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The More Things Change…

Posted by admin on October 1, 2018 in Life Lessons
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I came across a great quote the other day. It was by Heraclitus of Ephesus, an early Greek philosopher.

He said: “You can’t step into the same river twice.”

This took a while to sink in. And then I realized its profound meaning, that is so simple, yet so lastingly true. Change, whether we like it or not, is constant and inevitable in our lives.

While we’d like to think that change is happening at a breakneck pace in these times, it’s really been happening at a fairly constant pace through time. Changes only appear to be coming faster because 1) we’re in the middle of it, and 2) we now have instant communications to keep us abreast of all the changes as they happen.

As of late, there has a been a huge outcry about the growth of Seattle. There have been as many as 100 cranes in the sky at the same time, reinventing and reshaping a town that except for eight years, I’ve been a part of. I have seen it through its good times and bad. Through boom and bust. It has changed continually and unerringly, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

While I admit that all the faceless glass skyscrapers aren’t my cup of tea, they are a sign of success as a city. Seattle and its surrounding communities have grown up. The city is at the big boy table when it comes to being an economic force. It dominates the aerospace sector and is knocking on the door of the Bay Area to be #1 in technology.

Downtown, a place you never wanted to be in after 5 p.m. in the 1980s, is now alive nearly around the clock. Step out of a theater or restaurant and the sidewalks are crowded well after 10 o’clock, something that would have been unfathomable 20 or so years ago.

For the most part, we’re good with change as long as it agrees with us. Yes, some once great institutions and certainly some quirky and uniquely Seattle businesses are gone. But change is indeed inevitable, and the demise of a beloved institution is often because they have become unfashionable or unprofitable, not because gentrification or progress forced them out.

The most recent brouhaha is over the Showbox Theater. Other theaters have come and gone in Seattle over the last century. There was the famous outcry over the Music Hall many years ago, but it is all but forgotten now. Others, like the 5th Avenue, Triple Door and Paramount soldier on just fine, reinventing themselves and staying relevant.

And then there’s the Showbox, a relic of the past that rightfully has some relevance even today, except for it is also standing in the way of progress.

Now, I certainly don’t treasure the idea of another glass box being built on First Avenue, especially one filled with condos and the now famous and faceless street-level retail shops.

But we do need more housing. People want to live downtown these days and while it’s not something I would ever want to do, there is unprecedented demand, so much so that the Seattle School District is thinking about putting an elementary school somewhere downtown to handle all the families there.

At this point, I should remind you that I work in economic development. My job is to promote the state to bring businesses here. Companies create jobs. Jobs create paychecks for residents and paychecks generate spending which, in turn, spurs economic growth. It’s one big happy circle, and believe me, you want to be on the side of growth, not on the side of collapsing economy. For those here in the 1970s when Boeing crashed and burned, I don’t have to explain this.

It’s often been said that this is Seattle’s third gold rush. First, there was the real gold rush, then the post-WWII rush, and now this techno-driven third rush. It won’t last forever. It never does.

This is just the way the world works. As some long-dead Greek philosopher said it way, way back, “You can’t step in the same river twice.”

Now, I get all the nostalgia for days gone by. I still miss the Doghouse and Chubby and Tubby’s $5 Christmas trees. But there’s still plenty of old Seattle left. The Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, the Seattle Center, the Monorail, and Ivar’s on the waterfront instantly come to mind.

robzerrvation-denny-hill1But time does march on. If it never did, the Smith Tower would still be the tallest building in the city, we’d be crossing muddy roads downtown and the Denny Mill would be the city’s biggest employer. If you wanted to get from Puget Sound to Lake Washington you’d have to carry the boat and traveling from Everett to Tacoma would take hours because Highway 99 would be the only thoroughfare north and south.

It’s noble that we do try to save the past. Sometimes we get it right, like saving the Pike Place Market or the International District. Sometimes we get it wrong, such as when we carved up the Wawona up into toothpicks rather than restore her like the C.A. Thayer in San Francisco.

There are even times when we seem to have an uncanny knack for picking the wrong side. In the 1990s, Seattleites had the chance to create a 61-acre world park that would have connected South Lake Union to downtown. It would have cost taxpayers about $300 million to build an equivalent to New York’s Central Park. Paul Allen even loaned $20 million initially to buy up the property.

When the initiative failed, Paul decided to develop the land instead, and we now see how that turned out. I am certainly not about to blame him for Amazon’s sprawling campus and view-stealing skyscrapers. Real estate is, after all, a business, and we turned our backs on the idea of a new park, a park he wanted to help finance.

Seattle voters and residents have been fickle like this since the Denny party landed on Alki. We all say we want to cherish the past, but our history has shown a quirky desire to put the past asunder, build anew and then be wistful about the way things used to be.

It seems to be the Seattle way, to make way for the future while wishing things could just always stay the same. Unfortunately, you can’t step in the same river twice.

In the Emerald City, living in the present before I too become a recycled relic,

  • Robb

 

 
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Hello, I’m Mr. Fudd.

Posted by admin on September 24, 2018 in Home Ownership
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I grew up on Saturday morning cartoons. It was the best day of the week and I anxiously awaited my favorites. I freely admit, the Warner Brothers Cartoons were my favorite. Hanna-Barbera was O.K., but it was hard to touch Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the cadre of characters that regularly paraded across my TV screen.

Yes, my TV screen. I had my own TV when I was still just a little kid. It’s one of the few perks of having a dad who repaired televisions and radios for a living. Inevitably, someone would want to trade their old TV in for a new one or simply decide to not pick up their TV because they couldn’t pay the repair bill. These TVs would then trickle down through the family, with me being the youngest, getting the last of the castoffs.

No matter. The TV was my gateway to hilarity. Sure, I liked the Jetsons, but give me Foghorn Leghorn or Wile E. Coyote and I was in heaven.

Now, I know that these cartoons are pretty sanitized for today’s audiences. The coyote isn’t shown falling all the way to his death because some child psychologists figured out that a child might want to emulate them.

