Tuesday, January 31, 2006

World's Shortest Fairytale

A friend e-mailed me this. Being a guy, I thought it was pretty funny.

Once upon a time, a guy asked a girl "Will you marry me?"

The girl said,"NO!"

And the guy lived happily ever after and went fishing and hunting and played golf a lot and drank beer and left the toilet seat up and farted whenever he wanted.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Is that a Verizon on the horizon?

When I was a young boy, I had a grandfather who was a TV and appliance repairman. Because of this, we had televisions before most people with money had them. My older brother and I shared a bedroom. We even had one. It was fascinating to wake up and go to that giant box with the little round screen. I'd turn it on and wait impatiently for it to warm up. There wasn't much on back then, only a handful of stations, but, I'd wait just to watch silent cartoons early in the morning. It was the neatest thing. Today, my grandfather would certainly marvel at how far we've come with electronics from nearly 50 years ago. Computers, cell phones, iPods, PDAs, Blackberries, the internet and so on. It's just amazing!

As I reminisce, I almost long for the days when, on your morning commute, cars would haphazardly pass by you on the left or right, tailgating until they had that opportunity to zoom by, swerving from one side to the other. Invariably, it was some young driver applying makeup while staring into the rear view mirror. Those were the road idiots of days gone by. I'll get back to that.

Sometime in the early to mid eighties, there was a guy I knew who came into an establishment for some after work socializing. I used to go there once in a while. Joe was a pretty good guy. This being Florida, we all knew at least one wealthy person from the orange grove days before freezes forced them to sell their property to land developers. From old riches to new riches. Joe came from one of those citrus families. Wouldn't you know, he would be the first guy I met with a cell phone. It was a clunker of a thing, in the shape of a briefcase with the receiver mounted on top and a long antenna when you extended it. That phone probably weighed a good 30 pounds. He had taken some kind of label gun and printed out his new techno phone number and stuck it on the case. In matching black, of course. And, of course, I saw that number while we all crowded around his latest gadget to get an up close view. He kind of felt pretty important explaining how it worked and all. In the meantime, I slipped away from the crowd.

At the rear entrance were a couple of pay phones, just inside the door. I'm sure we all remember them, as they now become scarcer and scarcer. I dropped a quarter into the slot and dialed that number. He had explained to me earlier about a little incident in the parking lot where he bumped into another vehicle. There was hardly any damage and it turned out the guy who was leaving had gone to high school with him. They hadn't seen each other in years. He was relieved the guy told him to just forget about it.

"Hello?" he answered.

"Yes, this is Detective Michael Smith with the Winter Park Police Department. We have a gentleman here at the station who says you hit his car in a parking lot. Is that true?"

"Yes sir, but, he said everything was fine, to just forget about it."

"Well, he's not saying that now. Could you please come over so we can straighten the whole thing out? Make sure you have your insurance card."

"Um... yes...OK...um...yes, I'll be there soon." I definitely sensed a panic come over him. Not a mild case either. I quickly hung up the phone and rushed back up. He was a wreck.

"Joe, Joe, what happened?" He explained the call to me. "Joe, that was me. I was only trying to play a joke on you."

"Man, that scared the crap out of me. I'm driving on a suspended license."

"Didn't you hear the same background music coming through your phone? Besides, how would the cops find out your new number already?"

"Yeah, I never thought about that." So much for my first lesson in cell phone etiquette. I'll never do anything like that again.

Speaking of cell phone etiquette, back to the road. Today, instead of cars zooming by while drivers are applying makeup, they force you off the road because they are TOO important to pay attention to other drivers while they are busy making multi-million dollar business transactions over their cell phones. How selfish and Cingular-minded of them. They are either Sprinting along at ridiculous speeds or they are going twenty miles below the speed limit, staying in the left or middle lanes. I wonder how many accidents have occurred because of vehicle cell phone abuse, but, there were no witnesses around to testify to the fact that they were yakking away.

I have a cell phone. When I'm driving, I either don't answer it at that moment or I pull off to the side of the road. Not only is it the right and safe thing to do, I don't want to be looked at as one of those cell phone morons either. Nothing is more important than keeping yourself, your loved ones and fellow drivers safe from harm. At least, if you're going to anyway, get one of those Bluetooth earphone thingies that make you look like Lt. Uhura from Star Trek. That will keep both hands free. The rest of you, please beam yourself somewhere else while talking or call me on my cell, 321-439-6095. But not right now. I'm getting ready to drive somewhere.

