This is very little. This effort is minimal, insufficient, anemic. I will not be at a bbq today, not out of some romantic gesture to take the day seriously, but because my failure to RSVP has left me to my own devices.
I don’t want to sound like a Country Music Award nominee, but I want to remember the brave men and women who have served. And the men in my family, who served, and taught me how to be a man, despite my sometimes falling short of their example.
My late Father George, my late Uncle Lou, my Uncle Tom, and my stud Uncle Emil still trucking in his 90’s. Thanks is not enough. Never forgotten.
This is a clip, with me, from a series, Policeman vs. Fireman, done by my buddy Bryan Erwin, he’s a great comic and has 25 million views to his credit. I’m just trying to piggy-back a little.
Here it is.
This is a brief and rare moment of self-promotion, as if a website dedicated to oneself isn’t a constant self-promoted item. The Laugh Button is a cool site that follows comedy and tries to help comics. Thanks a million guys. More promoting will surely follow. Here’s the link:
I like tennis. I played tennis. I started late and had a couple of communal lessons, but I was tall and liked to come to the net and got pretty good. I also had no head for the game. When you hear someone tell you how much of a mental game tennis is, you shouldn’t roll your eyes – they’re right.
Tennis is not a game to play angry, which is the only way I knew how to play it. I hit balls over the fence to get my rage out. I threw my racket and cursed the Gods with every mishit. I had to run extra laps before every practice, as a fine for every F-bomb, or racket bounce.
I didn’t continue to play because I started doing the plays at school. I’m still performing, but haven’t picked up a racket in a long time.
Many years ago I needed a job in the late summer and got hired at the US Open, or hired by the food vendors. I was going to bartend at a high-end restaurant, but couldn’t make the orientation, so I was relegated to a food stand that sold sandwiches, pretzels, and beer. I was pre-miserable about it before it started.
My anticipated misery was well-founded. It was two weeks of sixteen hour days, with a crew of crazy people, constant theft, and a crowd of people dressed in tennis gear to watch people play tennis. People wear jerseys to other sporting events, but to wear tennis gear to watch, is like wearing cleats to Yankee Stadium. You’re not gonna get in the game.
There are, of course, some class issues when it comes to tennis. It is a high class game, both to play it and to attend its premier events. I was working with local kids from the rougher parts of Queens, some concession stand lifers, and a lot of off-duty firefighters.
The tournament is a great event if you don’t spend it spraying water on pretzels and dipping them in salt. The scope and size of it is something to behold and the ultimate champion has to go through the brackets and conquer one opponent after another. I want to go back as a fan.
In the middle of the event, having lost track of time and my desire to do a good job, two women approached the counter and ordered sodas. I noticed a necklace on one of the women, which had a pendant in the shape of Nantucket Island, where I vacationed as a child. I mentioned her necklace to which she replied, to her companion, “How did he … Oh, that’s right, some of them are working here for college.” I was already out of college and should have been flattered that she thought I looked like a current student, but I was offended that she couldn’t believe a soda jerk at the Open would know Nantucket, or its geographic likeness. The way she called us “some of them” also tuned my fork. “I used to go there as a kid,” I said to the back of her head. OK we rented when we went to Nantucket, and I hadn’t been since I was 13, but I had vivid memories, and affection for the place. I was angry and tired and worrying about my life.
Our concession stand was deteriorating with every day. People quit. New people arrived. Our manager was fired for not being able to control the shortfalls of the registers and the inventory. I was battling new managers. Telling them that I brought limited competency, but certain work ethic. It was miserable.
To many employees the last days of clean-up were voluntary. Managers were almost begging people to come back the last day. I didn’t want to go. I talked to my Dad and he said I should honor my commitment. I tried to argue that only a dupe would show up, to be one of the understaffed, to do all the work, for a group of rotten burned out management creeps.
I went. Because some of us show up and do what we signed up to do.
Families all have their stuff. You’ve heard that before, right? I’ve heard it and usually agree, but until a particular day, a few years back, I really didn’t have an incident to point to. Yes, all families have dynamics and tensions, but in mine they are largely unsaid, and in the face of other stories I’ve heard, we seem to be on a harmonious scale.
As the youngest by many years, I didn’t have the day-to-day sibling tensions or rivalries most kids did. I also tried to be on my best behavior because I wanted more time with my brothers and sister. I didn’t want to squander quality time with petty beefs that, truthfully, would need some manufacturing.
Life has it’s way of doling out wisdom and woe, knowledge and blind sides, and eventually we all catch up to each other as we get older.