Right. I knew that hitting your thumb with a hammer hurt like hell as a kid. I sure as hell knew that jumping off the roof, let alone a cliff, meant a quick trip to the hospital or the morgue.

That said, it didn’t mean that I didn’t willingly take risks as a younger version of me. I mean, I used to scurry up and down the ladder all day long as I tested G.I. Joe parachutes out from the roof of my house. I had no fear of such silly things as falling. I was, after all, invincible as a kid.

This invincibility continued well into my mid 30s. I would regularly undertake such ill-advised projects as rewiring wall sockets or tearing the subfloor out of my girlfriend’s kitchen. I loved rip and tear, with its powerful saws and sledgehammers.

Yes, I was a bit reckless back in the day. I would scurry up almost any ladder or attempt any home repair, even though I was not gifted with any mechanical or electrical aptitude, that DNA going to my brothers.

I was also, somewhat ironically, afraid of heights and falling. I’m still not sure why I attempted those things, except to say that in your youth you are Wile E. Coyote, tapping into the Acme catalog for all sorts of do-it-yourself projects and exotic tools, some of which should have required extensive training and even a license to let a casual weekender like me touch them.

Thankfully, I made it through this period of my life. I had a few Wile E. Coyote moments for sure, not the least of which was a half dozen nails driven through various body parts, along with enough X-acto blade cuts to please Jack the Ripper.

These days, I’m more careful. I’m more like Elmer Fudd than the Coyote. As I sit here writing this blog, I’m looking up at the metal plate on my living room ceiling. I know there’s wiring under it. I know there must have been a ceiling fan up there at one time. I know that there needs to be one there again. In my younger days, I installed a ceiling fan. I could install this ceiling fan. But I’m not going to because I am now Elmer Fudd, not Wile E. Coyote.

There are people who do these things for a living. There always have been. But back in the day, I wanted to save a buck or two. Contractors and home repair people cost money. I wanted to keep my money, so I did it myself.

Yes, I often fixed it worse as my stories go. But I’ve had enough successes to still give me the misguided belief that I can still do these things. Famously, I managed to not only install a new dishwasher in our new home, but a section of subfloor as well to raise it to its correct height.

I was lucky. I have a window that leaks now. It’s a big picture window. One pane of the double-pain window was broken, so whoever “remodeled” this house tried to fix it. It just needs to be replaced.

I’ve gone so far as to watch a YouTube video or two on how to do this. It looks pretty straightforward, I tell myself. Remove some framing and flashing, pull the old window out and slap in a new one. Simple.

For others. To me, opening a big hole up in my house would be akin to me slicing my belly open to remove my appendix. It’s just not natural. This is what professionals are for, I tell myself, even though professionals is actually spelled profe$$ional$ in my own world. Getting that window replaced will cost me as much in labor as it does in materials.

Oh, to be Wile E. Coyote again. I would wait for my Acme Window to arrive via Fed Ex, open up the overly complex instructions, watch helplessly as they blow away in a gust of wind halfway through the project, then improvise as I always do, using my duct tape and baling wire mentality.

Instead of hours, it would take days. In the meantime, the window would be covered with the standard issue blue tarp. Overnight, the raccoon would come in and help himself to anything in the refrigerator and days later, the window would finally be in.

Before Kat ever got home, I would have spackled over the gashes I put in the wall, chopped off the bent nail heads with my Dremel tool, scrubbed off all the caulking that had hardened on my hands and put everything back together, good as new.

She would be so proud of me, if for no other reason that I didn’t end up in the hospital. She would look at my handiwork, smile at me, and say, “Elmer, you did it again. The window’s upside down.”

In the Emerald City, getting the prybar out, which I keep right next to the Xanax,

  • Robb

 
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I Think I Got A Code.

Posted by admin on September 17, 2018 in Randomalities, The Soapbox
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A new movie called First Man is about the Apollo 11 mission as seen through the eyes of Neil Armstrong. Before the movie even made it to theaters, flag-waving crazy people have been up in arms about the fact that the moment when Neil plants the flag on the moon isn’t shown.

Of course, in the trailer itself, you see the flag all over the place. On the back walls of NASA, on the sleeves of the astronauts, on the side of the rocket. But these don’t seem to matter to the fervent flag crazies. It’s all about the flag being planted on the moon. Not showing that is simply un-American.

I. Could. Care. Less.

Yes, I love our flag. I was raised to respect it, to stand when it is present and to honor what it means. I even served admirably on the Flag Detail at McKnight Middle School. I was one of the few, the proud, tasked with raising and lowering the flag in front of the school, and to beat holy hell when it started raining so that it could be taken down.

This is required by our U.S. Flag Code. The flag cannot be flown in the rain nor in the gloom of night (without illumination). There are pages of code, in fact, telling us how to display, decorate and even destroy the American flag.

As of late, people have even become confused about what the flag stands for. Sorry, it and the National Anthem doesn’t stand for the U.S. troops. Protesting American policies or discrimination by taking a knee is not showing disrespect for the troops. Hell, there are even many veterans who will tell you outright that they didn’t fight for the flag, but for our freedoms, which are separate and distinct from the fabric so many hold onto so dearly, almost choking it to death.

I get how people can get confused. The Flag Code says the flag is actually a living thing. As such, you can’t hang it on the side of a car or on the back of a parade float. You can’t hang it on the side of your house either. You can’t use it as a decoration.

I doubt even a third of those who fervently rally around Old Glory even know or follow half the rules. Case in point. Every 4th of July you see everything wrapped in the stars and stripes. Not representative art, but the flag. This flies in the face of the code, folks. It specifically prohibits the use of the flag for commercial purposes, advertisements or costuming. If it looks like the flag, you can’t print it or use it on clothing. The only allowed use is as a patch, much like those the astronauts wore on their spacesuits in that supposedly un-American movie.

Every week, tens of thousands of football fans stand to honor the flag as a football-field-sized incarnation of it is ceremoniously rolled out. There’s just one problem. The U.S. Flag Code specifically prohibits the flag being carried or displayed flat unless it is used in the draping and undraping of a coffin. It must be allowed to fly freely at all times.

