A Summer Lamentation Dropping

Right about now is when I begin to come to the stark and chilling realization that before we know it, summer will be over. You’re saying, “Geeez man, you are chugging down a half-empty glass of water.” I know, I know. You have to admit though, there is plenty of evidence that the end of summer is a chain reaction of man-made carnage. My first sense of this impending doom is around the end of June when all the temporary flower huts start the 60% sell-off of their remaining plants which by a strange coincidence,  coincides with the annual raising of the fireworks tents. Ahhhh, what a glorious moment, punks buying punks. Then, if only for a day, the grand-daddy of them all, the 4th of July.

Talk about getting screwed, the 4th of July is a holiday moment that can only be savored for 24 hours, primarily after dark and only by specific ordinance outside the city limits.  Would the founding forefathers and foremothers stood for such regulation?  Have you noticed there is a strange lull immediately following the 4th of July?  For a few days just after the 4th you hear the sound of an occasional rogue firecracker pop somewhere in the distance — then eventually the sound of the great nothing.

Still, you buck up, shake it off and get excited knowing that there is still tons of summer, right? Labor Day is light-years away. Then it happens. The portable signs start to pop up to alert us in late July, “Back to School Sale!!”  You do your best to ignore this assault on your summertime-sensibilities. Mid-August comes and you have that inexplicable urge — no, a calling really– to go to Lowe’s because you need a lawn and garden fix, maybe nothing more than to spend a few minutes sitting on that Deere you lust over.

You get out of the truck, stride across the blazing hot asphalt parking lot dressed in your cleanest wife-beater t-shirt and go-to-hell ball cap, through the automatic opening doors and there it is, a display of fully flocked and well adorned Christmas trees — in August.  Frozen in time, mouth fully agape, you sense a pent-up primal scream rattling around somewhere in your head as you take in the sight of this seasonal anomaly. If only that fire-hot emotion could be loosened like the Kraken from Greek mythology — but you know better, so you just sigh and move on.

So it goes my Dropping fanatics and there is little we can do about it. Summer is a spirit, thankfully. Summer is eternal for this fool. Drink it in whilst it lasts.

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Milestones that go whoosh!

Well my good Droppings fans I have been remiss of late with my blog posting,  but I have an excuse — I just rolled one of those blankety-blank milestones.  I have always found birthdays fun especially considering that  the alternative to not having one decidedly sucks.  You know turning 30 didn’t register a blip, 40 was actually kinda fun, even 50 was mildly tolerable, but 60? Holy crap, this one just might leave a mark. I was surprised to learn candles are not allowed when you hit this one. Some rule about open flames inside the city limits. So with a heightened sense of awareness, I closed my eyes, made a  wish and blew out the token candle. I opened my eyes, and what the??? Where’s my epiphany?

I guess I was expecting some sort of grand epiphany that would clearly signal something different, but there was nothing — as in zero.  Other than the turning of the calendar page, I really don’t feel older. Considering the hard miles on this chassis, I don’t think I look “it” either.  But even I, the most humble and lovable sumbitch on the planet  realizes beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so whatcha’ see is whatcha’ get cousin.  Aren’t you supposed to at least feel older? Nope, pretty much the same on that score too.  Maybe the answer is too simple. Maybe it is nothing more than the direct result of all the squeaky clean living I have done over the years — right? Please, even I ain’t buying that load of dung.

So what’s the deal here?!?  Where is my darn epiphany?    OK, let’s run the list.  I have managed to clearly cheat the grim reaper out of 2 interviews — that’s cool. I pay my taxes so Uncle Sam has no bone to pick with me. I brush, floss, and get an annual physical. I have 1.5 dogs. I have weird hobby’s and a bizarre taste in tunes (Bill Monroe to Pavarotti).  I recycle.  I eat right — mostly, almost always. I have five grown kids, as far I a know. Got a mess of grand kids.  I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, well you know, not too much.  Oh, and I refuse to take myself seriously — You can pick your jaw up off the floor now.

All in all turning the odometer was pretty much a non-event.  I ate enough carrot cake to make a chubby chick giggle uncontrollably.  I spent some quality time with a lot of great friends talking like pirates and I treated myself to 18 holes of golf  in what was predicted to be record-setting heat.  Breezed through it and still not a single epiphany.  However I do seem to still have a slice from hell that winds up in the next time zone, but then I was doing that 40 years ago so the new milestone did nothing to alter my piece-of-crap golf game.

