The Business of Family: A Hostile Take Over

13 05 2011

Like most kids from my generation I grew up with a step-parent by way of divorce.  In business terminology is it any different from mergers and acquisitions or in some cases a hostile take over?

To be honest I don’t really care for this piece, but I’m tired of messing with it, so here we go.  Don’t forget to read between the lines and draw your own conclusions.  Remember this is a parody and not necessarily drawn from my own experiences.

Lets examine divorce as though a child was playing the role of a corporate employee.   Located throughout the story you’ll see “click here”  feel free to examine these to  add a little flair to the story.

You’ve been on the job for several years, you’re a model employee, well liked by middle and upper management.  You’re on the fast track straight to the top.  Then through no fault of your own the company decides to split into two separate companies, when one of the owners is forced out.  One gets all the assets and the building, the other owner gets to keep the name.  It’s already shaping up to be a bad deal, but it gets worse. (click here)

You show up to work one day and realize that your boss, mentor, and guy who had your back is no longer there.  Rumor has it he was last seen carrying everything he owned in a cardboard box headed to his car.  The guy whose sole purpose was to make sure you succeeded within the company and been unceremoniously booted.  To make things worse they replace him with some upper management brown noser who knows nothing about you and is only interested in his own success, not yours.

Now you have to start over from scratch.  All of your previous accomplishments and accolades are meaningless.  Not to mention there is some serious resentment.  You’ve been with the firm longer, you know the ins and outs.  You could recite the employee handbook from cover to cover.  But all you know is now you’re taking orders from the new guy who took your best friends job.  Business etiquette requires that you show your supervisor respect, even though it has not been earned or even warranted at this point.

At some point upper management finds out that you may have some concerns over recent changes.  So they do what any good business does, hold a “team” meeting.  During this meeting one-sided discussion will take place in the form of a smear campaign designed to discredit the previous business partner.  There will be innuendo stating that this person had a silent partner, and that expense reports were fixed to cover lavish trips to places like Reno.  You’re also informed  the court ruled there was a breach of contract centered around your being hired.  Now the owner who only got to keep the business name has to pay monthly restitution thus paying your salary.  In standard corporate fashion they try to wrap it up on a high note.  There is grandiose talk of how they’re “here for” and “they only succeed if you succeed”. (click here)

But all you know is the previous boss was cool and the new guy sucks.

Nine years go by and you do your job with little to no praise.  Sure you get the standard vacation time, cake on your birthday, enough swag to keep you quiet and out-of-the-way.  Then the company decides to expand and bring in some fresh faces.  These employees were hired under the new regime and thus go straight to the head of the line.  You start to feel as though the writing is on the wall and you’re going to get forced out.  Now things start to get competitive in a race you just can’t win.

As you all know first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.  ~Alec Baldwin from Glen Gary Glen Ross (click here)

I mean sure you’ve got thirteen years of experience under your belt, but two new employees hired three years apart are now being fast tracked in the management trainee program.  It’s not their fault, they didn’t do anything except get hired.  Besides what do you have to worry about?  You have thirteen years worth of stock options, that means you have ownership!   Not so fast, rumor has it the company is buying back all those outstanding shares with the intent to devalue them and re-issue new stock.  You just got the Willy in your Wonka…  (Click here)

Meanwhile your original boss is on his fifth failed business (marriage).  He keeps trying to talk you into coming over and working for him.  He shows you pictures of exotic locals and lavish parties.  In your heart you know it might not be a bad idea but you’ve got so much time invested with the current company.  It’s by no means ideal but you know the lay of the land, and know how to fly under the radar.  You become comfortable and complacent in your new role as a corporate slave.  Like most employees in today’s economy you’re just happy to have a job.

A few more years go by and those newbie employees are excelling at everything they do.  They have to full support of the company, from the owners perspective everything they touch turns to gold and they are rewarded as such.  Your “presence” is nothing more than a reminded of the way things used to be, but you survived and manage to gut out twenty years.  It’s seen its ups and downs, your accomplishments have been on your own shoulders and without the help of anyone else.

At this point you decide you’ve had enough and you’re tired of the glass ceiling so you decide to start your own business with only one goal in mind.  To be more successful than the place that held you down for so many years.  The business model is designed by doing the opposite of everything your previous employer did.  Your business is all about its employees and creating an environment for everyone to have success and to be recognized.  Not based on corporate greed and self advancement. (click here)

The business although benevolent in its appearance has another objective.  That objective is to surpass the previous company.  Maybe you drive them out of business or maybe you become so successful that you buy them out.

Businesses grow and businesses fail, the same can be said of the American family.  In summation: (click here)

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The Big “O” Goes Hollywood

25 04 2011

I’m a huge fan of non-linear story telling.  So in the spirit of Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, I give you the final chapter in my journey home last year.

This picture cracks me up, try to find the one beverage that doesn’t belong.  Here’s a hint:  It’s not Rainier.

The Olney Store has been around ever since I can remember.  Over the years there have been many incarnations.  It’s been a general store combined with a bait and tackle shop, a movie rental store and of course currently a General Store slash Bar. 

I have fond memories of this little store going all the way back to being a small child.  In the summer as little kids my cousins and I would walk there from the farm-house with only a couple of bucks each.  We’d load up on Jolly Rancher sticks, candy cigarettes, a can of the beef jerky that looked like chewing tobacco,  and of course a Sioux City Sarsaparilla.  Half of you are thinking, “ahh the good ol days”, right out of a country time lemonade commercial.  The other half are deeply concerned that three out of the four items purchased were child versions of beer and tobacco. 

Visually it was like any country store you’d see in a movie: dusty wood plank floors with ruts worn in them from years of foot traffic (the type of wear that can only happen from close to a century of people dragging their feet while wearing work boots); coolers that are so dated they’re advertising RC Cola, 7 up and Crush; all around the door there are Polaroids of fisherman holding that prized Steelhead.  (each picture with the name and date written in black magic market at the bottom)… 

To put things in perspective it’s been 25 years since I’ve seen a Polaroid or RC have ad space over Coke and Pepsi.  For years it was the owner and his wife working the register.  Always in the standard work attire; overalls.  That’s all I ever saw him wear, the shirt would be different but always the same faded blue denim Carhart overalls. 