Last Thursday, as Hurricane Florence rolled through the Carolinas, I watched the live feed from the Frying Pan Shoals Tower light. The American flag was flying free true, but in the wind and rain, which is against the Flag Code. It continued to fly into the darkness without a light shining on it, which as I said, is another Flag Code violation.

Yes, we love our flag. Perhaps we love it just a little too much. Some of us are just a little off the rails about the whole thing, becoming the judge and jury for others about what it means to respect or desecrate the flag.

It is, in the end, just a flag. Having Old Glory flying over your home on a 20-foot flagpole doesn’t make you more patriotic or more American than the guy who takes a knee at a football game. Wearing an American flag shirt doesn’t make you more American either. In fact, it puts you on an equal plane with the guy who burns the flag. Both acts are considered desecration.

Sorry, but I just don’t buy into this whole “my country right or wrong” crap. I understand American Exceptionalism and our flag kicks some serious ass in the design department. No offense France and Italy, but did you guys decide to save some money by hiring the same guy to do your flags? Three vertical blocks of color and only color is different. How long did it take your graphic designer to turn that thing out? One glass of wine or two?

I am a product of the Sixties. I grew up understanding that it is not only our right to question our government, but our solemn duty. So, I can’t help but question this blind allegiance to the flag while glossing over the rights it is meant to represent. These days I find it harder and harder to place my heart over my hand because others in this supposedly free land can’t stand it when someone chooses not to in silent protest or, horrors, burn it.

Spare me. I am no more and no less an American than any of you. I pay my taxes, obey most of the laws, and I am a strong supporter of our troops and the difficult work they do every day.

But I’m not about to jump on the MAGA Happy Train. I think America has been great all along, with all its bumps and bruises, creaks and moans, fits and fizzles. We have been the greatest country at times, and we have been one of the worst. We pull together when times are tough but then pick endlessly at one another like playground children when times are good. We have such potential, but we also are our own worse enemy.

So, let’s just put all the flag waving in its proper place. It’s good to love our flag, but don’t treat is like it’s some kind of god. Remember that biblical Commandment? You know, the one that says “Thou shalt not have false gods before thee.”

Let’s all keep things in perspective. If you do, then I promise that when the 4th of July rolls around, I will toast you with my red, white and blue Bud and watch as the sky as it fills with Made in China rockets with an American flag on the side, and celebrate what it means to be an American as we eat our hot dogs (from Germany), a slice of apple pie (England) and celebrate our collective and often selective ideas about what it means to be an American.

In the Emerald City, keeping my flag waving high at my house (granted, it’s a pirate flag),

  • Robb

 
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President Thin Skin. Again.

Posted by admin on September 10, 2018 in Politics
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Bob Woodward is at it again. His new book is shaking Washington to its very core, leaving a standing president to whine and moan about how he is being treated unfairly and how the libel laws of the land should be changed to rein in all this bad publicity and hateful words.

Now, I happen to be a fan of Woodward. He’s one of the reasons I got a degree in journalism and have my profession today. His reporting has mostly been well researched and well presented without personal opinions. He checks multiple sources and keeps confidential sources confidential. He, along with Carl Bernstein, brought the Nixon administration down, with all its bald-faced lies, cover-ups and attempts to purge and ruin perceived political enemies.

This isn’t the first time the resident president has had a meltdown about unfavorable coverage. In the early days of our nation, there was another thin-skinned president who wanted to strip the average person of their rights to criticize the executive branch and specifically, the president. His name might ring a bell: John Adams.

Yes, our second president couldn’t handle criticism by the press or anyone else for that matter. And in a historic abuse of power, he got Congress to pass the Alien and Sedition Act, which made it illegal to write, print, utter or publish any writing with the intent to defame Congress, the president, and any laws or acts they pass, including it seems, the Alien and Sedition Act itself.

Let that sink in for a moment. This is one of our Founding Fathers, trying to stamp out any criticism of him or his administration (think free speech and freedom of the press here). Adams himself would have been guilty if there had been a similar law in colonial America, back when loyalty to the king was the only option. But he seems to have forgotten all that once he ascended to the most powerful position in the country.

Several publishers and authors were found guilty under the act, which, by the way, was passed in the interest of national security, It also made it easier to deport immigrants and made it harder for naturalized citizens to vote in elections, hence the Alien part of the Alien and Sedition Act. One of Adams’ first targets was Benjamin Franklin Bache, the grandson of Ben Franklin who had described the president as “old, querulous, bald, blind, crippled, toothless Adams.” He was arrested for these publishing these words, which in an age of name calling and Tweeting, seem oh, so very sticks and stonish.

James Callender, a pro-Jefferson journalist for the Richmond Examiner, wrote a pamphlet that said, “As president, [Adams] has never opened his lips, or lifted his pen, without threatening and scolding; the grand object of his administration has been to exasperate the rage of contending parties… and destroying every man who differs from his opinions.”

Federalists defended the new act, of course, claiming that all the public and media criticism was designed to undermine Adam’s lawful election (yes, this is nothing new in the political playbook).

The real goal was to stifle opposition, specifically the reporters who supported Thomas Jefferson, who was Adams’ vice president.

Don’t think for a moment that this was just a tactic to mute political foes and reporters.

Famously, in Newark, New Jersey in July 1798, a skipper of a garbage boat ran afoul of the law and Adams’ thin skin. As a 16-gun salute fired to honor the president as he passed through town, Brown Clark told the skipper, “There goes the president, and they are firing at his arse,” to which captain Luther Baldwin replied that he didn’t care “if they fired thro’ his arse.” The tavern owner reported the conversation and both men were imprisoned and fined for sedition.

The point of all this is that we are living in dangerous times. We seem to have another paranoid president on our hands, one who thinks everyone is out to get him, leaving no stone unturned in his relentless pursuit and persecution of his perceived enemies.