Screw it. Who has time for an epiphany anyway?

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Summer wool and sense-making

I am not a fashion statement nor will I ever be accused of being fashion conscious.  It just doesn’t give me fever.  You won’t find Project Runway or America’s Top Model on my Tivo.  I tend to be more focused on important things in life — like helping find a cure for chronic dumb-ass. What I have discovered though is that there seems to be an uncanny and precise correlation between chronic dumb-ass and fashion sense.

To be fair, this correlation is not limited to a particular demographic, e.g., age, sex, etc. My lovely wife is very grounded, wise-beyond-her-years and continually reminding me that what I am observing is merely a statement, an expression if you will, articulated through personal attire.  I knew I jettisoned that Nehru jacket too soon.

Sense-making has long been a research interest of mine.  Slippery thing it is too.  I have never found explanations based on “just because” or, “art is in the eye of the beholder” to be intellectually satisfying.  I probably tend to view the world and attach meaning to what I see from a much more rational perspective — more than I should.  But really, some fashion statements boink my sense-making sensibility meter. You know, when you see something that makes you double-take and blurt, “Whoa, that was totally F—ing bizarre!”

Case in point. I recently volunteered on a Friday night to help out with a project intended to benefit the downtown merchants group. Hardly a sexy gig, it pretty much involved me wearing a carpenter’s apron collecting money for parking.  While the success of that venture was modest, the learning experience was immense.

If you want to experience first-hand where fashion sense intersects chronic dumb-ass,  just carve out a few a few minutes and head downtown. I suspect you could also extend your observations to the Mall with much the same result.  Bottom line? You will find your experience like a freshman Intro to Sociology field trip.

Some observational field notes to illustrate:

5:15 PM — Apparently one of the great contemporary fashion trends is wearing a 100% wool stocking cap pulled down over your ears in 85+ degree weather.  Really, summer wool headgear?  I am probably way out on a limb here but I am betting you couldn’t coax veteran head lice to check into that hostel but hey, who am I to second guess head lice?

5:47 PM — Chap walking down the sidewalk wearing a rainbow color tie-dyed sarong, camouflage shirt, shower flip-flops, and a Resistol 4X straw cowboy hat.  I know it is rude to stare but I gotta tell ya, that one was right up there with a Rod Serling moment.  Serling  said, “There is nothing in the dark that isn’t there when the lights are on.”

6:08 PM — Guy wearing a t-shirt with a huge arrow pointing down and the caption —  “I’m with stupid.”   The nonverbal expression on his date’s face seemed to corroborate his self-loathing pronouncement.

6:22 PM — Trying to sort out the fashion statement associated with the sagging of one’s britches slightly below the mid butt-cheek look.  There is precision involved with the skill of pant sagging. Too high and you are just normal, too low and Big Jim and the Twins are on stage.

7:12 PM — Who isn’t titillated  by the notion you can actually still buy white patent leather shoes and a cool matching belt? If you’ve got an answer for that one, you are publishable.

The raw nature of the bizarre projects itself through a fractured prism giving sense-makers reason to pause and reflect.  Bizarre is what it is.  I am cool with bizarre as long as it is genuine and accompanied by reason.  Bizarre you say? History is filled with iconic examples of legitimate bizarre and all seem to share a common thread — a good gimmick.  Lady Gaga, KISS, Ru Paul, Boy George, Devo, The Hulkster, Dog — The Bounty Hunter, and a gene pool filled with kindred bizarre looking-dressing-talking-thinking-acting folk, develop their brands banking on a bloated 401K at the end of the rainbow. That’s legit.

Gypsy Rose Lee told the future burlesque star Louise,  “Ya gotta have a gimmick.”  So my bizarre friend, unless you have a discernible gimmick, you are simply in free-fall and recognizable only as a chronic dumb-ass. That is only marginally better than being a chalk outline on the sidewalk. We all know you can do better. Get a gimmick.