Now that I think about it the denim overall or coverall is a staple in just about everyone’s wardrobe in the region.  I even had a pair that I would wear when I visit my dad.  It’s basically a blue-collar leisure suit or the swiss army knife of work attire.  You’ve got all those fancy pockets on the bib, for things like cigarettes, eye glasses, and of course my personal favorite: The carpenter’s pencil.  You know, the really flat pencil that only gets sharpened with a pocket knife.  Oh yeah pocket knife, that’s another great fit for the bib.  Then of course you have the standard loop on the outer thigh for a hammer.  Try not to be jealous but did I mention my coveralls were pin stripped?   

Anyway enough fashionista talk and back to the story.  If there were a global apocalypse, two things would survive.  Cockroaches and the Olney store.  Not only is it recession proof it appears to be finding its stride in the 21st century.  Like a fine wine it only gets better with age.  If it had a theme song it would be, “In the year 2525,” by Zager & Evans.

Flash forward to 2010…  The Olney Store has since re-invented itself as “The Big O Saloon & Olney Store”.  Not only is it a happening place, it has an almost cult type following.  They even have their own Facebook page, 742 likes as of writing this story.  That blows me away, 742 likes for a place that seats 20.  Someone is a marketing genius!

 Meanwhile…. while the Big O was redefining the Clatsop County bar scene as we know it.  I was throwing a swanky little shindig of my own not more than a mile away.  On the menu was Smoked Salmon, garlic cheese bread, Oysters and Beer.  Now from an earlier story you know I got sidetracked on the beach and in my rush to get supplies I left off hotdogs and marshmallows.  I mean it was an outdoor party with a bon fire, what was I thinking?  Not to worry, one of the other dynamic innovations the Big O offers is once the general store side closes, you can still buy those items through the bar.  Marketing genius I say! 

One of my oldest friends Joel came to the outing with his wife and two young boys.  The boys weren’t really feeling the “seafood” vibe, and who can blame them.  I wasn’t initially thrilled about the oysters until a few beers into the evening.  Once I reached the tipping point — known as the blood alcohol level to hunger ratio — they were the best thing ever!  The kids didn’t have the benefit of alcohol.  So we thought we’d head down and buy some hotdogs and buns from the “O”. 

Now I’m not sure if it was the time of day we showed up, or what we were wearing, but when we walked into that bar we could not have been less well received.  I may as well of had a pink sweater tied around my shoulders and Joel a Chihuahua on a diamond studded leash.  In unison a bar full of wannabe tough guys and lumberjacks looked over their shoulders — no doubt wondering who in the hell these outsiders were.

The actual bar where you “belly up” was full.  Now what I wanted to do was wedge my way in and order shots of whiskey for myself and all these hard-working men.  Letting them know I’m one of them. Afterall, I grew up in these woods!  Instead I have to order a pack of hot dogs and hope that nobody hears me.  It’s not my first rodeo; drunken blue-collar dudes are not going to let a guy wearing a sweater vest order a pack of weenies, without saying something.

So we make our way to the corner of the bar.  “Um excuse me, could I get a pack of hotdogs?”, I said.  The bartender looked at me like I was ordering some bizarre fetish shot for me and my boyfriend.  With a confused look on her face she responded, “What do you want?  I can’t hear you!”  This time I was going to use my god given Italian talent of talking with my hands “Um Just a pack a pack of hotdogs,” I said as I made a small square with my hands, like two giant C’s facing each other.  Then it all made sense to her “Oh ok give me just a second.”  Success, I was going to get out of here sans any smartass comments from the peanut gallery!

Now for all of the “Big O’s” innovation, they really dropped the ball on what happened next.  I could see the bartender walking towards me with said pack of hot dogs and they were not in a bag!  It was at this moment that everything went into slow motion as she handed them across the bar… Joel screamed, “Nooooooooo!”.  I had a confused look on my face.. Abraham Zapruder continues to roll film from across the grassy knoll.   As soon as those tube-steaks were in my hands, things returned to normal speed.  Just in time for a very loud, “Looks like you boys are gonna go play hide the Weiner!” then there was a round of “LOL-ing” and chaos.   The bar is situated in a triangulated pattern and just like JFK, I never even saw where it came from.  Kill shot, lights out, to the back and left, to the back and left… 

Now normally in these situations I won’t even hesitate with some sort of smartass comeback.  Similar to Deep Blue playing chess against Kasparov I instantly ran 10 million scenarios, all of which end badly if I say anything.  So I did what you do in these situations, I took the hit.  It sucked, but like Kevin Bacon in Animal House, sometimes the best course of action is to just smile and say, “Thank you sir may I have another!”  In my mind, I thought, “You haven’t seen the last of me Big O… I’ll be back!”  but I decided to stop short of telling them they’d “rue the day” while shaking my fist.

So anyway three hours go by and “I’m back”.  This time it’s after the party and I’m with a good friend Bryan who had flown in from Des Moines, Iowa.  We were on our way to the Labor Temple when we decided to stop less than a mile into our journey for a drink.  I know I come off looking like a total booze hound but to be honest I really don’t drink that often.  I like to get all of my drinking done in about 5 to 7 days, then I shut it down for the rest of the year.   

It must have been close to 10 or 10:30 and by this time the crowd had thinned out.  There were just a few people, including a few of the world-famous stars of “Ax Men”.  (Earlier Bryan was star struck when we ran into some of the Dangerous Catch crew at buoy nine, now this.  You just don’t see this type of celebrity unless you’re at a Lakers game.)  So we sat at the bar and got an immediate pissy attitude from the bartender.  “It’s last call!” she snarked. 

