Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Letter to Claire McCaskill

Claire McCaskill is the Senator from Missouri. I wish I could say that she represents me, but that wouldn't be true. I'm sure a lot of her constituents would say the same.

She has been duplicitous in her portrayal of her voting record. She has claimed to be focused on fiscal responsibility, but has voted for every spending measure possible, including Obamacare, TARP and the billion dollar stimulus package.

Not only didn't she claim taxes on her private jet, and charged the government for its use. She claimed she didn't know about those taxes.
She served as Missouri State Auditor. She knew about the tax. Even as she railed against a Bush era tax credit for private jets, she did stated that she take the credit. Her hypocrisy knows no bounds, it seems.

In a stunning display of disconnect, she recently said that one way to reduce the deficit was to eliminate diabetes.


So... What's Wrong With Claire McCaskill?
As I see it, what's wrong with Claire can be in a post from her Twitter account.

McCaskill says one thing, but does another.
She says she listens, but if you look on Twitter, she follows no one and responds to very few mentions. If she listens to Missourians, she wouldn't have voted for Obamacare. She is argumentative at the few town hall meetings she goes to.
"Barack Obama has no better friend than Claire McCaskill."
This is an oft-quoted remark from Joe Biden from the 2008 campaign.  Her voting record proves it, although she recently said she "regularly" votes against her party's line.

She doesn't tell the truth. And she's hypocritical.
She has recently tried to distance herself from the President, by refusing to appear with him at a St. Louis fundraiser, citing schedule conflicts. She arrived in St. Louis just a few hours later. She also called out the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, because she feels she needs to move to the middle in order to be elected for a second term.

She is untruthful. And she lies to cover her ass when she's caught.
Look... she owns a jet. She didn't pay taxes on it. Purposefully. She claims to be a moderate, but nothing is further from the truth. She says she wants the country to be fiscally responsible, but she spends and spends and spends.

She doesn't answer questions. And when she does, she doesn't.
When someone asks her a question, no matter what, McCaskill's answer comes right from the party playbook. It's all about spin. (And she's not really very good at it.)

All of this led me to drop her a quick note. If you live in Missouri, I hope you'll do the same. Here's what I wrote:

Ms. McCaskill,

It's time for you to start telling the truth. You've been lying to your constituents for five years.

Telling us that you believe in fiscal responsibility while voting in favor of every spending measure that hits the Senate floor is not politics.

It's a lie.

I'll let you in on some history. When you ran for governor, I called your office to get some insight into what your policies would be. I was on the fence. The person that answered was trite, condescending and argumentative. He actually yelled at me at one point.

That secured my vote. Your actions since you've been a Senator have also secured my vote, for whomever opposes you.

And quit trying to position yourself as a moderate.  You can't run to the middle at this stage in the election cycle and expect people not to remember what you've done.

If you do happen to win another term, and for the remainder of your current term, I hope that you would tell the truth about who you are and how you've voted.

You owe that to the people of Missouri.

Joel Weaver
Kansas City, MO


Claire McCaskill sent me a reply. Or did she?

Dear Mr. Weaver,
Thank you for contacting me regarding the federal budget.  I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.
Like you, I am frustrated that efforts to fix our nation's finances have been stalled.  We need to find a compromise before credit rating agencies downgrade our debt and before the interest payments on the debt begin to exceed national priorities, like repairing our nation's roads and providing affordable education.

As you may know, the Budget Control Act, signed into law on August 1, 2011, created the "Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction," a bipartisan, bicameral twelve person committee in Congress with the sole mission of putting forth a proposal to bring down the nation's deficit and debt.  On November 21, 2011, the committee announced that it failed to come to an agreement and meet this deadline.

In accordance with the Budget Control Act, the federal budget will now be subject to across-the-board, automatic cuts starting in January, 2013, and caps on spending until 2021, constituting a $1.2 trillion reduction in spending.  The cuts will be split evenly between defense and non-defense programs.  However, Social Security, Medicaid, veteran's benefits, and a few other programs will be exempt from the automatic cuts.

Many budget experts and economists believe that these automatic cuts would be problematic for our economy, national defense, and many programs like education and transportation on which middle class Americans rely.  The automatic cuts were included because they were intended to force the Joint Committee, and subsequently Congress, to come to an agreement rather than risk having the automatic cuts go into effect.  I remain deeply disappointed that the Joint Committee failed to compromise and come to a responsible, bipartisan agreement to address our nation's debt.  Congress has become too polarized, with those on the far right and the far left unwilling to compromise at all.

I believe we need a bipartisan compromise that will address our nation's long term debt and prevent across the board cuts.  A compromise will require Democrats and Republicans to accept some recommendations of the other side.  Balance will go a long way towards achieving our goals.

Such an approach to reducing the deficit could include cuts in federal spending, but also must raise revenue, such as by simplifying and cleaning out the tax code.  We should also eliminate duplication and fraud from federal programs and introduce expanded means testing into more programs so taxpayers are not paying for such things as Warren Buffet's prescription drugs.  With these and other commonsense measures, we would be able to make smart, targeted reforms to Defense programs so that we do not undermine our national security.  We would also be able protect Social Security, Medicare, and other important programs from severe and regressive cuts that unfairly target the poor and seniors and that could slow down our economy.

What is clear is that the American people lose when Washington politics gets in the way.  We have a difficult road ahead, and we need real, bipartisan compromise to solve our nation's complex fiscal problems.  I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to seek such compromise that will bring our nation's budget to balance.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.


Claire McCaskill
United States Senator

Monday, December 5, 2011

Two Birds, One Stone

How to Save the Post Office and Get Back at Those Companies That Send Junk Mail

Citibank wastes trees and money with badvertising.
The United States Postal Service is in a hard way right now. Losing money hand over fist. Millions in benefits owed to pensioners. Increased  competition from FedEx, UPS, DHL. Letter writing is dying. Catalogs have moved to the Internet because more people shop electronically. And, the worst indicator that the USPS is in trouble, Claire McCaskill has took up the charge, encouraging people to send cash through the mail.

I've got a much better idea, and it will stick it to the credit card companies who barrage you with unwanted solicitation.

Instead of throwing that junk mail away... open it. Look for the business reply envelope. (Or "BRE" if you're in the industry.) Set it aside.

Find the piece of paper with the legalese on it... the rates you're getting now, the rates you'll be getting charged next year, under what conditions you'll be charged more, etc.

Write a message on it in big magic marker. Something sweet... maybe a note for the Holidays.

A seasonal message, peppered with a political statement.

Then stuff that sumbitch in the BRE, lick the envelope and send it back to those assholes.

Now ask yourself:
The Post Office charges postage plus 72 cents per piece of business reply mail.

Not just yes, but HELL YES!

Can one person make a difference?
I get 5 pieces of junk mail per week with BREs in them. That's 520 unwanted pieces of mail. At $1.17 or so, that's roughly $304.20 I've helped the Post Office generate while sticking it to the man.

Can we turn this into a movement?
If every household in the country did this, we'd have the USPS back in the black within a year, to the tune of $40,154,400,000. (That's $40.15 billion and change, folks.) Figuring five a week is average, 132 million households per the 2010 Census. That comes out to be a big chunk of change the Banks of America, Chase, Capital One, Discover and Wells Fargo will be forking out.

