Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The UCBT and Me

New York magazine, which gets my vote for best magazine in the world, has a great oral history of the Upright Citizens Brigade online. http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

I knew the UCB Theater (UCBT) would someday get this royal treatment, because it really has changed comedy, and the larger world of entertainment. And by extension the world. All in just 15 short years.

I have written here about improv before, but I don't know if I ever have blogged about how truly cool it was to be a part of that world for the three years, or so, that I lived it. If I have, forgive me.

From 2000 through 2003 I spent probably at least two nights a week, virtually every week, at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, back when it was at its location on 22nd street, in a black box theater that I loved from the word go.

I took classes, many, performed, a lot, formed teams, two, and saw so many, many funny people and performances. I don't think I have ever laughed that much, that consistently for so many years in a row. For that alone, those are three of the best years of my life.

But it got even better. Because it was not just a theatrical experience, but a totally social one. Being (relatively) young, I was 28 when I started with classes, I had a lot of time to hang out, drinking, eating french fries, going to shows too, with a whole new cast of characters and friends. It was a big, open, friendly scene. There were no real stars in it, yet, and the entire thing had the vibe of a party waiting to happen. All you had to do was put yourself out there, just a bit. Be a little braver maybe than you were used to. Commit to practices, be there, on time, be ready to support the other improvisers, make them look good.

It made total sense to me.

And of course I got to see so many people perform so much, before they became stars. The list could be endless, but I will name a few: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Rob Riggle, Paul Scheer (who was in like every show I saw for two years it seemed), Ed Helms, Jack McBrayer (who was, possibly, my favorite improviser), Rob Corddry, many writers for Conan, SNL and the other great NYC TV shows, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh, Matt Besser, Horatio Sanz, Jerry Minor.

Of course, it was hard at the time to see who would emerge to become a star, in some cases. But in some cases it was very easy. From the moment I first saw Amy Poehler on stage, pretty much dominating an entire roomfull of very tall Catholic and Jewish comedy nerds, I was waiting for her to get picked up by SNL. Which happened about one year later. Jack McBrayer was another no brainer, as he was that funny, that charismatic on stage. I never saw him have a bad performance, or even a bad scene or line. At least to me, he could do no wrong.

But those are just the names we know now. The entire scene had a vibrant sense to it.

Growing up I had read so many stories about the glory days of NYC rock, CBGB's in the late 70s, the Village in the '60s. This, the UCBT in the early '00s was my scene, my time to be there for history as it was being made.

And the thing was, we all knew history was being made, even if the world at large did not yet. I would come out of shows that were so great, so energizing, so fun, it was impossible for me to not feel that this would simply continue to grow and grow. NYC needed it, and what NYC needs the world soon needs.

So it was special, and it was happening, and we knew it was happening, as it happened. Isn't that the definition of time well spent?

Better still, unlike with rock, improv was so easy to get into. You had classes that would open the door for you to become involved. As far as I remember CBGB didn't have any classes. In these classes you would learn how to do improv, which was its entire own language. Impossible to describe, you could only learn to breathe at that altitude by repeated exposure. It had to become your life a little in order for you to even begin to hang on stage and feel at all confident. At the same time it was just as much fun for a newbie as for someone with more experience, although for different reasons.

So, in a place as wild and huge as NYC, I had my people, all of a sudden. I had a reason to go to the Lower East Side on a Thursday night and party. I had shows to do, and friends to support, and an entire world that was being created right before me.

I met my future wife through improv, as if it didn't give me enough.

Like so many scenes and passions improv was fun, energizing and ultimately something I could not make into a life. By about 2003 or 2004 it started to get a lot more competitive. And, by then, I was starting to realize that I may have not been a great fit for show business, as much as I enjoyed so many aspects of improv itself.

It began to get more of a networking thing, I felt, as it became quite apparent that careers could result from getting on a team at the UCBT. If you got on a team you had, in a sense, been officially recognized as someone with potential. People who mattered in show business could very likely see you. If you didn't get on a team it was a lot like being the baseball player who never gets out of the minors. After a while you either move on, or you keep playing out of the love of the game, not caring about the world. I admire people who can soldier on like that.

And, I'll be honest, I witnessed some real sucking up. It became a bit more like high school, and I wasn't all that great at high school the first time.

I was not a great fit for the competitive aspect of it. I blew every single audition I had to be on an official UCBT team, all three of them. Six scenes in total, maybe half of two were good. This probably told me, more than many other things, that I may not have had the makeup for a high pressure career in show business. I never even got a call back. And didn't deserve one, really.

And although I loved being at the theater, and performing I think twice a week was my absolute limit. I don't know why, but after that it began to seem more like work, and the returns on my time investment would start to yield inversely less fun. And the entire point was to have fun. Once the fun part of it is gone, it's over, no matter who you are.

I remember dragging myself once to my third practice in a week,and realizing that I didn't want to really go. But those who are in show business now through the UCBT did that and more.

So I drifted off, which was the natural way of things. But I love my memories of the improv I saw, the people I met, and the improv, better still, I got to do. I hope I get to do it again some day. I was pretty good, way back when, when my improv fastball was working. Maybe not a rock star, but then again I didn't have to be. I was there to say "yes and" in order to make my partner look better.

It was a great time, for which I will always be happy and thankful.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Keeping Up With Stella

Watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and boy do I find these biznitches hard to handle. Spoiled, yet incredibly stupid, they are probably going to herald the downfall of our society.

I have been trying to think of some funny things that Stella's done the past few days that I have enjoyed. Sometimes it's not just outright jokes, it's more her attitude.

What has been so cool is that she's starting to become so outgoing and friendly with her classmates in school. A year ago I was scared that maybe she had some kind of developmental delay that couldn't be overcome. Parents, man, we are just crazy. Instead, she's not only come out her shell, she's become quite the gabber among her friends.

She's an interesting combination of things: sweet, independent, a bit sassy, sometimes a little whiny, very quick, and funny. She's not a needy kid, and she's not an aloof kid. She seems pretty content with who she is, and where she is most of the time, and most days.

She can be a bit willful, but I guess that comes with the turf most of the time. And when she gets way too smart alecky, or starts to act up I have the ability to draw the line, and, get this, she actually listens to me. Which is slightly amazing to me.

I won't admit this to her until she's about 40, but this ability to lead her and have her listen to me, simply because I'm the dad and I say things like I really, really mean them, it's kind of a new experience for me. In my life virtually no one does anything just because I say so. The cats? Good luck with that! Anyone who's ever worked under me? At times. My wife? Well, that's not how things work in Casa-de-Serchuk. We try to come to mutually agreeable solutions, so that neither one of us feels bossed around. And when that doesn't work we do rock paper scissors until we reach a satisfying conclusion. (Hint: she always falls for rock!)

So, when Stella and I are getting ready in the morning I will say something to her like "Go into the living room, and wait for me. I am turning off the light in your room." And she will walk herself into the living room, and wait for me.

Again, maybe to other people this is not all that amazing, but I am still not totally used to it. I guess I should enjoy it while it lasts.

On an unrelated note we have been in potty training city for about three months now. It's mostly over, the hard part, but not entirely. We still have to bribe her with an M&M after she uses the potty correctly, and if we don't remember, believe me, she will remind us.

We're also starting to get to the age where the stroller is becoming more and more a thing of the past. We can go for short walks now, even up to a quarter or half a mile if we really want to, and she totally keeps up.

I also love this, she will hold my, or our, hand while we walk, although eventually this will start to piss her off and she will wring her hand out of mine. At that point I will usually use a strong voice and tell her that we do not get go of mommy or daddy's hand when we're out.

Because like most parents I live in mortal fear of her getting either hit by a car, or abducted.

Sometimes she listens to this and sometimes she doesn't. We try.

Mostly, though, I think we're doing a pretty good job. Stella is happy, she's healthy, she plays, she spent the entire summer having fun, she grew, she learned words like "butthole" as elucidated in a prior post. She's right where she should be, and I am extremely proud of her, every day.

You know, it's amazing to think that we were all like this, and not too long ago. Fresh, un-jaded, friendly, un-inhibited. Willing to give people a chance. Sensitive. Without a malicious bone in our collective bodies. All that bad stuff, you have to learn it I suppose. I hope I can help keep her this happy for as long as possible. I guess that's every parents' wish.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Most of my best laughs these days come from Stella

I kind of stopped writing about the Brooklyn Baby Baby because, I don't know, I thought I started to feel like one of those bloggers writing about their kids, well past when anyone else still wants to know.

But, screw it, I don't care. At least not tonight. This kid is hilarious, and responsible, for most of the good laughs I get in a day. So I am going to try and drum up some memories from today and the day before that made me laugh, or at least brought a hearty smile to my face.

Well, here's one. Yesterday we went to "Disney On Ice", which alone should make you laugh. It was at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. It started with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Pluto all in safari outfits (despite the fact that, you know, they were on ICE). Apparently there were on the savannah at the start of a world tour of various Disney-owned entertainment properties. Truth be told Mickey and the gang were little more than Ed Sullivan-esque hosts for the show. Most of the heavy lifting was done, show-wise, by the ice dancers for the various entertainment set pieces we watched.

It started with an all-ice Cliffs Notes rundown of the "Lion King," which ended before Simba fights his uncle Scar to the death. In fact it just kind of ended. And then it went into "The Little Mermaid," which presumed that Mickey and the Gang could vacation underwater? The Little Mermaid segment included our first human-looking skaters, which lead Randi to say "Now here's something for Dad!" as six bikini topped skating mermaids whipped around the ice. Ariel was the seventh, and eventually there was a big fight with an inflatable Sea Witch, and all was right with the world.

After that they went to Hawaii to tie in with "Lilo & Stitch," which I have never seen, and I was kind of surprised it was included. Let's face it, it's B-list Disney. Nonetheless, and I am a bit ashamed to admit this, I cried a bit when they explained the Hawaiian word for family, which means "no one gets left behind." Yes, this is sad, I almost got misty again typing this.

