What Makes A Best Friend?

After spending time with my high school yearbook over the weekend, I began thinking why did Ken and I remain best friends for so long, while other people simple became is distant memory?

What was it about our relationship that not only survived the test of time, but all the stupid stuff that gets in the way of long term relationships? Here are my thoughts:

Complementary talents
Ken was the most amazing athlete I ever met. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. In football, basketball and baseball he was a star. He could have been the star of any team for which he played. He chose basketball as his lead sport. And he was very good at it. I was never much of an athlete in any sport but was instead very active in the arts. I would cheer for Ken at his games, he would be in the audience at my shows. We were never jealous of each other’s strengths. In fact, I think I know more about sports and he knows more about the arts because of our friendship.

We liked different girls
From the time we first started being interested in girls, we never once liked the same girls. We never even liked the same kind of girls. Ken always dated the sporty girl – the cheerleader, the soccer player, the track star. Of course, I always dated the artsy girl. The singer, dancer and artist. Ah, but here’s where it gets interesting – Ken married the artist and I married an incredible athlete. I think we married our complementary part. The part we feel most comfortable being around. When I’m around Ken’s wife, we always have things to talk about, books, movies, plays, art – and he always has great conversations with my wife, too. It’s kind of funny how things work out.

Money, money, money
I’ve known Ken for over 40 years and we’ve never borrowed money from each other. Not that I wouldn’t loan him money. In fact, I’d trust him with my entire bank account. (As an accountant, Ken did my taxes for years, so he knows more about my finances than I do.) But we’ve never borrowed from each other. We never had to have that uncomfortable ‘are you ever going to pay me back?’ conversation. I’m not saying it was critical – but I don’t think it hurt either.

Slightly dysfunctional families
Ken and I both had interesting families. Ken was child #3 of 4, I was #5 of 5. I didn’t even know he had an older sister until I was an adult. My oldest sister was married and out of the house before I even met him in the 4th grade. I think both of our families were very willing to have both of us out of the house as much as possible, which allowed us to go on countless adventures. We had a lot of fun.

There are times when I don’t talk to Ken for months and we can pick up right were we left off. We have so much history, we always have something to talk about, some memory to laugh about, some old story to tell again. It never gets old. In fact, it will never get old.

I met Ken when I was 9-years-old and in the 4th grade. I look at my 9-year-old, 4th grader son and think often that I hope he finds a best friend this year like I did. Someone who will bring him as much laughter, fun, good times, companionship, common sense and friendship.

As long as he doesn’t think he comes from a dysfunctional family.

PS: I’d love to know about your best friend, and why you think you’re so close.


I Need To Kick Start My Exercise Routine & Stupid Conversations

They say the best way to begin something is to tell as many people as humanly possible you’re going to do it. So, I’m announcing it here. I have to start exercising more. A lot more. And I’m going to start on Wednesday, February 1st. Really. I swear. No kidding. Honest. (I hope.)

I used to exercise. I even belong to a gym. A gym I haven’t been to in over a year. I have workout equipment in my basement. I have a treadmill. My 9 year old uses it more than me. I used to exercise every morning before I went to work. I’d get up early and go into my basement. For 8 months I was religious about it. Then suddenly I stopped. I think I got a cold and never started up after I was feeling better.

My wife even commented how good I was looking. I was getting positive reinforcement from everyone. I have shed almost 20 pounds. I was feeling stronger, looking better, feeling better and had a great attitude. Then it all went to hell.

I don’t know how it happened.

My wife often comments that I’m an ‘all in’ or ‘all out’ kind of person. When I do something – I don’t do it half way. I go in with all guns firing or not at all. That I’m not a halfway person. I guess I see that in myself. I do get fanatical about certain things. I also lose interest in things quickly.

So, here it is. Wednesday is the day. I plan to get up early and work out every morning. And by every morning, I mean every morning. Monday through Friday. I know if I take a day off, I’ll stop completely. I need an every day routine.

