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

Red Rover, Red Rover, Send New Lawyers Over!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the attorneys at Leonard Carder LLP in California. It appears you did a fantastic job getting a fair and equitable settlement for your fellow residents of California. Well done. Unfortunately when it came to We the 12,000 contractors in the multi-state settlement, we were left with whatever scraps you and FedEx decided to which we were entitled. It’s fortunate that they didn’t offer us free cafe lattes at Java World first, otherwise I get the feeling we would all be drinking coffee free for the next year.

If I come off as ungrateful it’s because I am. Please don’t delude yourselves into thinking it’s just me not appreciating your talents and hard work, the woods are filled with more just like me! Some, more than willing to protest this misbegotten settlement; some, the silent majority (?) who hate the deal but need the money more; and some who no longer have a stake in the game, tired of the Purple Promise and after having left long ago are ecstatic to be getting money they never expected to be awarded.

I don’t pretend to be a legal expert, but I’ve watched Suits and Boston Legal often enough, read enough John Grisham, even saw the movie Erin Brockovich, twice! This settlement has nothing to do with the differences between California employment law vs. the rest of the country; it simply represents the sell-out of We the 12,000 non-California contractors who performed all of the same duties, wore all the same clothing, bought and paid for all the same equipment, worked all of the same uncompensated overtime, delivered all of the same packages, and showered and groomed every bit as well as they did. So how in the name of Sam Hill could our west coast brothers be entitled to $150-$200 per week more than the rest of us? It’s outrageous, aggregious, and preposterous! Was anyone actually doing the math? At $41.13 /week, that breaks down to $8/day or 75 cents/hour. That doesn’t even put the half in time and a half. What legal team would agree to such ridiculous amounts? Possibly a legal team whose interest at this point is only the collection of their fees and who are no longer willing to fight the good fight? Convinced in their own minds that these settlements are fair to all involved.

So where does that leave We the 12,000? For now I would say we were, “attached to another object by an inclined plane, wrapped helically around an axis.” But we may surprise ourselves yet. Maybe we can unite and make our objections heard, long and loud enough that the legal system that binds us will see this proposed settlement for what it really is, a pathetic attempt at paying off the masses for their silence. And if the legal system agrees and orders the two sides back to the table with new counsel for We the 12,000, I suggest this should be our own Artificial legal dream team;

  • Lead Chair-Saul Goodman who the other lawyers will hate because of his second-rate education, but won’t hesitate to get in the mud when it’s needed.
  • Second Chair-Daniel Caffey can finally get that set of steak knives he lost on A Few Good Men. 
  • Third Chair-Jake Brigance can say to Fred Smith and his hatchet men, “Now imagine, you’re a contractor.” And the whole courtroom will weep for our pain.
  • Fourth Chair-Harvey Specter who lives by the rule, “The success of the client is a success of yours.” He would never settle for $41.13/week. Why should we?

It’s not over unless we say it’s over.
Artificial

Donald, Hillary & Just One Positive Thing

At the end of the day, did they make us believe their answers to a truly pointless question?

Anyone who chose not to or was unable to watch the 2nd Presidential Debate last night missed one of the more heartwarming moments of the campaign. It was without question however none of these…

No…Bill didn’t share an I’ve Missed You Hug with the targets of his former dalliances, conveniently seated nearby thanks to some last minute seating arrangements.

No…Grandmom Hillary didn’t invite the grandkids up on stage after the debate to watch their mother, Chelsea, reprise her role of the Favorite Aunt in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

No…Hillary didn’t give a special shout-out to FBI Director James Comey thanking him for all of his years of service…and for looking the other way on all those emails.

No…Hillary didn’t invite all of Donald’s  Deplorables on stage to apologize and then send them lovingly away with a slice of Grandmom Hillary’s Apple Pie.

No…Donald didn’t promise if elected he would pardon away Hillary deleting those emails. In fact, he pledged to hire a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary and throw her in jail if warranted (much to the delight of his supporters I’m sure).

No…Donald didn’t invite all of Mexico over to his place for a Cinco de Mayo festival next year. Not even the good ones as he likes to call them.

No…The former students of Trump U did not come on stage to thank The Donald for the world class education they received at his university. 