Stella was enthralled pretty much the entire time, although she got very pissed off when Mickey left the ice, at least the first time.

Then it was intermission, during which I bought a hot dog. A totally unnecessary detail, but there you go. Also, Randi had a conversation with a drunk mom who had one of her boobs hanging out.

The second half, and this was kind of strange, saw Mickey & Co., fly clear from Hawaii to Foggy London Town, where ice skate clad bobbies and yeoman and yeo-women welcomed us to their city, where "every day is paradise" or something like that. I doubt the looters would agree with that, but then again, they aren't on ice skates.

The second half was pretty much dedicated, almost in its entirety, to a skating recreation of "Peter Pan." This really threw me for a loop. Hello, this movie came out in 1953! And it's a great story, and I love it, but I was stunned they gave this much show time to a movie that was so totally not something the Princess loving little girls in the audience could possibly give a crap about.

I enjoyed it, as much as I could, given that it was on skates and for four year olds.

At one point some of the effeminate "pirates" in Hook's dastardly crew were singing something about how great it is to be a pirate, and Stella had gotten out of her seat and was totally getting down in the aisles, dancing a totally kick-ass jig. Honestly, this was my first big laugh of the day.

Then, after Hook finally fell into Tick-Tock the Crock, the show ended with some small time fireworks. Quickly after that we learned that The Disney Princesses were slated to make an appearance a little down the road in their own ice skating revue. At that moment I realized were had just watched what amounted to, more or less, the leftovers of the Disney repertoire. If we wanted to see the real big deal stars we would have to pony up once more.

Show now officially over, we all walked out into a bright, lovely day. "Wasn't that fun?" was asked Stella. "We saw Mickey, and Minnie, and Goofy, and Daisy, and Donald, and Peter Pan, and Tinkerbell, and ..."

Stella cut us off: "But no Pluto."

Dammit, this kid doesn't miss anything. And she was right! No Pluto! They had everyone else, but not the faithful dog.

Randi and I both laughed and laughed. Stella rules, she catches everything.

Monday, September 5, 2011

If You Are Against The Affordable Care Act You Are Either Brainwashed or ... A Republican Presidential Candidate

The more I hear about the Affordable Care Act and the good it will do for countless millions of Americans, the more convinced I am that it was a great thing that it passed. The more proud I become to live in a nation where we actually, get this, try to do the right thing for one another. The added bonus? It will also save money! In fact the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the current drive to repeal it would add $210 billion to our deficits from 2012 to 2021, were it to succeed. (Link)

So, expanded care, and it saves money? What a boondoggle! (Note: for the irony impaired, I am being sarcastic.) http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Republicans hate the Affordable Care Act not because they think it will fail, and raise expenses, it won't, and they know it, but because they fear it will work. And their blind allegiance to the religion of non-intervention in the workings of the market will be shown to be not only intellectually dishonest, but bankrupt.

It will never cease to amaze me that we tolerate a patch-ass system of half measures for our health care that cost more than anywhere else in the first world, and deliver less. That we die younger here than in, say, Canada, have higher infant mortality rates and pay twice as much for it. I would think that those who are so vocal when it comes to the "right to life" that they advocate bombing clinics would take a moment to think about the young lives being wasted in the name of more and more corporate profits. But why start now?

Here's one for instance. Although the provision that keeps insurance companies from treating "pre-existing" conditions has yet to be enacted there are measures in place to help pregnant women get care. Did you know that insurance companies will turn pregnant women down because pregnancy can be considered a pre-existing condition? Well, it is.

Our local muckrakers at the LEO magazine wrote a nice article about this. There is something called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. PCIP is part of the Affordable Care Act, and it keeps, as the name implies, people covered if they have the dreaded pre-existing conditions. There is a pool of $5 billion set aside to cover people through PCIP, but no one knows about it yet.

In my state, Kentucky, which virtually always ranks near the bottom in everything coming to good health, and hear the top in poverty, only 140 Bluegrass Staters have enrolled in this program, despite thousands and thousands not having insurance. They just don't know about it. And if the Republicans have their way they will never get the chance to learn about it before the plan is defunded once and for all. Kill it before it can save more lives. Now there's some right to life right there.

Even better PCIP is cheap. In my state I would only pay $177 to get it, a fraction of what COBRA costs. And far, far cheaper than the cost of a funeral.

In November 2010 I covered Sen. Rand Paul's victory celebration in Bowling Green, Ky. for New York magazine. There I spoke with a field operative for Paul who railed against the health care bill being rammed down everyone's throats in the dead of night. (These Tea Partiers never say a discouraging word about the black bag job that was the vote for Medicare Part D however.) Then I asked her a simple question: what about the provision in the act that covered you if you have a pre-existing condition. "You know," I said, "we pay into these insurance plans for years, and then when you need it they say you aren't covered!"

She thought about it for a moment. "Well, I've never heard about that."

Yet she hated the Affordable Care Act, even if she didn't understand it, hadn't read it, and didn't know that it would benefit her. Why? Because she was brainwashed, and told to. And that's all she needed. Say the word's "small government" and alot of these self-styled "Libertarians" reflexively salivate and then come in their pants.

But I have met few of these people who are true libertarians. They're just conservatives who realize their brand has been besmirched beyond repair by Bush Jr., Cheney, Wolfowitz and all the other chicken-hawks who send other people's sons and daughters to hot, rocky places to kill and be killed. For weapons of mass destruction that never arrive, or oil that we never get.

Most of these "libertarians" would be all too happy to get urgent care in a hospital if they needed it, but had no insurance. Or would crap their pants if their water ran out, or the power grid went down, or the roads fell apart, or a loved one became injured and needed immediate critical care. And even if they didn't believe in "the system" we would still give them coverage, save their lives, give them water, and the rest. Because we believe a strong nation is a just nation is a fair nation. Or at least I do.

I roll like that. A lot of us do. It's time for those of us who want healthcare to be both more universal and more affordable to start talking back.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sept. 11, 2001

I first went to the Twin Towers, first had any real idea about them at all, when I was probably no more than five years old. The entire family went: Dad, Mom, Sharon & Stuart, and me.

The occasion was the closing of a very important business deal for my dad.

What I remember best about that power lunch in Window On The World was simply that I could look down on the cars below and they looked even smaller than my toy cars that I loved to play with so much. It seemed hard to believe they were real. Eventually when we got back to the street level it again did not seem possible that the cars could have grown that much larger in that time.

It was a very good, and memorable day. A happy family memory of us all together. Sadly, there just aren't that many of those memories in existence, so I prize the ones I do have.

Then the Towers were there in the critically-reviled remake of "King Kong" from 1976, which very much broke my young heart. Every version of that film breaks my heart, dammit, critically-reviled or not. He was a giant gorilla, and deserved better.

After that the Towers became a landmark that I thought of with some fondness. I saw them in "Trading Places" in the famous orange juice trading climax of the film, and they felt kind of like an old, warm, acquaintance.

I ventured downtown in the mid-90s to visit a friend who worked in the Financial District, and walked around the World Trade Center. The Towers were in a giant plaza, back a bit from the street. That time, for some reason, I looked up and it scared me a bit, they were just so big, so awesome in size.

After that they became more or less a compass point for me. No matter how lost I would get in The City I could look downtown, and there they were! Impossible to miss and right at the southernmost tip of the island.

I didn't have much reason to venture that far downtown usually. But I liked that they were there. I remember moving to The City in 2000, and learning that Robert Fripp was to play a free show at The Towers. I didn't go, but thought, hey, that's pretty cool. I wonder if they're trying to make the Towers, you know, hip?

I had a source that worked in the Towers too. Dennis, he was an attorney for a white shoe law firm, and was a good guy. I met him for lunch in 2000, only the second time I had actually been in The Towers since that long-ago lunch as a child. I went up to around the 50th floor, which took two elevators, and we ate in one of the many great restaurants that were in the street level atrium. It was a pleasant autumn day, and a good expensed meal. I remember now how awesomely huge the lobby of The Towers were, and how it was a bit confusing to know if I was at the right building. (Dennis, by the way, lived. Another source of mine, whom I spoke to only a few times, was the head of compliance at Cantor Fitzgerald. He did not live. I thought about him every time I opened my source list, and still think about him today.)

And that was my experience with The Towers. I had some affection for them. I loved that for at least a little while they were the tallest buildings in the world. As a Tri-state area native I have always felt that it is a in a sense a joke that other cities work so hard to build their big buildings, bigger than the ones in NYC. Okay, Dubai, you win. Like, get over yourselves. Having billions in oil money and, I don't know, indoor ski slopes in the middle of the desert does not a great city make. You know it, I know it, quit fooling yourselves.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 I hopped on the bus at Port Authority at 8:40 a.m. or so, and made it to the other side of the Lincoln tunnel after at least one of The Towers had already been hit. If I had looked downtown from my bus window, I didn't, I would have seen it smoking for about a second or two. I probably would have thought that whatever it was they would get it under control. Because they always did.

I had not taken the 1993 truck bombing plot all that seriously. I mean, I knew it was bad, but I thought it was ludicrous that these guys thought they could take down something as massive at a Twin Tower with some fertilizer. Put 'em in the clink, forever if need be, I thought. But give me a break!

As I got of the bus in Carlstadt, N.J. I heard the bus driver's radio say "all the tunnels are closed," right as he closed the bus door in my face. The driver looked a little confused. It sounded strange, but I didn't make too much of it.

It was only once I got to my job at Beta Industries, my dad's company, that I heard the whole story. A tower had been hit, possibly both, by airplanes? Everyone was, rightly, hyper-alert to the news. Claus, a longtime hand there, told me he had seen the Towers smoking from the roof of the building. I couldn't see it from the street level and thought about going up there. I may have even asked, but there wasn't much time.

