Monday, February 20, 2012

How NOT To Raise a Kid

I am a father. My son is quite a talented artist. Now 17 and a Junior in a magnet arts high school, his future is bright. His mom and I have done whatever we could to nurture and encourage this talent.

‘Encourage’ is the key word.

Last Sunday I went over to Winter Park Golf Club to play nine holes. I was on the first tee warming up when a father and son walked up to the tee and asked if they could join me. I said sure. The boy was 10 years old, dressed impeccably, sporting a fine set of fitted clubs, Nike golf bag and hat. Dad wasn’t playing. I hit my drive then stood to the side awaiting the kid’s shot. The dad started – “Now remember what the pro told you…” The boy hit his drive a little fat, about 100 yards. The father, “That was terrible. Hit another one.” The boy re-hit and it was a much better shot.

As we walked down the first fairway we made our introductions. John and John Jr. The dad was friendly towards me, but a drill sergeant towards his son. The boy missed the green with his approach shot – the dad remarked, “Is this what I am paying for lessons for?!? Jeez.”

This went on for the balance of the round. The boy walked along from shot to shot with the dad chirping in his ear. The boy never said a word – head down, determined. He didn’t look like he was having any kind of fun.

On the fourth hole the boy bladed a chip shot across the green. The dad berated him. I then followed suit with my chip shot, also blading it across the green – “Looks like my son is wearing off on you.” I demurred, saying oh no. It was a tough shot, and just because I was getting a little tired of the dad’s boorish behavior, added, “And so was his.” I was walking a fine line, as I never tell anyone how to raise their kid, because surely I would be offended if someone tried to tell me how to raise mine. But it was apparent this guy didn’t have any idea how tough this game is.

He also has no clue on how to raise a kid.

On the seventh tee, while the kid was hitting hit drive, I said to the dad, looks like he has had some lessons. The dad said oh hell yes. He’s been to the David Leadbetter academy, and is presently working with the pro at their home club. He also made it clear to me that this kid is his (the dad’s) ticket to scholarships and the easy life. He is living vicariously through his kid. It is sad. And it is wrong.

Walking down the last hole, I finally had a moment alone with the kid. I asked him, “So, are you going to play on the PGA Tour?” His reply, without hesitation, “Of course.”

Yeah, well if he doesn’t end up hating both the game and his dad before he’s 16.

Seeing my opening, I told him, “Hey, remember. It’s a game. You’re supposed to have fun.”

We putted out on the last hole, and in typical professional fashion, the boy came over to me, took his cap off, shook my hand and said, “It was a pleasure playing with you sir.” I lightly chuckled at the kid’s decorum beyond his years and said, “You too, John. Keep having fun” and shot a look at his dad. Heading to my car, I said to both of them, “Have a good evening” to which the dad replied, “Oh we aren’t done yet. We have more stuff to work on.” and marched the kid back to the first tee.

Legend has it that Tiger Woods’ dad was quite demanding on him. Earl Woods would try to mentally strengthen young Tiger by coughing in his backswing or challenging him all the time. Obviously, it worked. He developed one of the greatest players of all time. But I just cannot imagine Earl berating a young Tiger…especially in front of strangers. Tiger speaks very fondly of his dad, and that hug they had after he won the 1997 Masters seems to indicate Tiger appreciated what Earl did for him.

I am not picturing such fondness between John and John Jr.

As I mentioned at the start, my son Nick is a talented artist. I think he will go far with this talent. Now, I am far from an ideal father, but I cannot ever imagine looking at one of his drawings and saying something along the lines of ‘Jeez this is crap. That’s the best you can do? Get back to your easel.’

And that’s why Nick loves his dad.

And why John Jr. will end up hating his.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Advice to the Class of 2012

I remember many moons ago in the summer of 1981, fresh out of college, living in Houston, Texas. I graduated with my Bachelors degree in May and two months later I moved from northeast Ohio to Houston. To get a job. Northeast Ohio was going through a very hard and deep recession, and my guidance counselor had one word of advice: Leave. I was 22 years old, very full and very sure of myself. I was ready to unleash my awesomeness on the world.

So I went to Boomtown. I was there for maybe two weeks, when I read an article from Lynn Ashby, a columnist for The Houston Chronicle. Somewhere I still have it – it was titled, ‘To The Class of 1981: We Don’t Need You.’