Well hello to you too, clearly daddy didn’t pay enough attention to someone.  Just get some more tattoos, and sleep around, that’ll make it all better.  Without too much thought we ordered, “Two shots of Jäger”… at which point I asked random ax man guy if he knows what Jägermeister means in German.  He grunts and looks at me like he crapped his pants an hour ago and isn’t interested in conversation.  I went ahead and gave him the answer, “It’s Master Hunter”  Just then our shots show up, we came up with some funny toast in regards to being Master Hunters and threw em down.  By the way, the one thing that both of us seem to notice is that other people are still ordering drinks as if the “last call” was some sort of lie.

Just as I was going to call out the quench wench for obvious bias towards the deep end of the gene pool, Axe Man chimes in with, “Shot of Jäger”.  Bryan and I looked at each other and both thought, “Hey maybe he’s coming around and he’s going to join in.”  Just as we both started to say something along the lines of, “see there you go,” we were immediately cut off with, “no no no… I do  Jäger all the time”.  I should also mention he refused to actually look at us when he spoke.  As if possibly he invented it or his family brought it to America from the old country.  

Now if there’s one thing I’ve never been good at its holding in a laugh.  I’m the last person anyone wants with them at the following: (library, wedding, funeral, hospital, church or anywhere else laughing could be seen as inappropriate).  It usually goes like this, something funny happens and then I happen to make eye contact with the only person who also thinks it’s funny.  Bryan actually learned this the hard way by looking at me during his wedding.  Now granted I was one of his groomsmen, but not directly in the line of sight.  Somewhere in the vows, talking about for ever and ever, he made the mistake of looking at me.  At which point I gave him my best Robert DeNiro shoulder shrug and face, “lil bit, you insulted him a lil bit.”

The combination of false bravado and arrogance was too much for either of us to handle.  Besides I’d had about all I was going to take of the “hillbilly chic” attitude.  As usual it took but one glance, and we both started laughing.  The quieter we tried to be, the worse it was.  When Bryan dropped the phrase, “what an ax hole” under his breath, that was it.  I had to do the standup into a big laugh signaling that our time was up.       

“This place is dead lets hit the Temple, I hear they have karaoke that will blow your mind.” I said just loud enough for the bartender to hear.

 “Man I’m hungry, breakfast sounds so good”, Bryan replied. 

 “Yeah good luck finding breakfast around here this time of night.” 

 As we drove off into the night I moved our custom-made CD to track 5, Big Bad JohnThis one’s for you ax man, enjoy that  Jäger as the sweet sounds of Jimmy Dean rain down on you.





From Phoenix Arizona “Not Quite” All The Way To Tacoma

19 04 2011

In an earlier or previous story, depending on the order you read things, I talked about some observations on my trip home in August of 2010.  There were a few other “incidents” that took place I wanted to write about, but it would have taken the story off track.  So think of this as version 1.5 of my trip home.  Stay tuned for the final chapter: The Big “O” Goes Hollywood.

We’ll rewind to Saturday morning in August… The day was supposed to go like this: Golf at The Highlands, see some old haunts and family, then stop by Fred Meyer to pick up supplies for a party that evening.  It was three simple things, how hard could it be to screw that up?  Whatever I do I should probably grab some hot dogs and marshmallows, we’re having a bonfire…

The day started off great, clear skies and perfect weather.  I was going to get a chance to play golf with my dad and one of my best friends.  I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve played golf with my dad but we always have fun.  Of course as mentioned in a previous story, A good friend of mine, Bryan, had flown into Portland to join the festivities.  

One of the things I admire about my dad is that he’s an extremely hard worker, but he does things at his own pace.  I know what you’re thinking, he must take his time.  It’s actually the opposite, work starts early and its full throttle, that’s his pace.  The ying to this yang is when it comes time to relax and enjoy himself, he does it right.  The rationale is: “Hey, I don’t cheat anybody with my work, so I’m not going to cheat myself relaxing”.  

Quick side bar: My dad and I have an interesting relationship, although I didn’t grow up under his roof, he knows me better than anyone.  He’s always been a straight shooter and the person whose advice I trust more than anyone… Unless it comes to marriage. He’s been married (counting on my fingers)… hmmm lets see… carry the one… Five times.  That’s right the ‘ol five timers club!  In my mind this comes back to his work ethic, he’s not afraid to keep working on something until he gets it right.

So we show up at the golf course and things start of normal enough.  Then at some point, which is still heavily debated, our round of golf went from casual outing to partying like we were on tour with the Allman brothers.  Time and reality slowed to a grind as Major Tom played in my head….4…3…2…1.  As you may have figured out from my previous writings my life has a soundtrack.  Actually so does yours, think about it sometime, it just might change your whole perspective on things. 

There was a surreal moment when in the middle of the round my pops opened up a picnic basket complete with sub sandwiches, expensive cheeses, red and white wine.  “Dad what are you doing?  We have people behind us.”  He casually looked up at me, “Don’t worry it’s fine, relax”.  I thought to myself, “well he is my dad, I guess if he says its fine, that’s good enough for me.”  Just then I saw Bryan fly by on a magic carpet, sitting indian style, dressed in pink bunny suit, using a giant egg beater as a motor.  “That’s right Thomas… it is good enough for you.  And no you’re not dreaming.”  While the band from Titanic played in the background, possibly foreshadowing the events to come.

Ok so the last part about Bryan I made up.  There was no bunny suit, magic carpet, or mind reading.  But the picnic basket thing did actually happen!  After golf, Bryan and I decided it would make more sense to head down to the beach and drive home that way.  Less traffic, slower speeds, less chance for any “entanglements”.  Plus it’s not a trip home unless you see the Peter Iredale.  We had a couple of hours before the party, so we were still on schedule.  Just as we left the parking lot, on comes a little Cyprus Hill.  It doesn’t matter what song it was. 

Somehow after entering the beach we lost an hour, again I can’t explain exactly how this happened.  I can only theorize that when you listen to Cyprus Hill and enter the Del Ray beach access it creates a rip in the space-time continuum.  No need to panic we still had an hour and the Iredale was in sight.  My jubilation quickly turned to concern when I saw the condition of the beach access.  The sand looked soft, and with deep ruts.  Not exactly ideal conditions for a high-octane street machine like the Toyota Corolla. 

