Reporting, Recording and Relaying - But Always Telling It As I See It

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween and the Nun's Apple

(Author’s Note: I have been advised by a really good friend that I should post some sort of “feel-good” entry. When I do, it takes me out of my Polish Holden Caulfield frame of mind. In deference to him, though, here is my attempt at a “feel good” story. As always, your comments are welcome.)

I’m not even sure why we walked out of our way to go to the convent on Halloween. Being good Catholic boys, I guess we felt it our obligation. So, through the Church parking lot we went, up the back staircase, behind the school and across the street to the big brick house that was the last one on the block. And just as you could count on seeing Monsignor Gehring loading his golf clubs into the back of his Olds Delta 88 on a nice spring day, the Sisters would give us our Halloween apple.

Maybe even at ten years old, we knew whose asses to kiss. We were ruled by these nuns. Sister Norah and Sister Patricia presided over us like the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse over Diamond Shoals. They taught us to read and write and were the judge, jury and executioner when it came to discipline. Corporal punishment was meted out faster than acid at Woodstock. Looking back, I realize the paddling on the ass and the rulers across the fingers were not meant so much for the victim as they were for the surrounding and suddenly tuned in kids. I heard a guy talking about torture one time, and he said the best method he knows is to shoot the guy next to the one you want to get to talk. Well, when the kid next to you just got his knuckles snapped for not holding a pencil correctly, it sure as hell gets your attention too.

One of the most interesting punishments came on the heels of an en vogue game where a bunch of us started bringing in cut-off straws to school and were spitting little purple berries out of them. It wasn’t long before the Sister’s picked up on this and the offenders (me included) were ordered to bring in two handfuls of these purple berries. That morning we all assembled in the front hall of the school and Sister Norah put all the berries in a shoe box, then in one sweeping motion sent them scattering all over the tile floor. Our punishment was to get on our hands and knees and pick up these berries…one at a time. Any attempt to pick more than one at a time would result in a do-over. Smartly, we picked up one at a time, our knees aching from the hard, cold tile. Excellent.

But here’s the thing, they were always right. Granted, as kids we didn’t always see it that way. We laughed at the smell of the cheap perfume and cursed them for the spankings. We never did understand why anyone would give a shit about how we held our pencils or if we could do the Irish Jig. But now, all these years later, it is crystal clear to me that outside of my family I am quite sure no one played a more important role in my life. Maybe they were even smart enough to know that if nothing else, they would give us some good stories to tell our kids. But what we never understood was this. Not only did these women give their lives over to God, they gave whatever was left to us kids; which turned out to be an awful lot.

We didn’t want apples for Halloween and we probably didn’t even eat them. So while we chuckled on our way back down the stairs and through the church lot, we were unknowingly outsmarted again…the Sisters gave us what we needed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Contest Winner With Expert Commentary By The Author

Let’s get through a couple of the bullshit entries first.

“Anonymous” tried to get up in my grill with the Coldplay reference. I am having the NSA track your ISP right now so I suggest you get all Roman Polanski (less the ill-advised trip to Switzerland) right now. Dead last.

Another “anonymous” said basically I was asking an impossible question and somehow she (cause I know who you are) is bent on driveling on instead of firing the synapses. That’s OK, but definitely no winner.

Now…in no random order;

Two entries on the Beatles…an obvious choice, almost like saying, “Name your favorite weather!” Let me guess; sunny. While I do not question Joe and Mr. Baby on their dedication, I often wonder if many people are as enthralled with the Beatles as they say they are. I can vouch for Mr. baby since we used to lip-synch to those boys in my basement when we were kids…specifically to the album of greatest hits, 1967-70 where the Fab 4 are leaning over that balcony. I also think they are like a reverse super group; when they split up, they made some of their best music. Like Elton John said (actually Bernie Taupin said) in Empty Garden, his sad and great tune about Lennon, “Some say he farmed his best in younger years, but he'd have said that roots grow stronger if only he could hear.” For proof of this, check out George Harrison’s solo material. If John and Paul weren’t such ego-maniacs, they would have realized the most melodic Beatle should not have been relegated to back-up singer.