That really pissed me off. Don’t need me? How DARE you! You obviously do not know who I am!

Yeah. They knew exactly who I was. Mr. Ashby’s point was, we are doing quite fine, thank you, and do not expect to wow us with your presence. Part of that was a Texas attitude thing as they were facing thousands of transplants (like me) invading their city with the idea that we were gonna show them how things were done. It was his reminder that they didn’t need saving, and certainly not from some 22-year old punk with a freshly minted Business degree from a state college in Ohio.

Now, Mr. Ashby stated his view rather inartfully, but there was an underlying truth to it. And it is a piece of advice that now, over thirty years later, I am ready to pass on to the next crop of college graduates. It is this:

We are doing quite fine, thank you.

That is not to say we don’t need you. We do. We need you to do the crap work we had to do when we had no real-world relevance. But that is just the way things are. We are not impressed with college degrees with the only relevant experience attached to it was as a lab assistant in your Psych 101 class. College is not real life. And many would say college does a poor job for preparation of real life. I agree. Because that’s not college’s job. Their job is to educate you, but you still have to learn how to wash whites separately, eat on $25 a week, and learn your place in the work arena.

And that place is the bottom of the totem pole. Where we once were.

Grads, there’s no shortcut. No secret handshake that, once learned, gets you a corner office and an executive assistant. You are not going to make six figures by your second year of gracing yourself with your presence. We may, if we like you and the job you do, decide to keep you around for awhile.

We need the comedic relief anyway.

You can also dispense with sucking up to the boss, because he (or she) is very ‘hep to that. Because we did that too. Want to impress the boss? Work until 8pm a few nights to beat a deadline by three days. Forego a Saturday afternoon of beer pong and log some desk time so you can have that proposal sitting on her desk when she comes in Monday morning. Ask coworkers if they need help on a project. Make yourself invaluable though hard work and being there. You will get noticed. Even when you think you’re not…because people are watching you. So make sure you’re being watched for the right reasons.

Don’t want to do that? Well, the world needs ditch diggers too.

Some will say that’s harsh. Yes it is. But that’s business, and business is harsh.

So just remember – we’ve been here a while and, more importantly, have been where you are (or about to be). But also remember this – It’s not personal. We like you. You remind us of what we once were. So realize that you do not possess anything we do not already have other than youthful hubris. You represent fresh blood, an (hopefully) open mind, and lots of energy ready to be exploited. That’s what you bring to the work arena.

But Lynn Ashby was right.

We don’t need you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I Like

So I have been writing a lot lately about music. Old music. 60’s and 70’s stuff. What’s good, what’s overrated, what should be avoided like I-4 at rush hour. That era represents my formative years when I was morphing from nerdy loner kid to geeky teenager to well, a nerdy loner geeky adult. So that era has an impact with me. I am also writing this with the sad realization that I only knew one of the bands nominated for best Rock Band at this year’s Grammys. Fortunately, it was the winner, Foo Fighters.
Therefore I am sure that some (certainly not many) may have concluded I am an old fogey that longs for the days when Foghat opened for Thin Lizzy at the Hollywood Sportatorium.
Not really. Cuz Foghat sucked.
But besides that. Some may believe that I think today’s music is a bunch of pubescent crap. Well, yeah. Some is. Case in point – I would be totally fine if Blink 182 broke up and never produced another whiny note. They’re the Foghat of the new millennium. Annoying. And it has now been twenty years since Grunge hit the scene, so that is also music of another generation. So I cannot say in good conscience that Alice In Chains is new music. I like the Chains, but they’re yesterday’s news.
So it’s time to get with the new century. There are a number of new bands (meaning, the last 10 years, so don’t give me that 2002 was a long time ago, mmmmkay?) that I really like. Their music has depth, meaning. And they can shake a coat of paint off the side of the house. So here are three ‘new’ bands that I totally dig, and thanks to their presence on the scene, will keep things fresh while still honoring where they came from -
Angst in a nutshell. Lead singer Pete Loeffler can lay down a whine but he’s not a pussy. He’s not looking for sympathy. He’s looking for a party. And the platform that his vocals are built upon is pure rock power chords –

