Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Year To Remember?

Ahhhh, the end of the year. 2010. Wass it a good year? In some ways. I meant a group of people who I like to hang out with on a regular basis. I found fun to be had in Jersey City. I go to the city a lot when it suited me. I enjoyed my 25th high school reunion. Work wasn't as much fun but late in the year I had a favorable schedule. However, the summer was brutal. My heat was too hot for my liking in my current place. Didn't achieve much in the female companionship department. Some other things didn't pan out either.

So, No real triumphs or tragedies of note in the year. So what made 2010 stand out for me? It was the year I got old...

You see I have a theory about aging. We all go through the process in various ways and at various speeds. However I have a theory that each of us at times age quickly in spurts and then maintain our appearance for a longer period of time. 2010 was the year I went through this spurt.

It's happened before in my life. In 1994, I gained weight even though I ate about the same amount (less even) and exercised. About 2002, I noticed my hair was thinning a little and that I was getting a little more gray than usual. 2010 on the other hand age hit me in many more ways. I gained a little weight this year but more importantly I had lost my ability to lose any weight in ways that worked for me in the past. My hair had gained a lot more gray this year but even more disturbing there was no getting around the fact that my hair was thinning a lot on top in a weird spot that would have to be described as bald.

Sigh. How am I gonna get the ladies now? Balding, graying, thick and add to that I'm probably gonna need bifocals the next time I get a new prescription. I always need to remove my glasses to read closeup.

Oh me, Oh my. In 1994, I could no longer pass myself as a kid. In 2002, I reached the point where I can no longer be at a physical peak and in 2010 I could no longer pass myself off as an up and comer, officially in middle age.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ten Years Ago....

....a day that will live on in infamy. That was the day the Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS) made its worst decision in my lifetime. They voted in Bush v Gore to stop the recount of Florida's election to determine who would be president of the United State starting in January 2001. Unfortunately they decided it was George W Bush. And we have been paying the price since.

I feel that way because I felt the basic foundation of my country's principles get violated blatantly by individuals who use their personal feelings and agenda to overturn the will of the people.

Ahhh, I remember late 2000. I had just moved back to Seattle after living in the suburb town of Federal Way. I was trying to get my life together (again) with a new job and a new place in the city. I was still reeling from the results of the 2000 Subway World Series and had no clue who was going to win the 2000 presidential election. It seems that after 8 years of Bill Clinton was president, It seems the American people were fatigued by peace and prosperity and they wanted a change. So who to vote for? The vice president of the current regime, Or the son of the former one term president? It seems it wasn't much as a choice so it was no surprise that many voters chose a third option in Ralph Nader.

Now Ralph Nader gets a lot of the blame for how the results of the 2000 election ended up, Certainly the rational to vote for him because "there wasn't any difference between Gore and Bush" was short sighted but Al Gore ran a weak enough campaign by running away from the Clinton legacy. He got tagged as being an exaggeration king and somehow the American people were offended when he sighed over something stupid George Bush said during the debate. So most of the blame for those who voted for Nader goes on Gore.

On election day I'm watching the results and it wasn't looking good for Gore, Yeah, he got the usual Democrat states but there wasn't a conclusive pattern that seemed to favor a victory to Gore. I went to sleep with the feeling that "Oh well, Bush is our next president". I wasn't too concerned about that weirdly enough, Maybe I just looked at Bush being a stop gap to the next liberal president that will finally move the US forward from where we left off in 1980 in the 2004 election.

But something weird happened. The results of the 2000 election wasn't settled yet. Several states hadn't officially declared a winner but only one state, Florida with its 25 electoral votes mattered, Because it was the only state in which the declared winner would be ensured the presidency. Unknown to me on the night of the election, Gore HAD been declared the winner at one point. But a Bush operative (a family member no less) cried foul over the announcement. Although it was suspicious how he would know that the rest of the count would work in his boss's favor, Still he was correct in calling out the media for declaring a winner with the vote being that close.

How close? In a state with a population of well over 10 million the first machine count gave Bush a vote margin of less than a thousand. That's a margin of less than 0.009 percent!!! According to Florida state law that meant a automatic recount would go in effect. It did and it closed the gap Bush and Gore even further to about 500 votes.

So now the state of Florida had to determine what the next step would be, In most states it would automatically go to a hand recount. It usually isn't a problem because when it usually occurs it involves the recount of at most, tens of thousands of votes in local elections with consistent voting machines. In Florida a hand recount would involve about ten million ballots with various voting set ups in place, Mostly involving punch out ballots that gets counted by a machine. Taking the same ballots and counting it by hand presented interesting dilemmas.

First and foremost was the dilemma of what the voter's intent was when they were punching out the card. Some people made mistakes in the punch out and they hand wrote who they really wanted to vote for, Some of the cards weren't punched out completely and others had a ballot in which part of another "chad" was removed enough to make the fully poked out candidate invalid. Also there were badly designed "Butterfly" ballot books that seem reveal that a lot of the citizens in a heavily Jewish district voted for well known anti-Semite Pat Buchannan.

There were charges that many military folks absentee ballots were mistakenly not counted for being filed late and other charges that late military absentee votes were purposely mailed late (and counted) after the stalemate occurred. Neither of the accusations turned up much fruit.

The battle lines were being drawn at this point with each side accusing the other of tampering with the results of the election. Al Gore made a calculated error in only wanting a recount of heavily Democratic areas while the Bush campaign was demanding that Al Gore concede as quickly as possible so that a Bush inauguration can be set up in time by mid January.

Needless to say it was getting ugly. Protesters from both sides were out on the streets, Republican operatives were banging on the windows and the doors of the recount offices to intimidate the counter volunteers, The Democratic team followed tractor trailers filled with the voting ballots paranoid that they may be hijacked.

The hand recounts were going very slowly, Partly by all the lawsuits flying around with Al Gore suing to keep the voting count going and the Bush campaign in starting to realize that an accurate state wide hand recount was not going to be in their favor, suing to stop the hand count completely and to certify the results based on the previous machine count tally.

Several irregularities in the voting seemed to have favored Bush. The so-called "butterfly ballot," A purge of some 50,000 alleged felons from the Florida voting rolls in which The majority of these were not felons and should have been eligible to vote.]. Additionally, there were many more 'overvotes' than usual, especially in the Jacksonville area, where some 27,000 ballots showed two or more choices for President. Unlike the imfamous 'butterfly ballot,' the Duval County ballot spread choices for President over two pages with instructions to 'vote on every page' on the bottom of each page.

The post election crisis would go on for over a month, The election was becoming a running joke, tensions beginning to mount to the point where there was a possibility we might have a temporary president in the form of the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert if the count wasn't finished by January 20th.

However, the Bush campaign had an inside man on the job. There was a Bush working for Fox News who berated the media for declaring Gore the winner too early, There was candidate Bush's brother Jeb, Who as governor of Florida did whatever he could using his power to ensure his brother George wins the needed electoral votes of Florida. Then there was the proto-Palin, Katherine Harris who somehow was able to be both Secretary of State of Florida AND Bush campaign chairperson. As secretary of Florida she was able to declare Her candidate Bush the winner of the Florida vote. Very convenient. If a Democratic candidate tried this there would be huge uproar. But the only uproar over Katherine Harris was how much makeup she wore and how aggressive her "cougar" act was in her dealings with men.

It finally came to the SCOTUS to come to a decision, Even that would go back and forth between the grieving parties and slowed the hand recount to the point where an arbitrary deadline date would be reached and the vote could be stopped at that point. The final deadline date was ten years ago today, December 12, 2000. The 5-4 vote went as would be expected, Going by an ideological split with the conservatives voting to stop the hand vote count to give the victory to Bush and the "liberal" wing of the court voting to keep the vote count going to its proper conclusion.

It was an outrage! How dare the conservatives stop democracy like that? Florida set up a flawed voting system that wouldn't have drawn attention if the vote wasn't so close. It needed to be fixed and the hand recount of the WHOLE state (Sorry Al Gore) was the best way to do it. Scalia cited the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment as the reason for the vote to be stopped. This was utterly ridiculous because many people were denied their right to have their vote counted because of his BUSH V GORE decision. He also overlooked the 11th amendment that conservatives say they favor so much in regards to state rights. The SCOTUS overturned the Florida Supreme Court in dealing with the recount thus violating their state rights. Plus there were reports of Sandra Day O'Conner voting in the majority merely because she was thinking of retiring and didn't want a Democrat to vote for her successor. Talk about judicial activism bias!

Still, I was in the "Let the baby have his bottle!" state of mind. I thought having Bush in the White House would be preferable in a disputed election than Al Gore because Gore would have been raked over the coals viciously by the Republicans and the conservative media. I thought, How bad could it be? We survived the stolen election of 1824 in which yet another scion of a one term president John Quincy Adams had an election stolen in his favor and he too was a one termer. So Bush will be a one termer too. He won't be able to govern with a mandate, Can't screw too much but certainly the regime would change again in 2004. How bad could it be?

