Bailey and Us…I Remember When

I remember when we saw him for the first time…his ears too big for his puppy-sized head…his bark short and comical to hear…his hound voice yet to be discovered…his brown eyes and his birthday, both same as my wife’s sealed the deal…

I remember picking him up at the mall…that’s right, we bought him at a pet store, and after 14 years turns out he was a helluva deal…him and the kids went through obedience training, but it didn’t take…God love ’em, those kids were too crazy…

I remember the night we bought him home from the vet’s office…drugged up on pain medication…castration they called it on the bill…responsible ownership they told us…in the back of my mind I still think cruel and heartless…

I remember when curiosity got the better of him…an introduction to electricity and the hazards of chewing electric cords…so that’s what fried beagle smells like…it only ever happened once…I remember how he chewed the rug in our family room…the vote was close…should we replace just the rug?…or him too?…

We all had our nicknames for Bailey…Bailsey, Beagle, Baileydammit…the last one mine, reserved for those times he decided to take a run around the neighborhood…never said we were very creative…

I remember stuffed mallards, rubber balls, and any number of other toys he would fetch and wrestle over…the way he would shake those stuffed mallards as he ran with them…drop a ball at your feet and howl a beagle howl to go again…how he ran up the back stairs in the house, down the hallway to the front stairs, then down and around to the back again…throw it again he dared…

Bailey’s 14 this month…he can’t run the stairs and he only walks when he used to run…he’s come to some kind of agreement with the rabbits in the yard…they don’t even Scamper  for the trees at the sight of him coming out of the house anymore…he walks with a limp…sometime front, sometimes back(?), depends how he slept…he still has most of his teeth, just not all…and apparently there must be male-pattern baldness in his family, how can a 13-inch beagle lose so much hair?…

…he sleeps more now…but as always, there’s never a meal or a treat he’ll pass on…the vet says his heart is good, so we’re looking forward to another year of remembering Bailey when…

 

…we literally hate you, love Dropkick Murphys

The start of summer triggers an annual event in my life…something similar to changing batteries in your home smoke detectors every fall when we change the clocks…although not quite as potentially life-saving as that often neglected piece of home maintenance. That other important event?… adding and deleting songs on my summer music playlist.

 It’s not real hard since my choice of music skews heavily towards mostly rock songs released from the 1960’s through the 1990’s. With just over 100 songs on my playlist, it gets a little boring and too repetitive…having nothing on the list released post Y2K also tends to cut out some potentially great songs. So this year, I decided I would step out of my comfort zone and try something new and different…

Since surprisingly Disco is out now…and when the hell did that happen anyway?…I chose Celtic Punk Rock music. I could have chosen Irish Folk music, but to be honest, I preferred the attitude and energy of Celtic Punk over the…well, folksiness of Irish Folk. At my age, learning the Celtic Punk Rock genre would be hard…I wouldn’t know the sound of a tin whistle from a wooden one…couldn’t tell a Real McKenzie from a Dropkick Murphy if one of them walked up and punched me in the face…so I turned to the place most clueless people go for information …the internet. One quick google search and the world of Celtic Punk was on display…the history of…the bands of…and the greatest songs of…

6336E0EF-D360-4B7A-9AAF-0AD8694EF21D-21970-00000FB7AE2DFF2EThe choice of which band to start with was easy…The Dropkick Murphys. Something about the name… borrowed from the famous wrestler and sanatorium operator, Dr. John “Dropkick” Murphy…just screamed Celtic Punk Rock to me.

If you’re wondering about the title of this post?… it’s a portion of the response sent to Wisconsin Govenor Scott Walker (R) who used their song “Shipping Up to Boston” without permission when he took the stage at the Iowa Freedom Summit…to their credit, they weren’t looking to sue anyone…they just didn’t want their music used by someone who doesn’t share their political viewpoints.

