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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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Next Time. Maybe.

Posted by admin on May 14, 2018 in Life Lessons
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My son turned 20 a couple days ago. For his birthday, we decided to take him to one of his favorite local restaurants. He was running a bit late, it was happy hour, and well, the beer finally got to me.

Not in a drunk kind of way, mind you, but in a bladder kind of way. Excusing myself, I sauntered off to the restroom. On the way, I made a note about one of my many imperfections, then dismissed it with a nonchalant utterance, “I’ll fix it the next time around.”

To some, that would be a very bold statement, to others, it would be nothing short of blasphemy.

Me? I find it nearly impossible to believe that this is the only time we get to exist. Now, I’m not sure where we go, but I think we have to take several trips around the universe before we’re evolved enough to go to that final, final destination.

Which means I get a couple more do-overs.

Hedging this bet, I am writing this RobZerrvation to let my next self know some things to avoid the next time around, things that would have made this life much more productive and often less painful.

So bear with me as I help out my future self.

Dear me,

If you’re reading this then 1) you died, 2) you got another turn, and 3) don’t blow it like you did the last one(s).

First things first. Convince your brother that he should take you somewhere on Labor Day weekend in 1972. Anywhere but Brewster, Washington. He doesn’t need to drown again on his next turn around.

Remember that you can’t help your dad. He had lots of demons. As a little boy, you can’t help him in his fight. Instead, try to be more understanding of his mental and health issues, don’t be such a turd, and try to ease his pain without building a ballfield in a cornfield in Iowa.

In high school, don’t fall for the girl who is selling Ojo de Dioses in the Spanish booth at the International Fair. You will meet a lot of girls in college that you would have loved to have dated if you hadn’t married your “high school sweetheart.” There will be lots of sweethearts, my boy. Lots. No need to be tied down at 20, at least in the married sort of way.

This, by the way, will solve the second faux pas automatically. Your family stopped talking to you over that whole hand in the other cookie jar thing. If you had avoided getting married, you couldn’t have had that affair, and you wouldn’t have spent tens of thousands of dollars in the intervening years getting crappy cars fixed because your brother would still be your mechanic.

I’m sure there are some other reasons you would have liked to have your brothers in your life – perhaps you could have gotten a crack at that 7,000-year-old alien your brother was having sex with, the one with the spaceship parked behind Mt. Si.

On second thought…

Assuming you still have children in your 20s, spend more time with them. Make sure they aren’t conceived nine months before the end of July. Seafair parade season and pirating always gave you a twisted view of priorities. Remember next time: your children first, your own childhood second.

I’d like to tell you not to move as much as you did. I mean, really, 26 times? But then, you are something of a gypsy and bon vivant. The change of scenery did you well at times, and you got rid of a lot of stuff you didn’t need in the process. Still, you really didn’t need to buy three miter saws in your lifetime. Next time, take the first one with you.

In the career department, well, you got something right. I mean, who gets to make stuff and get paid to do it for 33 years? You only did real work the first four years when you were in the mailroom. Not bad!

I would say that next time, you don’t want to run your own show for 20 years. Find a good state job earlier. I mean, you got into it later in life when you could have gone into public service much earlier. That pension is looking pretty good now. Just imagine what it would have been like after 20 or 30 years instead of six.

Now for the biggy. If you ever go pirating in Key West, don’t speak to any reporters. Don’t even give them a second glance. Definitely, do not invite them to your house for their birthday. And whatever you do, don’t be stupid enough to run away with them to Florida. Nothing comes of it. I mean nothing. 

I know you don’t want to hear that. You love to think that there was some purpose to your eight years in the Land of the Mouse. Yes, you met some lifelong friends there, but otherwise? Nada. Zilch. Zero.

Honestly, you could have faced your demons at home. You could have stayed in Seattle. Next time, if the opportunity presents itself, stick around. Move into an apartment if you have to, get a divorce again, but whatever you do, stay, don’t go.

