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Chasing The American Dream

September 30, 2005


Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
Lyrics by Bob Dylan, 1964.

Observation after watching the PBS Bob Dylan special.

September 25, 2005


Lately, I’ve been waffling back and forth with a couple of questions. Am I going to be OK and comfortable within myself if I spend the rest of my life alone, and what kind of ending will I use to finish my book? I think the two questions are related. I made a decision about the book, ending a long time ago, but I may change my mind. “Why,” you ask?

Well, my inner circle has told me if you want a successful book and movie, no one wants a sad, depressing ending. I thought about that. I thought of people walking out of the theater disappointed with the sad ending. I wanted the book/movie to be real and reflect reality. So I thought of how I could lighten it up a little and still make it real. I figured it out and changed the ending. But now I, as I said, I’m rethinking that decision.

I just saw the movie, Lost In Translation. Like Garden State, it was a “Todd” movie. Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) are lost with their lives and relationships. They meet by chance in Tokyo. Despite their age difference, there is immediate chemistry. The audience feels the love between them although the characters never talk about it. Their bond grows stronger and you can’t help but root that the two of them will end up with each other. My heart tugged for them. I could have easily been Bill Murray. Sofia Coppola does a great job in keeping us guessing. Will they or won’t they? I’m sure most people have seen this movie by now, but for those who have not, don’t read any further or I’ll spoil the ending for you.

Happiness. Finding “The One.” Bob and Charlotte had it right in front of them; they had a grasp of it, but they couldn’t hang onto it. I’ve been there before. And like the movie ending, I’ve walked away empty-handed. But the ending worked. It ripped my heart out, but it worked. That’s why I’m rethinking the ending. "Lost" was real, it was rough, it was sad, but it worked.

I think I can live my life alone now. I’m comfortable with myself and realize that if I don’t find “her” all will not be lost. But then I see movies like “Lost” and it really makes me question my self-confidence. I guess the thing is, finding “her” and ending the chase would enrich my life tremendously and fulfill me to no end. But if I don’t, I’ll make the best out of my life and be happy with cards dealt to me. I guess Bob was thinking something along those lines, too.

September 23, 2005


Been a hectic week. 12-hour days at work leaves me not much time to write. A couple of thoughts hit me this week. First, my commute to work is 40 miles and takes me 90 minutes. Bumper-to-bumper highway traffic. Accidents everywhere. Rain is an added 30 minutes. So with all this traffic, why do cops play the “hide and seek” game? Yeah, this makes sense. They try to conceal themselves around corners and in between overpasses. They’ve got their radar guns poised. Their goal obviously is to catch speeders. But hey, isn’t it rush hour? I mean how many friggin people can speed in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Oh sure there are a few stretches along my route where I can speed, but the opportunities are so few and far between. Yet these cops sit and wait for us and then, goodie for them. They catch one of us frustrated drivers and lo and behold, the siren goes on and they pull the car over and create yet another traffic jam mess because everyone has to slow down and avoid the situation. I see this all the time. It just makes me wonder where is the sense in any of this?

Last night, I worked darn near until 11 p.m. I wish like hell I actually liked my profession. But to me, it’s so damn boring and uninteresting. My job is to basically make sure people are doing their jobs correctly in accordance with established Accounting policies and procedures. Yawn. I really envy the people I’ve worked with over the years who live for this shit. They can talk and talk for days about work. Wow, internal controls! How interesting! Amazingly, I have little to no interest in what I do yet I’ve been doing this for 17 years now. Can you believe that? I think I need to have my head examined. Oh I forgot. I already did that last year.

I love my new boss. He’s very fair, easy-going, and funny. He too is into his/our work. He got on a roll last night. It was 10 pm and these thoughts just kept rolling off his tongue. I sat there half-glazed, or more likely it was ¾ glazed, thinking to myself wondering how anyone could be so into this crap? By 10 pm, my brain is mush and all I’m thinking about is what I’m going to eat for dinner and what’s on TV. It’s like my brain cannot handle another work thought. Yet I think my boss could have free-wheeled it for another two hours had I not started packing up my stuff. I sure hope I catch a break one of these days and get a book deal. I think I’d devote the rest of my career to writing and taking classes on how to improve my writing. Wow, I could be just like my boss, crazy about what I do for a living. That for me would be a first.