How bad indeed, First A bunch of his campaign contributors go joyriding in a nuclear submarine that KILLS Japanese kids. He orders a plane to do a little spying in China and when it gets captured he caves in to the Chinese and lets them have the plane! His Vice President has a VERY closed door meeting with an "Energy Task Force" that deregulates the oil industry so much that years later we get the worst oil spill in our country's history. He gives aid to the Taliban because they "wiped" out poppy fields AFTER the Taliban destroyed some Buddhist statues. And then came September 11th, 2001, In which Bush failed to prevent the worst terrorist attack in WORLD history (He was too busy trying to revive the Star Wars program), Which was horrible of course, But perversely it somehow made Bush out to be a hero. He kept us "safe" throughout the rest of his administration. I dunno that's like praising OJ Simpson for NOT being a murderer if you don't include that ONE bad night.

So because of this need to revere Bush after 9-11, He was able to push his flawed economic policies that took a record surplus and instantly made perennial record deficits with nothing to show for it for the American people. He was able to start a bogus war with Iraq based on a personal vendetta against the leader Saddam Hussain ("He tried to kill my daddy")that has killed 4000+ Americans and who knows how many Iraqis. the economy was weak throughout his administration as jobs were hemorrhaging to other countries. It took a hurricane and his terrible leadership throughout the aftermath that finally had the American people to realize what an awful president he was.

So yeah, Justice Scalia, I haven't gotten over it. It was your twisting of the very Constitutional principles you SAY you stand for that gave us what will go down as one of the worst presidencies of all time. And it didn't need to happen. Even though the SCOTUS stopped the vote, An independent group did under the rules in place of the state of Florida. The results? Al Gore won in any scenario that involved the full hand recount of the state ballots. Ironically one of the scenarios in which Al Gore lost was the one that he tried to sue for, The recount of votes in selective counties. And THAT was the headline in a series of articles buried in the pages of newspapers November of 2001. It was too close to 9-11 to point out to the American people that the wrong man was sitting in the White House.

Would a Gore presidency have been better? Of course it would have BUT there would have been so much contentiousness about the 2000 election against Gore by the right wing that even IF 9-11 would have happened under Gore, The American people would not back him up.

The economy would certainly have been better under Gore, The surplus would be intact but smaller and the American people would be told to turn against him because he was not as good a Clinton. Certainly there would be no war against Irag even if 9-11 would have occurred under Gore. However, Even if these scenarios would have played out as I predicted I would have to speculate it would still ensure that Gore would have lost a re-election campaign in 2004. What Republican would have beaten him in 2004? Why,George W Bush of course! And the idea that Bush would be serving his second term right NOW would be a nightmare I'm glad is not occurring today.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

30 Years Ago Tomorrow...

...I woke up on December 9th, 1980, Delivered the Daily Record to my customers,(late for many of them, I hated waking up earlier than 7:30)had breakfast, Waited for the school bus that took me to my 8th grade school Upper Elementary School, It was when I got off the bus I was confronted by at least three teasing school mates who were singing in a mocking tone the latest song from John Lennon "(Just Like) Starting Over"

That was when I found out John Lennon had been shot and died. I didn't believe them of course since I hadn't heard the news yet. Which was strange because when I was 13 I always listened to the radio (WABC 770 in pre-right wing days) before I went to sleep, and watched TV after delivering the papers (Which didn't have the news yet) in the morning before I went to school. Oddly I did neither So I didn't find out until the cruel taunts of my school mates informed me.

Needless to say, The rest of the school day was shitty to say the least. We didn't have the internet in those days and I wasn't able to get access to any TV to find out the truth. when I got home, I ran to the TV and yes indeed the horrible news was true. My mom told me that she found out the night before but didn't feel the need to wake me. I held that against her some time after that.

You see I was a huge Beatles fan. In 1980, It wasn't really cool to be a Beatles fan believe it or not. Black and white concert Ts were big at the time and the top groups featured on the chests of my fellow 8th graders were Van Halen, AC/DC, and Led Zeppelin. Cool groups of the time, Not a band that broke up ten years before.

So yeah, I wore what was an anachronistic "concert T" that featured images of the Beatles circa 1969 well past their concert playing days. 1980 was a bad year for me. My sister had died earlier in the year and I sought solace in Beatles music and comic books. Paul McCartney released a solo album I thought was good and John Lennon released an album for the first time in 5 years that was even better. So of course there was talk about the Beatles maybe getting back together again. The rift between Paul and John seemed to be healing and a new decade would be a good time to consider the possibility.

But of course that dream got shattered when John Lennon got shot.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Whiney Wishy Washiness.

So I got back from my short trip from Seattle and can deem it a success. It was a fact finding mission to determine if I really want to move back.

I've been whining about going back since the woman I moved back to Jersey for left my sorry ass in the apartment we shared back in 2007. At the time I was in no position to move back. I had no money and was obligated to pay off the rest of the apartment lease by myself. Getting money from the woman who also signed the lease would be getting blood from a turnip.

So I stayed out of desperation and need. I finally was earning money when I got my current job but it wasn't enough, or fast enough for me to be able to move back in 2008. Gas prices were absurdly high and spent a lot of money on my car for repairs. This also prevented me from moving even within the state of New Jersey. So I was trapped for another year.

Meanwhile I was away from Seattle for nearly four years and was thinking that merely moving closer to work would be a better situation. So in the summer of 2009 I moved to Union county, Closer to work, Closer to NYC. Things WERE a little better. Plus I made a trip to the west coast to determine whether or not I wanted to move back. The trip went well, But it was inconclusive in determining whether to move back. A lot of it had to do with the fact I had my most fun in San Francisco.

2010 started, I was starting to develop new friendships in Jersey City and had some routines that make me think that maybe I'll stay. But then summer came, the weather was Jersey lousy, and some things I hoped would happen...didn't. Also one of my best friends moved to Seattle. hmmmmmmmm.

I spent a lot of money once again on my car so I had to delay my planned trip to Seattle two months. That meant November, Which is the start of the gray season in Seattle. And sure enough, The weather came as advertised. That was part of the plan though. I figured if I can feel Seattle's draw at its worst time of year, I should go back. I think the plan worked.

It didn't really start that way. I mean, It was great to have one of my best friends pick me up from the airport and we had some coffee at my favorite coffee place, Cafe Ladro. I was dropped at my hotel and I was wondering what I'd do to fill in my time before I went out that night. I decided to see a movie.

You see, Seattle is one to best places to see a movie. They have a great selection of movie houses which plays all kinds of movies, In particular places that play foreign films, independent films and classic films. The dominant chain in Seattle is the Landmarks/Seven Gables chain. They took over old theaters, Masonite halls, Private clubs, and auto dealerships to form the finest set of theaters in the country. And the popcorn is to die for!

But I digress. I walked from my hotel to the Egyptian to see the movie "Fair Game". A great movie that encapulates the Valerie Plane/Joe Wilson CIA outing by the Bush administration. It puts in a nutshell the events that led to this act of treason. Now I don't need to reason to hate the Bush administration but the movie reaffirms my feelings. The movie won't be a hit, It's not the 70s where we actually went after the those who try to grab too much power.

Anyway, I called my old high school friend Jon K after the movie to see if he was in the city. Left a message, walked to the hotel and bided my time before going to Ozzie's. Walking to Ozzie's through somewhat shady neighborhood didn't inspire me to move back to Seattle.

But when I got to Ozzie's and was hanging out with my friends Paul and Star at one of my favorite places to do one of my favorite activities. All of a sudden I thought, Why not?

The next day I woke up and did some aimless wandering and ended up at the sculpture park that was finished after I moved back to Jersey. The place was pretty good but needs a lot more pieces of work to justify the removal of the trolley barn (And the ending of the excellent Waterfront trolley line).

Then I walked up to Pike Place Market and tried to find the Cafe Ladro my friend Pro told me about on Union St. Couldn't find it but instead I went to the Cafe Ladro I did know on Pine street and 8th avenue. My friend Jon K called to let me know he was coming into town and while I was waiting my other friend Pro called to let me know he was already in the city. I met up with him and was joined by Jon K and we ate at the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe, Located at what once was a strip club.

After that, I met with Jon K's lady and went on my merry way. So it's Friday night and I headed to Ozzie's again. This time I met up with another friend Rahul and that went well until it came time to be kicked out. Time was, I could hang out with Star and take my time saying goodbye, Those times are over. Meanwhile my friend Rahul still has that clout and I lost track of him forgetting that. I hung out a little bit but thought he left me high and dry. I was wrong. He was talking to his old friend paying his bill. So I went to bed, Alone again, naturally.

So I woke up Saturday still not convinced I want to move back to Seattle. The hotel I was staying at was too expensive for the quality of the place. I checked out because my friend offered his place to stay at. Since I'm cheap and I was curious what Pro's life was like in Bellevue. I wandered around the eastern part of Capitol Hill and had coffee at the Cafe Victrola. A great place that lost a little of its luster. Mainly by the massive amount of people taking advantage of Wi-Fi. It was a trend when I left Seattle but now it's at the saturation point. Still the coffee was excellent.