Deep Purple could do that. Chevelle takes what the greats before them gave them and spiffs it up into a nice, new millennium mosh pit.
System Of A Down
Music for ADHD victims. Their songs are a panoply of, here we are…NO we’re now over here…FOOLED ya…we are now in left field intercourse. This is not music for the masses. Some of their stuff will leave you with a migraine, including this one –

You’re heading to the medicine cabinet looking for the Tylenol, aren’t ya. They scream, they have unintelligible passages, but unlike the Death Metal genre, they come back to a melody. C’mon now, you know you were swaying to the ‘Everybody’s gone to the party have a real good time’ part weren’t ya?
Sure you were.
The Raconteurs
Okay, this is for you, Dawn. But I like the Racs. I like any of the stuff Jack White is a part of. He’s got charisma and stage presence. And they have wonderfully crafted songs that are just a little off-kilter to keep you interested. That’s okay. Steady as she goes –

Now sure. I have other new bands I like as well. Case in point - The Strokes, Five Finger Death Punch, Puddle of Mudd to name a few. The sum total of these bands and their works has me feeling good about where 'new rock' is heading.

Just please. Don't ever resort to hair spray and spandex. One era of Cinderella was enough.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Guilty Pleasures

We all have them. And I got mine.

Now sure. Some of a more prurient nature that I won’t get into here, and please, keep yours to yourself too (unless I am part of them). But we all have those things we do that, deep down, we are not really proud of, as we feel if they were found out it would somehow lessen how people view us.

Well, I am getting too old to care about such fronts. I yam what I yam. And here are a few of my guilty pleasures that may make you view me differently. I’m ready for the fallout.

Cici’s Pizza

Being half Italian, I may get disowned for this. Some of my more distant ancestors would likely give me a Youngstown Tuneup over the revelation that I occasionally frequent a place where their ‘Italian food’ as about as Italian as French Fries are French.

Sue me.

I subscribe to the theory that pizza is like sex - when it's good it's very good, and when it's's still pretty good.

C’mon $5.99 for all the pizza, pasta, salad, breadsticks I can eat? So what if it’s pimply teenagers making the pies instead of Mario? And so what if it’s not authentic? It tastes pretty good and there’s plenty of it. Look, there’s a half zillion pizza joints in this town, and if I wanna go plunk down twenty bucks so some sweaty Vito makes me a triple meat authentic pie I can. And I do. But more often than not I cruise over to Cici’s for a nice thirty minutes of shoving as many types of kind of okay pizzas as I can into my mouth.

And the coup de grace with Cici's is two words:

Dessert pizza.

I rest my case.


Techno Music

This is definitely going to get me branded as a hypocrite, given the tomes of stories I have written about rock music, what bands rock and which ones are lame-o-matic. I have certainly set myself up for criticism as I have painted myself as a Rock Snob.

Well, I am. When it comes to rock I like to think I have high standards and a discernment over what has integrity/talent and what sucks canal water.

Fortunately Techno isn’t Rock. It’s my diversion from it. And yes, I know it is a manufactured sound, something concocted in a studio replete with over-dubs, drum tracks and synthesizers. Something that cannot be duplicated on stage, but only on a computer.

But I loves me some FatBoy Slim. And Crystal Method.



Celebrity Apprentice

Donald Trump is a major assbag. A tool of the highest degree. But for some reason I get a vicarious kick out of watching celebrities chuck each other under the tires in the boardroom, trying to permanently attach their lips to The Donald’s backside. I don’t give a damn about the first 90 minutes of the show, but I must tune in to see if Dionne Warwick or Gary Busey goes sideways. The last half hour is must-see trash TV.

Plus Ivanka is smoking hot.


Wal Mart Socks

Actually, lemme alter that. Wal Mart undergarments. No wait – stuff from Wal Mart.

Seems like whenever I go to Wal Mart I check out with a typical Wal Mart slate of purchases: Fruit of the Loom underwear, orange juice, motor oil, an Alumina-wallet, some crappy DVD from the three-dollar bin, plums, Q-tips.

And socks. I don’t know who George is, but he makes good socks. Three pair for 8 bucks. Unless they got the price slash thing going on, when I can score three pair for 6 bucks. I’m talking argyle, reinforced heel and toe, office attire sock that I gladly wear under my $300 suit for special work occasions, like preventing unemployment or sucking up to the boss.

If he only knew.

But then again, now he does.