Thankfully, the Alien and Sedition Act ended with the Adams administration. Thomas Jefferson, the country’s new president, pardoned everyone convicted under the act and eventually, all the fines collected were returned.

We no longer live with this heinous, divisive act of Congress and a thin-skinned president.

But one has to wonder what our early history would have been if Adams had had a Twitter account and was able to use it to spread his own views and faux news. Our current president’s thumbs must be worn to a nub with all his attempts to deflect and protect. He has circled the wagons against everyone who has said an unkind word about him and with Woodward hot on his heels, he has turned on many in his own, wondering who has questioned his commands and who has spoken to Bob Woodard and the Mueller investigators.

He’s even begun to blame his own supporters for the possibility that he could face impeachment, telling supporters in Montana last week that it will be their fault that he is impeached because they didn’t vote a straight Republican ticket in November.

President Adams would be proud of Mr. Trump. He’s managed to rekindle the rife paranoia Adams seemed to prize and encourages division when he should be preaching unity. He is turning us against one another while pointing the fickle finger of blame at anyone who questions his actions, his motives, behavior or morality, including now, his own supporters.

When asked once where the responsibility fell, President Harry S Truman once stated that “The buck stops here.” He didn’t pass that buck or blame others for his predicament or decisions that didn’t go well.

Those days are certainly gone. I never thought I would live to see the day when anyone, especially a standing president, would utter a word like impeachment. I thought we’d gotten past all this nonsense. I mean, what’s next? Duels and Congressional canings?

I thought Nixon was the end of it all, that we had learned about the abuses of power by men like Tricky Dick and Toothless Adams who don’t have our own interests and well-being at heart.

But here we are again, reliving history, putting our collective future at the hands of yet another crazy in the White House. Adams would be proud indeed.

In the Emerald City, wondering who let the crazies out to run the country,

  • Robb

 

 

 
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In Bed With The Devil.

Posted by admin on September 3, 2018 in Randomalities
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No, this isn’t about my Florida days. No dishing dirt on that chapter on my life, though the headline, I must admit, would have been a good one for that. Rather, I am dealing with the harsh reality that I don’t think I am invincible any longer. Now, this invincibility thing has been central to my life, allowing me to make famously bad decisions with no fear of repercussions or lasting damage, either emotionally or physically.

But lately, it’s been failing me. Well, lots of things have been failing me as of late, and that’s part of the problem.

The times when I have been exposed to kryptonite and robbed of my superpower have been few and far between. Famously there was that time in high school that I wanted to see a pair of breasts and almost died. I did a week in the hospital, had to learn to walk all over again and missed the start of my freshman year in college. If I had only known how many breasts I would eventually see in my life, I never would have kissed the girl with mononucleosis.

But I digress. Fast forward to my golden years of invincibility, my 20s, 30s and 40s. I could not be harmed. I could stay out all night, drink way too much and toddle right off to work in the morning, still in the same clothes I was wearing when I left the afternoon before. Over the years I managed to avoid all venereal diseases and never answered the door only to hear that frightening word, “Daddy?”

I really took those years for granted. Looking at my current state, I wished I had enjoyed them even more. I may have even taken a few more sloppy slaloms down the slope or went skydiving again. And then there were the things I passed up because I thought I had all the time in the world. Things like flying off to Cayman Brac with a fairly inebriated Cayman Air captain who convinced us all she was sober enough to get us there. On second thought I’m glad I passed on that one.

Lately, however, it seems that I am finally getting old. And it’s really been pissing me off. I am, after all, only 60. True, some people don’t even make it this far. Others are like the Six Million Dollar Man, rebuilt to the point where every time they get out of a chair I think I should hear that jing-jing-jing-jing-jing sound effect.

I can brag a bit. I do have all my body parts intact. At this moment. I haven’t ever had major surgery. The only thing I am missing is the rain hat that my parents had removed a couple days after I was born.

But not all of these parts are in the best of shape these days. And so far, the ones that are betraying my invincibility are not something you can easily change out, unless you are a GI Joe doll.

Oh, how I wish I were. Then I could just unplug my left foot or change out my right hand and be done with it. Good as new!

But no, instead these parts are on the fritz alternately these days and my invincibility seems to be fading by the hour.

For example, I used to think that gout was something old grandpas get. True, I am a grandpa, but I’m thinking a way-old grandpa-man, like 70. But it turns out that it’s fairly common. Something about a combination of barbecue (lots of red meat) and absence of water (dehydration) are the perfect storm for this malady. True, it sounds very piratey, but it still hurts like the devil.

 

Thankfully, they make pills for this. A couple days later, everything was almost back to normal. I still have trouble looking at beef, turkey, beer or any other potential demonic force that can set it off again.

That could have been the end of it all. But then I stayed at a Motel 6. Believe me, it was not by choice. There were no other rooms at any other inns. It appears that 10,000 crazed runners were also in Seaside, Oregon that weekend. Even the manger in town was full for the night.

Things were predictably Motel 6. The bed had obviously just arrived from the Oregon State Penitentiary. When I first sat down on it, it made the sound of celery when you crush it in your hands.

By Saturday morning, after a torturous night of unrest, my right hand was numb. Somewhere in the night, the one-ply sheeted board they called a bed had screwed up my arm, or my sciatica, or some strange little angry nerve in my arm. You know how your arm feels when it falls asleep? You touch it and it gives no tactile response? That was and is my hand as I write this. It’s tingly and fuzzy.

That morning, after reassuring myself that I hadn’t stroked out in the night, I began to deal with the issue. For mere mortals, having a tingly right hand isn’t a huge deal. But for a guy who writes, having a sleepy right is a bloody nightmare.

I thought that a prompt return to my own bed would solve the problem. But so far it hasn’t. Of course, it doesn’t help that I still must write for a living and in some twisted world, I am suddenly drawn to wanting to play my guitar more than usual. It’s as if I am cosmically drawn to those things that are the worst for me. Wait, that sounds like Florida again.

