The song remains the same

June 23, 2009 at 8:43 am | Posted in Life, Music | 1 Comment
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These have been gray days here in New England, a seemingly never-ending onslaught of rain, clouds, and temperate temperatures not entirely befitting the month of June.

It weakens the soul, it does.

I have chosen, amidst the bleakness, to focus on something I encountered a few weeks ago when I need encouragement. At the beginning of the month, I found myself, rather last minute, attending a Dave Matthews concert here in Hartford on a Friday night. It was rainy and muddy and crowded, brimming with an uneasy energy that you encounter at these outdoor shows that mark the beginning of the summer season.

And it was absolutely teeming with youth.Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King

The setlist began, old standards intertwined with songs from their latest CD, and I noticed something rather remarkable. While yes, the ants marched on as always and everybody sang along, these folks, these kids, were also singing along with all of the new songs.

Songs from the album that had come out three days ago.

My heart soared.

I remember these days. These days when a new album coming out was a big deal, an actual event in your life, and you and everyone you knew were consumed with getting it, playing it, and memorizing the lyrics to it. It played at the parties you went to, it rang out from small radios behind the counters of summer jobs, and the beat up cars of college compatriots blared it from their open windows as they drove by you on the street.

Before These Crowded StreetsI, obviously, not only recall these days, but do so with great fondness. For me, the album wasn’t about a Groogrux King but rather the precedence of Crowded Streets, but I suspect that the experience largely remains the same.

And this, for some reason, fills me with great happiness and hope. For in a time of unquestionable turmoil, crushing economic conditions, and immense uncertainty, young people are still memorizing the words of an album within three days of its release, if only to be able to stand in a field on a Friday night and sing it out loud with their friends.

It really does lift you up.

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Positive Energy

April 9, 2009 at 8:27 am | Posted in Hartford, Life, Music, TV | 1 Comment
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As it’s wont to do, life has gotten a bit in the way of the chronicling of it lately. Apologies.

Being a marketeer and product developer, I often find myself  frustrated by the sheer apathy of the consumers of the world when we launch some new product or service that we’ve been laboring on for months and months. With that said, I would like to take a moment to give credit where it may be due, to recognize, to name names, and to honor those companies and products that have managed to surprise me (pleasantly) as of late.

Readers no doubt recall my recent burgling by Hartford’s criminal underworld. Returning home (in the rain), garbage bag strapped to my window and flapping in the wind, I steeled myself for the call to my insurance agent and the inevitable frustration. I needn’t have feared.gekko

Geico, of the gecko, was polite, friendly, and efficient. I was off the phone with them within 15 minutes, and they had already set up an appointment with Safelite to replace my broken window within 24 hours in my office parking lot. Thanks to them for being supremely good at what they do – fixing automobile problems in a timely and pleasant manner. To my many friends at their well travelled competitor, I am sorry, but it must be said. That gecko knows how to do car insurance.

I have, in the past, spoken quite highly of iTune’s new Genius feature. Their new line of iPods have this feature built in, and after owning one for two weeks now, I now rarely listen to music in any other way. An incredible improvement on an already fine product. Well done.

TiVo. If I were a man who wrote sonnets, a sonneteer perhaps, I would write one to TiVo. Your product is so good, your customer service so friendly, and your commitment to feature expansion so resolute, that I must commend you. Whenever I hear of the crushingly small market-share you currently have, it truly breaks my heart. Anybody in possession of eyeballs and thumbs (which, I think, covers most) – go buy one of these things.

How about you, readers? We dwellers of the Internet, we commentators on the world, tend to take a more critical look at things in the world around us. Let’s be different. Let’s be positive.

What impresses you these days?

An open letter

April 2, 2009 at 7:50 am | Posted in Hartford, Life | 3 Comments
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Dear man who smashed my car window and broke into my car last night,

It is clear that you are a very selective gentleman, a professional, if you will, inspired by the great old thieves and grafters of Dickensian fame. For when you break into a car on a well lit road in Hartford with what appears to be a rusty bottle opener, you do not grab haphazardly, hurriedly, rushed. No, sir. You are deliberate and precise.

I can understand why you would leave the 30GB iPod in the driver-side door. It’s quite old, a bit outdated, and probably insufficient for your storage needs. You would never be able to store your entire collection of NPR podcasts and live Dave Matthews sets. I’ve been there, I get it. I was a little puzzled by the leaving of the brand new, three-day-old 120GB iPod Classic in the center console, though. Maybe you’re more of an iPod Touch kind of guy, and the lack of an App store on my iPod Classic would just be too much to endure. As I said, discerning.

