Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Old man take a look at your life...

When I was a young (26) manager in the radio business we had a Junior Achievement program at the station. I ran some of the sessions with the 12 kids in the program. There was one girl, 17 years old, who was incredibly attractive and sexy beyond her years. A few weeks after the program ended, she showed up at my office one afternoon with a Thank You card and a small gift. She came around the side of my desk while I was looking at the card and the gift and laid a wet kiss with plenty of tongue on me. I didn't return the kiss, I was shocked. Then she said "we should go out sometime" I told he no we shouldn't.

Later in life I told a woman I knew quite well about the incident, she agreed that I did the right thing and added, "Of course if you had taken advantage of her, you would have never told me about it." At first I was insulted at her response, but the more I thought about it she was right. Then I told my friend for the longest time I had wondered who was taking advantage of whom. She thought about for a bit and said, "Doesn't matter you were the adult in the room."

I know a guy who lost his wife over an affair with their teen aged neighbor.. He was in his 30's, the relationship started when she was 16 and lasted for two years. He cultivated her for a year before the physical stuff started. He seemed to be extremely proud of it. On the surface he appeared to be completely normal and a bit of a little fuddy-duddy harmless guy. He wasn't.

Another guy told me about being seduced by a mutual friend's wife, they carried on the mutual affair for a year or so. One night while having dinner with the wife and her husband in New York, the  husband told the guy how much he enjoyed watching him make love to his wife. The husband had watched through a louvered closet door. He then proposed a threesome. I was stunned. I really couldn't believe it. Did the threesome happen? It did, more than once.

When I was single, living in Boston I used to play wing man for a lipstick lesbian friend. She was a very attractive woman and some of the lines guys used on her made me ashamed to be a man, some were clumsy, some were funny, some were stupid and more than a few were out and out threatening. That was an experience.

Another friend's son came out of the closet when he was a senior in high school. His parents were devastated, then they were mad, then they blamed themselves. When they finally came to their senses, I suggested they have their son talk to a really good man I knew who happened to be gay. Know what the older gay man told the kid? Stay the hell away from older gay men. Find some friends your age, hang out, go to movies, shoot hoops, play pool, arrange flowers, have some fun until you figure out who the hell you are. Just stay away from old guys looking for "chickens". Good advice if you're gay or straight.

I know plenty of men and women who've had affairs, some of them have repaired their relationships, some haven't. The one thing that got them all in the end was the lying. Lying to their partners and to themselves. The couples who put it back together stopped lying, the couples who didn't broke up.

Life is full of bullshit, when I was in college I was sleeping with a girl who would always say, "we have to stop doing this." Right after she'd say it, she'd start things going again. I hope she has been able to unload that psychological burden after all these years.

What I cannot imagine is what goes on in the mid of a guy who thinks forcing a woman to kiss him, or exposing himself or masturbating in front of them or groping them is going to get him. I read somewhere it's not about sex it's about power.

I could write a book about this stuff, but I won't. Thanks to Neil Young for the title.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Few Things I'm Sure of...

Some guys are disgusting pigs and not just famous powerful guys either...

I know more than a few who look at women as mere objects, guys who have done and said incredibly disgusting things to and at women. An example, I worked with a guy who crawled on his hands and knees into a news booth and fondled a woman while she was reading the news on the air, on the number one station in the market. With tens of thousands of people listening, she calmly pressed the cough button, slapped his face and told him to get the hell out of the booth. She reported him and nothing happened. His excuse? "I was drunk."

I know for sure he is a disgusting son of a bitch.

I've watched guys in bars hit on woman after woman using the same cliched lines on each and everyone one of them as they worked their way around the bar. Did some women buy the bullshit? Probably a few.

I know for sure the evening didn't end well for either one of them.

When I was younger did I participate in misogynistic discussions with other guys? I sure did.

I know for sure I don't anymore, I'd like to think that I've done some growing up after all these years.

When I was single, I was so laid back around women I was asked by one on our third or forth date if I was gay.