And so the saga continues. I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that I am no longer invincible. Motel 6, that evil villain, has robbed me of my superpower. I have become… become… oh, my god, I can’t even say it – mortal!

A new age has dawned. I am now vincible. Is that even a word? If not, I will make it one, if I can ever type it left handed.

In the Emerald City, in bed with the devil and his evil wrath,

  • Robb

 
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Fame Or Fortune. Pick One.

Posted by admin on July 23, 2018 in Life Lessons
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A couple posts went looping around last week on Facebook asking others to share a story about someone famous they had met. There was plenty of namedropping, of course, some names more well known than others.

I didn’t post a reply, largely because I’m not really all that impressed. Growing up, I was never starstruck. I’m not sure why, either. I do, however, remember asking my oldest brother once if he wanted to be famous or rich. He said famous, because then you are remembered, because you touched someone else’s life.

Money can do that, I guess. But giving money to a cause or an individual can be a pretty impersonal undertaking. I mean, rarely has Bill Gates ever personally handed money to someone who benefits from one of his causes. He has people who do that for him.

I think my brother’s response meant so much to me because he seemed quite famous to me. Now, others could argue that I saw this bigger than life brother in the idealistic eyes of a 14 year old boy who would be forever changed by his brother’s death in 1972.

Years later, however, I was at a food industry trade show. The Rainier Beer booth was just down the way from ours, and as often happens at trade shows, you end up spending time with other exhibitors as they set up or tear down.

I just wanted a beer, really. Then he saw my nametag. He said, “You’re not related to Zero are you?”

I was aghast. The year was 1988. Jon (Zero) had left us 16 years before. But he remembered my brother like it was yesterday and told me wonderful stories about him, including the fact that a poster-sized photo of The Dirty Beaver Jug Band that he played washtub and kazoo in was hanging on the wall at The Brick Saloon in Roslyn.

My brother had reached his goal of being famous, I suppose. He obviously had touched a lot of lives during his brief life, and he was remembered well past his passing.

Obviously, that is what I have patterned my life after. Making memories for others, appearing in their photos dressed as a pirate, lifting their spirits with a song in a bar, making a kid laugh as I run crazily down a street in some no-name town during a festival.

I have touched literally tens of thousands of lives over the last 36 years as an entertainer, and perhaps even more during my years as just plain old Robb.

I have met lots of famous people along the way. I met Peter Fonda and Will Sampson, at one point, along with Max Gail, Wojohowitz on Barney Miller. At one point, when I had long hair, people thought I was Ron Jeremy. I used to tell them I was his brother Rob, and that I was his stunt double from the waist down. One day, a guy behind me said, “So you’re my stunt double, eh?” Ron thought that whole stunt double thing was hilarious and ended up buying me a couple drinks.

And then there was the Jimmy Buffett encounter. Two guys, leaning on a railing, one in the middle of recording License to Chill and the other a swaggering pirate. We looked at one another, nodded and smiled, two pirates offering up a professional courtesy to one another as we went about our respective work.

A friend at the time asked why I didn’t pose for a photo. “Why would he want a photo with me,” I asked. “No, for you,” she said.

Silly girl. He’s just a guy doing a job. He puts his pants on just like I do. He’s famous, but one could argue that I am too, a least within certain circles.

I even have proof. Long ago, when I ran parades, I had a barking mechanical dog, Spike. He was a pirate dog and I would sick him on kids up and down the parade route. It was hilarious.

Well, years later, I ran into a fellow pirate. When he was a kid, he had seen a pirate with a battery-operated dog entertaining children along a parade route. It was then that he decided that he wanted to be a pirate when he grew up.

And there he was, standing in front of me. Some little kid who I touched all those years earlier who became a pirate entertainer because of something I did as something of a lark during a parade.

These stories are endless. I could fill up most of the Internet with similar tales While I am not Jimmy Buffett famous, I am famous enough. And just as rich. Not in a bank account kind of way, but in a way that matters far more.

All of us are really. When all is said and done, no one but your heirs care about what’s in the bank account. And our heirs don’t even care about most of our possessions, except the ones that have some value if sold.

In the end, what counts is the lives we touch. It’s the lasting memories we leave behind with others who remember that we were here once. It shows that we mattered.

You may have taught someone something that changed the course of their lives. Or stopped on a rainy night to pick up a stranger whose car had broken down. Maybe you bailed out a friend when no one else would. Of, perhaps, you just sat up one night, helping your friend through a difficult time by doing nothing more than listening without judging.

Fame isn’t what we’re all taught. Neither is fortune. As you look at your own life, cherish the moments when you touched the life of another. And take the time to thank those in your life who touched you in ways that will forever be in your heart, mind and soul.

Like that trade show bartender so many years ago, let someone know that they are remembered, that for a moment in time, their lives mattered. That is the greatest gift you can give another, to let them know that their life has been important to you.

In the Emerald City, adding a star to my own Walk of Fame,

  • Robb

 
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Liars, Tigers And Bears, Oh, My!

Posted by admin on July 16, 2018 in The Soapbox
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I’m not quite sure when things in our society went so askew. Maybe I’m just getting old, but it seems that as of late, we have shifted our scale or what is right and wrong to fit whatever moment we are in. There seems to be no absolutes anymore. And that is scary.

When I was a kid, I remember going with my mom to the Market Basket in the Renton Highlands. As she labored over her choice of fish on a Friday, I roamed the aisles. At the end of one was a barrel of peanuts. I can still remember to this day, taking a single peanut from that barrel with the plan to steal it.

It was then that my brother Brian clocked me upside the head and told me that it was a sin to steal.

Now, I am no saint. I have my share of transgressions, but even to this day, I think I have a fairly well-developed sense of what is right and wrong. Part of this is because I have finally grown up, part is because I work for the State of Washington which has a very unforgiving Ethics Board.

You see, I am ever under their watchful eye. I can’t even have a vendor buy me a latte without breaking the law and facing a hefty fine or even dismissal. There are so many potential transgressions that I don’t even think the head of the Ethics Board knows them all.

