Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupational Hazard

"Occupy Wall Street" shows the good, the bad and the ugly faces of class in America. Minus the good.

By this point, we have ll heard and seen the sound bites, the news feeds and watched as the mass media outlets desperately try to spin some epic news event out of this international movement for change, occupy wall street. Since I am NOT a news journalist, I will lead the coverage and the reporting to others. However, as a father, a modest man of honor and a citizen of the world, I applaud each and every participant – in every corner of the world – who dares to stand and show the world they are fed up with financial and social tyranny. This is the imperative of change and I am proud and delighted to be living in these times. Moreover, I am overjoyed my children are witnessing the embers of a coming revolution.
Acting on the mounting and now overflowing frustrations of a fed up majority of world citizens are now making what is the beginning of a wave of change that has been coming for long, long time. If you are somehow still unaware, a small fraction of the US (and world) privileged elite makes more than 70% of the wealth in the US. But they don't do it by earning. It is done by stealing taxpayer funding, double talking, betting on failure and obscene bonuses, kick-backs and underhanded financial borrowing and trading practices that put billions in the pockets of a small group of people who are already fabulously wealthy, while the rest of us literally die on the vine.

History warns us of these consequences –ever hear of Marie Antoinette?. The Czars of Russia? Even our ow founding forefathers warned of the dangers of having an elite class; a privileged few deciding on the fate and livelihood of the many. Even one of our most cherished Presidents of the 20th century, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, warned of the dangers of the military/industrial complex. If you are unaware, it is when the military is run by business interests and not by the best interests of our people.
The greatest horror is how few Americans seem to know or care about all of this. This past Halloween, I dressed in three-piece suit, with $20 Cigar sticking out of my breast pocket with a rolled-up $20 bill to light and burn it. I was representing the 1%. Of roughly four dozen people who confronted me on it, three even knew what I was. Granted, this is an obscure number, but most didn't even know what I was talking about WHEN I TOLD THEM who I was. As ever, if a headline doesn't have a Kardashian in it or isn't a sports-related or doesn't have a honorable mention on 'The Real Housewives of Berwin' then Americans just don't seem to care. It is a sad state of affairs that the people who are actually profiting off our collective misery (Sports stars, Actors & Starlets and Reality TV people) are the ones we hold in the highest regard.

People all over the world have begun to take a stand over the this blight of greed. Berlin. Zurich. Boston. Sydney. Tokyo. Montreal. Manhattan. Los Angeles. Paris. Atlanta. Rio De Janerio. The world community is beginning to wake up to the festering stench of greed. We have had enough. To wealthy: The wealth was never yours to begin with. Give back or it will be taken from you. The French Aristocracy found this out as did Czarist Russia or the Roman Empire. Now it's our turn.

All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again. If there will be no compromise, there will be tanks on the streets of every city in the world. Including yours. As the late Michael Jackson put it: "make that change." It's not too late.

Do the right thing everyone, our children are watching.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Going postal for the holidays!

I still find relevance in the purpose and the dedication in our postal service – but who the heck are these people that are in line?!

We've all been there. At some point in our lives, we end up standing on line in the post office, waiting to mail some random package to a family member or friend or to mail back some unwanted parcel from a company or purchase we can't wait to get rid of. The passive and patient folks in the light blue shirts take this albatross off our hands and release it into the wilds of the postal delivery universe.

So why do I loathe the post office experience? It's the people.

Not the workers, they are just folks committed to helping us get our stuff from point A to point B. Sure, some are better than others but let's face it dear reader, we can find that anywhere. I mean, some barbers are better than others, some sales reps are better than others and definitely, some government workers are light years beyond their piers when it comes to even being human beings.

No, I mean the random cross-sections of humanity that seem to converge on the post office ONLY when I need to get something mailed. And maybe it's my 21st century on-the-go lifestyle talking here, but why does it seem like two back-to-back eternitys every time I am in line at the P.O.? PLEASE don't tell me I am the only one wanting scream bloody murder when I'm in line behind the little old hearing-impaired lady who needs to mail a package return back to a country no one can even pronounce and wants to pay with a fourth party check converted from Euros from South Uzbekistan. Oh, and this endeavor always requires a minimum participation of no less than 43 on-site postal staff with several having to jog to back area every 30-40 seconds.

Then there's the chatter box. Often a middle-aged woman who, while buying a book of collector's stamps, wants to ask about the logistical delivery dynamics of the postal air fleet along with an accompanying powerpoint and interactive synopsis of the ins and outs of why that particular postal worker choose a career in the parcel delivery industry.

And then, there's the stumper. He's the guy (always a guy) who has a question no one can answer, a package no one has ever seen and has no idea how to deliver and/or asks questions no one this side of mensa has any hope of answering. Commonly, after more than 40 minutes, his solution is often a .12¢ supplemental stamp.

Finally, there are the Post Office Patron Zombies. These once-human, undead lifeforms emerge from their crypt and actually buy coffee to hang out at the post office and use it as a meeting place! AGH!! For crying out loud, isn't that why they have Starbucks?!? Go away! The rest of us have somewhere to be and have no interest in being in this building a second longer than necessary. I know I need to set a good example of patience and restraint as an example to my children but really, people – stop it!

