Sweep

“Sweep.” We never enjoyed sweeping. It wasn’t like that was the worst chore in the world but there’s something about it. You know it’s not the most important chore. Anyone can do it and it’s sometimes indicative of a lack of other things to do. And that’s exactly why Amos would say it to us. “Sweep.” You would have thought we would have wanted to sweep. The broom wasn’t just your average, house-hold, Wicked Witch broom. The warehouse broom was one of those wide rectangular, gray, always dirty but always room for more industrial brooms with a long handle. It never left the ground it just moved, advanced slowly forward like a perfectly organized army pushing the enemy back, leaving no trace of a scuffle behind. If it had any weakness it was that it was too large unable to get in every nook and cranny. Perhaps with sheer force you could try and drive and slam it into a corner to get that last bit of dust but usually something was left behind. That broom was patient. It new eventually any dustball would accumulate, growing larger and more vulnerable until one day it had no choice but to come and fight. It was perfect for lining up flush against the bottom of the metal shelves that lined the warehouse aisles. Those aisles were as long as football fields. Eight feet high on either side and then product on the top that would extend for a few more feet. It took years of learning that we don’t remember. Like learning a language we just eventually learned that Keith Clark calendars were in the first aisle closest to the doors that led into the office. Sanford Sharpies and Expresso markers were in the second to last aisle from the opposite wall. That was the aisle that stopped short like a street at a subway track that continued on the other side. But every aisle had the same concrete floor. The same perfect surface for that broom to slide steadily forward. The warehouse was so large in fact that within one aisle you could go from listening to smooth jazz to golden oldies and depending on which aisle you turned to return to the front you might be listening to R&B at the end of one lap.

Amos always listened to jazz. It was the first time I realized you could hook a radio up to an outlet that was controlled by a light switch. Every morning as soon as the light switch was flipped the sounds of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Herbie Hancock and various members of the Marsalis family would fill the warehouse. It wasn’t until Dwight or JC came in a little while later that the other radios would be turned on. For awhile our father had a white guy named Bob who worked there. Bob loved Country music and he was alone in that love. Some of the liveliest debates my brother and I ever heard consisted of why Country music was better or worse than R&B and hip hop. To us the words in both sounded similar. Just a different beat. People singing about love, their momma, their daddy, the woman, the “other” woman, their man,  the “other” man, the “other” man’s woman and occasionally a tractor, pickup or prison.

During the summer the warehouse was infiltrated by a whole different influence. Teachers and nuns. Word spread at our grade school that there was good part time work to be had at my father’s warehouse and so one by one a whole handful of our teachers decided they would make an extra buck by pulling orders at Fountain Pen Supply. You might think this didn’t sit well with my brother and I but we were the second generation of kids from our family who were taught by Ms. Moonis, Ms. Daugherty, Sr. Anne and Sr. Joan.  From the time we could walk we were seeing these ladies at the warehouse in the summer. Working side by side with Amos, Dwight, JC, Henry and for awhile Country Bob. By the time we were old enough to call Ms. Moonis our homeroom teacher we had already worked with her.

During those days we might be assigned any number of tasks and sweeping was just one of them, although we didn’t do it much. Some summer days we would come in and the order pile would be so high we just knew we’d never get to the end of it. I never realized back then what that pile signified. That high stack of papers was the thing that kept the lights on. It was the thing that kept us, and everyone else who worked there, fed. The orders were usually at least a page long if not several. We would dread the size of that pile. They would come out of this large printer that sat near Amos’ desk. The orders themselves came from inside the office. The sales department would input the orders and send them to the warehouse to be pulled. Then Amos would rip them from the printer, tear off the perforated fringes and place them on the pile. It was just a step in the process. Some summer days we would have 10 people in that warehouse pulling orders. We would bring them to the front where Dwight and JC would pack them up and place them on a palate to be shipped out. Every afternoon the outside door to the warehouse would open and the truck drivers would come in and say hey to Dwight, JC and Amos. We loved how animated they were with each other. Like they were seeing a friend they hadn’t seen in years when in reality it had just been 24hrs. They would discuss sports, music and especially women. The first scantily clad picture we ever saw was on the wall of the warehouse bathroom. Some big haired, large breasted tribute to fire fighting if memory serves.