We could turn around and risk being late or we could go for broke.  I seem to remember us joking about this being our Thelma and Louise moment.  “Bryan this is your first time driving on the beach right?” “Let me explain something, you need to get a head of steam, and whatever you do…. Do not take your foot off that gas”.  I put our mix CD on track 11, Barracuda by Heart and Bryan gunned it.  It was a thing of beauty, twenty to thirty people looking on in awe as we rocketed down the beach.  As co-pilot my role was jamming the air Bass Guitar like nobodies business. 

It was as if Bryan had been temporarily possessed by the spirit of Evil Kenevil.  For a moment I swear when I looked over he had the white jumpsuit and stars and stripes helmet on.   In the history of daredevils… There’s jumping the fountains at Caesars Palace (ONE) and Bryan taking a Corolla up a soft beach access (TWO)… then there’s everything else.  “Hello destiny”… It’s Bryan and Thomas.

The funny thing about destiny is…. as it turns out it’s easily derailed by Japanese engineering.  What neither of us realized is Toyota has a toggle switch which engages an anti slip mechanism.  Once the tires slip bad enough it kills the motor.  We would have made it further had we decided to hang a left and drive through the ocean.  We made it half way and had come to a complete stop, the party was over.  Barracuda came to a screeching halt like someone drug the needle across the album.  I could feel the negative mocking comments and laughter from those twenty to thirty people.  I remember calmly thinking, “wow this really sucks”.  Only one thing to do, get out and see how bad it is.  We weren’t high centered, but close enough to where we were going to only get one shot at getting out. 

Something you simply don’t do as a local (past or present) is get stuck on the beach… It’s the equivalent of Clark Griswold launching the family truckster 50 feet beyond the “road closed” sign.  To add to the humiliation it wasn’t long before I had some 17-year-old girl trying to tell me we were bottomed out just like she was fifteen minutes earlier.  Rambling on about how there was nothing I could do, but not to worry the sheriff was on his way, he had pulled them out.  “Nothing I could do?… wait, did she just say the Sheriff was on his way?”   

Now if getting stuck is bad… being stuck and then given a field sobriety test is a hundred times worse.  My mind instantly saw my name in the Columbia Press and the disgrace that comes with that dubious honor.  It was at this moment I told Bryan to put the car in reverse, “We’re getting out of here”.  Bryan flipped the toggle switch off, then like Apache Chief from Super Friends I summoned what can only be described as “retard strength”.  I pushed on the front bumper as hard as I could, tires throwing sand in my face… we started moving…  This was awesome, fifteen feet to freedom, then I’m going to tell all these by-standers, who didn’t offer to help, they can “eat shit” (I’m still bitter).  It wasn’t the smell of burning rubber against sand… it was the smell of sweet success and freedom! Each step got quicker, the car was building momentum.  It was going to take more than mere sand to derail my plans for the evening.

Then it happened, call it a tactical error, or rookie mistake.  Bryan didn’t turn the steering wheel to keep the tires in the ruts, the result was me shoving the car right into a fresh patch of undisturbed fresh soft sand.  This was our Battle of Dunkirk (you may need to google this for the analogy to make sense).  We had retreated as far as we could go.  Only it wasn’t the English Channel that had us boxed in.. It was a few feet of sand.  All we could do now was wait.  A German Blitzkrieg known as the Clatsop County Sheriff was en route, coming to wipe us out.  Just then the band from the Titanic showed back up to play us home. 

Bryan got out and joined me in a laugh as we looked at how close we came to making it.  This is typically the part in the movie where the two condemned characters share one last cigarette and talk about how it was a real pleasure to know each other.  There’s a certain inner peace that comes with accepting your fate, and we had accepted ours.  Nothing to do, nowhere to run. 

Just then…. as if WWII history was repeating itself, albeit on a much smaller scale, a savior appeared.  Not a boat crossing the English Channel but a four-wheel drive Jeep CJ with a winch.  “I say old chaps it looks like you could use a helping hand”  Ok so he didn’t have a British accent but five minutes later we were on our way to Fred Meyer.  With the worst behind us, a quick change to the CD track 8, Rock ‘N Me by Steve Miller.





The Temple of Gloom…

13 04 2011

This past Summer I had the chance introduce one of my best friends, Bryan, to the finer things in life, Clatsop County style: friends, family, great food, and plenty of golf.  A lot has changed since I moved away, but some things are juuuust as I remember them.

Like this for example….

How is it that women in Clatsop County are willing to date or in some extreme cases marry someone who is at least two to three levels beneath them? (using a standard 1 to 10 scale 1 being the lowest, 10 the highest)  If you’re getting defensive right now, “shhhh it’s too late just take the hit”….  It’s almost as if there’s some bizarre variation of Stockholm Syndrome taking place.

If this phenomenon had a logo it would be Jesse James and Sandra Bullock.  Really?  Am I blowing the lid of such a well-kept secret?  Maybe its time to look beyond the smoke and mirrors.  It’s time to break the mold and quit looking for the “Mommy Relationship”.  You know, the one where you latch on to the first bad decision you can find, enter into a co-dependant relationship based on the premise that you can change this person.  Here’s some free advice, help yourself…. to a life of so much more than a squandered youth and a life of regret.

THE SCENE

On Saturday night Bryan and I decided to take things to the next level.  I had just wrapped up a little get together at my dad’s with some good friends.  Word on the street was karaoke at the Labor Temple was the place to be.  Actually…. it was the only place still open… I should take a sentence or two to explain the Labor Temple.  The “Temple” is one of the oldest bars in town and actually transcends generations.  At every level in your family, someone has a story revolving around the labor temple.  Based on that fact, the Labor Temple may actually be the center of the Clatsop Universe.

So we jumped in the rented Toyota Corolla (double upgrade), popped in a custom-made CD and hit the road.  Did we sing a duet to Cher’s Believe in the car?  Maybe we did and maybe we didn’t.  I can assure you if we did, it would have been something pretty special, and angels would have wept.