An interesting entry on Milli Vanilli. They have two things going for them that I love; 1) they had their Grammy taken away, which is a cool rock move, and 2) Pilatus OD’d, an even cooler rock move. Little did he know, his name would live on as an exercise routine at gyms across the country.

I will get this Donny Osmond thing out of the way now. I can see how he gripped young girls in the 70’s, some even buying pillow cases with his likeness on it. And I do give him credit for re-working (and banking) himself all these years later. The SOB has held up well and has some pipes. So, while the Osmond entry gets an “A” for effort, and even without holding the Mormon thing against him, I’m not sure he will get the nod.

Kris’ entry tried to encompass every singer/songwriter/acoustic guitar players from the 60’s and 70’s, then dumps Steve Perry in. Listen to the real Journey with Gregg Rolie. Before starting Journey he played with Santana and was at Woodstock. When you get your hands around this pre-Don’t Stop Believing stuff, you will wonder if you are listening to the same band, then realize you were listening to the wrong one.

Jeff Beck. I haven’t agreed with Sean since Mr. Quinn’s English class, and had we done this back then, his entry would have gotten him and A. Any discussion of the top 3 or 4 rock guitarists of all time that does not include Beck is probably being had by the same people who think The Who have a song called Teenage Wasteland…if this confuses you, go here,'Riley

The King Of Pop…Michael, may he rest in peace and may someone remember to feed the llamas. Chuck Klosterman said that just because Phil Spector killed someone doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a great producer, which he was. So, we are left with the enigma that is MJ. A great, and I mean great, pop music icon. If you say you didn’t listen to something off of, or all of, Thriller or Off The Wall, you are lying like when Clinton said “I did not have sex with that woman,” when what he should have said was “I did not have vaginal penetration with my penis sex with that woman. Now, can you please define is?” The problem is of course, we get all that funky, post-“I’m cool enough to have Eddie Van Halen to play on Beat It” scene and then the Jesus Juice and snuggling in bed with Macaulay Culkin action. But, if you can get past that, you have a significant force in not only pop music, but pop culture (come on, you know you have tried to moon walk.)

Anyway, I am going to render my subjective judgment. Winner: Beck (plus he makes a good beer.) Sean, I will be contacting you for your swank Vegas address, and of course will be waiting for my Cheetah’s comp lap dance certificate like you promised.

Feel free to leave me your “you don’t know WTF you are talking about” comments below. But keep in mind; I am the musical genius among you, so take caution in your tone.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

As Only Hunter Thompson Could Say

I have given over to one of the greats...Hunter S. Thompson.  Here are some of his best lines...

Hunter S Thompson on work ...

"Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism."

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

"Publishers are notoriously slothful about numbers, unless they're attached to dollar signs - unlike journalists, quarterbacks, and felony criminal defendants who tend to be keenly aware of numbers at all times."

"I have no taste for either poverty or honest labour, so writing is the only recourse left for me."

"I've always considered writing the most hateful kind of work. I suspect it's a bit like fucking, which is only fun for amateurs. Old whores don't do much giggling."

"I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours."

... on drugs ...

"You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug, especially when its waving a razor sharp hunting knife in your eye."

"I have always loved marijuana. It has been a source of joy and comfort to me for many years. And I still think of it as a basic staple of life, along with beer and ice and grapefruits - and millions of Americans agree with me."

"There is nothing more helpless and irresponsible than a man in the depths of an ether binge."

"Good mescaline comes on slow. The first hour is all waiting, then about halfway through the second hour you start cursing the creep who burned you, because nothing is happening...and then ZANG!"

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."

... on America ...

"America: just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable."