I wandered south to the gay triangle of Seattle, Or should I say "former" because much of what I remembered from the early 2000s is gone. Sure to be replaced by big apartment structures I'll either love or hate.

I met up with Pro yet again and took him to another cool Seattle coffee place, Cafe Bauhaus. This is what I miss about Seattle and really find depressing about Jersey. Granted the diners in Jersey have good coffee but even a Starbucks is hard to come by near where I live. In Seattle if you see a Starbucks, You just need to do a 360 and see a better alternative coffee shop.

So now I become the guide and my friend Pro becomes the tourist when I show him some of my favorite places of the Capitol Hill area. One of the things I pointed out was a hole in the ground where many places I went to used to be. The Jack in the Box, Twice Sold Tales and others are gone and at least Twice Sold Tales moved to a new location. But Seattle has a bad track record of long established places moving and staying long. The construction site had excellent artwork pasted on its wall which again reminds me how depressing towns like Union, NJ can be in regards to construction projects and empty storefronts.

We wandered up to Volunteer Park. Mainly it was to see Bruce Lee's grave and the Conservatory. It can be exhausting dragging a suitcase up that hill but in that overcast, foggy almost rainy afternoon, I had an epiphany. I got to go back. Seattle is beautiful, Has a lot going for it and basically encourages me to move around. The only time I was stagnant in my years in Seattle was when I lived in the suburb of Federal Way with my girlfriend. It wasn't her, It was the town. I wish I was able to convince her to move to the city but I had not leverage in our relationship.

We walked down from Volunteer Park to my favorite McCormick and Schmicks on the west side of Lake Union. It was dark but the view was still amazing. The burger was excellent. We walked back to the bus tunnel to take the bus back to Bellevue. It continued to rain a little but it didn't bother me one bit. Pro's and his wife's place is in the downtown area of Bellevue. It's a spectacular high rise that was built in the years since I left Seattle. The whole downtown has developed greatly since then, Many of the high rises remind me of the intense development that occurred in recent years in Jersey City. The only real difference is you see tall trees rising in the background as apposed to Manhattan. The fog made the view from the 16th floor dramatic. It's the type of place I always dreamed of living in when I was growing up.

We were tired and were unable to establish contact with my friend Jon but still toured a high rise mall where we had some drinks. We stayed up late just goofing around on the internet, Kind of reminding me of the Sloane House nights of laughing our heads off while trying not to wake up our security guard Gabbie.

On Sunday it was mellow day. A good breakfast in Kirkland started the day. A trip to Seattle, particularly Ballard was in the cards. Pro's wife needed to do some job related shopping leaving me and Pro to wander around Ballard. I showed him the Ballard locks and the Fish Ladder. I showed him some landmarks both personal and public. He showed me a market fair that man, I wish were in greater numbers in Jersey. Then we went back to Bellevue, ordered Thai food and chilled again.

What We didn't see in the fish ladder....

Pro dropped me off the next day and since I came back to Jersey I haven't found much to change my mind about moving back to Seattle. I thought maybe there were but I dunno.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World Series.

I'm looking forward to watching this years World Series. It features the type of teams I like to see in there besides my favorite teams.

That is, Teams that have had a bit of hard luck in their history both who haven't won any championships in their respective cities.

The Texas Rangers are the decendants of the expansion version of the Washington Senators. As the Senators, They started in 1961 and could not establish a fan base strong enough to prevent a move to the Dallas and become the Texas Rangers in 1972. they struggled for many years and did not make the post season once until 1996. No team since 1960 took longer to get there. Each time they got to the post season, they lost in the first round each time, Always to the Yankees. Always quickly, Until this year that is.

The San Francisco Giants have been around since 1883 when they were in New York. They were an early powerhouse team in major league baseball history. They have won 5 World Series titles, All of it in New York. They moved to San Francisco in 1957 to join the Los Angeles Dodgers as MLBs first west coast teams. Since then, The Giants have appeared in three World Series not including the current one. Each one of the World Series were memorable. The first ended in the seventh game with a great defensive play, The second one had an earthquake, And the third one had the Giants up 3 games to 2 with a five run lead in game 6 with only 8 outs to go when they blew it in the last two innings. So they've had their history of hard luck

So now with the Rangers in the World Series, That leaves only the Mariners and the Nationals as MLB teams that have never made an appearance in a World Series. The Giants are only behind the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians in longest period of time since winning a World Series title. So who's gonna win? Well, The last time the Giants played in a World Series they faced another team (The Angels)who was an expansion team that started in 1961, They also play in the same division as the Rangers. So that bodes well for the Rangers.

Buuuuttttttt, I'm rooting hard for the Giants. Why? Well, It's because of a mixture of politics and geography. On my list of favorite teams, the Giants are No. 5 and the Rangers are No. 26.

The reason? San Francisco is pretty much my favorite city. It pretty much has everything I love about a city. Great weather, Beautiful scenery, Lefty politics, and a counter culture quality that keeps me interested. The Giants also used to play in New York and had the hat logo that my favorite team the Mets use on their cap.

Texas is only a state I know from TV, politics and a an airport visit. Needless to say, It pretty much makes me not to ever live there. The opposite of San Francisco. Hot and Humid, Arrogant, and very Republican.

Texas is Bush country, San Fransisco is Pelosi country so a boogie man there for each side of the political aisle. But there's a bit of irony in how their respective ballparks got built.

When George W. Bush was an owner of the Rangers, They built a new ballpark using lots of tax payers money, Much of it not approved by the voters. Also, Eminent Domain was used to grab land to build it. Hardly the conservative principles I always hear about on right wing TV.

The Giants on the other hand built their new ballpark using only private funds because the citizens of the city voted against using tax funds to build it. Not exactly what one would expect for a "Tax and Spend" liberal city like San Fransisco. Or is it? After all, Liberals aren't exactly fond of subsidizing millionaires and billionaires with tax dollars.

But if you were to take the teams at face value, It's hard to root for one team over another. Neither was expected to make it to the World Series. Actually it was likely that neither team would make the playoffs. No real superstars on either teams. The Giants have great pitching and average hitting and somewhat suspect defensive skills. The Rangers have some great hitting stars and play fundamentally solid baseball that is fun to watch, Especially when they beat the mighty Yankees. Still, The Giants tenacity in beating a very powerful Phillies team makes it hard to figure out who has the advantage in the series.

Oh, well. Go GIANTS.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Happy Anniversary to ..........ME!

Three years ago last week was the anniversary of my first day working at TSA. No big deal except that in my 27 years of my work history, It's the longest I ever held a job. Kinda sad I know, But that's how life is.

So, Why is that? How is a man with a college degree not able to hold on to any job longer than three years?

Several factors are involved.

One the main factors is that although I have a college degree. It's a BFA, an art degree. That gets you only so far, The portfolio takes care of the rest.

Plus, I hate looking for work, It was soul draining hearing why you're not good enough for the job. Too much work would be involved just trying to get a job. It took time from actually doing my art work for my portfolio. I was quick to learn I wasn't gonna be suited for freelancing.

That's another factor. What to put in the portfolio. When there are no assignments, you do what you want to do, Or at least that's what I did. Comic presentations, Timid Caricatures and unfocused water colors. The stuff wasn't bad but it was unfocused. My drive was limited, I had a hard time doing new pieces when I tried to market myself. I was and am lousy at networking. So after having a low paying artist assistant/publishing job I set out to a new frontier, Seattle.

It was 1991, I was 24 years old. I had an idea for a comic strip and I felt I was ready to conquer the west coast. After some false starts looking for art jobs I needed to work somewhere, anywhere. A friend from the east coast was a bartender, so I figured I look in that direction. I fell into a job working as a cook in a pub. It was only part time but it paid enough for me to live on in modest fashion. This allowed me time to my dream.

The dream, a comic strip I created whose name I hoped would be ironic: Pipe Dreams. I worked on it with gusto for the next few years. Sending it to syndicates only to have it rejected, Time and time again. It was good but not good enough and my enthusiasm would wane and wax depending on my mood. Still I worked at it, Improved it but than I met....her.

Her....or She, will remain nameless. Some people know who she is, A good woman for the most part. She supported me, Though I didn't like being helped and was upset that my efforts weren't successful so I sometimes resented her for it.

I met her when I was unemployed. My cook job was okay, But I needed more so I quit that to work at a nightclub. The nightclub was shady, and after a murder outside the club cut business in half and our quota was increased by double, We were laid off en masse.

That started what would be a unfortunate trend in my working life. Periods of unemployment. It took me six months to find another job and what I found was not good, paid little, and ultimately got me fired after a few months. It was a bakery after months and months of futile attempts of landing a bartending gig. I continued to work on my comic strip but was starting to think about getting a regular job doing graphic art of some kind. By this time all my fellow SVA alums were moving along nicely at their art careers in NYC. I had few opportunities but one in particular I was keen on...