As we pulled up in front of the Temple of Doom I immediately started thinking, “good lord… what am I doing here?”  Then, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of something so incredibly sexy!  My pulse quickened, I had butterflies in my stomach, could it be?  This was exactly what I needed, one night only, no questions, no regrets.  “I’ll just wake up tomorrow and pretend like it didn’t happen.” I thought to myself.

My motto when you’re on vacation is anything goes.  Let’s be honest, at the end of the day when you’re an old man, all you’re left with are the memories…  Knowing this, Bryan realized what was about to go down – he’s been there for me in the past, in my moments of impaired judgment and weakness.

Without hesitation, like a member of the secret service, he did what any good friend would do.  He tried to stop me from making a huge mistake.  As he stepped between me and something I had desired with the red-hot passion of a thousand suns, he started to say, “Don’t do it”.  I quickly put my finger to his lips before he could finish, “shhh… I know you mean well … but this is a sign I simply can’t ignore.”  He closed his eyes thinking about what I had just said.  Then understanding the situation, he nodded and stepped aside, allowing me to gaze upon my prize…. The sign which told the whole story: “Breakfast After Midnight”.

Come on!  Really?  It’s the Labor Temple, get your mind out of the gutter!  (Authors Note: If you haven’t had the Taco Omelette from the labor temple after midnight…do it! Seriously do it right now, when you’re done, clean yourself off, leave $10 on the counter and just walk out.)

HELLO DELUSIONS of GRANDEUR MEET REALITY

It’sbeen awhile since I’d been to the Temple and I must admit, I was excited, I could see my grand entrance now… I kick open the front door as fog rolls out onto the floor…Bryan on lead guitar, standing on a table, looking like Ted Nugent playing the intro to Stranglehold… while I walk in slow motion and point to random people in the crowd, flash bulbs going off–

Now here’s what actually happened… I opened the door and then, like a couple of jackasses, we sat there telling each other, “no you go first” “no after you” “no I insist”.  When I finally decided to go, I caught my shoe on the door mantle and did the three-step stutter trying not to face plant as if I just false started coming out of the blocks.   If there was any music in the background it should have been “Yakety Sax” by Boots Randolph (aka the Benny Hill theme song).

After a rocky start we gathered our bearings and settled into the bar with a couple of cocktails.  The night was going great; I was explaining the ins and outs of growing up in Warrenton/Astoria, while tone-deaf karaoke melodies filled the air.

Then what I can only describe as the most attractive girl we had seen all night walked into the bar.  Stunner, blonde hair, petite, nicely dressed (Bryan and I did the “hot hands” from SNL’s Schmitts Gay commercial).  Several minutes went by before I realized she was with her significant other who sat down next to us with herHer “man” – what a sad joke, three sheets to the wind and loud.  He proceeds to order a drink and toss the money at the bartender.  Now I’m pretty sure this is not acceptable bar etiquette when it’s all cash… and when there’s half a dozen coins mixed in, in my mind it’s an automatic eighty-six, thanks for playing.  To his credit he was able to slur out a “surry” and the bartender although obviously disgusted let it slide.  This is the type of pass you get when you come to the same place every night.

Quick re-cap: We’ve got a sober female who is a solid “9” (loss of full point for just a horrible choice in her boyfriend) and her man who is a “6”.  Think a cross between a shorter, homelier, and slightly retarded version of Corey Feldman and any X Games athlete.  For the next ten minutes he berates her and manages to work in some vintage name calling, all because she wants to go home Which got Bryan and I openly discussing at a reasonably loud volume how confused we were at what we were seeing.  Was it possible that this girls’ self-esteem was so low that she felt she needed to take this?  Was she unable to view the benefits of flash photography?  Just as we started to bat the idea around that she might have suffered some sort of head trauma, something amazing happened…. she got up and walked out!  I remember thinking, “good for you!” & “what took you so long”.

With the topic needing discussed further, I started to think back about how this was nothing new.  Through some sort of genetic anomaly there is a disproportionately large number of attractive women under a certain age in Clatsop County as compared to men.  Then at a certain age – which will remain a secret known only to me  – the scale slides hard the other way.  Now I’m not coming down on anybody for over achieving when it comes to a spouse or girlfriend, hell I’m probably guilty of that myself.  What irritates me is not respecting the situation.  Understand the only thing you bring to the table is a lifted 4×4 and substandard DNA.  Sorry I should have mentioned this earlier.  Women in Clatsop County are unknowingly attracted to KC lights, a 4 inch lift and Vanillaroma.  Unfortunately for the guys, that four inches only increases the height of the truck (..Debbie Downer..).

We finished up our breakfast and cocktails and walked outside, I looked at the sky took a deep breath, feeling a sense of pride for that girl.  It was as if a tragic circle of life in Clatsop County had been broken.  Maybe this would have some sort of butterfly effect on local women.  A ripple affect letting them know they didn’t have to settle for a lifetime of trying to work two jobs and collect child support.  There is a whole world beyond Napa and beyond Seaside.  Maybe she would go on to cure cancer, successfully bring peace to the Middle East, the possibilities were endless!  Bryan and I hopped in the Corolla (double upgrade) and fired it up, ready for our next quantum leap, to “right what once went wrong”. (That’s right, I just went Dr. Sam Becket)

Instead the headlights revealed this poor girl sitting on the sidewalk, with her back to the Labor Temple.  She had simply opted to go outside and wait for her future.  I wanted so badly to roll down the window and say, “look you don’t know me, but here’s what you need to do.  In the next 90 days save up as much money as you can and get the hell out of here.  Go someplace warm and figure it out when you get there.”  I had delusions of grandeur on being the next Harry Tubman, I could develop and underground railroad to PDX… Then I thought, “Is it my place to interfere with the circle of life?”

Bryan and I looked at each other, he put the CD to track 3… Bonnie Tyler… Holding out for a hero…Then like a streetwise Hercules who fights the rising odds, I rolled down my window and told her to get in the car if she wanted a new life.  She grabbed her purse and jumped in the back seat…

Oh wait, no, now I remember…. we left her there…  We had an 8 am tee time the next morning.  But all is not lost….