Monday, January 23, 2006

"Can you give me a raise?"

When I owned my restaurant in the wee moments of the 1980s, one of the boys who worked for me was 16 years old. Randy Foster was an excellent worker and a very dedicated employee. Most of my employees were young girls. This was a fast food restaurant called Weiner King in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. The girls were excellent at cleaning and polishing. The boys were great at dumping garbages and cleaning and sweeping the parking lot. The rest rooms, well, the guys did the men's room and the girls did the women's room. We all waited on customers and cooked. After we washed our hands.

One time, Randy came up to me when I was in the back room doing paperwork. He had been with me for a few months. He said, "Dave, can I ask you something?"

"Sure, Randy."

"I, I, uh..."

"Spit it out, boy."

"Can you give me a raise?"

I thought about it briefly and had this answer for him, "Well, Randy, I can't really afford to give you a raise right now, but, I can give you a promotion."

"You can!!!?"

"Yes. I'm going to make you my Junior Executive Assistant Manager Trainee."

"YOU ARE!!!?"

"Yes. With this title, you will have added responsibilities. You will have to prove yourself worthy of the title."

"I will."

He beamed and went into high gear. He worked extra hard from then on. He was so good, I was compelled to give him a 25 cent per hour raise a week later. Back then, 25 cents was an OK amount. That was $20 more a week. To a 16 year old, that meant dinner out with your girlfriend.

The time came, about 2 years later, when I was leaving that restaurant, Randy asked me if I could get him a new job. He didn't wish to stay there, whoever the new owners would be. I told him, sure, I would do my best. I talked to Jet Black, one of the owners of the Ryland Inn. They no longer own it. We used to play poker together. I asked him if he had an opening for a great worker. The kid's young and very dedicated. I am strongly recommending him. In the restaurant field, there's a sort of commeraderie and mutual respect between owners, regardless of the type of restaurant. The Ryland Inn was, and still is, a very high end business. My place was nearby. I took him over one day and he hired him on the spot. He was gone before I was.

Years later, long after I had moved down here to Florida, a close friend of mine, Frank Foran, ran into Jet, probably at a poker game. He asked Frank if he ever hears from me. Frank said, "Of course I do. We keep in touch on a regular basis."

"Good. Then you tell Dave what an excellent person Randy turned out to be. The best employee you could ever ask for. He's my head baking and pastry chef now. An incredible cook and leader."

That was many years ago. I've often wondered what's become of him. The Ryland Inn has been sold at least a couple of times since then. I always hoped that some of the things I taught him helped him in his field. I know he did it on his own, but, I still wonder. After all, by the time he left me, he was my Executive Manager. At least, that's what I told him. He was going to be too good and too expensive for me one day. In the meantime, all I could do was give him small raises and big promotions.

Friday, January 20, 2006

If you don't do anything wrong, what have you got to hide?

I often hear these words from people who wholeheartedly support this administration's charge to snoop on an unsuspecting American public. The recent case of the subpoena served last summer on Google to relinquish information on patterns of searches by people during a given period is precisely what this is all about. It is my understanding that all other search engines have complied with the White House subpoenas to hand over this information. This administration depicts the information as very important in its effort to restore online child protection laws that have been struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States. This "would assist the government in its efforts to understand the behavior of current Web users, (and) to estimate how often Web users encounter harmful-to-minors material in the course of their searches," the Justice Department wrote in a brief filed Wednesday.

Personally, I see no problem with this request, assuming their intention is to strictly view patterns of searches and nothing else, but, we all know how the government works. Ineptitude aside, the problem I see in the future is where the government will take it other than just trying to restore online child protection laws. How much information will be garnered? Everywhere you go on the internet, you leave an electronic trail. Will the government gain access to this information as well? To me, it is not just about child porn issues. Suppose I do a search online for Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda? What happens with this information the Justice Department now has?