I’ve added a couple other songs recently including the classic “Whiskey in the Jar” by the Killdares …easily my favorite version of the song…and songs from Flogging Molly and The Real McKenzies as well. The current list:

The Dropkick Murphys

  • I’m Shipping Up To Boston
  • End of the Night
  • Johnny Collins’ Wake
  • Rose Tattoo
  • Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya

Flogging Molly

  • What’s Left of the Flag
  • If I Ever Leave This World Alive

The Killdares 

  • The Queen of Argyll
  • Whiskey in the Jar

The Real McKenzies

  • Chip
  • The Tempest
  • Barrett’s Privateers

The Federal Express Contractor Cluster-Covfefe…Am I Using That Word Right?

Anyone who has followed the shenanigans at FedEx Ground and Home Delivery has been led to believe that FedEx has changed their ways. Gone in most states is the original Independent Contractor (IC) model they used while building their brand…replaced by the new and improved Independent Service Provider (ISP) model they claim will solve the shortcomings of the IC program.

But what Fred Smith and FedEx have really done is hornswoggle enough judges, lawyers, and state and federal agencies into believing they’ve changed. And while some things have changed, the ISP model still retains the same underlying flaws that poisoned the Independent Contractor well; the FedEx-contractor relationship is one of exclusivity, and FedEx just doesn’t pay contracted businesses enough for them to pay their drivers overtime or provide any kind of health insurance or paid time-off benefits. And that much control makes FedEx the 800 pound gorilla in the room, and they don’t hesitate to throw their weight around fast and free.

FedEx has led many to believe that in their fancy new ISP model, they have eliminated doing business with contractors and now they contract only with businesses who have their own employees. What does that mean and how did they accomplish this changeover from contractors to businesses? First in 2011, they announced that all contractors must be, if they weren’t already, an “S” corporation (no LLC corporations either) if they wished to continue contracting with FedEx…and vwehla!…FedEx creates their new business partners from the ashes of their previous contractors. Same contractors, just labeled differently for tax purposes. FedEx also mandates that these businesses are not permitted to use their own contractors to make deliveries…no 1099’s allowed!…W-2 employees only.

As FedEx was legislating into existence these new business partners, they also just happened to announce the daily service requirements these businesses would be expected to provide prior to ISP implementation. Businesses would be obligated to agree to service a minimum of 500 stops per day, roughly 3-4 routes per day. It didn’t take a mathematician to see the wave that was about to crash on the heads of the single route contractors. Some would have to go…and the longer a contractor who was unable or unwilling to meet FedEx requirements waited, the less his route could be worth in a potential sale. To make matters worse, if a contractor was unable to make a deal for his route, he was simply finished. FedEx took back the route and re-assigned it to another service provider with no break-up fee provided to the now former contractor.

As part of the new ISP model, FedEx allows future business partners the opportunity to negotiate the rates of their service. Which is to say, FedEx contests every part of any potential agreement, forcing the future service provider to pick what elements of the agreement to actually negotiate since there is no possible scenario where FedEx compromises on ALL obligations stated in the contract. In addition, a business owner in the new ISP model would be required to sign a clause that prohibits them from suing FedEx for possible future disputes that might arise from the ISP agreement. Simply, they covered their asses…a lesson learned from the highly litigated IC model.

FedEx recently announced to their business partners that as of 2021, they will be required to own both the Ground and Home Delivery services in the zip codes they contract to service. Once again, FedEx is interfering in how their partners businesses are run, just as in the past IC model. They’re forcing another wave of route consolidations which will only drive further the current wedge that exists between Home Delivery and Ground service providers (and their drivers). This time the stakes are higher however, and a service provider who is unable to accommodate such changes has much more to lose than pre-ISP consolidations.

This whole FedEx cluster-covfefe leads to one last question; how much longer do FedEx Express employee drivers have before FedEx decides to hand the express package delivery service over to its Independent Service Provider businesses?…They’ve already changed the Uniform and truck colors of Ground and Home Delivery to match those of their FedEx Express service.