My point here is that public officials are held to a higher standard than the general public. They always have been, they always should be. After all, they are spending your money. They are custodians and advocates of your will as taxpayers. They ultimately serve at your whim, and the decisions they make greatly affect your life, livelihoods and freedoms.

I’m sure you’re all nodding your head thinking, well, this is as it should be.

But somewhere along the way, we don’t apply any of our own values or standards of truth and honesty to those elected to state or federal office. We instead use a strange sliding scale of what is right and wrong, what is fact and what is fiction, and what is just and unjust.

I’m not exactly sure where we decided to allow such nonsense. Now, before one side of the political coin gets uppity, this isn’t about the guy in the White House. It is about some of his staff, like now former EPA Chief Pruitt, who was robbing the taxpayers blind. In just one famous instance, he ordered 12 customized pens with his signature engraved on them for $1,560. That’s $130 a pen, folks. And it’s your money he was spending.

And yet, no one seems outraged about it. Sure, there were some news stories. But no real public rage and, of course, no ethics violations or fines.

Yes, Pruitt eventually left, as have dozens of others who have come and gone in the past year and a half. This is one of the problems of bringing business executives into government. Government has a whole set of different rules because you’re playing with taxpayer money. There is and should be accountability.

We should all be incredulous about the other things going on in our government. A week or so ago, seven senators from the Appropriations Committee traveled to Moscow to have a meeting with the Russians. Why? I might be able to understand the Foreign Relations Committee, but the committee that is in charge of spending our money?

And then there’s the dismissal by high-level government officials about the latest round of indictments of Russians who seem to have meddled in the 2016 elections. Leaving politics aside for a moment, please realize that this hacking is going on regularly. I run a single state website and it endures thousands of hacking episodes a week by the Russians and other countries in its sphere of influence. They are prodding and poking, trying to find their way into other state servers.

This isn’t fake news, folks. I see this in my job. And yet, there are immediate dismissals that these are witch hunts. Well, they’re not, not in my world. And anyone who thinks this is not important, or worse, fake news, is a complete dolt, an imbecile of the first orders.

In the old days, these hackers, these spies, would have been rounded up and given a timeout in the electric chair under they were well done. These are crimes against our country of the highest order. It is sabotage. These forces are seeking to disrupt our government, steal sensitive files and cover the trail up with more lies and deceit.

And yet, no one seems to care a bit about all these antics. We have lost our morality as a country. Right and wrong are fluid now. We let politicians who are on the take, bought and paid for by special interests, twist us in the wind. And we fall for the old bait and switch, turning on one another because of our political or religious beliefs while these guys laugh all the way to the bank.

It’s time for us all to reclaim what has made this country great. We need to force politicians to be accountable for what they say. We need to point out when they are lying. We need to vote them out of office when they don’t represent our will. We need to stop letting all these jokers, from the lame-ass local mayor to the President of the United States, sell out what America stands for.

America will never be great again if we don’t decide that the truth matters, that facts matter, that decency matters, and that liars, cheats and swindlers, regardless of their position or power, need to be sent packing. They need to be told loud and clear that we’re not buying their snake oil any longer, that we are on to their games, that we know they seek to divide us so they can continue to rape our coffers, and eliminate the rapidly shrinking middle class so there are just two classes – the lord and the servants.

We must remember that, for the moment, we are still in charge. Forget about the petty differences of politics and remember that you and I are the United States. We are the government. We need to put away social media and selfies for a while and take our country back from the guys who are purposely stealing us blind – the Koch Brothers, special interests, big business and all the lobbyists who are slipping money – our money – into pockets and under doors like there’s no tomorrow.

Well, there will be no tomorrow if we continue to choose to turn a blind eye to all this corruption. If we do, we will only have ourselves to blame when our last freedoms are usurped and outlawed by the people who supposedly represent us. I think Thomas Jefferson said we needed a revolution every 20 years in this country. Obviously, we are long overdue.

In the Emerald City, wondering why we are all giving up so easily and so willingly to these robberbarons,

  • Robb

 
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The Zzaj Singer.

Posted by admin on July 2, 2018 in Pirate Adventures
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I often wonder what normal people do with their weekends. Some of my friends display their lovingly restored rides at car shows, others go boating, still others have family picnics or hike to the top of mountains just to see what there is to see.

Me? I go pirating. When I was still in the dating world, this was always hard to explain. On a date, the object of my temporary affection would inevitably ask what I did for a living, and then what I did for fun.

For a living, my standard answer was, “I sit at home, make stuff up, and people send me checks.”

For fun, well, that’s a far harder question to answer. I mean, how can you reduce being a pirate down to just a sentence or two without coming across as a crazy person?

I eventually just said that I was an entertainer. That was a little easier to introduce into a conversation, at least until they asked what kind of entertainer I was.

Back to being pirate, for heaven forbid they ever inferred that I was a clown.

Years ago, of course, this was an easier question to answer. There were no pirates around, except those 40 or so Seafair guys. Not just in Seattle, but the whole damned country. Pirates were few and far between. Until that bastard Johnny Depp came along and ruined everything with his preposterous Jack Sparrow.

Now everyone thinks he or she is a pirate.

I’m not going to go into the long and short of what does or doesn’t make you a pirate. Hell, I wrote an entire book on the subject.

But perhaps the events that transpired this weekend will demonstrate what it’s like to be a pirate who just doesn’t dress up in pirate clothes but lives a pirate’s life, as unpredictable as it can be.

Krimson Kat and I headed off to my old stomping grounds in Port Orchard over the past weekend. It was time for the Fathoms O’ Fun festival, a celebration that I used to be very much a part of, even getting sucked into being on their board and designing their award-winning float.

Other pirates were in town for the parade. As we all know, I don’t do parades anymore because, well, they suck. You stand around for an hour or more on a side street, just so you can wave to a blur of people as you try to keep pace with whatever speed the parade ended up going.

Kat and I had planned to pre-rade instead. This is where we end up roaming the parade route in the hour before the parade, interacting with everyone on the sidewalks who are bored stiff, waiting for the parade to start. It is prime entertainment space.

