Rants and Raves


    The younger son, Jack, is in the market for a good used car (his first) and found one on the internet from a Private Seller. I called to get directions. The voice on the other end was some flavor of middle eastern, delivered in heavy accent. “Is very good car,” he said confidently, “very good car, yes. Very good.” I asked him if he would accept a personal check. “No check, no… cash only…. no check… cash!” he verbally hammered back. I think I caught his drift. He wanted the legal tender. Fair enough.

    I got directions from him and asked if the address was his home. “No, not my home. Place of business.” So we set a time when we would drive out to the Personal Seller and see his “very good car… cash only.”

    Jack and his parents crawled through early rush hour traffic to the place of business in Buford, Georgia, a goodly haul north. We eyeballed the addresses carefully looking for the Personal Seller’s “place of business.” Well, get a load of this– his place of business happened to be  a used car lot! What an incredible co-inky-dink! World, you are one funny place.

Scum of Earth discovered in Buford, Georgia

Scum of Earth discovered in Buford, Georgia

    We approached the car as our Private Seller approached us. “Is nice car, yes?” he said as we stared at the 2004 Acura RSX that sported a body that was the metallic equivalent of a 15-year old boy with acute acne and a jones for gobbling sugary and greasy snacks. “Can I take it for a test drive?” I asked (the car was a manual and Jack didn’t know how to drive one– yet). “I get key,” Private Seller said scurrying to a beat-up trailer.

    I opened the door and sat in the driver’s seat and noticed a hunk of plastic missing from the steering column exposing a cluster of wires. Jack sat in the passenger seat and noticed a hole in the dash where a radio once was, and a big crack in the plastic of the passenger side door. Private Seller was back toot sweet and handed me the key. I inserted it in the ignition, turned and… nothing. No engine turning over, no pistons pumping, not even a click. Silence. Quiet as a mime in a library.

    “The battery’s dead,” I said (I’m no mechanic but I know when the doohickey won’t start it’s usually the battery thingy).

    “No problem. We jump car. Wait one minute,” Private Seller said as he ran to the trailer. Soon the hood was popped and he hooked up a portable battery booster and instructed me to turn the ignition. I did, the car wound up and started. I immediately noticed the fuel gauge warning light was illuminated. “Hey, it’s almost out of gas,” I said. 

    “No problem. Is good for 30 miles, easy. No problem,” he said confidently. I nodded my head thinking but of course, ‘is good car’ and fuel is merely suggested, not required. I went to fasten my seat belt and the belt stretched maybe eight inches. 

   “The seat belt’s broken,” I said.

    “No problem. We fix. Get new seatbelt, no problem. We fix seatbelt. Make like new.”

    “Right,” I said. I put the car in reverse and we began our test drive; me driving, Jack passengering. The car drove fine, the brakes seemed O.K. I didn’t punch the engine for fear of running out of gas. I told Jack the car model was a good one, but this particular car was not a good choice. Not to be critical, but I’ve always believed a car should start. Jack stubbornly agreed this might not be the one. We returned to Private Seller’s “place of business” and he was anxiously awaiting our review. 

    “What you think? Is good car, yes?” he asked like a proud papa as I got out of the car.

    “It drives O.K.,” I said, “but it needs a lot of work– the driver’s side seatbelt, the radio, battery…” Just then Jack crawled out through the driver’s side door. “What are you doing, Jack?” I asked.

    “My door wouldn’t open,” he replied. I continued my punch list of problems.

    “And the passenger door  doesn’t work…” before I could say anything else, Private Seller pointed at my car (a 2005 Acura RL) in the parking lot .

    “Look at car you drive,” he said accusingly, “of course this car not going to be as nice as that car!” His tactic worked, I was confused, I didn’t know what his point was–– that I shouldn’t expect luxuries like engines that start on command, radios, operating seatbelts and passenger doors. “I fix all for $700 more,” he said confidently. 

    “You’ll fix all the problems for $700?” I asked.

    “I fix everything. No problem. You want car, I fix– $700. You want car? ”

    “Let us think about it,” I said herding the family back to our car, the one that starts, has seatbelts, doors that work and a radio.

    “Is good car,” I heard him shout as I shut my door.

