Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Pets Part 1

February 25, 2010

Driving home from ballet yesterday Grace was talking about the cute little lap dogs she wants.  I would interject, “When you move out you mean?” with a smile.  She would ignore that comment and continue on about these little dog hybrids and how badly we need one.   I can see it now; she’ll be walking down the streets of Manhattan with a little dog in a big purse.  The dog will be wearing a hat, cape, and go go boots.  It will have one of those names like Mrs. D.  It will only eat a certain type of food from a can and only when Grace feeds it to her with a certain spoon.  It will develop skin allergies and lose all of its hair.  The vet bill to fix this with steroids and follicle implants will be more than she makes dancing for SAB, but that’s OK.  She takes a third job to pay that bill and together they live happily ever after.

Then the conversation shifted to accusations that I hate all animals because I won’t drive right then to buy her this little furry bundle of love.  I hate animals?  Why do we have two cats?  We’ve had dogs, other cats, snakes, hamsters, and fish.  I don’t hate animals.  I have a full schedule and it doesn’t include adding more responsibilities to the list.  I’m not a pet person right now.  I don’t want to have to let dogs in, out, clean up after them, and feed them.  “I will,” she said sincerely.  Yeah she will for a week or less and then it’s on me.  We’ve done this experiment time and time again and it always comes back to me so…when you live in New York and you are dancing for SAB you can have a Puggle, Wiggle, Fuggle,  Piggle or any of the list of little shark bait dogs and I will visit it.

As a kid we had four dogs.  The first, Coco, was a brown poodle who didn’t mind.  The only way we could get it to come in the house was for me to run around yelling “charge!”  It would eventually follow me and I’d run in the house.  Once when we were visiting my grandmother Coco ran next door, knocked down a little girl, and bit her arm.  It was nothing serious…just a nip.  After that he took a ride with my dad and never returned.  Then they bought a poodle who behaved.  We named her coco # 2…because the kids were in charge of naming her.  We had cats.  I saw kittens born.  We had a Samoyed.  Those are white sled dogs.  She was hit by a car in front of our house, in the winter, on a snowy day.  I witnessed it.  Then our house burned to the ground and Coco # 2 and all of the other pets perished. 

My kids have seen their share of heart ache when it comes to our pets.  Nick, our lab, died of a heart attack in front of them.  That was…a life lesson.  Our coolest cat Henry was killed by a hawk on Father’s day.  Our oldest pet Tater just went to the white light earlier this month.  He was 22.  Yep he lived a long, grumpy life.  The older he grew, the grumpier he became.  He was older than Grace and Carly.  He missed Henry.  After Henry was buried Tater began this annoying habit of howling.  Not a normal cat howl.  This was more like a dying wolf.  It started low and would build like a storm siren.  It jolted you out of bed at three AM like a storm siren too.  Some times he’d do it when I was on a business call.  The person on the other line would always say, “Do you need to evacuate?” or “What is that sound?  Is everything OK?”  I’d cover by saying, “They are testing the sprinkler system in our office building.”  Tater had a stroke.  I had to use an axe to cut through the frozen tundra and bury him in a short ceremony in the back yard.  We are left with two cats, Tina and Tyler.  We rescued them when they were two weeks old.  We bottle fed them along with their brother Tim.  Tim lives with my brother…Tom and his kids.  Don’t worry none of them have names that start with a “T”.  It’s a hassle to keep the girls on task with the litter box.  I’m over the pet experience.  I like fish.  They are like living art and when they die…you flush them end of story.

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The Spy Who Dumped Me

February 18, 2010

Keely’s oldest sister, Cheryl seemed to be living the dream.  She met a guy named Al when she was twenty.  They fell in love.  Her parents didn’t like him because he was…Catholic.  Yeah I hear the gasps.  I’m not sure what their issue was with the Catholics….world domination?  No they were from a small town, Newark, Ohio.  This was after Russian Missile Crisis by a couple of years so world domination wasn’t an issue.  It may have had to do with the fact that Catholics gambled at church or drank openly.  Some religions prefer to keep those things under wraps.  It’s a sin if you do it in public.  If you do it at home or at a private club…they won’t judge you, but judge the Catholics all you want. 