By then I moved to the suburbs of Seattle in the town of Federal Way to live at my girlfriends place. I didn't like it there and hoped to move out as soon as I got this job at a place called Humoungous Entertainment. A computer software company that specialized in children's games. My interview went well but I was a little slow with learning to use a Wacom tablet. This being 1994-1995 and I had no computer I felt it was something I can pick up within two weeks. I didn't get the chance to prove that I didn't get the job.

It took about 3 months of unemployment when I took on a job through a temp agency. I also had a temporary gig doing caricatures for Guinness. Despite the low pay of the former gig and the grueling, depressing nature of the job, I was there for a year and a half. I got laid off when they cut their workforce right before Christmas 1995.

This started my longest period of unemployment to date. It lasted from December 1995 until August 1996. I spent the first part of it feverishly working on what I felt was my best set of comic strips I ever did.

Meanwhile I caught the acting bug by signing up for an ad agency. I thought about how ironic it would be if I could make a living as an actor in commercials and movies because I FAILED at regular jobs. Despite some work as an extra, It didn't work out. I was 29 and had gained 35 pounds and I was filled with enough self-doubt that I had to face facts and look for another real job.

The problem was that I wasn't getting anywhere looking at want ads and my piss poor skills at networking. So I went to another temp agency and they found me an even worse job than the warehouse job from a year back. I worked an assembly line in a bicycle factory.

I'm getting no closer to getting a career in anything. I hadn't lucked into anything substantial. Every job I had at this point were ones I wanted to leave the day I started. In both the warehouse and the bike factory, There was pretty much no direct way to move up into what would be a more suitable office job that paid better AND had benefits. But I needed to work regardless. Working a crappy job was better than being unemployed but every job I had was soul draining.

I worked at this bicycle factory for as long as I could and beyond. It was depressing, The only good thing was that I only worked four days a week. But I needed one whole day to recover from the job.

Finally I got a job that made use of my artistic skills, Kinda. We finally got a computer for Christmas 1996. I found a job through the internet at an embroidery factory. My job was to be a digitizer, A skill I had to learn from the ground floor. The complication of the Compucon program and my relative inexperience with computers made sure my job would not last. Plus, We had an embroidery woman who suffered with frequent bouts of "brown bottle flu" and I had to cover her slack without having any previous ability to work the embroidery machine.

So, Most of my time was spent covering for a drunk woman while simultaneously learning how to do my primary task by training myself and doing other tasks without any assistance. So after a mere four months I was let go.

I didn't want to go through an extended period of unemployment again So I grabbed the first job I could find. It was back in restaurant work, As a cook. It paid better than my previous jobs but it was hard work at times and I bitched and moaned like no one's business. I was 30, Fed up and failed out. Thankfully I was in a relationship with an understanding woman who shall still remain nameless. I was at this TGIF-like place for longer than any job ever at that point. Almost 3 years. I might have been there longer if my relationship hadn't fallen apart. My ex broke up our engagement and emotionally I had to leave the town of Federal Way in order to get my head back.

I thought I got lucky when I got a somewhat creative job working with trophies and plaques that paid well. By then I was somewhat good with the computer but the job really wasn't as creative as I hoped. But that wasn't the problem. I worked with three women who were openly hostile towards me. One was a bully, Another was paranoid of what I was thinking because I refused to listen to her spiel about Mormonism, and the third one accused me of sexual advances. Needless to say when I depended myself to that charge and mistakes other people made that I got blamed for, I got fired, On the same day the Supreme Court decide the will of the people didn't count and gave us George W as president AND the day A-Rod officially left the Mariners.

It was before Christmas, I had just moved back to Seattle and had a trip planned to visit my folks for the holidays. It was probably the most despairing time in my working life. Again my move forward was stopped in its tracks. I even had to cash out my old Savings Bond from when I was a kid. Thankfully it was double what the stated currency value. But it didn't take long for me to get another job, But unfortunately it was as a cook again.

I worked at a gay bar as a cook at a place that happened to share the same name as the woman I was engaged to. I was trying to find irony working there. And there was irony. I was still reeling from the breakup and feeling low on my self esteem. The customers at the gay bar were quite kind and flattering to me. Made me feel good about myself. I befriended many of the customers. The year 2001 was enhanced by the Seattle Mariners record setting 116 win season. Too bad 9/11 and the Yankees would put sour note on that fun. However my employment would not last. You see, the ownership was a bit shady and they had a habit of firing cooks after about a year so they don't have to give out benefits. The father of the owner was given the task of firing me basically for having a bad attitude. This same man said I was a very positive presence a mere 3 months before. I hadn't changed much.

It took me less than a week to find another job. It was at a steak house located right across the street form the under construction Seahawk Stadium and Safeco Field. A whole slew of us got hired at once. It was great having that kind of comradery there. The mass hiring was in anticipation of the 2002 Mariners baseball season. I was fortunate to be put in the seafood section of the kitchen. I developed lots of new skills plus I occasionally had the opportunity to serve people too. This was a financial windfall on game days. I made lots of money for three hours of work along with my cook salary. I hung out with my co-workers often on the off days which were slow, TOO slow. So when the Mariners collapsed at the end of the season and failed to get into the playoffs, My days were numbered and I was laid off. Too bad, I liked working there a lot.

It took a few weeks to get a job at Ruth's Chris. It was okay, We were allowed to cook off scraps of prime A fillets (which there was plenty of) to eat, But the management was too corporate and would send us home early at any point it was slow. They'd send the American born workers home first because we were paid quite a bit more than the Mexican immigrants who also worked in the kitchen. So I would be scheduled for 39 hours only to find that I would work as little as 28. So, I had to find a better job.

And I found it. The best job I had at Seattle. It was again at a restaurant. It was called 5-Spot. A local company owned this place a long with others that had its own identities. It was located a mere 5 blocks up Queen Anne Hill from my apartment. I got lucky and was put in the best part of the kitchen. The skill level was slightly above my abilities but I was able to pick it up pretty quickly. The menu would have a changing theme every three months. Part of the theme change involved the opportunity to do some paintings reflecting the theme. the best part, The paintings were for sale and I was fortunate to sell three of them. My co-workers were great, Interesting and artistic. I was scheduled for 4 day work weeks in which we had plenty of overtime opportunities and half hour breaks. These are rare benefits in restaurant work. I was happy there and had no plans of leaving until I started dating a woman who was moving back to Jersey. After a few months I would do the same thing. It was nearly a two year run, but I was foolishly in love with the wrong woman and moved back to Jersey.

Part of the reason I moved back to Jersey was that I thought my failure to sustain a good art related job was due to my lack of connections and opportunities in Seattle. But no, I had to face facts, I fell way behind in my art related skills, Especially involving computer graphics. It was getting to 2006 and the economy was starting to sour. It starts in the creative sector. No boom in that department, So my lack of experience would hamper my abilities to get a good job in the filed. Plue one of my main connections moved away two days after I moved back to Jersey.

I had worked three low level jobs to keep busy. Night stock man at Shop-Rite, Followed by summer work at a fish market/restaurant, and a stint at another bar restaurant when my unreliable unattentive girlfriend announced she was leaving me without giving me a valid reason. I had applied TSA by this point because she gave me crap about my inability to get a better job. Gave me crap about always being on the computer looking for jobs, Working on artwork while she was watching the Bravo channel on TV.

But I got into an argument at the bar where I worked and got fired the next day. I desperately needed to find a good paying job to survive at this point. My money was running out, I was paying off the rest of the lease my ex left me with by myself. I applied for a driver job at UPS because of its great reputation. Didn't get the driver job, Because they don't allow you to do that right away. They needed loaders and made the mistake of accepting. I had to do it because I was collecting unemployment at the time and couldn't refuse a job offer. The job was terrible in so many ways. It was the worst pay rate I had in at least ten years. The work was brutally hard and the hours were very few. So I was able to combine unemployment and my feeble UPS pay to survive while I looked for much better jobs and waited for TSA to come through.

The only good thing about UPS is that my resume looked good in that there was no gap in my employment history. It also vital in getting me a cheaper apartment that was my base while I licked my wounds. I finally got the call to TSA and after working part time for 9 months I finally was able to quit UPS and here I am three years later happy with a secure job that I enjoy. I have no plans of leaving other than to transfer to Seattle when I move next October, Barring any wishy-washiness on my part.

So, what's the lesson here?

I have no idea.

I know I am terrible about selling my skills. I have a hard time dealing with failure and I have never said "no!" to any job offers that came my way. I feel like I'm begging when I inquire about job opportunities at any friend's work place. I give up at the wrong time, I get settled into jobs I don't even like and I fail to apply myself well in getting promotions. But I'm content. I'm at my most financially secure and hope to be more so when I'm back in Seattle.

Friday, September 03, 2010

25 years ago today continues...

So I recently discussed my entering the Sloane House "dorms", The day that my life had changed. But there is more to the story. I had spent 5 and half days of solid partying at Sloane House over the extended Labor Day weekend of 1985. I would meet and greet most of the students who live on the two and one half floors of that YMCA on 34th street and 9th avenue. I had a few outings courtesy of our RAs in exploring Manhattan and experiencing first hand how long the blocks were between the avenues of the borough, Went comic book shopping with gusto in terrific comic stores. I personally experienced several things I had not experienced in my life that weekend. It was terrific, One big party.