We grew up there. We spent summer days there. Winter snow days playing on the shelves or in the box pile so our parents could be close by and not worry about leaving us at home. We would watch March Madness in that warehouse, everyone checking their brackets and trying to concentrate on work while some Thursday afternoon 15 seed upset a 2 seed.

For awhile the pile was large and we never had time to sweep until every so often we would come in and the pile was smaller and my father seemed more stressed. Then somedays we would come in and there wasn’t a pile. Just a piece of cardboard that would sit at the bottom of the stack and act as a placeholder.

Things were changing then and for better or worse and for whatever reason those days were over. It was those days that we would come in and ask Amos how we could help and he would just say, “Sweep.”

We helped our dad empty that warehouse after he sold everything; the stock, the shelves, the printer, the radios. We helped him sweep it one last time before he shut the lights off.

I’m often reminded of it. Every time I watch.”The Office” I’m reminded of it.

It’s funny I’m not sure how to end this. Guess it just felt like something nice to put out there.

 

 

 

 

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Still waiting…

prospect perkIt was a normal morning a few days ago when we arrived at Prospect Perk. Artie elected to remain outside while I went in for a coffee and a bagel, toasted with cream cheese, and a bowl of water.

When I returned I noticed that Artie had been joined by two young ladies who quickly notified us that one of them was about to go on a date. Apparently any moment a gentlemen, who we’ll call Andrew, would arrive to squire the larger, curly haired girl, who we’ll call Sara, about town. Rarely do we have this much excitement during our morning walks so we quickly joined up as part of the welcoming committee. We learned a great deal about our new friends in the moments leading up to Andrew’s arrival. Andrew worked at the nearby, Wing Wagon on Flatbush just a few short blocks from where we sat. Andrew worked in sales. He was point of sale to use a technical term that I hope won’t alienate any of you. He handled customer service and financial transactions. He answered frequently asked questions like, “What flavor wings do you have?,” and “Can you make an Arnold Palmer?,” as well as, “Do you cater bar mitzvahs?”

Sara was joined by her friend whom we’ll refer to as, Meo Yin. Sara and Meo Yin had just finished spring term at their Connecticut boarding school and Sara was visiting Meo at Meo’s parent’s Park Slope brownstone for an extended weekend. We learned that Sara and Meo had been walking down Flatbush the previous afternoon when they noticed Andrew tidying up a section of the Wing Wagon showroom. Sara then expressed at great length how visually appealing she found Andrew to be.

We asked when realizing that Sara would soon be off with Andrew what Meo had planned for her morning/afternoon? She had after all opened up her home to her boarding school pal who was about to head off for an afternoon of high adventure with Andrew. Meo assured us that she had plenty to busy herself with remarking with a laugh that her “textbooks won’t unpack and organize themselves!” We all agreed they wouldn’t.

A quick clock check revealed that it was now getting on 10:30am and there was an air of slight concern that Andrew was now exactly thirty minutes late. Not exactly indicative of the type of service patrons of the Wing Wagon have come to know and love. The ladies asked if we felt that was a bit odd. We agreed odd wasn’t the word we were thinking of. We then inquired where Andrew lived and the ladies indicated that Andrew lived not far from our neighborhood of Flatbush. Which was an exciting development because now Sara and Meo had some more information to consider. For example, we were able to explain how walking from Flatbush to Park Slope took roughly forty five minutes to an hour. We revealed that by train it took roughly 10 minutes. Although Artie and I were happy to share what knowledge we had of the surrounding territory it seemed only to discourage Sara who realized that it wasn’t that far.

The decision was made that one of us should go down to the Wing Wagon in case Andrew had somehow misunderstood the plan. Meo Yin was elected for several reasons. First of all she was not Sara and her going would seem less pushy. If there was one thing Sara was sure of it was that men didn’t like pushy women. Furthermore, Meo Yin while perhaps not as fleet of foot as Artie or I she possessed the knowledge of what Andrew looked like which was key. As Meo Yin went in search of news, Artie and I began eating the second half of our bagel while Sara explained that Andrew hadn’t thought to text either. She knew this because she was checking her phone regularly, about once every 15 seconds Artie and I later agreed. Apparently, Andrew hadn’t been returning the texts of either young lady and this was cause for further concern.