And watch your email. Somewhere along the way you’re going to get an email application from a Red Handed Jill. She wants to join your pirate group. Last time around, this happened while you were in Florida. 

If you stay in Seattle this time, Red Handed Jill will be able to join your little performing troupe. You will get to meet her sooner. She will turn out to be the one you always dreamed of. If you play your cards right next time around, you will get to marry her earlier and get more years with her than you did this time around.

Her real name is Kat, by the way. You’ll like her. Trust me. And you’ll wonder why you ever spent time looking for happiness 3,000 miles away when she grew up right in your own backyard. She’s a Rainier Valley girl.

Remember, Peter Pan doesn’t always have to fly off to Neverland to find adventure. Especially when Red Handed Jill was there all along, waiting with a handful of pixie dust so you could soar together in ways you never, ever imagined.

  • Robb

 
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Party of One, Please!

Posted by admin on April 23, 2018 in Life Lessons
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Life has been something of a red carpet ride over the last couple months. No, I haven’t been binge-watching Aladdin. I’m talking about the red carpet that stars walk down, the one where all the flashes of light are happening to the point where you almost go blind.

I’ve been having these flashes lately – no, not hot flashes. I’m talking about flashes of clarity, flashes of brilliance, and downright profundity.

Why, oh why doesn’t all of this happen earlier in life? It’s been so freeing, these flashes. Suddenly, new perspectives about life and its meaning are manifested, and I’ve been able to come to the realization that I’ve wasted a hell of a lot of time trying to fix others and convince them that they should see the world as I see it.

What a total waste of time. It’s not entirely my fault, though. Since we were all kids, we’ve been put into boxes so that we think we share some kind of magical DNA with others because of our proclivities. You know the boxes we are grouped in: the jocks, the popular kids, the dweebs, the parking lotters, the braniacs, etc.

So why wouldn’t we assume that life is like that?

As a result, I would try to point out the error of the ways of others, trying to elevate them a bit in their station in life. Maybe it was just a poor choice made along the way or some bad information they acted upon, or even a momentary disconnect from reality.

My reality. Not theirs.

 

I guess that’s what happens when we’re younger. We want everyone to have the same ride we’re having. But then, somewhere down the line, you come to realize that they can’t possibly go on your journey as they have their own journey to complete. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that we aren’t all in those convenient boxes our teachers, parents and society used put us in.

But then this day of reckoning arrives. You don’t ask for it. It just comes to you. It’s the day you finally realize that you can’t help everyone. Hell, you can’t even help those closest to you sometimes. You’re own sage wisdom and insights don’t mean diddly-squat to someone else because they can’t possibly see the world through your eyes.

There were times over the years when I tried to get people better jobs, jobs that were actually better than them. On many occasions, I tried to convince others that my view on politics, religion, relationships, and literally hundreds of other topics was the correct one and that their own views were based on some sort of flawed logic.

Mind you, the only flaw in the logic was that it wasn’t my logic.

Lately, I’ve come to realize that I don’t know jack-shit about much. As I’ve said to others, I know a lot about a little, but and very little about a lot.

I know very little about the life of others. I can’t possibly know. No one has the same journey. Everyone has different demons to face, mountains to climb and dreams to aspire to, and most important, everyone has their own reality.

 

Yes, reality.

On Facebook I see so many people telling others, “well, they don’t really know the truth.”.

Really? Whose truth? Yours? Or the real truth we hear so much about. The one that doesn’t exist.

When I first started out in my career in corporate communications, I had a sign on my office door that had three rules.

  • If it sounds good it must be true.
  • Perception is reality.
  • Truth is relative.

I’ve come to understand that the last two rules are actually quite true.

Stay with me now…

Facts are things that happen. They don’t have a positive or negative charge. They just are. These are things like the sky is blue, man walked on the moon and Tuesday follows Monday. Simple stuff.