But Tuesday September 3rd, 1985 was the day when classes started, Time to get serious, Time to meet my teachers, Time to knuckle down.

Yeah right.

Funny enough, That first day of class was an experience unique from my first days at Sloane House. Now, Our freshman year was our "foundation" year in which all freshmen would take the same curriculum of standard art classes with some mandatory classes in English and Art history thrown in. That Tuesday my curriculum set up had a painting class with Frank Roth at 9am-3pm and Art History later with Ms. Ann Wooster(?) These classes took place in a rented building that also housed a Planned Parenthood.

I was mailed a sheet of paper with the list of art supplies I needed to get for my classes and I still needed to get two more tubes of oil paints for Roth's class. The good news was that there was an art class next to SVA's main building. The bad news was that the tubes of paint cost 7 bucks each which meant I had little money for food for the rest of the week.

At the store I ran into a girl named Katie and a guy named Shaun. Both were in the same class set up as me, Both lived in Sloane House but I had not met over that weekend. I found it funny that none of the freshmen I HAD met at Sloane House had my foundation classes and weirder still was that the people I met in the art store were the only ones in my class that lived in Sloane House. I soon found out the rest of my class of about 18 people had commuted to class.

About a third commuted from either Jersey and Westchester, The rest were from the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn complete with the New Yawk attitude that comes with it.

I must have came across as a very naive fair skinned boy to these classmates. Now at Sloane House I hung out with a bunch of people from Upstate New York, Downstate New Jersey and the rest of the globe reminiscent of the famous Saul Steinberg cover to the New Yorker. I thought I was streetwise in the week I was at Sloane House. I got schooled otherwise pretty quickly.

For one thing, I was intimidated by many of the women who were in my class, even the ones I had a crush on. they were strong willed, tough, aggressive and loved to fuck with my fragile egg shelled mind. Many of the guys seemed tough to me too, After all a few of them grew up in Brooklyn. Not 21st century boutique Brooklyn but 1980s Brooklyn. I decided to buddy up with two of them. They loved my innocence, My wide eyed eagerness, And the fact I was easily fooled by tall tales.

There was others in the class. A giant woman who reminded me of Big Barda from DC comics, Another one who went by one letter as her name, A Doctor Who fanatic, An effete stuck up snob who constantly had a cigarette in his fingers, The Woman who had a crush on him, A guy who expressed homophobic hatred towards him who would eventually become his boyfriend, A jovial African American guy who marveled at my ignorance of 1980s street lingo, A guy with an impressive zebra like mullet A lovely black woman who I didn't believe was a Led Zeppelin fanatic (That was important to me), Ann Bancroft's niece, Three women I had major crushes on, and Millie (nuff said)

Now, We're gathering around with a circle of easels finding a spot around a platform. Our gruff teacher, Mr. Roth snapped at us that our model was ready and I looked up to a scary sight.

Now, I knew our classes would involve drawing nudes. I wasn't a prude but I was shy. However, I was expecting the model to be more like a struggling young singer from Detroit who didn't shave her arm pits. Skinny, young and hopefully cute. My first model on the other hand involved a middle aged, Overweight, saggy and quite a bit haggy. AND for a loop. And this class was gonna be for SIX hours! That's EIGHT times the length of my art classes back in high school!

oh, my.

I survived that class but came close to not surviving the art history class that followed it. It was a class featuring slide shows of art history taught by a wry but boring woman named Ms. Wooster (?). I had a hard time staying awake in that dark crowded class. Most of the women in our class adored her but I just found her to be too boring to increase my interest in art history.

I was really tired after that first day but of course not too tired to party at Sloane House. That day twenty five years ago I formed a clique that I called my SVA clique which was distinct from my soon to be formed Sloane House clique. I would keep in touch with my Sloane House clique but would lose complete touch with my freshmen SVA clique when the 90s came and would not re-establish touch with almost any of them until facebook came along.

So I ask those who were there, What do you remember from that first day in Frank Roth's class at SVA? And those who weren't what was your day like?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Effin' Metrocard.

I curse the day the day the New York Subway System and the Path train system of New Jersey decided to adopt the Metrocard system.

You see, It was suppose to be a convenient and efficient way to get around the public transportation of NYC. I suppose if you're a daily user and you have established a routine in the card usage, It works out fine. However, For first time users it's a nightmare. Even for those of us who use it occasionally. It is a pain in the ass and hardly "convenient" It's got to be the most inconvenient public transportation payment system on earth. The BART of San Francisco is close but its complication has more to do with how to figure out how much to pay in where you go.

Ahhh, But in the old days, We had a token system in NYC and a cash setup on the PATH line. The token could be purchased at every subway station and used on both buses and trains. You knew exactly how much fare you had merely by taking a quick glance at how many tokens were in your pocket. You knew way before you entered a subway station whether you needed to buy more tokens.

With the Metrocard it's a mystery. You have to get rejected by the turnstiles after swiping five times in order to figure out how much fare you have left on the card. Now, you have to go to a token attendant (if you can find one) to replenish it. You can either put in the exact amount needed to get you through the day but that might involve a little quick math figuring out how much you need to pay into the card minus the amount that is left in the card. Or you can opt to pay a exact dollar amount to move things faster for the attendant because so much of their time is now wasted explaining how the Metrocard system works to neophytes who might not be able to speak clear enough English or Spanish to penetrate the thick walls of the toll booths.

Metrocard's solution to the toll attendants is to set up Metrocard machines in all the stations. Sometimes there is as many as five machines in the station. Most of the time you can't put in the exact amount needed to fill your card. It'll only take money to the nearest dollar. That is, If it'll take a dollar. Some machines only take coins but still will take it to the nearest dollar.

Sometimes you get a machine that takes only one time only round trips. This is okay unless you have only 3 dollars in cash and the fare is $3.50 and you have an old card with 75 cents left in it that the machine won't accept.

Some machines will only take take cash, Some only credit, Whoa behold if you choose the wrong machine.

Now some machines will give you a card to fill in whatever amount you want but WON'T refill the card you already have. So now you're stuck with two cards with some of the fare on it. The turnstiles will NOT let you use two cards each short of fare but combined would get you a train ride.

So, you can conceivably come across 5 machines at a PATH station each with a unique quirk and NOT have a suitable combination to get you a train ride. And yet in your pocket, You have the means to get you that ride.

Yep, I would curse the day that NYC went to the Metrocard system except I don't know what day that was, I was living in Seattle at the time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Can't Believe It's Been 25 Years

August 28, 2010 marks the 25th anniversary I walked into the doors of Sloane House to start my new life in Manhattan as a student of the School of Visual Arts. It was the first time I was to live away from home. I had with me only a small suitcase and a gym bag full of my things. After I registered downstairs I got the keys to room 1075 (my bed room) and room 1077 (a shared studio I would barely used). I opened the door to see a tiny room with spartan furniture. A small bed, A yellow distorted trapezoid desk, and a yellow wardrobe with small drawers. I sat down on the bed, Did the best I could in setting up my stuff, Looked out the window to see "the pit" and decided to venture in the hallway and meet some folks.

The first two guys I met were named Brendan and Lennie. They were upper classmen who decided to walk around the tenth floor and allowed me to tag along. It was then I met two women, One whom was really friendly, the other not so much. I was hanging out with one of them and enjoying her company when I met someone reading a comic book I had just read that week. I foolishly brushed off my female companion to talk comics with a guy named Al. My love for comics were at their peak at this point and by the time I left SVA after having dozens of people to talk comics with, My love for them waned substantially.

Anyway, I convinced Al to walk around the SVA part of Sloane House to see if we would meet more people. We were admiring someone's rendition of Bloom County's Bill The Cat when the door burst open and I met Steve P. At the time I didn't realize it but both Steve and Al would become lifelong friends.

The day was exciting, Meeting our RAs, Getting free passes to Yankee Stadium and clubs downtown. I don't remember getting drunk but I know I had a good time partying that Wednesday before Labor Day. My life would change, I would embrace Manhattan for all its worth for the next four years and develop a new persona that was more lively and less naive than the persona of my high school years. I was quite innocent that day but I wouldn't be for long.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More Steinbrenner

Even before George Steinbrenner died I was interested in reading his biography "The Last Lion of Baseball" by sportswriter Bill Madden. Steinbrenner was a fascinating individual and the book was an excellent read. It goes into detail about the early years of his Yankee ownership thanks to detailed notes and recordings by early general manager Gabe Paul. The anecdotes about Steinbrenner are priceless. You see how he treats those who worked for and even to the people who liked him, It's humorously appalling.