Our plan was to hit a couple of bars and restaurants all over town, then do the pre-rade at about 5.

Ah, the best-laid plans. We ended up getting waylaid at the Goldfish Races where we sang some impromptu songs and let the kids rob us of treasure. We had planned to spend just a little time downtown, then shoot up to some of my favorite haunts up the hill for more adventure before heading back down to town to do the planned pre-rade.

But we were already way behind schedule. We would have to go directly into pre-rade mode. We headed for the end of the parade route which always marks the start of the pre-rade. We were still a little early, so we wandered into the Hi-Tide. Long ago, it was one of my haunts here, so I thought it would be a good place to have a quick drink.

Drink yes, quick no. Within seconds of coming through the door, it was game on. We had walked into a gold mine of fun people who wanted to play. Kat and I dove right in, kicking up the energy level from about a 4 to a 7.5 in minutes with our antics.

There was just one thing missing. Music. I had waffled about whether I should bring my guitar with me on the pre-rade this time, but decided against it. My mistake. The guitar was now on the other end of town.

No worries. Off we went down the pre-rade route, still finding time to entertain everyone, not only on the way down, but on the way back. By now I had my guitar, so the trip back was filled with impromptu four line songs about the people we met and situations we encountered along the way.

We were totally off plan by now, which is when things are the most fun. We were in the moment, improvisational heaven where everything said and done became hilariously funnier because of that rare moment where everything is perfect.

We sang our hearts out in the bar, chatted endlessly to everyone we encountered, met the owners, hung out with the regulars, and sang more songs. It all became a blur, in part because the drinks kept arriving, and in part because we were in that zone I often talk about.

By the time some of our pirate friends arrived from doing the parade, we had forgotten all about that there was a parade that day. We owned the entire bar, hopping from table to table inside, then heading out to the patio where we sang and laughed some more. I’m not even sure when our pirate friends left because we were still going well into the night.

That, my friends, is a pirate’s life. Being so in the moment that 12 hours flew by like they were minutes.

The only downside was remembering that our car was still on the other side of town. It was almost a perfect plan. But even the trip back to the car was hilarious because we were still in entertainment mode as we rolled back down the parade route one more time

The next day? Well, there are paybacks in this business. We were feeling no pain Saturday night but Sunday morning, all the aches and pains of “being on” at that level came back to slap us on the ass. It was a less than pleasant experience, but the experience the day and night before made it all worthwhile.

Best of all, I never have to explain what I like to do on weekends to a prospective mate. And neither does Kat.

In the Emerald City, feeling blessed that the pharmacy gods came up with ibuprofen,

  • Robb

 
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A Pirate Looks at 60.

Posted by admin on May 28, 2018 in Life Lessons
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One of my favorite songs to perform is A Pirate Looks at 40. It’s about a guy in Key West who never really found his calling in his lifetime. Eventually, his biggest wish came true, for when he died he was cremated and was kept on top of the cash register at his favorite bar.

When I was much younger, I used to introduce the song this way. I would tell everyone that the song was about my buddy Waterrat and I. He was the way over 40 part of our band and I was the way under 40 part. If you averaged us together, we’d be 40.

Bobby was about 55 then. I was 25 or so.

Today – yes today – I am now officially at pirate looking at 60.

My wife asked me what I’d like to do today to mark this special occasion. I have yet to give her an answer, even though it’s now morning.

I’m not sure I have an answer. I mean, I’m 60. I’m not quite sure how that happened. The days drift by and suddenly you’re at an age that ends with a zero, which is supposed to have some significance compared to the day before or even the year before when your age ended in a nine.

So, here I sit, pondering my mortality. Actually, I’m watching a TV show as I write this. I pondered my mortality for much of the past month, convinced alternately that I had esophageal cancer and that my liver was finally giving out on me.

I’m still not sure about the former. Kat says it’s just heartburn. But my overly creative mind likes to work overtime anyway. This was certainly the case Saturday.

Bright and early I awoke to use the restroom in our hotel. As I brushed my hair, I thought my skin looked a little yellow. My pupils were a light yellow, too. I’ve been yellow before – when I was 18 – so I know what jaundice looks like.

Being my usual paranoid self, I woke Kat up so she could look at my eyes. She took me to the window. No yellow, she said.

It turns out that the wallpaper in the bathroom and the lights they used made everyone and every thing look a little jaundiced. So much for my momentary mortality.

Today, I’m no longer thinking about my demise. Nothing magical happened overnight. I turned 60 somewhere after the stroke of midnight. Well, technically I don’t turn 60 until 6:30 or so tonight. My mother never could remember when I was actually born. I was number four out of the shoot and those childhood milestones aren’t as important the fourth time around.

So, what have I discovered about turning 60? Well, it doesn’t feel any different than 59 felt, or 55 for that matter. I confess that I don’t remember the last time the oldometer clicked over to a zero. I was in Florida at the time and turning 50 doesn’t even register a vague memory.

But I can tell you that how I am is very different. Where I was a trainwreck in the years between 50 and 55, lost after a broken heart and stuck in a state where I didn’t belong, I am terrific now.

Not that every day is gloriously carefree. I creak and ache more than I used to. Age is slowly creeping in here and there. But my brain still thinks it’s in its 20s, so I am still writing checks I probably can’t cash in the morning.

Still, I am at peace for the most part these days. Much of the drama that permeated my very existence has fallen by the wayside. I don’t feel any need to please anyone else at the expense of my own happiness. I don’t really care what others think of me. I don’t have to sell my soul for my profession. I am loved deeply by a great woman and wonderful friends. I have a roof over my head, my bills are mostly paid, I have food in my tummy, most of my health and almost all of my body parts.

I have never had my body cut open to fix something yet. I’ve been fortunate in that part. My teeth have always been crap. I guess that’s a trade-off for never needing major surgery elsewhere.