P.S. Once again to all my Texas bloggers, be safe out there.

September 19, 2005


Here we go again. The hurricane watches are already up. Incredible.

P.S. Sorry, I had to add word verification to keep spammers away.

September 15, 2005


What makes a king out of a slave? What makes the flag on the mast to wave? What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? What makes the dawn come up like thunder? What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?

That’s right. We all know the answer. Say it with me just like Burt Lahr would have. “Courage.” A new reader of my blog wrote me an email and it got me thinking. I’ve been blogging for 10 months now. I look over at those counters in amazement. It’s not really the 65,000 hits that gets to me, but more so the nearly 20,000 times people have actually read these posts. People have written me and I’ve certainly read it on some of your blogs, but I guess I finally realize that it does takes courage to put yourself out there, and write about yourself, and open yourself up to an endless amount of criticism. But we all take that risk. We take that risk whether we blog, write reply comments, or email the blogger privately. I think all these cases require a certain amount of courage. We all write and we’re all subject to one of the things I think all of us fear most in life, criticism. I’ve had my share here. Most of it has been constructive, but occasionally it’s been distasteful. But it certainly hasn’t been as severe as it often is over at Greek Tragedy. But everyone’s got an opinion and I’m willing to air everyone’s opinion.

I know this blog and what I write about can be mundane, smarmy, inconsequential, and repetitive. But I guess that’s who I am. Writing for me is a release. It’s a release of my frustrations, it empties my brain, it gives me the chance to be creative, it gives me the chance at sometimes making people smile. Honestly, I don’t claim to be a good writer. I think I’m more of a reporter, a conversationalist who happens to put silly streams of consciousness to words. But for me, it’s liberating. I enjoy it. People write to me and ask me how I can be so open and honest about my numerous imperfections? I don’t really know the answer. It’s who I am, and I guess I want people to know me as I am no matter how embarrassing it might be.

I’m very happy out here in the blogosphere. I can’t believe I’ve “met” so many great people. You guys know who you are. I guess all of us have this common bond of courage. Keep blogging, keep reading, and keep your opinions coming. Oh dear, I’ve just reread this. Talk about smarmy!

September 14, 2005


photo courtesy of foofighters.com

While contemplating whether or not to buy tickets to the Foo Fighters/Weezer concert, my good friend just happened to ask me if I’d like some luxury suite tickets to the event? Well who am I to argue? So I hob-knobbed it with the Rich & Famous, or maybe more accurately stated, the Rich & Famous’ kids along with some 20,000 other screaming, dancing, moshing, body surfing concert goers.

Row 1, Seat 1, soft cushy chair and an unobstructed view albeit a fair distance away from the stage. Not too shabby. I shouldn’t have had dinner beforehand either because there was a huge food buffet with everything imaginable from carved roast beef and turkey to penne and meatballs to salads, soups, pizza, chicken wings, and even desserts. All I could muster was this double chocolate chip brownie thing that melted in my mouth. Divine. But here were to talk music, right?

I expected Weezer to hit the stage around 7 p.m., but an opening band actually preceded them. And wow, they were really good! They called themselves Mae. They’ve got a couple of CDs out. Give them a listen too; you won’t be disappointed.

Weezer came on around 8 p.m. to the strange intro music of Disney’s, When You Wish Upon a Star. I mean, it was Jimminy Cricket singing and everything. The only thing I could think of was that Weezer is from Orlando and Disneyworld heaven. As I listened to lead singer Rivers Cuomo sing the opening song, Don’t Let Go, he sounded somewhat similar to Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabbas. Weezer’s got a nice sound and a bit of everything really. Rock, Indie rock, alternative, and even some acoustic. I also liked the fact that each band member sang lead on at least one song showing the group’s versatility. They played current radio favorite, Beverly Hills, and other hits including Say It Ain’t So, Hash Pipe, Undone, and my personal favorite, Buddy Holly. Like Green Day, they invited an audience member to come onstage and play guitar much to the crowd’s delight. Overall, it was a nice performance for an ‘opening band.’ I give them a lot of credit. They played for well over an hour to a less than enthusiastic crowd who, as seems to be the norm, save all their energy for the main act.

Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters came charging onstage around 9:40 p.m., and I think I lost my hearing around 9:41. In fact, my ears are still ringing three days later. This was clearly the loudest band I’d heard in a long time. And out amping Green Day is saying something. Dave literally screamed his ass off during the opening two songs. I’m told the first song was the title track to their new CD, In Your Honor, but about the only lyrics I could make out were, “I would die for you tonight.” I’m truly amazed at how he can scream so loudly yet maintain his ability to actually sing on key or have any voice at all for that matter.

As I looked around, I noticed amps piled haphazardly on the stage. Three odd-shaped video screens and an elaborate lighting and laser console hovered above the stage. The lighting was pretty spectacular along with the slime-green lasers. Dress code was, of course, on the grunge side. Black tee-shirts and jeans the norm for most of the band.

Dave introduced himself as “your new friend Dave” and encouraged the crowd to sing along to the next two familiar songs, My Hero and Best of You. He took time out to address the crowd and told us it had been five years since FFs had played in Florida. He apologized and told us, “it would NOT be another five. Four-and-a-half maybe, but not five.” One thing’s for sure, the man has no qualms about throwing out the four-letter words. Every sentence was littered with F-bombs and S-bombs. I’m sure parents in the audience cringed. He also told us that he had a small family, but pointed out that some of them lived right here in Ft. Lauderdale. He dedicated the next song, a ballad, to them. After it was over, Dave said, “Alright. Enough of that sensitive bullshit, I feel like screaming my ass off!”

And so he did. The band played familiar tunes such as This is a Call, Learn to Fly, and Times Like These. They also sang CCR’s Born On the Bayou, a reprise of their tribute to Hurricane Katrina sufferers sung the previous night on the Hurricane Aid concert. Interesting, or maybe not so much, tidbit about Times Like These. I’ve got a chapter in my book with the same title. The chapter reflects the lyrics of the song during a low point in my life. “I, I’m a little divided. Do I stay or run away, leave it all behind? It’s times like these you learn to live again. It’s times like these you give and give again. It’s times like these you learn to love again, it’s times like these time and time again.”

Comically for me, the concert ended as it had begun. Electric guitars and bass were blasting and Dave was screaming some unintelligible (to me) lyrics during the encore’s last song. Foo Fighters sure played their guts out for the zany crowd during the 90-minute performance. Dave Grohl admitted he’s gettin’ on up there at age 36. But you’d never have guessed it having observed that performance. It’s obvious to me that his days with former band Nirvana and Kurt Cobain have not been forgotten. He sings with a similar passion and spirit as his ex-bandmate once did in his heyday. I’m sure Kurt’s very proud of him.

What a great Summer concert tour it has been for me. Not only have I enjoyed the main acts, but I’ve also discovered some new, lesser-known favorites. I think I value these lesser-knowns even more so than the big bands. I don’t know why more people don’t. It seems the “kids” are more content hanging outside the arena smoking, gabbing, and talking on their cell phones rather than listening to some unknown third or second opening band. But listen up people; these bands have to start somewhere. For me, I’d rather discover them right then and there rather than hearing them for the first time months later on the radio. And to you “old” classic rockers out there, believe me, there is more to music these days than Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Journey, Styx, or Foreigner. There is some truly remarkable music being created by the younger generation. I’m very proud to be a big fan of today’s music. The kids may look funny, dress funny, and have some weird names, but baby, they can play, sing, and write songs with the best of them. And so for me, it’s onto the Fall concert tour. I think I’ll start off with Liz Phair followed by Death Cab For Cutie. Reviews to come.

September 10, 2005


Hurricane Katrina rumbles through South Florida. Katrina fools the experts and changes the course of history. New Orleans is destroyed, thousands dead, millions affected. Hurricane Ophelia is spinning toward an unknown course off the Florida coast. I just filled up my gas tank and paid a whopping $46.00. And no, I didn’t even round it off. Chief Justice Rehnquist is gone and so is our beloved Gilligan.