I can only assume that you are already in possession of a superior model of GPS, which is why you left mine in the glove compartment directly above the window that you smashed to gain access to my vehicle. Or perhaps you’re more of a seat of the pants, freedom of the road kind of guy, a modern day Jack Kerouac, and are not to be confined by directions or routes when deciding which car you’ll be burgling tonight. I can respect that.

You are also clearly a man of manners, a Mr. Manners, who understands that people who talk on Bluetooth headsets are rude and look like total douche-bags. You scoffed at the one in my cup holder, leaving it behind, preferring instead to conduct your business deals either in person or, at minimum, with mouth to phone. Old school, classic.

I am guessing that you, being a bit of a Renaissance man, passed over the $400 in textbooks on Investment and Security Analysis and Financial Planning because, well, you already know all that stuff. I appreciate that you left them behind so that I may, one day, follow in your hallowed footsteps.

No, you passed all of these worthless items by, and instead focused your desire on a most special item indeed. A backup wallet that I keep in my center console that contains both a Brooks Brothers discount card and a Gamestop membership.

Well done.

Might I recommend the Regent Fit Pleat-Front Classic Gabardine Trousers? They are a fine trouser, lined to the knee with an updated, slimmer fit. I think that a man of your obvious class and distinction would appreciate a pair of trousers such as these.

I also understand that Resident Evil 5 has just dropped. I suggest that you use your new Gamestop card, which entitles you to a 15% discount on all used games, to pick up a copy in a few weeks when folks start trading them in. You can fire up your hi-def console of choice, sit down comfortably in your new worsted wool pants, and have yourself a lovely evening of zombie-killing and classy pants-wearing.

A final note – I thank you for choosing to go adventuring within my automobile on a rainy night. You successfully turned an annoying problem into an obnoxious one. It’s really that extra little bit that sets you apart, sir, the willingness to take it just one step further.

You should be aware, though, that the Hartford police have been called and I can only assume that they dispatched me from the phone so quickly in order to focus more of their time and effort on your chasing and eventual capture. So, you know, look out.

Good luck and safe travels,

A Hartford resident

The Rule of the Drawer

March 31, 2009 at 8:55 am | Posted in Life | 2 Comments
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The Brazil posts, they are late. They wait in various word processing programs and little paper notepads for me to transfer them here, to the interwebs, aging and maturing like fine wine. They will resume, shortly, surely, but until then, a tale from Hartford that mirrors an experience that I used to have more than most, I surmise.

In the Advocate this week, the tale of how local thieves are stealing items like liquor, meat, and baby formula in order to sell or barter them to small businesses for other items. 

This actually happens, people, and with greater frequency than you may imagine. I know this because I spent several years of my misspent youth working behind the counter in a local liquor store in Worcester, Massachusetts, where I was offered, over the course of my stay there, CD’s, ham (as in, an entire ham), stereo’s, and, one time, a zucchini.

crusader-zucchiniWhen you are waiting on a very long line of people fresh from work and stopping for their required fifth of booze on their way home (this is true, and working at a liquor store does a lot to reveal the sadness of the human condition), it is hard to know how to deal with a customer that has just requested a forty-ounce of Old English and is now attempting to pay for it by trading you a zucchini. 

You can get upset (my colleagues often would), you can act indignant, or, as I chose, you can have a little fun with the situation. I would invoke, on these silly, silly people, the rule of the drawer.

The ROTD went like this: “Sir, I would love to accept your zucchini/ham/basketball as payment for this alcohol. I would. But my boss has a strict rule that if it doesn’t fit into the cash register drawer, then I cannot take it. I would like to, but I just can’t. Here. Let me show you.”

You would then take the item from the customer, the clearly insane customer, and attempt to manipulate it into the cash register drawer. I would try to close the drawer, but would, alas, fail, as the zucchini would stick out of the top of the drawer or the ham wouldn’t even fit in the first place. I would sigh, hand the item back, and apologize. It was all enacted with great drama, the actions full of emotions and very, very overdone.

Thing is, this worked. They wouldn’t get upset at me like they did at my colleagues. They wouldn’t curse me out or yell at other customers.

I suspect that, when you’ve reached the point in your life where your mind has reasoned that yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to trade dubious produce for forty-ounce quantities of malt liquor, then it’s not that far of a leap for you to believe that the nice liquor store clerk would accept your plunder as payment if he only had a larger cash register.

If only not for the rule of the drawer.

You win

January 28, 2009 at 11:47 pm | Posted in Travel | 2 Comments
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I fear I have offended thee, Travel gods. I worry that I have incurred your wrath and am now forced to suffer through life as a travel casualty, and I believe I know what it is you may be upset about.

I think that I may have committed the sin of pride against you.