This all took place back in the early sixties.  Cheryl is older than Keely by more than a decade so she was more like an aunt/big sister than a sister who grew up with her.  Al and Cheryl moved to the suburbs of Washington DC where she worked for the FBI.  He worked as an agent for the CIA with some type of Top Secret clearance.  He couldn’t really tell you what he did, but it involved a lot of high level sneaking around in different countries.  When unrest would happen around the world he would kiss Cheryl on the cheek and disappear for months with out communication.  Then he would return, go through debriefing, call her on his shoe phone to let her know he was back, and they would resume their suburban life.  I tried to speak with him about it once.  Since he really couldn’t tell me what he did he told me that he was constantly going through debriefing and background checks and different clearances.  I’m sure he was thoroughly interrogated once they saw him talking with me.  I was doing stand up at the time and George Bush senior made for good fodder.  I took a box of matches from a bartending job once too.  In the spy world you can’t associate with a known match thief who bad mouth’s the president.  I’m sure he was water boarded for hours. 

From what I could tell he led the life of a Tom Clancy novel…without all of the fist fights or hot actresses.  When Keely introduced us I said, “You could kill me with your pen right now couldn’t you.”  Then his shoe rang and he had to leave town.  OK I made up the part about a shoe phone.  I’m sure his phone was implanted in his brain or doubles as a button.

Cheryl struck me as a little too dingy to work for the FBI.  She came to visit once.  She drove from DC.  She called from the car and said she was lost driving around Indianapolis and needed directions.  I asked where she was and it turns out…she was in Columbus OH.  She had been driving around the wrong city, in the wrong state, for an hour, without noticing.  That’s when I asked, “Does she work for the FBI?”

Eventually Al grew tired of sneaking around the world so they took early retirement and moved to a golf course community in North Carolina.  He consulted while Cheryl …learned to read maps.  Anyway she developed coordination issues and after many tests was diagnosed with ALS.  Weeks later Al left her for his sister-in-law in Chicago.  Apparently even though he was retired the top secret missions continued…at his brother’s house!  I’m sure it started out innocently.  He thought she was a Russian operative with a top secret vagina that needed further investigation.  He interrogated her at some clandestine hotel in an evening filled with Hummer’s, hand cuffs, and other military hardware used in this type of espionage.  Man!  Some guys buy red sports cars others…do their brother’s wife!  They fell into lust and he packed up and moved at a time when his wife needed him most.  Her health is deteriorating and so are his morals.  Ironic that he worked in intelligence his entire life yet shows a certain lack of it now that he’s retired.

Winter Olympics

February 16, 2010

I find the Winter Olympics more inspiring than the Summer Games by a land slide.  The beauty of the mountains, the snow, the ice, childhood dreams fulfilled.  Many of the sports seem to be games that kids made up and played long ago in their spare time after school. Like the luge, it’s sledding on steroids.  I remember daydreaming about being in that competition as a kid.  Since I lived in Indiana the day dreams were short because the hills aren’t very tall. Blink your eye and the fantasy is over and it’s time to walk back to the top of the hill for another brief ride.  We had a neighbor that lived on the top edge of a valley.  He had a sledding trail cut through the trees down the side of the valley’s edge.  The drop was steep enough the trees never came into play except to give it a more of an alpine feel.   No bank turns, no ninety mile per hour runs, nothing an energy drink would want to sponsor, but it kept us engaged for hours. 

Look at snow boarding, speed skating, down hill skiing, ice hockey, ski jumping.  Those are all sports that have kid ingenuity and fun written all over them.  Since kids will be kids they became competitive.  One thing led to another, parents got a hold of the idea, organized it, found support from local businesses and a cottage sport was born.  Then ABC’s Wide World of Sports found it or more recently, MTV, and the rest is history.  I think the only winter sport that didn’t evolve that way was curling.  That must have been invented by some grumpy old men who could no longer play hockey.  They liked the ice, they were still competitive, and they had cabin fever.  They told their wives they were going out to sweep the snow off the front porch.  One of their friends was ice fishing in the neighborhood pond.  They gathered down there to see if he was having luck.  It was cold.  The fish were frozen.  One old man pushed the frozen fish to the other with the broom and a sport was born.  Using fish wasn’t practical.  One of the old men was a stone carver, because that’s what they did before Wii was invented.  The rest is history.

Decades later their great grandkids grew to be successful business people who retired, moved to Florida, and invented Shuffle Board.