And No…New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did not step on stage to tell Donald it was all a big misunderstanding, that the notice to stop fundraising he sent to the Donald J. Trump Foundation was just for laughs.

What you would have seen and heard in this sometimes out-of-control town hall meeting was a question straight out of a marriage encounter retreat…or from my 4th grade school teacher after she broke up a fight between me and my no longer best friend Danny Kelly on the playground.

The final question of the night’s political pillow fight (you know what I mean, everyone swings real hard but nobody really gets hurt) came from Undecided Voter Karl Becker, who asked the two candidates;

“My question to both of you is, regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”

Here is where Donald absolutely outshines Hillary. His answer, no matter how insincere it was, actually was mostly complimentary and somewhat thought out. Hillary on the other hand, refused to compliment Trump himself, choosing the more indirect route of saying he had great kids.

From Hillary:

“Look, I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald. I don’t agree with nearly anything else he says or does, but I do respect that. I think that is something that as a mother and a grandmother is very important to me.” Say what you want about her, but she didn’t fall into the trap of praising her opponent directly.

And then Mr. Trump dove right into the pool without his water wings:

“She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it like it is. She’s a fighter,” Trump said. “I disagree with much of what she’s fighting for. I do disagree with her judgment in many cases. But she does fight hard, and she doesn’t quit, and she doesn’t give up. And I consider that to be a very good trait.”

Trump then politely thanked Clinton for her disingenuous flattery of his children (it was that obvious), and Hillary then silently thanked Trump for supplying the next sound bite in her TV and radio ads.

 Flattery

I Really Hate It When…

Is there such a thing as a journalistic code of ethics in sports? If not, when and why did it disappear?

Does anyone share my irritation when the sports media uses “sources close to”… or “sources with knowledge of”… as their way to substantiate information used in a report or column? To be honest, if you won’t name the source, then you’re report simply amounts to here-say. 

…and if you’re a source willing to give information, go on the record.  If you won’t go on the record…again, how can you be considered a credible source?

I know, this is only sports, grown men playing kids games, not the Watergate Scandal and it’s confidential informant Deep Throat. That kind of journalism brought down a President and earned a Pulitzer Prize for The The Washington Post. Much of today’s sports commentary is just not that important. And if an important event occurs, whether an actual sporting event or something in an athlete’s personal life, be it legal or illegal, just about any caller can get on the air and present him or herself as an expert, someone with inside knowledge, someone with a phone, someone given the use of public airwaves to say just about whatever they want. Mostly unsubstantiated. Not vetted. Just like information we get from some members of the media.

Consider the 2014 release of the Eagles DeSean Jackson. The original NJ.com report quoted only “sources within the organization” regarding Jackson’s ties to 2 Los Angeles gang members. The story also quoted the “infamous” source within the organization saying the team was concerned about Jackson’s influence on younger players.

Meanwhile, Derrick Gunn from Comcast Sports Net broke this story wide-open with information from his well-founded sources:

“I talked to someone (?) this morning that basically said that when a player is one of your highest paid players in the Eagles’ organization, especially with the new culture and the new attitude, the new direction they’re trying to build now in Chip Kelly’s regime,” Gunn said, “they expect you to hold yourself to a certain standard both in the locker room and outside the locker room as well.” 

You could almost see Chip Kelly’s hand in D. Gunn’s back manipulating his mouth. 

“And there’s a lot of stuff (really, someone and stuff?) that probably hasn’t even come out about DeSean yet (and it never did) that we’re going to find out in the days, weeks, months and even a year from now that we’re going to learn about, but he was not the kind of player in the locker room that the Eagles wanted to have an influence on the younger players.” and…“I was told by a couple of sources that he did not have the best work ethic in the locker room.

So D. Gunn, gives us “someone?”,”a lot of stuff?” and “couple of sources?” See any Pulitzer Prize winning journalism there? I realize that DeSean Jackson getting cut is an old story, but this story says more about the not so ethical environment that exists in the world of sports talk radio, internet reporting, and even TV news and talk shows. And let’s not be naive, sports teams use these guys all the time to advance their own agenda. And the media knows it, sometimes they have to walk a thin line between what information the team wants released versus the opportunity for future stories.

