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Monday, August 30, 2010

Homeless Man Behind Bar Finds Home Behind Bars

Don’t think about that title for more than ten seconds or blood will shoot out of your ears. Last month I spoke about the greatest case of life imitating art when a homeless guy broke into a closed down bar and reopened it, serving around 30 people a day before being busted by authorities. By all accounts, the tale of Travis Lloyd Kevie would have made a spectacular 80s movie in which I envisioned him being played by Michael Keaton. Down on his luck, Kevie gets hired to help clean out a local watering hole that suffers financial disaster. He breaks into the bar one night, turns on the “OPEN” sign and begins serving liquor to patrons. Starting off with a six pack, he reinvests his profits into the business by buying more alcohol. Two weeks later the authorities step in and shut him down.

Now, he’s been sentenced to 15 days in jail and a fine of $160 for selling liquor without a license. He’s also been ordered to steer clear of the bar unless he’s lawfully employed there. So, wait, he served around 30 people a day for 15 days and was made to pay a fine of $160. What about the large sum of money and alcohol that was seized by police? Does he get to keep that? That’s a little bit of profit for his trouble.

I say, he should sell his tale for enough money to buy a liquor license and lease the building from the original owner. Then he can lawfully operate the business with a liquor license and job title, bar manager. If I had the money, I’d buy the rights to his story and help him on his way. If anything, this latest development gives me the ending I was looking for when I first wrote about this story. Mark my words, this guy’s story isn’t over yet… as long as it doesn’t end up a made for TV movie, I’ll be happy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rage Is The New Black

I wrote before about Steven Slater’s flight of frenzy as a personification of our own psyche. The Id, Ego, and Super-ego battling for internal supremacy over whether or not to stand up and cry out, “I have had enough.” Slater has been adopted by the media as a working class hero and perhaps he should be. In this brave new world of a sluggish economy and public displeasure over the direction of the government and businesses, rage is definitely the new black. The tea party wants you to be mad at the current government. Consumer watch dogs want you to vote with your dollars as if they were fists. We are definitely becoming a more aggressive and confrontational society.

Along with Slater’s Escape, we’ve had all kinds of “rage against the machine” moments. Most recently, Congressman Anthony Weiner went toe to toe with Republicans over the opposing of the 9/11 workers fund called the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. He was flipping mad over that and it wasn’t Weiner’s first fight in office. He dished out a large helping of criticism over BP’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf. You can consider this as rage for the cause of good.

Then we have instances of McNugget Rage. Melodi Dushane of Toledo became a viral hit when she attacked a McDonald’s drive through worker over the lack of Chicken McNuggets on the breakfast menu. The video shows her assaulting the worker and damaging the window in her attempts to get herself some McNuggets. That’s kind of on the other side of the spectrum from Weiner and government.

But, like Phil Collins said, “I can feel it coming in the air tonight.” We are becoming an army of Howard Beale’s shouting from the windows and while it’s not always a bad thing, it is the new trend. Maybe it’s the heat of summer or maybe Americans truly are mad as hell. Hey, I can relate to Steven Slater, even though his actions could have gotten someone on the ground hurt. Everyone once in awhile you have to practice a little dissidence. I find ways to just be a little bit rebellious, but my sometimes passive aggressive attempts to stick it to whatever the man is today is far from destructive. Most of the time it’s done with a medium dose of humor as to not be too rage worthy. Like all things, revolution, in moderation, can be good for the soul. Hell, this country was founded on it. But this new Age of Rage may be pushing things too far.
I don’t want to be the one to say it but I kind of blame the media. I’m not calling out movie or video game violence as a contributing factor here. I am suggesting that our attention to the media is quite possibly beginning to damage our calm. Every day we are bombarded by news of the war in Afghanistan, violence in the Middle East, protests around the world, videos of people beating up bus passengers, fighting among political groups and politicians like Anthony Weiner. There is a common underlying thread of anger to all of these. We love reality shows where someone gets kicked off, breaks down, goes postal or just plain loses it. It doesn’t even have to be a violent reaction but it’s an aggressive one. We love it when someone gets busted for something. [Raises Hand] I do, too. This is why I believe John McClane represents one the most perfect everyman action heroes. He has no super powers. He has no cool gadgets. He simply does the job and will kick your ass if you are bad. Not to mention I love the fact that his inner monologue comes out during the beat down. As it should.

But are we addicted to rage? We are a nation made up of a lot of overworked, underpaid, out of shape, tired and cranky people. It’s like Predator 2 out there. A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a story about the anniversary of lynching that took place 80 years ago in Marion, Indiana. I was riveted to the radio which, considering I was listening to NPR, shows how much of a dork I am, proud that I may be in that matter.  The letters from the event were found and recordings of witnesses created such an air of vitriol. It’s hard to believe that this somewhat understood and accepted practice in those times. I felt a sense of shame, yet couldn’t stop listening. And you know what? I became angry. I became angry that people, who could have probably been considered level headed by their peers, would take up such a mob mentality that they felt they needed to storm a jail and destroy the walls to get at these men. After they physically beat them, they hung them from a tree in the square. And if that wasn’t bad enough, one of the men tried to keep the noose from tightening around their own neck, so they broke his arm and restrung him. I also became angry because that scene that played out over the radio was quite possibly not far from where we may be heading these days. It doesn’t have to be racially motivated, either. It could be a group of workers pissed off over their CEO for taking a pay raise while their benefits were reduced. It could be a group of citizens who lynch a business owner for polluting their waters. It doesn’t just have to be because the person being lynched did something to break the law.