I have long considered myself a professional traveler. I make one day trips to and from distant locations. I always have my shoes off in time, and I never, ever set off the metal detector. I self-select into the expert check-in lane at airports, and I scoff at the common travel folk as they fumble around with the giant oversized dog bowls and tupperware bins. 

My confidence was such that I packed for my 6 am flight somewhere around midnight of the previous day with nary a care in the world. I did not make a list. I did not check it twice. I may have even whistled.

This clearly upset you, Travel gods, and so you decided to play a little joke on me. You allowed me to check myself in at the self-service kiosk as a different person. As a young female coworker, actually, whose ticket I had purchased the same time as mine on our corporate card. This greatly confused the man at the gate entrance, as my driver’s license does not list me as a twenty-something female. We had a fine chuckle and I returned to the desk to check in again, this time as a thirty-something man. 

All was well. I thought.

wsgIn my overconfidence the night before, I had quickly packed, in my carry-on, my toiletries bag. Apparently while I slept, you wily Travel gods swapped out my carry-on toiletries for my check-bag toiletries. Which is why I found myself pulled to the side of the security gate trying to explain to security that, yes, I was aware that there was a 4 ounce limit to carry-on liquids, and, yes, I saw that the toothpaste was 4.6 ounces. And the Listerine. And the hair gel. And the shaving cream. I was now, at 6am, the peak of business travel, that guy.

And so I boarded my plane, a bit red faced, a touch embarrassed. I completed a rather uneventful flight to Raleigh and ventured forth to pick up my rental car from Hertz. A shiny new Crown Victoria. This car, Travel gods, is a very, very large car. A car that a very averaged sized man might look a bit silly driving. But I soldiered on through the day, to my meeting where the conference room had no internet access, flip-boards, or markers, to the Walgreens to pick up new toiletries, and then back to my hotel to catch up on e-mails and get some rest. Where I discovered, dressed in my PJ’s and ready for bed, that my toothbrush holder did not contain a toothbrush.

This, Travel gods, was a good one.

I cannot even fathom where this toothbrush must have gone. It never leaves this toothbrush holder. Ever. Yet here I stood at midnight in the Hampton Inn forced to ask the nice lady at the front desk, politely, if I could use a hotel toothbrush that had less in common with the cleaning of teeth and more in common with the scrubbing of grout.

logoI awoke the next morning to shower and head to my meeting. I abhor ironing, and as I always travel with a garment bag (and thus all of my clothes are on hangers when I arrive), I usually just hang my shirts in the bathroom while I shower and allow the steam to get the wrinkles out. It’s very efficient. When you bring your garment bag and your own hangers. Not when you fold your shirts in your carry-on and hang them on the Hampton Inn stock hangers. Because, you see, the good people at the Hampton Inn fear that you may attempt to steal their hangers, so when you remove them from the closet the hanger part stays in the closet. Very effective for preventing hanger theft. Not very effective for allowing me to hang my shirts at the end of the shower.

I must admit that after spending ten minutes rigging the hanger to stay in place at the end of the shower rod with a combination of a large towel and dental floss, I did not find it amusing when you made my shirt, my only shirt, fall into the running water of the shower.

Later that day, when you again had me walk through airport security and forget that I had too large a container of gel in my carry-on luggage, I failed to see the humor in that situation either. I get it. You are mad at me. I am now the security checkpoint jackass twice in two days. Yes, I am aware that is larger than 4 ounces. Yes, I understand that 4 ounces is the limit, ma’am.

And then, Travel gods, you cancelled my flight home due to snow and freezing rain, forcing me to shuffle across terminals and wait on hold for an interminable amount of time with a ridiculous cast of characters before negotiating passage (at no small fee) on another carrier’s flight home that was landing at the same time as my original flight that was cancelled, I will remind you, due to weather. Weather that apparently is too much for American Airlines to navigate through but nothing to worry about on US Airways.

Having the woman at the entrance to the jetway for my connection from DC to Hartford tell me that even though I had a printed ticket, I wasn’t on this flight, was just cruel. Original, yes, but also soul-crushing and unnecessary. Making me go back to the US Airways desk and stand in line for fifteen minutes so the woman there could tell me that the ticket was fine, walk back to the jetway and be told that the ticket was not fine, again, and again, and again was over the line, Travel gods.

But you relented. I was allowed on the plane. I arrived back in Hartford. My car was buried under several inches of snow, topped off with a thick layer of freezing rain (read: ice), and so I was forced to set my luggage down in the parking lot and spend half an hour cleaning off my car and scraping the windows. Nevertheless, I was home. I was feeling better. I would soon be in my living room and on my couch, and my confidence was seeping back in again.

Which is probably why you sent the Bradley parking lot snow plow around the corner to push my luggage into a snow bank.

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