Are your isms in check?

30 10 2011

Are your isms in check?

Communism is a socioeconomic  structure and political ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless, society based on common ownership and control of the means of production and property in general.  Karl Marx posited that communism would be the final stage in human society, which would be achieved through a proletarian revolution and only becoming possible after a socialist stage develops the productive forces, leading to a superabundance of goods and services.  “Pure communism” in the Marxian sense refers to a classless, stateless and oppression-free society where decisions on what to produce and what policies to pursue are made democratically, allowing every member of society to participate in the decision making process in both the political and the economic spheres of life.  In modern usage, communism is often used to refer to Bolshevism or Marxism-Leninism and the policies of various communist states which had government ownership of all the means of production and centrally planned economies.

Socialism refers to various theories of economic organization advocating public or direct worker ownership and administration of the means of production and allocation of resources, and a society characterized by equal access to resources  for all individuals with a method of compensation based on the amount of labor expended. Most socialists share the view that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital  and derives its wealth through exploration, creates an unequalsociety, does not provide equal opportunities for everyone to maximise their potentialities and does not utilize technology and resources to their maximum potential nor in the interests of the public. Socialism is not a concrete philosophy of fixed doctrine and programme; its branches advocate a degree of social interventionsimand economic rationalization (usually in the form of economic planning), but sometimes oppose each other. A dividing feature of the socialist movement is the split between reformists and revolutionaries  on how a socialist economy should be established. Some socialists advocate complete nationalizationof the means of production, distribution, and exchange; others advocate state control of capital within the framework of a market economy. The first socialists predicted a world improved by harnessing technology and combining it with better social organization, and many contemporary socialists share this belief. Early socialist thinkers tended to favor an authentic meritocracy combined with rational social planning, while many modern socialists have a more egalitarian approach. Valdimir  Lenin, drawing on Karl Marx’s  ideas of “lower” and “upper” stages of socialism, defined “socialism” as a transitional stage between capitalism and communism.

Capitalism is an economic and social system in which capital, the non-labor factors of production, is privately controlled; labor,   goods and capital are traded in markets; and profits  distributed to owners or invested in technologies and industries. There is no consensus on capitalism nor how it should be used as an analytical category. There are a variety of historical cases over which it is applied, varying in time, geography, politics and culture. Economists and historians have taken different perspectives on the analysis of capitalism. Scholars in the social sciences, including historians, economic sociologists, economists, anthropologists and philosophers have debated over how to define capitalism, however there is little controversy that private ownership of the means of production, creation of goods or services for profit in a market, and prices and wages are elements of capitalism. Economists usually put emphasis on the marketmechanism, degree of government control over markets, and property rights, while most political economists emphasize private property, power, relations, wage labor, and class.  The extent to which different markets are “free”, as well as the rules determining what may and may not be private property, is a matter of politics and policy and many states have what are termed “mixed economies”.

Corporatism is related to the sociological concept of structural functionalism. Corporate social interaction is common within related groups.  Corporatism, also known as corporativism, is a system of economic, political, or social organization that views a community as a body.  Formal corporatist models are based upon the contract of corporate groups such as agricultural, business, ethnic, military, scientific, or religious affiliations, into a collective body. One of the most prominent forms of corporatism is economic triparism involving negotiations between business, labour, and state interest groups to set economic policy. In contemporary usage, “corporatism” is often incorrectly used as a pejorative term against the domination of politics by the interests of private business corporations; however, such a system would be more accurately described as a form of corporatocracy. Corporatocracy (or corpocracy) is a form of government where corporations/conglomerates and/or government entities with private components, control the direction and governance of a country. Corporatist views of community and social interaction are common in many major world religions and Corporatism has been utilized by many ideologies across the political spectrum including; absolutism, capitalism, socialism, fascism, social democracy, conservatism and liberalism.  Meanwhile, the concept of corpocracy allows corporations to provide financial support to competing political parties and major political party candidates.  This allows the corporations to hedge their bets on the outcome of an election so that they are assured to have a winner who is indebted to them. As politicians are increasingly dependent on campaign contributions to become elected, their objectiveness on issues which concern corporate interests is compromised.

Realism is based on thoughts/deductions from the exercise of using common logic when studying real situations.  Direct realists might claim that indirect realists are confused about conventional idioms such as indirect perception.  An example of indirect perception is the media.   Optimism is defined as ” having hopefulness and confidence about the future or successful outcome of something; a tendency to take a favorable or hopeful view.” Pessimism is the opposite of optimism and is a state of mind that sees everything in a negative light.  The most common known example of optimism v/s pessimism is the age old question “Is the glass half full or half empty?”  Depending on one’s answer, it was decided if one was pessimistic or optimistic.  Obviously, the one who sees the glass as half full is optimistic while the one who sees it as half empty is pessimistic.  But, what about the one who simply sees 4 oz of liquid in a 8 oz glass? That is a realist! While optomists see things in an positive light and pessimists see things in negative light, the mildly discontented grey area in between in fact reflects the most accurate perception of reality.

“Pigs (3 different ones)” is track 3 on the Animals album, a concept album by Pink Floyd based on the fiction novel Animal Farm by George Orwell which tells the tale of farm animals rebelling against humans to form a social system called “animalism”.  In the preface of a 1947  edition of Animal Farm Orwell explained how escaping the communist purges in Spain taught him “how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries.” In that preface Orwell also described what gave him the idea of setting the book on a farm by stating; “I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.”

lyrics to “Pigs (3 different ones)”
Big man, pig man
Ha, ha, charade you are
You well heeled big wheel
Ha, ha, charade you are
And when your hand is on your heart
You’re nearly a good laugh
Almost a joker
With your head down in the pig bin
Saying ‘Keep on digging’
Pig stain on your fat chin
What do you hope to find
Down in the pig mine?
You’re nearly a laugh
You’re nearly a laugh
But you’re really a cry

Bus stop rat bag
Ha, ha, charade you are
You fucked up old hag
Ha, ha, charade you are
You radiate cold shafts of broken glass
You’re nearly a good laugh
Almost worth a quick grin
You like the feel of steel
You’re hot stuff with a hatpin
And good fun with a hand gun
You’re nearly a laugh
You’re nearly a laugh
But you’re really a cry

Hey you, Whitehouse
Ha, ha, charade you are
You house proud town mouse
Ha, ha, charade you are
You’re trying to keep our feelings off the street
You’re nearly a real treat
All tight lips and cold feet
And do you feel abused?
You got to stem the evil tide
And keep it all on the inside
Mary you’re nearly a treat
Mary you’re nearly a treat
But you’re really a cry





When good times go bad

3 08 2011

It was a special event.  The kind you dress up for.  The kind, when you’re an adult, is less frequent because you don’t have proms, dances or any of this anymore.  So, when you do get to wear a little black dress, strappy black stilettos, and pearls … when you do get to carry a little black sequined purse … well, it’s something to get excited about.  It was this kind of event.  Fine dining and champagne followed by 3rd row seats (right beside the orchestra pit) for the Moody Blues at the Sanger in New Orleans.  The concert itself was not a dress event, mind you, but boasted the class of people who would dress for such an occasion and frankly if there’s even a hint at the opportunity to dress up, I’m all over it.  But, dressing up wasn’t the biggest issue.  Fine dining wasn’t the big issue (though one of the fastest ways to my heart). Wanting the night to be special wasn’t the biggest issue.  It was all about seeing a brilliant band playing with an orchestra in a beautiful, classic and personal setting that made it worth the anticipation.