There may be some collateral damage. Sorry magazines, cell phone companies and Dish Network, but you're assholes, too. This quit being efficient two decades ago. Find a new way to advertise.

I don't usually make new years resolutions, but I'm doing this in 2012. Who's with me?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Man's Man's Advice to His Wife

Surviving Black Friday

I can’t fathom why anyone would subject themselves to shopping on Black Friday, but they do. Personally, I don’t see myself braving the crowds to save $2 on the next big thing.
Not trying to be sexist here, but this is almost purely an affectation for women. Men hate crowds (unless it’s a sporting event) and we hate to shop (unless it’s for cars, tools or grills.)
I have some experiences in life that can help you prepare and make your Black Friday more fun and more successful. For one thing, I picked up some survival skills when I was lost in the woods for almost two hours. As someone who enjoyed sports back in the day, I know to stretch and stuff. And I planned to be an Eagle Scout, until I realized I’d have to make my way through Webelos before becoming a boy scout, which was a deal breaker.

Plus, as a guy, I just have an overwhelming need to solve problems.
So here's my advice to the ladies venturing out on Black Friday.
Carbo load the night before.
Shouldn’t be a problem, considering the day was Thanksgiving and most people ingest the equivalent of a bushel of wheat in carbohydrates. But, make sure to eat a good breakfast. Get some protein, so you won't get hungry.
Pack a survival kit.
Yeah, I said it. Pack one. Include some snacks, drinks, an extra jacket and some band-aids, just in case it turns ugly. 
Fill up the night before… with gas.
Saves time. Who knows what the lines will be like. And under NO circumstances should you go inside a convenience store or gas station for anything. If you didn’t pack it, you don’t need it.

Buddy up.
Shopping with someone can keep you motivated and it’s always good to have support. But choose wisely. Leave you know who at home. You won’t be able to concentrate when they start whining. You’ll lose time when they wander off. They’ll want to get something to eat two or three times. You won’t want to deal with them asking why you’re buying that. In short, don't take your husband.
Be prepared for a fight.
You’d do anything for your family, right? Remember, what happens at Target, stays at Target. If it’s not worth fighting dirty for, it’s not worth buying.
Travel light.
Nothing bulky. Nothing heavy. Leave the big purse at home. You’re not laying siege. You’re hitting quick and moving on. LikeBritish Special Forces but with better dental hygiene.

Take a couple of bottles of water with you. And remember the runner’s rule: If you’re thirsty, you’ve waited too long.
Early and often. You might even consider picking up a 5 Hour Energy and a couple of Starbuck’s Double Shots. Actually stopping by a coffee shop could cost you valuable minutes and mean the difference between getting your daughter an Ipad and getting her new clothes.
Stop for a light lunch.
Quick energy… something from the four basic food groups. Avoid anything that involves using a spoon, OK? Soup is slow. Sammiches are for winners.
Wear comfortable shoes.
Don’t be a hero and wear flats. Or sandals. You’re going to be traveling far and fast. Tennis shoes, or lightweight hunting boots, even. For God’s sake, get something with some support… arch AND ankle.
Dress for all conditions.
Layering is the key. Most likely, it'll be cold in the morning, but warmer in the afternoon. As you're working, you may start to feel warm. That's not good. Wear light layers that can be shed quickly. Avoid a heavy jackey, if possible. The last thing you need is a coat taking up valuable rolling real estate.
Use social check-ins.
Unless you don’t LIKE saving money or knowing that they're serving snacks somewhere in the store.
Don't take down the first thing that comes along.
Stopping off to find clothes in junior miss, no matter how good the deal, is a rookie mistake. That sweater will be there in an hour. The new Tranformer won’t. Hit toys and electronics first.
Cash is for amateurs.
It does slow down the process. If you lose your wallet, it’s a hassle, but credit cards can be replaced. Cash can’t. Flash a lot of cash, and you just became a target. Make sure to have some coin on-hand for parking meters and bell ringers, though. That’s pro preparation right there.

Let your husband go play poker when you get home.
That’ll do it. Happy shopping. I’m out.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Open Letter to My Dad

Dear Dad,
It's been a long time. I'm not saying that to be an asshole or anything, but it's been 11 years since I got that phone call at 6:30 in the morning on November 12, 2001.

We knew it was November 11 when you left, because there's no way you made it to midnight that day. You worked around the farm most of the day, and I know for you, that day was probably about as perfect as you could get. In a place that you loved, doing the things that you loved, working around the farm, cooking up some venison, having a few
and some of your favorite deer camp "horse dervies" which no one in their right mind would eat

By the way, that pronunciation died with you. But I'm bringing it back. Along with the camel joke.

For the first time since you left, November 11 was Veteran's Day for me. I didn't think much about it being your last day. And I know you wouldn't want it any other way. "Ten years is a long time to grieve," you'd say.

Like almost every other thing you said, you'd probably be right.

But the thing is, there's not a day goes by that I don't think about you. Everyone misses you and still talks about you like you're still here, even eleven years later. That's strong, Dad.
Dad with his little buddy, Levi, sporting the do-rags.

I'll let you know that I finally visited you. Twice now. The first time, I lasted about 15 seconds. But it broke the ice. This past Memorial Day, I went with Toby, his buddy, Mike and Ashley and we drank a beer with you. For you, I guess is the more appropriate term.

I still haven't been down to the farm. I may never go, even though I know it is a special place you chose because you wanted to retire there someday. Someday just came way too fast.

I know what you'd say about that, too, Dad: "I wanted this to be a place where you boys could go and take your families. You should go."

But I really only know it as the place where you died and would only know it without you. Toby and Duke know the place with you there. They got to see how you looked at it and talked about it.

I know that's where your spirit is. Danny has said he's seen you there. I hope he's right. But he knows the place with you there, too. I think that's why I've been reluctant to go: I'm afraid I won't see you there. It would just be the place where your journey ended and I don't want that. Hopefully someday, I'll be able to make that trip and walk your land with you.

I miss the way you'd laugh. The way you'd grin, with the glint in your eyes because you knew something funny was coming. There was that snort thing you'd do. Then three or four chortles that could be mistaken for a coughing fit. Now I'm thinking that watching you laugh is the reason I try to make people laugh.

I think what I miss most about you is how damn philosophical you were. I'm not really sure that others know that about you. But there was just so much I learned about how to be a man shooting pool with you. You taught me more about life playing pool and drinking a few beers than all of my professors put together. You were my greatest teacher. I want you to know that.

I guess I've come to the reason for this: I'm working through some things that I need to change about myself. I don't have your patience, and I sorely wish I knew your secret. I don't have your wisdom, even though I'm as old now as you were when I graduated high school. I'm still not half the man you were, but I'm trying, Dad. I'm trying.

So for me, November 11 was Veteran's Day. I'm fairly certain you'd be comfortable with that. But your birthday's coming up next weekend. That's always been harder for me. I don't think November 19 will just be Saturday.

Love you,
Number one son (I even remember the Charlie Chan reference)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breaking up

Seriously, Tom. You've gotta quit showing up here.

You keep sending me those "I miss you" emails. And now you keep showing up on my wall. Like every other day. You're embarassing me in front of my friends. You're better than that.

Plus, I heard you were with Justin now? What's up with that? You should be concentrating on that relationship, not trying to talk to me.

You keep asking me to come back. You said you've changed, but it's too little, too late. You just couldn't give me what I need.