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I got in the wrong line at career day…

I don’t begrudge anyone their choice of occupation. We are all called to do something and Lord knows there are a ton of jobs I would never ever consider. For example, I am thankful there are those out there with a burning passion to do things like give enema’s to elephants or oversee the curing of concrete.  Employment is the wonderful engine of economic prosperity and full-employment is even better.  Still, I occasionally find myself slack-jawed when the bill for some types of services is presented for payment.  Again, make no mistake, I am a capitalist slut. Let the market set the price-point I say!

On a recent Saturday morning I was in the waiting room of my veterinarian. We were attending to an allegedly sick pup.  The cute little booger was sick as a dog — pun fully intended.  Now, if you have followed this blog even obliquely you already know that patience is a work-in-progress for me.

Judging by the stream, no, the torrent of critters coming in and going out of the vets office, I quickly came to the stark realization that Saturday must certainly be the Sabbath, a High Holy day for pet owners.  I even observed to my wife, “Geez, I doubt it was this busy in the sick bay on Noah’s Ark.”  I am persuaded that hardcore pet lovers don’t own a single pet, they trend toward kennels, herds, flocks, litters, and swarms — all seeking medical attention and/or quaffing on Saturday mornings.

In the span of 90 minutes the following unfolded before my very eyes:

Two very enormous canines came through the door dragging an owner that might have weighed 90 lbs. soaking-wet with an appointment to get their glands squeezed and nails clipped. “That will be $2oo for Sadie and Sallie.”  That got my undivided attention.

Moments later two women carrying 4 bird cages delivered the “girls” to get their “toe nails” filed and wings clipped.”  The attendant advises the fowl owner, “That will be $175.”  I cocked my head sideways  with the look on my face which said, “Why are we clipping the girls wings today?”  Stupid question on my part;  “So when they are loose in the house they won’t fly away.”  No shit?

Then there was Thor, a slick-coated muscular Doberman who had his stitches removed following the old tally-wacker snip-snip and the tab comes to a cool, Cha-Ching! — $350.  A slight sidebar if I might…….

The attendant counsels Thor’s owner:

“Now, make sure you keep Thor very quiet and whatever you do, don’t let him lick the stitches.”

(Alright Moore Dropping fans, don’t jump ahead of me!)

As you might guess, I am leaning forward, straining to hear the outcome of this communication transaction.

Owner: “And how exactly do I manage that?”
Attendant: “Well, we can sell you the Cone of Shame for $25 plus tax or you can purchase a tube of salve that tastes really nasty for about $10 bucks.”

I am holding back the urge to scream like a contestant on a game show, “Salve, go for the salve!!!”  The look on poor Thor’s face suggested all he really wanted was an ice-pack and a complimentary tummy scratch, maybe an Advil.

It was about then I said, “Honey, I got in the wrong line at career day.” Oh yeah, our trip to the vet was $165 bucks.

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What color is math?

Over the years I have sat through some extraordinarily mind-numbing presentations and meetings. I will even take responsibility for unleashing some of that torture myself and if you have been subjected to it, sorry about that. Meetings are of course what we do between the hours of 8 and 5 in an attempt to sort out that great puzzlement affectionately known as work, a.k.a, the plant, the salt mine, the pit, the ole ball and chain, the grind, hell, et al.

Putting the concept of work aside for a moment, I want to focus on one delicious and highly entertaining slice of the employment pie known as the committee. Committee meetings are in a class unto themselves and fully capable of rivaling most Geneva Convention established pain thresholds, e.g., fingernails on chalkboards, prostate massages, and Cyndi Lauper recordings.

I would be hard-pressed to isolate what is most annoying about the committee experience but I could find some global agreement and disdain for things like Power Point presentations that use the screeching tire sound effect for every blinking slide. The incessant reminder we need to find a win-win or get a buy-in. I am particularly fond of the committee chair who thinks there is value in controlling the ebb and flow of dialogue through the use of a “wait-till-your-turn-talking-gizmo” — typically a stupid Nerf stick. I am sure you can picture how good I might be at that exercise. In short, there isn’t much that I haven’t seen, heard, or smelled while serving as a member of countless committees — until today.