I promise I will report back to you monthly to let you know if I’ve stuck to my program. If I see you in the office, I want you to ask me about my workouts. If I see you in the classroom and I look tired, it’s because I’m getting up early. And if you see me eating a jelly donut – remind me that I’m supposed to be watching my diet, too.

In other words, if I fail – it’s your fault. (Not really)

Stupid Conversations – A follow-up

A few weeks ago, I told you about a conversation I had with two women on a chairlift. You know, about having children that are 27 and 9-years-old, and how it couldn’t be from the same wife. Well, these same two women cornered me again this weekend. I wanted to kill myself. Here’s the conversation:

Woman #1: You’re the guy with the two wives, right?
Me: What?
Woman #1: The kids who are 20 from one wife and a young kid from wife #2.
Me: Yes, that’s me.
Woman #1: What do you call them? Wife #1 and wife #2?
Woman #2: Doesn’t that imply there will be a wife #3 or wife #4?
Me: (With disgust in my voice) I call my wife ‘my wife’ and my ex – I don’t call her anything. I call her by name if I need to refer to her.
Woman #1: Oh, so the first wife is like Voldemort from Harry Potter ‘She who must not be named.’
Me: Not exactly.

At this point I refused to engage in conversation.

So, that’s it for today. I’m starting to exercise, and I still think these woman have some baggage they’re not revealing. Interesting.


What People Wrote In My High School Yearbook

Today I was looking back at my high school yearbook. I was struck immediately by how young I looked. Somehow, I forget that at 17-years-old, I was still a child. I remember thinking I knew everything, when I really knew almost nothing. My yearbook is signed by dozens of people who I was friendly with in high school, but have barely spoken to since.

Here are some of the signatures and what people wrote:

Inside front cover:
“Dearest Rich, See you at Bingo and all around. Have fun in all you do. I know you will. Love always, Debbie. PS Don’t forget arm wrestling or S.H. over me.” OK, inside front cover is prime real estate. And I’m getting crap for choosing Sharon H. over Debbie B? For all time, I have to remember that I was a jerk as 17-years-old to Debbie? Damn. Actually, thanks to FACEBOOK, I’ve reconnected with Debbie. We still e-mail from time to time. But I don’t think I ever saw her at Bingo ever again.

First page:
“Rich, So many precious moments we’ve shared, so many times together, I don’t want them to end. You know I wish you luck in everything you do especially putting up with me. My love forever and a day, Kid (Joann).” This is hard to read. Joann and I were high school sweethearts. We went to the Junior and Senior prom together. I drove her to school every day after I got my drivers license. But right before the end of school, we broke up. We were going our separate ways in college and we decided on a clean break. I left out a lot that she wrote. It’s like a travelogue of my high school years. So many things we had done together. And after graduation, we never spoke again. Not at any reunions. Not on FACEBOOK. Never. When we graduated, it was over. Forever. And I don’t remember ever calling her ‘kid.’

Pages 20 – 42 – Curriculum
On the next 22 pages are all the teachers. Only one signed my yearbook – Ms. LeVan, the school nurse. Ironically, in three years of high school, I don’t think I ever went to the nurse. Yet there’s her signature and these words of advice “Rich, Best wishes and happiness to one of my favorite guys. Only the best for you. Remember all the good times at Jade East.” I have no idea what she’s talking about. (Jade East was a restaurant in Edison, NJ – but I don’t remember ever seeing her there.) Thanks, Ms. LeVan.

Page 52 – 90 – Sports
Want to know how popular I was with the jocks? The only signatures I got on the next 38 pages were from two cheerleaders. Donna P. and Debbie McK. “Dear Rich, It’s been great these past years and I’m glad we’ve become friends. You’re a really nice person and I’ll never forget you. Best of luck always, love, Mac.” This entry was the heartbreaker. I had a crush on her for years. She sat right behind me in homeroom. We were never more than friends. (Even though I asked her to the junior prom – but she went with Jimmy Winters) You’re a really nice person? I’m still crying over this entry.