I’m a huge concert goer, as you can plainly see from the likes of my page.  More commonly I attend such shows as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Ratt, Motley Crue, ZZ Top, and the like.  These types of shows are more frequent for one, and my taste is mostly based in that of rock and roll.  Though I do like a very wide variety of music, but most bands that I like do not tour.  Now, when I go to a good old fashioned rock show I expect good old fashioned rockers.  We’re all geared up in our best concert shirts, holey jeans and biker boots.  We’re ready for action.  We may get caught up in a brawl or have a draft beer spilled on us … and if we’re lucky that will be the worst of what lands on us.  But the Moody Blues is a very different scene.  You don’t expect Lynard Skynard fans at a Moody Blues show, but if they are there … those with diverse taste like myself … you expect them to act like me, or at least I do.  I expect that if someone has enough taste and intelligence to appreciate anything from Skynard to the Moody Blues then they know the very clear differences between songs like “Gimmie Three Steps” v/s “Tuesday Afternoon”.  Right?!? This would mean one would behave differently at a show boasting an orchestra in a beautiful theater v/s the behavior at a stadium filled with pot smoke and stacks of speakers.  But anyway…

Our group excitedly took our seats early enough to watch the orchestra practice.  We could actually read the sheet music from our seats.  It was so exciting.  This was our usual outing.  A group of 6 of us who are huge Moody Blues fans who get together and make a big night out of it each time they come.  This would be our third time to see them together over a 10 year span.  They don’t come often.  In fact this was about 12 years ago and I think they have only come to this area again once since then.  Anyway, we were all looking fancy and enjoying ourselves … anticipating the concert.  Now, please don’t think I’m judgmental or a snob … but I couldn’t help but be taken aback when the couple seated behind us arrived to take their seats.  They were both overweight and dressed in their best red neck rocker gear.  She was wearing a lovely Lynard Skynard T-shirt with the sides cut out so that is would hang slightly loose over her barreling bounds of pale white fat rolls, and clearly revealing her black lace bra from either side of the shirt.  She also boasted a tight, leather, mini-skirt with leather biker boots.  Her belly peered out from under her designer t-shirt, laying gently atop the waist of her skirt.  She struggled to squeeze into the theater seat probably as hard as she struggled to squeeze into that skirt.  Her date was a complementary match to her as he was also rather large, wearing a matching Skynard T, jeans and a blue jean vest with the sleeves cut off leaving frayed edges and a trucker hat (before that was the in thing to wear, mind you) that boasted a rebel flag.  Don’t get me wrong, their attire did not bother me nor did the fact that they were overweight.  Sure, they stuck out like sore thumbs, but appearance really means nothing to me.  It’s something I can look away from and not think twice about … which is exactly what I did.  I looked away and went back to anticipating a great show as our group discussed previous shows and took note of the playlist that we could clearly see.  As time passed, I couldn’t help but to overhear the couple behind us in their own chat about anticipation.  I’m not one to eavesdrop, well … not one to eavesdrop conversations that have nothing to do with me anyway (tee hee) but I couldn’t help but hear them as they excitedly discussed their most repulsive plan.  “No!” I cried in my mind “God help me, please let their plan fail miserably!” Now I know some of you crazy overly open minded people will say that I was being selfish or snobby for not wanting them to succeed … you may think I’m a prude, but seriously … I think there is a time and place for certain activities and sitting behind me at a Moody Blues concert is not the time or the place to have sex, which is exxxxxxxxxxactly what they were planning.  Oh how my stomach churned at the very thought of this unfolding.  You see, apparently, “Knight’s in White Satin” was a meaningful song to this couple and the whole purpose of them attending this concert was not to enjoy a beautiful musical event, but to make sweet love when the band preformed “Knights in White Satin.” They were not Moody Blues fans, they were just a couple with a plan to do something outrageous because it had a certain value to them and that was it! Period! Our group began to cringe as we all couldn’t help but hear their plan unfold in dirty, disgusting detail.  We all grumbled softly to each other, hoping they would change their minds about their public display of love during such a respectable event.

Of course, the show began without a hitch.  Fantastic as always, with the crowd in awe.  Our group was enthusiastically enjoying themselves, and whispering only a few comments here and there about how great the performance was.  Then, it happened … a song I once loved began to play.  I heard the couple shuffling into action behind us and cut my eyes to my buddy, Walt, seated beside me.  He shook his head and glanced at the floor.  As much as I struggled to continue to enjoy the performance, the sound of blubbering, sweaty fat smacking together with God awful moaning and groaning bellowed from behind … and an occasional thrust against the back of my seat throwing me forward.  It was unbearable.  Seriously unbearable! I don’t like the sound of anyone having sex …. Except, of course, myself! I don’t like it even more when I am at an event that I’ve paid quite a bit of money to enjoy … an event that I paid to listen to and enjoy … an event that I want to remember for being beautiful, not awful.   But it happened, none the less, and scarred me for life.  To this day, unfortunately, I can not hear “Knights in White Satin” without envisioning this hideous duo getting it on.  So, as a Moody Blues fan, people are often surprised when I say I don’t like “Knights in White Satin”.  “What?!?! How could you not like their biggest hit?!?!?!” They ask in shock.  Then I have to explain the painful story of when good times, like this, go bad … many laugh at my torrid tale, but if it were you who had to hear, smell and be consistently thrust forward in your seat by this revolting sexual act during such a beautiful song you too would no longer like the song.  (Trust me, the only thing worse than the sound of others having sex is the smell of others having sex!!)