The radio was on inside, as was the TV. 1010 WINS' main correspondent on the scene was a woman who wasn't even a full time reporter, she just happened to live down there and was just reporting it almost like a normal, shocked, horrified person would. I wish I could remember what it was she said, but when one of the Towers collapsed her horror came through so loud and painfully clear on the airwaves. A normal woman called upon to describe, for an audience of hundreds of thousands, a true vision of hell.

I remember the normal radio anchors kept their professional faces on better. I also remember a comment that went something like this: "And the stock market is closed, which may not be such a bad thing." Hard to believe.

After the first tower fell I didn't think the second would, but of course it did. More horror, more terror. Later that afternoon fighter jets scrambled above our heads at the warehouse. "Looks like they're going to kick someone's ass," somebody in a parking lot said. But of course there were no asses to kick. The anger, though, was already quite real. Soon the need for vengeance would find voice, but not that day.

During lunch I drove out to a high viewpoint, and simply saw a low hanging gray cloud downtown, quite big at first, only to level off and grow a bit less dramatic as the day wore on. The real drama, though, was in realizing the Towers were knocked out, like a face missing its two front teeth.

It was an odd work day, of course. My dad and brother were in Chicago, and wanted very much to get home. (Eventually they drove.)

Perhaps the strangest part of my day was when business as usual tried to assert itself. My dad had a longtime business associate named Bill, who was the very definition of the hale-well-met fellow. He was a kind, friendly, gregarious man, who seemed like a transplant from Jimmy Stewart's America at all times. Army vet, I think WW2, always ready to recount his wisdom and advice. And, a salesman.

Bill ("Call me Bill!"), would frequently either call or drop by, and if my dad was there they would kibitz for some time.

Well, things had been winding down for Bill for a while. His health, I had the sense, was starting to go south. His snow white hair, it looked like, had started to fall out. I believe his wife had died not long before. I got the feeling he was probably not doing all that well, his skin seemed a bit flakier than in the past. But to go to lunch with him, or simply talk with him for a minute or two, you could just tell he woke up every day determined to be the same old Bill, to look as good as ever, to care as much as ever about his job, to be as good a guy as ever.

Well, sometime after lunch on September 11 who should stroll into Beta's offices but good old Bill? Friendly as ever, with that warm smile on his face, ready with a good handshake. "Hi! Nice to see ya. Is your father around?"

I looked at him as if he was some kind of hallucination. Funereal might be one way to describe the office that day, and, probably, any other place you could go in the Greater New York area.

I looked at Bill some more. I didn't want to be rude to him, but this was just too strange. Breugal, I don't know, maybe he could have imagined something even more bizarre than this. Or David Lynch.

"No Bill," I answered, "he is in Chicago today."

"What about your brother? Is he with the old man?"

"Yes, Bill, they are both in Chicago. They are trying to come back, but it might be hard because, well, all the airports are closed."

"Would it be okay if I left a note?"

"Sure Bill." Beat. "Let me grab a pad."

Mind you, everything I said was almost in slow motion, I was so in shock, and stunned from the unthinkable events, still transpiring, about a mile away as the crow flies. Buildings were still burning, and the Pentagon had also been hit, and that other plane (Flight 93, I later learned) had gone down somewhere. Was it shot down? Did we get any of this right today, as a nation? I didn't know.

I tried to be as courteous as reality would allow as Bill wrote out his note (on our pink "While You Were Out" stationary). I dutifully put it on my dad's desk, where he could find it, and then I stood there, in a sense waiting Bill out. I didn't want to bring up the obvious calamity taking place if he wasn't going to. Maybe there was a good reason he didn't want to talk about all this death and destruction, as he was a vet? I didn't know. But he never brought it up with me, and we never discussed it.

Bill then made, as best as he could, his usual rounds in the office staff, and I don't believe his upbeat Dale Carnegie-esque demeanor changed even one iota during his entire short stay. Then he firm-handshaked his way out of our lobby, back to his car, and drove on to his next appointment.

Later that day I talked to my dad on the phone. He wanted to know how things there were, and if we were okay. I told him I was fine, but I probably would have to stay with Mom for the next few days as all the bridges and tunnels were closed for the foreseeable future. And I made sure to tell him Bill had come by for a visit.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Been Feeling Lethargic As A Writer

I do realize it happens, but I have been in the midst of a very big not-writing-much spell. This has traditionally not been a good thing for me, because all this time later writing remains the thing I feel I do best, and when I am able to communicate my thoughts through it the experience is always a bit cleansing.

What has been the holdup? Well, I have been burning a fair amount of my creative calories on the band, Bottle Cap Manifesto. Which has not been in vain by any means, as I am having a total blast, and we are rocking. I've also gotten to be more or less a fiend on the electric guitar. Which has been gratifying, and a dream come true.

Nonetheless, I remain a bit un-moored by not writing. It feels like, I don't know how to explain it, a bit like I don't fully exist when I'm not writing on a regular basis. I have these impulses and thoughts and signals that I want to communicate to the rest of the world, even if it just to know that I make noise, breathe and you hear all this.

So, here I am.

I have also been a bit blocked on a larger project I've been at work at for some time. And that is, somehow, trying to wrestle a book from my experiences being a dad. Of course this would also include the pre-dad period too. If you have been a longtime reader of this blog, in other words if I am somehow directly related to you, you will have read or heard some, if not many, of these stories before. But I have felt that there is a story there.

I am just not sure what yet.

It seems, almost, like there are too many stories there. Some of them are quite long and detailed, and kind of their own thing.

A lot happened in the past three years, almost too much: birth of a new child (obviously), moving, losing a longtime job, trying to find an apartment for three months, the emergence of the child into our lives coupled with what can only be described as post-partum depression that first hit one partner in the marriage and then hit the other, counseling, bedbugs (don't worry we don't have them now), getting bedbugs again, getting them a third time, having a neighbor upstairs in our "Russian" apartment who would drop hammers on his floors all night long, a child who can't sleep, a child who can't stay swaddled, a child who we love.

I don't know what the through line is, other than we survived.

Some time ago my former managing editor at Forbes, Dennis Kneale, had a luncheon with the reporters, wherein he ripped a story apart. It was very instructive. I believe in that luncheon he said that if you can't describe your story with the headline and the dek (aka the subhead) you don't really have a story. (If Dennis did not say this it was Stewart Pinkerton. In either case it was wise and 100% true.) In other words if you don't immediately know what your story is about you really don't have it yet. The point of a story should be clear, and not leave people wondering what it is you are actually talking about.

So that is where I am at now. I have a lot of material, I think, some of it quite mortifying, and I have about 120 pages of material, but I don't have a theme yet. And without a theme I do not feel I have a compas by which to guide myself. I have, instead, a lot of material. But not a book.

And the thing is I do very much want to write at least one book in this lifetime. A book is real, a book is tangible, a book is substantive, a book is an accomplishment. An article is fine, and a blog is fun, but only a book is a book.

But I don't know if my story is a book. You know?

Maybe there is a book in there, but I am not sure what it is yet.

I guess the first thing I should work on is gettin a title and a subhead, huh? Then, maybe then, it will become clear.

I don't know what compels me, or at least tortures me, about wanting to do a book. It has to be for me, I don't think the world will care too much either way. Not to be too self-deprecating about it. But it's probably not a career move for me. It is a life move. I hope.

Stella is asleep right now and Cromwell the cat just hopped on up past me to land on the writing table. Randi is out getting sushi with a friend. I am reasonably content here, writing this to you, to myself. That's a big reason I keep doing it.

I guess that's it for now. I hope to write you again soon, to feel that much less lethargic!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How's Stella?

I think she's doing pretty well these days. Stella had a great summer, she played all day in summer camp at the local JCC for most of July, and now is back in school and really loving it.

She's grown so much in just the past few months. This past weekend we put her in a dress that used to go way past her knees. Now it goes above the knees and even looks a bit short on her. All this changed in just the past 2-3 months.

Plus she was out in the sun and playing for pretty much the entire summer. It was the best thing for her. She made good friends, and has become incredibly social and talkative, both in groups and with us. Now, she was always a chatterbox with mom and dad, but her being so outgoing in groups, that's something new.

And, man, she's starting to really crack me up on a personal level. She's gotten very sharp verbally, and has an amazing memory.

Two nights ago we were getting her ready for bed, doing our usual routine of getting her in her nightclothes after her bath. At one point she was standing up, and began to sing "Mama I'm a Big Girl Now" from Hairspray, and she knew about 80% of the words, and was doing this soulfoul little shimmy dance the entire time. It is hard to convey in words just how adorable this is. She also knows just about all the words of "Good Morning Baltimore" and even tries to do the little harmonies that build up in the climax of the song. But here's some cuteness. She calls it "Altimore" instead of Baltimore. And there is a line in the song about "somebody invite me before I drop dead!" Well, Stella sings it, "Somebody invite me before I drop in!" Which is much nicer anyway, right?

What else, well she is for the most party potty trained now. In fact two nights ago we were getting ready for bathtime, and we noticed it was quieter than normal. Typically when she's with us Stella is a dynamo of demands, questions and things she wants to do. ("I really want to watch TV!" has become a constant refrain around here, for example.)

So, quiet is not normal, we looked for her. Well, she had placed her little toddler Dora The Explorer toilet seat on the normal toilet, taken down her "big girl" panties, put her little step stool before the toilet, climbed up and was going to the bathroom. All by herself, without us even being consulted! It was an amazing moment for us, as parents. Better still, no diaper doo-doo to clean up.

It's been a real summer of growing up for the little girl. (I can hear her in my head right now, "I'm a big girl!") She is a total riot, sweet, and so, so funny. She knows she's funny too, and keeps trying to catch us up and make us laugh. One time she made a poopy in her training potty that was rainbow shaped. Then there was another poopy next to it that looked, well, just like poopy. We joked that it was a poopy rainbow with a poopy cloud. Forget it, that did it! She heard that, and now says it all the time, dying laughing!