Last page and inside back cover:
“Rich, what can I say??? We’ve been through a hell of a lot together. We’ve been great friends and I know we will always stay that way. (This entry goes on for two pages) I know we’ll always stay friends and some day if we play our cards right we will have the business that we’ve always been talking about. I think the good times are just beginning. Love, Ferd.” My best friend, Ken, wrote this entry. And yes, we’ve stayed in touch all these years. He was the Best Man for my wedding. I was the Best Man for his. My children call him Uncle Ken. His daughter is one of my FACEBOOK friends. And while we never opened a business together, we spent time together on vacations, day trips, family get together parties, good times and bad times. Ken is more than a friend. He’s the brother I never had. His entry is the only one where I clearly remember every event he describes. Because they defined my life from 10 to 17-years-old and I hold those memories close to my heart.

So that’s about it. Except for one other entry. On page 248, a friend, Tom Miller wrote an entire page to remind me about a fight we had over two girls, Lynn and Marianne. So Tom, if you’re reading this, yes, I remember – and if you’re ever in New York, I have a slice of pizza with your face written all over it.


The Art of Begging for Money

I ride the NYC subway to work on rainy days (like today) and I’ve heard and watched dozens of people beg for money (which is against the law). They all have their sales pitch down pat. They all get donations. But as an advertising creative director, I feel the need to make some changes to their sales pitch. Some of their presentations could use a little help. So, as my donation, I will give away for free my advice on how to improve some of the pitches I hear often in the NYC subway system.

Harvel – the Viet Nam Vet
“Hello, my name is Harvel, I’m a disabled Viet Nam vet. I was formerly homeless. And now I’m asking for money to give a coat, a sandwich or a piece of fruit to other homeless men and women. I’m asking nothing for myself. I can’t work because since Viet Nam, I have to take all these pills. (Holds up a bag of over 50 empty pill bottles). Thank you and god bless.”

Not a bad pitch. Harvel has props; pill bottles, sandwiches, a cart with various items inside. And he gets more donations than anyone else I see on the Subway. But I think his pitch could use a little more sizzle. Here is my suggestion: Tell us WHY you’re doing this. WHY you spend 12 hours a day in the subway system asking for money. I don’t care what you’re doing, but WHY you’re doing it.

“Hello, my name is Harvel. I’m a disabled Viet Nam vet who has dedicated his life to helping people. This is something that was instilled in me during my tour in Viet Nam. While I was stationed near De Nag, I saw things that made me want to get out of the Army and spend my life helping those who couldn’t help themselves. That’s why I’m asking for money. I want to ensure that the homeless get the basic necessities they need to survive. A sandwich, a warm coat, or even simply a piece of fruit.”

I don’t know, but I think he’d get more donations. I also wouldn’t use the medication bottles. It seems like an excuse. And since they’re empty, make it seem like a scam.

‘I Will Survive’ singer
There’s a woman who sings “I will survive” in the subway system. And while she has a great voice, singing about how you’ll survive may not be the best choice to get donations. Just like American Idol, it’s all about song choice. Here are some suggested new songs:

“With a little help from my friends” – The Beatles. A small donation will help her ‘get by with a little help from my friends’

“Help” – The Beatles. ‘Help, I need someone, won’t you please, please help me.’

“End of the Line” – Metallica. Maybe you just need to shock some people into helping. ‘Need more and more, tainted misery, bleed battle scars, chemical affinity.’ Who could ignore that?

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts for today. If you’re going to ask for something, make sure your pitch stands out from the crowd. Or else, you may just be ignored.


Overheard On The NYC Subway

I admit it. I listen to other people’s conversations on public transportation. I think real dialogue is so funny. And that people sometimes have no idea that what they’re saying is so funny. The other thing I love about listening to random conversations, is that you don’t know the context. You only know the sound bite.

Here are a few that I’ve heard this week.