As another example, I’ll point the George Cukor finger of shame at myself. I am usually a pretty easy going guy. The other night, however, I found myself getting totally annoyed for no reason. I had maybe an hour of free time, in which I had the idea to come up with the some designs for my shirt stores. It was late in the evening and while I wasn’t wondering what clothes to wear I was wondering how best to capture the spirit of the Slater Escape on a shirt. My wife was sitting on the floor watching the news while my three year old was bouncing around just before bedtime. Well, the little one was annoying my wife who verbally expressed her displeasure with the child and for some reason that seemed to annoy me. Why? I don’t know. It was just a case of I was cranky at something not working and outside factors made things worse. I wasn’t made enough to go postal but I was visibly annoyed. That’s been an unhealthy trend. I get torqued off over something stupid and end up all bent out of shape and mongo-like when I have no real reason. I think a lot of it is lack of sleep and being out of shape. I don’t want to make excuses but it seems my level of crankiness is directly proportionate to weight gain. It’s not a diagnosis, just an observation. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for that behavior and try to be as mellow as possible. I’m also not trying to say that I am a representation of the national sense of well being, but I see it as well as feel it in the air around here.

It’s one thing to be a constant victim, the doormat of the office, and I’ve played it one too many times but just because someone doesn’t want to be a victim doesn’t mean they need to be a bully. No one respects a bully. Yeah, they may submit and fall in line behind their lead but when that person is not in the room they rest of us will dissent in private to each other and that creates an unhealthy environment of passive aggressiveness. My mother-in-law always said, “Don’t be a victim.” The Id wants to not be a victim but the Ego sees far too many reasons that support keeping the status quo. But there has to be a sense of balance between getting what you want and realizing that there are rules and responsibilities to those actions. There can be collateral damage and whether you feel it’s not your problem, it is. It’s like a game of chess or Othello, which is more in my wheelhouse. You need to make your move with the thought of how it affects the next four moves. The Id thinks about the now, never about the future. To go really geek on you, think of the Id as a Sith. Now, while Yoda says to Luke, “All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph.” Yoda is speaking of Luke’s inability to see the now, not expect rewards in the now. He’s concerned that Luke is a dreamer and not a realist. The Sith, however act in the now to get rewards in the now. To do it, they use aggression and offensive means. You can have dreams, just be aware of the reality that you have to work with to achieve those dreams and think about the consequences of reaching those goals. There are times to be fools and times to be angels. What we need to do as human beings is figure out what those times are.

We need to get a sense of perspective about our lives. My family has had a rough year and that doesn’t give me license to be cranky, but it doesn’t help me find the happy place, either. That’s up to me to do the work. I would love nothing more than to blame everybody else for the things that are wrong in my life and I sometimes do, to an extent. But deep down, I know I am responsible for my own course. Truthfully, I have it pretty good. It’s not perfect but it isn’t a shambles. For every one thing that hasn’t worked out I can count one or more things that are working. Yeah, it sucks that I have to make do with certain outcomes. I didn’t get this or that didn’t just happen automatically like I wanted it, too. There are for more worse things that can happen to me than not getting a few extra hours to play a video game or watch a movie. Now, over time those little things build up but you have to kind of purge them from the system. Blow off a little steam, once in awhile, but not at the expense of others. Find happier and more productive ways to rage. I know it’s a Dr. Phil, Zen Buddhist cure all that I am selling and it doesn’t work for everyone. I can’t save them all but I’ll try to get as many as I can.

I know people who have it a hell of a lot worse and they aren’t bitching and going all Incredible Hulk when things get rough. Everyone’s life may suck a bit more this year as this country has kind of stalled and become stagnant. It could be worse and it may get worse, before it gets better. But we are way too impatient. We want instant results and instant gratification. If we don’t get it, we get all cranky and ill tempered. It’s like having a nation of three year olds who are up way past their bedtime and coming down off a sugar rush. You almost need to have that serenity prayer on hand for everyday life. Give me the strength to change the things I can and accept the things I cannot. I’m not asking you to accept a life of poverty or abuse or any other thing. I’m asking us to figure out what changes are we able to make, within reason, and improve the way of life, responsibly. If rage is the new black, then lights find a way to shine a little light on it. Have a little fun and keep smiling. That always makes the bastards wonder what you’re up to.



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pop Culture Catch Up

I'm a bit behind on my movie viewing, television watching, and video game playing.   As I've gotten older the time I would spend just watching a movie or playing a video game has diminished.  That's not exactly true, I've got my father-in-law playing the Wii and we spend nearly every night playing House of the Dead 2 & 3 or any number of Cabela's hunting games.  But, actual playing of my own games is diminished.  That's partially from the fact that games, anymore, are very complex and in depth and take forever to finish.  At least they do for me.   In any case, here's a smattering of what I've caught up on or have yet to tackle.

I have yet to see the following:
Iron Man 1 or 2
The Hangover
and various other big name films that came out in the last five years. 

I will say that I did get to see Wall-E for the first time, yesterday, although I haven't finished it yet.   So far, I love it.  What an awesome performance by a robot that was animated.   There should some kind of award for that.  I also did watch Reign of Fire, which is eight years old but wasn't bad.  I was expecting it to be a lot worse.  I've also been watching a bunch of movies I've seen thousands of times.   Last weekend on ABC Family they ran The Goonies along with all the Harry Potter movies up to Order Of the Phoenix.  I've also been watching a lot of old school James Bond like On Her Majesty's Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, and Goldfinger.

I scuttled the half of last season's Desperate Housewives and all of Grey's Anatomy due to the lack of time or interest in watching them.  I am still sifting through last season's Castle and would like to get through Bones.  Normally, I would watch these with my wife, but she's been too busy reading..  nerd.   Love You...   Hell, we haven't even watched the season finale of Glee, so don't ruin it for me.  I always wanted to watch Stargate Atlantis, but didn't have Sci-Fi Syfy when it first aired.  I was playing catchup with Stargate SG-1 on UPN which was a season or two behind Showtime and totally missed out on Battlestar Galactica because of Comcast dropping Syfy from the regular extended cable package right after the mini-series.  Oddly enough, I was all caught up on Flashforward and Doll House and they got cancelled.    The only thing I regular keep on now is Burn Notice which I love. Go Team Axe!  I've also been watching old reruns of South Park on the local stations, late at night.  Right now, the ole DVR capacity is still at around 90% full.  HAH.  I better hop to it before everything starts back up for the Fall.