We have two ponds near our home.  Every winter we look forward to the days that are cold enough to freeze the ice to a safe thickness.  I drill a hole to test the ice and we skate outside in the evening.  That is inspiring.  The air is crisp, the stars are out, and the girls are laughing and acting goofy.  There is a freedom that comes with skating outdoors under the big sky.  The girls choreograph little performance pieces or we play tag.  They pretend they are tracking some type of alpine animal as they skate around.  We don’t talk about any of the pressures of life.  We just laugh, dream, and play in the winter night.  Those times are better than any of my childhood dreams.  Those are a few hours of perfection in our busy time that I carry in my heart.  We relive them as we watch skating in the Olympics.  The hours of dedication it takes to nurture your passion.   The childhood dream realized and the tears shed on the podium during the medal presentation.  Pride, passion, dedication, we live it every day as the girls train for ballet.  It’s nice to see examples of how that hard work pays off.  Their tears are real and their emotion is pure, as pure as childhood fun that is found on a frozen pond at night or in the daydreams of a boy, in a sled, on a small hill in Indiana.

Sexting the Wrong Number and Other Goofs

February 14, 2010

When Carly’s boyfriend went to college she lobbied for me to get a web cam so they could Skype.  She missed him and felt that if she could see him when they spoke it would make the distance seem shorter.  I was a boy in college once too.  If I had this technology I know what I would do.  I would enjoy talking with and seeing my girlfriend on the computer for about a week.  I would spend the next week trying to talk her into taking off her shirt.

After weeks of hearing her beg, I agreed to split the cost of a web cam provided she only used it in the family room when I’m there.  Using it in the family room if I’m gone …doesn’t work.  I can hear the conversation.  Boyfriend, “Just show me real quick while your dad’s gone.  Come on just real quick.  No one’s here.  No one will know.  If you love me you’ll do it.  Please!”  I know the tricks.  I was eighteen. 

Skype is only one of the tools boys can use to see the goods.  Sexting is another.  As much as I try to educate my daughters on boys and the do’s and don’ts it only takes one bad decision to cause heartache or worse.  Just ask Greg Oden or a parade of other public figures that have had candid photos posted on the internet. 

My favorite digital gaffe came from my ex boss who sent an email to all of our customers and prospects as we headed into the New Year, 2002.  He told them, (I’m paraphrasing), “Thanks for all of your support.  We are going out of business in 2002.”  That comment came at the end of an inspirational email that he sent without proofing.  We started getting calls from shocked customers almost immediately.  He was on suicide watch for about a week after that.  I was one of two sales people fielding the calls.  We asked him if he had anyone proof the email before he sent it.  He picked his head up off his desk, shook his head no, and went back to sobbing.  That was just one of a million things he did wrong, but it was my favorite.

Just recently my wife did something similar.  She sent me a steamy thought provoking text, but it didn’t go to me.  It went to a dance mom whose name started with “G”.  Wow!  Could you also copy Grace’s teachers?  Maybe my mom would like to know what you want me to do!”  After she hit send and realized what she’d done she called to tell me what happened.  I burst out laughing.  You can’t get it back…it’s out there.  I’d rather it hadn’t happened.  Now the mom will look at me with a little more knowledge of my abilities.  The mom responded saying, “I’m not Greg.  Maybe if you texted the right person he will grant your wish…good luck with that!”  Rather than letting sleeping dogs lie Keely tried to text an apology.  The mom responded saying, “Don’t know you or Greg, but good luck.”  Keely’s schedule hasn’t been dance class friendly for a long time so most of the moms don’t know her.  This one had forgotten who she was.  Add the fact that it was so out of context.  One minute this mom is in domestic mode and the next minute she is receiving a Penthouse Forum request.  So Keely sent another text saying, “You know us.  It’s Greg and Keely with the daughter Grace.”  I was saying, “Leave it alone you freak!  Who cares if she knows us?”  She ended up texting Keely the next day saying, “Oh yeah Keely!  It’s good to see you and Greg are keeping it fresh after being married all these years.”  Super!  Now she can put a face with the request. 

So Keely will be away at grad school for another seventeen months.  I guess the next step is Skype.  I’ll be content seeing her on the computer for a week.  The she’ll hear, “Are your room mates gone?  Take off your shirt!  Come on…no one will find out!”