British or Canadian?
Guy #1: Who do you think you could trust, somebody British or Canadian?
Guy #2: Dunno, they both talk funny, I don’t know if I could trust anybody who talks like that.
Guy #1: I think I would trust the Canadian dude.
Guy #2: I never met any Canadians.
Guy #1: Those British guys think they’re all, like, Kings and Queens.
Guy #2: But Canadians only play hockey.
Guy #1: White dudes with sticks. You’re right, I can’t trust that.

Women talking about men
Woman #1: Did he call?
Woman #2: No.
Woman #1: I told you he wasn’t going to call.
Woman #2: But he said he was going to call.
Woman #1: Men lie. All men lie. (Looks at me – sees I’m listening) Oh, no offense.
Me: No, I agree.
Woman #1: See that, even men know they all lie.
Woman #2: But he said he was going to call.
Woman #1: Your problem, it you want to believe. You can’t believe. You can’t.
Woman #2: I’m calling him.
Woman #1: I’ll tell you what I’m calling him – I’m calling him an asshole.

Men talking about women
Man #1: You find a job yet?
Man #2: No, but I told my wife I did.
Man #1: So, your wife thinks you’re at work now?
Man #2: Probably not. She probably thinks I already got fired.
Man #1: When did you start this job?
Man #2: Yesterday.
Man #1: And you got fired already. Man, you’re a loser.
Man #2: That what my wife says.

Man: Guess how many e-mails I got today?
Woman: 200
Man: More
Woman: 500.
Man: More. How about 618? And guess how many were cover your ass e-mails?
Woman: 618?
Man: No, 617. I got a confirmation e-mail for my lunch order. That doesn’t count.
Woman: But isn’t a confirmation e-mail kind of covering their ass – you know – that they didn’t get your order screwed up.
Man: Thanks. That just ruined my day. I was hoping for one non-CYA e-mail. You had to burst my bubble. You had to trample on my hopes and dreams.
Woman: You’re welcome.

There you have it. E-mail sucks, men lie, men are losers and you can’t trust anyone from Canada. That’s what’s on the minds of commuters on the NYC subways system.


Another Conversation With My Son – Part 3

My son makes me laugh. He comes out with the funniest comments. I hope you’re not tired of reading these. I just have to share.

Birthday Party Stuff
Son: Dad, I need you to sign this release form so I can go to Jack’s party.
Me: I thought it was a bowling party.
Son: It is. I think they’re afraid we’re going to throw the bowling balls at each other and crack open somebody’s head.
Me: Well that wouldn’t be good.
Son: But come on, what are the odds that even if I hit somebody with a bowling ball that I would actually crack open their head?
Me: You’re not planning on throwing bowling balls, are you?
Son: No, we’re probably just going bowling, but you never know, we are boys.

The ‘F’ Word
Son: Dad, Katie was singing a song today that had the ‘F’ word in it.
Me: Which ‘F’ word?
Son: You know, the ‘F’ word, the swear word, the curse word, the ‘F’ word.
Me: Well, you know that word is not a very good word, right?
Son: Yup.
Me: And that you shouldn’t use that word, right?
Son: Yup.
Me: Do you think she was just showing off?
Son: No, she doesn’t have a very good voice.

Son: Dad, what’s humping?
Me: What?
Son: Humping. One of the boys was talking about humping, but I don’t think he knew what he was talking about.
Me: What was he saying?
Son: That he caught his cats humping in the basement.
Me: You’re right, he probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Son: It’s a sex thing, right, and you’re just not telling me until I’m older.
Me: Yes.
Son: OK, then I think he did know what he was talking about. But it’s still gross.

Grammy Awards
Son: Why do they have the Grammy Awards?
Me: They celebrate popular music
Son: Really? I thought it had something to do with Grandmothers.
Me: No – Grammy as in gramophone. It’s an old fashioned record player.
Son: Oh, that explains why they only pick old-fashioned music to win a Grammy.
Me: That’s not true. Lady Gaga is nominated. Taylor Swift is nominated. They’re not old.
Son: Yes they are. They’re so last year.

Well, that’s about it for today. Sex, Birthday Parties, the ‘F’ word and humping. That’s what’s on the mind of a typical 9 year old. God help us all.