Now I thought I would give you all a chuckle, and I know I’ve needed one because the news has been rather tragic lately where I live.  A topic I have chosen to avoid at this time here; the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  If you have interest in this topic, you can read what I have written here: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=48953274&blogId=533668062

But, in the meantime, I thought we’d have a little fun … so, Have you ever had a bad concert experience like this? I’ve been stepped on, puked on and such, but none of that really scared me quite like this.  Have you ever done anything like this? I’ve never had sex at a concert, maybe because I’m too consumed with the concert to be distracted by something as silly as sex.  Lol.  Have you ever been trapped in a situation where someone funky was having funky sex near you? Thank God this is the only time I’ve been in such a situation.  Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my painful recollection of this life changing experience … LOL

And for those who don’t know the song, here you go…





karma in a brown paper bag

4 07 2011

I blog here & on myspace as many folks know.  I told myself I would use this new blog location for fun blogs, fiction, funny stories and such and try not to get political here or write my editorials here like I do over there.  Of course, recently, with this disasterous oil volcano spewing into the Gulf of Mexico I couldn’t help but write about it here, there and everywhere in an attempt to spread the word.  But, in these dark days even though I know it is important to spread the word I also know that sometimes we need a good laugh.  I certainly know I do because lately this situation has put my in a somewhat depressive state and I need a little escape.  That being said, most of my readers know I love to post funny stories from my past that usually poke fun at moi but are always good for a laugh.  This one is no exception, so please enjoy a tale that I call…

Karma in a brown paper bag

TJ & I were walking home from school one day in the fall of ‘87.  It was about a 3 mile walk for us and we lived a street apart.  We weren’t the best or worst of friends, just 2 kids who lived near each other and would sometimes walk together.  We were both sophomores, had a couple of classes together, no big deal.

All the cool kids were passing us by in their cars, playing loud music and being cooler than us.  We would shrug our shoulders and keep on truckin’.  Just another day in the life of the underclassmen (or women in my case).

For some weird reason, a brown paper bag in the ditch caught my eye.
“I wonder what’s in it?” I pointed it out to TJ.
“Who cares?” He replied.
But something drove me to it.  I don’t know why, but I just had to look inside.  Annoyed, TJ waited for me to check the bag.
“Holy shit!” I gasped when I looked inside.
“What is it?” Suddenly he was interested.
“You won’t believe it!” I exclaimed as he joined me to peer into the bag.
“Hooooollllllllly shit!” He smiled wide. “Hurry up, let’s get outta here!”

We quickly stuffed our treasure into his book bag and rushed to his house, beaming!

Fortunately, TJ was a latch-key-kid … for those of you who remember that old 80’s term.  A kid who’s parents were still at work when he’d get home from school.  So, there we sat, just the two of us, at his kitchen table … pouring the contents of the brown paper bag onto the table.

“Unbelievable!” He gasped.
There sat before us, a gallon sized ziplock bag stuffed with marijuana, rolling papers, 2 cassettes and a scale.  I jumped for the cassettes, one was Ratt’s “Invasion of your Privacy” and the other was AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. 
“Cool!” I exclaimed.  “I’ll take the Ratt!”
“That’s good, I wanted the AC/DC,” He said.  “But, what are we gonna do with the rest of it?”
“Let’s split it up!” I said, logically.
“And then?” He asked.
“And then we do whatever we want with it,” I said.  “But we don’t tell anyone where we found it.”

Yeah, I you had to think someone was looking for that shit! I mean, that was a hellova lot of pot, right???

“All right,” TJ said.  “Deal!”
So, we shook on it and began splitting it up.

Now, at this stage in our lives … TJ and I were not all that familiar with pot.  I mean, sure, as you know from my previously mentioned blog I’d tried it a lil’ bit … but I wasn’t the type of person who needed at least a half a’ pound of marijuana on hand, so there was no way I was interested in keeping my half.  I saw it as a career opportunity … but it was far more than that …

Nothing brings popularity faster than being the gal with all the killer weed.
Suddenly, hot senior boys were carrying my books to class for me, sitting with me at lunch and being my friends.  Yep, that’s right, dorky little Susan was suddenly the most popular chick in school … if only till it was sold out … at least, for a moment, everyone was abuzz about my fame among the famous.

So there I was, high rolling in the dough and being doted on by hot senior dudes … ahh, it was the life … at least for a couple of months anyway.

But, alas, in the end … all that was left was a Ratt tape and a few bucks once the well ran dry.  I still have no idea what TJ did with his half.  I still have no idea who was probably looking for that great, lost bag of weed, but I did often wonder … would they ever get back at me if they found out I sold all their goods and was rocking out to their Ratt? Hmmmm…

So, there we were, about one year later … my good friend Sherrie and I, once again walking home from school along the same ol’ path that TJ and I walked.  She knew the infamous story about the brown paper bag and the glory days it brought to me, so when we stumbled upon yet another brown paper bag in a ditch yet again she encouraged me to check it out.  It didn’t take much encouragement as I had been so lucky in the past, I couldn’t resist wondering if lightening would truly strike twice.

As I eagerly and hopefully opened the back, she watched to make sure no one was spying.
“Ahhhhhhh!” I screamed and quickly threw the bag down and began to run.
She ran with me.
“My God!” She exclaimed.  “What the hell was in the bag??”
“It was a dead half rat!” I explained.
She stopped cold in her tracks. “Do what?”
“A dead half rat,” I said.  “A rat, bloody and cut in half.”
“Bullshit!” She argued.  “Who the hell would cut a rat in half and throw it in a bag on side of the road?”
“I have no idea!” I said.  “But it was the rear end, all bloody and with his tail and stuff… it was awful!”
“That doesn’t make sense!” She argued …

And we argued for about a half a mile when finally we bet on it and we had to turn around so she could see for herself.
“You’re going to be sorry,” I warned her as she opened the bag.
I closed my eyes, waiting for her shrill …
waiting…
waiting…
And suddenly, she burst into wild laughter.
I opened my eyes and peered over at her as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“A dead half rat, huh?” she choked between laughs.
“You think it’s funny?!?” I was stunned.
“It’s a used tampon, you dumb ass!” She replied … and continued to laugh all the way home…

And so there it was … my karma in a brown paper bag.  I guess lightening doesn’t strike twice, but the first strike was good while it lasted and the dead half rat became equally as famous around the school as I was picked on for ages about that little discovery.

Weird and interesting facts for your amusement

The current street value of what I found is estimated at around $800, back then it was probably valued at half that price.  Want to know the current street value of marijuana in your state? Visit http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Street_price_of_weed

The ancient Egyptians invented the first disposable tampons made from softened papyrus. The ancient Greeks created tampons made from lint wrapped around a small piece of wood, recorded in writing by Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C. (Ouch!!) Want to test your tampon knowledge? Visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tampon

Paper bags are eco-friendly, easy to recycle, and have many uses.