Cut to: Christmas 2009, Portland, Oregon. The city was halted by the worst snow storm in 50 years, and my entire family was meeting at my brother’s house, as the storm clamped down the city and its roads. Portland knows precipitation, but not this kind. The city seemed to take a hands-off approach or they simply hadn’t had to deal with that kind of weather. Either way, it took some doing to get there and for my folks it was tough with my dad’s mobility being low, by this point. We made it, and my brother’s home was lovely, warm, and big enough for us to enjoy our holiday together, under one roof.
The close quarters may have started to take their toll, when in a silly fit of rage I confronted my brother for playfully spraying me with two different cologne samples using more mist than one would use when applying bug spray. We sat there watching a basketball game and I couldn’t shake the cloying stench of competing colognes laid on so thick, I felt transported to a whorehouse in the Wild West. I was staying at a hotel and had no change of clothes, and as the meaningless Christmas Day game warbled on, I started to let my brother know my discomfort was starting to make me angry.
My brother mentioned his legendary resolve when it came to escalating practical joke feuds. Not having grown up with the rough-housing associated with siblings of a close age I didn’t take well to personal boundaries being crossed. For some reason the word escalate seemed to cue my escalating rage, and I let loose a tirade, in third person, speaking as if I was given the chance to confront a loved ones killer in a courtroom. My brother and everyone in the room felt the atoms shift and it was parried with a thrust from my brother that ended with an expletive and a door slam (either figurative or literal, I’m not sure).
My other brother had a t-shirt for me to borrow, which may not have fit, and I stewed in my juices as I’m sure my brother did in another part of the house. We were snowed-in, to some degree, (not like Minnesota snowed-in, but, close), so walking out of the house and taking a couple of laps was not at our disposal. My cologne culprit brother was also in a walking boot, at the time, so I’m sure he felt the lack of mobility more acutely.
We made our peace in the kitchen a few hours later. It’s laughable today, and I should be glad to be in a family where this event is on the list of low-lights. I do wish it never occurred, but if you eavesdrop, to any degree, and hear the kinds of things families have done to each other, it makes you laugh, but I swear, if he comes at me with a spray bottle, I’m gonna have something for him.
The danger of living in a social media world is that you can respond to news and trends in an instant. While being able to “like” a picture of a newborn baby in real time is an example of technology and heart working well together, this instant response is less helpful when something serious goes down, like what happened at the Boston Marathon. If you have anything to say, other than my heart goes out to the people and victims of that great city, than you need to put your hand over the microphone before you speak.
Sitting here and writing I am stymied. I was going to talk about putting aside silly notions of team pride, and how as a Yankee fan I still have affection for the Red Sox and the city they play in. I now feel that sentiment is cliche and insipid. We were wounded as a nation on 9/11 and we were wounded as a nation on 4/15, all other conjecture should be put aside. The people in law enforcement will or will not apprehend the criminals who did this.
We need to put aside all the noise that clouds our minds. Every swath of humanity is affected in these trying times. A bomb doesn’t care if you root for the Yankees or Red Sox, or God forbid, any of the Philly teams. And I don’t care what you think might have happened in the few hours after, and after the media overload began. Take a walk, call your loved ones, check in with all your Boston friends, but put aside your need to call your shot.
I’m as self-involved as the next guy, probably more so, but my need for attention can stand down in moments like these. More of us should take this note. It’s not about you. I’m not even sure who it’s about, but it’s not about me. And that’s as it should be. That’s the other fall-out of generations of me-first and the instant age. Our need to be the constant and tended-to center of our own worlds.
We have to be reminded that the cynic says human nature is bad. In New York, after 9/11, I was turned away for 2 days before I could give blood because so many had already given. Runners yesterday literally went the extra mile to give blood when it was probably unhealthy to be drained. That is not political, people care, and people respond. Maybe the thing to do is say hello to a stranger and ask them if everything is ok, or to implement a be nicer policy in our lives. Putting aside the need to be right and attempt to be righteous.
The danger with being able to post this in an instant is that I don’t know if the sentiment is well thought-out or if I sound like a jerk or a sap. I’m not sure how air-tight my stance is, I don’t even know if I have a stance. I don’t know if I’m begging for attention or trying to add to sensible discourse. I have to put it aside or I have to shelve it. That’s the risk, so if you have a larger platform you might err on the side of caution, and if you’re at the grocery store and you want to mouth off you should exercise that same caution. I hope I’ve been careful in this case, because this is a time of healing. The yank the band-aid off analogy doesn’t work. These are real wounds and caring is a verb. I’ll stop the preaching now, and I’ll try to be nicer, putting aside my fear to be well-liked.
Stand strong Boston.
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