If it's any comfort, I never cheated. We were through when I found Mark. I'm with Mark now. Sure he's a little pretentious and sometimes can be a little heavy handed, but he's got goals. Oh, you heard that he picks what he thinks I should read? Yeah, he does that, but I think he'll stop. I can change him.

No, Tom. You're great. I think you're great. You'll find someone else. I just know it. You're laid back and you have your bands and all. And that's great! You should do what makes you happy. I just need something else.

I know you said you want to be friends, but I think we need to make a clean break. I'm not trying to be mean, but if you ever liked me, you need to let me go. We had some good times, and I want to keep those memories. but I don't want to see you here. Please don't come here any more. It's too painful.

I just don't want to lead you on. I hope you don't read anything into this, but I just need my space.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cardinals back their way in to the playoffs? Go ^%*&# yourself

I'm seeing and hearing about the Cardinals backing their way into the playoffs. And I'm calling bullshit. They played their asses off, hurt, missing key components and won the sumbitch. So if you're a Braves fan, you can whine about how they choked. (And you're right. BIG TIME chokers, they are.) But if you're a Cardinals fan, here's what I think you need to tell people when they say the Cardinals backed their way in to the playoffs.

1. They won 15 out of their last 20.
That's .750 ball. Talk about peaking at the right time. Go crazy, folks. You think anyone is looking forward to playing the Redbirds? Even the Phillies, the team with the best record in the National League. The best thing the Phillies could've done for themselves was sit their starters for the series in Atlanta. Especially after the Cardinals took three out of four in Philadelphia. But this is the big leagues and you play to win every game.

2. Yadi freaking Molina.
That guy is All World. Hitting like he did in September. Yadi hit .400 in the last 10 games. He had some clutch hits, too. And handling a taped together pitching staff while Dave Duncan was gone. Everyone may be wondering where Albert Pujols will be next year, but Yadi is an incredible ball player and will probably win another Gold Glove this year. If I had a vote, he'd have mine for team MVP.

3. TLR
Love or hate Tony LaRussa, and usually the haters will say he out-manages himself (including me, but I'm no hater) but he only stepped on his own foot once during this run when he left Motte in too long and they blew a huge lead to the Mets. And he probably was responsible for four wins in September. Theriot pinch-hitting for Shumacher... a Pujol-Holliday double steal... both were game-changers.

4. Cardinal Nation
I'm not acquainted with any Cardinals fans who didn't think it could be done. Never lost hope. The Atlanta Braves couldn't even sell out the last series of the year with the playoffs on the line. If the Cardinals are trying to play in to the playoffs, the area around Busch Stadium would be pandemonium. They'd wheel in Jumbotrons and shit. Hotdog and peanut vendors would make more money outside the stadium. And beer... forget about it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts About 9/11 and the 10th Anniversary

Once again, I'm up before the boys and wife and reflecting on some things. There's no surpises here about what I'm think about.

It's September 11; ten years later.

I go back and forth when I think about that day, because I want it to be just another day on the calendar. But I know it won't for quite some time. I think it will fade little by little over time, much the same way that December 7 has. With each generation, that day becomes just an afterthought. Except for the people who were there. 

Where were you on 9/11?
A question I'll never ask, because chances are 99% of the stories are exactly like mine. I can tell you where I was when the planes went into the tower, just like anyone over the age of 20. I was driving to work and listening to Johnny Dare's Show on 98.9 The Rock in Kansas City. I got to work and gathered in the kitchen with my co-workers and we watched as the towers fell.

My 9/11 story, like most people in the country, is common, mundane and boring. Like most people, I can only tell you what it looked like from pictures and video.

The people who were there can tell you how it felt. What it smelled like. What it's like to be covered in ashes and concrete dust. What it sounded like as the planes hit or the towers fell. Or about the screams of the survivors and victims. What it looked like to see the first responders as they rushed in to help.

To be honest, unless you were there, I don't want to know about your 9/11 experience unless you were in Manhattan, Pennsylvania or Washington D.C. Because your experience is exactly like mine. You were driving to work. You were making breakfast. You woke up hung over from a Monday Night Football bender and it was on the news.

The thing is, I know only one guy who has any direct experience in 9/11. My buddy Scott was in the Army at the time and was either stationed in or near D.C. and was sent in that day to help with recovery and protection. I can't remember, as he's only talked about it when we'd been drinking, so the details are fuzzy. He's only spoken of it one time, but I know he was at the Pentagon working on recovery because his unit was there when Donald Rumsfeld came to help for a while. I know this affected Scott greatly because he talked about it very reluctantly, and if you know Scott, he's never one to speak reluctantly on any subject.

Conspiracy theories.
This isn't the Lincoln assassination, where there was a conspiracy by definition. It also isn't the Kennedy assassination, and Oliver Stone probably won't doing a movie about it. Seriously, if you think that the U.S. was behind it or that Israel was behind it, you've got something seriously wrong. I also don't want to hear shit about President Bush not responding quickly enough as he sat in Florida reading to a group of six-year-olds. Here's why: They still didn't know exactly what was going on and moving the President at the time of attack could have put him in danger, dillhole. So shut up about it, don't mention it to me again and I won't mention how scared you were that time you thought you had VD. You know who you are.

We brought it on ourselves.
I'm going to punch someone in the neck. Hear me, Jeremiah Wright? They chose to attack us for our religious beliefs, our economic beliefs, our way of life. Whatever the reason, they attacked us because they hate us. I'll throw one thing out that may surprise you: They didn't do it because they're Muslim. They did it because they're assholes.

It was an act of war.
No, it wasn't an act of war. It was an act of terrorism. War is declared. By a known enemy. Militaries are involved. There are rules in war. Which to me is about as ludicrous a statement as I've ever heard. (Like rules in a knife fight, a la Butch and Sundance.)

This wasn't an act of war. It was an act of terrorism designed to strike fear into the U.S. by killing as many people as they could as quickly as possible. Do you think if you could talk to Bin Laden, he would have been disappointed that only 2,600 people were killed? Especially given the fact that typically more that 14,000 people work in the World Trade Center. So I would say 9/11 was a failure, given that he didn't get close to even 25% kill rate, the Pentagon was spared, only 55 military personnel were killed and Flight 93 never reached its destination.

I'll also say he got better than he deserved, since the U.S. consulted an imam to conduct his burial and his remains were treated with respect, which is more than can be said for how our servicemen killed in action are treated.

Why were first responders left out of 10 year ceremonies?
This is perhaps the biggest travesty of the whole 9/11 Memorial Day. Mayor Bloomberg said there was simply no room for them at the ceremonies. What complete and utter bullshit. There was room for them 10 years ago. He's also not having any clergy. Honestly, I'm not too concerned with that, because if you have a Protestant and/or a Catholic clergy there, the friggin ACLU will sue to have a Muslim cleric there.

By the way, if you ever tell me those people aren't heroes and they were just doing their jobs, I'll bitch slap you. Some people do hero's work, and some people are copywriters.

Why are people are trying to softening the anti-Islamic feeling?
This is perhaps hypocritical on my part, so you don't have to tell me that, but I can do without the declaration of a Day of Service. What the hell? That's kind of insulting to the people who were there. So now we're supposed to go on this bullshit website and tell what we're doing for the country on the day. "I'm cleaning up a beach." You can clean up a beach any day. Why today? March is free and clear of Federal holidays. August is also. Seriously. If this thing catches hold, which is doubtful, its goal is for future generations to recognize it and not the attacks. By the way, Obama went out of his way during Ramadan this year to mention the number of Muslims who died. It was around 30. He never mentions the number of Catholics killed when he speaks to the Knights of Columbus. Mayor Bloomberg did also by offering his outspoken support of the building of the "Islamic Cultural Center" when he knew some would take offense.