I would have loved it more if I had not spotted some factual errors throughout the book. The first one I spotted was when Madden mentioned that Rich "Goose" Gossage signed a contract worth 25 million dollars over 5 years with the San Diego Padres in 1984. I thought that that money was way too high for a post peak closer signing for a medium market baseball team back then. 5 million a year would be more than double the highest paid player of the era. So I checked and sure enough, It turns out he signed a 5 million dollar contract over five years.

The second mistake I spotted is my nitpicking on history. Madden writes that The Yankees had beaten out the California Angels by one game for the Al wild card in 1995. In actual fact it was a one game playoff between the Mariners and the California Angels that knocked the Angels out of the running. Nitpicking to be sure, But I like the idea of giving the Mariners their due.

A third mistake was more problematic. Madden points out that the 2000 New York Mets had "...crept into the postseason as a wild card, had beaten both the NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks in the Division Series and the NL East champion Atlanta Braves in the NLCS to advantage as the Yankees' opponent in World Series."

Okay, a few things were wrong with that. First of all the Mets played the Diamondbacks and the Braves in the playoffs in 1999, And second of all the Mets LOST to the Braves that year in the playoffs. The teams the Mets beat in the playoffs in 2000 were the Giants and the Cardinals.

The fourth mistake was a typo maybe but I think Madden just had the year wrong. He mentions the gathering of the Yankee executives in what to do with Joe Torre after his last season managing the Yankees. Madden says the contentious meeting which would lead to Joe Torre rejecting the Yankees contract offer as happening on October 17, 2008. That was a year off, At that point both Joe Giaradi and Joe Torre had finished managing their first seasons of the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers respectively.

There may have been other mistakes I missed and I look forward to the book being published in paperback to see if the mistakes were corrected and a chapter dealing with Steinbrenner's passing.

I recommend this book for both Yankee fans and Yankee haters. It's also a fascinating biography of a volatile but savvy businessmen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Words you'll never hear from my mouth.

This a list of sentences that I'll never utter unless it's for sarcastic purposes.

"Let's order Pizza!"

"Oooo, there's a sale at Wal-Mart!"

"Lady GaGa is HOT!"

"Hi! Grandma!"

"Put extra cheese on my burger!"

"Oh Boy, Jersey Shore's on!"

"I get along with all my ex-girlfriends"

"Boy, that Hannity is one smart cookie!"

"Let's Go Yankees!"

"Sure, Honey! I'll pick up some tampons for you!"

"Cooool Tattoo!"

"I'll watch any movie with Julia Roberts in it!"

"Boy, that Kate Goslin is such a good mom!"

"I'm glad Regis replaced Katie Lee with Kelly!"

"The referees made good calls during Super Bowl XL!"

"Reagan should be on Mt. Rushmore!"

"Jay Leno is funnier than David Letterman!"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


As a 43 year old straight white man it may come to no surprise that I'm not a fan of Lady GaGa. The music is vapid, generic, boring, and familiar of at least from what I've heard and that's a lot. anytime I'm in malls and hanging out, I'll hear it.

However, I'm told she has a lot of talent and has a great voice, But I have yet to hear any examples of either.

I love how the people who worship and defend GaGa by saying that she can play her own instrument and writes her own songs.

It's as though we never heard of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Billy Joel, Elton John, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Roger Waters, Syd Barrett, Adam Ant, Chrissie Hynde, Jack White, David Crosby, Gram Parsons, Eddie Vedder, David Grohl, Chris Cornell, Tori Amos, Jewel, Ian Anderson, Beck Hanson, David Bowie, Joe Jackson, Bono, The Edge, Sting, Mike Scott, Karl Wallinger, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Teddy Pendergrass, Prince, Stevie Frickin Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Freddie Mercury, Pete Townsend, Don Iris, Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow, Marc Bolan, Glenn Tilbrook, Liam Gallagher, Thomas Dolby, Sammy Hagar, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehely, Peter Criss, Jerry Cantrell, Bob Dylan, Michael McDonald, Patrick Simmons, Emmylou Harris, Wayne Coyne, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Justin Haywood, Todd Rudgren, Tommy James, Van Morrison, Barry Gibb, Richard Manual, Barry White, Billy Preston, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Phil Lynnott, Jerry Garcia, Stephen Stills, Mike Nesmith, Roger McGuinn, Ben Orr, Rik Orcasek, Peter Cetera, Terry Kath, Lionel Ritchie, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Curtis Mayfield, Issac Hayes, Gregg Allman, John Phillips, Mark Arm, Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, Paul Simon, Paul Westerberg, Geddy Lee, Sly Stone, Billy Corgan, Donald Fagen, Robert Smith, Mark Knopler, Darryl Hall, Jim Croce, Ray Davies.

All triple threats. It will remain to see how she would compare. But suffice to say, When her career is over, She will not be on the top of this pile.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Thank God This Month Is Over!!!

This had to be one of the worst months I've experienced in I can't tell how long. It was easily the hottest month I have ever experienced in my life and with no AC and several 100+ degree weather it ended up being torture, man.

The Mets, My team lost a slew of games including one I attended live. Their west coast trip was a nightmare rendered worse by the fact I would wake up finding out they lost again.

The one day I decide to go to the shore, I get a ticket at a police checkpoint because I hadn't got my car re-inspected in due time. That was because I was hoping my "check engine" light would go off long enough for me to get it re-inspected. It never happened so there you are. It cost me 1500 dollars to fix what is basically an engine that works fine but emits a little too much smoke.

My social life was dull. I stayed inside most of my non working time and was unable to get anything going outside of myself. I was a virtual recluse. My artwork suffered. I find it hard to draw covered with sweat.

So other than the times I spent with my family particularly my nephew Sean, It's a month to forget and I look forward to a better month in August.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Appreciation of John Callahan

John Callahan died the other day.

Who was John Callahan?

He was a cartoonist who was published in various alternative weeklies starting in the 80s. He had a dark sense of humor with his work. He poked fun at anything he could with the most acidic sense of humor. His cartoons could be tasteless, insensitive, blasphemous, sexist and borderline racist but almost always funny.

He had a rough style of rendering brought about by the fact he was a near quadriplegic due to a drunk driving car accident he was in when he was 21. He wasn't driving but he drank so much He didn't know the severity of his injuries. After a few lost years, He went back to his cartoonist interests and developed his style using his hands clasped together and took the alternative comic scene of the early 90s by storm.

He wrote an autobiography complete with pictures called "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot: The Autobiography of a Dangerous Man" is a fantastically funny read. He was able to laugh at himself about his handicapped situation, His upbringing and his outlook on life.

Of course when he made fun of the handicapped, He outraged many people. But he was an equal opportunity offender. He outraged anybody and everybody which for me as a free speech liberal was refreshing. No cows were sacred.

Even snowmen.

I wish I hadn't lost touch with his recent work and I have seen that he had not lost his edge when I checked it out when he died.

These are only a few of his cartoons. RIP John Callahan.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Myth of Summer (A Long Winded Rant)

I wonder why I look forward to summer every year. Summer is about halfway over and I haven't enjoyed it one bit. Summer 2010 has been an extra bummer in many ways. Now when I was a kid summers were cool, No School, Family vacations and what have you. It seemed like endless activity. But When I was an adult, Summer hasn't been special, Or at least no more special than the other seasons. I think the last summer I really enjoyed was in 1983. I was 16.

The summer of 2010 has made me realize how I just can't seem to figure out how to enjoy it, Yet it seems that I may be in the minority on my inability. Still, The weather has been awful. Way too hot, Way too humid to enjoy my normal activity. Sometimes it seems too extreme to even go outside at times. Even my first trip to the beach this year was a bummer.

I guess the major reason I don't enjoy summers is that I have to work. Other than delivering papers, 1983 was the last summer in which a job (Or looking for a job) didn't interfere with my fun. The day was mine to enjoy and I made the most of it. I had nearby neighbors who used to enjoy playing baseball in the dead end street around the block from me, I enjoyed my strenuous bike rides to nearby Chester to pick up my comics and I just went about the neighborhood looking for activities.

Starting when I was 17, Work took much of my time but that was offset by the first summer in which I could drive. That minor bit of freedom allowed for me to explore towns too far to get to by bike. It was also the first summer in which I was able to skip church on Sundays. Work made for a convenient excuse for me to go wandering around the local towns instead of going to church.

I did have a good summer in 1985 after I graduated high school. It involved mostly going to parties. I was denied this before I had my job and use of a car. But it wasn't a "summery" thing. No pool parties, No beach runs other than a post "prom I didn't go to trip" to Seaside Heights. However, I did take a trip late in the summer to Ireland which while enjoyable it too was not really summery. It would be the last vacation I'd take for many years. I then broke my ankle at Action Park right before I went to SVA. Couldn't work after that.

The summers during my art school years usually involved full-time unpleasant jobs to pay but there were some highlights:

The summer of 1986 involved following the Mets while I worked swing shift at a Nursing Home. It was fun to listen to what was a angst free regular season of multiple wins. the rest of the time I grew fat.

The summer of 1987 did feature the best 4th of July weekend of my life. And it was spent in Orange County New York (of all places) at my friends place. It was made extra Great by the fact a rift I had with another friend was healed. A few trips to the shore made it a half decent summer.