Meo returned shortly thereafter with little to report.  Apparently the Wing Wagon wasn’t scheduled to open until 11am. It was now 10:45a and Artie and I began to worry that we may be forced to quit the gang. We tried to keep this news to ourselves. We could tell Meo was beginning to think her textbooks would remain disorganized forever. Over the next twenty minutes we filled the time with further texts and discussions of what could have possibly happened to Andrew? Was he harmed? Should we contact the authorities? The MTA?

It wasn’t until 11:15a that someone suggested, I forget who but I think it may have been Artie, that perhaps Andrew wasn’t in danger at all. Perhaps he wasn’t coming. Perhaps he wasn’t interested in Sara. This clearly upset Sara very much. She though it was rude of Artie to insinuate such a thing and became quiet. Meo tried to break the silence with an optimistic comment about how much fun they might have even if Andrew didn’t show but the rift between Artie and Sara was already there and deepening. Her cold shoulder was met by Artie’s silence.

Not wanting to make an uncomfortable situation worse I explained how we really had to be going. Meo was pleasant but Sara struggled to make eye contact with Artie as we stepped off the wooden porch at Prospect Perk. We never did meet Andrew but we made a vow as we left never to frequent Wing Wagon again. Artie doesn’t understand what the big deal is.

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The Formula Scam

We live off the B/Q. Church Avenue is really the closest subway stop but if we ever need to hit Duane Reade or a better grocery store we usually hop out one stop early at Parkside.

I mention this because there is something territorial about your “stop” and I really had no idea how famous my stop was until a recent evening when I was on my way home from work. I had exited the subway at Parkside when I was approached by a gentlemen who needed some help. He explained that his baby was hungry and also had AIDS.

I think it’s important I mention those things in that order because if nothing else it’s just an interesting way of listing your baby’s issues.

1) Hunger

2) AIDS

He didn’t want money. He just needed me to buy a can of baby formula. “That’s it!?” I thought. I can’t tell you how quickly I went from “Get a Job”  mode to “I am saving this child’s life mode.” My skepticism turned into pride so fast I didn’t even notice I missed my stop at Sucker St.

We marched into the bodega where I arrogantly demanded a can of the best baby formula they had. None of that Food Town crap! Don’t you have something made by Godiva back there?!

Apparently, baby formula isn’t cheap. $19 later the man got down on one knee and thanked me as I simultaneously waved him off and looked for strangers to notice my good-deeding.

I skipped home and announced to my wife that there was cause for celebration! I had cured AIDS, fed a baby and remained modest.

It was in the retelling of my samaritan tale that I began to realize how picture perfect  it all had been. Maybe a little too perfect.

I decided to google “baby formula scam” in much the same way I googled Roy Scheider during a recent viewing of, ‘The French Connection’ to figure out if he had done that before or after, ‘Jaws’ and ‘Marathon Man.’

(FYI: ‘The French Connection’ was released in 1971. ‘Jaws’ and ‘Marathon Man’ followed in ’75 and ’76 respectively.)

But unlike Roy Scheider, googling, ‘baby formula scam’ revealed more than I ever imagined. The first listing that came up was:

http://theqatparkside.blogspot.com/2011/02/scam-sandwich.html

That’s correct. The VERY FIRST LISTING was a blog about my train stop being ground zero of the U.S. baby formula trade.

Now I’m quite aware that between Apple, Google and the rest of the internet my location, interests, and frequent searches are all used to prioritize search results.

But still, it was as if the internet was saying,

“So you want to know the definition of sucker?”

Sucker =
IMG_1099
 

Apparently, because baby formula is so expensive there are numerous ways a person, such as the gentlemen I encountered, can acquire a can of Enfamil for $19 and then resell it on the street for say $10 and then retire with a nice chunk of rock candy.

And for anyone else who grew up in a bubble, if you’re like me it took you awhile to grasp that people aren’t getting high off of baby formula.

Also, I’m pretty sure his baby doesn’t have AIDS.

 

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The 11am husbands with dogs and wives with better jobs Prospect Park social group

Are you a married man? Is your wife successful? Do you own a dog? You’re not alone!