Want to make a piniata like this one? This pinata is made using a paper bag, tissue paper, glue, and a few other supplies you might already have laying around your house.  All you need to make this is; candy, small toys or whatever you want to stuff it with (even $800 worth of weed will work if you’re having that kinda party!), newspaper, colored tissue paper, string or yarn, glue, scissors and a hole puncher.  (See, I bet you already have all that lying around the house, don’t you?) Start out by opening your bag and setting it on your work surface. Put the candy and/or small toys into the bag. You do not want your bag to be more than half way full or it will be too heavy to hang! Now, fill the rest of the bag, stopping about 2-inches from the top, using scrunched up newspaper. Once you have your pinata filled, pinch the top of the bag together and roll it down 2 or 3 times. Staple it shut. Cover the bottom of your filled paper bag with a piece of tissue paper. Set your bag on a piece of tissue paper and cut the tissue paper so it is about 2-inches larger than the bottom of the paper bag all the way around. Glue the edges of the tissue paper up around the bottom of the paper bag. Handle the corners as if you’re wrapping a present. Now cut several strips of tissue paper long enough to completely fit around your bag and about 4- 6-inches wide depending on size of bag. You will need about 5 strips (this may vary by bag size). Use your scissors to cut fringe along a long edge of all of your tissue paper strips. The fringe should go about half way up your tissue paper strip. The fringe should be cut about 1-inch apart. Start near the bottom of the bag, just above the piece of tissue paper you glued onto the bottom of the bag, and place a bead of glue around the bag. Stick your first piece of fringed tissue paper, fringed edge down, onto the glue. This should hang over the bottom tissue paper and slightly overhang the bottom edge of the bag. Stick another strip onto the bag, hanging about halfway over the first strip. Continue this until your entire bag is covered by fringed tissue paper. Punch two holes along the top, folded edge of the paper bag. Cut a piece of yarn or string a few yeards long. Thread one end of the piece of yarn or string through one hole, pull it across the top edge of the bag, and then back through the other hole. Tie it using a few overhand knots so it will not come apart when you hang it. Cut several strips of tissue paper, about 1-inch thick and 6-inches long. Glue them to the bottom of the pinata. Voila! You’ve got a homemade pinata! For more crafty ideas using paper bags, visit http://familycrafts.about.com/od/paperbagcrafts/tp/PaperBagCrafts.htm





Dazed and Confused

9 05 2011

It was spring 1987, I was a sophmore in high school.  He was a junior, Italian, tough … the silent type.  His big brother Eddy was a senior, a hunk, and my best friend’s boyfriend.   I’d had a crush on Phil for over a year, and desperately tried to get his attention in the smoking circle for a couple semesters to no avail.  He didn’t speak much or show interest in anyone.  I thought it was because he was too cool for anyone at that stupid school.  I didn’t blame him, even though I wished he’d give me a chance.  Eddy was insistent on getting his little bro out of his shell, he wanted him to start dating, having sex and be a man like he was.  Phil wasn’t taking the bait, so it seemed.  Personally, I was thrilled by it because I knew he would’ve ended up with someone other than me anyway.  I liked that he didn’t talk to anyone and I could just stare at him, alone smoking his cigs with one leg propped against a tree looking like an Italian James Dean.  I was a social butterfly, but more like a dorky kid sister.  Even though I was the same age as the other girls hanging in the smoking circle, I looked like a junior high kid hanging out with the older crowd.  I never really smoked or anything, I just hung out for the heated discussions about rock and roll and to fetch things for the cool kids when they asked.  But they liked me, or so I thought … nah, they liked me.

One night Suzy called me up with great excitement in her voice.
“Eddy says Phil’s coming out with us tonight and we’re going on a double date!” She exclaimed.
“With who?” I asked, thinking how unexcited I was about the aspect of Phil going out with another girl and the four of them having a good time while I’m at home bored.
“With you, stupid!” Suzy laughed.  “We’re going on a double date with the Dimaggio brothers!”
“What? Really? Me?” I was in shock.  “Phil asked for me?!?”
“Well, sort of,” she stammered.  “I mean, Eddy arranged it, but yeah.”
“Does he even know who I am?” I asked, thinking that if he did he probably wouldn’t have agreed.
“Um, well, sort of,” again she stammered.  “But, I mean… isn’t this what you’ve been waiting for? Now’s your chance!”
“Yeah, that’s cool,” I agreed.
Sure, I would’ve liked that it was all Phil’s idea and that he had some secret crush on me like I had for him, but I decided I’d take what I could get.

Later that evening, the phone rang again.
“Susan, telephone!” Mom called out from the kitchen, where the only phone we owned was kept.  “It’s a young man named Philip Dimaggio.” She stared over her glasses down her nose at me.
I tried to stay cool in front of her.  “We’re in school together,” I said.
“Uh, huh,” she nodded sternly and handed me the phone.  Staying close by, pretending to be busy in the kitchen.
“Hullo,” I tried to keep cool.
“Susan?” He said in a rough, sexy, Italian teen boy voice I’d never before heard.
“Yes,” I choked out.
“It’s Phil Dimaggio,” he said.  “I hear we’re going out tomorrow night with my brother and you’re friend.”
“Uh, huh,” I agreed.
“So, I just wanted to know a little about you first,” he said sternly.  “Do you like Led Zeppelin?”
“Yes, very much,” I lied.  My older sister, whom I shared a room with, loved Led Zeppelin … me, not so much but I lied as it seemed necessary.
“You smoke?” He continued.
“Yeah, I’ve seen you in the circle,” I replied.
“No, I mean do you smoke?” He repeated the question, emphasizing the smoke.
“Oh!” I understood.  “Yeah.” I lied.
“Ok, cool,” He said.  “I’ll bring the smoke, you bring all your Zeppelin.”
My mind quickly races through my sisters cassette collection and I know I can pull this off.
“Ok,” I agreed.

Dressed in our 80’s best, Suzy and I were ready for our big date with the Dimaggio brothers.  Suzy had been dating Eddy for a while.  They’d already been to third base … something I knew nothing about.  I had a purse full of Led Zeppelin cassettes. We were anxiously awaiting the big night.  Eddy drove up in his Ford truck, and we had some tricky seating arrangements as Suzy had to sit beside Eddy and I had to sit on Phil’s lap.  Me, with my big hair smashing against the ceiling in my little mini skirt.  It was awkward.  He smelled like cheap cologne, yet somehow I was turned on.  Though I’m sure my bony ass and the scent of Aqua Net was doing nothing for him as Eddy drove down a darkened, bumpy trail to the infamous oak tree.  The oak tree was tucked away off the beach in a slightly wooded area. It was where rebellious teens went to make out, drink alcohol, smoke pot and generally be rebellious.  It had been a hot spot for years as I remember my older sisters and their friends telling stories of hanging out by the oak tree.  This would be my first time to visit and I really felt like I was going places.  In a truck, with two hot Italian studs, parking under the infamous oak tree … yep, I was really going places.