Did the terrorists succeed?
I think maybe they did. They stopped capitalism for a few days. It cost the U.S. billions of dollars in clean up, in insurance, and in building a new WTC. They also made us a little afraid, at least for a while, but it still continues to this day. Think about how long commercial airlines didn't fly. Think about how your life has been disrupted in the last 10 years. Think about what we've lost in personal freedom and a certain amount of innocence. Think about it the next time you're getting felt up by a stranger just because you want to board a plane.

What is New York thinking?
It's been 10 years. The building is not yet complete. Why did it take eight years to get the area cleaned up? Why are they allowing an Islamic cultural center to be built when there a mosque three blocks away? Why is a church that was on the national historical registry not allowed to be re-built? There is too much politicking and worries about political correctness. This should have been done for the fifth anniversary, for Pete's sake. The Empire State Building took less than 15 months to build. And it wasn't really a matter of national pride. Building permits, zoning, union labor contracts... seriously? Sheesh what a bunch of turds. I drove through Greensburg, KS, which was absolutely destroyed after an EF-5 tornado. Two years later, downtown had been replaced. No one had even heard of Greensburg, KS till then. You can't tell me it isn't a source of national and New York City's pride to have WTC built on the same site.

On the other hand...
I guess this post is for me and working through my own conflicting thoughts about 9/11 and the affects. I'm probably not the only one who has conflicted thoughts.

On one hand, it's not about Islam, and yet, I'm against the building of the mosque.

On one hand, I say the terrorists didn't succeed because it brought us together and then I turn around and say they've disrupted our lives considerably.

On one hand, I'm disappointed  that TV and radio stations did montages and special stories on Friday, September 9 (for ratings) and yet I've considered putting some of those images in this blog so people will read it. And I also thought it needs some pictures just to break up the gray of the text in this very long post.

On one hand, I want September 11 to be just another day. I want it to be my cousin Glen's daughter's birthday. She should never have to answer questions when she's asked for ID. "Oh... wow... you were born on September 11th? Doesn't that suck?"

On one hand I want to forget, and on the other, I'll always remember.

Oh, the hyposcrisy...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Owning a bar rules

Occasionally I have a dream that I still own the bar. For those of you that don't know, I owned a bar.

The dream is always the same. There's a ton of people waiting and I have to cook for them as soon as I walk in because the kitchen guy is late. I'll have to beg the bartender to stay past her shift.

Delivery drivers start coming through the back door to fill beer orders. Sales reps are waiting at the front to take orders for the weekend. The weasel bastard landlord is there to talk about the bar he opened next door.

Everyone orders at the same time. How is that even possible? And they all want something different. There's a plumbing problem (Again?) in the men's room.

Hell of a start for a Thursday, I think.

Finally, the cook shows and I pass the spatula. He's had car trouble and his phone is turned off. I like him, though, and he's a good worker. Just perpetually 20 minutes late. Works is ass off for me when he gets there, though.

I relieve the bartender set the room for the band. (Bands were there on Saturday. It must be Saturday. OK... hell of a start for a Saturday.) The bartender is supposed to do it but never does.

The waitress shows up drunk from being at the pool all day. She says she didn't want to let me down by calling in for a replacement. Now it's too late to have another waitress come in. It's OK, I say. I'll handle it.

The band calls and can't find the place. They're going to be late. The doorman is arrives. On time. Problem is that he was scheduled last night.

It's gonna be a long night...

I wake up really tense. I'm actually sweating. It feels like I didn't sleep at all. My teeth hurt from grinding them and I have acid reflux. My pulse is racing and my hernia is acting up.  I think I'm developing psoriasis.

Sure do miss that place.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dealing with Heat and Humidity in the Old West

SCENE: A saloon in the Old West. The bartender wipes down a glass, as they constantly did in the Old West. In the background, several people of easily identifiable socioeconomic status play poker. Two ornery looking desperadoes enter.

BARTENDER: Hello, Humidity. How goes it, Heat? Haven't seen you guys in a while.

HUMIDITY: How 'bout a bottle? (Tosses some sort of coin indiscriminately on the bar, as desperadoes were known to do. Bottle service was apparently much cheaper in the Old West.)

HEAT: And sumpthin to eat. (Nothing specific, just whatever they can rustle up. Probably steak and beans. Potatoes if they were able to get them, but trade routes were unreliable back in the day.)

BARTENDER: Boys, the people round here are tired of ya. Best you boys be movin' on.

HUMIDITY: We don't have to take that talk from a bartender. (People in the service industry were not respected as toughs in the Old West.)

HEAT: You lookin' to get thumped?

BARTENDER: Boys, you know we look forward to seeing you all winter. But you boys have outstayed your welcome. Best you head south now. They likely would like to see ya.

HEAT: Let me thump him, Joe! (There's always at least one desperado in the Old West named Joe.)

HUMIDITY (OR APPARENTLY, JOE): I think we may just stay a while. And we'll be takin' that bottle, our dinner and whatever else we want while we're here!

Bartender reaches for a sawed off shotgun under the bar, but is beaten to the draw by "Joe" who puts an inordinately large knife under the bartender's throat. (Every desperado in the Old West carried an inordinately large knife.)

HEAT: Whatcha think 'bout that, Old Man? Joe's gonna make ya bleed now.

SOUND: Multiple firearms being cocked. Always identifiable is one pump action shotgun, which didn't exist in the Old West.

STORE OWNER: I don't think so. (Store owner is easily identifiable by his apron.)

HUMIDITY: You don't got the guts. (The emerging middle class of the Old West were widely known to be less than brave, and only stood up for themselves as part of a group.)

FARMER: Nah. Mebbe he ain't. But WE do. We don't like your kind stayin so long. You best be hittin the trail where they don't mind you. (After all, have you ever heard of a "cold and dusty trail?")

PIANO PLAYER: That's right. Y'all git. (Piano players were men of few words in the Old West, but eventually had one line.)

Even the dance hall girl/lady of the night (difficult to tell the difference in the Old West) has pulled a Derringer from her garter. (OK... now we know her status.)

HUMIDITY: A'ight. (People think "A'ight" is modern. But it originates in the Old West. Google it.) We'll leave. But we'll be back.

HEAT: Yeah, we'll be back.

BARTENDER: We'll be lookin' forward to that, Heat. We ain't sayin' you ain't welcome, we're just gettin a little tired of ya. We'll be seein' ya again. You'll be welcome after a spell.

The desperadoes walk out. The people of easily identifiable socioeconomic status uncock their weapons and return to their poker game. The bartender smiles and nods at the piano player, who starts playing.

And... SCENE.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Help Wanted: Problem Solver. Apply at KCPL.

There's a classic scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent and Julius have gotten themselves into a situation and Marcellus sends them Mr. Wolf, in the person of Harvey Keitel.

KCPL needs the wolf. People in Kansas City lose power when the wind blows 40 mph. Not sure why, but it seems like we lose power a lot more often than when I lived in Wichita.