IMG_1083Every day married men just like you wake up late, debate getting out of bed and attempt to find inspiration before grabbing their dog and heading for the park. We boast members from all walks of artistic and corporate backgrounds; from a thrash metal guitar player to a former hedge fund manager, we’re all men, we’re all living in our wife’s shadow and we all have dogs!

Take Henry for example. Henry went to Dartmouth. It’s where he met Cindy. After graduation they were married and both went to work. Quickly it became apparent that Cindy was quite literally the “better half.” She made more money at a more prestigious law firm where she traveled constantly and repeatedly received offers for other jobs and freelance work. With Cindy and Henry working all the time they realized that no one was home to watch the dog. It seemed silly to just have a dog walker all the time and since Henry’s position wasn’t really providing that much of an income the decision was made that Henry would remain home and take care of the dog.

But quitting his job and focusing on the dog 24/7 left Henry feeling empty! Surprising I know! But studies show that more and more college educated men are leaving the workforce to stay home with their dogs.

Take a look at this chart!

chart

 

 

 

 

Now imagine that this chart had something to do with dog-owning married men who stay at home? Crazy, right?

And thats where we come in!

“The 11am Husbands with Dogs and Wives with Better Jobs, Prospect Park Social Club.”

Every morning members gather in the park to discuss exciting topics like, “Did you see the game last night?,” & “Your dog sure does eat a lot of dirt!” & everyone’s favorite, “My wife’s in Toronto with that billionaire again.”

It’s every bit as fun as it sounds! So what are you waiting for? The next time you wake up without an alarm at 11am why not grab a tennis ball, a pocket full of treats, your best friend and come on down to the park for,

“The 11am Husbands with Dogs and Wives with Better Jobs Prospect Park Social Club.”

For more information email Matt at 11amhusbandswithdogs&wiveswithbetterjobsprospectparksocialgathering@gmail.com

* Also, the club is currently looking for anyone who knows WordPress as well as anyone who previously worked in advertising who might be able to help with the creation of a new group name.

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A fast and furious round of applause…

6-30-14

“So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”- Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) in Caddyshack

When you’re working as a caddy or a waiter or really any service industry job where sometimes a gratuity is offered I think it’s important to remember that line. Recently, I had my Carl Spackler moment only I didn’t receive total consciousness or enlightenment and the guest wasn’t his holiness the Dali Lama. 

I like to think I received what I can only describe as,”the best tip ever” from an actor who we’ll call, Chin Fiesel. Recently, Mr Fiesel came to the restaurant where I work and threw a graduation party for a younger Fiesel.

It’s important to note that the restaurant where I work, or at least, did work at the typing of this post, often hosts some fairly famous and talented people. Beyonce, Jay-Z, Jimmy Fallon, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, The Cohen Brothers, Frances McDormand, Patrick Stewart, Al Pacino, Lou Reed and Willem Dafoe have all been seen enjoying a meal there. Rarely if ever do any of these people require special attention. Perhaps a table in the corner. Perhaps they don’t have to wait. But nothing out of the ordinary.

It was several days before the event when the restaurant first received word that a celebrity would be joining the party but that we weren’t permitted to know which celebrity because they didn’t want to risk someone releasing the news and creating a panic. The staff was abuzz with anticipation. Was it a politician? Was it a musician? Certainly they must be someone of special magnificence if they required all of this preparation! The guesses started flying in, Billy Joel, Alec Baldwin, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Chris Christie, President Obama!

We prepared the room exactly how they requested. Special dishes for those with dietary restrictions. A special table for the little ones. Decorations were hung. Everything was perfect and then the phone rang… “They’re coming!”

Places! Everyone! Places!

I took my usual spot on the curb outside the restaurant and tried to compose myself as two black Cadillac Escalades arrived. A large gentleman exited the first Escalade, introduced himself and asked if he could see the premises. We did a quick lap and then returned to the curb where he went back to the car to alert everyone that the coast was clear and ready.  My heart beat with excitement.  Which one of my boyhood heroes would we all have the pleasure of serving?

The doors opened.

And out stepped…

Chin Fiesel.

