones were created by the 1% to keep us at bay. I see it all the time. Young and old alike, buried in their screens, oblivious to the world around them, consumed by the false world they created inside that little box.
There, they can find solace. They can friend others who have the same beliefs and unfriend those who don’t share their limited views of the world. They can be politically incorrect. They can sink into a soulless world that agrees with them completely, no matter how whacked their world really is.
And we wonder why people commit such atrocious acts. It’s so easy to do when you’ve lost your own humanity as well as compassion, empathy and love. Somewhere along the way, something goes horribly wrong. These people lose all hope. They lose touch with reality. Their hearts fill with hate instead. And once that happens, violence against others simply becomes an extension of the hate they have for who they are and who they have become. They have nothing to lose, so they act out in their hatred.
Again, I’m not trying to serve up solutions from the cheap seats. I don’t pretend to have the answers. But I can see some basic truths.
I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we just rejected all the pablum being served up by politicians, the media and organizations who have something to gain by keeping us divided. I can’t help but think that if we just reached out to one another instead of distancing ourselves further in these moments of trial and tribulation, that we could find away to stay a “united” states instead of a “divided” states.
Only time will tell. I for one plan to practice acts of civility more mindfully going forward. I have never had anyone lash out at me because I was too kind, thoughtful or respectful. In fact, I have experienced just the opposite. It’s not the answer, but a start. And while I can’t change the world, I can change how I interact with it and how I respond to it.
In the Emerald City, thinking about my own role in this wonderful republic of ours,
I drove off without my headphones this morning. Yes, I was Internet-less, at least the Internet I use when I ride the bus each morning and afternoon to and from work. It’s used defensively, to keep homeless people from asking for money, tourists from asking directions, and seat mates from conversing with me about anything.
It’s not that I can’t live with the Internet. I mean, I only use my phone during my daily commutes as a glorified Walkman, either listening to Pandora or the 4,500 other songs I have on iTunes.
Since my career requires a lot of editing skills, I’ve edited the Internet down over the years. This amuses me to no end, as I watch the Millennials surf endlessly, watching pointless YouTube videos, sharing their mundane lives on Instagram or Snapchat, or posting selfies and viewing endless clips of cat’s licking their ass and their friends being drunk.
I really don’t have time for all that nonsense. It’s not that I didn’t do the same at one point. Back in the day, I mean back, back in the day, I hung out around the hot tub on AOL, listening to clips of Jimmy Buffett music and splashing sound effects.
It was a total waste of time, a lot of time. This was back in the days of the 2400 baud modem, back when the computer was hooked up to a phone line. Primitive, I know. And the music and sounds took forever to load up and play. It was painful on so many levels.
Yes, I have been on the Internet since 1996. I am pretty sure that I reached the end of it somewhere around 2010. I even remember when it happened. I was sitting in my office, scrolling through links when I reached a screen that said, “The End.”
Nowadays, my surfing is pretty limited: Pandora, Facebook, The Seattle Times, CNN, Google News, Mental Floss, Google Maps and Search, and… well, that’s abut it, really.
As I said, I reached the end of the Internet and found that there’s really not much there to hold my attention.
Yes, this from a content creator.
I think that’s part of the problem. I have pretty high expectations for content. I can’t stand poorly produced content, whether it’s a video or a blog. And let’s face it, there’s a lot of crap out there that only serves to keep you distracted from the fact that we have complete idiots running for President and the fact that the Internet is largely a complete waste of time.
I just don’t have that much time these days. So, I have filters. Really good filters. I know what I need as far as input. I don’t really need more. My head can only hold so much stuff and as each day passes, there is less free space available.
I am definitely not Johnny Five. Remember him? Or it? The robot in Short Circuit, the one who kept saying, “Need input. More input.”
I already have plenty, thank you. Sure, I could always use more, but these days I am filling the nooks and crannies in my brain, not entire wings of the library.
Johnny Five would have loved the Internet. He poured through the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica in something like two minutes on the show. He could probably get to the end of the Internet in a half hour.
It took me 14 years, but I’m no Johnny Five, though I wish I had a laser guided weapon mounted on my shoulder when there’s gridlock in the afternoon commute.
I’m really glad that I developed filters at an early age. I’m not quite sure how it happened or why, but I have a pretty good sense of what is important, what is needed and most important, what is not.
I like to tell myself that this mastery of filtering occurred back in the day when a computer hard drive was an enormous 40 megs. Geez, I have Word files that are larger than 40 megs. But that was all we had to work with back then, and while it seemed like an amazing amount of space at the time, it was only amazing because we had to be diligent in filtering content, getting rid of everything we didn’t absolutely need.
Yes, writing requires solid editing skills as well, but unless you’re writing to a specific word count, a few extra words here and there don’t really matter. It’s not like the old analog days of writing stories for newspapers, where even the headline had to have a space count (you can put more i’s in a line than you can m’s).
So I’m not sure that the writing thing is where the good editing skills came from.
Not that it really matters. I am just glad I was blessed with this skill set in the first place. I think we should all have such mastery of filtering. We’d save so much time. We wouldn’t be like the guy next to me on the bus who just watched little snippets of his friends doing insipid things. An entire 40 minutes watching stuff that doesn’t improve his station in life or the quality of his existence. It’s just non-filtered nonsense.