But the truth? You have yours and I have mine. Rain falls, thunder claps. When I was a kid, I actually believed the angels were crying and God was angry. That was my truth. No one, not even my parents could convince me otherwise.

As I got older, the facts changed this truth and many other truths. But this is a very simple fact. Facts related to relationships, politics, religion and (fill in the blank here), aren’t so black and white. The facts are still there, but every person on earth has added their own emotions, experiences, knowledge and belief systems into those facts.

That’s how you end up with different truths. The facts are all the same, but your truth may not match mine on everything. We are, after all, unique. In the history of mankind, there has never been another you or another me. We are a one-off, not a mass production. We are a party of one.

All the many facts in our world, along with the various truths of others, end up in our Mental Cuisinart, whirring around to create our view of the world. For example, some people maintain we never landed on the moon. Yet, with a powerful enough telescope here on Earth, you can see the various descent stages still sitting on the surface, along with cool little wheel tracks left by the Lunar Rovers.

That reality, that fact, isn’t going to change some people’s views about landing on the moon. So why do you think your opinion, or your version of the truth, is going to magically sway them about something else?

 

As I surf the Internet these days, I see so much of the world trying to convince one side or the other that they are the only ones who are right.

Really? How full of yourself can you be to think that you’re the one who’s right? Well, truth be told – and in the interest of full disclosure this is my truth I am telling – you are the one who’s always right… but only right for you!

Eventually, you come to the stark realization that all that energy you’re expending, all those false lines in the sand that you’re drawing, all that “truth” you’re sharing, is for naught.

Few people want that flimflam elixir of truth you’re peddling from the back of your wagon. What they really want is your understanding, your compassion and empathy, and the recognition and appreciation that they aren’t you and can never be you. They are, just as we all are, a party of one.

In the Emerald City, waiting for that table for one back by the kitchen,

  • Robb

 
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Good Grief.

Posted by admin on April 9, 2018 in Life Lessons
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I have finally reached the age when funerals are more common than births in my circle of friends. O.K., so I’ve been at this age for some time, but I so love being in denial. It keeps me young.

When I was 30, I even made light of the whole death thing. The theme of the party was Grim Reaper, inviting people to watch me put my first foot in the grave. If I use my limited math skills, that would mean that I’m supposed to put my other foot in this year. Ain’t gonna happen.

At least I like to think it’s going to happen. As of late, some people fairly close to me have been passing away, often unexpectedly, so who really knows? Life seems to pass by like you’re in the passenger seat of a car. When you look out the front life seems like it’s barely moving, but look out the side window doing 70 and everything just flies right by. Don’t even get me started on with the rearview mirror.

Which brings me to the tougher subject. Those who pass get, well, something of a pass. They don’t have to pick up the pieces of their life or yours. Those remaining get to do all the heavy lifting, working through all those shitty stages of grief while everyone blows sunshine up their butt telling them it will all get better.

Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you move through all the stages – even revisit a couple along the way in a cruel circle of life way – only to end up on the other side, still missing the person every day.

It’s that way with my brother. I’ve written a lot about his passing when he was only 24 and I was 14. Losing a loved one at that age is particularly hard, especially a bigger than life brother who was also your hero. I never got over it. I never will. I think about him almost daily. People still wonder why I don’t go to any activities on Labor Day weekend. That’s when he died. I hardly feel like celebrating.

The sad parts about grief are: 1) there’s no time limit and 2) someone didn’t have to die to feel the same sense of loss.

They say that divorce brings on the same sense of loss and sadness. Sure, the other person is still alive (though oft times we wish they weren’t). But the relationship itself has died, along with many of your biggest hopes and dreams. It’s as if you were in that car again and the Thelma to your Louise suddenly slams on the brakes, opens the door and says “Get out!” There you are, not knowing what happened or what to do next.

I’ve suffered other losses over the years, my father in 1981 and my mother more recently. My dad was only 57. My mother lived a very long life and I had a lot of time to adjust to the fact that she was going to die someday, but to this day I still have her phone number in my phone and more than once, have tried to call her. (Geez, I’m tearing up just typing this).

