Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Should Money Really Matter?

I was inspired to write this today by David W. Boles, at Urban Semiotic . One of today's articles is titled, "10 Million is Beneath 50 Million."

In the early nineties, I dated a woman for many years who came from a wealthy family. I mean very wealthy. Her parents were divorced and remarried. Her father is a cardiologist and owns thousands of acres of citrus groves. Her mother is married to a man who owned car dealerships. He grew up with the Ford family. They live in Isleworth Country Club, home to Tiger Woods, Shaq and other celebrities. Gold faucets set in ornate porcelain sinks are in all the bathrooms. The master bath is the size of a small house.

When I entered her life, she was aware of my financial situation and it did not matter to her. I mean, I wasn't by any means broke, but, no way did I come close to what her family was worth. The first time I met her mother was for dinner at her multi-million dollar home. We ate lobster tails that were brought up from the deep. Natives would dive off her yacht somewhere in the Caribbean and bring up the crustaceans. Needless to say, we didn’t dip them in Squeeze Parkay. Her father would go to his ranch every afternoon to tend to the groves. He was a very hard worker and not afraid to get his hands dirty. He had his main house, the ranch house, an oceanfront house just south of St. Augustine, and his other ranch house in south Florida. There, you could see nothing but tomato plants as far as the eye can see, and that’s not counting his citrus trees down there, too.

As we got closer, her parents treated me like a son. There never was a monetary barrier between me and her family. They felt if their daughter was happy, then that is what mattered. I was very good to her daughter as well. She was around ten when we met. I helped her with her homework and other family chores. I loved it. Her father never factored into the equation, so, I was about as close as you could get. These were her formulative years and I tried to do the best job ever as a sort of surrogate parent. I never cared about her family’s wealth. It was only her and her daughter who mattered.

Alas, after a long relationship, things soured. Of course, I missed some of the amenities, but, they were nothing compared to the loves I lost. I dropped from 200 lbs. to 140 lbs. in three months flat. I got over Ms. X a long time ago, but I still love her daughter. Unfortunately, that had to go by the wayside, as Ms. X went on to other relationships. I would love to run into her one day. She is now in her mid-twenties. Heck, I’d even treat her to lunch.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Lesson To Be Learned, But, Did It Soak In?

As the holidays approach...and I am leaving town, I want to leave you with this thought:


All the years I was in the restaurant business, my employees were allowed to eat pretty much whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, for free. Of course, that didn't include times we were busy, like during the lunch or dinner rush. I never thought about charging them half price. They were there, they were pretty much stuck there, and they had to eat. I know, not all restaurants are alike, but, that was my policy.

I recently spoke to a dear friend. She told me she was on a two week probation period from work. That meant two weeks off, without pay. She is a bartender, and I must say, one of the best around. She told me she had consumed a few drinks while working and a fellow employee noticed her peculiar condition. That person then notified the manager, who conveyed the message to shut down for the night. Right now. He contacted her the next day and they met to discuss the situation. He put her on probation with a condition that she attend five Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during this two week period, requisite for her return to work. Each meeting she went to had to be signed by the person in charge. If it took more than two weeks to complete, then so be it. You may return only after you fulfill this obligation.

She said to me, "Dave, I'm a bartender, for cryin' out loud, what do you expect me to do? That's part of my job."

I said, "No, it's not." I told her that I, too, work for a living, but I don't drink on the job. Just because you are there and are pretty much stuck there, that doesn't mean you have to drink. No one should drink on the job, any job.

"But, but, Dave..."

"No! Suppose you're a doctor or a nurse. Does that give you the right to take drugs on the job?"

"It's not the same thing."

"Why not? You're both dispensing some sort of 'medication,' aren't you?"

"What if I work in a restaurant? Can't I eat?"

"I don't think anyone ever got a DUI from eating a cheeseburger. Did you ever drink sausage gravy on the job?"

"No."