As an example, I go to the Department of Homeland Security's interest in finding out what types of material we take from our public libraries. Suppose a college student is writing a thesis on Jihad or something else of that nature. The student takes out all sorts of literature on this and related subject matter over the course of several months. Suppose the student, to further complete this thesis, also reads up on suicide explosive devices. The appropriate authorites may access your library account. All sorts of whistles and bells go off. You become the target of a massive investigation. You are investigated. You are scrutinized. You are followed by federal agents. Your neighbors and co-workers are interviewed. Unbeknownst to you, you are found to be a harmless student. The government has now spent tens of thousands of our hard earned tax dollars to go barking up the wrong tree. Don't get me wrong, I don't think the government always investigates the wrong people, I just don't think your average terrorist is trained by taking books out of the public library. Consequently, I don't think all requests for information from search engines and the information gathered could ever be construed as an exact science. That would be like inferring that we all intend to do harm if our searches are deemed that way. Hmm. Why is a 53 year old man looking up Pampers on the internet?

For a political party that stands for "less government interference," I am witnessing my rights slowly being whittled away, at least, according to the books I've recently taken out of the public library. But, what would I know? They've all been about American history.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It Was In The Palm Of My Hand

There was a place I used to go to years ago called Dubsdread Country Club. A duffer is a casual or mediocre player of a sport, especially golf. Back in the early 20s they were also referred to as dubbers. This wasn't a particularly easy course to play, so the dubbers dreaded the course, hence the name.

The 19th hole was a pretty popular hangout, not just for golfers, but for a lot of the local residents of Orlando, Winter Park and especially College Park. The restaurant had a well known reputation for throwing a great Halloween party. They had eerie decorations all over the place and dry ice to give the floor a foggy effect. It was downright dark and haunting.

One year, a palm reader set up a table in the large foyer at the main entrance. She was charging $5.oo per reading. I think she had the tarot thing going on, too. I walked up to her and asked her to read my palm. She said she would not take the money until after she was through. I sat down in the chair across from her and extended my left hand.

"I want to see your right hand," she said.

"What if I'm left handed?"

"OK, then, I want your left hand." She started to gaze into my palm. I could tell from her eyes staring down that she was heavily focused on what those lines were saying. All of a sudden, she gasped. "Oh my God!"


"You have the most incredible Guardian Angel I have ever seen! I've never seen one as strong as this in my life!"

"Wow. That's pretty interesting. What else do you see?"

"You are going to live a long life. You are never going to win the lottery." I guess she meant I was never going to be rich. After paying, I thanked her very much and went about my business of mingling with friends and trying to guess who some of them were.

About 2 years later, a friend and his wife invited me to a party. She had a friend named Serena who was also there. My friend's wife, Jonelle, came up to introduce her to me. "Serena's a very good palm reader."

"She is? Serena, would you read my palm?" I asked.

"Sure I will."

I extended my left hand. "I want your right hand," she said.

"But I'm left handed."

"I want to see your left hand." I stretched it out to her. After careful examination, she got this look of shock on her face. "Oh, my God!"


"You have the most powerful Guardian Angel I have ever seen. I have never, ever seen one this strong." Amazing, I thought.

"I heard the same thing before a couple of years ago. This is very interesting. What else do you see?"

"I see a long life ahead of you. You will never win the lottery." Now, all of this was somewhat strange. It was pretty much identical to what I was told earlier.

"Wow," I said to her. "I've heard this before. It was exactly the same reading." I was very skeptical after the first time my palm was read. I was a whole lot less after this one. I told everyone there of my past and present experiences with palm readers.

I still can't say for sure whether or not I believe in them, but, I'm what I guess would be considered middle age, I'm in good health, and I'm still not rich, not that I would ever expect to win the lottery anyway. Two out of three aren't bad. As far as the Guardian Angel? I don't know. I have been in a few very close scrapes in my life. Somehow, I managed to make it through.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hard Rock Proposal

You've seen coffee packs in hotel rooms. Right next to the small coffee maker.

The two images above are coffee packs I designed for Hard Rock hotels. They did not want to call the coffees REGULAR or DECAFFEINATED, so I came up with the HEAVY METAL and UNPLUGGED ideas to use instead. I did similar designs for their casinos, too. Since they didn't want reg or decaf, I decided to not use the word COFFEE. Instead, I called it MAGICAL MYSTERY POUR. Of course, these are subject to approval by Hard Rock before they go into production.

