Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Notes From A Recent Hotel Stay

I awoke to a loud female voice coming from the room next door. I couldn't tell if she was having a nightmare, having sex or singing. Then I realized she was singing ... The Star Spangled Banner. Maybe she was doing the other two activities too. Rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air and all that.

Some people would be horrified if they knew they could be heard by other guests in a hotel. I have often heard loud TVs, conversations about travel plans and other mundane things. Several times I have heard people having sex. I was embarrassed for them; they probably had no idea their private moment had an audience. Some of those moments were laughable, sadly, but one time I nearly cheered at one guy's stamina.

How would you feel if you knew someone heard your singing along or getting it on? Why are some hotel room walls so thin? The recent stay I am writing about was at a suburban Best Western near Washington DC; it is the top of the line for their franchise but my expectations are still fairly low at $80/night. But the last time I heard guest sex was at a $250/night Sheraton in Manhattan. I expect more privacy in that setting.

Speaking of New York, apparently bed bugs are a popular issue there. There are websites dedicated to bed bug reports at hotels. I have stayed in NYC hotels three times in my life, twice last April and once six years ago. No bed bugs.

Back to the DC suburbs … the squealing woman in the next room wasn’t the only sound that kept me awake that night. There were kids running up and down the hallways for a few minutes at 10:30 pm. And there was a party going on in another room, but fortunately I could only hear that when I went to the vending machine. If I had been next door to that room I would have reported them to the hotel desk clerk. By the way, I was alone so the only noise anyone would hear from my room would be me snoring. I hope the walls aren’t that thin.

Reporting noise doesn’t always work. One year a long time ago when I lived in Dallas, a girlfriend and I planned a romantic in-town evening at a very nice local downtown hotel. We had a pleasant meal and drinks, then went back to the room. We didn’t know when we booked the room that it was prom season. The first mood-spoiler was the noise from loud high school revelers shouting to each other in the hallway from various rooms near ours. Three different calls to the front desk resulted in ONE visit from security. The noise stopped for five minutes then resumed. That mostly killed our mood. The noise finally settled down around 2:30 am. Then a few minutes later we awoke to the sound of the high school couple next door having sex. Our fun was ruined but theirs wasn’t. Yet. I figured out their room number, waited another minute, then called their room. We heard their phone ring and their action stop. I hung up. A little while later we could hear them again and I dialed their room again. Their fun was done.

Anyway, remember some of this story next time you stay in a hotel.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

He Goes Out On Top

Successful actors often get locked into roles that mimic the iconic characters that make them famous.  We see so much of that part that we forget they can play other roles too.  Humphrey Bogart is a good example.  He is the tough guy with a heart, the fighter that claims to ignore the fight but in the end he leads the fight, like his Rick Blain character in Casablanca or Harry Morgan in To Have and Have Not.  Then we see him later in his career as the delusional, broken down Lt. Cmdr. Queeg in The Caine Mutiny, who does not become a hero at the end; or the cynical drunk Charlie Allnut in African Queen, who does.
Larry Hagman died this week. I do not believe he is in the same league as Bogart, but in some ways he follows a similar pattern. His most iconic role is oil man J. R. Ewing in the 1980 television series Dallas. He a ruthless stealer, cheater, liar business tycoon who cares about himself first, his family name second, and not much else, yet he is charming and we sort of love him as viewers. Ironically, he is also known for another somewhat iconic role as Captain Tony Nelson in the 1960s television series I Dream of Jeanie. In that part, he is a somewhat bumbling astronaut who finds a genie in a bottle. The roles are both well-known and define his career, yet the characters are polar opposites. He also played in television, movie and stage comedies and dramas but those two are his best-known roles.

Who is the real Larry Hagman? Apparently he was a nice man, a fun guy on screen and off, who says J. R. was his favorite character. He was born near Dallas (in Ft. Worth) and was the son of actress Mary Martin (of Peter Pan movie fame). He has been married to the same woman for 59 years. He spent much of his life in California but had moved back to Dallas for the TNT network remake of the TV series last summer. I have to admit that I watched the original show quite a bit, partly because I lived in Dallas for a few years. I watched the first hour of the new series, mostly to see J.R.

He died at age 81 from complications related to cancer. He was a heavy drinker at one point and eventually had a liver transplant. The cancer was related to heavy smoking and he later became an advocate for quitting.