She also learned the word "butthole" somewhere, I swear, not from me. I of course tell her not to say it. So, she will be on the potty, like yesterday, talking to herself. And yesterday she said something like this: "Poopy is coming from my tushie. Not my butthole." I keep trying to keep her from saying it, but the more I talk about the more she simply repeats that she shouldn't say it. I try not to laugh, but it's hard not to sometimes.

So, that's a lot of information about her pooping, but I swear, it's been a huge part of our lives since she was born. You parents out there will know exactly what I'm talking about.

In other news my cat Talisker has taken to vomiting all over the carpet. He will in fact move from the tiled floor to some carpet to vomit. We change his food, which seems to help at times. And of course he stops vomiting completely before I take him to the vet. I've now taken him twice for this, with no real answers.

Stella, of course, picked right up on it. She might see something on the carpet. "Cat vomit over there." (She still has a slight Brooklyn accent, god knows how. So it sounds like this. "Cat vomit over der.") In other words, she's good with languages?

Enough for tonight.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Golden Age

I have taken to venting my feelings about the world in verse. Below is my take on a William Butler Yeats "Second Coming"-esque work, combined with Bob Dylan. I would like to believe!

by David Serchuk

We've been downgraded
Bow before your master, been prostrated
Its complicated
Traps been baited
The hideouts raided and the
Tie-dies faded
The haters hated
The waiters waited
Bank to the bankers who rate the unrated

So I Testify to the power of gold
Your credit's gone, been oversold
Cling to the rock, salvation found
Arbitrarily valued, ripped from the ground

The 30's are back
Although not exact
Bonnie & Clyde been ransacked
By a Florida stripper
Such a big tipper
Shot down with her brothers, like a bunch of day trippers
The market's cracked
London ransacked
Amy Winehouse faded back to black

So I testify to the power of gold
Arbitrarily valued, arbitrarily sold
So I testify to the power of gold
In Sierra Leone, 10,000 bodies lie cold
Cling to my rock, my salvation found
In a piece of Au, torn from the ground

Ripped from the dirt, in the worst places on Earth
Human life does not hold such worth
Our heritage pulped to mine the land
From the African bush, to Canadian sands
Thousands died to dig it, shines so pretty
Hawked on late night by G. Gordon Liddy

Imperial power
Need to take a shower
You ask for a minute but take an hour
Endless war
Been off-shored
We reserve the right to be bored and ignored
The price we pay
For looking away
Let us pray to the golden god with feet of clay
Its always darkest before the light
But the clock ain't even struck midnight

In a born again nation more lost than found
Clamoring for yellow bits torn from the ground
Stockpiling the ammo, I'll buy the next round
Its a race to the bottom, but we're already down

Jesus saves, as our trades are unwound
The Federal Reserves talks, but there's no sound
Bailed out GM, cars filled with clowns
Juggling their balls, and plenty around
France is going under, raping chamber maids
Two silhouettes on the shades
Egypt is rising, but the U.S. is broke
It's a bull market for downgrade jokes
Taking medicine that don't taste like Coke
What is still working, and what is just broke?
Real Housewives staged, a fantasy soap
Marie Antoinette smiles, so let them eat hope

Don't look behind the curtain, let me repeat
It's only white lobbyists down on K Street
Our democracy is in retreat
Our freedoms gone packing, as we're packing heat
A manifesto of greed, that's what we need
Says the state employee drinking the tea
Let the destruction begin, with all deliberate speed
The river has risen, and we're grasping for weeds
Drowning in debt we were told to acquire
For the life to which we were told to aspire
To be fat and happy, its our divine right
Now the clock has struck 12 midnight

The complaints have been heard, give us a solution
We need a Third American Revolution
Fresh blood to stem this dissolution
We need a Third American Revolution

Let's pay as we go, but remember our brothers
In this together, each one and the other
Knowledge costs, but ignorance ain't cheaper
The bank account's free, but the late fees grow steeper
Midas' kiss, ancient crypt keeper
Something's amiss, I hear the grim reaper

But it's not too late
Dry out this Watergate
It's not too late
Cash this golden gate
But it's not too late

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bush Contributed Far More To the Deficit

I try to not demonize anyone, but this graph from the Washington Post shows it clear as day: most of our deficit, by a longshot, is the result of Bush's policies, not Obama's. Read it and (we all) weep.

George Bush's tax cuts contributed more to the deficit than ALL of Obama's spending combined. This is sobering. Bush's Medicare druge benefit/giveaway cost more than Obama's Health Care Reform.

Why do we live in a nation where partisanship trumps the simple ability to look at objective data and make an informed decision for the betterment of our nation? I am willing to take my lumps and give till it hurts, as long as I feel we are all in this together.

Until we can all grow up a bit, and realize that we are truly in this together, that what keeps us apart is not as important as what we have in common, we are going to get in worse and worse trouble. And we will leave this nation poorer than we found it.

I believe Tea Partiers are concerned about the deficit. I met many of them at Rand Paul's victory celebration. But I will never understand why their outrage about deficit spending came so late.

They want to leave a better nation for their children and grandchildren. So do I. Why can't we recognize the humanity each of us posses and work together on reasonable solutions to solvable problems? Why indeed.

We should be wary of those who would keep us scared, and keep us at each others' throats. They have a reason for wanting this to happen. As they said way back when, follow the money. It always leads back to the source.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I am standing by President Obama because he stood by me

I have come to realize that one key difference between the more extreme elements of the Republican party and mainstream Democrats is how we view luck, fate and work. Democrats, I believe, endorse hard work, as do people everywhere. In fact we endorse it so much that when Bill Clinton was president the unemployment rate dropped to a historic low of around 4%!

But in addition to endorsing hard work I feel Democrats have more of a sense of "but for the grace of god go I." Homeless people, we understand, are not bad people, are not failures. They may be people with substance abuse problems who need treatment, but we understand that we all could be just a few really bad breaks away from being just like them. There but for the grace of god.

People who are upside down on the mortgages and need help are not stupid, greedy idiots who should be tossed on the street. They are people who bought into the hype of an actively sold myth, perpetuated by the housing industry, and greased by the total deregulation of the mortgage brokerage industry, courtesy of Republicans. They made bad bets, yes, but if we can keep them in their homes and in the process help save a neighborhood too--thereby keeping up everyone's home values and keeping things from sliding into urban decay--well, maybe this isn't so bad.

Republicans, I feel, do not have this sense of grace. If you're homeless, even in today's horrid economy, you probably are lazy, probably deserve it. Does you kid deserve it too? No, but that's your problem buddy, not mine.

If you are about to get foreclosed upon--even if the bank in fact could renegotiate your mortgage to something that would make more sense--well, tough luck man. You should have worked harder. What, job gone? Move to Texas. Or India.

I get it, I will never convince anyone on the extreme right about anything. I know. But I have to say that their feelings about the lazy sucking up government dollars when they could be working, that is just pure bullshit.

I know because I benefited from, and am immensely grateful for, President Obama's much-maligned stimulus.

You see I was laid off in late 2010 through no fault of my own. That's why it's called getting "laid off" and not called getting fired. I earned some severance pay from my job, and then was on the government dole, collecting unemployment as I looked for work. And I looked, and I looked some more. I went on interviews, I called all my friends and contacts, I beat the bushes. And every week I collected my $405 in unemployment. It kept us from the streets. Along the way I took what jobs I could, but it wasn't enough to keep me from going back on unemployment when I had to. I didn't feel bad about this, or like a failure. I worked for years for this money to be there for me when I needed it.

Thanks to President Obama my family could afford healthcare in the form of a greatly reduced fee for COBRA insurance. Thanks to stimulus money it cost $400 per month, instead of its usual cost for a family of three, around $1300. If we had to pay the full price we would again would have been on the streets, or living with one of my parents. Again, thank you President Obama.

My reduced-rate COBRA lasted through July 2010. With a stroke of great luck Randi secured a job with health insurance that started that following August. We never had to be afraid to get sick, thanks to President Obama.

(I used to joke about health insurance: "Hey man, now I'm insured! I'm going to get sick now ALL THE TIME!")

I had a hard time finding a job thanks to, you know, the Republicans destroying our economy. But thanks to President Obama's extension of unemployment insurance we were able to stay in our new apartment too. True he had to cut a deal with the devil, i.e. extending the ridiculously irresponsible Bush Tax Cuts to do it, but he helped save one family at least, us. Thanks President Obama.

These are small things in the grand scheme of it all, but there are millions of families like mine. We worked hard, we saved for rainy days, and then we still got blasted. And we all should take a moment to not only thank President Obama, but defend him as he's being attacked for protecting us.

And then, guess what? Eventually I got lucky enough to find a job a couple of months ago, knock wood! I no longer am collecting unemployment insurance, of course, and am in fact paying my fair share of taxes, happily!

And for all those years while I worked in New York I paid more than my fair share, because I lived in a humanistic Blue State, and the money made in New York pays for all the various and sundry disasters that seem to strike Red States like clockwork. Thank god they are so anti-government, those Red States, or else they would have to actually pay for the services they suck up like vacuums. As they say there is no free lunch. It's just that the rich Blue States--which have a lot of what in them? That's right LIBERALS--pay for the buffet so we can all eat in this nation during times of famine.

Because that's how we roll. We believe that but for the grace of god there goes all of us. And they have the nerve to talk about religion.

Monday, July 18, 2011

One Year In Kentucky

As the moving truck pulled away last July I wondered just what was going to become of me, and how I was going to deal with Kentucky. I had some sort of dark, grim thoughts on my mind, that's for sure. I guess you could say it was black humor, or at least I would like to think it was.

"Next time you see me back East," I told my friend Mike, who had helped me move, "it might just be in a body-bag."