Ladies and gentlemen, in your mind, please sing along in your best Elton John voice:

From the day we arrive on the planet

And blinking, step into the sun

There’s more to see than can ever be seen

More to do than can ever be done

There’s far too much to take in here

More to find than can ever be found 

But the sun rolling high

Through the sapphire sky

Keeps great and small on the endless round

It’s the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the Circle

The Circle of Life

It’s the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the Circle

The Circle of Life





A Beautiful Mind….Of Movies?

7 04 2011

 

      By sheer happenstance movies have always played an important part of my life.  I’m sure growing up in a small coastal town with nothing to do played a role as well, but that’s neither here nor there.  More specifically comedies have always been a topic of discussion in our family.  I remember “quotes” (yes I just put quotes in ” “) at young age from movies like Blazing Saddles, The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack and Animal House were always in heavy rotation in our household.  It sometimes seemed less about the movie and more about the funny lines or “one-liner” .  Everything from Chevy Chase “slip streaming” in Fletch and Dean Wormer talking about, “double secret probation” to “he’s a cinderella boy, tears in his eyes I guess” from Caddyshack.

Looking back and doing a little self diagnosis I’ve realized a few things.   A) The focus on singling out dialogue and not the movie has no doubt greatly contributed to my (A.D.D.)  2) I have a very active imagination and dream in color.   C) I have developed an almost super human ability to accurately recite random lines from movies after having only seen them once.  No doubt someday this will come in handy…. I’m just waiting for my moment in the sun. 

Of course the real tragedy in all of this is that I could have just as easily been blessed with this skill set in any field.  For Example: The precise knowledge of  human anatomy needed by a surgeon.  An engineers memory of mathematic equations and formulas needed to build skyscrapers.  A high-profile attorney’s ability to quote cases pertaining to legal precedents.  Sadly, the closest I’ll ever come to any of this is dropping a Kramer vs Kramer reference while playing Operation and helping out with 2nd grade math.  I’m the John Forbes Nash Jr. of something nobody really cares about…. movies.

How I picture my above mentioned skill someday being useful:  I see myself being called in by the FBI to help in some sort of hostage crisis.  A terrorist wearing a vest of dynamite has threatened to kill everyone unless someone can accurately tell him about the Blues Brothers car.  (shhh… just go with it)

Cut to me E-braking the classic Smokey and the Bandit Firebird in front of the building holding the hostages.  Special Agent in charge Dixen Cox runs up to me and says, “Try not to make a mess of things this time, we don’t need another Farley incident”.  Completely disregarding his authority I point to his tie and tell him he has a spot, he looks down only to get hit in the face with my finger as I take off towards the building.  Armed with only a Zippo lighter and a vast knowledge of movies, its go time. 

Walking through the front door I see a badly beaten off-duty Blockbuster employee who tried to be a hero.  He tried to answer the question, but panicked and recommended the terrorist ask a question about the Twilight Saga instead.  Blockbuster employees…frickin amatuers, they only know what someone else told them to say and dream of being the next Shia LaBeouf.

 I hold my arms up and turn around slowly showing that I’m unarmed….(At this point a guitar rift from Peter Frampton’s Do you feel like we do starts playing) With my back turned, I flip open my trusty Universal Studios Zippo, light a cigarette, take a drag, wink at the token hot chick and blow a smoke ring…..

In a tone that is both confident and arrogant (Clint Eastwood) I start in, “It’s got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant. (I turn around and start slowly walking towards the terrorist) It’s got cop tires…. cop suspensions…. cop shocks…. (Finally nose to nose) It’s a model made before catalytic converters, so it’ll run good on regular gas.”  Then staring into his eyes I take the cigarette and put it out on his forehead…  A bead of sweat rolls down across this face, which has just turned white.  

With a pale face and fear in his eyes, it’s at this point he realizes two things: First, he’s met his match. Second, when I distracted him with the cigarette, I lit the fuse on his jacket with the zippo.  Horrified, he takes off running out of the building, screaming “El Diablo Blanco” opting for suicide by cop.  As he explodes in a hail of gun fire, I have some sort of cheesy 80’s catch-phrase like “Looks like he blew his top”…. Kiss the girl…  Roll credits to Under Pressure by Queen.     Hey… It could happen…

Finding common ground & Passing the torch:

This love of movies is something that our oldest boy TJ has picked up.  Movie nights have become somewhat of a ritual around our home.  To lend some perspective: since October 28th 2009 I’ve rented and watched 490 movies from blockbuster online.  Movie night involves barricading ourselves in the guest bedroom with a bowl of popcorn and some drinks.  I with my cocktail and he with Capri Sun Roaring Water.  I explain the finer points of highbrow humor as we view such classics as: Vacation, Uncle BuckFletch and Plains Trains & Automobiles.  I explain the genius that is Landis, Hughes and Ramis.  The classic comedic timing of Chase, Akroyd, Murray and Candy.  

Last night for the first time he watched The Great Outdoors.  I found it in the $5 bargain bin, you know the one where you have to literally shovel the movies from one side to the other.  If you haven’t seen the movie you can probably stop right here… be thankful 1950’s style McCarthyism isn’t going strong and move back to whatever communist country you came from.  If you have, then you may or may not know the film was produced by John Hughes. 

I know we all love John Hughes films ( National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Uncle Buck, Home Alone to name a few). Whether he directed or produced them, they all have a similar feel… The most common term used is “teen angst”, but I feel Hughes is so much more.  He was somehow able to find a common thread everyone shares.  Everyone went to School with a Ferris Bueller, or has an Uncle Buck in their family.  You can easily see yourself in those same situations and you identify with the character.  That’s what makes John Hughes one of the best.

Without out getting too deep or philosophical, The Great Outdoors was a blast to watch with him.  Of course after the movie all he could talk about was when John Candy shoots the bear in the rear.  You remember, with the shotgun that doubled as a lamp.  If case you forgot, it skins the fur off revealing what is supposed to be the bear’s “behind”.  I thought TJ was going to pee his pants he was laughing so hard.   His laughter does more for me than any movie possibly could. 