As a final thought, I must admit how much I delight in the modernization in many Post Offices that now have the postal Debit card postage machines. You Take your package, weigh it, and a few touch-screen later, you buy your postage, pop it in the big metal can and your out. Done. I hate to sound elitist, but thank you God!

The need for a postal service is evident but now, as the holidays approach, keeping me from going Postal while at the Post Office well, that's a good thing. We all have enough lines to have to stand in, one less is just fine with me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Random Life–Installment Two: Rim-Hanging at Basketball's Mecca!

Note: The following blog is the latest installment of my mini-series (a 'sub-blog' if you will) of the totally random events that happen in my life. This one goes back to the early 1990's when a good friend and I went on a six-week cross-country excursion that was a life experience that changed both our understanding of this great country.

Ever had an impromptu, self-imposed dunk contest at the Basketball Hall of Fame while the building was empty? I have!

It was the summer of 1993 (cue Wayne and Garth doing there whole "doodly-doo, doodly-doo" memory bit) and a good friend of mine had decided he had enough of the relentless New England winters and that it was time to move back to his home in sunny Calabasis, California. I was envious. Mike was (and still is!) a very good friend. As big a basketball fan as I am (which is how we met – playing for opposing schools in intercollegiate hoops) and an all-around kindred spirit. Hearing that he was moving was a real downer. Then, Mike made a suggestion that changed our lives forever. "Dude, we should get a car and drive cross country!'

At first I thought it was a pipe-dream. I mean, who just picks up and drives cross country? No one does that anymore, right? Where would we get a car? How much for food and gas? I couldn't go anyway, I had a roommate, a full-time job, etc. It just wouldn't work.

Then, I got laid off. With a fat severance package. Enough cash for the rest of the year and no sense of urgency about finding a new job. Maybe this was a sign?

Then, after about a month of kicking it around, Mike's parents offered to ship a car clear cross-country to get their boy home. A sign for sure!

Now, spiritual convictions notwithstanding, that is a sign no matter how you look at it. I decided, what the heck, let's do it – America, here we come! We quickly made some calls and charted a course across the country peppered with stops from arranging for crashes on the couches, living rooms, floors and spare bedrooms of friends, relatives and acquaintances across the country. Was this really doable? It appeared so.
We were soon on our way… first stop? A pilgrimage to basketball's Mecca in Springfield Massachusetts. In all my (then) years on earth, I had yet to make the trip cross state to The Basketball Hall of Fame where Dr. Naismith invented our infamous American pastime with peach baskets and a leather, hand-sewn ball back in 1896.

The museum was awesome.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon with about an hour left before closing. It was barren, with only a handful of workers who were all super eager to shuffle us through so they could go home. It's a big place if you've never been, two stories and a genuine museum. Lots of displays, memorabilia, endless plaques and installations of people who have broken (or established) basketball records throughout the years. Coozy. Bird. Jordan, Johnson. Dr. J. Abdul-Jabar. All living legends of the game. All well represented. But the best part was yet to come.

"Dey playin' Bas-ket-baaaaalll–!"
At the time, there was an installation that had a moving sidewalk, a kind of conveyor belt—like you find at the airport, with an endless rack of balls in front of you, where you could grab a ball and shoot at a sea of rims ranging in height from about four feet to well over 10. This was fun. This is what we had come for. Basketball was so much a part of our lives we were in heaven. Then out of nowhere, with a load "CLANG!" the conveyor stopped. A young woman appeared out of nowhere and told us we had 10 minutes before closing time and disappeared just as quickly. What? Are you kidding?

Now I don't remember who leapt over the rail first, Mike or me (I am going to guess it was me since that is NOT uncommon behavior for me), but in an attempt to gain a few more balls for taking another shot, I scurried about the installation, about a full court in length, and grabbed a few balls. On the way back, I found a little six-foot rim and couldn't resist. TWO-HANDED REVERSE, DOUBLE-PUMP JAM! That, as my southern friends say, was all she wrote! Mike is about 6' 6" and I'm about 6' 2" and we were officially in heaven. An impromptu dunk contest – hanging on 6', 7' and 8' rims screaming out stuff like; "Dude, check this out – WINDMILL!" We must have been there at least another 20-30 minutes. Easy.

Sweaty, exhausted, hungry and hands sore from dunking on more rims than we could count, we lumbered toward the front. At this point the museum was closed and the folks who worked there were all congregating in the lobby, shutting down lights, getting ready to lock up. They had completely forgotten about us! They stared in wide-eyed disbelief at the two of us panting and sweating as we said pleasant goodnights and headed to the parking lot.
I am sure what we did was immoral in the eyes of fans, if not borderline illegal. At the least, we violated the purity of basketball's greatest destination – and I would do it all again! It was a perfect storm of opportunity–meets double dare– meets all out fun! I will never forget it. Never. Neither of us will.

After all, have you hung from the rims during a dunk contest in the basketball hall of fame? I have. If you ever get the opportunity... I highly recommend it.