We settled in, all seated in the back of the truck with an ice chest full of Miller ponies between us, jamming to WRNO “The Rock of New Orleans” F.M.  Classic rock bellowing up into the stars, and those cold brews I had never before tasted seemed to take the edge off and go down smoothly.  Ice cold Miller ponies are the perfect way to break into beer drinking.  They were delicious.  I was choking on cigarettes as I tried to pretend I was a smoker.  Yep, I thought as I looked up into the starry sky, you’re really going places.  However, the only place I was going was backwards falling from the edge of the truck to the ground.  I guess those cold brews are serious business when it comes to losing your balance while star gazing.  Though I was rather embarrassed, it was a really touching moment for me when Phil quickly sprang from the edge of the truck to aid me in getting up and briefly I was in his arms as he helped me stand.  Honestly I wasn’t as loaded from the beer as I was the entire situation.  High on life, I guess you could say.  Feeling like this was the pinnacle of coolness for me, and hoping that I didn’t just blow it by star gazing too hard from the edge of an old Ford.

After a good laugh from Eddy and Suzy, they decided to go for a walk into the woods for a bit of privacy.  Before their exit, Eddy took his little brother aside and put his arm around him to whisper some brotherly advice in his ear as I pretended not to watch while trying to eavsdrop.
“I think Phil’s going to try to get to third base with you tonight,” Suzy said excitedly.
I was a little nervous.  I’d never really been to third base and I was dizzy from beer and landing on a giant oak tree root.  I wasn’t really ready for all this action, but I wasn’t about to back down because I was at the pinnacle of coolness for me … or so I thought.

“So,” Phil broke the very long moment of silence between us once we were alone.  “Did you bring that Zeppelin?”
“Oh yeah!” Finally I could get something right! “It’s in my purse!”
“Why don’t we sit in the truck, catch a buzz and jam out to some then?” He suggested.
“Great Idea!” I was probably too enthusiastic, but the thought of sitting inside the truck listening to the stereo sounded a lot less dangerous than anything else at this point.  Plus, I was the keeper of the Led Zeppelin cassettes, so my cool points surely had to be rising.

As we eased onto the bench seat of that old Ford, Phil pulled a joint from his shirt pocket, popped in the “Physical Graffiti” cassette and pushed play.  The lighter flame kissed the end of his perfectly rolled joint and a sweet and unfamiliar aroma filled the air just as “Houses of the Holy” began to play.  I watched him intently, how he inhaled, his every action.  He passed it to me, and I mimicked his actions perfectly.  Inhaling, wheezing a bit but not exhaling, then after a moment or two very slowly exhaling.  It was quite a process.  After a few times, I got it.  Yep, I was really going places … I was really cool now.

We leaned back, my head somehow landed on his shoulder and for a moment we were like a couple.  I felt relaxed and dazed as I began to soak up the moment like a sponge.  Once “Kashmir” bellowed through the speakers and out into the perfect night, I was hooked.  It was something far better than third base, something far better than hooking up, it was Led Zeppelin.  It was my new favorite thing and a very defining moment for me, and to this day “Physical Graffiti” is still my favorite album.  At the time, I tried to maintain my overpowering joy at this magnificent new sound that was just unveiled to me as I was supposed to already be a fan and I had to control my passions for Led Zeppelin and pretend I was just in it all for the date.  But there was no pretending, as he was just as passionate about it as me and what was supposed to be a cheap sexual virginity losing experience set up for both of us turned out to be a really rewarding music lesson … among other lessons … and a night that changed me forever.

Was it the pinnacle of coolness? Yeah, I’d say so.  Did we get to third base? Nah, I think we both got something cooler out of it than that.

My love for Led Zeppelin grew leaps and bounds continuously over the years that followed. Though nothing ever grew romantically between Phil and I after that night, we did remain good friends throughout our late blooming years and continued to enjoy Led Zeppelin together for many other smoky, starry, dazed and confused nights under the infamous Oak Tree.

Led Zeppelin was born in1968 by Jimmy Page (guitar), Robert Plant (vocals, harmonica), John Paul Jones (bass guitar, keyboards, mandolin), and John Bonham (drums). With their heavy, guitar-driven sound, Led Zeppelin are considered one of the progenitors of  heavy metal/hard rock music.  However, Led Zeppelin’s unique style drew from many sources and transcends all genres still today as well as remaining one of the most influential bands in the history of music.  Even 30 years after disbanding (following Bonham’s death in 1980) Led Zeppelin continues to be held in high regard for their artistic achievements, commercial success, and broad influence. Having sold over 200 million albums worldwide, the band is known to be one of the best selling music artists of all time.They have had all of their original studio albums reach the top 10 of the Billboard album chart in the US, with six reaching the number one spot.Led Zeppelin are ranked #1 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.  Rolling Stone magazine has described Led Zeppelin as “the heaviest band of all time”, “the biggest band of the ’70s” and “unquestionably one of the most enduring bands in rock history”.Similarly, when inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame they were described as being as “influential in the 70’s as The Beatles were in the 60’s”. Led Zeppelin’s popularity in the early years was dwarfed by their triumphant mid-seventies successes and it is this period that continues to define the band.  At this point in their career, the band was considered the world’s #1 rock attraction.  All of their albums released from their inception through their super stardom remained in Billboard’s top sales.  After a decade of being on top of their game while also facing many trials and tribulations, as they set fourth toward a new tour, John Bonham died from asphyxiation stemming from drinking too much vodka and choking on his own vomit.  It was a sad waste and a sad day in music history.  On October 10, 1980, Bonham was laid to rest and two months later the band announced they would no longer continue as Led Zeppelin due to the “deep sense of undivided harmony” in the wake of their “dear friend”s death.

To view Led Zeppelin performing in the height of their fame, visit this link for a performance of “Kashmir” at Earl’s Court in 1975: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1yFQ6vcRNk

To learn more about Led Zeppelin, this is an awesome website: http://www.ledzeppelin.com/

Enjoy these links and if you enjoy Led Zeppelin even half as much as I do, you’ll thank me for it.  Though, I can’t imagine anyone is reading this who doesn’t already enjoy them! 🙂

 





Is there a doctor in the house?

18 04 2010

In the early 80’s I think every female from age 14 to 40 had one thing in common … his name; Rick Springfield.  The Australian native, Springfield, dominated the American pop rock music scene once the infamous hit “Jessie’s Girl” was released in 1981 and blew up the music charts bringing him to super stardom in a very short period of time.  At the same time, he also was busy making his mark on the small screen as Dr. Noah Drake on the emmy award winning soap opera “General Hospital”.  The combination of the two careers he was managing at the time made Rick Springfield a household name.  Every girl wanted him and every guy wanted to be him (even though they wouldn’t admit to it).