If you have kids you know what I’m talking about.  Someone once told me, “A childs laughter is like medicine for the soul” and they were right.  I proudly watch in wonder when on occasion he puts two and two together and sees the humor in something that’s not overly obvious.  There’s something to be said for going to bed happy with a smile on your face and laughter in your heart.  Don’t get me wrong you’ll still hate work, and you have no desire to get up and leave that warm bed, but at least you can look forward to getting home and sharing a laugh.

The next morning in typical fashion, he bursts into our bedroom at 6:50 and has to tell mom all about the movie.  Which has backfired on me several times, due to a flawed and biased movie rating system!  Allie has come to accept these briefings and always looks at me as if somehow she could have done better, shakes her head, and asks, “what have you done to our child?” 

Every father and son has their “thing”, watching movies is ours.  It’s almost as if I’m passing the torch, passing along my useless skill set.  Someday with any luck TJ will sit down with his kids, download  Family Vacation.  Then talk about comedy and movies of grandpa’s era.  Or maybe he’ll become the next John Hughes of his.





Never Pass A Chance To Say I Love You

25 03 2011

Not many people have vivid memories from when they were three, but I have one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.  A memory that serves as a life lesson at a young age. One that to this day I still employ every morning.

With us being a one car family and my wife a stay at home mom, on days that she needs the car, the whole family piles in the blazer an hour early and she drives me to work to drop me off.  Before I leave the car, our boys (Conner age 6 and TJ age 8) and I have a routine and it goes exactly like this: Hugs, Kisses, Fist bump, and a closing of “Love You”.  I should mention: Per the kids it has to be in that order or I have to start over.  Sometimes I go for the fist bump first just to get a reaction.  Hey, I’m a dad it’s what we do!  On the days that I’m running late  (I can’t lie, I’m always running late) we never deviate from the plan: Hug, Kiss, Bump, Love You…  Then it’s me off and running into my building hoping to catch an open elevator in the lobby.    

Darlene Rubino who would later marry and become Darlene Hubbell was my aunt and the proud mother to two beautiful girls, Valerie & Teresa.  When I think back to my first memories of her, they are random and brief. Keep in mind I was three and this has been over 30 years ago.  I know she was a very pretty and loving person.  She took me to see Star Wars at the Liberty Theater, she drove a VW bug, she fried up kielbasa for my dad and I, served on a vintage 70’s style yellow plate.  Why these events have stuck in my head I’m not really sure.  There is one more memory which is probably the most vivid.   August 17th 1977,  she was watching me for my mom and dad, but had decided to join one of her brothers at the beach.  So the decision was made to take me to my grandparents and drop me off.  The destination is the picture you see above.   

I remember the drive out to my grandparents, long windy road through the trees.  The sun was out and would hit the car intermittently as it shined through the tall trees lining the road.  With it being so nice out the windows were down, it smelled like the coast in summer, like warm pine, fresh flowers and salty air.  I remember us getting lost and her asking me for directions.  Looking back she was probably just playing with me to keep me entertained.  I remember us pulling into a farm-house that looked like my grandparents and turning around.  I now know this was the Olson farm on the way to my Grandparents.  I remember the song “Year of the cat” by Al Stewart playing on the radio.  To this day whenever I hear that song it immediately takes me back to this memory.

After our drive through the country we finally arrived at my grandparents farm in Olney.  I remember they had both come out to the front porch to greet us.  I remember getting out of the car and my loving aunt coming towards me with her arms open asking me for a hug and a kiss goodbye.  Of course I did what most children do when they have an audience… I ran away from her, doing my best “kisses are icky” routine and round and round the car we went.  Like a couple of keystone cops… I remember her laughing as she chased me, letting me stay just in front of her, even though she could have easily caught me.  Until finally I ran up the concrete moss-covered stairs to the porch and the safety of my grandmother.  As I hid behind my grandma I was asked, “Aren’t you going to give me a hug good-bye?”…  I went mute and buried my face into my grandmas apron,  but that didn’t remove the smile from Darlene’s face.  With a warm smile she told me good-bye and said that she loved me.  She then turned away, walked down that set of cracked mossy concrete steps, got into her car and drove away…. the sound of the gravel driveway crunching under her tires.   And that’s it…. I have no further memories of that day.

That was the last time I would ever see my Aunt Darlene…  Just a few hours later she would borrow a friends Pontiac Firebird to leave the beach and head to the store for what I’m told was a pack of cigarettes.  It was at this point that a horrible fate would intervene.  She drifted off the right side of the road and over corrected causing her to hit a large tree.  The end result was a life that would go unfinished and a family cheated out of a wonderful Mother, Sister, Daughter, Aunt and Grandmother.

So many times in my life I’ve wished I would have told her I loved her and given her a big hug.  Or wished that her two daughters would have had my wasted opportunity to give their mother a hug and say they loved her.  It’s always tough when you lose a loved one, it’s even tougher when you’re one of the last people to be with them before they unexpectedly leave this life.  Your mind starts to wonder, “What if I would have done something different?”  “Would it have changed what happened?”  It’s a lot for an adult to deal with let alone a 3-year-old child.  Over time I’ve come to terms with the fact you can’t think “what if”… You only have control over the here and now, and the here and now is ever so fleeting. 

As an adult and father to two young boys I take stock in the fragility of life more than ever.  I treat every goodbye with my boys as if it were the last time I have the opportunity to let them know how much they mean to me, as if it were the last time I’m able to hold them in my arms.  Every time I give my boys a hug, kiss, fist bump, and tell them that I love them, I remember my Aunt Darlene, it’s my way of honoring how much she meant to those who knew and loved her. 

In loving memory of my Aunt Darlene

“Hugs and Kisses, I love you”





Confessions Of A Pre Middle Aged Drama King

20 03 2011

For someone who loves to write or create, you never really know when the moment is going to hit you.  Or at least that’s the way I operate.  So often I sit down with  journal and pen in hand, desperately wanting something profound to find its way onto my paper…. and I’m found wanting. 