The left and right sides fold around to form the back side of the package. The top and bottom half inch are where the bags seal. Green and orange are pretty much the industry colors used to signify decaf. I didn't think orange would look good in this particular case.

Anyway, this gives you an idea of the type of work I do.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Smoking is an explosive vice

If I ever had my life to live over, there is only one thing I'd change for sure. Never pick up a cigarette.

I started smoking when I was 16. That means I've been at it now for 37 years. Something to be proud of, right? Whenever I'd try to quit, I'd get this terrible pain in my lungs, as if someone was wringing out wet towels, twisting and squeezing them as hard as they can. The only thing that relieved it was a long, slow drag off that lit killer weed. The more I puffed, the less pain I felt.

Back in the 80's, there was a great place to go to on Park Avenue in Winter Park called Harrigan's. It was a real neighborhood kind of place and I made a lot of friends there. Alas, all good things must come to an end and as that date was approaching we all looked around for a replacement place to go. We found Bailey's, up the street from there. It hadn't been open that long. It was OK, but, it wasn't as cool as Harrigan's. Happy hours were fine, as they are in most neighborhood establishments, but after happy hour was over, many of Winter Park's "my poop doesn't stink" crowd would start meandering in. That's fine, since most of us were ready to slide out of there by then, anyway. When the place started to reek too heavily of massive doses of perfumes and colognes, we were out of there.

One night, most of our regular gang was gone, but the perfume crowd had not yet sauntered in. It was like we were in the desmellerized zone. Wayne Trout and I were kind of milling around. I had quit smoking 5 weeks earlier and had not smoked one cigarette during that time. My lungs were really aching me that day, to the point of unbearable agony. Back then, I enjoyed my Stoli on the rocks with a twist. After a few, I was standing near the bar, facing Wayne. I said, "Wayne, my lungs are killing me so bad, I could crush this glass." I squeezed the glass, mocking my intention. All of a sudden, the glass exploded. Glass, ice and liquid went flying everywhere.

Everyone around me and at the bar looked at me. "ARE YOU ALRIGHT?" they screamed.

"Yes. I'm fine."

Cocktail waitresses came up. The bartender looked at me. They all asked, "What happened?"

Wayne told them the glass I was holding just exploded in my hand. It literally exploded. "Did you cut yourself?" several people asked.

"No. I'm OK."

Everyone gave me a strange look, one of complete perplexion. I mean, you don't just stand around exploding drink glasses all the time, especially the on the rocks, sturdy type. Everything had exploded into small pieces. No one even tried to find and clean up most of the glass, except for what had hit people and fallen to the floor. The bartender asked me if I wanted a replacement drink. I told him, no, I think it's time to go. Wayne said, "No, Dave, let me buy you a drink."

"Oh, OK. I probably need one."

"I'll be more than happy to buy you one, but, not until you go buy yourself a pack of cigarettes. You need a pack right now before you blow somebody up." I went and bought a pack.

I'm not one for making new year resolutions. I would like to quit sometime this year, but, I'm almost afraid to try. Anyone have any good suggestions, just in case I get that terrible pain in my lungs again? Maybe I can go to Iraq and be a forward field officer, detonating roadside bombs and suicide bombers before they reach our troops. I'll have to learn how to control my energy a little bit more, though.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What Did She See?

My paternal grandmother was residing at an assisted living facility near my uncle, in California. She was well into her 80s. One morning she called him and said, “John, would you come over? I’m going to die today.”

He said, “Mom, you’re not going to die.” Since she was pretty well up there in years, she was probably prone to imagining things. She insisted she was. He went over to see her and she asked him to take her to the hospital. He did. He stayed with her for a while and then left to go about his daily business. "I'll be back later on. You take care." When he returned, she had passed only seconds before he reached her room. He did not wish to go in to see her. A nurse said, “You must! She has the most incredible look on her face. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Reluctantly, he went in. He was very glad he did. He told my father she had the softest, most delicate smile on her face. “I’ve never seen Mom look happier,” he said. “It’s like she saw something very pleasant. It’s as if someone was there to greet her on the other side.”

Maybe it was her last dream, but it was no nightmare. That’s the way to go. For many years, she had nothing but time on her mind. How did she know that was her day?