Springfield left high school at the age of 17 to pursue a career in music.  He joined 3 bands during that period and even traveled to Vietnam to entertain the troops with the band MPD, Ltd in 1969.  In 1972, at age 22, he relocated to Hollywood, California to seek out a solo career as a musician.  He struggled to find his place in the market at the time because record producers were not interested in his sound or look.  Though he did not desire to be a pop-idol, he was continuously pushed into that realm.  He wanted to be taken more seriously.  In turn, though acting played second fiddle to his desire to be a presence in music, he eventually scored a role on “General Hospital” in 1981.  At the same time, he fortunately captured the attention of RCA records with whom he recorded his first hit album “Working Class Dog”.   Both he and his agent at the time suspected the album wouldn’t be a hit, which is why he took the acting position.  Much to everyone’s surprise, the first song released from the album, “Jessie’s Girl”, quickly rose to #1 on the charts which meant Springfield had to work overtime between his two blossoming careers.  From 1981 to 1983, he would continue to portray Dr. Drake on television while embarking on world tours to promote his music.  The two careers worked hand in hand, even though it was hard on him, as they promoted each other making “General Hospital” the most popular show on daytime television and Springfield the most sought after pop musician in the industry during that period.   In 1982 the album “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet” was released followed in 1983 by his biggest hit album, “Living in Oz”.  Also, during those first 3 years of his stardom, Springfield received the honors of “Favorite Male Pop Artist” and “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance”.  In 1984, He made his first feature length film, “Hard to Hold” which was backed by his album/soundtrack of the same title.  The plot was, of course, about the struggles of rock stardom and romance.  A bit of a romantic comedy, though I do not suspect that was the writers’ intention.  Though the film did not do well in the box office, it was still a big hit among the ladies featuring Springfield in many mouth watering scenes and making it the date movie of the 1984.

It was a bitter sweet success for Springfield because he longed to be recognized as a serious musician, but seemed to find himself ranked as a teen idol.  His 30-something baby face was plastered on the cover of every teen magazine while he aspired to be on the cover of more reputable magazines such as “Rolling Stone”.  In 1985 Springfield took a break from his careers to spend time at home with his new born son and wife as well as to deal with a state of depression he had been battling for many years following the death of his father.   From 1985-1988 Springfield recorded 3 more records, though they did not find nearly the success of their 3 predecessors.  Then, after a long break in recording, he began to record more introspective work that seemed to define his metamorphosis from overcoming to depression to accepting the life he was blessed with.  In 2004 he released the album “Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance” which showed a deeper and more intellectual side of Springfield.  It was an album he was very proud of that truly seemed to reflect the artist he wanted to be from the beginning.  He had come to a point in his life when he could actually embrace the fame he always fought.  Once he felt his baby faced good looks were a curse, but in later years he embraced the fame the pop industry had given him.  Today his audiences are the same young ladies who loved him, but they are now adults.  He still has sell-out shows and in 2008 released a top 40 album, “Venus in Overdrive”.

In 2003 I was thrilled at the opportunity to finally see him in concert, as I was too young in the 80’s to be allowed to go to any of his shows.  It was a terrible fate for me as both my sisters were old enough and got to come home and brag about it as I sat at home, listening to his records and sobbing.  But, alas, my opportunity had come in the fall of ’03 when Rick Springfield was coming to my home town to perform.  The interesting thing about the event was, at the time I was working in sales among a total of 4 sales women.  Our boss said who ever made the most sales in a 3 month period would get to choose tickets of their choice to a show at the local casino for an all expense paid evening of fun.  The good news is, of course, I won.  I never worked so hard in my life.  The bad news was, by the time the contest was over there were no good seats left available and we ended up on the 33rd row.  It was our entire office.  The boss and his wife, co-workers and their spouses … and I was spouseless, so I ended up taking my sister as my date.  The music was so uplifting. I sang along word for word.  I was so excited to be there.  He sounded better than ever.  I was bobbing up & down and standing in the aisles so I could catch a good glimpse of the still hunky Rick Springfield.

As a person who always demands front row at shows, I pulled some of my old tricks.  I grabbed my sister by the hand and suggested we simply walk up to the front and see what happens.  She was skeptical, but I pushed on through with her in tow.  The annoying thing about casino shows is they always give away the best seats of a show to their biggest gamblers … the people who spend their life savings there have earned those seats.  That’s commendable, except those people are usually well past retirement age and holding their ears at a rock concert. Yet, they are the same kind of people who would never refuse anything free.  Go figure.  So, I look around and feel like I’m in an old folks home.  I look up at Rick who seems very pleased to see my young face among them.  He begins to play one of my favorite songs, “Kristina”, a b-side from one of his chat topping hits.  I look back at him with a smile, push through a few blue haired bouffants and climb up on the stage to join him in song and dance.  I look back down at my blushing sister who didn’t have the courage to push past those old folks and I give her a chuckle as I do a little dirty dancing on stage with the dreamy Rick Springfield.  I’m beaming as the cameras roll and I hear my work mates back on row 33 hoopin’ & hollarin’.  It was an unforgettable moment.  At the end of “Kristina” I gave Rick a hug and jumped off the stage, floating back to my seat.

Rick Springfield cornered the market like no other, in my humble opinion.  He ruled the small screen and the music charts during the decade of decadence, when he was faced with a lot of serious competition.  He played some incredible guitar, though he wasn’t taken seriously as he should’ve been.  Every song in his repertoire had memorable lyrics and catchy hooks that couldn’t be beat.  He was a little bit rock and roll and a little bit punk and a whole lot pop, but he was good … really good.  So good, in fact, that he still has a huge following today and continues to have a successful career in music and the small screen.

Thus far in his career, he has starred in two major motion pictures, 3 shows on television and numerous Broadway acts.  He has released 7 studio albums to reach top 40 status, 4 of which were in the top 20.  He has been involved in several charitable works, including a private concert for the benefit of a family friend with cancer and Bob Geldof’s “Live Aid” concert in 1985 to help those in Ethiopia.  Springfield has also participated in judging the Independent Music Awards among the likes of Roger Daltry, Buddy Guy, Lou Reed and many other highly respected musicians.

Today Rick is currently on tour and has recently released his autobiography, “Late, Late at Night”. Next month, production begins on a documentary following Rick’s career from past to present titled “Affair of the Heart” (after one of his more famous hits).  Rick says of the documentary, “My fans are the most amazing humans on this planet.  This documentary will not just focus on me, but on them and the connection we share.”

On a side note, Rick is a well known dog lover who included his “best friend” on the covers of some of his albums as well as recording songs about them.  I find this to be kinda cool.  I guess because I’m a dog lover myself and would put my dogs on album covers as well.

To learn more about Rick, his official website is here: http://www.rickspringfield.com/





Teenage Lament 80’s Style

2 04 2010

Sherrie came from Hancock County High School, a different world. She transferred to my school in the mid 80s. Something about misbehaving got her booted out of Hancock.  She was seated next to me in English class and we instantly became friends. We had everything in common. Sherrie had stunning big hair and heavy eyeliner. She smoked Marlboro Reds and had her driver’s license! She knew of a place much better than us Bay High School folk and she knew of a people that were way cooler.