Remember all of those book reports and term papers we did in school? If we wrote that something was a fact, we had to list the source of that information, be it encyclopedia, newspaper article or some other source. “A lot of stuff” wouldn’t have been accepted as fact, and “unnamed source” wouldn’t fly as a reference. When did members of the media decide that this fundamental rule no longer pertained to their reporting?

I know, I can hear the battle cry now, ” We have to protect our source. If sources can’t remain anonymous then we won’t be able to get the information needed for the article. After all dear reader (or listener), it’s all to keep you better informed.” I have a different theory. How about the lack of naming a source comes down to a couple of simple factors…

…the unwillingness of the reporter to keep digging for a credible source who will go on the record and the competition between news agencies to….get it first!

Honestly, I can’t see how it matters who got a story first with the way the the news is reported, especially in the case of sports, where stories are hashed and re-hashed by multiple hosts over and over again on multiple media outlets for days and weeks at a time.  After beating a story like a rented mule for a day or two, most fans don’t remember or care who got the story first. And if you listen to multiple stations as I do, often times you can recognize the same caller on those stations voicing the same ideal or opinion. Over and over and over…To be honest, it must be difficult for some sports talk hosts to show up for work everyday given the repetitive nature of their industry.

So in the true spirit of some of today’s media employees…

“Unnamed sources with first-hand knowledge of the decision, say the Sixers are considering trading this year’s first pick in the draft Ben Simmons, to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Cavaliers 2017 and 2018 first round picks. Someone said he believes the Sixers need more assets if they are going to make a run at the 2022 playoffs. The source also said Sixers coach Brett Brown couldn’t be happier and is excited about starting the 2016 season with the same team that finished last year.”

There, see how easy that was? I didn’t even get off the couch or call anyone. And if it doesn’t happen, I’ll just blame it on my source, that I can’t name. You heard it here first!

Like many sports fans I listen to sports talk radio during the course of my workday. I understand that interviews are a part of the job, but isn’t it somewhat disingenuous for a host to call for the dismissal of a team’s general manager or openly criticize an athlete’s play (pick a player, any sport) then fail to bring up those criticisms when interviewing that front office person or athlete? Consider the end of Phillies G.M. Ruben Amaro’s tenure with the team. Talk show hosts openly called for his immediate dismissal daily, then complimented him on his “honesty and his availability to the fans”. A typical interview might consist of a question or two about what to do with Ryan Howard, the teams current home stand or road trip, and maybe a hot prospect in Reading or Lehigh Valley. In other words, largely vanilla and lacking any controversy, and filled with clichés like, “one game at a time”, ” I can’t say enough about him”, or “he always gives 110%.”

Some members of the media bill themselves as the voice of the fans…and I guess that’s true, however with that claim comes the requirements of objectivity, accuracy, fairness, and accountability. And adhering to those principles are where some members go off the rails.

Don’t be too hard on yourselves sports media, at least you’re not sensationalizing the weather like our local TV/radio stations or The Weather Channel.

Six Degrees to the…

Oval Office…or how I know the Clintons.

As you’re reading this you’re probably asking yourself…

“Didn’t Facebook disprove the Six Degrees Theory?” 

Or maybe…

“How is a nobody like this guy connected to the former President and his wannabe President wife?”

Let me answer those 2 questions as best I can?.. and remember you asked for it…

First, who gives a hoot about Facebook anyway and…

Back in the 2nd grade I appeared…

On camera…

on The Gene London Show which was a local Saturday morning kids show starring…you guessed it…

1. Gene London 

As we were waiting to enter the Cartoon Corners General Store for the beginning of the program, a classmate…let’s call her Lisa…because that was her name…asked me to switch places in line…making Me the first to run in and lead my classmates into the store. What an amazing break in my young life…THANKS LISA! (Like most girls she generally ignored me after that until our senior year of high school…) Anyway, someone, I don’t know, director, producer, janitor, told me that I should run in and jump up on the counter (remember, I said it was a general store) and Gene would throw a box to me…

a little clarity here…

First of all they should have put a spring board next to the counter…I swear it was higher than me…and Gene had about 3 boxes he tossed to kids around the room until the last one, with confetti, fell on his head. Ha ha ha, we all laughed. They told us to. So I ran in, made my one giant leap for mankind…nailed it by the way…turned to face Gene…and sent the gum ball dispenser sliding across the counter. “Cut, let’s do it again. Can somebody move the gum balls before he breaks the machine?” I was humiliated. They did however, let me do it again, and this time, perfection. Now as I waited on the counter…

praying like a 9-year old right fielder that I wouldn’t drop the fly ball (box) and cost my team the game (Take 3)…

Gene tossed the box, I caught it, once again without breaking the gum ball machine or falling off of the counter, and the rest as they say…is television history.