Wanna bet they’re at least talking about it?…

My Family…Caring And Supportive…Or Batcrap Crazy?

I’ve done more than my share of self loathing lately. But then, I’m what you would truly call a miserab, and disliking myself and my actions are all a part of the experience. But there are other reasons, external forces that help create and when needed, re-enforce my true miserable-ness.

So what is it that drives me batcrap crazy? It would be easy to tell you it’s the political shitstorm we’re all subjected to everyday, but that’s not it, at least not yet. Lack of friends, snooty neighbors…probably, but they’re for another day…

No, the number one thing on my list is family. Don’t judge me just yet, if you’re reading this I’ll bet you’ve said the same thing before, only to yourself and not in print where anyone in your family will read it. I can honestly say I have no worries there…no one in my family has ever read, or asked to read a single word I’ve published. But I’m not bitter. Let me introduce them…

My wife may be the smartest woman I know or have ever known, and it ain’t because she hitched her wagon to this horse’s ass. Her one major flaw…she doesn’t listen, or maybe it’s respect…a word I tell her. Sure she’ll ask for my opinion, but most of her time is spent performing this painful monologue where she speaks and I only move my mouth when she puts her hand in the back of my head like I’m some sick sort of wood dummy. On the rare occasion that I do spout a semi-coherent thought, she chipmunks it away in her brain, only to see the light of day again if someone she actually has respect for confirms it as a good idea. But then it’s, “(Fill in any name here) said this and it seems like good advice.” You’ll notice there is no mention of me as the original author of that good advice. But that’s okay.

Now, my wife, is also a mom, just ask my son. They have this relationship, and I swear they do it to annoy me, where one minute she’s the loving Italian mother talking to the son who would do anything for her, and the next minute I’m looking to hide all the cutlery in the house. It can turn that quickly. There is a saying that goes, “Pick which hill you want to die on”, and there isn’t a hill in our house, in our lives, that isn’t out of their war zone. They’ll debate his grades, his job, religion, politics, food, beer…anything, it’s all up for grabs, and I find it’s best to duck when the verbal bullets start flying. Things get heated and that’s when my wife drags me into the fray. I’m the human shield, I’m that thing that signals to my son that he can’t win this one, run and live to fight another day…and then like that, the relationship is back to loving mom and adoring son (kinda)… I’m left in a state of not ready to let it go yet…next thing I know, their off to a movie, to the mall, to grab a sandwich…and everything is right in their world…it’s me who’s left holding the bag labeled “Hostility”.

My son, God love him, is the most over-confident student currently on academic probation that I know. He’s also a bit of a beer Buff and there isn’t one he won’t try, which might shed some light on his academic probation status. But he has a dream, a vision of opening a brewery and cooking his own brand of beer, a part of society so underserved that as of last year there were only a mere 5,000 brewers in the United States. But I give him credit, it’s his dream and I won’t squash it, there’s already over 5,000 people in line for that job.

I also have a daughter. She was smart enough to move to Florida after graduating college, thereby avoiding all of this familial strife. It also allows us to take our show on the road a couple of times a year, possibly educating other families, especially younger ones, in new and sometimes brutal ways of dumping on each other. Now, my daughter, she’s truly crafty…she has made it known to each of us separately that she enjoys us coming to visit her…one at a time. It gives her more one-on-one time with each of us… and thereby avoids the hysteria that accompanies a full family visit. It’s her brand of divide and conquer strategy…and to be honest, it works like a charm.

I have a beagle. His name is Bailey and he’ll be 14 years old this year. That would make him 75 to you and me, and just like me, he’s got bad feet, he’s a little overweight for his size, and I think his hearing and sight are starting to go, and occasionally he’ll have a senior dog moment when he walks into a room with no clue as to why he wants to be there. He’s a great dog though, except he has his days and nights confused. I also think he has some separation anxiety as well, and nothing cuts into my sleep faster than a beagle howling for attention at 3:00. That’s A.M., after midnight, when we should all be asleep. So for the next half hour, we go outside, we might wrestle over a toy, maybe have a biscuit or two (him, not me), whatever it takes to settle him down.