Okay, maybe not the funniest joke. But my world had turned upside down. I moved from a dynamic, vibrant city and neighborhood, filled with friends and family nearby to a big fat question mark. An apartment complex whose pavement was as smooth and undisturbed as glass, on a lazy, hot July day. No one was out, life seemed a good deal emptier than I knew before. How, I wondered, will I ever be able to survive this? Survive moving, in effect, to the suburbs. Survive rebuilding my life, despite myself?

One year later I have some of those answers. The truth is that while I did not physically die as I joked with Mike I did sort of die in other ways. The me that I had clung to is gone. In its place is someone different in many ways. I hope better, but I know different in many important aspects.

After we first moved here Randi and I had a few weeks to get settled in before her academic year began. I was bitter, and frustrated by just about everything. Envious of the perceived success of everyone else. Here I was, 38, unemployed, a failed journalist (I thought), a failed everything (I thought). And not even a particularly great dad for Stella, because I was consumed with anger over ending up in Kentucky.

I tried for us to have good days, Stella and I, and I even succeeded, but I was in a bad period, a dark time. There were many afternoons I simply did not feel up to "parenting" her so actively and let "Sesame Street" do the job for me, with its accursed Elmo. Or some other cartoon, I became pretty familiar with most of them, and can still sing the songs.

I looked for work, without much success, unsure of what I even wanted to do. I wrote a pair of cover stories for highly regarded local publications, but these did not lead to job offers. I had been at Forbes, an editor at the website no less, and I could not get a job anywhere in my new town. It was a letdown, and a big blow to my ego.

I started to see a psychiatrist that I found through Angie's List, because I didn't know anyone to ask. He turned out to be wonderful, and, surprise, not only also a Jew, and one native to Louisville, but an active member of the synagogue we started to gravitate to, Adath Jeshuron. Louisville, I started to understand, was a very small world.

At AJ the cantor, David Lipp, a wonderful man, introduced us to another journalist, named Andrew Adler. Andrew was like me in many ways. From the East Coast, living in Louisville, and now moving to be with his wife and family in New Orleans. But he had one last story he had to write for The Courier-Journal, the local paper. For the section called "Love Story" about, well, love. Randi and I were his subjects. So within two months of moving here we were featured prominently in the local newspaper. The world got smaller.

I wrote about how Louisville and New York were different, tongue in cheek, for The Huffington Post. It went viral in my new city, and all of a sudden a lot of people knew more about me. Again, the world got smaller.

I wrote a story for Louisville magazine, and went on assignment with a wonderful guy named John Nation, a photographer. He took some great pictures for the article, and we became fast friends. John has lived here for decades and seemingly knows EVERYONE. He also has a daughter, Grace, who babysits for us on occasion, and is a lovely person to boot. Again, the world got smaller.

Stella, was now in the Adath Jeshuron preschool. A man named John Gage plays music for the kids. I introduced myself to him at a performance. He has been playing music locally for decades, and, again, knows EVERYONE. Again, the world got smaller.

The article I wrote for Louisville magazine, about local banking, did not turn into a job. But a few months after it ran I emailed the CEO of a bank I had written about for the article to let him know I am available for any work he may need. He gave me a writing test, which I guess I passed. Then I was interviewed by the person who is my current boss. In other words, I got the job. Again, the world got smaller.

Two months after landing here I formed a band, because I needed something to do, and love music. My bandmates are Scott Stinebruner, Tim Caruso and Steve McDonnel. They are not only great musicians, and writers of music, but now three of my best friends in Louisville. Sometimes Tim's amazing wife Savannah babysits for Stella, and graciously agreed to cat sit for us recently. We came back and the cats were in better shape than when we left them. Again the world got smaller.

My new job pays more than I made at Forbes.com. The world didn't necessarily get smaller but it definitely got better financially.

I have found that Louisville is a city of open hearts and smiling faces. If you are kind to people, and agreeable you will soon be shocked to find how friendly and interconnected everyone is.

One of my favorite new co-workers is a woman named Carolle. She knows my (still relatively new) friend Marcus who writes for the Courier-Journal. Her husband is an accomplished author and fixture on Louisville's arts scene, and has been for decades. Carolle knows EVERYONE, including Muhammad Ali, The Greatest. Talk about the world getting smaller.

The CEO of my company went to the same pre-school Stella currently goes to. I think you get the picture.

I could go on, but I hope you see where I am headed with this. My life was finished, but them, somehow, it began to mysteriously fill the cup again. But this time I was different. I am no longer a journalist but in PR and marketing. And I am glad for the change, initially to my surprise. I read "How To Win Friends And Influence People" and I find I am fact am winning friends, although I think it's a stretch to say I am influencing people. But it's made me 100%more open to the good in people and in life.

Today I am happier than I have been in a long time, and though I still see my doctor, and my therapist too, I, knock wood, feel a corner has turned. I was burned out in Brooklyn, in some ways already dead. Writing about brokers, and investing, and business and money, money, money. It was all fine, but I hated the competitive pace. I hated not feeling like the people that owned my old firm didn't know me, because they didn't. I hated feeling like I was always trying and failing to climb the totem pole to earn respect.

Today the people I work with are just nice to me, and everyone wants me to succeed. It's a great feeling.

Forgive me if I ramble.

I died, in a way, and was reborn. I didn't expect it, but now am open to what's to come. And what is that thing to come? Only my life.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Graduation Speech to America’s Youth

(Setting: A podium at a decently respectable school, though its reputation is perhaps not what it once was. Your humble author, me, stands at the lectern, staring out at a sea of shiny, fresh-scrubbed faces. They asked for my worldly wisdom on this, their graduation day. They got it. I clear my throat and commence the commencement.)

Don’t wear sunscreen. Or at least take it easy until the EPA sorts out which ones give you cancer.

As you graduates finish school and head toward whatever is next, it seems to raise the inevitable temptation from your elders to pass along their questionable wisdom. Like me. Right now.

I don’t have much wisdom to share, my career path is more crooked than a gerrymandered Congressional district.

But I do feel that the recent controversy over sunscreen provides some food for thought.

It seems like every few years much of our received wisdom is proven useless, obsolete or ridiculous. I talk about sunscreen because about 15 years ago it was alleged Kurt Vonnegut (he was a great writer, if you haven’t read him yet, please do so) wrote a commemoration speech where his first instruction, famously, was “wear sunscreen.” He then spun other words of wisdom to his young listeners, though he would periodically tell them, again, to wear sunscreen.

Well, the entire thing was a hoax. Vonnegut never wrote those words. And now it turns out the central refrain of the entire thing is also phony.

What are some other pieces of hand-me-down wisdom we’ve seen brutally dispelled in the past decade? I can list a few.

1. God ain’t making any more land: Used as an inducement to buy into the real estate bubble, this may actually, literally be true. But even if god ain’t making more land he sure seems to have a near endless appetite for McMansions that nobody needs or wants. The lesson here? Don’t buy something because somebody else told you something about god, I guess.

2. People will pay for quality content online: Due to the rise of the Internet the value of the written word, and writers, has been slashed more than Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween 1, 2 and that new one that just came out a few years ago. This tells me that while we have a market of ideas it is a market. And markets behave in ways that are hard to predict long term. The other lesson, I guess, is that, by and large, being a writer actually kind of sucks a little.

3. The Internet is unbelievably cool; ergo tech stocks are always cool too: Tell that to anyone who bought shares in pets.com, etoys.com, webvan.com or any of the million other now-forgotten tech stocks that went blammo. The lesson? By the time we learn about something cool it's almost certainly not really cool anymore.

4. We would never enter a war based entirely on lies: It’s long been whispered FDR knew about Pearl Harbor in advance and let it happen to draw us into war. If this is true, and I doubt it is, it still pales in comparison to the Iraq War, which was marketed, and sold completely on unreliable and un-provable assertions, aka lies, about the imminent danger of weapons of mass destruction. Then the lies were sold to us on TV by the highest members of The Bush Administration. The lesson? We are easily led, and make terrible decisions, when we are afraid. Like then voting Bush in a second time.

I could go on, and, believe me, I do. Ask my wife.

(Pause for polite, if predictable, laughs)

But that’s not the point of this speech. What I am trying to get at is the idea that the future, despite all received and conventional wisdom, remains stubbornly unknowable. Today’s truisms can become falsehoods before I’m even done with this sentence. And probably just did.

Knowing this you no longer have any good, logical reason to play it so safe, to do what is expected rather than what you want without even testing your wings on the unknown. Because in 10 years what is as yet unknown could be so commonplace as to become unremarkable, and what is known, and understood to be safe, could become completely discredited. Like banking! Seriously, remember when bankers were merely boring? And then they destroyed our economy. God, how I long for boring!

So take a risk on the unknown, which is really a risk on you. You don’t have to know how the story ends before you start writing the book. Which is something made out of paper that people read before Kindle.

So, thank you for allowing me to speak before you, but I’ve got to go. My broker is calling my iDroid, something about ePets.com shares on the cheap. He says it’s a bottom.

Oh, and, despite what I said before, yes, wear sunscreen. Just do your own research first instead of trusting me, Kurt Vonnegut, or someone imitating Kurt Vonnegut. I think the EPA’s website is a good place to start. Thank you, I hope you enjoy middle school and let's party!"

(Cheers, mortar boards thrown into the air, somewhere a baby cries from the heat.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Everyday I Climb The Hill

The headline of this post is the chorus of a song I wrote called "Everyday."

I wrote the music about a year, or so, ago, when we were in Cape May, NJ. It was a bouncy upbeat sort of thing, acoustic-based, fun. Stella liked it, and usually that means it's pretty good! I remember her dancing around on the porch of our rented beach house. It's a fond memory.