Video Games
Like I said, I spend most of game playing on the Wii and don't spend a lot of time on games other than House of the Dead 2 & 3 and Cabela stuff.   I even bought the new Super Mario Bros. and have barely touched it.   For my PS3, I finally finished Fallout 3 and the broken steel add on, after picking it up in March.  I know, the game came out in 2008.  Guess what, I still haven't finished Grand Theft Auto 4, Mercenaries 2, or Little Big Planet.   I did manage to get through Uncharted 1 and 2 this year thanks to a friend loaning it to me.   Loved those games.  I would like to check out the other Lego games like Harry Potter and Batman, but I just don't have time.   Not to mention there's Resident Evil 5 and I was told I need to go back and play God of War 1, 2 and 3

I should be ashamed of myself for missing out on the last eight years of stuff.  I've kept up through research and news but the actual sitting down and watching or playing these things has gone from my things to do list.   The only good thing I can look forward to is reintroducing a lot of my favorites to my kid.  She loved watching the original Star Wars movies and The Goonies.  I may have to vicariously live through her.   She isn't too bad at the golfing portion in Wii Sports and she's only three.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I've Got 99 Problems and A Fridge Is One

I hate my fridge. Let me say that again, I HATE MY FRIDGE. I shouldn’t complain, but I will and you will listen to my ranting, or at least go look at something else on the Internet until I'm done. The reason I shouldn’t complain is because the refrigerator came with the house. It’s an old Hotpoint fridge/ice box and it is, without a doubt, a design fail, in my opinion.  Here comes the airing of grievances. 

First off, the coolant piping runs along the ceiling of the fridge at an angle with about a four inch gap in between the left and right side set of pipes. These pipes slant upwards from the back of the top shelf. This means that in order to fit everything on that shelf you need to put the short stuff in the back and the tall stuff, like milk or juice, in the front. This prevents you from being able to see that jar of pickles in the back that is older than your kids. I am constantly opening or buying a new bottle of something because I didn’t know there was an already open one in the back of the fridge. Believe me, I went through three jars of strawberry jam before I figured this out.

Now, the fridge has managed to operate correctly the last six years I’ve lived in the house but last year it began having an identity crisis and will probably need replaced. What I’m saying is that the fridge thinks it’s the freezer. Early in 2009, I began to notice a small amount of ice on the pipes in the back of the fridge and then as time went on, the amount of ice grew until it enveloped all of the piping on the right hand side. I have only seen one other instance of this kind of ice growth. While my Mother-in-law was in UPMC’s Shadyside ER a couple of days, last year after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, I noticed one of those huge O2 tanks outside in the parking lot. One side of the tank was completely covered with ice that stood out almost half the diameter of the actual tank. The ice growth in my fridge was nearing those proportions. By September, I decided to get in there and try to fix the problem.

I grabbed one of the greatest inventions known to homeowners, a Scunci Steamer. My wife got this for Christmas, one year, and I’ve found more use for it than her. Truly, this is a wonderful thing and I highly recommend getting one. I’ve used it to clean paint off the hardwood floors in my daughter’s room. I should clarify that she did not do it, I did when I painted the room prior to her birth. Nail polish on the hardwood floor, comforter, dust ruffle, and herself was all her doing and unfortunately, I couldn’t use the steamer on her. I’ve also used it to clean the bathroom and it works great on blowing any mold out of the recessed joint between the bathtub and shower wraparound piece.

After waiting for water to boil, which is pretty much what I was doing, I got to work. I removed the contents of the fridge and began blasting the ice block with hot liquid magma, er… water vapor. The fridge threw a huge cloud of steam back at me as if I was putting Han Solo into carbon freeze. After an hour of clearing away ice and water I stood back and gave a “Hell yeah, fridge! You can suck it!” cry of accomplishment which had my wife doing a huge eye roll and muttering the word “dork” under her breath. I loaded everything back into the fridge and beat my chest in manliness. Then I burnt myself on the lid to the steamer and cried like a little girl.

The next day, I looked in on my fridge, prepared to gloat at my victory. But once again, there was a small layer of frost around the piping and a yellowed tint on the inside of the back wall behind the piping. I would have thought that the growth would have stopped there but it continued. Apparently, I had somehow developed a small leak in the pipe. This was going to continue to be a problem. I eventually just ignored it and dealt with having this issue. Once again, though, the ice block was removed, but not by my hands. Remember that little thing called Snowmageddon we had back in February? My power was off for two days over Super Bowl weekend and most of the ice melted away. Once the power came back on it came back with a vengeance, until this past weekend.
Because of the huge block of ice that had formed from February through August, I had less room in my fridge and things were being shoved into small places that should not have been. It was like one big booby trap ready to explode in my face and while reaching for something on the shelf I managed to push things around causing a can of pop to fall off the shelf. On its way to the floor it decided to pick up a hitchhiker in the form of the little button that controls the light. You know, the one that you push in with your finger so you can see what it’s like to be inside the fridge with the light out. Well, since it pulled the button clean off, the light would not turn off when I closed the door. I tried to fix it but was having no luck and just said, “’Eff it. The light stays on, now.” However, the next morning I noticed that the top shelf of the fridge was now wet. The light had begun to melt the ice. I had figured that I was going to have to eventually get back in there and clean it out but I didn’t realize I’d be doing it this weekend.
This shouldn’t be a problem because I have my Scunci steamer handy. It’s down in the laundry room, right? The red room? The back porch? Where the ‘Eff is it? Great, now I had to do this with a hair dryer. That takes forever.

I eventually got the ice removed and decided I might as well take care of the freezer while I was at it. I found a couple of wooly mammoths and the missing link when I defrosted it. I hadn’t defrosted it in probably two years and it managed to stay pretty well frozen during the power outage. Once again, I was lamenting the missing steamer which would have made short work of the glacier inside my icebox.