There is an unwritten agreement between VIPs and service industry workers that is constantly broken. The agreement is this: We the service industry professionals agree to roll out the red carpet, provide impeccable service and do everything with a smile. In return we ask that the VIP is, in fact, a very important person.

Watching Chin Fiesel get out of that car was like watching a room full of people ready to yell surprise at a birthday party only to realize it’s just Uncle Dave and everybody can relax and get back into position. “It’s just Chin Fiesel everyone. False alarm. The guest of honor isn’t here yet.”

For the next three hours the general feeling around the restaurant was, “what the fuck?”

But in their defense the party wasn’t, as my boss likes to say, “Hi-May.” They were nice, they were agreeable and I was pretty sure if we played our cards right we all might be in for a very nice gratuity.

And sure enough, it happened…

“Hey everybody! Give it up for Matt, Nick & Jeff!” – Mr. Fiesel yelled as he headed for the door.

Oh there won’t be any money. But when we leave, as we’re exiting, you’ll receive a somewhat sincere round of applause. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.

 

 

 

 

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Poked a Dead Frog

June 29th, 2014

I just finished reading Mike Sacks’ book, “Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers.”  If you have any interest in comedy writing or the people who create, or created funny things, you should go pick up a copy.

It took me roughly two days to read the entire thing and for that I’d like to apologize. To the other three books I have sitting on the night stand. “Mindfullness,” “Paisley Mischief,” & “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” And of course I’d like to apologize once again to the writers, to the contributors, to the creators and to the USPS for not finding the time to finish this week’s issue of, “The Economist.”

The truth is I am enjoying all of these books but there’s just something about reading the insights of successful writers that captures my attention. I wish more than anything that I was one of them. I wish I had the ability to weave words, place prose and avoid alliteration.

Numerous portions of this book stood out for me. As a comedian and someone who fancy themselves a bit of a writer I’m definitely one of those delusional souls who feels these people are speaking directly to me.

What is it about a book that discusses comedy writing that makes me neglect everything else just to finish it?

Obviously, I think I just enjoy the dissection. I’d like to think I’m on the right track with achieving a career that is as gratifying as some of the people interviewed. My only fear is that I’m completely delusional and I should have given this up years ago. Sometimes I wish I had that ability to flip that switch to the off position but so far I just keep plowing ahead, trying to do what so many of the interviewees said and enjoy the process.

 

 

 

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10 years a comedian

I was a production assistant at The Golf Channel (now known as simply, Golf Channel) in Orlando, FL in 2004.  I was in charge of all production aspects of collegiate golf and their long since canceled program, College Central presented by PING. One of my duties was to collect jpeg images of all mascots from any school we covered. Go ahead. Ask me one?

The point is I was bored. I was bored with my work. A few months earlier I had started taking improv at SAK Comedy Lab. I spent the week cutting highlights but my personal highlight happened once a week when I could act like a giant child with the other people in my level one class. I made it through two levels there before meeting this guy in class who did stand up. Secretly I would spend every morning at home watching premium blend and any other comedy central presents special I could find. I knew I always wanted to try. The guy from class, a grisly old Florida circuit comedian told me about an open mic at The Holiday Inn. It was inside the world famous, Why Not Lounge?, in the lobby.

They did it on Tuesdays back then. Not sure if they still do.

In any case I went just to watch. The place was empty that night. The Magic were probably playing but other than that there weren’t any conferences in town I guess because the guy running the open mic did something I still haven’t seen to this day, he was walking around introducing himself and when he discovered that I was watching but sorta kinda wanted to go on, he said, “well we got room!” I had sat down at a table next to do another guy who had the same plan I did. Go in, check it out, leave. But after the host offered us both a spot we looked at each and said, “I’ll do it if you do it.”

That was ten years ago today. Since then I’ve made a lot of friends. Sadly I’ve burned a lot of bridges. I’ve performed all over the world. I’ve been to Afghanistan and I’ve been to Timonium. I’ve performed at my high school and on television. In Seattle and in Denver.

They say it takes a comedian 10-12 years to really find their voice. In which case I’m excited about the future but more than ever I’m aware that this job and this life is all about today.