The lyrics came about six months ago when I was, there's no other way to say this, locked into a deep, deep depression. They are as uplifting as I could make them at the time, which was not very. (And some were cribbed from Dylan Thomas: Hey, steal from the best!) Here they are:

Taking the blue pill everyday
Thank god for pharmacology
Keeps the noon-day demons at bay
I didn't use to feel this way

Well I won't go gentle into that good night
I will rage against the dying of the light

Verse 2:
Up the hill the stone I push
Feel a lot like Sisyphus
Falls to the bottom whenever I reach the top
Keep on pushing I can't let myself stop

Well I won't go gentle into that good night
I will rage against the dying of the light (sing 2X)

Everyday I climb the hill
Don't know if I'll get there I don't think I ever will
Didn't use to feel this way
But I'm gonna keep on pushing, keep on climbing everyday

Verse 3:
Brought a child into this world
The bluest eyes you'll ever see
She's my darling sweet little girl
It's no longer just about me

Chorus and out

So that's the song, kind of an upbeat downer when you hear it. When I have a decent recording of it, I'll post it. I like it, although I don't feel like we, the band, Bottle Cap Manifesto, have it 100% down yet. (It's the bridge that's kind of hanging us up.) When we play it live, which we've done a few times now, it doesn't feel as confessional as it reads on the page, but I guess that's the beauty of music, the blues even. Sharing the dark stuff can become positive, or more positive, when its in communion with others, the band, the audience, the universe, the Hindu floaty thing. (The last reference is an inside joke to Randi, and comes from the truly, truly strange documentary "Grizzly Man." If you haven't seen it yet, get it right now. It cannot be described adequately, in its full awesomeness, by me tonight.)

And the sheer repetitive fact of practice makes me less self conscious about the song too. By the 50th time we've played it in practice it no longer feels like reading a diary entry and more like constructing and deconstructing a mechanical object, cutting it down, refining, memorizing the words so I no longer think about them.

But ... the part about Stella gets me every time I sing it. As it should.

And I don't take a blue pill everyday, just so you know. That's what they call poetic license. It's white. :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Father's Day Ruminations

Coming on the third Father's Day, which is very cool. I don't have any real plans firmed up yet. We've considered visiting the Muhammad Ali center. And for whatever I have for dinner's main course, I am having a dozen oysters on the half-shell in advance. That's about it for my big plans. I'd like to think it's because I'm low maintenance, and not because I'm lazy.

But I've been thinking about parenting, and being a dad, as I am wont to do, you know.

It's a weird thing. In recent years I've really become judgmental about people, not generally, but in very specific ways. You can be a prick, a blowhard, a jerk, a phony. Generally speaking, unless it impacts me quite directly I don't care. I don't have to have you in my life, or have an opinion on you. In fact, the less I think about you the better off we both are.

But there is one area where I've become kind of a stickler. You can be the world's biggest a-hole to me, but if you have a great relationship with, and are good to, your kids, and they love and admire you I will basically think you're not all bad. In fact, maybe you're okay, just not to me.

Conversely, you can be nice, nice, nice but if your kids think your a shit, I, deep down, don't care for you.

Or maybe you've been a shit to your kids, but they still love you and try with you. That's okay, they can still care for you, but I won't like you.

You almost certainly will never know this. I won't tell you, because it's really not my business, but this is pretty much how I judge people these days.

You can fail in a lot of ways, but if you are good to your kids and love them and they love you back, and mean it, I will say you're a good man.

Conversely, you can be a great success in this world, but if I see you being a bastard to your kids and family I will never trust a word you tell me, no matter how nice you are to me.

I had a boss in Boulder who was a bastard. There's no other word for it. He treated his staff like crap, threatened, harassed and tried to intimidate people. He was belligerent, and a blowhard, and sometimes not all that smart. He told me my predecessor was fired for not doing what he said, on my first day on the job.

Nice guy, right?

But his daughter would walk in, and she loved her daddy. You could tell. And it probably wasn't always easy on them, because this was a broken home.

Okay, to me he was still a bastard, and at times I could have easily imagined strangling him. But then I would think of him, and his daughter and think, well, you know, he sucks but at least he's not all bad. Maybe 95%, but not all.

Conversely there is a guy who is buddy-buddy with my own dad, and he is always friendly, garrulous even.

Then one day, about 16 years ago he was over at our house, selling my parents a car. It was in great condition, and he kept it up well, the motor sparkled. Meticulous.

But, and I don't know what caused it, his wife said something, and I saw him snap. I don't remember what he said/shouted, but his nice-nice face darkened real fast, he lit into her, and I could tell he only wore the mask of a friendly man. No, he was not friendly.

This is how I think of him today, and I've seen him many times since.

The problem is, you don't get to say whether you are a good parent, or a good father. That's not your call in the end. No, only your children can determine that. And it takes a long time to see if what you claimed was your "best" really was.

I hope my best is really my best.

And yes, sometimes kids hate their parents, even though the parent does everything right. And sometimes kids from great, loving homes end up ruins, addicts and disasters.

But mostly it's not that way. Mostly people who travel those dark roads go there because there is an emptiness inside that should have been filled very young by a parent's love. They are looking for something that can't be so easily found in drugs, or food, or booze, or self-hate, but that doesn't mean they're not going to try it anyway. Mostly if kids turn out to be problematic adults you can safely lay the blame at the feet of the child's parent in some way.

So those are my thoughts on Father's Day!

That and I hope I get a tie.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Joe Battipaglia: In Memorium

I just learned of the unfortunate passing of Joe http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifBattipaglia. He passed away in mid-April, from a heart attack. Joe was beloved in the financial community and the odds are good that if you were at all a regular watcher of financial shows over the past decade you probably saw him on TV.

He always made his case vigorously, but I can't remember even one time I saw him yell at or belittle anyone on one of those shows. His facts spoke for themselves.

Doing a little research online I have since learned a good deal more about Joe. He was a remarkable person in many ways. According to his CNBC guest bio he "was the son of a sanitation worker, grew up in Queens, only child, first in family to attend college. Graduate, Phi Beta Kappa, economics, Boston College, 1976. Played rugby, lacrosse. MBA from Wharton, 1978. Market strategist (private client group) at Stifel Nicolaus, began career as analyst at Exxon and Elkins & Co. Joined Gruntal & Co., where he spent 18 years. Chaired investment policy at Ryan, Beck & Co. Former trustee of the Securities Industry Institute ... Married 1980, wife Mary Ann. Sons Matthew (Dartmouth) and Jeff (U.S. Naval Academy) played college football; also has daughter, Christen. Helped get employees out of One Liberty Plaza, across from WTC, on 9/11. Frequent guest of Larry Kudlow, Fox Business. Suffered heart attack in Georgia, where he had gone to speak at investors luncheon. Recalled in memoriam as "gentle giant," "very generous guy."'

That's a lot for any person, especially one who went so young, 55. He was also 6'7" and 300 pounds. He cut an imposing figure, I suppose.

I knew him personally, not well, I need to add. But I did know him. When we were starting Intelligent Investing at Forbes.com three years ago there was this idea that we would have an "Investor Team" of financial wizards and superstars that we would use in regular rotation for our stories. Build a repertoire of experts, in a way.

The only problem was we had no real experts or stars. I didn't know where to exactly begin recruiting such a team, either. But the fact was, we needed some names, it was what the entire thing kind of was premised upon.

Somehow Joe Battipaglia's name came up. He was extremely well known among those who follow the markets. Maybe not known to everyone on the street, but definitely known to everyone on The Street.

We had little time to lose. We had to begin cranking out stories, and still did not really have our experts. I had a fairly lengthy list of people who hadn't called me back when I asked for their help. The list of those who would help, though, was much, much smaller.

So I, out of the blue, called Joe. I didn't know him. He sure did not know me. Having seen him on TV I was, to be truthful, a bit intimidated. I expected to leave a message and never hear from him again, as had already happened so many times.

Instead, to my surprise, I got him on the phone. I told him about what we were doing, or trying to do, and who I was. I said the word "Forbes" as much as I could to give myself some credibility by association.

After about 25 seconds of my spiel Joe said he would do it. Suddenly, I had a source for one of our inaugural stories, and a big one at that. I believe it was about the future price of oil a hot topic, then as now. I nervously took notes, and he slowly went over every point a few times, patiently. His voice was a rumbling basso profundo, but easy to understand. All in all I interviewed him for maybe 10 minutes that day, but he gave me a lot to work with. I was profoundly grateful.

Because he has so impressed me with his generosity of time and spirit I made sure to call him back before the final draft went online. I went over each of his points, making sure I had the facts just right. Believe me, this can be a dicey time. Sources can often get shockingly prickly when you read back to them what they actually said to you. Joe merely listened patiently, made a few additional supporting points, to make sure I really understood it, and then when it was over said something like "yeah, I think you got it."

The story ran, and we were on our way with a great new channel on the Forbes.com website.

The truth is I think I maybe interviewed Joe one additional time after that. He was busy, always going to conferences. I could often get him on the phone, though, even if he was just telling me no. "You know Dave, I would really love to, but things have just been so crazy here. But please keep me in mind for next time."

I did, and even if he kept not being able to do it I always left those little phone chats feeling pretty good. Here he was, a big man, in his field, in so many ways, but he always had the time to at least take the call.

I never met Joe in person. I think I told him that if I ever came down to Philly I would like to say hi. He agreed, if I am remembering correctly, that that would be nice.

I can't claim some great friendship with him, that would not be honest. But he was a friend to me, a stranger, when I really needed it. He was a good person, a very smart Wall Street analyst, and I am very sorry to learn that he is no longer with us.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The REAL difference between New York and Kentucky

A year ago, while we still lived in New York, I took a job as an editor for a start-up financial newsletter. It was run by a very successful investor and former hedge fund manager I had originally met through Forbes. He was a dynamic person, and lots of fun to be around and I was happy for the job. It was hard work, and I wasn't necessarily a perfect fit for what he wanted, it turned out, but I gave it my best.

In the end he needed someone who was far more of an investment guru than I was, with more ability to break down balance sheets in order to unlock the true potential of stocks. I had little knowledge about this process. My picks tended to be pretty predictable, and not all that exciting.