KCPL customer service sucks.
As often as they have to field calls from people who have questions, you'd think their customer service people would be more professional. If you want information, estimated time of reconnection or an explanation of the damage, it's best to put the cell phone away.

Here's what you get from a conversation with a KCPL customer service rep:
  • repetition
  • rudeness
  • hot air
  • ambiguity
  • bullshit
  • details about their prioritization policy
  • condescending customer service people who don't know shit about shit

Talking to KCPL customer service is kinda like working out.
Elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, that feeling that I'd really like to put a bullet in my head rather than do this again, exhaustion when I'm done... without all the health benefits.

Fear not, loyal customers... KCPL is on it with what you need.
KCPL is distributing dry ice in JoCo, Prairie Village, Sedalia, St. Joe and Maryville so the stuff in your fridge won't rot.

Just NOT in Kansas City, MO! You know... where most of the customers who lost power live. That would make entirely too much sense and might cost a little extra. And they're starting at 3:00, so all you juvenile delinquents who want to make dry ice bombs can get the stuff before normal people get off work. Morons.

Nice job, KCPL.
Good planning. Way to do exactly what a well-run company that gives a shit wouldn't do. KCPL is definitely a company that benefits from being a monopoly.

That's my two cents worth, KCPL morons. Now, get back to work. At last count, you've got 52,000 more people to piss off.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

Like a lot of people, we're on the "Don't Call List." But there is one company calling us every three or four days promising to lower our credit card rates. We don't have credit cards.
The call comes in with a recorded message. "Rachel" (if indeed that is her real name) informs us that they can lower our rate if only we will press 1 to talk to a representative.
After several times just hanging up on this call from 513-417-0498, I decided to press 1 to ask them not to call. When I asked the rep to remove the number from the list. He said, "He wants the number removed from the list?" in the form of a question.
Then he hung up.
The next time, I asked the name of the company... she immediately hung up. My Spidey senses told me I may be dealing with a scammy company. I filed a complaint with the FCC. 
The next time they called, I pressed one and played along for a little bit, then asked the name of the company. The rep said, "Why do you need to know that? We're gonna lower your rate. Give me your credit card numbers." 
I hung up and filed another FCC complaint. At the end of the form, after name and phone number, there was a box that said "Execute?"
You may think it extreme, but I started looking for the "Hell YES" box. Shit, I've told them three times not to call. Eventually, I just marked it and hit SEND. No sense being obstinate.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

18 Reasons to Carry Nunchucks in Kansas City

I saw a guy walking in Westport about 5:30 in the afternoon. (For those of you unfamiliar with Kansas City, Westport is a bar district in the midtown area.) He was on the sidewalk. On his back, a standard size back pack. He was not impeding traffic.

All in all, it seemed like a pretty unremarkable sight for a Thursday pre-happy-hour. Except for one thing.

He was working a set of nunchucks as he walked.

Wait... is it a set of nunchucks? Or a pair? Or is it just nunchucks... being as if there were not two, you would just have a stick.

I didn't think much of it at the time, but now, I'm kind of wondering what possesses a dude in his early 20s to carry nunchucks, as there were no reports of ninja assassins in the area that day. After giving it some thought, I've come up with some logical reasons why a guy would be carrying nunchucks in Westport.
  1. Samurai sword was in the shop.
  2. Much easier to conceal than a quarterstaff.
  3. It relieves aches associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Doctors don't know why, and he's in the study.
  4. Arrows spill out of the quiver any time he bends down to pick up a copy of The Pitch.
  5. Throwing stars constantly get mixed up with pocket change.
  6. Feels nunchucks will be the next big thing in men's fashion accessories, replacing the big, clunky watch.
  7. Let the license plates on his catapult expire and didn't want another ticket.
  8. Just recently got over bronchitis, rendering his blow gun useless.
  9. Liberals haven't put nunchucks on the weapons hit list. Yet.
  10. With a spear gun, it's all over too quickly.
  11. Consistent sling shot ammo is difficult to come by in town.
  12. Working on hand-eye-don't-hit-yourself-in-the-nuts coordination.
  13. Buzzard's Beach has 2-4-1 specials on Thursday, 3-4-1 if you have nunchucks
  14. Mace was rusty, and no one likes a rusty mace.
  15. Brass knuckles clashed with what he was wearing.
  16. Quarter draw night at Harpo's gets busy and the frat guys get pushy.
  17. Crossbow just seemed like overkill. For a Thursday, anyway.
  18. Chicks dig a guy who can handle his nunchucks.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Observations from a poker road trip

I woke up at 4:15 last Sunday morning and drove 225 miles, played poker for 8 hours and drove right back. Some would say that points to addiction, but I prefer to think of it as pursuing a goal. I fell short, but the day wasn't a total loss. I learned a few things that day.

The commercials suck, but the product works.
I hate the 5 Hour Energy commercials. A lot. And if you know me, you know that I usually won't buy a product that uses badvertising. But I've become a big believer in the product.
I only slept about four hours before I left, and by the time I hit the Iowa state line, I was yawning. Hard. You know those yawns you get sometimes that can be described as violent? The kind that make your eyes water and your lungs hurt? Yeah... I had those.
I stopped and picked up a 5HE and it worked very well. I had this weird kind of warm sensation, but I was alert and the yawns stopped entirely. The one downfall though, was two hours later I had 5HE burps, which was far worse than any whiskey burp ever.

Dan Aykroyd still has the Blues brother.
I like blues and I was running through stations, because southern Iowa on a Sunday is no place for an anti-country music agnostic to be relying on the radio to help pass the miles. I had about given up and was ready to pop in my wife's new Adele CD when I heard a familiar voice. I'd found Dan Aykroyd's Sunday morning blues show and he does it in the character of Elwood Blues. He shouldn't. Elwood was a crappy harp player and a crappier singer. Pretty good dancer, though. Elwood is nothing without Jake. Come on, Dan. You're a big supporter of blues... have been for years. No one questions your blues cred. Why can't you just do the show as yourself?

It's always nice to see family.
My cousin, Eric lives nearby and also plays. We met at the casino and played for quite a while together, then had dinner. I haven't seen him in a dozen years and it was nice to catch up a little and find that we have more in common than DNA. He had a good run in the tournament, finishing in the money in 8th place.

I hate playing poker against women.
I feel like they always know when I'm lying... er, bluffing. But I can never tell when they are. I also feel bad when I knock one out. I don't have the same feeling of remorse if I knock out a dude. 

Poker-playing football fans play stereotypically.
You can tell a lot about a poker player by the gear he wears. A Raiders fan sat to my left during the tournament. He exemplified every stereotype I've ever witnessed or heard about Raiders fans. When he was winning, he was a cocky, mouthy, condescending turd. When he got beat, he was a sullen, mouthy, disrespectful turd. It would not have surprised me if he would've started launching batteries at me after I beat him in a hand. And it took him entirely too long to get over getting beat.

Two chairs to my left was a Denver Broncos fan. Like his team, he was predictable. He'd use one play for a while then another, just like the Donkeys did. They were a passing team under Elway, then he retired and they were a running team. Sure the passing attack worked for a while, just like it did for this fella. He'd won a few pots, then he just started betting huge. Unfortunately, I could never find cards when he was in a hand. Like all Broncos fans, a little success went to his head, and he was still talking when he won two in a row much longer than he should have been.