Valentine Hints & Jane Seymour

February 11, 2010

Jane Seymour’s ‘Open Heart Collection’ is based on designs Jane developed several years ago through a series of watercolors titled “Open Hearts” from her “Healing Hearts” collection of original paintings.  If you buy this for your loved one this Valentine’s Day do me a favor, before you wrap it up, take it to your favorite river or lake, tie it onto your favorite fishing rod, bait it with a night crawler, and cast it in.  I bet you catch a fish.  Then it will be too slimy and covered in penetrating fish smell to give to your special person.  You should then go back to the store and buy something that isn’t so god awful.  I’m glad Jane’s career has been so successful that she can take up a hobby like water color painting.  I’ve seen the open hearts paintings.  They would look wonderful stuck to anyone’s fridge with tape or a magnet.  Even better if there was a palm print in the lower right hand corner accompanied with a sloppy first name signature.  It’s not that I hold a grudge, I don’t.  I call it as I see it and these paintings are nothing more than a doodle found in any kindergarten class.  This jewelry inspired by those panting is best used as bait…for fish…not women.  I like her little saying, “If your heart is open love will always find it’s way in.”  That works for me.  It sounds a little soft when you say it out loud, but if you live by it…not a bad thing.  Selling a set of bad jewelry priced from $40.00 to $3000.00 because of it…different story.  If you do happen to by the ring priced at $3000.00 I have one question for you.  Is your name Flav o Flav or are you in some kind of trouble with your wife?  If you’re Flav…OK I can see it.  This has rap bling written all over it.  Seriously you should see it… here’s the link  http://bit.ly/aobPhp look at the one on the left and tell me that doesn’t have clueless NBA star written all over it!  The one on the right looks to me like something an ex boxer would buy.  If you are spending $3000.00 on this ring because you are in love please get a second opinion.  Actually here are a few hints you should try.  Following them will help you avoid the need to make this purchase on Valentines Day. 

  • Do a little house work.  Helping around the house works like an aphrodisiac!  Trust me on this.  I’ve been married for twenty years.  I know it works.
    • A Swiffer is very easy to use.  Just put on the little static cloth and push it around your house.  You may have to clean it off after each room or just throw it away and get a clean one. 
    • Occasionally empty the dish washer.
    • For the more advanced – Learn how to separate lights from darks and do a little laundry
    • Pick a night each week to cook a nice, simple meal.  Then clean up after your self.  Make breakfast on a weekend morning…even breakfast for dinner works.
  • Tell your wife/girlfriend you love her every day.
  • Tell her she’s sexy.  If you don’t think she is….did you marry her at gun point?  If you’re not married…find someone else.  If she isn’t sexy or pretty to you now…she won’t grow into it!  Leave on Feb 15th.  If you don’t then you’ll be miserable and that’s not good.  Just ask John Edwards wife.
  • Every once in a while rather than watching sports, watch something she wants to watch.
  • Leave her love notes.
  • Romance is like saffron…just a little goes a long way, but it’s so worth it.
  • Surprise her with a treat several times a year.  I don’t mean something that’s in your pants….something else…it doesn’t have to be expensive…it may be a cupcake…just something different.  Even if you are the busiest man on the planet you have time for this…trust me….I’m telling you… it’s an aphrodisiac!

I’m not saying give up your masculinity.  I am saying appreciate her.  Why else are you with her?    If you make her feel special through out the year then Valentines Day becomes a no pressure, fun day.  You won’t have to take her out to eat in a restaurant packed with amateurs who are paying twice the price for a limited menu.  You won’t be stressing over jewelry, she’ll be fine with the little heart shaped candies and a card.  Even if you have a limited amount of time, you can make it fun.  You could even make your own card and she’ll think it’s special because you were visualizing love when you made it.  Don’t think I’m going all Martha Stewart on you I’m not.  You can use crayons and printer paper…just make it from your heart not Jane Seymour’s. 

If your name is Flav o Flav, Eminem, or any other rap artist that sounds like food, follow the link and hints listed above and …Jane Seymour says…peace out!