There you have it, an attempted humorous look at my family, the folks who irritate me, promote self loathing within myself, and drive me absolutely batcrap crazy on occasion,  and with whom I couldn’t do whatever it is I do if they weren’t in my life…

 

Featured Image via from Dorkly via flimsyspoons

What’s the Message Here? Get Off My Plane!

Saw this leftover Trump- Make America Great Again sign sitting in the trash at a home near where I live. And I wondered if the owner had tired of having the sign displayed prominently in his front yard?…has he tired of the president flopping on his campaign promises ?…has he tired of the administration’s inability to make him feel great again? I decided instead it was just something simpler…the sign was probably in the way when he cut the grass…and to be honest, displaying it from October to May was probably long enough.

With all of the negative news that surrounds the administration, I began to wonder about the next president, should Number 45 be sent packing (he won’t). Rather than think about a Pence presidency…or Paul Ryan or Orrin Hatch for that matter…I put my energies into finding the best TV/movie character president. One to make both Democrats and Republicans happy. Is that even possible anymore?

Here are my top 8 candidates worse to first, in order of my preference with no regard to their actual TV/movie accomplishment:

8.  Francis Underwood (House of Cards) Not really an option; murderer…dog killer…I think he even hit his wife Claire as well…probably should be in prison…”Lock him up…lock him up…lock him up…”…equally despised on both sides of the aisle…

7. Andrew Shepherd (The American President) Another long shot…dating a lobbyist?…a crime bill and a clean air bill?…way too liberal for the Right…looks the part and fits the suit…shame…

6. Benjamin Asher (Olympus Has Fallen) Let North Korean terrorists take over the White House…waits for Gerard Butler to save him…told Butler, “If it comes to it, I want you to kill me”…Butler should have killed him…

5. President Beck (Deep Impact) Kept country calm during catastrophic comet event…voice like God should appeal to Christian Right…ability to work with Russians to Detonate a bomb; destroying the comet and saving the world…he said this: “Cities fall but they are rebuilt. And heroes die but they are remembered. We honor them with every brick we lay, with every field we sow, with every child we comfort and then teach to rejoice in what we have been re-given. Our planet. Our home.”…should probably be ranked higher…

4. David Palmer (24) Definately has outside chance…greatest asset; friends with Jack Bauer…not every president can say that…unfortunately he’s married (watch the show and see what I mean)…could have been great hitter if only he could hit the curve ball…he said this: “I want them to see how we protect our citizens. We will not put up with racism or xenophobia. If this is where it’s going to start, this is where it’s going to stop.”

3. Josiah “Jed”‘Bartlett (The West Wing) Could pull upset with enough votes from the Right…even Conservatives liked his show…can sometimes be a bit of a know-it-all…he said this: “…If that angers you, if you resent me, I completely respect that. But if you expect anything different from the President of the United States, I suggest you vote for somebody else.”

2. Thomas J. Whitmore (Independence Day and Independence Day:Resurgence) Helped save the planet once…behind in the polls during re-election bid brings on another alien invasion; chance to be hero second time…possible collusion between Whitmore and aliens makes him a hero…only questions remaining are who knew what and when did they know it…he said this: “…We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive!’ Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”…hard to believe..

1. James Marshall (Air Force One) Prohibitive favorite…the only thing that could make him more popular is if he changed his name to Jack Ryan…military service appeals to both sides of the aisle…he said it: “…Atrocity and terror are not political weapons and to those who would use them: your day is over. We will never negotiate. We will no longer tolerate, and we will no longer be afraid. It’s your turn to be afraid.”

Now get off my plane!