I’m thinking it may just be time to get rid of the fridge. Unfortunately, there are a lot of important factors to deal with in choosing a new one. The space is limited since the fridge is wedged into a hole between the kitchen wall and the stove. There is also limited space above it due to a set of cabinets attached to the bulkhead.  I don’t think there will be enough room for a side by side model because of the space and I have make sure I get one with the door opening to the right. The doorway to the kitchen sits right next to the fridge and it you open the fridge, you can’t enter the kitchen.  Not that any of use can get into the kitchen while you are in the fridge, but I’m thinking of my kid and my cats who might tear off down the hallway and try to make that turn, only to find themselves in Wylie Coyote mode, running into the door.

As for look, my wife wants stainless stell but I've been told they are a bitch to clean.  Black is also nice but will probably show off every little smudge, too.   Another thing to consider is that I am getting standing orders from my wife that we should by the fridge and the oven together to match the styles.   Um, come on Powerball.   Maybe I can hold off until Christmas to find one or both.  Hell, maybe I'll check the scratch and dent centers.   My only issue with those is beyond having a possible cosmetic defect, which doesn't bother me, I wonder if in getting that defect was the internal components of the fridge damaged.   I don't want to be standing there with a nice brand new fridge using a scunci steamer in three months because I wanted to save a few bucks.  I'm cheap but not that cheap.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The House Of Maybe

Whenever I wanted something as a child I would go to my parents and say, “Oh, dearest mother and/or father, if you could find it in your magnanimous heart I entreat you, might I have that toy and/or candy, there, in the aisle betwixt the Chapstick and the National Enquirer?” Well, that’s what my brain said, my mouth sounded more like “GIMMIE! GIMMIE! GIMMIE! PLEASE? OOOH, I’LL NEVER ASK FOR ANYTHING EVER AGAIN!” My parents were calm and collective and immediately returned an answer of “Maybe.”

Maybe? What the hell is this maybe, crap? Can I have it or can’t I? The indecision is killing me. So of course, I would continue to ask if a decision was made. That is a path to rejection. Maybe leads to pestering. Pestering leads to annoyance. Annoyance leads to NO!

I hated that. I hated when I would ask for something and I would get maybe as an answer. Getting “Maybe” as a response was like a the insurance in Blackjack. It’s a sucker bet. Any kid who hears maybe as a decision is morally obligated to continually ask again and again which always leads to the same final answer of “No.” It was almost like baiting a child to piss you off into saying it. There it is, “maybe,” sitting in the middle of a forest with no one around. A child slinks along the treeline, stalking its prey. The “maybe” sits there enticing the child. “No one is around to stop you, go ahead.” The child hesitantly walks up and taps at the word. Jumping back to see if a trap gets sprung. Nothing happens. The child once again, more cautiously sneaks up on the word and taps at it. Jumping back, but not as much. Now, full of confidence, the child brazenly walks up to the word and grabs it, full force, and begins to yank at it. It notices the string but it’s already too late. The trap is sprung and soon the carefully woven net of “No” surrounds the child, capturing it in its grasp with no chance of escape. Another one caught.

Maybe. What the hell?

But now I am a parent and the constant barrage of “Can I have a cookie?” or “Can we race the car?” comes from the mouth of my three year old. We have to restaurants that we frequently patronize and in both there is a small area for games. One has a racing game and the other has a couple of crane games. We used to be able to fool her into believing that the demo of the racing game was her actually playing it but she caught on rather quickly and said, “Daddy, you have to put quarters in there to make it go.” With the crane games, she doesn’t accept the fact that the machines are geared towards not paying out, with the exception of the candy one which allows you to play until you win. So, as we make our way out in the evening for dinner and she says, “Can I race the car” or when we go to the grocery store and pass by the bakery prompting her to ask for a cookie, I have fallen into that same answer strategically employed by my parents. “Maybe,” I say to her. Then the cycle repeats all over again as it did when I was a child.

But, I add a caveat to the answer. “Maybe, but you have to be a good girl and sit quietly and eat your dinner.” And for the most part we manage to get more results out of her than if we were to just say “Maybe” and be done with it. She hasn’t quite caught on to the length of time that should pass yet and when I say, “In a minute” she immediately equates a minute to a few seconds between her asking the first time and the second time. She’s getting better but there are instances where I catch myself saying “maybe” when I really mean no but I don’t want a full blown three alarm meltdown from saying it. Sometimes, she forgets what she asked but she has a pretty good memory and calls me on it. Perhaps she is baiting me into a trap and the hunter is suddenly becoming the hunted.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Zombies Love Walmart

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living DeadSince reading the Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, I often wondered where I would go during a zombie outbreak.  Would I stay home and try to survive on what defenses I could muster or would I pack up the clan and head to a shelter.   We all know both of those options lead to disaster from watching countless movies.  Even going to the mall is risky, but I figured that, in this day and age, if the often thought yet really improbable ever happened I would just go to the one place that had everything for my survival, Walmart.  

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarWalmart has it all, food, weapons and supplies of all sorts.  I could sack out there for awhile, using it as a shelter.  I could survive on the food in the store while stocking up on medical supplies and weapons  fom the sporting goods section.  However, I have changed my thought process based on one reason and one reason only. Walmart would be open.   If anyone believes otherwise, see here.  Turns out, even in a flood, Walmart remains open.  Debate on the nature of the staffing procedures during such a disaster are ever present.  Were the employees asked to stay or forced to stay.  Did they chose to stay or was there an unspoken rule that if they chose to go home, their jobs or at least their employment in good standing would be in jeopardy.  The response from Walmart was "They chose to stay." 

That means if there was a zombie outbreak, going to Walmart would only be an option if you really had shopping to do because it looks like they'll keep the doors open, even if undead hordes are advancing on the store.   Nice work. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

LOST The Complete Collection Coming To DVD - BluRay August 24th,2010


Ok, so last week a few blogs and websites managed to jailbreak the 12 minute epilogue.  I managed to see two parts of it before they shut it down.  Those who have seen it have told me that it totally makes up for any pangs of hunger we may still have for Island Jack and the Losties.   [sigh]  I'm still a bit on the fence about the ending.   I want to love it with all the faith of a man pushing the button every 108 minutes yet I still feel cheated, in a way. 