Speaking in Code

February 9, 2010

We have a sump pump in our basement.  It’s a round concrete hole that’s about two feet in diameter and two feet deep.  Foundation water drains into the pit and is pumped away from the house.  My friend had one when we were kids.  During sleepovers we would pee in it and then turn on the pump to pump that water out of the house.  That way we wouldn’t have to go upstairs to the bathroom which would tip his parents off to the fact that we were still awake at three AM.  We probably didn’t really have to go to the bathroom.  I’m sure it was the lure of peeing in a hole in the basement that drove the necessity…boys!

There is no good way to dress up the pit.  You can’t drain it, paint it, and add fish because they would get sucked out every time the pump kicks on.  It would be cool to have a tiny water garden, but that would clog the pump which would be very bad.  It’s just a round cement hole in the basement that catches foundation water.  Ours also catches discharge from the water softener.  In the winter that softener discharge is the only thing going on in the pit because any foundation water is frozen or non existent. 

Six years ago we did some renovation work to our home and our plumber, ARS, changed the flow of that discharge.  It used to go into our septic tank.  Now it runs through a pipe that drains into a storm sewer out at the street.  It enters storm drain underground because of winter freezing.  As we all know, freezing plus pipes equals headache. 

Recently I heard the pump kicked on and continue to run.  The water was filling the pit from the softener, but wasn’t discharging out of the pit.  It was just spinning like a little whirl pool as the water level continued to rise.  I realized the basement was going to flood if I didn’t start bailing.  Yipes!  So it was like the Disney cartoon where Mickey Mouse is in a mad dash to fill buckets and bail.  He creates an army of brooms to help, then loses control of the brooms and…you know the story…a story written on acid apparently.  I didn’t have an army of brooms or acid.  It was just me, adrenalin, and two buckets.  The discharge pipe just outside our home had frozen.  Apparently the pipe wasn’t buried below the frost line.  So I took a heating pad and a blanket out side and laid it where the pipe exits the house….after the mad bailing episode.  Several days later the pipe was thawed.  However the morning after the bailing exercise I called our builder and explained the dilemma to an answering machine.  The office manager called me back and was less than helpful.  I reminded her that we had recommended their work to others and I knew we had given them new business.  If she wanted to continue that good will she would help to resolve the issue.  She reluctantly agreed.  Then I call a commercial construction friend who told me that there is no building code that requires discharge water be piped away from the house below the frost line.  I said, “We don’t live in Florida, we live in Indiana.”  He agreed with my assessment and made a derogatory comment about the people in charge of building codes.

Two weeks later our builder showed up with an ARS customer service rep.  He used the building code as a shield.  I said, “There are two ways to do a job, just good enough to get by, and great.  I didn’t pay you to just get by.  He shrugged.  I looked at our builder’s rep.  She said to the ARS guy, “What would you do if this was your home?”  He shrugged and said, “I wouldn’t buy a home with a septic tank.”  He talked with an inflection that led be to believe he smoked way too much pot in high school.  She said, “Well they are on septic, so what would you do?”  He thought for a long time and said, “Probably drain it with a soft hose out into the yard.”  That was his solution!  Use a garden hose that we would run though the basement window!  I can’t believe it didn’t incorporate duct tape and bailing wire.  Is that code?…maybe in West Virginia.

It’s been two weeks.  The company’s line is, “We built this to code”.  My position, “This code represents poor workmanship” Their counter, “Our work is up to code” My response, “It may be code for the word sucks”.  Their motto should be, “ARS, when it comes to plumbing…we’ll drain you!”