Me? Without music this morning I went old school. I read a book. A real book. With pages and a spine and cover. It wasn’t on my iPad or my phone. It was full on tactile. Non-fiction, as they almost always are. Remember, I’m filling nooks and crannies these days. I still need to filter so fiction is mostly out.
In some ways, I long for the pre-Internet world. We used to actually look at things around us. They would inspire us to create, to be original, to think out of the box. Now we just stare into the box, watching our friends pour a bucket of water on themselves while the world outside passes us by.
There’s no beauty in a Snapchat or even a Tweet. It’s just clutter. And like the clutter in our closets, it begs to be filtered, sorted, stored or erased. It’s the nature of the beast, this need to filter out stuff we don’t need. Except RobZerrvations, of course.
In the Emerald City, wondering if I need to have my filter changed,
Let me start by saying I am a dog lover. I have been all my life. I have owned five wonderful dogs in this lifetime, or should I say, they owned me. Barney was such a great companion that he saw me through the tragic death of my brother. The other saw me through that other tragedy that took me to Florida. Jasper kept me high and dry even on the darkest days down there, right up until his passing.
He was and is irreplaceable and I don’t know if I will ever be able to have another dog.
That’s O.K. though. I still love my friend’s dogs and even dogs I come across in public, such as area parks.
I do not, however, love dogs who invade public spaces. Somewhere along the way, in the last several years as far as I can tell, dog owners seem to think their dogs are actually children, best buddies or dates. They take them everywhere with them.
Not a week goes by that I don’t see one of these damninals in a store around here. Sure, I get that you bring your dog with you to Petco. It’s a pet store. They even encourage it. But a home improvement store? Are you freakin’ kidding me?
Not one dog, mind you. Five in a recent visit. These are not service dogs. Some are at best mutts. They are poorly trained and they certainly don’t look like they are having any fun going through the aisles of Home Depot.
It really ticks me off. I’d rather you bring your three screaming kids with you than bring your dog along to shop for paint, flooring or lumber.
I would have never brought Jasper with me to the hardware or fabric store. First, he would have stressed out and crapped in a very liquidious way, up and down every single aisle of the store. You’d hear a constant drone over the P.A.: “Clean Up in Aisle 5, no 6, no 7.”
Perhaps more important, Jasper knew that he was a dog. Oh sure, he’d have a pork chop for dinner with me from time to time, but when it came to shopping, Jasper knew that he should stay home. It was, after all, his territory, his domain. He was the most comfortable there. The smaller the space, in fact, the better, right down to the bathroom at times. But never a kennel. The “Boo-Box” was punishment so he would never go there voluntarily.
Jasper was happy at home. He knew his place. He knew that rides in cars most often meant a trip to the vet, a ride he dreaded. Other times, he may end up at the doggy hotel for an extended stay, but on at least one occasion, the car ride meant the loss of his nuts, so cars were never a favorite of his.
He also knew that stores could be dangerous. Especially hardware stores. Obviously, these supposed responsible pet owners have never seen me with a cart in a home improvement store. I have dumped entire loads of lumber onto the floor and I’m not talking about wimpy trim pieces. I’m talking 4x4s. A Chihuahua wouldn’t stand a chance. A momentary squeal, then silence. Even a Great Dane would have walked out with a limp after passing me and my carts overloaded with attempted home improvements.
Some stores have begun to tackle this issue. I was in a store last week that had a sign that said, “Service dogs only.” Now we’re getting somewhere. In one swoop they eliminated service cats, lizards and guinea pigs. Service dogs only.
I was more than a little pleased. But not one aisle into the store, there was a young woman with her dog. I really wanted to say “stupid” dog but as I said, I’m a dog lover. I don’t want to impose the owner’s traits on the dog. It’s not fair.
I assume these are the same people who have decided that it’s O.K. to talk on the phone while on the bus trip downtown. Banalities flow like wine. If I were to silence the music streaming through my headphones, I would most likely hear them talking about their dog and how they went on this lovely weekend trip to the local Home Depot together where everyone had an ass-sniffing good time.
It’s a shame they won’t let me take a load of 4x4s onto the bus with me. Maybe I could accidentally dump it on them there and take them out of my own misery.
Dogs certainly have their place. I love them in a park. I even like them in some restaurants. Famously, there was a dog in Key West that would walk into this one bar and jump right on the stool next to me. The bartender would dutifully bring him a short glass of milk, which he would lap up and then head off for parts unknown.
I’m sure it wasn’t to a home improvement store. He didn’t seem the type.
I can hear the chorus of exceptionalists right now, saying, “but, but, my dog is different. He needs to be with me!”
Does he? Or do you need him more? Perhaps you’re projecting your own needs to have a companion onto your dog. Perhaps you just need to get laid, or at least go out on a date with a two-footed friend. Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Here’s what I recommend. Next time you need to go to the home improvement store, take someone with you. Go shopping with a human and leave the dog at home. Both of you will be happier. You will have someone to help load the lumber or settle on a paint color. Your dog will have the extra time he needs to lick his balls clean on your carpet.
Believe me, he will really appreciate the extra two hours you’ve given him back to do some really thorough ball licking. And your back will thank you because you’ll finally have someone with you at the hardware store who can help you load your truck to the gills with potentially dog-maiming home improvements.
In the Emerald City, no longer on a tight leash and thankful for that fact.