That being said, August 24th is the release date for the DVD and BluRay collections of the complete series as well as the sixth season.  I have been holding out for the end of the series to get the whole collection.  I'm still kicking myself over the whole Buffy debacle where I managed to get seasons 1, 2, and 4 but didn't pick up anything else.  Then they had the entire series in a box set.  Damn you, impulses!   But, I digress.   Looks like a lot of cool stuff is going into the complete series collection including extra content, bloopers, an ankh, an island replica (is it in a snow globe?), a black light (is that to inspect the Hydra polar bear cages for... um ew.), and a Senet game for you and your immortal enemy to pass the time with in case you find yourself stuck on an island.

Honnnnneeeyyyy?   I lovvee you.  Merry Christmas early please?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Slater Exit Strategy: Quitting With Style

Steven Slater did what most people only dream about. He quit his job. Not only did he quit his job. He did it with some dissident style. Of course, for all his service industry employee heroics, he was rewarded with a trip to jail.

In case you missed it, Steven is/was a flight attendant on JetBlue Airways. On a flight from Pittsburgh to JFK International he reached his breaking point. When a passenger decided to stand up and retrieve luggage from the overhead compartment, before the plane had stopped moving, Steven did what all flight attendants do, asked the passenger to please remain seated while the plane was moving. Varied accounts describe the following altercation but the high points are that the bag swung out of the compartment and hit Steven on the head. Whether it was accidental or on purpose is debatable. This was followed by the passenger allegedly telling Slater to ‘Eff off, when Slater asked for an apology.

Steve, who had been, by his own account, in the airline industry 28 years had finally had it with rude passengers, I guess. He returned to the front of the cabin, grabbed the microphone and gave everyone his two week, er two minute notice. He reportedly said, “To the Mother Effer who just told me to Eff Off, Eff You.” He then recounted his years of service, said, “I’m Out Bitches”, grabbed a couple of beers and left the plane. But the kicker to this story isn’t that he quit. It’s that he left by way of the emergency exit slide. He blew the hatch which inflated the slide and took one last ride to freedom. Later, at his home he was arrested.

You can get Later Slater on a shirt.
Check out my Store blog to find out how.

Now, I guess you could make a case for this being highly dangerous. It’s more than likely that he broke several FAA rules by taking the scenic way out. CBS news reported he was arraigned on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and trespassing. Charges that could land him in jail for seven years. Not to mention, his stylish exit strategy could have injured someone from deploying the slide.

Should Steven go to jail? That’s a toughie. Unfortunately, we live in a post 9/11 world where the rules of air travel have gone beyond simply being slapped with a misdemeanor. If the courts want to continue to be effective at enforcing rules, he will probably be sentenced to some time. My thoughts are he should be given a fine and probation time and possibly barred from working in the industry, again. Just to set an example, that is. However, what I find irreprehensible is that the passenger was not cited or arrested for anything. By the same token as what Slater did, this was a violation of FAA rules governing the interference of flight crew duties by a passenger. Where is the justice in that? Did Slater’s escape trump the need to uphold those other rules?

Let’s face it, air travel, anymore, sucks. The airlines are grasping at straws to keep afloat, fees are outrageous, and flying generally is not a fun thing to do. Furthermore, because of all these factors, working in the industry is no longer enjoyable. Stricter rules, not that there shouldn’t be, cause more delays. The economy woes make passengers more surly when having to pay out more in fees and service charges which, in turn, creates more confrontational moments with staff. Flight attendants are imagined as these happy as all get out, smile while we ram the drink cart into you, carry-on luggage Nazis who take pride in being difficult and will go off on you at a moment’s notice for not having your seat all the way up. Really, they are just people in the service industry like everyone else. Customer Service can be a rewarding and all together exhausting experience, especially in what can be perceived as a hostile consumer culture, nowadays.

It seems, anymore, that consumers are frustrated with the quality and prices of everything. IPhones that drop calls, McNuggets that don’t get delivered at the drive through and banks that charge outrageous fees are just a few of the game changers that has pushed the norm from “buyer beware” to “seller lookout.” Litigious as we might have been, pre recession, it looks to be a more strained relationship between customers and vendors since everything on Wall Street went out the emergency exit. The atmosphere is thick with stress and heat and the powder keg is set to explode.

Yet, why is Steven Slater considered a hero? Is it because he voiced the plight of the common service industry worker? Is it because he told off a rude passenger? Is it because he defied convention and escaped in style? In this world model of consumer vs. seller, that I just explained, Slater should be the enemy. He works for the company that is causing the consumer issues. However, the manner in which this whole drama played out painted Slater as the victim. He was a guy just trying to do his job in a hostile environment and he had enough of it. Later Slater stood up for the blue collar worker and this passenger, no matter who they were was “The Man.” This wasn’t an issue where a service worker broke the law and caused an incident because they were harassed. This was a “rise up” moment where the beaten down service worker took flight out the exit of a job that they had finally reached their breaking point.

In this scenario, the worker trumped the consumer because he now represented the consumer. He represented those of us who would to tell our cable company to ‘eff off over the price of our service. The desire to stand up and say “Get bent” to the employers and services that oppress us is all rather Freudian. In fact, the Steven Slater Exit Strategy is a perfect example of the Id, Ego, and super-ego in Freud’s structural model. The Id is Steven Slater. He is the primal instinct in all of us to just flip the finger at the world. All of us observing Slater in the media represent the Ego or the part of us that wishes we could be like that but accept the reality of our position. I can’t tell my boss to eff off and then jump ship. I have a mortgage, bills, and a family. I need to keep my job. I have responsibilities. The Id is the twenty year old us and the Ego is the 30-40 year old us. The Super-ego represents the us that says that Slater should go to jail. It’s not a case of “I wish I could do what he did.” It’s a matter of “He was wrong and should be punished for breaking the law and endangering people.” The Super-ego is usually the voice that comes out of us when we are asked by superiors if we think Slater was in the right. The Super-ego comes forth from our psyche as the representative while the Ego wrestles to keep a hand over the id’s mouth.