I wish there was some way I could go back and fix the wrongs. I know I think about them a lot. So if there is anybody out there who reads this today or any day just know I’m aware that I probably could have been a better friend, comedian, partner, employee, laser tag operator.

I guess I’m thanking everyone and no one in particular. I love doing stand up comedy and regardless of what the future holds I just want anyone reading this to know that stand up can be a lonely profession but I wouldn’t have made it this far without you.

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Artie & Us

My wife and I were having dinner last Friday night at a place called Arturo’s on Houston.  We were celebrating a recent career victory with some pizza at one of the tables on the sidewalk. Arturo’s is a great place for people watching even if it is on a street as busy as Houston. Which, by the way, is pronounced HOW-STUN not HUE-STON. Just in case you’re ever in New York.  I still get made fun of for calling La Brea Blvd in LA La Bre. Haha, inside humor is the best.

As we dined a woman from inside the restaurant was approached by another woman who was walking three small dogs.  One incredibly shy little white dog who hid most of the time behind the walker, one dog who was most aptly described as the just right dog of the bunch and then one little personable fellow who was covered in short shaggy sandy brown hair.

artie day 1

 

My wife and I have always discussed getting a dog.  She has always been more of a small dog person whereas I grew up with big dogs. Honestly I’ve always sort of disliked little dogs. They yap. They don’t bark. They are owned by people like Paris Hilton. They seem to have no concept of how small they are. They sometimes walk with an arrogance that doesn’t match well with their size.  People carry them in bags. Dogs should be big and loud and eat noisely and rescue firemen and pull sleds.  Leave the small proper living to cats.

One of the best dogs I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing was a Bernese Mountain Dog named Teddy.  Teddy entered my life when I was in grade school.  A friend of my sister’s was living in a studio apartment in New York, no less, with this behemoth of a creature. I guess Miguel couldn’t handle the dog anymore so he asked around and found my sister who said that her parents had a place in Maryland and would take the dog if he didn’t mind driving the dog down.  Miguel never even shut the engine off in the car. He got out. Teddy lept out and began running around his new home. Miguel meanwhile let his car run despite joining us for dinner. I learned two things that day. 1) Big dogs need room to run. 2) If you’re going to have a dog in New York City, best to get a small dog.

And so it was that we were sitting at Arturo’s when Molly Malone and her three dogs walked by. We overheard her say to the woman from Arturo’s that she still hadn’t found a home for one of the dogs.  As they said goodbye she passed our table and asked, half-joking, if we were in the market for a dog.  We both smiled and said yes.  They walked over and we learned that the shy white dog and the medium dog were both hers but that the third dog, Pedro Martinez, was looking for a home.  He was a rescue from the beaches of Rincon, Puerto Rico.

We exchanged info and said that we would think about it. We smiled alot during the rest of the dinner.  We discussed what it would mean.  Were we allowed to have a dog in our building? Maybe. How do you get a dog home to Brooklyn from Manhattan? Bag. Where do you buy food and supplies at 6pm on a Friday? Across the street.

I had always said to my wife that if we got a litle dog I would want it to be a big dog in a little dog’s body.  No yappers.  No cutesy little bags or booties.  No sweaters. I want a dog.  And up walked Pedro Martinez.

Should we get a dog? Yes.

And just like that I pulled out Molly’s number and called her.  She was understandably shocked. But then again I don’t know how people usually go about getting a dog. In our case we went to dinner and when the check came we had purchased a dog a la carte.

Before Molly had a chance to bring him back down we were discussing names and we threw a few back and forth before looking up at the awning above the restaurant. Arturo’s. Artie for short.

 

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Tales from the Road

My car has satellite radio and among the many channels they offer (Howard Stern, ESPN, CNN, Playboy, Book Radio) there is one that tugs at a certain set of heart strings.  The Grateful Dead Channel.  Typically the channel plays cuts from the bands albums and other solo efforts (too much Ace if you ask me) not to mention a large and welcome selection of live concerts from the band’s archive.

But on Sunday afternoons the music does in fact stop for a few hours while the hosts of “Tales from the Road” take to the air and to the phones to share stories and answer questions about the band.  Many Deadheads will phone in to share their version of what happened on some night on some tour many years ago.