 

He chased the snakes, now he chases the blues

He chased the snakes, now in honor of him, we chase the blues with green beer.

    I got my under-under-under graduate degree from St. Patrick’s Elementary School in Hubbard, Ohio. It was back in the days when nuns scoured classrooms in search of children under the influence of Satan. They wielded rulers of punishment and itched to dispense swift corrective discipline to evil wrongdoers. I still have the red palms to prove their mighty swings.

    At St. Pat’s, St. Patrick’s Day was a big deal. Although the student population was probably 80% non-Irish kids, everyone wanted to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I was Irish on St. Paddy’s Day, and pretty much every day, and I resented these freeloaders hijacking ‘our’ holiday. All the Italian and Slavic kids sported lots of green on St. Patrick’s Day. In protest, I never wore green on the sainted day.

    “Hey, Scullin,” Bobbie Vespucci would accost me dressed in green necktie and shamrock lapel pin, “you’re Irish, right? Where’s your green?”

    “I don’t have to wear green,” I’d say coolly, wishing I had a shillelagh to clobber his skull, “I don’t have to pretend to be Irish–– I am Irish.” This would cheese off all the wannabes in their green. I’m sure they’d have liked to pummel me until I wore red dripping down my shirt. Let’s face it, nothing is more threatening to kids than the one who won’t succumb to peer pressure (“you’re all jumping off the cliff? No thanks, I’ll pass.”). Rebelling was a beautifully Irish thing to do.

The wearin' of the green, it's enough to make you vomit green

St. Paddy's celebration is enough to make you vomit green.

    Today I still rebel against St. Patrick’s Day. You won’t find me in some faux Irish pub trying to swim upstream through the sea of oppressive flesh to get my jar of Guinness. I shant drink the black love until the foam seeps up my gullet and back up my gob (your body’s subtle way of saying it’s “FULL”) and have my innards projectile onto some stranger’s Timberlands. It’s amateur hour, the whole St. Paddy’s Day bar-hopping-pub-crawling-beer-guzzling-puke-encrusted-shirt affair.

    St. Patrick’s Day has grown in importance and popularity thanks to the marketing efforts of beer companies and booze distillers. The holiday is now an alcoholic tidal wave that the masses gladly surf. As an adman, I don’t begrudge these marketers anything (I do have contempt for the florists and greeting card people, though–– the shameless money-grubbing hucksters). St. Patrick’s Day has grown in popularity because adults just don’t seem to have much fun anymore. At least not sanctioned fun.

    Like Halloween, St. Pat’s is a holiday where it’s fine for adults to get silly and let their inhibitions down (the liquid courage comes in handy). It’s Christmas without the presents. The growing popularity of St. Patrick’s Day proves that society is pretty uptight and could stand to let off some steam.

    Maybe we need to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day year ‘round. This doesn’t mean we have to get blasted and stumble home. But perhaps we could loosen up, have a wee bit of the fun a wee bit more often, without beer companies telling us it’s time to do so.

    Maybe we could not be so slavish to our Blackberries or iPhones. Perhaps we could try and resist being in a perpetual state of frantic pandemonium; dodging deadlines and covering our arses with voicemail and e-mail crumbs.

    Imagine actually slowing down a tad, not living by a self-imposed over-scheduled schedule of kiddie activities and obligation to our TIVO as it gathers gobs of entertainment for our escape from reality.

    Imagine stopping, for just a moment, breathing deeply and exhaling slowly. Maybe stretching, sitting and doing nothing but letting your mind wander (a free range brain is a beautiful thing).

    Indulge, babes. Take a nap. Call an old friend. Write a letter and thank an old teacher, mentor, client or associate. Listen, actually listen to some of your favorite music. Re-live those moments of your life when you heard those songs for the very first time and let the movies of the past play inside your head. You don’t need popcorn or Junior Mints.

    Visit the priceless vaults of your memories. They’re yours and they pay handsome dividends over time.

Rebel, what a beautifully Irish thing to do

Rebelling against the norm-- what a beautifully Irish thing to do.

    St. Patrick earned his chops for chasing the snakes out of Ireland. This St. Patrick’s Day, try to chase some of the snakes out of your hectic life. Enjoy your life more.