He stayed busy in the years after the Dallas series ended and played supporting characters in movies like Oliver Stone’s Nixon, but his final act was in the role he loved the most.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Planning and Thanks

They say that you can make some things happen by simply ‘willing’ it. With that in mind:

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

Actually, I’m sure I WILL get holiday depression at some point this season and I’m OK with that. By planning in advance for the possibility, I increase the chance of decreasing its impact. Thanksgiving Week gives us an opportunity to consider what we are thankful for in life and that is what I choose to concentrate on for the next six weeks.

My life is filled with crap right now and things I have been trying to make happen are still crawling along like a slug. Crawling, however, does indicate movement so I can add that to the list of things I am thankful for. I am thankful for supportive friends, especially LS, PC and LV … you know who you are. Even though they each live more than 500 miles away from me they are a text or call away and I am thankful for that.

I am thankful for a great job. There is always something new at work, new challenges, new opportunities, new problems. The shear amount of work is crazy at times, but nearly everything I do involves some form of creativity and I get paid well to be creative.

One cause of holiday depression is mismatched expectations. We often long for some part of our youth during the holidays and are sad when we can’t have that. One cure, however, is to celebrate the past while at the same time creating new traditions for the season. My annual holiday road trip is one that has helped me, although it probably won’t happen this year; at least not in the full way I want it to. But I’ll figure out something.

Sometimes just keeping busy can be helpful when trying to navigate the holiday season, so I have a list for later this week, including watching LSU beat Arkansas Friday, shopping in a nearby town on Small Business Saturday, boxing up more stuff for my eventual move to a new address, catching a movie or two … and my favorite depression killer: photography.

Another thing I’m thankful for … you. Thank you for visiting this blog, even if I don’t know you.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


“We’re going to raise the roof.”

There is a television commercial airing right now that makes fun of that phrase. A Mom says it in response to celebrating a sale in a store, her kid tells her nobody says that anymore, someone else in the store shouts it and the Mom grins.

But what exactly does ‘raise the roof’ mean in that context? Something like ‘to have fun and make a lot of noise’ like maybe a loud celebration because this sale is going to be so good.

Here’s another one … “I’ll be there with bells on.” Upon hearing that, someone might ask “why would you wear bells?” The origin of that phrase goes back to the pre-auto days and has something to do with arriving at a festive event in your horse-drawn carriage with bells on the harnesses of the horses.

Words and phrases take on different meanings over time and people of various generations who don’t catch the change might have difficulty communication with each other. Remember in the 1980s when the word ‘bad’ starting to actually mean ‘good’? A more recent one is ‘ridiculous’ which means something more like ‘incredible’ or ‘awesome’ … and apparently ‘awesome’ is not so popular any more. I frequently use that word with a 41-year-old friend and it flows naturally in our conversation. When I use it with another friend who is 55 years old, she laughs at me. Really? Seriously? (And there are two more with changing meanings, depending on emphasis).

Media people often use annoying or meaningless phrases. I’m a media person and am probably guilty of it at times myself. The one I truly hate is ‘in its entirety’. Nobody talks that way, except old DJs and some people who write commercials. I first heard (and said) that silly phrase on rock stations in the late 1970s … “hear the album in its entirety at midnight.” It should be “hear the whole album at midnight.” Album is another tricky one. It commonly referred to vinyl records … oops, there’s another one: ‘records.’ When cassettes took over from vinyl the term album remained; same with CDs. Downloads have caught up with CDs, so what do you call this stuff now? Artists seem to still use the term album or record. By the way, the original use of the word ‘album’ in the context of vinyl music recordings referred to something that looked like a photo album with pages full of photos, but the ‘album’ had sleeves that contained records. The records at that time only had one song on each side of the disc. I know this because my Dad had some from the 1940s.

Another one that bothers me is “stay with us.” Television news anchors often say things like this before a commercial break, “Coming up: sports, the weather and our consumer reporter; stay with us.” I used to do that as a DJ too … “Coming up, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and the latest from Toby Keith; stay with us.” Geez. Wasted words. Oh, and the latest what from Toby Keith? … album? CD? Record? Track? Release? During my last years as a full time DJ one of my verbal crutches was “right around the corner” referring to something coming up in a few minutes; dated, imprecise, annoying.