Such is grief. Just when you think you got it licked, it comes back around and whacks you upside the head.

Therapists and so-called experts say that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Yeah, right. Maybe in a cold, hard clinical setting. But in the real world of emotional upheaval, denial and anger along with that depression thing can be real doozies. And acceptance? Really? Why?

The truth of the matter is, life can really suck at times. And accepting that people or a relationship have died is damned hard, especially when you’re haunted by memories of the past.

With some people, those memories are grand and glorious. You want to wrap yourselves up in a blanket of them to get you through a cold night of reality.

But others, they aren’t so good. Especially when the other person is still living. You may not have moved on yet but they are still there, living an entirely new life, one that doesn’t have you in it.

How the hell do you move on from that easily? Since I’m something of an expert here, I will tell you that you don’t. It’s really easy when you’re the one moving on. There are no pieces to pick up.

But when you’re on the receiving end? It’s the worst. As I said, something or someone dies. And with that death, all your hopes and dreams for the future die too. One moment you’re rocketing down the road of life. The next, you’re standing on the side of the road, overwhelmed by all the baggage that got dumped on you.

It’s tough to move on either way. It’s hard to think that tomorrow will be better than today or that next year will be better than this one. Today sucks! So why shouldn’t tomorrow?

All we can really do is try our best to live in the moment we have. I still miss my brother, mother and father. Geez, I still miss my dog to the point where I can’t get a new one. I still grieve a little now and then. It doesn’t come in big waves like it used to. Now it’s just a little ripple once in a while. A ripple of sadness or moment of reflection that makes me wish things would have, could have, turned out differently.

It can’t or didn’t, of course. But that acceptance thing is a hard pill to swallow sometimes. I try my best to live in the moment these days, is it is all I’ve got. But some of my memories are still farm-fresh. And while I’d like to say that I’ve mastered those five stages of grief, every instance of loss offers up a new Rubik’s Cube of feelings that like to take their own time, surprising me and beguiling me with their endless twists and turns, causing me to wonder if I’ve really moved on at all.

Damn you death. Damn you divorce. Damn you grief.

In the Emerald City, putting all those emotional boxes back on the shelf for the day,

  • Robb

 

 
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It’s Not That Simple.

Posted by admin on March 26, 2018 in The Soapbox
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There’s a lot of experts in this world of ours these days. I see them on TV, on LinkedIn, and of course, our favorite soapbox, Facebook. They seem to have all the answers. Some even pretend to be thought leaders, whatever the hell that means!

Lately, everyone seems to be an expert on gun violence. Those on the right think more guns in more hands is the answer, including arming teachers. Those on the left think we have too many guns and that’s why we’re violent. The right fires back (pardon the pun) that mental illness is the problem, while the left returns fire saying we have too many assault weapons and that’s the biggest problem.

Really? I wonder about this question a lot. We all want easy answers, but is the answer really too many guns or not enough guns? If only it could be that simple.

There have always been guns in our fair land. It’s part of the fabric of our society. In our earliest days, they freed us from tyranny, in pioneer times they fed families, and in the Wild West, they kept rowdy, lawless towns lawful.

Carrying a gun was normal back then, but notice, nobody broke into the local schoolhouse and shot it up. My guess is, there were people with mental problems back then, but they didn’t shoot students or schoolmarms.

I grew up in a house with a gun. We had a Walther P38 under my parent’s bed. It was always loaded. It was never locked up. My dad would show it to us four boys once in a while. We knew where it was, but we also knew never to touch it. If we did, we would rue the day. We wouldn’t be able to sit for weeks after our dad took a hand to us for such an incursion.

Which got me to thinking. If guns have been part of our culture for so long, and mental illness isn’t the root cause of all these shootings, perhaps video games and violent TV shows are to blame.