    Stop running full bore trying to keep up with your life. Slow down and enjoy your life and all those in it who make it worth living. Try and celebrate with them more often, not just on the sanctioned holidays but every day.

    That’s my message of good cheer–– given like a nun whacking your sweaty palm.

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day–– I raise a pint to ye.

    I’ll be the one not wearing green. Cheers!

 

What kind of idiot was he anyway?

What kind of idiot was he anyway?

    I recently came across this startling photograph of Mr. Thomas Alva Edison, the man credited with inventing the electric lightbulb. Staring at the photo it struck me like some sort of object striking another really hard that Edison was an energy-wasting pig!

    Just take a gander at his lightbulb! It’s a big ol’ energy-sucking magilla… the kind of thing that just drinks energy like some sort of energy-drinking something or other.

    Everyone knows that those curly lightbulbs are the ones that save energy, so what’s the deal with old man Edison anyway? You don’t like our planet, Mr. Hotshot Inventioneer Guy?!

    Jeesh, come on, Edison– maybe a little more homework next time, huh? 

    I feel better now and I apologize for my metaphor problem. My metaphors today are as bad as something made by some sort of bad metaphor-making thingy.

"Headless" Lou Kolirew, An Pretty Amazing Blues Artist

"Headless" Lou Kolirew-- A Pretty Amazing Blues Artist

     Any blues aficionado knows the legendary names of “Blind Boy” Fuller and “Blind” Willie Johnson.  But even hard-core blues fans know little, if anything, about bluesmen like “Terribly Nearsighted” Lewis… or “Can’t Read Much Small Print At All” McCoy… or “Having Awful Problems Seeing At Night” Mason… or “Trouble Judging Distances” Jenkins.

     Unfortunately, these great players are but footnotes in the history of the blues. Many claim this was not for lack of talent, but rather lack of deformity. I spoke recently with noted optometrist/ blues historian Dr. Randall Gurr about this.

      “Basically,” Dr. Gurr told me seated in a leather chair while petting his pet cat Fluffy-Muffy-Woo-Woo, “these men did not receive the attention they deserved because their eyesight was merely poor rather than nonexistent.” Dr. Gurr shifted his weight in the chair as his loving pet took an angry swipe of her claw at his face. The good doctor dabbed the flow of blood trickling from his cheek with a handkerchief and continued speaking like a poor ventriloquist, his lips flapping in salutes to the words coming out of his mouth.

      “Had ‘Terribly Nearsighted’ Lewis been blessed with blindness, he could have called himself ‘Blindman’ Lewis and probably have given ‘Blind Boy’ Fuller a run for his money. But, being nearsighted just didn’t have the appeal to blues listeners that blindness does,” the Doctor sighed as Fluffy-Muffy-Woo-Woo dug her sharp teeth into his beefy forearm. The medic flung his beloved cat across the room into a display of Hummel figurines and quickly ripped a sleeve from his shirt and fashioned it into a makeshift tourniquet on his bleeding limb.

She looks so innocent...

She looks so innocent...

     “Blindness pretty much assured great success for blues players. Everyone wanted to see a blind player play.” The doctor turned his attention to his cat. “Here kitty, come to papa,” the Doctor cooed as his pet viciously pounced onto his head, digging her razor-sharp claws firmly into his scalp. Wearing Fluffy-Muffy-Woo-Woo like a coonskin cap, the learned man spun about trying to shake her off. He tripped over an ottoman and hit the floor hard. The cat disengaged her claws and quickly scampered into the kitchen. Dr. Gurr cursed under his breath and slowly rose. He grabbed a doily off the chair, placed it atop his head to sop-up the oozing blood and sat down. He continued with his discourse.