Last week I was performing in Indianapolis, IN.  It was Jan 6th and I was driving home from Indiana.  My Baltimore Ravens had just defeated the Indianapolis Colts and the following game between the Washington Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks had begun.  And it was then that I thought of my, “Tale from the Road.”

While the Redskins now play in some new stadium, whose name escapes me, they used to play in a large bowl of dark red and bright gold called RFK Stadium.  It was a behemoth of a place.  It was one of those old places where when the crowd really got into the event they were watching the place literally and I do mean LITERALLY, shook.

And on one June night in 1993 I felt it shake for the first time.  I was 14.  And my brother Nick, my cousin Dave and our friend PJ were all around the same age.  13,14, 15.

Now to most Dead aficionados 90s Dead wasn’t a great time in the band’s history.  It was in fact the end of the Dead’s run as they are most favorably remembered.  A lot of people like to use the word autopilot to describe their ability to go, deliver something and get paid.  A lot of people feel that 90s Dead lacks the feel and the exploration that early versions possessed.  The relevance and defining nature of the 60s.  The improvisation of the 70s.  The recovery and I will survive attitude of the 80s.  Whereas the 90s felt to some as if the band was playing on borrowed time.  And by 1995 they realized that the trip would have to come to end for some.

But for 4 young teenagers in 1993 the Dead represented something.  :)  What that is I don’t know even as I write this but I’m going to try my best to explain it.  It meant friendship.  It meant a phone call from my cousin Dave to Nick and I where he said, “My brother Scott is going to take PJ and I to see the Grateful Dead.  Do you guys want to go?”

I can still remember it.  Hearing The Grateful Dead and going to see them are two VERY different experiences.  The Dead are, like or not, a characiture of themselves.  They are an alien come to life.  They are a fire-breathing dragon.  They are a band that in a sense when described seem like something that didn’t ever exist but it would be great if it had.  They always struck me as band that might play a few nights at the cantina in Star Wars.  They would show up around a fire in Rivendell.  But they did exist.  And maybe it sounds silly to any adult reading this now but for teenagers who have finally realized the true score with regards to life sometimes the first thing you want to do is slip back into fantasy.  Go on an adventure.

Like most things growing up our mom was more hesitant than her older sister.  Beginning with R rated movies and toy gun purchases my aunt and uncle were definitely of the mind that we’ll give the kids something and let them make a choice as of what to do with it.  But on this occasion for reasons I still don’t quite understand, maybe it was the presence of an older (see: less responsible) cousin we would be safe driving to RFK stadium and watching the band that created the soundtrack to the acid tests.  She said ok.  And with that we were off.  I’ll admit here that I’ve always been the one who hasn’t minded when his mom stepped in.  I was the Jerry O’Connell of our group.  PJ was the Corey Feldman.  Dave was River Phoenix.  Nick was Richard Dreyfuss or whatever the name was of the kid who played the main kid.  The writer.

So I guess it way when Nick asked my mom if we could go there may have been a part of me that was hesitant.  But she said yes and off we went.  Dave’s older cousin Scott was going to drive.  So we pilled into his car with a friend of his and set off for D.C.

I’m not sure when we got lost but the first adventure was going into a fast food restaurant with a glass partition on the counter.  The one great thing about RFK is the disparity between life outside the parking lot and life inside the lot.  Life outside the lot is the reality.  It’s hard working people waiting for the bus.  Making minimum wage.  Dealing with crime.  Living for family and for God and in hopes of a better lot, so to speak.

Inside, particularly when the Dead come to town, it is a carnival.  I’ve never been to Jimmy Buffett there, or to Aeromsith or anybody else for that matter but although these bands have slightly different experiences inside the lot, the scene is always a far cry from whats happening outside.

Fortunately for 6 suburban white kids we didn’t encounter too much of a problem getting turned around.  Before we knew it we were entering the lot and the carnival had begun.  Car after wagon after bus parked bumper to bumper.  People of all shapes and sizes walking in a seemingly endless web of indirection.  Everything seemed like it was for sale, grilled cheese, pot, veggie burritos, mushrooms, ganja gooballs, acid, heady this, heady that, glass ware, t-shirts, the list goes on and on and on.