Today I read a short story from someone I know that made me think about my own past, and has for the time being inspired me to do a little writing.  Considering we’re right in the middle of March Madness maybe the term “inspired” doesn’t really do the situation justice, but since I don’t have a Thesaurus, it’ll have to do.  Also, if you’ve never read anything from me before I need to disclose the following:  I tend to be sarcastic, use random pop trivia references and write more closely to how I speak.  Having said that you’ll also note that “sentence structure” is not that important.  But getting a cheap laugh or working The Beastie Boys into the story is.

Growing up on the North Coast of Oregon is, was, and always will be a true experience.  Growing up as a second or third generation with family in the area is like tacking on a multiplier to the whole experience.  I’m third generation all the way, both sets of my grandparents raised their families in and around Astoria Oregon.  On that note there are certain obstacles in life that are hard to overcome, in my mind having a birth certificate that says Columbia Memorial is one of them.  

It’s such a double-edged sword, but looking back I don’t know that I would have changed anything.  Lets be honest when you watch a movie set in some small coastal town you think, “Awwwe that looks so quaint and fun.”  Trust me it’s not all corn dogs and elephant ears.  What they don’t cover in the movies is the horrible weather, seasonal unemployment, and everyone knowing your business.  Somehow those scenes hit the cutting room floor.  The upsides were: I don’t remember a day when there wasn’t something family related going on, either a get together or some sort of drama.  You might interpret the drama as a bad thing but being a small town drama equals entertainment, and family get togethers equaled story telling about the good ol days. 

It’s clear that we live in a different world today when compared to Clatsop County say circa mid 1960’s to the late 1970’s.  To be honest I don’t know if we’re any better off today.  There was a time when cops would follow you home if you had been drinking instead of giving you a DUI.  A time when if two men (or women) had a disagreement, somebody got hit in the face and then they shared a couple of beers.  A time when city league softball actually meant something and was taken seriously.  You see it’s from this era that I have not actual memories but memories of stories that have been passed down to me.  I feel that at some point it will be my responsibility to pass these stories on to my children, and then possibly etch them on to stone tablets… I’m not sure.

Here’s a classic example:  My parents divorced when I was very young.  I want to say I was three when things started to fall apart and around four when the divorce was finalized.  My dad ever the romantic always believed that somehow the marriage was salvageable and when he heard that another man was lending a comforting ear to my mother, he did what any rational man would do.  He went to find out what was going on. 

Upon entering the house it wasn’t the smell of compassion in the air, but instead the scent of fear.  Apparently “Mr. sensitive I’m here for you guy” was well aware that my dad had a reputation of punch first ask questions……well.. never type of guy.  My Dad has lost two fights in his entire life out of dozens and dozens, even though he claims one was a draw against my Uncle (authors note: Uncle Vince was the baddest man on the planet or at least Clatsop county for some time, side story about this later).  The other in his words was, “The only time I ever got my ass kicked and I had to pay money for it.”  He signed up for a boxing match at the Seaside Civic Center and ran up against an army golden gloves winner in the second round of the tournament.  

Now back to our hero, “Mr. sensitive I’m here for you guy”.  Apparently in my Dad’s mind this “offense” if you will, was beyond just getting served a knuckle sandwich.  As the story goes there was a timeframe given (Timeframe: However long it takes to get a rifle) and then my father proceeded to pump three rounds form a bolt-action rifle into the tail end of a Shelby Cobra… From the front porch….From about 100 to 150 yards away.  Impressinve on two fronts:  First my dads guns are always loaded and this guy managed to put a football field between himself and my pops.  Secondly, my dad went three for four on a moving target.  Move over Lee Harvey Oswald!  No charges were ever filed…  To his credit the guy knew he was in the wrong and took his 1970’s style punishment like a man.

That same car would be sold several years back just a few miles from me at the Barret Jackson auto show in Scottsdale AZ.  I wanted to show up and let the buyer know if he looked real close he could probably see the bondo job covering up those bullet holes. 

Back to that side story about my Uncle Vince who was basically to Clatsop county what Mike Tyson was to the rest of the world in their primes.  A good friend of mine talked me into getting my ear pierced in 1994.  Hey, everybody was doing it!  The gold hoop look was all the rage during this time.  Anyway it was during Regatta, which if you’re from the area you know this is a big booze fest.  We showed up at the Portway Tavern and bellied up to the bar, fake ID’s in hand, Regatta pin on shirts, ready for some action as Sabotage by the Beastie Boys played in the background (YES!  I knew I could work it in). 

Not more than a minute after we sit down some 40 something year old man starts heckling us about our ear rings.  Since it was Regatta I told him we were with the pirates of the Caribbean… he wasn’t buying it.  Thinking we were a couple of college punks from the big city of Portland he slid down the bar and really started to heckle with the unoriginal gay humor..  Clearly this mental giant was pulling out all the stops.  I finally convinced him we were locals thinking that would finally shut him up, no such luck.  He started grilling me about who I was, wanting to know name.  When I told him I was Jim Colvin’s son the first words out of his mouth were, “Is Vince Rubino your uncle?” I could tell from the complete 180 in demeanor that he had either had the fear of an ass kicking put into him or it had actually taken place. 

After 15-20 minutes of listening to this guy I was going to turn the tables and start asking him questions and see how he liked it.  “I hear my uncle was a pretty tough guy back in the day, do you know him?” to which he responded, “well he wasn’t as tough as he thought”  Clearly he was trying to back pedal and save face at the same time.  “Really?  because from what I’ve heard he never lost a fight…..ever.”    At this point he mumbled something under his breath and walked away.  This was pre cell phone era, so for you younger readers he pretended to get an important text. 

The best part of the story is when I relayed the conversation to my uncle, he called and left a calm and pleasant message on the guys answering machine.  “Hello, this is Vince, I was just talking to my nephew and he said you guys were talking about the old days, if you want to go over anything feel free to give me a call.” (no return phone call was ever received)  The guys name was Jim Pinkstaff and he got his whippin by my uncle in grade school.  Reputation goes a long way in Clatsop County, approximately 30 plus years if my math is correct.