Language evolves and we must evolve with it. Otherwise thy reputation as an old fart will stay with thee. And communication can become an awkward challenge. As recently as the 1960s, for example, the word ‘gay’ meant fun (ever heard that line in the Flintstones theme song … ‘we’ll have a gay old time’?). Now ‘gay’ refers to homosexuals. Awkward if you get it wrong.

Here are a few I still hear sometimes, although I don’t really know how they got started: ‘no shit Sherlock’, ‘Jesus H Christ’, ‘don’t be a stick in the mud’, ‘spiffy’, ‘belt it out’.

Okey dokey, that’s all I got for today. Gotta run. Later gator. Bet you thought I’d have a clever ending to this, didn’t you? Psyche! Thanks for visiting. You rock!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Little Random Ranting

The election was a week ago and many Facebook friends are still whining or gloating. Geez, just stop!

If you voted for Romney … hey, your guy lost and Obama is President for four more years. Deal with it! If you voted for Obama … hey, your guy won but he does NOT walk on water and does not have all the answers. Deal with it! Both of them have leadership qualities that could make for a good President. Both have leadership flaws that challenge their ability to be a good President. Remember, however, they are not dictators and the fate of the country does not rest on one person.

Another thing: the President is not the problem. Congress is the problem. And many of the same players are still Representatives and Senators. The only way we’re going to get through the mess we’re in is if both sides start listening to each other and paying attention to each other. There are good ideas and bad ideas on each side; listen to all the ideas, discuss and debate the merits of each idea, then compromise … do some give and take and craft a balanced solution. That’s how democracy works! Deal with it!

And I am about to block four more Facebook friends, including one whose friend request I just accepted two days ago.  I am done with this extremist crap.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Don’t Thank Me

I wrote and posted this last year, but I’ll repeat it because this is how I feel this weekend too.

When I see the tributes and thank you messages to vets around Veteran’s Day each year, I usually embrace the message and in some way add to the salutes. I want to praise “them” for their service. Then in the middle of it all, I remember that I am a military veteran too. I do not usually include myself in the praise.

Me in the Army
I have served my country in many positive ways over the years but my military service is not one of them. I hated the military at the time and most of what I thought they stood for then. I enlisted in the Army but only because I thought I lost my college deferment because of bad grades and I mistakenly believed I would have more choice if I joined rather than being drafted. The draft ended soon after and I would never have had to go. Fate works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?

My three-year enlistment lasted only one year. The details are my business and I’ve only shared them with a few friends. Let me just say that it was perfectly legal and I was honorably discharged with access to full VA benefits prorated for the amount of time I served.

I will say that I did not and do not believe in killing. Something I understand now that I did not get more than three decades ago is that sometimes there is no other way. Our brave military men and women sometimes have to kill to keep us free. I don’t like it but I understand it, accept it and benefit from it. They put themselves on the line for the rest of us and deserve our respect for that. I and others serve our country in different ways that are just as valuable. Another thing that has changed inside me over the years: while I still do not believe in killing, I will gladly beat the shit out of someone who harms me or someone close and I won’t regret it a bit. I just hope I’m never in that position. I have the right to hold this complicated set of beliefs, thanks in part to veterans; try not to judge my for what I believe.

Dad in the Navy
Another military veteran with complex reasons for his service was my Dad. He joined the Navy at the very end of World War II for reasons similar to mine. He did serve his full two-year enlistment. He almost lost his life but not because of lingering post-war gun fire; his ship almost went down in a typhoon in the Pacific. Other ships did sink in that same storm. Fate again?

I wonder what it means that my Dad died on Veteran’s Day eleven years ago. There are plenty of reasons for me to remember him and the day he died, but the public spotlight on that day each year makes it even harder to forget. It is such a public day yet he died very privately in a nursing home room with only his wife and his two children at his bedside. That month we were still in the process of arguing with the VA over benefits he earned that would have helped pay for his medical care. How ironic that the VA paid for a year of my education and helped me buy a house yet they threw up obstacle after obstacle to avoid paying for some of his needs.

Everything in life presents a learning opportunity, in my opinion. I learned a few things during my unremarkable Army year: the value of physical fitness, the buzz of marijuana, the positive side of discipline, how to correctly peel a potato, how to befriend the only black man I had had deep conversations with up to that point in my life, how to scale a solid 7-foot wall, how to clean a gun, how to clean a gunshot wound, how to clean a latrine, how to defend myself with words, how to stand up for something I believed even though I was the only person in a room full of 40 men who all thought I was some kind of unpatriotic freak for having those beliefs.