Step into the wonderful world of Bea’s Arcade and meet the kids from Hancock. Video games, pool tables, juke box playing Def Leppard… It was the best of times. The teens of this area were totally different than what I knew. The girls all wore big hair, tight jeans and tank tops. The guys were all rough and gruff,  yet handsome and friendly. It was much like a bar scene, but there was no alcohol … well, not sold there anyway. Unlike the Bay crowd, these were the real people.  No cliques, no judging, just always about having a good time.

Sherrie and I had many meetings in the ladies room to discuss boys and gossip about girls. Bunching together over the sink, freshening our faces in a tiny mirror. The line of girls outside grows and they bang on the door. We would prance across the floor like vixen. They all did. I was actually kinda awkward with it. We’d sit at a table and chain smoke with Dawn and Pam. There was a group of guys we ran with, the bad boys of course, and they were beautiful. They all had mullets, wore tight jeans and rock shirts and had bad ass rides. They were totally awesome!

Later in the evening, the girls and boys would split up and pile in cars, driving around acquiring liquor. While this sounds a bit much for a teen, it wasn’t actually that severe. We never got into any major trouble. It was good times back then, before so much crime and drugs and thugs and such.

Derek had a boyish grin and a sports car. He also had the hottest girl in school. Your classic John Hughes story unfolds here.  I remember sitting with him in the parking lot of Todd’s mini-mart. That’s where everyone with cars would hang pretty much and walk from car to car. Being the girl in his car was the coolest. I was almost like a part of his double life. He had this girlfriend, but he was always driving around with me. He listened to cool stuff like Ratt, and he had a blonde curly mullet and big blue eyes. He was the guy Heart warned you about in “Magic Man”. He would talk a lot of talk, but only tease me and I was way too awkward and nervous to even think he would really have an interest in me. Sometimes Joe would ride with us and the three of us would be crammed in a two seater and then it was a double whammy cause he was a doll too. Those nights made the days of Bay High more tolerable.

It’s so hard to fit in when you’re a teen and I had found my nitch.

On weekends I practically lived with Sherrie. We enjoyed each other’s company so much, that even just riding around listening to music in her Dad’s truck was a good time. I remember listening to Ozzy and jumping the rail road tracks with Sherrie speeding behind the wheel, over and over. In the country, people hung out a lot and you could always find something to do. Being that it was the country, the police did not patrol the area. I don’t know if Bay folk just hadn’t tapped into this secret or if the rivalry would not work. Probably it was the latter of the two. There were a lot of scenes reminiscent to the movie “Dazed and Confused“. Cars lined the beach and kids would just walk from car to car. Everyone was jamming their rockin’ stereos, mostly classic rock which wasn’t as classic back then. 5 Gallon drums flowed Jungle Juice and people were friendly.

On the fourth of July there was always a big party, a bonfire and fireworks. Everybody who was anybody was there. Sherrie and I were inseparable staggering around, holding each other up. This is our youth on the cusp of its innocence. Pure fun. If only we had known then what we know now. Could we have made it last a little longer? I know we wouldn’t have changed a thing.

The world has changed so much since then. We certainly did go from a sleepy town to a hopping town with legalized gambling. But, still, I think the youth of today is very different from then also. That was such a simple time. The Ronald Regan generation. A time of pop angels like Debbie Gibson, unlike today’s idols Britney Spears. PG movies didn’t have nudity and if you wanted to see any T&A you’d have to sneak in an R movie.  Video games weren’t realistic, they were about campy aliens and such.  Television was fun and moral.  Music still held on to it’s last chances at having real meaning or talent.  Life just wasn’t commercialized yet.

Sometimes on a Saturday night I wish I was sliding into a booth at Bea’s Arcade, Sherrie seated across from me. We’re sharing fries and drinking Barq’s root beer. Journey’s playing in the background. Boys with mullets bearing concert t’s on either side of us. We plan a Galaga challenge, right after this cigarette…

References:
Def Leppard: A popular 80’s rock band.  Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZ5bS3_BCDs
Mullet: A popular 80’s hair style for men.  View here:  http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&tbo=1&gbv=2&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=mullets+of+the+80s&btnG=Search&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=
John Hughes: Movie writer/producer/director best known for popular teen stories in the 80’s. Read more here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hughes_%28filmmaker%29
“Magic Man”: A song by the popular rock group Heart. Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYjgh-znxB4
Ozzy: Ozzy Osbourne is a well known hard rock musician. Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRbPWcLode0
Ratt: A popular 80’s Hard Rock band.  Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCzO-DJBC9Y

“Dazed and Confused”: A movie about teen life in the 70’s. Learn more here:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106677/Ratt: Ratt was a popular 80’s Hard Rock Band.  Listen hereDebbie Gibson: Popular 80’s teen idol/singer.  Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h2fxAaXN5c
Brittney Spiers: Currently know pop-star.  Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4FF6MpcsRw
Journey: A popular 70’s & 80’s rock band. Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=barLaHrtvoM
Galaga: A popular 80’s video arcade game.  Learn more here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaga





History Lesson on the Rocks with a Twist

30 03 2010

Alcohol is rooted in ancient Egyptian times (BC), as Egyptians used fermented grains for making prototype forms of beer. They created the process when working to refine the production of raised breads by calculating how to add beer sediment to live yeast. I always though that wine would’ve come first, but in fact it was a close second to beer. Wine’s role in history was more ceremonial in it’s earnest beginnings, but later evolved to be used in culinary and celebratory forms. In later years (AC), the Latins perfected the art of distillation by using vaporization of alcohol to produce a higher alcohol level than the naturally ferminted liquid. In Europe, people generated wine for medicinal purposes and as distillation was perfected it was considered the “extraction of the spirit” of the wine which led to the name “spirits” for distillates. Not only medicine, but also the ancient practice of alchemy evolved from the European orgins of distillation. Alchemy is the science of transforming ordinary metals into gold, but in this case people believed alchemy could apply to alcohol by extracting the essential life force from it’s human shell bringing fourth eternal youth. Of course, today we know the truth is that abuse of alcohol brings fourth childish behavior.

In the process of man seeking eternal youth, the distillation of alcohol continued to be perfected and spirits grew in quality. Probably the first spirit to be taken seriously was Brandy (or Congnac) born of the Cognac region of Western France. People noticed that the spirits responded well to being aged in wooden casks and as the process grew in popularity so did the manufacturing of these wooden casks. Soon Irish and Scottish wiskey began to blossom under a different distilling process, as different regions of Europe each accquired their own unique distilling styles. Over time, many countries have tried to duplicate the Scotch Irish distilling process but their results still can not compare. The difference stems from the use of specially designed kilns where malted grain is dried as well as quality spring water used in the mash base. The distilled grain of cereals also produces other spirits such as Kornschnaps, which are sometimes flavored with berries to produce gin or some of the flavored schnaps we know today.