This Blog As A Word Cloud

Just for laughs, I created a word cloud from the past month of blog posts. Interesting. In one of my very first posts, I yelled at a student for using the word ‘like’ in a sentence 17 times. And look at my word cloud. The second most used word is ‘like.’ Maybe I owe someone an apology.

Most used words:
Day, like, song, woman, love, know, really, people, think, man.

Let’s see, what would a sentence look like using only those words – I know, I really like a day when people, man, woman, know a love song and think. Perfect.

I’ll probably create one of these every few weeks just to make sure I’m not using the word ‘like’ too much.

Oh, and by the way, I’m concerned to see ‘college’ and ‘fetish’ come up so closely together. That could be dangerous.

1.24.12 (PM)

What’s on your iPhone?

Did you ever look that the 25 most played songs on your iPhone or iPod playlist? I was shocked at the songs I listen to more than any other. When I looked at the list I started thinking why are these at the top? What mood enhancer does this song do for me? Why do I start with this song and move on from there? Here are the top 25 songs in order from my iPhone playlist.

1) Stray Cat Strut. Huh? Of all the songs on my iPhone this is #1? I know that I’ve been listening to it because I’ve been trying to learn how to play it on the guitar, but I was shocked to see this at #1.

2) Heart of Gold. This I understand. Neil Young is one of my favorite artists, and this song is one of the first I ever learned to play. I expected this at the top.

3) Suite – Judy Blue Eyes. Like the #2 selection, this song takes me back, I love to play it, listen to it and sing to it.

4) Melissa. Allman Brothers Band at its best. I love this song. I love that I really can’t play this. But I can completely believe it’s in my top five.

5) Wish You Were Here. Ah, Pink Floyd. Another oldie but goodie. I’m only surprised that there wasn’t more Pink Floyd in my top 25.

6) Here Comes The Sun. The Beatles finally crack the top 10 on my playlist. And it’s a George Harrison song. No surprise. I liked the quiet Beatle. And I love this song.

7) Sweet Home Alabama. Do you think my musical tastes are all over the place? In college I went through a huge Southern Rock faze. Lynyrd Skynard, Marshall Tucker, The Outlaws. They were always on my turntable. And obviously, still in my heart.

8) Brown Sugar. Back to the British Invasion. I love Keith Richards. (I loved his book.) Nothing like a little Keith and Mick to get the heart pumping in the morning.

9) Hotel California.
This was the biggest song of my college days. I still remember exactly what I was doing when I first heard this song on the college radio station. Of course, I can’t repeat it here.

10) The Man Who Sold The World. Great David Bowie song, but on my playlist, it’s the Nirvana unplugged version. What can you say. Pure passion. Great voice. Fantastic song.

11-25) I lot of repeat artist. In order, Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, Beatles, The Youngbloods, Green Day, Bob Dylan, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Neil Young, David Bowie, The White Stripes, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin (I’m shocked that they came in at #24) and finally Amos Lee.

I’ve listened to these songs hundreds of times. I love them all. I listened to them this morning. I’ll probably listen to them again this evening. If I was stuck on an island with only these 25 songs, I’d be OK.

Oh, while I’m on the subject of music, farewell to Etta James. Love that voice. I danced to ‘At Last’ at my wedding. It will always have a special place in my heart.

I’d love to hear what’s the #1 song on your playlist. Please write a comment below.


If You Could Change The Past

I’m reading a book about changing the past. This book is haunting me. So, I’ve begun thinking, what would I do if I could change the past? Of course you think of terrible human tragedy – things that someone could have done to avoid the senseless deaths of thousands or millions of people. But everything has a cause and an effect. Would changing one thing, change other things. What would the world look like? Would I like the end result? Here are the top 3 things I would change if I could go back in time.