The Return of Darth Neighbor

Yes, the name Darth Neighbor is a cheap rip-off of Star Wars evil-doer Darth Vader, but when I was swinging plastic light sabers in the back yard against my 6-year old son and the neighbor kid, I was usually forced to represent the Dark Side of the force. No problem, we all know Lord Vader had the highest Midichlorian count in the Star Wars universe, so it stands to assume the Dark Side would have ruled my neighborhood as well.

Always cast as the villain, I created a dark Star Wars persona of my own, that of Darth Neighbor, the ultimate power not only in my back yard, but possibly in all of the Providence Ridge housing development.

My own interest in Star Wars ended with Return of the Jedi and the destruction of the second Death Star, however the release of The Phantom Menace inspired a new generation of fans in the franchise (not me though), and inspired the galactic battles that raged in my yard after I got home from work. And of course, only after those little Jedi nuts had finished any homework assignments for the day.

The battles usually took less time than it took the Millenium Falcon to complete the Kessel Run, were always un-choreographed, usually just me chasing a couple of pint-sized wannabe Jedi Knights around the yard, through swing sets, around bushes and trees, between cars, whatever obstacle they could run around or hide behind. But unlike Star Wars, in the universe called my back yard, the Dark Side always prevailed.

Just as Old Ben Kenobi had buried the memories of his days as Obi-Wan, I also forgot about my days as the ass-kicking Darth Neighbor. Until this year, when my daughter reminded me of those days when she sent me my personalized magic band for my trip down to see her at Disney World.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Katie is like a Star Wars historian, but she’s also a pretty good athlete. And she knew the one way to guarantee my attention was to pull out the hockey net and it wouldn’t be long before I showed up. To her credit, she also padded up and laced on her roller blades for those father/daughter games in our driveway; so how could I ignore that much effort? 

When my son and the neighbor kid played, the games deteriorated into watching two Tasmanian Devils hitting the ball everywhere but at the net. It was their own out-of-control brand of “dump and chase” hockey, and like two Unmoored ships in a hurricane, they crashed into each other often and knew no boundaries of any kind, and it went on until one of them slashed the other hard enough in the shins or on the hand with their stick. This usually sent the aggrieved party home or back in the house for first aid or to have a sandwich and a glass of milk or some damn thing, leaving just my daughter “Skates” and me to practice our slap shots and our triple deeks.

And when that box with the magic bands arrived, she also reminded me of the times when father/daughter fun was spent just shooting pucks at a net in my driveway…just the two of us.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Been So Long Since I’ve Seen My Friends…

I grew up in South Jersey where I lived until 1995. Hung around with a pretty small circle of friends in the 70’s through the mid-80’s; got married in the late 80’s; bought a home; and in the early 90’s, through very little effort on my part, fathered a couple of great kids. My wife of course did all of the heavy lifting and required pushing to bring them out into the world. Since then parenting has been one long tag team event; we usually win, but once in awhile we let the kids have one just for their confidence. It’s also called picking your battles or the more graphic but appropriate…choosing which hill you want to die on.

In 1995 we moved to Southeastern PA; the move necessary due to the constant consolidation in the drug industry. I should probably clarify that by saying we didn’t lose our corner to a rival drug gang, it was the consolidation in The Big Pharmaceutical Industry. The guys who sell the drugs with the incredible side effects which seem to be worse than the actual ailment your treating with their product. You know, the really big drug gangs.

It has been a long time since I’ve seen or talked to any of my friends from South Jersey, We need something like this back home between us and the Mittlebeelers!apparently crossing the Delaware River is every bit as daunting a task as climbing up and over the Great Wall of China. But then that goes both ways, doesn’t it? It also put us in the geographical center between our two families. Closer to her family; but farther from my family with the…been nice knowin’ you attitude.

I tried thinking about some of the changes in my life since I’ve seen any of my friends (still can’t bring myself to call them former) which I estimate to be September of 2001 or just once since 1995; changes in my personality, family changes…what my kids do now…called parental bragging if you will; changes to technology, things like that.