Poker tournaments are now my second favorite place to people watch.
Airports are still Number 1, but a poker tourney leap-frogged little league baseball game AND bar on St. Patrick's Day as a great place to people watch. You see the pressure take hold and whatever the person is going through in real life comes through in how he plays. You can tell who is a good person by how he wins and loses hands and how he exits when he's eliminated. You can also tell which douchebags don't tip servers and who thinks it's always his turn to go at a four-way stop.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Addressing the Midlife Crisis

I've been thinking a lot lately about becoming a grown up and I'm not handling it well. Growing older is inevitable to be certain, but it's time for me to get a grip on things.

The responsibilities of adulthood are the price
we pay for the beauty and joy of being a child.

That thought just stuck in my head yesterday. Sounds like a quote from Whitman or Frost, doesn't it? But it's not. It's mine. I'm thinking of having some t-shirts made. Or maybe one of those posters with a cool stock photo of a kid riding a bike or blowing the stuff from a dandelion.

Not to get all philosophical or anything, but I'm not where I thought I'd be at this point in my life. But dreams of playing in the big leagues for most has to remain that... a dream. Just like Doc Graham says in 'Field of Dreams.' Incidentally, my dreams of baseball glory were dashed when my high school coach cut me because he didn't know what to do with a guy who could handle pitchers, but couldn't really see to hit and could time his 40-yard-dash with a sundial.

I know that's a longshot, but I thought I'd be in New York or Chicago or LA writing commercials and print. Who knew that I'd finish school at the exact time that package goods advertising hit the skids and print started its decline. I always had the journalism degree to fall back on, but if you get fired from the big paper's advertising department, there's not much chance of writing for the news department.

Don't get me wrong. I've got a pretty good life. The suck factor is pretty minimal. I have an amazing wife and two great kids. I have a really cool, but pain in the ass dog. I have a job... and let's just leave it at that.

Lately, though, I've been trying to figure out where my dreams now lie. You can call it a mid-life crisis, but I don't think there's a Harley in my future. I keep asking for one, but Ashley says no way. (Meanie.)

I think it's because I'm missing the innocence of youth, the power of dreams and the thought that I could just pack everything I own into one carload and see what happens next. Maybe it's time to re-read 'On the Road' and Kerouac can set me straight once again. It's also been a while since I've read 'Catcher in the Rye,' which I used to do every June.

I miss being cool. Or at least what I thought cool was. Maybe I never knew what cool was, but at least I did cool things. I performed with an improv troupe. I went white-water rafting. I wrote poetry. I traveled through Scotland and Ireland for three weeks with no plans or reservations. I hung out. I fished and hunted and drove country roads till I got lost. I watched storms. I met people. I felt like I was involved.

Will doing those things again make me happier? Probably. I think it will. Maybe not... I don't really know, but it could remind me of some dreams I once had. Or it could help me find new goals, and remind me that you can still be a cool guy, even if you're past your cool guy phase. I'd like to remind myself that you can approach life with zeal and optimism. Because that's the guy I was in my late 20s. I'd like to see that guy again. I want my boys to know that guy.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kansas City Traffic Rants

Kansas City traffic offers challenges to commuters on both
sides of state line. Rants help me deal, though.

I can deal with Kansas City traffic for the most part. Realistically, I understand there will be regular snarls driving into downtown. For the most part, everyone has the same goal: getting to work on time safely. They work together to make it happen.

It's the idiots not paying attention, assholes who think they don't need to adhere to the rules of the road and just plain douchebags who make my blood pressure start to rise.

Why I rant...

First, my Dad taught truck drivers how to drive. He was big on defensive driving, too. When he taught me to drive, in a 1974 Honda Civic standard transmission. At the moment I was shifting gears, he'd ask me what color the car was behind us. If I had to look, he'd tell me I wasn't paying attention.

Second, someone once told me that if I was pissed off about something and didn't get it off my chest, it would turn into an ulcer. Maybe it was in a movie, or a stand up comedian, but who am I to question? I'm strictly opposed to anything messing with my digestive tract, so I tend to let my feelings  be known.

Third, because I know I can rant when I get home, it overcomes my desire to choke the shit of someone on the road, thus keeping Kansas City's thoroughfares free of additional slow-downs. Road rage isn't good for anyone.

So, Kansas City traffic rants are therapeutic for me. Hell. maybe people will read them and put out a little more effort on the road. Mostly, I hope you find them funny because I'm saying what you're thinking when some idiot douchebag moronic jackass jumps three lanes of traffic to hit an exit when he should have been in the exit lane a half mile back.
It happens.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My new blog project

I'm writing a new blog for my employer and I hope everyone will take a look.

The blog deals primarily with what it's like working for a Kansas City advertising agency, gives helpful hints on website design and creativity. I'm also going to take on some really hard-hitting subjects, like weather, sports and whether or not Kansas City BBQ is the best in the country. (Nope, but it's good!)

For more spur of the moment thoughts, check out the Powerhouse Facebook page and become a fan. Usually the posts I make there are about funny ads, crappy ads or badvertising, as I like to call it, social media, design and copywriting.

Also for those of you on Twitter, check out the Powerhouse Twitter page for articles and thoughts about the industry and Kansas City website design.

Feel free to post your thoughts about whatever the subject matter at hand is. And feel free to contact me about any questions you might have regarding the industry.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Breaking the Rules on St. Patrick's Day

For those of you that know me, I'm sometimes a bit hard-headed, but if you know me at all, you understand why I'm an asshole on certain occasions. I hate hypocrisy, but on St. Patrick's Day, it was necessary for me to violate two personal principles: I paid a cover charge on St. Patrick's Day and I listened to a bagpiper who sucked balls.

My buddy Allen kidnapped me from work early on St. Patrick's Day and we started a little before our wives were ready to go. We went to O'Dowd's, which claims Irish pub status; it serves the right libations and the right food, but that's pretty much where it stops. Granted, I have a bias, having owned an Irish bar for six years and drank my way through Scotland and Ireland when I visited.

As we walked in, the band playing outside was butchering Dave Matthew's Band. At an Irish bar. On St. Patrick's Day. "I'm not really sure I want to be here." I told Ashley as we got in line to pay cover.

I normally don't mind paying cover. If the band is good.
And it's not St. Patrick's Day. And the bar doesn't overcharge.
And the service can keep up with the crowd. And the band is good.
That bears repeating.

They were charging cover. At an Irish bar. On St. Patrick's Day. As if making money hand over fish was simply not enough. I looked at Ash and said, "What a bunch of greedy assholes." (I didn't say "assholes," but sometimes my mother-in-law reads this and I can get away with "assholes." What I really said rhymed with "brother pluckers." Nuff said.)

To me, it is bad form that an Irish bar would charge a cover on their biggest day of the year, then upcharge for beer. But we found a place to stand next to a table. That's right. They'd removed the stools. And we proceeded to drink Harp and Guinness from plastic cups. I forgave them that; I did the same thing when I was in the business.

A really skinny guy that I recognized as either the lead singer of Black 47 or the guy who plays bagpipes outside City Market on the weekends was setting up on stage. The Black 47 guy probably has a gig on St. Patrick's Day, so I had my answer when he pulled out his pipes with the easily recognizable faux cowhide bag cover and started yammering away on the pipes.