"We cannot expect people to have respect for law and order until we teach respect to those we have entrusted to enforce those laws."

"We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world - bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are whores for power and oil with hate and fear in our hearts."

... lifestyle advice ...

"Going to trial with a lawyer who considers your whole lifestyle a crime-in-progress is not a happy prospect."

"The person who doesn't scatter the morning dew will not comb grey hairs."

"He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master."

"Anytime there's a big sporting event, go to either the winning or losing town; there'll be riots in both of them. Riots are fun."

"Avoid being seized by the police. The cops are not your friends. Don't tell them anything."

"Have an objective to give your bender a theme. For instance, stalking and killing a wild pig with a bowie knife."

"Register at a hotel under a pseudonym, and then rent two convertibles - a Porsche and a green Cadillac - so you can switch cars when things start to go bad. Be sure to launch one of these cars off a steep hill."

"Don't have sex in the lobby - it's usually awkward."

"Call on God, but row away from the rocks."

... and finally ...

"The Edge ... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."

"For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled."

"A word to the wise is infuriating."

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

"Some may never live, but the crazy never die."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Want To Stimulate You

Since many people (especially you FB wing nuts) think you know so much about music...especially in reference to what is good or bad, here is your chance to prove it.  In 100 words or less, give me your best argument for finishing the following "I think ---------- is the best band/artist ever because..."  Since I know more than most of you, I will be the sole judge.  (I will even consider Coldplay heard it right)

Please post to the comment section below and be sure to leave an email address.

The winner will receive a $10 Starbucks gift card.

Contest ends October 28.

Here is a little Starbucks humor to get you going...only click if you want to laugh your ass off and are not afraid of the "f" word.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wordsmithing Does Not Effective Communication Make

I opened an email at work today.  Actually it was forwarded to me by a customer, she wanted me to read comments a consultant had sent her.  This "consultant" opened with this line..."The attached letter is predicated on a condition that is not otherwise verified."  It reminds me of when I hear a really good joke and I can't wait to find someone to tell it to.  I feel, in my heart of hearts, this consultant heard this line once, was baffled by it, but became determined to use it again.

I can imagine his delight when he had this vexing dilemma in front of him (turns out what he was looking for was detail MISC-009, which I found and forwarded in minutes) and thought "Egads!  I have the perfect place for this line I have been storing in my brain like nuts in a squirrel's cheek!"  He dumped it in the opening, maybe trying to impress young Melissa (who can be quite testy in emails, but very nice on the phone.  I chalk this up to the fact that her emails are CC'd to about 326 people in order to show her bosses and her boss's bosses all the way up until I think the last is that she is "all over it" or something.

Maybe this was clever wordsmithing, but it annoyed me.  I mean a great opneing is "We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."  And to think Hunter Thompson only got started with that line.

(author's note:  The above email is probably not BO's and I apologize to the NSA if this causes any problems.  The photo is a collection of stuff Hunter Thompson sent me in response to a letter I wrote him.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

UFO or Cloud?

This picture makes as much sense to me as the rest of Palm Springs.  Both are beautiful and interesting but you are not sure what they are doing there.  If nothing else, Palm Springs is idyllic.  Tucked into the Cochella Valley, surrounded by mountains and dotted with golf courses, it would seem the perfect place to spend a few days.  It isn't.  Like the cloud in this picure, it seems to lack any real soul.  It floats around, you get tired of looking at it, and it is eventually gone. 

One thing The PS does have is medical clinics and doctors offices.  Drive down Country Club Road some day.  They are lined up like hookers at an AFL-CIO convention.  Buildings and buildings worth, all catering to the elderly demographic.  Oddly, in the midst of all this was a Planned Parenthood office.  I'm pretty sure you can get an appointment there a little easier than one of the 7,000 Centers For Joint Pain.  What they need is a Planned Hip Replacement office.