I have a much different personality than I did in 2001. A change in jobs from a comfortable middle management existence to a failed entrepreneurship with FedEx has made me much more cynical when it comes to the motives of corporate America; I now understand that I wasn’t a partner with Fred Smith and FedEx, I was a business model that saved them millions upon millions of dollars in employer taxes, insurances, and employee benefits. And stupidly, instead of putting FedEx in my rear view mirror, I’ve chosen to stay on and now drive for the company that owns my former route. The owner is a good guy and probably one of my three or four friends, but like my friends from Jersey…would I ever here from him again if I were to leave? Cynical…angry…distrusting…grumpy…sober…old man. Much different than the often intoxicated, lovable loser my friends knew. Sometimes I really miss beer.

And that may be one of the biggest changes since I last saw my friends. Beer! Growing up cash strapped and in need of a couple of beers, often me and the friends would settle for anything cheap. Genesee Cream Ale, the disgusting, but affordable King of Beers, Budweiser, and whenever possible a cold Carling Black Label, free from mom and dad’s fridge. Not only do I no longer drink, I wouldn’t know what the hell to drink anyway. With all of the craft beers and small micro-breweries around, simply choosing a beer would be enough of a chore to turn me sober. The last time I had a beer with my friends, not one guy said it was too hoppy or too wheaty or whatever. You just twisted off the cap and talked or argued about sports or girls or cars. 

The last time I saw my friends, my daughter was in elementary school and my son was just beginning kindergarten. Actually, he was in kindergarten twice a day, once in the morning in daycare and then in school in the afternoon. He really hated that. Since then, my daughter has graduated with honors from an expensive liberal arts college that my wife and I probably couldn’t afford, and my son will be graduating very soon. My son has earned his Eagle Scout rank from the Boy Scouts and my daughter has moved to Florida where she works for the House of the Mouse. All of this…since I last saw my friends.

The last time I saw any of my friends, I didn’t own a cell phone. The only two people I know imagewho had cell phones were Gordon Gekko and Maxwell Smart. I had never sent a text message, never skyped, opened a Facebook account, tweeted anything, or created and saved anything to the cloud. I didn’t know I would one day own something called an iPad; never created my personal playlist of music that I could save on a SmartPhone and play over a Bluetooth wireless speaker…none of these things were mine the last time I saw my friends.

The last time I saw my friends was September 9, 2001, when we watched the first game of the Eagles season. And just two days before the terrible events of 9/11, a day no one should ever forget. Since I last saw my friends hundreds of thousands of lives have been changed forever because of the War on Terror. Why do the wars on our societal issues never seem to have a solution…a compromise; how long have we been fighting the War on Drugs…On Cancer…On Poverty…On Gangs…and even on Christmas? 

Since I last saw my friends, the country was once swept up in the great secrecy around Ginger, an invention many thought would change the world, an invention that would change the way cities are laid out, an invention that ended up being The Segway. An imageinvention that nobody thought to ask one simple question, “Where the hell can we use this thing?” How cursed was this invention? The owner of The Segway Corporation drove his off a 30 ft. cliff and into a river below. Irinically…he has seen his friends for the last time.

The last time I saw my friends, Peter Jackson had yet to send Frodo, Aragorn, and the rest of The Fellowship to return The One Ring to Mt. imageDoom…They had yet to prove or dis-prove anything on The Big Bang Theory…Jack Bauer still hadn’t killed anybody on 24…Colonel Jessup had yet to order the Code Red for Private Santiago in A Few Good Men…Sean Bean still had numerous death scenes to play on TV and in the movies…The Philadelphia Eagles still haven’t won a Super Bowl, and the Flyers haven’t heard the ovation that comes from parading Lord Stanley’s Cup down Broad Street in over 40 years.

A great many things have come and gone since I last saw my friends from South Jersey; I often think about them and their families, wonder why they haven’t called, or why I don’t pick up the phone and call them. I guess the real reason is because I don’t want to think of those friendships also as come…and gone.

Ovation