We were 15 feet from a very large speaker and the sound in O'Dowd's sucks anyway, and I thought this joker was really going to mess it up. I was wrong

He really outdid himself. I'm fairly certain O'Dowd's hired them without benefit of an audition. He played bagpipes, an out of tune guitar and occasionally, tinwhistle very loudly. The lady played squeaky fiddle and worse keyboards.

I love bagpipe music, but Allen and I had to stop ourselves from griping about the level of play and concentrate more on the slow service and the steroid-riddled ape who kept bumping into his wife.

By the way, here's a great version of 'Cullen Anderson' by the Vancouver Police Department Pipe Corps. Ashley and I had it played as the wedding party walked into the reception. There are probably two dozen pipers playing a four minute song, and I identified two sour notes. The guy we listened to hit two dozen sour notes in one minute of 'The Clumsy Lover.'

Here's one more bagpipe tune for my Scottish buddies, Allen and Doug, who both wore kilts on St. Patrick's Day. It's also for anyone who reads this and who thinks bagpipes are Irish. (I'm looking at you, Bob Reeder.) Anyway, this is 'Scream' from Seven Nations, and if it's possible for a bagpiper to "shred," their bagpiper shreds.

Allen slipped the waitress a pre-order twenty and asked me to switch places with Sarah, sans-twenty but I was happy to do it. The waitress started coming by more often and the 'roid head was bumping backwards less often. He did slip his business card in my back pocket before he realized it was guy standing behind him, though.

Ash and I met three great people through Doug, Felicia, Sam and (I know I'm going to butcher the spelling) Jong, who claims to be able to eat the hottest anything you put in front of him. I can't wait for that outing.

We decided to cut out early as The Kelihans started to set up. It's not that we dislike the band, we just felt it would be rude to leave right as they start playing, especially since we know them. We just needed to relieve Grandma of babysitting duties.

On the plus side, I've got an in next time you need to rent office furniture or a mobile DJ. That's right... "Roid Boy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Please Enjoy the Music

For me, St. Paddy's Day is about the Irish culture in America, not necessarily about St. Patrick himself, although he was a great man. I've alread discussed some of the St. Patrick's Day contradictions, and I'll continue that a little bit here, while focusing on the music, which aside from beer is the best thing about the day.

My first exposure to Celtic rock came from Slade when I was in high school. The song was called "Run Run Away." Later on, Great Big Sea covered the song and the band from Newfoundland quickly became my favorite. I've seen them play in O'Dowd's in front of 200 people and I've seen concert footage of them playing in front of tens of thousands.

Great Big Sea is a great band; one that rocks when it wants to, makes the songs they cover their own and are still very capable of playing traditional Celtic music.

"Run Run Away" as I said, was first exposure to Celtic rock when I was a kid. Great Big Sea covered the Slade tune in the mid 90s. The video is hilarious.

The band has influences from traditional as well as rock, and is not afraid to take a rock standard and Celt it up a bit. Like everyone in the late 80s, the guys in Great Big Sea loved R.E.M. and even covered one of that band's most well-known tunes, "End of the World." I like the GBS version because it has a fiddle and a cittern, and it may be even faster than the original version, if that's possible.
"Lukey" is probably my favorite Great Big Sea tune. This is a traditional tune that many Irish musicians have done, but in this video, you can see just how big the band has become. They're performing this little traditional tune in front of 30,000 enthusiastic Canadians.
Great Big Sea, although not Irish, play great versions of Irish tunes and are a solid addition to your music library, whether you're just getting into Celtic music or have been listening to it for years.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More on Irish Music - The Waterboys

The Waterboys came out of Galway in the early 90s and I started listening to them soon after. Some of their songs, honestly, aren't exactly my cup of Jameson, but here are a couple that really pay homage to the ballads of Irish songwriters.

"When Ye Go Away" is one of the saddest songs I've ever heard. Bob Reeder once told me he tried to learn how to play it but knew he wouldn't be able to make it through the song without losing it. It's haunting lyrics and lilting fiddle, along with steel guitar make this song one of my all time favorites.

"Fisherman's Blues" has been used in several films, including 'Good Will Hunting' and 'Waking Ned Devine.' It speaks to the gypsy soul, the thought of roads not traveled and what might have been.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Contradictions of St. Patrick's Day

We owned a bar for six years and I think I will always miss it most at this time of year. Usually, the week before St. Patrick's Day was like herding cats for me. Ordering corned beef and lamb. Coordinating beer and liquor deliveries. Picking up cabbage and potatoes. Scheduling kitchen and bar help. Baking soda bread. And a hundred other things that turned my hair gray or made it fall out.

I always worried that no one would show up and I'd be throwing out $125 worth of Irish stew.

It never happened. People always came. Everyone always had a good time. Even me. Mostly because after a week of stress and making preparations, I was happy to be drinking with the staff while we worked covered up with patrons eager to celebrate the country's Irish heritage

That's right... OUR country's Irish heritage. So much of what we know about St. Patrick's Day is purely an American affectation. The first parade celebrating St. Patrick took place in New York City. Why? Because the Irish immigrants wanted to celebrate their homeland and were not under the influence of the Church. They drank because they missed the families they left.

Ask an Irishman what corned beef and cabbage tastes like and he couldn't tell you. The poor Irish immigrants in the U.S. ate that because they could afford it. It's purely an American tradition. If you order an Irish car bomb in a pub, the bartender will give you the same look an air marshall would if you mentioned the term while boarding a flight.

Besides, St. Patrick's Day in Ireland is a deeply religious day that included fasting. And no drinking. Not something you would typically associate with the stereotypical St. Paddy's Day celebration. Dublin didn't even have a parade until very recently. It's odd to me that bagpipes, which is arguably a Scottish instrument, play the same tune while the pipers march. "Scotland the Brave" is the tune most often played.

Those first revelers wore green as a reminder of the green that dominates the Irish countryside, but St. Patrick's representative color was blue. Here are a couple of other things: St. Patrick is a saint in name only. He was never canonized by the Pope, but has been anointed by the love the Irish people hold for him, which in itself is odd because the Irish typically do not hold Englishmen in such high regard.

So in honor of that contradiction, I'd like to share what I miss most about the bar... the music. When I went to Ireland 10 years ago, my favorite town was Galway, a town known to produce the best in Irish music. So in honor of the contradictions surrounding this day, the first song I'll share is one written by an American who was as devastated by a local girl as I was with the people and landscape of Galway.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Open Letter to My Wife on Valentine's Day

Hi honey. This is our tenth Valentines Day together. And people said we'd never make it past two. Truth be told, I had four in the pool. Don't blame me, though. Your Mom took three and my Mom took one and two, but she knows what it's like to live with me.

Seriously... can you believe it?

When you think about it, it doesn't seem that long. How can 10 years have gone by so quickly? On the other hand, when you  think about it, it seems like an eternity. I think that's because things have changed in our relationship.

We don't stay up till all hours talking about weird stuff like movies and books and where we want to go and what we want to do and why "adhese" isn't really a word.

We barely make it till 10:00 these days.

Valentines Day started with cards and poems. Dinner at a nice restaurant, or at least someplace special to us. It ended with candles, in bed and falling asleep in each other's arms.

This year, it was Taco Bueno before rushing to Aidan's basketball practice. The creaking and moaning sounds coming from the bedroom are from me and my aching knee which makes noises all its own.