The summer of 1988 had a great 4th of July party my parents hosted, Not much else happened though.

The summer of 1989 occurred after I graduated SVA. A transitional year I screwed up. It ended with my pioneering move to Jersey City, Taking on THREE jobs including working for my Dad. Probably the summer I worked more than any other summer of my life and thus denying me summer fun.

I don't remember 1990 but 1991 was when I made the decision to move to Seattle. I traveled up and down the west coast and avoided the ugly Augusts of the east coast. Heck, it was actually cold in San Francisco! I met a lot of people along the way but it was fleeting, Nothing that lasted. But the vacation was tempered by the fact I had to Get a place, Get a job and figure out what I was going to do with my life.

The summer of 1992 started with a nasty breakup involving cheating with a friend of mine. This meant that I had to sever ties with everyone I was friends with at the time in Seattle. A lot of soul searching, A lot of bike riding, Several flings and ironically the best tan I ever had almost made up for it. But it was a lonely summer.

The summer of 1993 started with being laid off from a sleazy night club called Celebrity and dealing with my first bout of forced unemployment. It lasted beyond the summer in which I spent a lot of time with fruitless pursuits of jobs, Even jobs "beneath" my stature. I gained weight, Hung out with people who had such a effed up living situation.

The summer of 1994 I had moved to Federal Way, WA. Yuck. I had a girlfriend who I moved in with, Lost another job I held for less than 6 months, Cobain blew his brains out in spring, OJ took up all the headlines, Baseball season was canceled, I took on a a crappy job to get by, A summer to forget.

The summer of 1995 was better. I still had that crappy job but I had a second job doing caricatures for Guinness that enabled me to travel all around the Puget Sound. It was fun, I saw some great places and met some interesting people. the Mariners went on their playoff run and the city was alive. Still no summer vacation to speak of.

The summer of 1996 was highlighted by a trip to the east coast to my brother's great wedding, My cousin's almost great wedding and a fun camping trip with my friends. I guess it counts as a vacation but I was depressed at losing yet another job and gaining so much weight that I never feature pics from my brother's wedding anywhere.

Don't remember anything about 1997 or 1998 but 1999 was memorable for all the wrong reasons. It started off well, I finally proposed to my girlfriend of 5 1/2 years and used the summer to celebrate. I was ignorant on what was going behind the scenes however. One party with her co-workers ended with me in a heated argument with a racist friend of the host over racism and manners. Whoops! Liquid courage can be a bitch! I walked out of the party and headed down the road. the problem is that the party was 35 miles from home and my fiance stayed behind at the party. IT turns out she was already in a new relationship and when we finally saw each other the next day, we were finished.

The year Two Thousannnnddddddd was miserable but the summer was made interesting by the most dysfunctional relationship I ever had. From roughly Memorial Day through Labor Day I had my rebound relationship with someone who was really weird but who I was attracted to. It's unfair to pin the dysfunction on her. She merely had rules for potential partners that I definitely did not live up to. Physically the relationship was great, Emotionally we were not right for each other. I guess we were lonely. I was STILL getting over the breakup with my fiance and I made this other woman's life stressful with my whining about updated information on what was going on with my ex. It came to a head on Labor Day and finally I was able to muster up the courage to tell this woman I would not continue to wreck her life. She reacted like a heroin junkie who was being told that she would get no more heroin. It was the first time I ever broke up with a woman. Truly the idea that I hope she is doing well ten years later, Better than me I hope. It's not an empty platitude.

The summers of 2001 was mostly memorable due to the Seattle Mariners dominant run for 116 wins, The joy of that was ruined by 9-11 and being excoriated by my aunt for rooting for the Mariners against the New York Yankees because of it.

The summer of 2002 I worked at a restaurant right near the baseball and nearly completed football stadium. It was a fun summer even though I worked a lot. I made lots of money and hung out a lot with co-workers.

2003 and 2004, Not much happened summer wise. No vacations. I did visit my folks once at their new place and went to Seaside Heights a few times. The first time I went to the Jersey shore in more than a decade.

2005 was when I made the decision to move back to Jersey. I was in a relationship with a young woman for about half a year when she moved back to Jersey. I missed her enough to make that decision to move back to Jersey myself. The summer was spent saying goodbye to Seattle, Hello to the red states of America and hello once again to the state I grew up. It was fun going to the beach while I was still not working but like in 1991 I was stressed with the task of looking for work and the stress was compounded by the fact I needed a better job than restaurant work to survive in Jersey.

The summer of 2006 was spent looking for a place to live in with my girlfriend in Spring Lake Heights, Working in a fish restaurant in Belmar, Welcoming the birth of my wonderful nephew, and making good use of being close to the beaches. However most of the time on the beach was spent alone because my girlfriend was a bit weird about beach life. She says she loves it but this is more or less how she spends her time there:

Still, It was a much better summer than 2007. It started with My girlfriend walking out of our apartment with 4 months left on the lease she signed. She gave lame reasons for the breakup but I know it was for a reason that she kept hidden. She of course got defensive buy any suggestions I made on what I already knew. Still, I was more upset at the financial pit she put me in than the fact she left. She was even more crazy than my "rebound" relationship of 2000. On Memorial Day I lost yet another restaurant job after I got into an argument with my boss. Meanwhile I had gone into overdrive trying to find a better job, Finding an apartment I could afford and bothering all my long distance friends with my anxiety. I somehow got "bait and switched" into taking a part time job at UPS that was totally unsuitable to a 40 year old, Hard physical labor. However horrible the job was, It enabled me to finagle my way into a desperately needed apartment. Life begins at 40 they say, But I had to really use my willpower to prevent my life from ending at 40.

The summer of 2008 was interesting in that I lived close enough to Sandy Hook to take advantage of their beaches. Including the nude one at Gunnison. A liberating experience that with three days off from my new job at EWR I took advantage of. Gas prices were so high I barely drove. No need. It was not a bad summer, except I had no vacation, No girlfriend.

The summer of 2009 had bad weather early on, It was cold and rainy a lot. I had wanted to move from my teeny tiny apartment to be closer to the airport. since my lease ended in July, Much of my time was used moving.

Which brings me to this year. There's still time to have an enjoyable summer but it doesn't look good. I have no plans for any vacation this year. The weather has been horrible and my current place retains heat and has no practical place to install an AC unit in the room I spend 80% of my time in. The heat and humidity puts fear in my taking any long bike rides. My social life has stalled after looking promising back in May. I'm not close enough to the shore to make use of any post work excursion. NYC is to be avoided in the summer. A trip to Citi-Field was almost marred by the 100 degree weather. Thank God my nephew enjoyed himself at the game. Which brings me to the fast becoming bummer that is the Mets baseball season. WILL YOU GO ON A WINNING RUN ALREADY!!!!! I use baseball as a diversion to any personal angst. You're not doing your job Mets!

Anyway, I prove my point in having a dull summer by the fact I can take up this much time writing about it. I'm not a recluse nor am I a party pooper but sometimes I think that's what other think I am.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Downtown Union Center...

I have been living in Union, New Jersey for about a year now. I moved up from the shore to be closer to work and chose Union mainly because I loved the look of the place I saw. I was looking to move to Millburn or to South Orange but the apartments in Millburn were expensive and subpar. I should have given South Orange a look but felt pressured to take the apartment in Union because the owner lower his price to my level.

The place is very close to my work in an okay neighborhood of well groomed modest houses. I'm close to the downtown area that extols the advantages of shopping there. The problem is, that's a lie or a dated sentiment. Union Center isn't what I call a thriving downtown at the moment. On a six block walk, I count a minimum of 20 empty storefronts, Five of which became empty since I moved to Union. Granted, the economy is still stagnant but it's not a ghetto environment but seems to be at a point of redefining itself.

I think.

Three places have opened up in recent months, Two nail salons and a Pizza place. the pizza place is filling in a need not provided by the 4 other pizza places and the two nail salons fill a need not covered by the other ten nail salons on the six block stretch. The five places that closed were two very old school establishments, A 99 cent store and an unfortunate named burger place called Banana Burger.

So Union Center is at period of transition but a transition to what I dunno. It doesn't look like it will become a hipster/yuppie paradise like Hoboken or Red Bank. Not many singles live in the area. It mostly is a neighborhood of modest bungalows with few apartment buildings.

It's blue collar with a growing Portuguese and Polish immigrant population. Their presence is represented by small grocery stores and bar-b-q places. I do fear an influx of 99 cent type store and an increased presence of offices for lawyers and accountants. I can't expect to have each of the available properties to be filled with places I'd really like to see but it's be nice for at least three places to be a place I would frequent.

As it stands there are only five places in Union Center I go to on a regular basis.

One is Burnett Bar-B-Q II, They are a Portuguese place that makes great grilled chicken.

Two is Stop & Shop supermarket.

Three is Quick Chek where I get my morning coffee.

Four is a Polish owned thrift store with a decent clothes collection at great prices.

Five is a small comic book store I only go to once a month.