I remember running into undercover cops who thought some gum I ate was acid.  After they realized I was in fact telling the truth they left only to be surrounded by older Deadheads who wanted to tell me how “fucked up” Narcs are.  I tried to explain I just wanted some gum.

Truth be told I know the stigma is that drugs would be a huge part of this experience but thats not my memory.  My memory is the scene and our reaction to it.  The happiness people seemed to possess.  The shared experience of car after car being a meeting point for friends, old and new to hang out and talk about the music that they enjoyed.

At 14 I was a Dead novice in my opinion.  When the band began that night and the first few chords of Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo began I had never heard it before and to this day it is still my favorite dead song.  Which is a difficult statement for any fan to make.  (Runner up: Ramble On Rose).

But more than anything I remember PJ.  And I remember Nick.  And I remember Dave.  I remember that day more than any other of my teenage years because of who I was there with.

It’s January 8th, 2013 and it’s been almost a year since we lost PJ.  I tried last year to write about him and it just came up feeling wrong I guess.  But it felt right this time to write it down.  If I write anything down in my life I feel like it’s important to write it down and say how much I miss him and what he meant to me and our group of friends.

PJ was a person who I loved being around when it was just our group.  But I remember other people being overwhelmed by him.  So for that reason I always valued the time when I could just talk to him one on one.  I could listen about his life.  His sister’s kids or just anything that was happening that he was going through.  I was always surprised I feel like by how much he loved our family too.  How much he cared about what we were doing and how firmly believed in what we were doing and how successfull we would be at it.  It’s not often in life you have friends who strip away all the bullshit and level with you like that and I miss his honesty.

I was contemplating calling into the show on Sunday, to share my story about why the Dead will always be my favorite group but I decided to just listen instead and share it here.  Hope you enjoyed it!

 

 

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The Reading from Megan and Bret’s Wedding

Last Friday, June 29th, 2011, my cousin Bret married his long time girlfriend Megan in Philadelphia.

They asked me to do a reading at the ceremony but they requested that it be something a little bit different than the normal.

This is what I came up with…

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Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Love will keep us together.

Over the years Bret and Megan have had some help interpreting love thanks to some pretty famous people.

Defining love usually begins with a question.

What is love?  Who do you love?  Is this Love? Could you be loved?  Don’t you want somebody to love?

Hello, I love you… won’t you tell me your name?  Could it be I’m falling in Love?  Can you feel the love the tonight?  Why do fools fall in love?

Have I told you lately, that I love you?

Questioning love leads to thinking you know all about love…

Thanks to Huey Lewis and the News we know that the power of love is a curious thing.

You can’t buy me love.  Apparently in Jamaica there is only one love.  Stephen Stills suggested that when all else fails it’s okay to love the one you’re with.

Stop!  In the name of love.

Love can happen in an elevator.

Love is a battlefield.  Which is why and I could be wrong here but thats why we have Radar Love.

Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs.  And really, what’s wrong with that?  I’d like to know.

You’re nobody till somebody loves you.  But not to worry because everybody loves somebody sometime and the truth is you can’t hurry love.  Which admittedly is a little worisome when you consider that all you need is love.

But more than anything, love is personal.

It is requests:  Love me tender.  Love me Do.  Turn on your love light.  I want a whole lotta love.

It is exclamations:  How sweet it is to be loved by you.! I will always love you!  I would do anything for love! Oh, but I won’t do that.  I can’t help falling in love with you.  I can’t get enough of your love baby.

The truth is we’re all looking for an endless love and with a little luck in the end she loves you, yeah yeah yeah.

Oh and P.S…. I Love You.

When I spoke to Bret and Megan about their wedding they mentioned how they wanted it to be a unique event that touched on who they are and the things they share together as a couple.  And so in closing I wanted to mention a few lines from movies that capture what their love is all about.

“Smiling is my favorite. You make me smile. That makes you my favorite.” (Elf)

“In my opinion the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are.  Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out of your ass.  That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.” (Juno)

“Look I guarantee there’ll be tough times.  But I also guarantee that if I don’t ask you to be mine, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life, because I know, in my heart, you’re the only one for me.” (Runaway Bride)

“I’ve been doing some thinking and the thing is, I love you.  I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” (When Harry Met Sally)

 

 

 

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