I know for sure I'm not gay and so does she.

Have I ever been a disgusting son of a bitch? I have, I cheated on my first wife. I ran through all the the stupid guy excuses, running the gamut of "Everybody does it." to "My wife doesn't understand me." On the the other hand I never pushed the other woman into a relationship, I was an asshole, but nice about it. Not much but it's something, maybe?

I know for sure I regret it. My first wife and I had enough problems without me throwing gasoline on the fire.

Are there females who are disgusting? Yes, I met one, I fell in love with her within a couple of months. After a few more months she told me she was married. It's an ugly story. A movie could be made.

I know for sure that it taught me a lesson, A lesson I should have learned years and years earlier. It set me on a better path in life.

I've always had women friends, friends in the best sense of the word. Friendships that have endured over the years, some of them have lasted from childhood. I cherish them all.

I know for sure a man can have a relationship with a woman that isn't based on getting laid or trying to get laid, know what I mean? It's a nice thing to have in your life.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

“If I had 5 dollars, Ralph had $50.”

The summer between the 8th and 9th grade I was a partner in a popcorn stand with my boyhood friend Ralph Thomas. We paid $50.00 for an old popcorn wagon. We cleaned it, we painted it. We bought 10 gallons of coconut oil, a bag of popcorn salt and 2 50 pound bags of popcorn. We bought boxes of candy bars, cases of pop and we learned how to make cotton candy and caramel apples. We parked our stand in the parking lot of a roadside market owned by Ralph’s dad. The rent for our space, we had to work in the market during the day. We sold watermelons, corn, locally gown vegetables and I learned to work the deli counter. To this day I can wrap meat better than the guys at our SoCal grocery stores, thanks to Ralph’s dad, Ralph Senior.

Our location was brilliant; a quarter of a mile from the “Starlite” drive in theater. The Starlite’s popcorn cost 50 cents a box. We sold the same box for a quarter. Ralph and I killed them. In an era when the minimum wage was whatever you got paid. Ralph and I were making 75 to a hundred dollars a week selling popcorn, candy and soda. In a few weeks we paid off the startup costs and pocketed the rest.

The business was Ralph’s idea. From that summer on he never stopped. Not for a minute.

Ralph grew up in a boarding house, his mother renting rooms and cooking for strangers. As Ralph said, “I never knew who we were going to eat dinner with.” How far did Ralph go from that boarding house in Grand Forks? A long, long way, here’s an example, Ralph, his wife Carolee, Jan and I had dinner at Spago in Beverley Hills. Wolfgang Puck sat with us over after dinner drinks. Wolfgang wasn’t a stranger to Ralph and Carolee.

Ralph dropped out of school, he joined the Marines. Later in life, we were having a drink at a LA hotel. Ralph told me, he was dyslectic. He said he could never figure out why it was so hard for him to read. In those days, dyslectic kids were rarely diagnosed, they were considered slow or just dumb. The only way he could get a C was to literally memorize every word the teacher said.

Ralph got out of the Marines armed with his GED and a burning desire to be successful and he was. He went into the car business with my dad’s help. In a few years he was a sales manager and it wasn’t long before he owned his first car store, a tiny Chevy dealership that he, Carolee and his brother Pat staffed. Soon he had another, another and another. 30 years ago he sold all but one of his dealerships. He told me it was time. He held on to one, Gateway GM in Fargo. Why would a guy who had owned and operated dealerships in major markets go to Fargo? As he told me it was all about location. General Motors likes to have dealers operate in a market area with population base of 100-125 thousand. Fargo has a population of just over a hundred thousand, but the marketing area has well over 250,000 people. The closest Chevy dealer north of Fargo is Rydell’s and as Ralph said, “Who in their right mind is going to drive a 160 mile round trip to buy an Impala?” At over 500 cars a month, he was right again. It was the popcorn stand all over again.