So, I don't go to many places in my downtown, I ride my bike to towns like Millburn, South Orange, and Maplewood to go to fun stuff like good movies, better bars, Gourmet Groceries and a better places to eat. So what do I hope would move into the empty spaces of Union?

1.A Brew Pub or at least a pub with a varied craft brew selection. Union center has a few bars, None worth a damn and some pretty damn scary. I'm kind of a yuppie when it comes to my bars. I love good beer and pleasant surroundings that's not too froofroo, Like your average Manhattan old school bar or every other bar in Seattle. I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen, I'll stick with the Gaslight Pub in South Orange and O'Connells in Jersey City. It's be nice to be able to drink a lot on a Monday night and stagger home a short distance instead of driving.

2.Another Coffee Shop (Even Starbucks) There's a place called Van Gogh's Ear that is interesting but needs a little competition to make it a better place for good coffee. I would prefer a smaller shop that doesn't have such a full menu.

3.A burger joint. I'm not far from a Five Guys, About a mile but I would like to have one open up closer to me or maybe a Shake Shack or something like that. Hey! How about Red Robin? Also, It's be cool to have a fish fry place.

4.Real Bar-B-Q. An Alabama friend of mine from my fork lift driving days set me straight on what Bar-B-Q really is. What we call Bar-B-Q is actually grilling, That's what the 3 or 4 Bar-B-Q places near me really is. None feature a good BBQ sauce, pulled pork or decent baby back ribs. A place like taht and keeping the southern theme, It be nice if we had a fried chicken place.

5.Any Fast Food Place. The nearby highways are littered with them but the downtown area has none. A Popeyes, Wendy's, Heck even a Burger King would be nice.

6.A Whole Foods Wannabee. South Orange features a great gourmet grocery store called Eden's Gourmet. It's smaller than your typical Super Market but features quality gourmet products. Unlikely to be in downtown Union but I can wish.

7.A Better movie house. the one in downtown Union would be great if it was fixed up better and played better movies.

8.An arcade or a roller rink. I know, How anachronistic. I just find it funny that a roller rink can't survive due to high liability insurance rates but at the same time skateboard parks are opening up all over the place at tax payers expense no less!

9.Art galleries. Only so I can demand some culture.

I only plan on spending one more year in Union so I won't be around long enough to see any of the things on my wish list open up. After that I plan on moving back to Seattle or if I have a reason to stay here in Jersey I'll look to move to Jersey City since that's wher the action is at.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

King George...

I hate the Yankees. I make no bones about it. They were too corporate, Too buttoned down, Too patriarchal. I rooted for two teams growing up, The New York Mets and whoever played the Yankees. Most of what I hate about the Yankees is because of one man. That man was George Steinbrenner.

Why? Because he did whatever he could to make sure that hated Yankees team won. As a Mets fan that was hard to deal with when I was in grammar school and for most of my adult years except for a brief period of time in the late 80s.

I became a Mets fan sometime in 1973 when I was 6 years old. That was the year the Mets were in their second World Series in less than 5 years. They were setting records with baseball attendance in NYC. They were in a modern stadium near the Flushing waterfront. They had a great pitching core that looked like it would be intact for years to come.

Meanwhile in the Bronx, a mismanaged Yankees team was sold to a shipping heir from Cleveland named George Steinbrenner. In 1973, the Yankees were definitely second rate. Their stadium was old, Located in a borough of a city going through very tough times. They were going through their longest post season drought since they changed their name from the Highlanders. A mere 8.8 million dollars was needed to purchase the team from the CBS Media group. Think that might have been a good investment?

Anyway, One of the first priorities Steinbrenner put on the table was to renovate the aging Yankee Stadium to 70's state of the art standards. Second of all, He wanted to build a winning team by any means possible. During the early 70s the most notable trade involving the Yankees was the families of pitcher Fritz Peterson switching places with fellow pitcher Mike Kekich. George made some good trades but a new opportunity came along in 1975 which made building a winning team easier if you were willing to pay for it.

Free Agency reared its head in 1974. Baseball players challenged the idea of being property of a team as long as the team deemed fit. If you don't like it, tough. Players can be great have a terrific season like Ralph Kiner and get a pay cut because their team could lose 113 games without him. Free Agency allowed for players to sign with another team usually the highest bidder. Steinbrenner was one of the few owners who embraced this opportunity. Most owners including the Mets owners resented players who became free agents or looked to get long term contracts over threats of being a free agent.

Not George. He signed players like Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield and others to generous, expensive,(at the time) contracts that gave the Yankees two World Series titles, four AL pennants and 5 National League East titles in 6 years. He also made offers for players on teams they payed in post season. Players like Don Gullet, Tommy John, and Steve Sax.

Success came at a price. The Yankees of the late 70s and early 80s were a volatile bunch of personalities in which Steinbrenner was right in the middle of. Strong personalities like Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Reggie Jackson, and most of all Billy Martin the Yankees manager. The dark side of George Steinbrenner came out. He was a meddler, A "hands on" owner who fired and hired managers left and right. From 1973 until 1991 he:

Hired/Fired Bill Virdon

Hired/Fired Billy Martin

Hired/Fired Bob Lemon

Hired/Fired Billy Martin (again)

Hired/Fired Dick Howser

Hired/Fired Gene Michael

Hired/Fired Bob Lemon (again)

Hired/Fired Gene Michael (again)

Hired/Fired Clyde King

Hired/Fired Billy Martin (Third time)

Hired/Fired Yogi Berra

Hired/Fired Billy Martin (Fourth Time)

Hired/Fired Lou Pinella

Hired/Fired Billy Martin (Fifth Time!)

Hired/Fired Lou Pinella (again)

Hired/Fired Dallas Green

Hired/Fired Bucky Dent

Hired/Fired Stump Merrill

Steinbrenner wanted to win at any costs but obviously was impatient. The Yankees brought whatever players they felt they needed to win in the 1980s. In fact the Yankees had the best total winning record in the 80s. Still, They had no World Series titles to show for it. Meanwhile in Queens New Yorkers were embracing the Mets in record numbers. The Mets were building a solid team of home grown players mixed in with a few veterans. Meanwhile the Yankees traded away great prospects like Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, and Jose Rijo. the 80s ultimately were the decade of the Mets.

Then the 90s came and the fortunes of both teams reversed and for the Yankees it came because of controversy courtesy of King George. Steinbrenner was upset at losing the 1981 World Series to the Dodgers and he blamed it on his highly paid outfielder Dave Winfield. Winfield signed a ten year contract that Steinbrenner was trying to figure out how to get rid of, He was looking for dirt on Winfield and had paid gambler Howard Spira to blackmail Dave Winfield. This led to Steinbrenner being banned from baseball operations of the Yankees.

The lack of meddling led to a stable management of the team. Buck Sholwalter became the first Yankee manager to manage more than three years in a row under Steinbrenner. Their farm system was replenished with future superstars like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite, Bernie Williams, and Jorge Posada. By the time George Steinbrenner came back after some very lean years, The Yankees had a solid core of home grown players.

In 1995, after not appearing in the playoffs for 14 years, The Yankees got a wild card spot by the fluke of having the same record as the Seattle Mariners and the California Angels. The Mariners played the Angels in the a one off playoff game and whoever won, Won the American league west and who lost went home. And for some reason the Mariners played the Yankees in the American League Wild Card playoff in a best of 5 series. The Yankees came out strong, winning the first two games at Yankee Stadium only to lose the next three games to the Mariners in Seattle in dramatic fashion.

Ken Griffey Jr. scoring on Edgar Marinez's double remains 15 years later the greatest moment in Mariners history. Let me tell you as a Yankee hater living in Seattle, I got such smug satisfaction seeing George Steinbreners face in the limo leaving the Kingdome.

That smugness was short lived. King George got his revenge. He made a steal of a trade with the Mariners for Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson for two stiffs and the new dynasty was on its way. FOUR World Series in 5 years including the 2000 team who had only the ninth best record in baseball. They beat my Mets of course.

The Yankees looked unbeatable into the 2000s. They beat a 116 game winning Mariners team in 2001 but throughout the decade until 2009, The Yankees had great records but no WS titles. George Steinbrenner was slowly backing out of daily responsibilities and was ailing. A new stadium was built next to the old one and saw yet another World Series thanks to the massive spending the Yankees were able to pay for a mere three missing piece players.

Both long time public address announcer Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner die having their favorite team being defending World Champions. Good karma that's for sure.

George Steinbrenner was a rich businessman who ran his operation with an iron fist. However, He paid his workers well, He wasn't cheap, He helped those under his employ when they were in need and gave his customers the best product he can possibly give them. A paradox perhaps but with the exception of a few personality flaws he left MLB a bigger success than it ever was.

Steinbrenner courted the media well, Was able to laugh at himself in commercials and TV Shows, Hosted SNL and was the inspiration for "George Steinbrenner" on Seinfeld.

RIP George. I still hate the Yankees and hope for a period they have a downturn like they had before you owned the team but let me tell ya, You were never dull.