I told her a job is a job. Period. You are there to work. Period. If management allows you a drink or two after you complete your shift, well, that's a company decision, not yours to make. And bartenders, of all people! What happens if you are not cognizant of your surroundings? Suppose you serve one too many to a patron and they drive off. Or someone comes in who is already quite inebriated. You may be too wasted yourself to know how bad their condition is. Wouldn't you feel at least partially responsible for that person's safety, or the safety of the innocent people who might fall victim to a drunken driver? As a consummate professional in your field, isn't it an obligation, a requirement, to be in top form at all times on the job, to be keenly aware of the people you serve?

Everyone knows that alcohol softens your perception. Suppose you forget to card someone. The establishment may lose their license because of it. If you or someone else is injured on your watch and the insurance company finds out that alcohol consumption by an employee likely factored into the overall equation, well then, you can pretty much kiss that coverage goodbye. They won't have to pay. That is true anywhere you work. Honytonks and gin mills are not excluded.

What you do on your time is your business. What you do on company time is theirs. Besides, who's going to drive you home?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

BUD

My brother-in-law, Bud, has gone through a terrible bout with AML (leukemia.) He underwent chemo. He had a bone marrow transplant by an anonymous donor. None of his siblings matched. Now, he has a nasty microbe inside his blood. It's been almost two years since he was diagnosed. He has pneumonia.

I would never ask you to pray for me. Ever. Please save a prayer for Bud. This is my sister Maggie's husband. He is my brother. I love him.

I beg of you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Am I Just Alone for the Ride?

Todd Gendron is my guest writer. Trust me. Read how good he is.

Where to start, I have no idea!!! My feelings are mixed, just like the rest of the world. Who I am writing this to is a mystery. I think most of all, I am writing this because I have something to say about the rest of the world as I know it. Which, by the way, I don’t know what that is.

We all have difficulties in the world to deal with. We have people who tell us how to deal with these difficulties, and yet, it never seems to go anywhere. No matter how many drugs you take or how many doctors you visit, they are just blankets of security. To me, it seems that people have lost a sense of compassion with regard to what we’re really all about. Not that I would know, but, I have met my share of people to form an opinion.

I think that people as a whole have something to say, but it never really gets voiced from an individual point of view. Whether it is because they are afraid to speak or maybe they have experienced too much in life to say something. Maybe no one ever told them that it’s okay to speak your mind.

I am one who falls into the category of just sitting on the sidelines and observing the life I know. It has come to mind that life is short and the relationships you form define who you are.

Case in point: You are sitting at work and the only thing you can think of is what you can do after work. Or maybe you are sitting at home on the weekend and think to yourself, “What am I going to do for the rest of the day?” This, my friends, is called a lack of presence in life. Welcome to the world of being single.

If you have read this far, perhaps I am describing you, too. I hate to be the person on the sidelines or the one at the corner of the bar, but, there are more of us than most even know. Perhaps, one of the reasons why a lot of us are single is because we have a fear of commitment and a willingness to grow. Maybe we are just too willing to accept that we don’t want to move on in life. Whatever it may be, I personally have been affected by this just like the rest of the world. I just wanted to know if anyone else felt the same way!!!!!

By the way I have nothing else to do tonight!!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Step Rite in for your Free Shoes!


Back in the old days, when I was young and full of vim and sometimes vinegar, I was sort of a practical joker. I never tried to do any serious harm to anyone. Well, I tried not to.

Late one morning, my best friend, Stewart and I were standing around the old Weiner King restaurant, in Flemington, NJ. We would go in around 8 AM to chop onions, make burger patties, and do just about everything else the business needed to prep for the day. Our boss, Jack, had gone somewhere, so it was just the two of us. I think we opened at 10:30 AM. This was before then and we had nothing else to do. I think it's a big mistake to leave a couple of 19-20 year old kids alone in a business with idle hands and busy minds. It creates a breeding ground for trouble, especially when both are pretty good at setting up and executing practical jokes.