This is a no brainer. Millions were murdered. Millions more killed during the war. Perhaps the Japanese don’t bomb Pearl Harbor without knowing the Americans were focused on Europe. If there were a way to stop Hitler in the early 1930’s, I would certainly try to do something. Would anyone listen? But of course, what does that mean to the country we currently live in? Would America have become a superpower without WWII? Would we have emerged from the Great Depression? Would my parents have ever met without their families fleeing Europe? I don’t know. But they are small in comparison to the suffering that was caused by Hitler. I’d take my chances.

Again, senseless tragedy. Thousands killed for no reason. What could I have done to insure that the event didn’t happen? If I knew on September 10th what would happen the next day, would anyone believe me? I just know that living and working in New York on 9/11 changed everything. The country is different. In some ways worse. In some ways better. But I think stopping 9/11 would be my second task.

I would love to know what our country would be like if JFK was never assassinated. Would Bobby Kennedy have run for President in 1968 if his brother just completed two terms? Probably not. Would Martin Luther King have been assassinated? How many things are interconnected? Would we have pursued Kennedy’s passion for landing on the moon before the decade was finished if he wasn’t killed? Would we have pulled out of Viet Nam sooner? Would we have invaded Cuba again? What would the country look like if Camelot continued? Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

Of course, there are millions of decisions I would make differently in my personal life. Should I have made the trip to UCLA versus going to Temple University? Should I have stayed in St. Louis longer? Should I have bought that 2 bedroom, 2-bath apartment in NYC for $175,000 in 1989? But those decisions are in the past, and I don’t regret any of them. (I love my house in Westchester, so while it would have been a great investment, I don’t regret it.)

So, now it’s your turn. Please tell me – what event would you like to alter in history? Please post your answer in the comment section of the Word Press blog versus FACEBOOK or other areas.

Oh, one other thing – I’d also like to go back in time to meet my 4th grade English teacher – and ask her why I still can’t spell? Excuse the typos. I’m writing quickly today.


Stupid Holidays

Did you ever wonder who picks the holidays we get off from work? Not that I’m complaining, I love getting days off just like everyone else. But why these particular holidays? I was looking at the calendar, and I noticed that today, January 20th is Camcorder Day, National Disc Jockey Day and International Fetish Day. (And of course, in a Presidential election year it would be Inauguration Day.)

Why don’t we get these days off?

Who decided the Columbus Day was more important that National Disc Jockey Day. I know I listen to the radio every day. I really like the announcers – although I probably don’t call them Disc Jockeys any more. Why shouldn’t I get today off to celebrate Nick Cannon with my family?

And what about International Fetish Day. All over the world people are celebrating their fetishes. Why not the people in my office? I’m sure lots of people around here would like to celebrate with their fetish friends from around the globe.

But, of course, every day is some holiday. A simple search on the Internet will show you exactly what we’re missing. Here are some of my favorites:

January 22: Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. Did I miss something? Exactly when did cats learn to speak? Did we have a “Planet of the Apes” moment and I didn’t notice.

January 25: World Leprosy Day. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to a huge party for leprosy. Last time I heard about leprosy, a Roman was burning out a dungeon cell in “Ben Hur.”

March 10: International Fanny Pack Day. Unless the fanny pack is on Jennifer Lopez’s fanny, I’m not interested.

March 20: Kiss Your Fiancée´ Day. I’m sorry; you need a special day for this? Shouldn’t you want to kiss your fiancée´ every day?

June 2: Yell ‘fudge’ at the cobras in North America Day. What the hell is this one? First of all, are there cobras in North America? Secondly, why tease them by yelling ‘fudge.’ Why don’t we all just yell ‘fudge’ at each other, then go get a chocolate milk shake?

June 19: World Sauntering Day. Now this seems like fun. Let’s all walk the streets like John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.” This one I like.

But of course, I think my favorite stupid holiday is:

November 17: National ‘Unfriend’ Day. The day to clean out all those FACEBOOK friends that are really not friends.

In case you want a day-by-day calendar of incredibly stupid holidays, go to brownielocks.com/month2.html.

And thank goodness tomorrow’s Saturday, I wouldn’t want to miss celebrating ‘Fancy Rat and Mouse’ Day. I’ll be in the subway. See you there.