The BMV and Me

February 6, 2010

It was a rainy, cold afternoon in mid November 2009.  I was driving north on I-65 headed back to the office after meeting with a few clients in downtown Indianapolis.  A gold Saturn zipped past me at about 70 miles per hour.  Not super sonic, but he caught my attention.  That part of the interstate makes a sweeping 90 degree bank as it changes direction from west to north heading away from downtown.  As Mr Saturn pulled three car lengths in front of me he made a spastic, hard left maneuver.  He over corrected that with a hard right, then hard left again,  causing him to lose control and smack the inside concrete retaining wall head on.  That totally caught my attention!  I don’t know if he was texting, or fighting with himself.  I am sure there wasn’t a bee in his car because it was winter, but it was that kind of evasive move inside the vehicle.  His car went air born then landed perpendicular to my line of travel like a bad NASCAR wreck causing me to take evasive action.  He continued his series of crazy corrections then slowly limped to the shoulder of the interstate and stopped.  Miraculously no one was collected in the accident.  The angels were looking over me.  However the collision caused his car to jettison parts which flew right into mine.  Hub caps, headlight assembly, fender parts, all hit my driver side as if I were a magnet.   I pulled to the side of the interstate and called 911, then ran back to see if he was OK.  He had no idea who I was, why I was there, or that the state police were on the way.  There were so many cars whizzing past.  I still couldn’t believe no one was hit.  Eventually we swapped insurance info, spoke with the state police, and witnessed another spinout caused by someone freaking out when they saw the cop.  He spun a 180 and nearly ran over, The Man, while coming to rest facing on coming traffic in the slow lane.  Miraculously, no one drilled him either.  Plenty of drivers quickly switched lanes to avoid tragedy.  At that point the cop adopted that cynical, “Idiots” look on his face.  I’m sure he would rather be hiding in the median, near a bridge, with a radar gun, collecting revenue.  Instead he had to deal with bad drivers while standing in the mist!  “Why did I bother to press my uniform today,” he thought to himself in a stern voice.  (They always talk in a stern voice…with cop hair!)

Two months later on January 5th I received this threatening letter from the Indiana BMV stating that I was in an accident (No kidding) and if I didn’t provide proof of insurance & financial responsibility my license would be suspended.  I scanned it in…

Ahhh our government at it’s finest!  Two months after the accident they jump into action. Wow, they’re on it!  I had to fax the form to my insurance company, they took the time to fill it out and fax it back.  Apparently the proof of insurance we provide when plating the vehicle each year isn’t good enough.  The fact that this case was closed and I wasn’t at fault wasn’t good enough.  The fact that I gave proof of insurance to the state policeman wasn’t good enough either.  As my granddad use to say with a southern accent, “Ain’t they some distrustful sons a bitches!”  Is this exercise designed to keep state employees busy?  My insurance company complied and I sent the completed paper work back to the BMV…because I had no choice.  This week I received another letter from them.  It had the same look as the previous official letter which made my butt pucker.  I thought, “Now what?”….  I love the title, Notice of Suspension Cancellation.   They were letting me know my license won’t be suspended for something I didn’t do.  How back handedly nice of them!  Well here’s my notice to you, Indiana BMV – Kiss my ass!

Coffee, Zest, Blocks & Stalls

February 4, 2010

His glasses were so crooked they formed a diagonal line pointing across his face from his temple to his ear lobe.  I haven’t seen glasses worn like that since Grace played dress up as a three year old.  Was this a test?  Was he baiting me?  Should I pluck the glasses off his face, straighten them, and put them back on him…with a straight face no pun intended?  It was hard to take him seriously yet the conversation was just that.  Finding your passion, living with zest, eliminating blocks and stalls from your life.  So you can achieve your goals and thrive.  He was a life coach and he spoke with passion while wearing crooked glasses.  I wasn’t paying him for this lecture.  I hadn’t signed up for his seminar.  He wasn’t my coach until I sat down at the table next to him inside the Borders on the corner of Randolph and State streets in downtown Chicago. 

I believe God sends people into our life for a reason.  He sent this gentleman, Dr Richard Talsky motivational lecturer extraordinaire, to me.  I had a fresh cup of coffee and no where to go for the next hour and a half.  He seemed entertaining, insightful, and passionate.  So much to my wife’s chagrin I listed to his teachings while she studied grad school stuff across the table from me.  I was as much held captive as I was captivated because I already believed everything he was preaching.  There are random times these days when my motivation lacks high octane drive, but I do a lot more than just get by.  That day I’d planned on writing a blog about zest and as luck would have it, he was teaching, preaching, to me about it.  My blog had more to do with the opposite of his lecture, but irony is good, God is good.  Dr Talsky has good intentions, so for that hour and a half I became a student.

He was the poster child for the word savant.  Smart guy, disheveled look, books piled around him in disarray.  I can’t confirm this, but it looked like he was using the Borders as a library.  There were easily ten books, two magazines, and one newspaper scattered around him on the table.  He was studying about successful business people like Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple.  He wanted to know their philosophy on business and how they cultivate that special zest that separates them from everyone else. 