When he left the car business, Ralph got involved in real estate investment and development and many other ventures. He got back into the car business again when he built Metro Auto Auctions in Phoenix and Dallas. First class operations and successful enough he sold them a few years ago to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. Ralph’s philosophy was if people are buying 13-15 million new cars a year, that means there are a lot of used cars around and used cars are where the money is. Then he told me he learned that from my Dad.

I’m going to miss Ralph, his intelligence, his counsel, his friendship.
I’m going to miss his incredible memory as well, one afternoon driving back from lunch in Phoenix, he quoted the entire pitch of the barker for Margie the Wham-Wham Girl’s cheesy strip show at a carnival we went to in junior high…part of it went ”She shakes it to the North, she shakes it to the south, she shakes it from the east and to the west aaaaannndd she shakes it where it shakes the best.” Ralph turned to me and said, “What was that damn song they played?” I said, “Preston Epp’s “Bongo Rock”. We both laughed like adolescent boys.

Ralph died yesterday in Scottsdale.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hefner is dead

Hugh Hefner is dead at 91.

I remember the first time I saw a Playboy magazine. I was 11 years old tagging along on a fishing trip to Lake of the Woods with my Dad and his friends. One of them brought a Playboy. They were drinking and playing poker on one of the nights we spent at the Trail’s End Resort and I snuck a peek at the magazine. Diane Webber was the Playmate of the Month. Diane was 25 years old at the time of the photoshoot. (She died a few years ago in Santa Monica. After a few roles in movies and doing Middle Eastern dancing and instruction, Diane worked as a law librarian for Santa Monica Law Firm.) Her pictures were very innocent by today’s standards, Diane was certainly a beautiful woman and for the first time in my life I began to imagine the possibilities.

In the 50’s the covers of men’s magazines and detective magazines all seemed to be devoted to bondage shots, rape fantasy and other misogynistic themes. I remember looking at those covers at the Bike Shop’s news stand while buying comic books when I was a little kid. Widman’s Candy’s news stand carried them too. I didn’t like those covers at all. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine changed that, the Playmates were natural, girl next door types for the most part, cute, clean and All American sexy, like women you’d see on the street or in school. As strange as it may seem now, that was a big, big change.

When I was a young kid, those Playmates seemed out of reach and distant, more like my Mom’s friends than girls I knew. When I was a junior in high school that all changed with Christa Speck’s appearance as a Playmate and later as Playmate of the Year. Christa was 18, only two years older than I was. Men my age all remember Christa. (Christa later married TV Producer Marty Kroft) She was one of us.

I worked with a guy who had a long relationship with a former Playmate of the Month. She was a nice, smart, gorgeous woman. They broke up, he was an idiot and she wasn't.

I did read the articles, some of the monthly interviews were great reading. The reporting, the fiction, the music commentary and of course, the joke page were usually all good reads.

Hefner made it okay for all of us to be more open about our sexual nature. He dealt in fantasy for the most part but, he opened the conversation that it’s okay for women to be open about enjoying sexual relations. He opened men’s minds to understand that you have to give to receive and that it’s okay for women to ask a man for what they want in in an intimate relationship. He was outspoken on AIDS and Gay Marriage. He integrated Playboy early on by featuring black Playmates and Asian Playmates

I have no idea what Heffner was like in his personal relationships. I thought he was crazy not to marry Barbie Benton, I thought it was sleazy to devote damn near an entire issue to photoshoots of his fiancée, Kimberly Conrad. On the other hand, he bought the house next door to the mansion and gave it to her after their divorce, so he could be close to his children.

Hefner handed the reins of the corporation to his daughter Christie who has been the CEO for years.

The Hugh Hefner story, like the man, is complicated. The last 20 years or so he was strange in so many ways. Google Holly Madison. Read excerpts from her book for some insight.

Somebody once said, “The only reason Playboy has the articles is so guys can get them in the house.” Probably true, but the articles were almost always as good as the pictures. And the pictures were always good.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

History by Sir Winston

I’m re-reading Winston Churchill’s “A History of the English Speaking Peoples”. I’m halfway through volume 4 at the moment. The series begins in 55BC with the Roman invasion of the England and covers the highlights up to the beginning of WWI.