I don't remember which one of us came up with the idea of making prank phone calls that fateful morning. It was probably Stewart. You know, the old "Does Prince Albert come in a can?" "Yes." "Well, let him out!" kind of thing. I guess it doesn't matter, either, which one of us conjured up the idea about what kind of prank call it was going to be, I just know that I was going to be the one making the phone calls. I had one of those voices that sounded like it came right out of your AM radio. I could turn on that voice and people would swear they were listening to some DJ from the Big Apple. We decided to give away free shoes. There was a store in Flemington called Step Rite Shoes. Shoe stores in that town were few and far between, so we assumed most people we called would know about it. They were all going to be local calls anyway.


"What should we ask them, Stew?"


"I don't know, come up with something." Hmm. I thought about a question they probably wouldn't know the answer to, like, who is the present ambassador to the United Nations from the United States? It was George Bush (1971-1973.) No, not this one. His father. We figured that this time of morning it would pretty much be housewives who would answer the phone. Back then, it was like that. Husbands were the breadwinners and wives did the ironing after sending the little kiddies off to school.


We grabbed the phone book and randomly pointed to numbers. I started dialing. Initially, most calls went unanswered. Hey, maybe more women worked than we thought.

Finally, the whole thing started to connect.
"Hello?"

"Yes, good morning. This is John Smith, from Step Rite Shoes in Flemington. We picked your number at random from the phone book. Are you familiar with us?"


"Yes."


"If you can answer this question, you'll win a free pair of shoes of your choice. Any size, any style, any price. Are you ready?"


"Yes!" I sensed an overall glee from the prospect of winning something.


I asked the question. The first few had no clue what the answer was, just as we suspected. I mean, we didn't really expect to give away free shoes, it was just the fun of making prank calls Stew and I were interested in. I thanked them for their time and reminded them to keep Step Rite in mind when thinking about their next shoe purchases.


At some point, a man answered and I posed the question. "George Bush," he responded almost immediately. Uh oh.


"Yes! You're absolutely right!"


"Now, what do I do?" he asked. Well, golly gee whiz, we hadn't thought about that. I had to think fast.


"Er, uh, come into the store any time today or tomorrow. What is your name again? Uh, okay. Yes, any time today or tomorrow. Give the manager your name and feel free to choose your shoes. I'm very happy you won. You're the first to know the answer."


"Thank you. Thank you very much."


I guess we made several more calls, assuming that guy was a fluke, but, I'll be doggoned if a woman didn't get the answer right, too. Not because she's a woman. I just didn't expect anyone to know the answer. I gave her the same response about coming in.

All in all, I think that out of the dozen or so calls we made, they were the only two who knew who the ambassador was.


After our fun, Jack returned and we told him what we had done. "You boys are sick."

Then we imagined what's going to happen when the first person arrives to pick out their shoes...


"What, is this some kind of a joke?" I could almost hear the manager scream, as he tells that person to leave the store before he calls the cops. But, by the time the second person came in, well, I just don't know. A conspiracy of some sort? Maybe he did give them shoes after all.


Thirty-some years later, I'm still wondering what the outcome was. I'm glad I'm above that sort of thing now. Good thing they didn't have *69 back then.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Thanksgiving Dinner 2005


Every Thanksgiving I try to be creative with my cooking.
I can't understand why no one will ever join me.
It's lonely eating by myself.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Straight Forward Approach to Slants

Every day in the news media we are bombarded by reports that lean one way or another. Pro this, anti that, so to speak. Very seldom do we read, see or hear any type of news that isn't slanted. You'll hear from friends or co-workers who felt the coverage of a particular news item of interest was so biased for or against a particular issue. You might sit there and think to yourself, "Hey, I saw the same thing, on the same station, and I didn't feel it was as bad as what they just said." Of course, we all have our own opinions on just about everything, and sometimes we run into people who are just so animated over how the news is reported, they seem to lose track of exactly what they heard, saw or read, and, by inflection, they inject their own personal views to create a new slant on the slanted news. These reporters tend to be pariahs in their minds and thusly, they misconstrue what was actually said in the first place. A lot of it has to do with wishful thinking. As was the case with Clinton, people either like Bush or they hate his guts with a vengeance, so out of their mouths come some pretty nasty words.