He told me he was renting a turn of the century theatre on Chicago’s west side.  That theatre would become the epicenter for all things motivational.  People would flock there to hear all types of successful people teach about zest.  I’m sure they would serve only the best popcorn at the snack bar…ok I made that up.  Any way this will be the only theatre of it’s kind…all motivation…all the time.  I bet it the resulting positive energy will cast light in that neighborhood 24/7.  He believes the area will become a cultural haven for zest.  One of the components for spreading the word is a radio show on WIND 820 AM.  He also has a web site for all things positive, http://www.thewowcenter.com.  He has a vision of the cost, the profit, the future.  He has eliminated the blocks and stalls that prevent success.  He wants me to eliminate blocks and stalls that hold me back from experiencing my ultimate success.  At this point my wife and everyone around us want me to eliminate the blocks and stalls that are preventing me from breaking it off with Dr Talsky so that he will go back to studying quietly.

He is a published author.  His book, 50 Ways to Thrive, is available for $15.00.  I didn’t have cash, so I bought a Borders gift card for $15.00 and gave that to him for a copy of the book, which he signed.  My wife sighed.  I didn’t care.  I want him to reach his goals.  I want to see him on Oprah discussing the 50 Ways to Thrive.  I want him to notice that all wildly successful people wear glasses horizontally across their face.

Grandmas & Pat Boone

January 28, 2010

During the Nutcracker I got to know most of the parents of the young dancers. One little girl was always accompanied by her grandmother.  The mom was non existent.  I thought it was so cool that the Grandmother took such an active roll in her granddaughter’s life.  One Saturday afternoon I was sitting with Grace outside the third floor studio in Lilly Hall.  There was a break between rehearsals.  The Butler students had left the building. The young dancers and parents hung out, ate lunch, and chatted.  The elevator door opened and the little girl’s mom stepped out in an outfit that was …tragic at best.  She was trying to reclaim youth that….had also left the building…years ago.  She seemed startled at the laughing kids.  As she navigated the hall she looked at them like they were piles of dog poop in the back yard.  Later that day she belittled her mom, the helpful grandma, in front of me and the stage manager.  She accused her of being unorganized, less than helpful, and a bunch of other garbage.  The distasteful barrage was reminiscent of a tantrum thrown by a spoiled thirteen year old.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had the grandma’s email address.  After the verbal flogging I sent her an email saying I thought she was doing a great job.  I didn’t see that woman again until the week of the shows.  She was an ass during that week too.

Apparently I endeared myself to the grandmother because she started sending me emails.  They weren’t personal emails.  They were the ones you get that say, “Microsoft is giving away a free vacation to Disney if you forward this email to everyone in the world”.  Or…”Traffic cops in California were using a radar gun to catch speeders when an Air Force jet on a training exercise locked onto the gun, thought it was enemy radar, and nearly fired missiles at the cops”.  You know the emails.  You get them too.  If there was a fake news story circulating on the web, she would send it to me with a note saying, I thought you should know this.  Today she sent me one that said Barack Obama is anti Christian.  It was a speech by Pat Boone…the singer.  First of all I thought Pat was dead.  Apparently just his career died.  As proof of our president’s anti Christian views Pat’s speech sites quotes from speeches Mr. Obama has given around the world like this, “You might say that America is a Muslim nation.”- President Barack Obama, Egypt 2009.  I love quotes that are taken out of context.  Kennedy said, “Ich bin ein Berliner” He was a Berliner?  What a commie!  What was President Obama supposed to say when he was in Egypt trying to find common ground with a different culture?  Should he have said, “You’re not welcome in America unless you eat happy meals and drive a Ford F150?”  My first reaction was to send her that picture of Pat Boone in leather from his heavy metal CD, No More Mr Nice Guy. (See photo below) I thought about adding a caption that said, “Jesus died for his sins”.  Apparently Pat wasn’t talented enough to write his own metal songs so in 1997 he covered songs from Guns N Roses, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and Judas Priest in an attempt to revive his career.  You know Christian artists.  He wore the dog collar, leather, and fake tattoos on stage because that outfit is commonly associated with god fearing Southern Baptists.  Now he should wear a straight jacket because he’s crazy if he thinks I’m buying into this publicity stunt.