I don't want you to think I regret the changes in the relationship; I don't. It's a natural progression of breaking in and getting comfortable. Like your favorite flannel shirt.

By the way, that used to be MY favorite flannel shirt. Why the hell did you start sleeping in that, anyway?

Even your snoring is different. I used to find the soft purr coming from you so cute. It became comforting, and I couldn't sleep without you next to me, lulling me to sleep with the soft drone of your sleep sounds.

Now I keep the guest room bed made because it's more like the not-so-cute drone of my old shop vac. I know it's true when you say the shop vac would be drowned out by my own chainsaw-like buzz when I get into deep sleep.

One thing that hasn't changed is my love for you. You are more beautiful now than the day I met you. You've become your own person. You have brilliant, creative ideas. You still make me laugh. I still love to see you smile. Your touch is still electric to me.

Especially when it's your cold feet on my legs in the middle of the night. Seriously, woman. Wear some socks.



Sunday, February 13, 2011

This Ad Makes Smoking Look Cool

I record a couple of late night poker shows and watch them early when no one else is up. It's my "me time." One stands out as "badvertising," even as I'm fast-forwarding, so I've stopped to watch it a couple of times.

The Smoke Assist Electronic Smoking Device commercial runs on almost every break. It's not sold as a smoking cessation product, but something to help you legally look like you're smoking. It's branded outrightly as an oral fixation product. It even comes in a box that looks like a pack of cigarettes, the modern day gadget equivalent of the candy cigarettes of the 1960s.

The actors all say they're so amazed that it's just like smoking. But they all look very unnatural with the little vapor chimneys. They don't hold them right. They don't exhale right. The redhead woman looks like Gene Simmons breathing fire during the second KISS farewell tour.

One guy holds it like a remote control rather than a true cancer stick. "It's really smooth, too," he says. Of course it is! It's roughly equivalent to stepping outside on a cold day, holding your breath and breathing out real hard.

But there's something else wrong. They're all laughing and having a good time. There's something else amiss with the spot. They all just look... what's the word?


Smokers don't look happy smoking, so there's no sense of realism in the spot. I have an opinion as to why. It's because these actors are getting paid to act like they're smoking. No self-respecting smoker, even one who needs the money, will take the gig. They are nothing if not loyal, to their vice. They can't (or won't) act like this simulates really smoking, because it really doesn't. I've never been a smoker and I know it's nothing like smoking.

The commercial assertains that you can legally puff away anywhere on the little battery powered steam maker. Bars, restaurants, even at work, the commercial says.

Real smokers, in a show or rebellious solidarity, brave the elements in order to get their nicotine fix. They are as true to their habit as a mail carrier is to carrying out appointed rounds; neither snow, nor rain, nor recently passed city ordinance...

As they're out there in defiance of their two common enemies, pink lung tissue and clean air in public establishments, they'll have the time to look through the windows at a cloud of clean, water vapor floating the air. The smokers have a common thought. "That guy is the biggest douche I've ever seen. I hope he forgets to exhale that water vapor, it sits in his lungs and he develops pneumonia."

Of course, the militant non-smokers will see him looking like he's smoking and walk over and say in a very non-judgmental way: "Why do you do that to yourself? It's so dirty and unhealthy. Do you know what you're doing to your body? Smoking cuts nine years off your life. Second-hand smoke is even more dangerous and you shouldn't expose others to your habit. How do you stand the smell on your clothes when you get home? It's just disgusting and it's against the law to smoke in a public place. Could you please step outside with the rest of the dirty people?"

"Ma'am, this is an electronic smoking device. It's battery operated. It looks and tastes like smoke, but I'm exhaling clean water vapor. So it's not against the law," our hero explains.

"Oh," she says, "You're not a real smoker. You're just a douche!"

Deep down, he knows she's right. But he takes another drag off the modified squirt gun in rightous indignation. As the water vapor cloud fades into nothingness, along with the last shreds of his dignity, it's time for reflection. I mean, when a militant smoke nazi calls you out, you've really got to take stock of your vices.

Even your fake vices.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Cornstarch Incident

When we owned the bar, the boys were still really young. Although they weren't completely self-sufficient at 3, they could move through the house and get what they wanted, even when they shouldn't have.

They could also open the baby gate. It was a team effort, as I found out later. Aidan would stand on the foot release trigger thing while holding onto the rail, and Tristan would swing the gate open.

But until that morning, I was under the impression that the child safety gates were child proof.

I lived by the adage that when the boys slept, I slept. I ran a bar, after all, and was up until 3 or 4 a.m. They could sense when I needed sleep and when I didn't. If I needed sleep, they were like insomniac meth heads with a Starbucks gift card. If I didn't need sleep, they slept till 8.

Of course, I was usually up at 6.

Like I said, we owned a bar. It got hot; I was hauling ass most of the time. Sometimes, there was chafing involved. Hey... it happens. I kept a box of cornstarch on my dresser and used it when needed.

It was a Friday morning and after closing on Thursday night, I stayed late to talk to a friend who was going through a divorce. I walked in the door at 3:30, showered and went to bed. Ashley got up and moving and I slept, hoping the boys would sleep in until 8, as they would do occasionally.

Sensing that I needed sleep, as soon as Ash closed the door to leave for work, they came in ready for breakfast at about 5:45. Moaning about my luck, I drug myself out of bed and started my day, looking forward to nap time.

I made it through the morning on a steady infusion of diet coke and Spongebob Squarepants. I also got them lunch early so they'd go down for a nap early, something my Mom taught me.

It worked. I got them down for a nap about 11, and as soon as they were good and asleep, I went to bed and was out.

You know those dreams you have when you actually feel something? You wake up and there's a reason you were feeling what you were feeling. I had a dream that I was sitting on the dock and dangling my feet in the water watching the boys splashing around.

I woke up about 12:15. There was no way I should be waking up less than an hour after getting the boys down. They usually slept two or three hours.

At that point, I noticed that there was a strangely cool sensation on my feet. I kicked at the covers to get them warm and a cloud of powder erupted from the end of the bed.

What the. . .

Remember the scene in The Godfather when they sent a message to the studio mogul who won't give the god son a role in a new movie? Right... the infamous horse head scene. I imagine myself looking like Jack Woltz as he discovered his prize thoroughbred's head in bed with him.

I pulled at the sheets. I made inderscernible questioning sounds. I think I may have stood up on the bed at one point. I definitely screamed "NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" at the top of my lungs.

My feet... hell, my legs up to my knees... were covered in cornstarch. That whole end of the bed was covered. There was some on the floor. There were three tiny, perfect, cornstarchy handprints on the footboard. There was cornstarch on the dog's bed and a half-dollar sized dollop of the stuff still on her head. She looked at me as if to say "If you can't control those little bastards, take me back to the shelter. This sucks!"

The almost empty box of cornstarch lay on its side next to a pile of the powdery stuff that invaded the closet. I spewed a string of expletives all the way to the garage to get a broom and dustpan. I swept under the bed and in the closet. I shook out the dog bed and sheets took them down to the wash.

I mopped. I returned to find that there was still more powder. It took three times to get all the cornstarch off the floor. It was ridiculous. We moved the bed one day to rearrange the room. Little wisps of the stuff fell off the bed's frame to the floor. Ash and I had a laugh about it. It had been a couple of months and I could laugh about it.

To this day, we still find evidence of "The Cornstarch Incident" in the cracks of the oak floor more than four years later.