Well, I grew up on some pretty violent shows. I mean, people got shot every night on Dragnet, Rat Patrol, Get Smart and every wild West show, including, Wild Wild West, as if one Wild wasn’t enough to show how wild it really was back then.

My son, for his part, has been playing violent video games since he was 8. He should be a mass murderer by now. But he is one of the gentlest souls I know.

Yes, these are just two people in this world of ours. But if the logic is that violent TV or violent games cause people to be violent, then Parker and I should be out there shooting the world up. Yet, we are just the opposite.

So what has changed? Is it really the ready availability of guns? Are there really more mentally ill out there as a percentage of society than there was in Dodge City?

I think perhaps the biggest reason we see more violence now than in the past is the breakdown of our social networks.

First, the nuclear family is history. Mom and dad both have to work to keep a roof over everyone’s heads, so kids are latchkey. When I was a kid, my mom would greet me when I got home. She would ask me how my day went and I didn’t get a pass. I had to tell her. Plus, I wanted to tell her.

My family was far from perfect, but we all would gather around the dinner table regularly and talk about our days. My parents knew what was going on in our lives. They were interested. They gently poked and prodded where appropriate and if there was ever trouble in our lives, watch out! My mild-mannered mom and dad could really cause some whoop-ass on the perpetrator, principal or bully.

Today, parents seem to treat their kids like accessories. They are shuttled off to ball practice, ballet or whatever pursuit. Worse, they are set in front of the TV at a very young age to watch “age-appropriate” shows while their parents indulge in their adult lives, rather than spending quality time with their kids. They let the kids run on autopilot rather than teaching them the family’s values.

And there lies another problem. When I was a kid, we were taught about the importance of respecting others, the meaning of the Golden Rule, the sanctity of life, and most important, consequences. We knew from an early age that real life was very different from the one showed on television. If someone on Dragnet died, you might see them in a Twilight episode in another week or two. In real life, if someone died, they didn’t come back. We understood death and its place in life. We understood the sense of loss and the sense of grief. And we understood consequences, which in my family meant a whoopin’ or time in the corner.

But we don’t teach these things to our children anymore and we rarely hold them accountable in a meaningful way. Now, before you get on me about the fact that you do, I am talking about society in general. If you learn about any of these mass murderers, you start to find that they come from broken homes, faced some kind of personal trauma, or acted out for any number of reasons, such as being bullied.

I was bullied. But I didn’t turn into a mass murderer. My mom and dad taught me how to cope with the bad things in our world, with the personal defeats, the setbacks, and the fact that life itself isn’t fair, even under the best of circumstances. We weren’t mollycoddled. We were taught to be tough, strong and resilient, to never give up, to face our fears and to deal with the inequities and inequalities of life. And when all else failed, to have a sense of humor about this wild ride we call life.

I’m not trying to have the answer or be a thought leader here. But I think if we look at the present and think about what is truly different from our past, it may be the fact that we aren’t treasuring the family like we used to, social media has become our new parents, brothers and sisters, and that in the process, we’ve lost some of most of our humanity, which has kept us moving together as a society since we climbed out of the primordial ooze.

You be the judge. And while you’re rolling this around in your head, shut off the TV, turn off the smartphone and spend some time with your kids. Trust me, it will never hurt.

In the Emerald City, knowing that all is not lost, if we only have the courage to find the way,

  • Robb

 
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Make It Happen, Cap’n.

Posted by admin on March 12, 2018 in Life Lessons
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We are all so blessed to be alive. If you don’t believe me, consider the alternative. As I grow older, more and more people I know are passing on to their next journey. Some are older than I, which softens the blow, while others are younger, hitting home the message that you better enjoy every stinking moment you have here because your moments are finite.

I admit that I had slipped into something of a malaise about life in the past year. I started to become a spectator in some areas of life rather than a participant. I think that’s natural as you go through life. Taking a pause lets you figure out where to go next.