Now Gene, who was an artist and puppeteer in his early days, is my first step to the Oval Office because he worked with…

2. Shari Lewis & Lamb Chop

That’s right, Shari and that silly little sock puppet, are the second degree on my way to Bill and Hillary.

As a kid I can remember, kind of, Shari doing a show in which her and Lamb Chop (is anyone getting hungry?) hosted a show for kids…of course it was for kids…that showed movies you probably never heard of. My favorite was always Skinny & Fatty, a film about 2 children in Japan, one was a skinny and the other was a fatty…the kids made fun of fatty because he couldn’t climb the rope in gym class…

no wait, I think that was on  Kukla, Fran, & Ollie. Oh well. Who cares?

Shari and her little sock puppet however did appear on the final episode of Sesame Street (Season 27 show # 3525) which leads us to number 3 on our journey to the Clintons…

3. ELMO

By no means am I a fan of Elmo. Elmo was indirectly responsible for Kermit the Frog leaving the “Street”, as well as less air time for Big Bird, Oscar, Bert & Ernie, and other popular characters. I think his status as a “fad toy” clearly went to his head (remember, Tickle Me Elmo?). However much resentment I have for this 3rd person talking, scene stealing, too big for the room puppet, he opens the door to my relationship with…

4. Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters is the glue that holds all of these relationships together. She was in 2 Muppets productions, Stars and Street Forever, The Sesame Street Special (Put Down the Duckie), and in 2005 she hosted the Annual Sesame Workshop Benefit Gala. She obviously knows her Muppets. The other thing about Barbara Walters…she has probably interviewed every political newsmaker who was, well, in the news at that time. So with that you know she had to interview…

5. Monica Lewinsky

Monica was interviewed on March 3, 1999 by Walters while 70 million people who had nothing better to do watched. If you don’t remember Mons…she was Bill Clinton’s favorite blue dress wearin’ White House intern. That is of course until their friendship was Tripped up in September of 1997 by phone recordings and some kind of a stain on previously mentioned blue dress. We can send a man to the moon but we can’t get the spot out of a blue dress? Wonder how they will write that up in the history books? It was a real stain on the Office of the Presidency. So, while I would not invite Monica and Hillary to my backyard barbecue, I will say that Monica is responsible for the erection (too much?) of my last degree of separation to the Clintons…

6. Mr. And Mrs. POTUS(s?)

Is this whole thing a stretch? Without question. But it is possible. Hillary might be able to beat Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and any candidate the Republicans can Trump up making Bill the first First Man. First Husband? Current 3-term President? President Bill-ary Clinton? Whatever…Bill, just leave your sax at home when you come to the barbecue, I have Spotify and a good Bluetooth speaker. Oh, and Hillary, there is no WIFI in my backyard, so leave the laptop at home. Take a break from checking emails. And NO, you cannot borrow my iPad for an hour!

So there you have it. Six degrees to the Oval Office. Better known as Six Degrees of Separation, or the more popular, Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon.

I may not have remembered everything about the Gene London show correctly, I will tell you I did switch with Lisa, yes that was the last time we spoke until high school, and yes I did run in and hop up on the counter. Twice. A little fuzzy on whether it was gum balls or something else in the dispenser and if we all laughed when the box fell on his head. We might have cheered.

I also could not find a rule that said everyone on the list must be living. Shari Lewis is currently deceased, however the current state and location of Lamb Chop is unknown to me. If anybody knows…?

Monica Lewinsky probably doesn’t need to be on this list. Pretty sure Barbara Walters knows the Clintons herself and doesn’t need an introduction from Monica. That would put my Clinton # at 5 and not 6. Just thought it would be more fun working her into the group. The sacrifices…Once again my final 6…