Sir Winston was not a professional historian, he was a true student of history. Churchill like all great, thoughtful and astute leaders understood, maybe more than most, the lessons of history and the guidance history can provide for future generations.

When you read Churchill’s work, you get an English-centric view of history. It is good to get a view from the other side of the Atlantic of the emergence of our country during the revolution and the events leading up to our civil war. All of it grounded in real, unvarnished historical fact. Good reading for any American.

As I re-read the books I was again astonished at the bloodshed, carnage and chaos created by religion in England, France, Spain and other countries and regions all over the world for centuries. It is no wonder our Founding fathers wrote “freedom of religion” into our constitution, I only wish they would have written “freedom from religion”.

Churchill had a great interest in military history. His telling of how we won our revolution by winning so few battles against the English is refreshing.

Churchill lays out why the North won the civil war, not only because the North was on the right side of history, but because of the geographical and industrial advantages that doomed the Confederacy from the opening days of the conflict.

Churchill writes the South had arrogantly expected Britain and Europe to come to their aid and he reminds us that no foreign power recognized the Confederacy during the conflict.

Churchill’s thoughts on Robert E. Lee point out that Lee was conflicted at the beginning of succession and even after a long consultation with President Lincoln where he was offered command of the Union Army, Lee made his choice to resign and go home to Virginia to become a traitor to his nation and his entire, illustrious career as a soldier for the United States of America. Churchill felt Lee lost his chance at greatness the day he rode across the Potomac.

In earlier volumes Churchill writes of feudalism’s roots in the Roman system of government in every part of the Roman Empire.

He writes of religion’s caustic effects on civil society across the world.

He writes of  beginning and growth of the rights of average citizens to have a say in the way they are governed in English Common Law and how the American and French Revolutions spurred that thinking world-wide.

“A History of the English Speaking Peoples” is well worth reading. If for no other reason than it reinforces :

“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” ― Edmund Burke

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My father fought the Nazis

Toward the end of World War II, my Dad flew the 2nd Glider across the Rhine during opening moments of Operation Varsity. (Varsity was and is the largest airborne operation in history.) Operation Varsity was the first phase of the invasion of Germany early in 1945.

The Army Air Corps learned from airborne operations earlier in the war to form up the glider pilots and glider crews into infantry units and put them in the fight after they were on the ground. My father fought in a battle that was pivotal during Operation Varsity. It was called “Burp Gun Corner.” The pilots were ordered to hold a critical crossroad near Wesel. My Dad’s company of glider pilots accomplished their mission by blowing up a Panzer tank on a narrow city street and that disabled tank stalled a Nazi counter attack allowing the Allie’s offensive to continue.

Here is what General Bereton, Commander of the 1st Airborne Army had to say:

“The conduct of glider pilots, in general, is beyond written words of commendation. Not only did they deliver a magnificent and well-coordinated landing which in many cases was in the midst of hostile positions, but were immediately engaged with the Airborne associates in the hottest kind of hand-to-hand fighting. In one instance, a glider pilot serial immediately organized for all-around defense and withstood heavy counter-attacks with the weapons at their disposal, putting one enemy tank out of action in this engagement. The discipline and combat efficiency of these glider pilots has called forth the highest praise of Division and Regimental officers."

When Dad came home from the war, he had his B-4 bag of uniforms, a duffel bag of flight suits and other pilot gear and 2 two foot lockers. In one of the foot lockers he carried home some Nazi memorabilia, two large Nazi flags, a small flag from the disabled tank, signed by his fellow pilots turned infantry men. A Nazi officer’s cap and dress belt and dagger and a Nazi army steel helmet.

No matter how many times my friends and I played “Army” none of us would ever use any of dad’s “Nazi stuff” to enhance our war play along the banks of the Red River. I remember putting on the Nazi helmet once and getting a strange feeling as I looked at my child face in the mirror.