I’d like to turn the table on her.  The next time she orders a frosty for her granddaughter I could say, “She only feeds her granddaughter Frosties.  See, here is a photo of her buying one at a Wendy’s on 86th street on January 28th.  The poor child needs real nourishment”!  I could also remind her that America is a melting pot.  I could show her that there are Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Atheists, Jews (several danced in the Nutcracker!) and a host of other cultures.  I should remind her that the Pledge of Allegiance ends by saying, “With Liberty and Justice for All” – key word – ALL which includes bone heads like Pat Boone, Pat Robertson,  spamming grandmas…

The Boys of Fall

September 26, 2009

About 6 years ago I was raking leaves in the fall when a pack of boys Carly’s age came walking down the street tossing a football.  I heard my mom’s voice, “Please play touch. No one needs to get hurt.”  The truth is any time a group of boys get together someone may get hurt.  It has nothing to do with sports.  If there are five boys in a room full of feathers one of them could end up with a quill sticking out of his eye.  We played touch if the game was up near the house where parents could see.  We always played with three rules.  Defense had a five apple rush and no blitzes.  The offense couldn’t use running plays.  Running plays led to an endless string of touchdowns which took all of the challenge and fun out of the game.  A five apple rush is this; you have to count out loud, one apple, two apple, three apple, four apple, five apple, before you rush the quarterback.  It made up for no blocking.  Those are really universal rules for any sand lot game, any where in the country.  The count may change from apples to Mississippi’s, but everything else is the same.

Playing football in a house full of ballerinas just doesn’t happen.  My girls love to watch it, but that is where it ends.  I felt the need to get grass stained and sweaty.  When they made it to our yard I said, “Are you done playing or going to play?”  They said, “Waiting on some other guys before we play.”  I really wanted to play. I went straight for the justification. I can rake these leaves Monday evening. So I said,” Come get me if you need another player.”  One of them said, “Mr Phelps, you’re funny”.  I said, “Seriously, come get me if you need another guy.”  They never showed.  The following week there were even more of them walking down the street with football in hand.  Again I was raking.  Again I felt the tugging of childhood. So I threw out the offer…again.  They stopped, “Seriously?”  I said, “Yeah!  I wouldn’t offer if I was kidding.”  “OK Mr. Phelps we’ll call you before we play”. They agreed just because they are nice.  I had just finished raking when my wife came outside saying, “Some boys from the neighborhood want to know if you can come down and play football?”  She thought it was cute.  I thought it was cool.  I’ve known them since they were in preschool.  Now they were old enough I didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone.  On my way out the door she said, “Honey, please don’t play tackle.”  It had come full circle. 

Our neighborhood has a creek that runs along one border.  The homes that line that creek have perfect back yards for football.  I walked down there wearing a T-shirt about ballet, jeans, and tennis shoes.  I wasn’t even thinking about it.  That’s what I was wearing to rake leaves.  They were all dressed in NFL jerseys and athletic shorts.  I could tell by the looks it was like showing up wearing black socks and dress shoes.  Half the kids were from our neighborhood and the other half were school friends who rode their bikes or were dropped off by parents.  I think our neighborhood kids were embarrassed.   “Ballet shirt?  Jeans?”  Wisdom taught me that at this stage of my life, Russian Pointe shoes at $85.00 a pop, are a better investment than a Polamalu jersey.  I was picked last.  Truth be told I was picked at all because they felt sorry for me.  The dad who lived there came out and tried to convince me not to play.  He was permanently on the “Physically unable to perform” list.  Said another way, he was too old to play.   He wanted me to be too.  He tried to talk the kids into making me the all time quarterback so I wouldn’t get hurt.  I knew him.  I like him.  I said, “Bill I’m not ready for the wrinkle ranch.  I came down here to have fun.”  He mumbled, “Make sure you guys play touch,” and went back inside.  I had a blast.  Mr Ballerina shirt could still play ball.  They saw me as something more than a stale dad.  I came home dirty, wet with sweat, the knees ripped out of my jeans, and the feeling of youth in my heart.  It sounds funny, but I was happy to be accepted.  I hadn’t been one of the guys, since college.  Carly thought it was funny.  They talked about it on the way to school Monday.  “Your dad can play!”  From that point forward I was on the list.  Friday night we went to the high school football games and every Sunday the phone rang.  My wife would answer, smile, and say, “The boys want to know if you can play.”  For the last five years we played.  This year it ended.  Most of them have responsibilities that come with getting older.   Others went in a less productive direction.  For a while I was given a second chance at childhood, another opportunity to be one of the boys.  It was cool.

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