In short, life is pretty damned good. I deserve it, too. I’ve had some real hardships over the years. I’ve made some classically bad errors in judgment. I have chosen my friends unwisely at times. I fell in love with the devil incarnate at one time.

I overcame them all. Life didn’t beat me. Every time I got back up, dusted myself off and started all over again. I think I deserve a little respite now and then. The hard work paid off.

It’s hard to come to terms sometimes with the fact that your biggest decisions have been your worst. The powers that be keep trying to give you hints that you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, that you’re no longer even swimming upstream against the tide, but drowning.

It’s just part of the journey, I guess. Thankfully, the older I get the more I realize that I know less and less. When I was younger, I thought I knew it all. Perhaps we all do. But these days, I’ve come to realize that I only know a lot about a little, and very little about a lot.

And I found out that peace is one of the rarest commodities on earth. It’s very precious. I wish I had had the balls to be more courageous in my younger days, more willing to articulate and stick to boundaries so that I wouldn’t let others use and abuse me. I’ve found that while far from perfect, I am a pretty good guy who’s pretty good with his life and the way it’s all panning out.

I’ve also come to realize that age is just a made up number. I turned 60 because the earth spins once around the sun once every 365 days. If I was on Mars right now, I’d only be 32 years old by the same measure.

Hey, wait! That sounds good to me. The next time someone asks me if I’m from Mars or something, I’m going to say “yes!”

That way I’ll still be that pirate looking at 40 instead of 60.

In the Emerald City, firemen on standby as I blow out this wildfire of candles,

  • Robb

 
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Damned Failures!

Posted by admin on May 21, 2018 in Culture
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I am a Boomer. I used to be proud to be part of this generation. I mean, we are the majority of the country, or at least we were until those upstart Millennials came along. We were the generation that marched against an unjust war, fought for racial equality, embraced the women’s movement, got rid of our gas guzzlers and watched man walk on the moon.

We had so much potential. As a kid, I thought we would be the ones that finally got our arms around pollution and rid ourselves of our dependence on oil. I thought we would solve the homeless crisis and make sure that no child went hungry at night. I believed that we would not only give peace a chance, but make it the rule of the land. I thought we were the ones who would change the world.

Yes, we’ve made some inroads along the way. But I think our idealism has faded to a pragmatism that has turned us into spectators instead of activists. It’s almost like we’ve pulled out our collective rocking chairs and decided that we already did our part. We tried, we failed, so let’s just move on.

Maybe we just burned ourselves out in our youths. Maybe we tried so hard to change the world when we were in our teens and 20s that we don’t have any umph left in us. Or, perhaps, we simply sold out in the 80s and became the Yuppies we used to make fun of, consumed with power, status and possessions.

Just look at the McMansions springing up around us. Mid-century homes that were once big enough to hold families of five, six or even more, are being bulldozed to make way for 4,000 square foot houses for two, or maybe three, if the couple decides to accessorize their lives with a child.

This would be fine, of course, if we had managed to solve at least some of our problems. Instead, we live in a society that is crumbling around the edges, largely because we aren’t willing to fight for the future anymore, or worse, we’ve believe that’s the job of the X’ers and Millennials now. That somehow we did our time.

Recent events show that we obviously didn’t. Our society has become increasingly racists, separatist and worse, we can’t even protect our children or grandchildren in a school.

Over the weekend there was the horrible statistic that since the first of the year, more children have been killed in our schools than in battle. Let that sink in for a moment. I mean, I am nearly 60 and I have never seen this in my lifetime.

And yet, we are almost complacent about it. While children were dying and others were fighting for their lives over the weekend, we were posting about whether we heard Yanny or Laurel, like it was the most important thing we had to talk about.

Post after post. Mind numbing stupidity after stupidity.

We have become a sad people. We are failing as a generation because we don’t tackle the hard job of figuring out a way to protect kids from monsters who shoot up schools.

Now, before you jump on the pro-gun or anti-gun soapbox, spare me. Guns are forever part of our lives. They are, for better or worse, protected under the 2nd Amendment. Spare me the cheap shots on either side. They won’t bring these children back to life, and they aren’t going to save your child or grandchild the next time some disgruntled nut job decides to shoot up a school, a movie theater, mall or park.

I don’t pretend to have the answers. What I can tell you is that we have created these monsters. We have retreated into the safety of our own phones and social media to ponder the importance of Yanny and Laurel. We don’t talk to our neighbors anymore, or the person waiting for the bus, or even the cashier at the store. Hell, some of us barely talk to our kids.

We are an island nation. We’re all in it for ourselves and damn everyone else. I see it during my daily commute every day. The streets of Seattle are filled with Phone Zombies who stare blankly at their machines as they walk down the street. They have checked out of the world. We have checked out of the world.

And children are dying because of our failure. I heard one idiot official in Texas, yes, the Lieutenant Governor, who said we should have just one entrance/exit and arm all the teachers. Now there’s a solution. The monster waits by that entrance in a protected position (say around a corner) and plucks off the armed teachers and students as they obey the fire drill protocols. And this guy got elected.

Another guy got elected last year, too. Instead of leading the way in curbing this violence he posts about some spy thing in an election that happened two years ago already. Yes, I ordered flags at half-staff and offered the requisite thoughts and prayers.

Well, it’s time to can the thoughts and prayers crap. And the moments of silence. I have to agree with singer Kelly Clarkson who last night asked for moments of action instead of silence. How long are we going to stand for this violence against our children?

It’s time for tough conversations. Ones where we actually listen to each other, ones where we offer solutions instead of the same ol’ same ol’ blame game and retreats into self-righteousness. Children are dying. Elected officials aren’t stepping up at any level. It’s time for the Boomers to fight one last good fight.

We owe it to our parents. They put their lives on the line to stop Hitler and his evil axis from taking over the world. We can’t even stop a nut from shooting up a school. What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong with our generation?

Do we still have one more fight left in us? Or is the only thing we can seem to agree on these days is whether it was Yanny or Laurel?

In the Emerald City, wondering what became of my generation,

  • Robb

 

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