As a 14 year veteran of the service industry, there have surely been one or two days where I wanted to stand up, give everyone my business finger and pop open a window and slide out to the parking lot. My Id is constantly plotting my exit strategy while my Ego looks as the realty of my situation. My Super-ego is the guy that sits in his chair, all smiles, saying he loves his job. But sometimes the Id can tie the Ego and Super-ego up with duct tape, grab a gun and go apeshit like Omar Thornton did in Manchester Connecticut. Fortunately, in this case, Slater did not go “postal.” He simply exited the plane in the same way most people would probably love to quit their jobs. He used the sentiment of The David Allen Coe, the language of Half Baked’s Scarface (Guillermo Diaz) and coupled it with the style of Carson Kressley. He is a modern day Howard Beale shouting over the in flight PA system, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." Definitely, RAGE is the new black.

Frankly, barring the safety issues and Slater’s obscenity laden sign off, I think the Slater Exit Strategy could be applied to a lot of situations. So, if Steven does lose his job and have to switch careers I have a couple of ideas for him.

Of course, the most obvious choice for capitalizing on his new found fame would be to go on a reality show, say Survivor. Will he win? Don’t know. However, I think, in either case, he needs to go out with style at tribal council. After Jeff Probst extinguishes his torch he can turn to the rest of the council and tell them to ‘eff off before jumping on a huge inflatable water slide that takes him down to a splash lagoon. If that doesn’t work, I say hire him as a chief strategist in Afghanistan. He understands air travel and can relate to the struggles of having to be the bad guy in cases where he’s just trying to do his job. Of course, as the campaign winds down, he can offer up his exit strategy. Allied forces simply tell Al Qaeda and the Taliban to ‘eff off as we jump onto a huge slide that carries our troops safely into India.

So, thank you Steven Slater for giving all our Id’s a chance to dream. Now, I must get back to work.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You Can Never Have Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen

There’s an old saying about too many cooks spoiling the broth. It can also be worded as having too many Chiefs and not enough Indians. Of course, I have no idea how you can connect Cleveland Major League Baseball to Kansas City professional football and relate that to cooking.

That was a joke…. Never mind.

Bad jokes aside, the idea that you need to have a small amount of management and an ample amount of direct reports is the idea behind those sayings. In other words, too many people in charge leads to discourse among how to best serve the project. But this isn’t about business, this is about actual food. This is about literally having too many cooks in the kitchen and I say, so be it. The more the merrier.

As my waistline will attest, I do have a small love of food, but will leave its preparation up to the experts. I am otherwise pretty useless in the kitchen. I am constantly reminded how I screwed up beans and weenies in a can. What did I know? I was trying to make it better. I was a bartender. We experiment, sometimes. [crickets] For the smallest part, I think my wife would just be happy if I remember to put stuff back in the fridge. Small steps, right?

But theOver the years, I have gotten better at it and on occasion I will even do some of the cooking. I’ll make French Toast, chili, grill dead animals and can make a pretty decent scrambled egg. However, in my life I have known many great cooks and I stand by the mantra that having too many cooks can never be a bad thing.

More than one cook can split up the workload. Just last night, my wife and father-in-law tackled kitchen prep inside while I manned the grill, outside. We had some leftovers from a birthday party cookout that consisted of a three beans and bacon dish, sausage stuffed banana peppers, hot dogs and hamburgers, which were reheated and pasta salad and fried green tomatoes, which were fresh. Now, as a grill warrior I am constantly working to improve how I can grill hot dogs, hamburgers, and steak and I have found that nothing bothers me more than having dried out burgers from putting them back on the grill. So, here’s a little tip for anyone who has left over hamburgers and wants to cook them up the next day.

There is an awesome spice made by McCormick called Grill Mates. I already love their Montreal Steak Seasoning one for…um steak. Whenever I get some steak for grilling, I use a combination of the Montreal Steak Seasoning and Meat Tenderizer before it gets on the grill and the add some black pepper once it’s close to being done. They also make a hamburger spice which is ‘effing awesome. But it also works if you are reheating burgers as well. Depending on the number of burgers you are using, grab a brownie or cake pan and add some beef broth, I use Swanson, and the Grill Mates Burger Spice. Put your burgers in and cover it with foil. Put it on the grill and just let it simmer. The burgers stay juicy and moist and the added flavor from the spice is kick ass. The beef broth idea came from my mom, another great cook.

So, while I’m standing outside watching meat cook, my father-in-law is inside slicing up green tomatoes, coating them with salt, pepper, and flour and frying them up. While he’s doing that, my wife is mixing up pasta salad and heating up the peppers and beans. Teamwork y’all. Yet, this was mostly food that was already made ahead of time. What about the food that needs to actually be cooked?

While I am primarily biased towards my own family’s cooking there were few things I would actually eat and didn’t leave my comfort zone all that much. For instance, before I met my wife I had hardly ever considered putting brown sugar into spaghetti sauce. I also did not eat chili before my father-in-law made me an addict. Now, I make it using his recipe and it is one of my favorites. Salad consisting of apples, raisins, walnuts and mayonnaise? No thank you… until I met my wife. Now, I could eat a whole bowl of Waldorf Salad, by myself.

Sadly, we are down one awesome cook this year. Dinner is bittersweet as my wife is beginning to learn how to cook all the dishes, her mother was so good at, in a trial by fire method. I will say that she’s nailed broccoli cheese soup. That was always something she had trouble getting her mother to make the way she liked it. Our gold standard was Ruby Tuesday’s but we don’t have one around here anymore. Holiday cooking will be equal doses of sweet and sour as that was always a favorite time of year for my mother-in-law’s cooking. Sure I had some of the best sweet potato casserole and stuffing at my family’s house for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve belonged to my wife’s family. Without the matriarch at the helm we will all have to figure out how to pull off some of the more excellent fare we’ve been used to.