     “Although blindness was a very popular deformity, there were other ways a blues musician could get some recognition. These players include the likes of ‘Pegleg’ Harless, ‘Two Fingered’ Pete Wilson, ‘Big Ol’ Beer Gut’ Kincaid, ‘Three Eyed’ Bessie Randall, ‘Ruptured Spleen’ Thompson, ‘Splitting Migraines’ Bubjoy, ‘Abscessed Teeth’ Stinky Popler, ‘Nose Busted In About Sixteen Places’ Charlie Rothroad, ‘Itchy Rash Over Damn Near My Whole Body’ Fletcher, ‘Ingrown Toenails’ Todd Lohrenz, ‘Rusty Spike Driven Into My Left Kneecap’ Carlson, ‘Crotchrot’ McGuintry‘Ears Oozing Pus’ McClintock and ‘No Lips To Speak Of’ Dundee. Each of these people contributed a swatch of fabric into the grand tapestry of blues history. Curiously, few of them could sew,” the good doctor said softly. He noticed his cat coming in from the kitchen with a steak knife in its mouth. He smiled lovingly and spoke again.

     “Perhaps the most amazing blues legend of all was “Headless” Lou Kolirew, who in l934 recorded the classic blues standard “Don’t Tell Me You’re Leavin’ ‘Cause I Don’t Have A Head To Hear You WithAnd By The Way, Are Those New Shoes You’re Wearing, Or What?  It was a very popular song that— owwwww!!!” the man wailed as he looked down and saw a steak knife planted into his calf. 

     His cat meowed softly, dropped the knife and hacked-up a hairball. I slowly moved to the door and ran quickly from the house. Later it struck me that some people really do have the right to sing the blues and maybe some people just are aren’t cat people.

 

Newman liked him some eggs.

Newman liked him some eggs.

     It’s a crappy day. The earth no longer has Paul Newman. Damn shame, that. 

     Newman had the looks, talent, humor, compassion, empathy, faithfulness, fearlessness and boundless energy we all crave. He was also generous and caring, helping unfortunate kids by donating millions in profits from the sales of his various food products.

     As an artist, he owned every scene he appeared in, not by chewing scenery but by being in the moment, enveloping his character in the story and occupying the human condition completely. Maybe that’s why everyone was able to relate to Paul Newman. He may have been better looking than us, but he was one of us. 

     Newman led a rich life. He fought in WW II, studied ‘the method’ with Lee Strasberg, did Broadway, burnished himself into pop culture through a series of unforgettable roles in classic films like “Hud”, “Cool Hand Luke”, “The Hustler”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “The Verdict” and many more. He fathered six children from two marriages (staying married to Joanne Woodward for over 50 years), lost his only son to a drug overdose, raced cars and was good enough to win, was politically active enough to make Richard Nixon’s enemy’s list (in some very good company), directed plays and movies, led workshops and throughout it all was generous and philanthropic.

     The man is gone but fortunately he left us pieces of himself to enjoy and explore. He also left us a spirit and joy to emulate. 

Thanks.

 

Guess who wants your money?

Guess who wants your money?

     Doing a little investigative journalistic work, I think I’ve blown the lid off this whole Wall Street meltdown… and it ain’t pretty.

     Think about it: Wall Street lobbyists grease the palms of politicians who pass laws deregulating the banking industry so they can sell sub-prime loans to any jamoke with a pulse then take those risky loans and re-sell them to investors building a shaky house of cards that comes tumbling down so now they’re asking the government for a blank check to give the same hucksters who created the problem a nice payday so that they can skip off into the sunset with pockets stuffed leaving taxpayers with two fistfuls of diddly squat.

    So who’s at fault? Hmmm, they see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil…

 

Hey, what the heck! What the freakin’ heck!

Hey, what the heck! What the freakin’ heck!

     I don’t know about you, but I’m worried sick. This financial market meltdown is giving me the willies, and now I think I see the devious greedy paws of chimps on the taxpayer’s checkbook.

     Get a load of this: while Bernanke and Paulson are begging politicians for a big fat Wall Street payday, chimps dressed to the nines have been spotted in the crowd, hungrily licking their chops.

     Now I’m not usually an alarmist, but what if these chimps are behind the entire brouhaha? What if it was their clever plot to deregulate the financial markets, slash rates and make money easy to get, take on a ton of bad debt, fail miserably and then stick it to taxpayers to bail the banks out? Are chimps running Wall Street? Are we patsies, being played like a glockenspiel?

     Now some may think I’m out of line here, but I’m going to Brooks Brothers to see if chimps and monkeys are snatching up fancy duds.  Something stinks here, stinks to high heaven.

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