Not that I was wrong all the time, I wasn't. I read through the reports they already had on file and said that Apple, for example, was a "buy" at $260, it's now at $335. The iPad was brand new and all the analysis I read pointed to it potentially being a smash product on the order of the iPhone, although many poo-pooed that notion a year ago. Worth remembering: the iPhone was also poo-pooed when it came out. I saw parallels. Honestly, Apple still might be a buy, as it's price-to-earnings ratio is only 15, but I digress. (Another digression: it's extremely hard to consistently beat the market over time.)

Whatever, I didn't buy Apple that day, because I'm really not comfortable investing any real money into individual stocks. I guess that's why I'm not already retired in the Caribbean sipping daiquiris, like Dan Ackroyd at the end of Trading Places.

And none of these points are why I'm writing this anyway.

One day my new boss took me out to lunch at a local Pannera. He generously offered to pay for my soup and salad, as well as his own. This being New York these came out to something like $25, by the way. But pay it he did, which I really appreciated.

When he paid, I noticed, he did it with an American Express card. Then I looked still more closely. It wasn't just any American Express card, it was The American Express Black Card.

Something clicked in my memory. The Black Card, I thought, isn't that what, like, Jay-Z uses?

In other words, it is for the truly big money.

That night, out of curiosity, I looked up all I could find about The Black Card. It turns out to have an interesting story. The Black Card (the real name of which is actually The Centurion Card, but no one calls it that) was actually a myth before it was a product. Once upon a time the highest, most-prestigious Amex card you could get was the Platinum card. Which is plenty prestigious, believe me.

Still, the world being what it is, the Universe's various Masters started to say they had heard tell of still another card, that was even more rare, and exclusive. The Black Card. You couldn't ask for it, they could only give it to you. If they felt like it. Maybe.

But at this point there was no Black Card, it was just a neurotic fantasy playing out in the minds of pampered heiresses and Wall Street hard-ons in order for them, somehow, to still feel inferior.

Of course American Express eventually got wind of this. I imagine when they first heard the story their top execs probably laughed their asses off and then, in mid-laugh, became dead serious. Holy crap!, they almost certainly shouted, we've got to introduce this Black Card! The marketing has already been done for us, by the most powerful people in the world! Then they went back to laughing their asses off and eating money sandwiches.

And so the Black Card was released. In a canny move Amex kept it invitation only. Today you can only be invited to get a Black Card if you already own a Platinum Card, are crazy rich, have great credit and, presumably, spend just wheelbarrows full of money all the time.

So, THAT was the card my new boss used to pay for our lunch at Pannera, that day, a year ago.

Man, I thought, this dude is seriously loaded. Which I already kind of knew anyway, but this proved it.

Not long after that I overheard a conversation in the office whereby my boss talked about how he had to pick up his laundry, either within the building or perhaps through delivery. He didn't have the ability to do laundry in his, presumably, posh, possibly penthouse-level, apartment.

Fast forward one year later. We live in Louisville, Kentucky. We do not have a Black, Platinum, Gold or even Green Amex Card. Yet we do have a clothes washer and dryer in our apartment, unlike my old boss. That we have this is considered so unremarkable no one ever remarks upon it. We spend a grand total of $905 a month in rent, which is high for here.

And THAT is the real difference between New York and Kentucky.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Was A Teenaged Randian

Today, upon the celebration of my 39th birthday I though it appropriate to wade through some old writings and reveal perhaps one of the most shame-inducing things I have ever written. But, first, a little background setup is in order.

As 2011 moves past its first third it has become more and more apparent that the nation as a whole is in the grips of a new wave of influence from The Scientific Objectivist herself, Ayn Rand. Rep. Paul Ryan--who resembles no one so much, in manner and look, as Gabe from The Office--proudly proclaims himself a follower of the writer and philosopher. Copies of her books continue to sell briskly and an Atlas Shrugged movie has recently been unleashed in theaters. In short Ayn Rand, almost 30 years after her death, is having a bit of a moment. Her philosophy has struck a chord with Americans who fear the incoming wave of still more moderateness from our already hopelessly modest president. This, they have thundered, cannot stand. They cry for the rights of the individual, the right to assert their greatness, their right to pay fewer and fewer taxes in the name of fiscal balance and responsibility.

Forgive me for perhaps sounding a bit smug but of course Ayn Rand is old news to me. Way, way back when, in 1988, I myself had a bit of a personal Ayn Rand moment. In fact I spent much of the first half of junior year walking around with my head blown by this idea of self-reliance and unfettered genius. After all, who would know more about self reliance than a pampered, coddled suburban Jew, who had everything he could virtually ever want literally given to him? But that mattered not. I looked around at my fatted calflike neighbors, with their lazy intellects and perfect yard-induced complacency and saw right through them. None of you, I thought, have ever stood up for what you truly believed. None of you, I again said to myself, again silently, have any of the guts you truly need to change this world. I would shrug my shoulders, perhaps in an Atlas-like fashion?, and look down my nose at them still more. Failures, I ruminated, the entire lot of you.

Of course I am not the first to wrap my cloak of suburban anomie around the first handy philosophy I could muster. And not long after that I found myself attached, tic-like, to yet another, and greater siren call, The Grateful Dead. Mind equally blown, but in a big party full of stoned hippies, businessmen and hippie businessmen. Of the two mind blowers, I add, perhaps unnecessarily, the latter was a hell of a lot more fun, and a hell of a lot less lonely. But, as they say, I digress.

I had been given a copy of The Fountainhead during a teen tour I had taken during the summer of 1988 in Israel. (On a side-note one of my favorite fellow teen tourists that summer was Roger Madoff, nephew of the justly hated Ponzi-schemer, Bernie Madoff. Talk about the rights of an individual to do exactly what they want!)

The corrupter of my young mind was my counselor Alan, another suburban Jew, of course, except he was in college and knew a couple of Crosby, Stills & Nash songs on the guitar. You know, he was awesome. I don't know what prompted the conversation, but at some point Alan presented me with his idea of the individual and his supremacy.

"Think about it Dave," he said. "Has ANYTHING great ever come from a committee? Can you perform surgery by committee? What about all the greatest inventions? Were any of these done by committee? The light-bulb? The telegraph? No, these are all things best done by one person leading the way, alone."

I thought for a moment about Alan's surgery example, then answered. "Well, Alan, what about the research that went into the medical knowledge that lead to the surgery. Often that is done by groups and even teams. And during surgery itself there is an entire team of people working with the surgeon, like nurses and anesthesiologists, who are just as important, in their way, as the surgeon."

Alan pondered this for a few seconds and, if memory serves, even granted I may have had a point. Despite this he still saw fit to hand me his copy of The Fountainhead, telling me to just check it out.

It was a big book, 740 pages, or so. This alone meant a lot to me at the time. Up until that point the biggest book I had ever read was The Sword Of Shannarah, a Tolkien-esque ripoff that held me spell bound in sixth grade. And let's be frank here, bigness is important when you really don't have any real experience or knowledge in the world of literature. I hefted the soft-covered text. Hmm, I thought. It's about the size of a brick. I should read this.

My second thought was, man, this is going to take up a lot of room in my bag. But screw it, knowledge is power, and therefore worth the work.

Later that night I cracked the spine and immediately was captivated. Howard Roark, my god, who WAS this guy? Where did he get off taking down The Parthenon like he did, and right in front of his mendacious architecture instructor? Then Roark marched off into a sunset of self-assuredness, just a few minutes before he was to graduate from architecture school. But Roark just didn't care about the phony pantomime of graduation. He only cared about the little amount of knowledge to be gleaned from the inferior hacks and losers that were there to instruct him.

After this big entrance Roark then went to work in a rock quarry, all on his own terms. And this was all in, like, the first 25 pages!

Now this, I thought, is a man. He lives by his own rules, he sticks to his guns no matter what, he doesn't let anyone get in his way, he believes in himself without even the shadow of a doubt. He is content to suffer and get passed by without compromising himself or his art. People can either see him for what he is or leave him, he just didn't care. He didn't hate anyone, he didn't talk down to anyone, he wasn't bitter about the chances lesser talents got, he simply focused on what brought him joy and wouldn't let anyone sully the purity of his work.

Now that I read this again it still seems attractive. And I still see how elements of it remain with me today.

But along with all that good stuff, came a sort of almost super-human callousness. To show compassion for those who aren't as talented, who aren't as supremely self-assured, this concept doesn't exist to Howard Roark. The idea of sharing in the bounty of a wealthy society, understanding that some simply do not get the opportunities others get, this idea is also seen as completely without merit to Roark, and by extension Rand. To understand that reason is not always objective, but fallible, that successful people are not necessarily better people, again there is no place for these ideas in Rand's universe.

Nor, for that matter, is there any other concept of virtue at play here other than the self-realization of the individual. In The Fountainhead Roark goes on a diatribe at one point about how nature is simply there as a tool for man's use. Trees only have value in as much as they can be split and made into beams. And to attribute any sort of feeling of greater respect or care for the natural world, apart from what it can do for us, is simply a romantic, pointless and trifling waste of time. This idea literally could not even occur to Roark.

Of course I realized all this only later. Because I loved The Fountainhead. I was with Roark ever step of the way. I jeered his seeming nemesi, Ellsworth Toohey and that brown-noser Peter Keating. I especially loathed Keating, that sellout. Toohey, even at 16, simply seemed like a cartoonish weirdo and hard to actually hate.

But Keating. If you haven't read the book Keating is cast as a kind of anti-Roark. They are classmates at the architecture school Roark leaves. While Roark struggles Keating is the perennial golden boy, graceful, ingratiating and easy to be around. He will conform to what you want him to be if it helps him climb the ladder. A modest talent he gets by simply by being good looking, malleable and popular. And while I personally may have been pretty malleable I sure didn't feel like I was popular or all that good looking. So, you know, fuck that guy!