To be fair to my wife, she had been taking on the duties of cooking for Halloween and New Year’s Eve ever since we moved into our home in 2004. But she always had an extra cook in the kitchen to help out and I know there will be times that she’ll unknowingly reach for the phone to call her mom. For her it was life and family. For me it was work. Her mom and I worked together and, up until last year, we’d email each other throughout the day about stuff. She had retired almost a year before she died and every day I’d relate some new tale of the office to her because she understood the culture. Like my wife reaching for the phone to ask for advice on how to make something in the kitchen I still have times where I wish I could email her or call her to tell he about the latest event. But we will move on, eventually, I guess.

Even though I am not one of the many cooks that should be in the kitchen, I still think we need to recognize that these holiday meals, that we loved so much, need to continue in her honor. I’d even be willing to learn how to cook some of them in order to keep up the tradition. I don’t think it’s an attempt to move on and forget someone who made a huge impact on our lives… and my gut. I think it’s a chance to honor that person’s memory by continuing what they did so well, if only as much as our expertise will allow. There will, of course, be some recipes and styles that will be lost because we didn’t take the time to get all the information before she passed. We had no idea it was going to happen. But we’ll experiment and test and try new things and along the way we may discover new ideas to pass on to our child and her eventual family. Well, I hope so. There’s just so many ways you can serve a slice of cheese and ketchup, which seems to be her favorite meal. Honestly, she doesn’t know what she’s missing, except the weight I’ve put on since I met her mother. What can I say? I love cooking and the cooks who cook so well.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Random Post #1: Mo Hunny, Mo Problems

I just had to post this because it combines my childhood love of Winnie the Pooh and pop culture.

Mo Hunny! Mo Problems!

That's it. Nothing more.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nightmare Train On The Old Back Road

Somewhere on the old back roads of Fayette County, a bugaboo still haunts me to this day. I still wake up in cold sweats thinking about it. It’s not often that you stare death right in the eyes, but that image will forever haunt me. I feel I can talk about it now, without the aid of a blankey. But, I warn you, this story is not for the faint of heart, or at least those who don’t want to waste a good five minutes. You have been warned.

I was 20 years old and enjoying the summer break from school. This summer was particularly memorable as I had just become single and was unemployed. Believe me, those two things are very much agreeable because if you’ve ever been bumming it for a summer, at your folks, and you have a girlfriend it becomes an issue. As a single man, you could make the money last a little longer. It’s not that I didn’t want to have a job but I was quite content with doing the little stuff like cutting my grandmother’s grass. Now, I was paid $20 to do the job at my grandma’s house and that was 1995. I don’t know what the going rate is for a high school or college kid to come cut your grass, today. I don’t want to know. 15 years later, cutting my yard is one of my few activities that can qualify as exercise. If I give that up, you might as well call Maury or Geraldo and have them cut me out of my house, right now.

I might make it to my grandma’s in the morning or the late afternoon, depending on how much slacking I planned on doing or how late I had been up the night before. While the yard was extremely graded from top to bottom, I had the use of a riding mower. It wasn’t too difficult to do, but I did use a push mower for the front so that I could do the edging around the walks and driveway. Otherwise I rode a Craftsman riding mower. A couple of times I had driven that thing into a tree and on a few occasions thought I was going to flip over after popping a wheelie from going up the steep hill without leaning over the steering wheel. Then, once I reached the top, I had to remember to lean over the left or right side as I cut back and forth along the hill. There was a definite strategy and method to cutting her yard without rolling the mower.

This day in question was a rather hot one, if I recall correctly, or perhaps I just decided to slack all day and cut the yard after dinner. It usually took me all of two hours to finish the yard. I was just finishing up the front as the sun dipped below the horizon. It was an eerie evening, hot and sticky, yet something gave me a chill. It was one of those “The Lost Boys are coming” feelings. I decided to quickly get all the mowing equipment back into the garage and head out before Kiefer Sutherland ripped the roof off of my 84’ Pontiac Firebird.

For some reason, I decided to go the back way home. If you think about the geography of rural Southwestern Pennsylvania, most of it IS back roads. Instead of the more direct and major route that took me across the Dawson Bridge and up route 201 towards Dunbar Township, I decided to swing out past the old racetrack and head up 819 towards the Mark I bar, turning and heading down Hickory Square Road by the Old Overholt Distillery and up through Broadford into the North end of Connellsville.

As I made the turn at the church, continuing on Hickory Square Road, I knew I would be coming down to Broadford Road, which sat just beyond a set of railroad tracks. I made that mental note because I wanted to slow up and take it easy going over those tracks. I didn’t want to lose my tail pipe, again. The year before, I was out driving with my, then, girlfriend in Tarrs, PA and we had come across a set of tracks on old 119. My entire exhaust system broke free from the undercarriage and drug on the ground. Yes, I was going too fast and forgot about the tracks. Young and stupid, I felt the only thing I could do was to pull the muffler and tail pipe completely off and haul it home. I probably did a hell of a lot of damage to the car, at my father’s expense. Well, I did try to tie it up to the spoiler, but all I had was a rope that was quickly burned through by the heat of the exhaust. So, I drove on the shoulder and drug it in the rocks until it fell off, probably due to extensive rust. I plopped it into my back seat and drove home. I wasn’t about to make the same mistake again, and on a much scarier road, all by myself. Nope, this time I was going to gently cross the tracks at the bottom of the hill.

By the time I reached the bottom of Hickory Square Road it was completely dark. My driver’s side window had been open to take advantage of the cooler air that had come with the darkness. I took my time and stopped just past the tracks at the sign. The intersection sat on a bend and you had to pull all the way across the tracks to the stop sign in order to see if any traffic was coming. My focus was primarily forward and I looked in that direction first as the road curved in front of me towards the right. As I was finishing up my scan of that direction , I began turning my head and that’s when it happened. I received the fright of my young life, and nearly shit myself, right there.