And since that time more than three decades ago I have also learned to accept and respect all men and women in the military for what they do and who they are, for how their actions help make us free and for the bravery some of them show in the face of situations that even the best training cannot fully prepare them for.

If you are a veteran, I thank you for your service, whether you spent your whole time stateside as a cook, driver, mechanic, doctor or band member, or you ran headlong into certain death in a jungle or a desert and returned missing limbs and parts of your soul. But don’t thank me; all I did was sweep floors, move furniture and type sympathy letters to families of those who didn’t make it. I learned to respect and support you and what you do over the years, but you taught me that. You can thank yourself for the lesson.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tickets and Technology

It is November and I'm already producing radio commercials for concerts next summer.  I can't leak the details but I can tell you that tickets go on sale in the next few weeks for two major country music concerts happening in my area next May.

Do you remember back in the day when tickets went on sale six or eight weeks before the concert and you had to go somewhere to buy them.  At one time the only place to purchase tickets was at the venue, then along came ticket services with outlets.  I bought tickets at department stores for some shows back in the 1980s.

Been to a concert lately? At many venues Ticket Takers are now really Ticket Scanners … they scan the bar  code on your ticket rather than tear it.  That's pretty cool if you keep tickets as souvenirs.  I see a day when tickets won't even exist.  My 'tickets' for the two most expensive concerts I've ever gone to were printouts from my computer; I bought them online and printed the ticket.  Plane and train tickets are often non-tickets too.  For my last trip on Amtrak in April I had the option of scanning a printed out bar code OR scanning the bar code from my iPhone.  My flights to and from Las Vegas in September involved boarding passes printed on my home computer.

I love technology but I am also a bit skeptical at times.  So far, however, I have had no problems with ticket tech.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


One of the proudest moments an American has is to cast a vote. I feel an amazing sense of power as I stand before that voting screen and touch the box next to each candidate of my choice. I would spend an hour or more in line if necessary to exercise this right, but fortunately my polling location was not crowded … I was only in line for ten minutes this morning.

This election season was the meanest I can ever remember. Most politicians, even the ones I voted for, spent more advertising time blasting their opponents than explaining what they would do if elected or re-elected. It is difficult to make an informed choice with all that crap swirling around. I made most of my choices months ago and nothing in any ad, debate or Facebook post changed my mind. Much to my surprise, however, some people were still undecided as late as this morning. I had a brief email exchange with a friend over Presidential candidate choices and I believe she eventually made her choice based as much on what she heard in ads as what she got from other sources. I think she could have dug deeper for truthful information but I give her credit for caring enough to ask for other opinions. And her last Facebook post this evening showed the long line she was determined to remain in till she cast her votes.

I am so happy the political advertising is done for now but I fear we might not know the outcome of the Presidential race tonight. It will be very close and there will likely be challenges to some of the vote counts in some states. I just hope it doesn't drag out like it did in 2000.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Interesting Idea

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, November 3, 2012

This Is Getting Ridiculous

I will proudly cast a vote for Obama on Election Day. If Romney is your choice I encourage you to proudly cast a vote for him on Election Day. That is our right.

If you’re the stupid coward who left this note on a friend’s car in battleground state Virginia today, I encourage you to seek help from a mental health professional. If I caught someone leaving a note like this on my car they would not be able to vote on Election Day because they’d still be in the hospital Tuesday.

I am an American, a patriot and a veteran and believe Obama is the right person for the job of President. I also believe people have the right to disagree – half do and half don’t, according to the latest polls. But I think it takes a very unpatriotic coward to leave a note like this. That person probably wouldn’t have the courage to face me with a comment like that. He or she certainly has the right to believe that but I challenge their right to imply there is something wrong with my patriotism if I choose to vote for Obama.

I have read some of the most amazing bullshit on Facebook during this election season. Tonight I read something really ridiculous on my own sister’s page. It was all I could to not fire back a sarcastic reply. But she has the right to her opinion and the link she shared did not insult anyone; it just spread more bullshit.

The bottom line … and I’ll try to take my own advice on this … shut up and vote.