And was it only four years ago? I know a lot of you experienced 9/11 up close and personal in NYC. I’m sure we all remember where we were and what we were doing. As for me, I watched film of the second plane hitting the towers before heading off to court where I played lawyer for a day and lost my one and only case.

My father’s would-be birthday is in two weeks. All things considered, I think Billy Joe sang it best…

Summer has come and passed.
The innocent can never last.
Wake me up when September ends.

Like my father’s come to pass,
seven years has gone so fast.
Wake me up when September ends.

Here comes the rain again,
falling from the stars.
Drenched in my pain again,
becoming who we are.

As my memory rests,
but never forgets what I lost.
Wake me up when September ends.

September 06, 2005


I guess it’s only natural that the older I get, the more distant I become from the foundation from which I was built. And once in a while, it’s refreshing to take a trip back down memory lane to remember the people, places, and events that helped make us who we are today. I took such a trip this past Labor Day weekend.

My father has been gone now for 13 years. The closest person I have as a father figure, and perhaps the closest link I have to my childhood memories of dad (mom divorced dad when I was but 3), is my “Uncle” Barney. I’d be willing to bet that we all have an Uncle Barney in our families. I was reading just last week about Amanda’s “Uncle” Fred. Uncle Barney and Uncle Fred have a lot in common.

Barney is not a true blood relative, but is as close to the real thing as one can get. He and dad were best friends. Inseparable. Barney says he’s my godfather although I didn’t think we had godfathers in the Jewish religion. Barney is a sparkplug of energy. He’s 5’ 4,” bald, and has a pretty thick Brooklyn accent. He grew up in a strict Jewish Orthodox household. He has a huge heart and personality even at the age of 81. He looks 60; he cooks, drives, exercises every day, plays golf daily, and reads. When dad came down to visit every year, Barney would come, too. Man, so many side-splitting laugh-riot memories.

And so I traveled west to Naples to visit the venerable one. Each visit with him is indeed like a trip home for me. I tell Barney what’s happening in my life and he gives me fatherly advice. We cook, we dine, we play golf, and we share stories of dad and wish he was with us. I think one of Barney’s last goals in life is to make me a true Jewish boy. I’ve told you previously that I’m Jewish in faith but never really grew up practicing the faith. Our family was weird. We celebrated Christmas and got Easter baskets from our grandmother. I can’t read a word of Hebrew. I remember going to religious school on Saturdays for a year or two but that’s about it. Heck, I even married a Catholic girl, remember?

But Barney does his best to teach me my Jewish heritage each time I visit and this visit was no exception. I actually attended an orthodox service. Talk about a fish out of water! I immediately noticed two things. First of all, I was probably the youngest person in the ‘congregation’ by a good 20 years. Secondly, there was some really nasty smell emanating from the back of the room. Something was cooking in a crock pot, and the smell was actually making me nauseous. I couldn’t imagine what was in there, but I wanted no part of it.

I was surprised to see that the Rabbi was young. Probably late-20s. Luckily for me, he did a nice job of explaining in English, the passages he read in Hebrew. I felt lost as it was during the two-hour service so every little bit helped. But I *was* given the honor of holding the Torah. As I stood up there, I actually felt a connection with these people and with the religion I am supposed to be a part of. It was a feeling I’ve not often felt in my lifetime. It was actually quite joyous.

But joyous quickly turned to horror as I was surprised to learn that we were to all partake in the Kiddish, or after service meal. Yup, you guessed it. Some of that mystery Kosher meat was dumped on my plate. It was called Cholent. I think it’s pronounced CHULL-unt. I have no idea what it was nor did I want to. Thankfully I was able to damper the pungent aroma and taste with plenty of Challah bread and Manishevitz wine. Ooh, I can still smell that stuff now as I write this. Blecch.

But truly, my weekend with Barney was very special. Every visit with him is; and I know that the sand in the hourglass is running low. After all, he’s 81. I’m not sure where I’ll get these precious memories of my past when he’s gone. For now, I’ll enjoy the visits to their fullest, Cholent or not, because I think I need a shot of roots to remind myself of who I really am away from this crazy mixed-up world.