As much as it sucked coming home to the first days of a long winter, I was glad to leave that place.  It was my thrd visit and it was a charm; reminding me to never go back

Saturday, October 10, 2009

From the "Thanks but you have no idea what you are talking about file."

Stopped at Steamers, the local chain coffee store for my medium latte. Don't know the girls name who works there but I have been going long enough that she knows my order. The cute little thing says, "What's going on?"

"Well," I tell her, "I'm going to Palm Springs tomorrow." It's always fun to share that sort of thing.

Anyway, she tells me she would love to have "just a sliver" of my life.

Nice gesture, but she has no idea.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Coffee Is Flavored

So this morning, as I do every morning, I stopped at the local 7-11 for my coffee. A 16oz, $1.37 coffee. I am a big fan of coffee station observation. To wit, there are two things that I find disturbing.

1) The Flavor Maven - This is the person who routinely empties packets of various flavored creamers into an otherwise fine cup of coffee. Here is a bit of is flavored! It doesn't need mocha-vanilla-hazelnut-ginseng to bring it to life. This especially goes for guys. No flavoring for God's sake.

2) The Over Sugar-er (and Creamer-er). Cream and sugar in coffee is like salt and pepper, a little. Today, I kid you not, I saw a woman emptying so many sugars in her coffee, it took her longer to do that than it did for me to get my cup, fill it, add my splash of cream and a half sugar. When I got to the counter to pay, she was still fucking around with the packets.

If you are doing any of the above, coffee may not be your drink. It's OK. Go get yourself a 164oz Mountain Dew (seen that too in the AM - people bring their own giant cooler/cups for this). Suck that down on the way into work and pray you don't get stuck in traffic less you end up taking a piss in your ash tray, and that your employer maintains your dental coverage for the new teeth you are going to need.

So, no flavors in coffee and lighten up on the cream and sugar. There are Guatemalans and Colombians and Sumatra-ians (?) working very hard to get you coffee. Stop pissing me off and embarrassing yourself.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

To Fell A Playset

It was said once that to a man with a sawzall, everything looks like an old play set. There is something primal about tearing something down. We spend so much of our lives building things: relationships, families, careers, our 401(k)'s. Hours and hours we toil to develope and improve and foster. Sometimes, we need chaos theory. Sometimes we need to get our hands on a sawzall and rip shit down. Tear it apart with little regard for order. We need to break and cut and throw. We need to pry and pound...we need to destroy.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I know what's wrong with health care, and I can fix it

I recently had surgery to repair a hernia. Having now some fist hand knowledge of the health care industry I can safely say I know what is wrong. It is not the pricing, the quality of care (excellent by the way) or docs who have no time. The problem is the paperwork.

Since my procedure we have been inundated with mail. We get letters that are described as "Explanation of Benefits," "This is not a bill" and "this is a bill, so pay it or you are going to a collection agency and you can fight with them. If you don't think you owe this, well, good luck contacting us let alone speaking to someone who actually gives a shit about your problem and may accidentally hit a wrong keystroke while typing in your information that may cause us to realize you didn't pre-approve the procedure so now, instead of the $247.00 you owe us $22,000."

My wife and I are both college educated, fairly intelligent people, her more than I, of course. But for the life of me, I cannot get my head around all the fucking paperwork. We get separate bills from anyone who even looked at me in the hospital, even the nice older lady who helped me on with my hospital socks.

The idea is simple. The hospital will be have one shot to get your billing straight. They get one first class stamp per patient, so they have one chance to get it right. None of this submitting claims to the insurance carrier who pays whatever the hell they want after some huge-ass discount, leaving you with a balance. This will be done over and over. Then, the hospital/doctor sends this balance onto you, all while you are trying to understand the explanation of benefits and letters that are not bills. AAHHH!

The problem with this of course is that it would cause millions of layoffs for the paper-pushers, as I'm sure their are mid-west towns built around feeding and housing these people, like the old mining towns in Idaho. Oh well, we need some more places to visit and what better than an old insurance town.