A lot of times, someone supports a cause. Save the Whales! These writings can be twisted into a sort of political agenda because the reader interprets conservation or animal rights organizations to be in cohorts with liberals. Trust me, it works both ways. Over time, too many issues have been twisted and warped into weird concepts, when, in reality, one more than likely doesn't have anything to do with the other. I've heard that what used to be called a jungle is now called a rain forest. To my recollection, a jungle has always been a jungle and a rain forest has always been a rain forest. Tree huggers? I don't think so. We tend to get more excited when we somehow feel it might affect us as individuals, but, when did a rain forest ever affect you? Ha! It will when they no longer exist.

Slants take on many forms, not always of a political nature. They can delve into the philosophical or religious views of the writer. They could be based on one's own experiences. How many writers, especially movie critics or restaurant reviewers, may or may not like a movie or restaurant based only on their particular tastes? Clearly, there's nothing political about them. Maybe we saw that movie and ate at that restaurant and enjoyed them both. Below are three different takes on the same fictitious event. One is a straight forward report and the other two are slants. Each slant will infer something different. Read between the lines.

(1) A two vehicle accident occurred on Wednesday, at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue, in downtown Orlando. It was reported to the Orlando Police Department at 10:15 PM. One person did not survive. Dennis Walker, 15, of Orlando was pronounced dead at the scene. His father Michael Walker, also of Orlando, was transported to ORMC and treated and released. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Taft, and his passengers, suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. Cause of the accident is pending a police investigation.

(2) A 15 year old boy died in a two car accident on Wednesday here in Orlando. The accident occurred at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue. Dennis Walker, of Orlando, was pronounced dead at the scene. His father, Michael Walker, also of Orlando, was flown by helicopter to the Trauma Center at ORMC. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Taft, and his passengers suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. Mr. Walker had just pulled out of the parking lot of the First Methodist Church, where he had picked his son up from a Boy Scout meeting. An officer at the scene was quoted as saying, "I can't say for sure what happened, but, empty beer cans and bottles were found in the other vehicle." A witness said that the second vehicle had just pulled out of Bill's Tavern, a block away, and was exceeding the posted speed limit of 35MPH. Blood alcohol levels have not been released and an official report will not be disclosed until the investigation is completed.

(3) An accident which caused the death of one person occurred at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue in Orlando. Dennis Walker, 15, of Orlando, died at the scene. His father, Michael Walker, also of Orlando, was transported to ORMC. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Taft, and his passengers, were treated for minor injuries. There have been many accidents at this intersection over the past 10 years, according to state statistics. One person was quoted as saying, "This is ridiculous. We've protested to state, county and city officials about this for years. We've signed petitions. We need a traffic light here! No one heeds the 4 way stop signs. At least two others have died in the past three years." An investigation is pending and weather did not seem to be a factor.

Do you see how easy it is to write a slant? You can slant a story any way you want to suit your own opinion. Many blogs are written from an extreme political perspective. I've read that Bush is the equivalent of Hitler. I've also read that Hillary is a lesbian communist. Why must there be so much vitriolic hatred spewed from the hands of such writers? Do we really, deep down, actually subscribe to such coarse and vicious thoughts? Can you actually prove any of it? Have you ever seen President Bush at a Nazi rally? Have you ever seen Hillary Clinton in bed with another woman? Of course, voice your opinions, but, why not write a less virulent diatribe? Most blogs thrive on comments from their readers. Allow them to air their thoughts to their heart's content. Don't be so prejudiced.

Of course, that's my unbiased opinion.