Spirits are also distilled from many fruits, such as grapes, apricots, plums, pears, peaches, berries … etc … True rum is distilled from ferminted sugar cane juice (but more frequently today we use a molasses based version) while true tequila mostly comes from the ferminted juice of the agave cactus. Where a distilled drinks stops being a spirit and becomes a liqueur is a bit hazy. The main difference is that a liqueur drink it must have some obvious aromatizing element. Some liqueurs have as long a history as the Scotch Irish whiskey, but most notably those produced by the old French monastic orders.

The great cocktail era was born in the 1920’s with the advent of the Jazz Age. As I’m sure you all know, a cocktail is a drink consisting of 2 or more ingredients mixed together by shaking, stirring or blending. In the past, all cocktails had a spirit base and the 5 main spirits that provided the base for a true cocktail were vodka, gin, rum, whiskey or brandy. Nowadays, cocktails may include both wine bases and/or non-alcoholic mixed drinks. The term cocktail is said to be derived from the tale of a bartender who poured left over drinks into a large container in the shape of a cockerel and then serve this mixture from the tap at the tail of the container to the hard up customers who could not afford to buy a pure drink, hence “cocktail”. The term cocktail can be traced back to the 19th century, but it’s true orgin is uncertain.

Two years ago, I got laid off from a job with a Fortune 500 Company facing failure.  My security was ripped away.  With the hard times that had fallen on this country, I took to bartending to make ends meet.  The last time I did this I was much younger and used the money to pay for my college education. It wasn’t an easy transition having sat behind a desk doing financial and admin type work for the last 12 years of my life but at the same time I enjoyed it.  The following is a story from a memorable night early in that second wind career in bartending.  I have since gotten back to what I know best, financial work in the building industry. But, I felt this story, as with many from my bartending era, was a keeper.

“Lemonade or Whiskey Double” by Suz November 19, 2008

Yesterday I saw a horrific car accident in which an elderly couple lost their lives.  Throughout the evening I contemplated the value of life and how truly short it is. That night the bar was slow with only a handful of us to chatter over a few drinks in the lull of at Monday night.  The car accident was a big conversation topic because it was front page news already and everyone knew about it.

I watch one regular customer who shuffles in every time I work.  He’s a well known man about town who once had a lucrative business and several assets.  Hurricane Katrina seemed to have stripped him of all of this as well as his will to live.  Each night that passes he drowns his sorrows and relays the same sob story of how he was once on top of the world with a young bride, fancy cars, multiple homes, a yacht and a valuable reputation.  He seeks sympathy for his losses, mostly bragging about scoring a woman half his age because of his wealth and how she is gone from his life like all of his other possessions.  At first, I sympathized with him… while serving him cocktail after cocktail, whiskey doubles none the less.  Then, after repeated subjection to his tales and indecent proposals I had to express to him that I was growing weary and my patience had run thin because it was ultimately clear that all of his suffering was his choice.  It wasn’t the love lost that bothered him so, but the status of having a trophy wife among his trophies that were lost.  Realistically what he had lost was his soul, long before Katrina.  I explained that he should take Katrina as an awakening, sober up and rebuild his life, and expect from life only what he puts into it… as a real person and not a status symbol.  Sadly, I don’t think he listened… he just started going to another bar where the bartender tells me that she suffers the same agony that I did in dealing with him.  Even more sadly, he doesn’t tip.

Life is what you make it.  Sometimes you are ripped from your comfort zone and you have to find yourself all over again.  The people of this whole area are struggling with that issue ever since hurricane Katrina.  Some show resilience and some end up like good old Mr. Used-to-be-all-that previously described.  Myself, I was to just be Little-Miss-Happy-to-be-Alive.

When Weyco closed down last year I was devastated… and jobless.   I thought it was the dream job because I was comfortable and making good money.  I thought I would never find a job a great as that.  When I sought new employment, I looked at dollar signs… and found a job that paid me a whopping $7 more dollars an hour! I couldn’t believe how much money I would be making.  Surely I had found the key to happiness… financial security.  Just a few months later, I was miserable… answering to 3 foreign bosses and 3 American bosses… which was a total of 6 bosses who contradicted each other and had zero business knowledge.  I managed purchasing, something I had done basically for 6 prior years and sadly, something none of my 6 bosses knew a damn thing about.  Every right move I made was criticized, every instruction I followed was discredited by at least half of my bosses (the half that didn’t instruct), every duty I had to do… I had to do in triplicate, in 3 or more different ways to reach the same result time and time again until everyone was satisfied.  At 6 months, I would wake up dreading my day and usually come home only to feel drained and go to bed early just so I didn’t have to think any more.  As time passed, I often found myself crying through my lunch break because I knew I had to return the office.  Still, some demon inside me said “Press on, you’ll never make this much money again”… but my soul was suffering.  I found myself unable to smile, unable to enjoy my loved ones, even unable to enjoy my dogs.  Launching out at everyone close to me and ultimately depressed and angry at the world.  Then one Friday, as I cried through my lunch, I realized… I didn’t have to live that way.  I wanted my life back.  So I did return to the office, just long enough to pen my letter of resignation and make my exit.  I took back the value of my life! I was free again.

As time passed, I shuffled into the Third Base Bar & Grill and before I finished uttering out  “I need a job…” the owner excitedly said “You’re hired!”.  I was blessed… we were blessed! They needed me as much as I needed them.  The bar had been struggling since Katrina and lost it’s good clientele, suffered an unsavory clientele and had to shut down.  They had just re-opened and were working toward a new success and needed a fresh and friendly face to assist them in their rebuilding process.  For us, it was all about being in the right place at the right time.  It seemed like overnight the bar turned around as I built up a great clientele and the income tripled during my shifts.  I really felt a part of something good as I watched the success of the bar turn around and relished in how grateful and supportive my new bosses were.  My ideas were welcomed and not a day passed that I didn’t get a pat on the back and a “thank you” for a job well done.  Though I was the fresh face there, it was them who gave me the gift of a fresh face for myself.  Outside the fact of earning good cash money and being a part of a successful venture, I received something even more valuable from the job… a new and improved life.  You see, since Katrina I have lost interest in meeting new people or social activity because I was disappointed in my surroundings as a whole.  Bartending pulled me back out of my social shell and gave me back the old Susan.  Once again I was a part of a social scene, making new friends and finding something to smile about… enjoying laughter again on a regular basis… hugging friends new and old… dancing out loud… being myself.

My life has dealt me many bad hands, but I have never lost my ability to prevail.  I just seem to keep turning lemons into lemonade… and the day I lose that ability is the day I will no longer know the value of life.   I pray that day will never come, and I pray that you all can also know the value of your life… it’s short, so when life hands you lemons make lemonade instead of drowning in whiskey doubles and contemplating what could have been… you never know when you may be handed your last glass.