But with fewer and fewer moments to go, long periods of spectating can become wasteful. None of us really knows when that final bell will ring. We close our eyes for a moment, only to find they are closed for good.

I certainly got the message recently. I awoke suddenly last week with a message pounding in my head. It said in no uncertain terms: “Stop waiting for something to happen. Make something happen instead!”

It woke me right out of a dead sleep. I couldn’t shake it. God was certainly giving me a lecture. When Kat finally woke up, I told her about this message I had been sent. Her eyes grew wide and she said, “I got the same message.”

Cue the spooky music.

I suppose this could all be because the wife of a dear friend passed the previous weekend. That certainly made the message make sense. But the added sense of immediacy was awe-inspiring, especially since Kat and I got the same message at the same time.

So, here’s the thing. We all get so immersed in things that absolutely don’t really matter in our lives. I will start with politics. For some, these are scary times. I get it. But to continually bitch about it in endless Facebook posts is a total waste of these moments. No one is listening anyway. If you have friends with the same viewpoints, you’re preaching to the proverbial choir. If you have friends with divergent viewpoints, they aren’t going to suddenly have an epiphany because of a meme you posted.

If you want to make the moments matter, go out and organize protests. Become an activist. Commit yourself to doorbelling or getting the vote out for candidates who align with your beliefs. Just stop wasting precious moments (and energy) bitching and whining.

The same, of course, could be true about life in general. In this hectic world of ours, we rarely stop long enough to soak in the miracle that we are here. Not just breathing and being alive, but knowing that we are. It’s said that we are the only creatures on Earth that have this conscious thought, that we know we exist.

While you’re rolling that around in your head, take an extra moment to realize how lucky we all are to have been born on this planet. It’s the Goldilocks of planets, folks. Not too warm, not too cold. Just right. And it’s freaking beautiful. Sure, we’ve done some damage to it, but again, if you want to fix that wrong, use your time to clean a beach rather than bitch all about plastic on Facebook. Do something to better the world. Talk is cheap, my friends. Action is everything.

 

In my own life, action means getting off my ass and getting my band out playing more. My band of pirates in one incarnation or another has been a central part of my life for the last 35 years. I have let it slide for a while, trying to keep other folks happy as well. That was the wrong course, so now its full speed ahead on the performing side, including making our first studio recording, which has been on the to-do list for, um, 35 years.

Life, as we all know, or at least should know, is damned short. Wasting a single moment doing anything that you don’t love or which isn’t aligned with who you are is a total waste of time. In the end, it doesn’t matter if other people don’t like you or bitch about you behind your back. Life is not a popularity contest. Life is about living every moment fully and unapologetically, moving to the beat of your own drummer. In the end, you are judged by what you did, not who you know.

With one exception. If you have someone who cares about you – the real you – not that fake person you show others, then spend every moment you can with them, appreciate these moments like they are the precious diamonds they are, and let these people know how much you appreciate the fact that they have chosen to spend their limited time with you.

I saw a movie recently that asked the question: “Who is on your boat?” The people that truly matter are the people you would take with you on an around the world cruise in a small sailboat. These are the people you trust, trust with your life. They are the ones who bring you all the joy, the laughter, the comradery, the love that makes life worth living.

My own crew in this regard is about seven people. This is my tribe. These are the people who make my moments count most. They are the ones that make life worth living.

If you find anyone who loves you – the real you with all your dents and dings – hold onto them for dear life. Let them know that you’re present in that moment, that you are there heart and soul; not distracted by the fact that your hairdresser messed up or the waitress forgot to put your dressing on the side.

Remind yourself that this moment is the only one that is guaranteed in life. The past is the past – let it go. The future is uncertain at best and at worst, a bit of a myth. Cling to now, cling to this moment and wring all the life out of each moment you can.

So when that when that final bell rings and you close your eyes and they don’t open again, you know that life was worth living and that you lived it fully.

In the Emerald City, enjoying the moment,

  • Robb

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