As the book progresses Roark struggles, but eventually begins to build a client base. He even turns down jobs, no matter how much money he needs, if it's wrong. In one example he refuses to build a home for an old man, because the man wanted it to be based on a sort of plantation that he looked at as a boy and felt excluded from. Roark, in a moment of nice insight, asks that, really, is all you want to stay locked in the battles and mindset you had as a boy? Is your true mission simply to remain stalemated in that time, only from a different perspective? Where is the you in what should be your home?

Like I said, Roark/Rand was not all bad.

And over time Roark's star, by dint of unshakable self-confidence and nonstop work, starts to rise. And in that same time Keating begins to age like the picture of Dorian Gray. He is miserable in his work, his seemingly perfect like starts to unravel, what he really loves to do is paint canvasses. So he takes it up again, as a bit of a hobby, but it's too late. He sold out, and in Rand's world, once you do that you really can't get unsold again. (Again, these ideas, right or wrong have certainly influenced me, for better or worse.)

Needless to say the book meant a lot to me, even as I started to drift from it over time, perhaps inevitably. Rand seemed to me a bit of a fad, something people went through. And then two signal events happened that estranged me from much of what she stands for and her philosophy.

First I reread the book when I was about 25 and I fought it a dreadful, tedious work. The characters are at best cardboard approximations of people. The prose disastrous, the philosophizing tedious. As a fan of great writing the mere fact of her prose hackery did a lot to diminish Rand in my eyes.

Then, a few years later, I started to see Rand's mantle appropriated by people with whom I had very little, if anything, in common. People who used her name as an excuse to gut desperately needed programs for those people among us unlucky enough to have been born very poor. Rand would simply say it's their fault if they are born poor and remain that way as adults. They didn't try hard enough, she'd argue. They are lazy, and in a sense, bad people.

But when my wife told me about kids in the Bronx who want to go to school and learn but their parents are either absent or on drugs ... Or there weren't enough books, yes, not enough books. Or the building they attend school in is crumbling around them, or actually making them sick. At that point I realized that Rand's intellectual purity was no match for the problems of the real world.

When I heard Rand's name used to justify what amounted to me as an undeclared war on our nation's poor I realized I could never identify in any real way with her or Scientific Objectivism. To buy into this philosophy and really live it you have to be blinded to anything subtle or complex about the root causes and solutions to poverty. You have to love a one size fits all answer to everything, which is that gifted people are serving the ultimate moral good by just doing as they damn well please at all times and somehow this benefits society. And the more they do as they damn well please the better off society will be.

Really? Well, I don't know how gifted the financial industry is but it's pretty much done as it damn well pleased over the past 30 years and where has it gotten us? We are a stagnating nation, where the rich already live in Gault's Gulch, and didn't even have to leave the country to get there. America, as it is today, is a land where the rules literally and figuratively do not apply to the rich and super-rich. And we are all, the rest of the nation, poorer for it in every way.

Wow, all that and I didn't even get to the main point of this essay. And this is, to reprint, for your amusement my college admission essay where I talk about what a great Scientific Objectivist I am. And to think, I imagined this would get me into Wesleyan.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Notes From A Newsroom Pt. 6--Food

(Remember all these people below, and in all the other entries before, wrote in expecting that a TV show would take up their cause. To me that is the best part of this whole thing. And here we bring our "book" to a close with all the things people wrote in about food.)


Why does everyone want to sue? Besides, didn’t you see “Supersize Me”

From: xxxxxxxxx@yahoo.com

I recently went to McDonald’s and purchased a #7 from the breakfast menu. After receiving my food I went home to enjoy my purchase. While I was eating my sandwich I discovered a headless roach in it. The roach seemed as if it was cooked along with my food and I bit its head off. Help me. What can be done? Can this be a possible law suit?


Another one who missed “Supersize Me.”

From: xxxxxxxxx@yahoo.com

I recently went ot McDonald’s and purchased a #7 from the breakfast menu. After receiving my food I went home to enjoy my purchase. While I was eating my sandwhich I discovered a head-less roach in it. The roach seemed as if it was cook along with my good and I bit its Head off.


Hey guys? Maybe we could all just skip the Mickey D’s for a while?

From: xxxxxxxx@aol.com
I have a problem with a McDonald’s in the Bronx. On Saturday March 5, 2005 at around 8.25 in the morning I ordered a Big breakfast deluxe meal. I started eating the meal and almost half through the meal I notice something black in my mean which turned out to be Rats Feces. I have the food from tha tday in my freezer and I have pictures of the meal. I had to go to the emergency room because I had diarhea and was vomitting up.


Ants are a delicacy is certain parts of the world; I’m not sure where but that place exists.

From: xxxxxxxxxxxx@officeteam.com

I went to Haagen Daz to enjoy a delicious treat… I bought a cone with sprinkles that comes already prepared. To find that as I was pealing off the wrapper of my delicious treat and finish it off, millions of little ants came crawling out. I still feel sick. No one was able to help me. They did not even give me my money back! Please help!


Wait, this guys is upset that he didn’t eat more of this hot pocket?

From: xxxxxxxxx@yahoo.com

I had brought a hot pocket from pathmark and I found a rodent tooth in it. It really made me sick to my stomach I didn’t eat no more after I found the tooth in it. I only had like two bites before I came across the tooth.

Notes From A Newsroom Pt. 5--Celebrities

(Here the various viewers of my friend's TV news show wrote in about their celebrity obsessions.)


Kid, you lost us at “Hanson.”

From: XXXXXXXXX@aol.com

I am a really big fan of Hanson and they were recently in a law suit. they lost and the judge said they have to give up 6 of their songs to the record label. I want to make a patition to get them back their six songs because I believe it is unconstitutional to have to give them up. If you call me I could explain this a lot better.


Ridiculous and pathetic…knowing is half the battle.

From: xxxxxxxx@hotmail.com

Okay, I realize that this is a LONG shot, but I figure I have nothing to loose. The internet, and email in general, are VERY powerful tools. My objective is to HOPEFULLY meet Mr. Mike Piazza by the end of the year. I am seeking to obtain my objective by emailing this link to everyone I know, and then some; perhaps EVENTUALLY it will get the attention of someone who could make it happen. I acknowledge how ridiculous and pathetic this seems – and yet it is that notion that I hope to capitalize on. For example if this were presented to say, Rosie O’Donnell (hint, hint), she may think I am SO pathetically desperate that she’d feel compelled to put me out of my misery. Stranger things have happened.

At this point you’re vacillating between “Is this chick out of her mind?!”, and “Umm, don’t you have anything better to do with you time?” The answer to both is ‘Yes.’ I am slightly cuckoo at times, have plenty to do (single Mom of a 12-year-old, work full time, ect.), and many more goals to achieve . But I also believe that if you TRULY want to achieve a goal (silly or not), YOU have to make it happen. So here is my attempt, and it will only ‘work’ if people (friends, family strangers, weather men….) participate. All you have to do is “pass it on”. Come on! Haven’t you ever had a dream? Been a fan? Wanted desperately to meet the object of your fanaticism? What did YOU do about it? I am making a conscious effort here and I need your help.)

I traveled approximately 3,400 miles last year to attend two Met games in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the man himself. Wouldn’t you know he wasn’t on the roster for either game? And being from Boston, the chances are pretty slim that I’ll be attending a Met game this year. Perhaps now you can see why I am using the internet as an avenue!

I acknowledge how ‘off the wall’ this is. And while I encourage positive feedback, helpful and creative suggestions and ideas, I ask that you refrain from forwarding and negative criticism, as I am not really hurting anyone by launching my “campaign”. Hee hee.
Thank you for your help and wish me luck.


May The Force be with you…to find something meaningful to do with your life.

From: xxxxxxx@hotmail.com

On behalf of all the Star Wars fans especially now that May 19 the new Episode 3 film is coming up would want to know why Sony Online Entertainment ignored us, lied to us and took the very game that we all love and destroyed it…

We told Sony we did not like it, they just ignored us and said everything will be alright, they even erased our post against it in the forums and banned us taking away our freedom of speech. That’s why right now, for the first time, all members are coming to gather rebels and imps to go against the dreaded Sony Online Entertainment. We come to you for help so Sony can finally hear our voice.


Just so we’re clear you only have ONE Liver and you need it to live.

From: xxxxxxxxxx@hotmail.com

Help me. I just found out that Barry White is in need of a liver. I want to find out if I can help Mr. Barry White. I will give up one of my livers for him. Please help me find out if I can. Mr. Barry White has to live on and so does his music. I love him, I will give up a liver for him.


Put your kid to bed earlier and don’t blame us when your kid finds out you’ve been lying to them for years.

From: xxxxxxxxx@aol.com

On Saturday, Dec. 21st at 11pm myself, my wife and my 7 year old daughter are watching “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Well you should have put up a warning notice that this show contains information that there really is not a Santa Claus! My daughter was very upset watching this show. By the time we shut it off it was too late. Maybe you should help out your network and show them to be a little considerate of who is watching your network.


Umm, maybe we could host a telethon? And are these people French?

From: xxxxxxxxx@prodigy.net

Hi H,

Hope all is well. We are not asking for your help for us. We are asking your help for Jerry Lewis, of whom we have been fans virtually our entire lives (please remember this throughout.)

His appearance is alarming. In his piece he said he was 50 pounds overweight, blaming the steroids/prednizone that he’s taking (for pulmonary fibrosis?). And that, with all sincere respect, is pure bovine scatology, used as a justification for the weight gain, NOT in his best interests.

For Jerry’s sake, and others like him, you can’t let this celebrity get away with that “cause” excuse unchallanged. That is tacit affirmation of inacurate information. There is only one excuse for anyone gaining, and maintaining, that amount of excess weight especially ... and it is not from lack of exercise either. We hope you can help him.