I came face to face with this beast, lurking in the darkness. It had to be at least ten foot tall, all black with a huge face. There were also no streetlights, save one eerie looking dusk to dawn light affixed to a pole to my left. That orange light shone over top of the beast and somewhat blinded me from getting a good look at this monstrosity sitting right outside my open car window. My life flashed before eyes and it was a pretty short flash. After a split second, the initial shock wore off I regained my composure enough to see what it was.

It was a train. A huge ass black locomotive was a mere five feet from my driver’s side window. Panic set in twice in as many seconds. How the hell did I not see it? There were no sirens, no horns, no warning. The sight of it in the dark nearly stopped my heart and started my bowels. I prepared for impact but it wasn’t moving. It was parked. The orange light from the pole had partially blinded me and made me think it was the engine’s light shining at me. Here I was, scared of a parked car.

After I calmed down, I laughed at how foolish I was. It was that relieved laughter you get after a scare that kind of jolts the adrenaline and endorphins. I wish that I had brought a camera with me but at the time I would have not had one that could have taken a decent nighttime picture. After a day or so, the train was gone and I never saw it again. In fact, I have just recently been down that road once in the last 15 years, but I’ll never forget that initial two seconds of sheer terror and 15 minutes of embarrassment after I shrieked like a little girl. Thankfully, no one else was out that night to hear me, except maybe the Lost Boys sitting up in the tree waiting to rip the roof off my car.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Born Too Soon

One of my favorite bands is a hometown act called The Clarks.   Their lead singer, Scott Blasey, played a small acoustic set in my hometown a couple weeks back and I was able to introduce my little one to one of the few “good” musicians actively producing music today.  But I digress.  He also  released a solo album a few years ago with a song on it called “Born Too Late.”     In it, he asks various historical figures to mentor, or show him, in their respective areas of expertise on how to do things.    Sample lyrics include: ‘Vincent will you teach me how to paint.  Theresa will I ever be a saint.’   Get it?  Good.  Moving on.

I am not one of those people.  I have the firm belief, and have stated ad nauseum  that I was born too soon.   I concede that 1975 wasn’t exactly the dark ages but in terms of being the geek or tech nerd I am, Pong wasn’t exactly the Large Hadron Collider of its day.  So, from day one, I have always been one step behind technology or other advances that were beneficial to our lives when it applied to my age group. 

First there was Power Wheels.   In the evolutionary scale of childhood transportation I went from crawl to walk to big wheel to huffy to ten speed.   Anyone born after 1980 had the opportunity to firmly place Power Wheels in between The Big Wheel and your everyday Huffy bike.    Think of it, a motorized mini car that you could ride around your yard.    I was so pissed when they became available because I was already too big to have one.  As I hoofed it around the neighborhood on my Huffy I would see younger kids riding around their yard in their Power Wheels, faces aglow. 

That was also the year that our school district decided to skip my grade when it came to having early swimming education.   Until that point, that grade level of elementary school had a few swimming lessons at our high school and for some reason, they skipped my year.  I believe that further doomed me.  When I did reach high school and had to take swimming as a part of my sophomore year I did not have the proper swimming foundation and ended up drifting towards the left when trying to complete a lap, which led to me being given the nickname “Scud”  as in not very accurate in trajectory.   Once I ended up going in an arc to the side wall instead of straight ahead.  I emerged from the water thinking I had beaten everyone else only to see them to my right pointing and laughing.  But I took it in stride.  

By my senior year of high school I was recognizable to everyone, not because I was extremely popular but because everyone knew that I was the guy behind the video camera that hung around the halls.  I was in a class that made videos for our morning news announcements.  We actually put together a news broadcast with editing equipment, mixers, used computers for titles.  We were pretty industrious and managed to produce a lot out of nothing.  I was proud of our work and felt like we made an impact on the morale. 

The year after I graduated, the school sprung for the technology to do basic green screen effects.  There were so many ideas I had that could have involved having green screen tech at my fingertips.   OK, some were purely for the sake of humor but still, the application would have yielded awesome results.

Moving on to college.  In my sophomore year, I became fascinated with this Internet thingy and learned how to make web pages in the computer labs of the University of Pittsburgh.  I did this while never being taught how to program, in the classroom.   I did it on my own time at 2:00AM instead of being at the bars.  *cough* dork *cough*  I even got to design the University’s Transportation Department webpage as part of a project for the only class I ever attended that dealt with web design and it was taught by the English department and I pretty much knew more than they did, at that point.   When I graduated, java script became the newest feature for web design and soon classes were being taught everywhere.  I had already graduated and had lost the ambition to go back to school as I joined the work force.

As I hurtle towards middle age I see the toys and gadgets that come out for the younger generation and I want to weep.   Yes, I am a gamer with a PS3 and Wii, but I have no time to really play all that much.  Ok, I do play a little bit every day or so.   I’m not like some kids who spend an entire weekend leveling up and playing hours upon hours of Dorkcraft.  So, it breaks my heart that there are so many awesome games out there that I don’t have time to play. If I was still in college, I would love it.  I’d be flunking out, but I’d love it.  Then there’s the Internet sites like Facebook.  I admit that I am a bit of a dork and play games like Farmville and Mafia Wars but I don’t obsess about harvesting crops or taking out rival families enough to empty my bank account just to buy a friggin puppy for my farm or a kick ass weapon to lay waste to anyone who tries to rob my mega casino.   Yes, I do realize I understand what I just said.  [changes subject with “look over there”] What else is there?

There’s iPods, iPhones, iPads and iWanttocry because I just don’t have the time to get into the technology.  Granted, those are not specifically geared towards the younger generation but if I were not a part of the work force full time, I could have devoted my studies to becoming an expert at these things in order to work in a field that is relevant to their use.  I’d be the ubergeek extraordinaire when it comes to all things tech.

Perhaps with the technology at my beck and call I could come up with better applications for these devices so that we are not just wasting our time with silly little apps.  But alas, I was born too soon.  I can only speculate and grumble and tell kids to keep their smart phones out of my yard or I’ll keep them.  Not because I’m a mere mean old Grumpy Gus, but because I want to play with them, too.   Screw you Power Wheels.  You ruined my life.


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