I can’t recall my Dad ever looking at his little collection. Like every combat vet, he didn’t talk about actual fighting. He did tell plenty of great stories about London and Paris though. The best was his co-pilot getting a bloody nose when he walked into the glass door of a small Paris bistro or getting blown out of his bed in a London hotel during a Luftwaffe bombing raid on the city or listening to a speech on a French airstrip given by General Eisenhower after the Nazi surrender.

This past week I’ve often thought what my Dad would think of what happened in Charlottesville last weekend, Nazis marching and chanting by torchlight or the president’s defense of white supremacy. Dad hated everything the Nazi regime stood for. He knew and loved his fellow pilots who died or were wounded during his time in the Army Air Corps. He felt he was fortunate to come home alive to Mom and his family and to me. He went into battle knowing mom was pregnant with me, I’ve often wondered how that weighed on his mind. His letters to mom were upbeat and positive. He never sounded tense or afraid. I know he was from my conversations later in life with his friend Bob Anton, who spent his time at war as an Army tanker. Anton and Dad would sit and talk over Seagram’s VO from time to time, if I’d show up the conversation would stop. They were talking about the war, their war.

The only time I remember dad saying anything about Nazis was when George Lincoln Rockwell, the head of the American Nazi party was scheduled to speak at the University back in the 60’s. All Dad said was “he’s a Nazi son of a bitch.”

I think he’d feel the same today, I know I do.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Memo to Mom

To: Mom (Mother, Ma, Maw, etc)
From: Oldest Son
Re: Mother’s Day
5/11/2014 (still works)
I’m sure you enjoy being a spark in the Universe, you always liked to travel. Have you caught up with the old man yet? I’d have liked to have witnessed that first meeting because you had a lot to say to him, I’d also like have seen you two hug, kiss and make up and have some fun again.
Things are interesting here, Cakes (I know you hated me calling her that) has a new job and is kicking ass. I’m sitting around trying to figure out what to do. Don’t worry I’ll get it figured out sooner or later. I always have.
The kids are fine, Stephanie is in Costa Rica, I can hear you right now, “What the hell is she doing down there!” relax Mom, she’s in love and sounds happy as a lark. Kristen’s business is taking wing after a lot of hard work and lessons learned. You’d be proud of her. Your great grandchildren are spectacular, the girls have finished college. The boys are a couple of little shit heels just like I was. (pause)I know, I know, I was just kidding. They’re doing fine and they even enjoy brief visits from me. Bruce, Kathy and Margo are fine, so are all the kids. You’d be pleased to know that your name comes up all the time. So your memory lives on and will. Liz is still a pain in the ass and is a great grandmother, but I’m sure you know that story
I’ve read some great books lately. I miss our “Book Club”. You’d love “Game of Thrones”. BTW, I’ve read 7 Vonnegut’s over the past two weeks, I know you thought he was nuts and we argued about him for years. I still think you’re nuts to think he was nuts, so don’t even talk to me about it anymore, god dammit! Hope you run into him, tell him just how nuts you think he is and he tells you are just another deranged, misguided lunatic from his generation carrying around a bucket full of loose screws, who wouldn’t know a screwdriver from a thermonuclear device. Serves you both right.
Hey Ma thanks for visiting me in a dream the other night and reminding me to pay my American Express bill, you were always good about stuff like that.
Cakes (I know you hate that) is still sleeping, otherwise I’d put her on. I noticed the other day she picked up your picture and her mother’s picture from the English desk and stood there looking at the both of you. I didn’t ask what she was doing. I knew.
It’s a nice day Mom, wish you were here. We could sit in the sand at the beach, eat some seafood at Neptune’s Net, come home, take a nap. Have a nice light dinner and watch Game of Thrones together. You can have the new chair, it’s a wingback and you always loved those.
Love, hugs and kisses,
Your first kid.