I attended a meeting where a design concept was being “floated.” Let me set the stage: Big meeting, big room, lots of presentation technology and a group of moderate to above average colleagues. The presenter was deep into reporting how the color of a space had been determined. He even had my undivided attention which is an immense accomplishment given that I am the King of Margin Doodlers. The concept was moving along nicely and the time came for the climatic slide revealing the new space, and — drum roll please — the color selection. Now, if you guessed something approaching an iridescent glowing pale greenish fake vomit color, you would be eligible to drop your business card in the fishbowl for the door prize. Committee meeting moments like these make me perk right up in anticipation of what might happen next. Forgive me, I am evil that way.

My gaze darted around the room in an attempt to drink in the reactions of those at the huge square table. Stone-cold, pin-drop silence. A grumbling stomach would have commanded center-stage. Finally, a barely audible voice says, “So, how did you land on that bold choice?” Proudly the presenter said, “We asked a focus group of math students and faculty to react to the question: What color is math?” Had I been asked the color of math I would have almost certainly shot back, “Black-hole black…even blacker if that is possible.” Apparently the color-wheel for math is limited to finite shades of curious slime green. Granted, I don’t have a keen eye for color swatch nuances. I learned long ago when my beautiful wife lines the kitchen table with color chips, the blindingly correct response is always, “uh-huh.”

So to the teaching point — I insist on harvesting at least one take-away from every meeting I attend. This meeting did get me to thinking about the world in a much broader sense and that perhaps everything in life is ultimately a product or association of a color choice. What color is communication? What color is boredom? What color is a yawn? What color is philosophy, ergo, what is the color of stupid? What is the color of a question? Next time you find yourself in a committee meeting battling to stay awake, ask yourself, “What color am I in?” Personally I am curious as to the color of billable time. Green perhaps?

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Bucket List Troubles

The 2007 release of the movie The Bucket List struck a particularly resonant chord with people like me — a.k.a., Baby-Boomers. For the record I have never been fond of generational profiling but then I do get the obsessive predilection demographers and, by natural extension, marketers have for pigeon-holing. Essentially their version of the human cattle-call serves to legitimize and drive all manner of goods and services branding. I know that because I spent a lot of years in the radio-television-advertising business hawking some stunningly useless crap. As an illustration, I once did an Infomercial for company who invented a palm-sized solar-reflector cigarette lighter you could put in your purse or shirt pocket. The idea was if you didn’t have the shakes real bad and there were only a few high cirrus clouds, you might be able to light your smoke in 60 seconds, plus or minus. $9.95 plus a buck for shipping. Straight-up true story.

But let’s be fair, unless they are all just hell-bent on getting even with their parents, I doubt we can blame any Generation X’er, or Millennial  for launching Depends, Viagra, Beano, or Centrum-Silver anymore than a Boomer could be held liable for the meteoric rise of the Slap Chop, Lady Gaga or — good God Almighty — Justin Bieber. If a Boomer is involved in that debacle they should be relentlessly flogged with a rolled-up newspaper.  I know, I know, I am just making the case on behalf of that Boomer slice of crotchety old bastards. Let the record reflect I am not one and there are those who would be willing to testify to the fact I have recently been spotted gallantly holding my own at a Jägerbomb throw-down while bellowing some dead-ringer George Jones and James Brown karaoke songs, so there.

All that said, I recently found myself unable to answer a fellow Boomer’s inquiry — “So DM, what’s on your bucket list?” Uncharacteristically for me I was without a snappy comeback, so I mumbled something marginally lucid. But it did get me to thinking and wondering at what point I should begin to scrawl something down. Then it hit me harder than a jealous husband — just look in the rear-view mirror and drink in what you have done. I really have done and/or witnessed some pretty amazing things. You will hear about it here as time goes on. Remind me to tell you the story about the keynote speech I almost gave to the Oriental Lions Club convention in Taipei Taiwan sometime. Another straight-up true story.

Mind you I have no quarrel with the concept of a bucket list. I am certain it provides great psychological utility and strong impetus for those in search of — “it.” Good for ya’ll. Personally, I would have to drag out the worry beads and struggle with how many items should be listed and then there’s the hassle of appropriate prioritization. Can I take a deduction on any of it? What about compliance issues? Inheritance taxes on the unused list? It goes on and on people. Maybe it is the approach to it all that matters most. Perhaps I should just think of it as life’s version of a h0ney-do list, only fun.

So here is a start — Dale’s Bucket List

1. Wake up in the morning

2.

3.

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If it’s all the same to you ….

Opinions are an interesting quirk of humankind.  From a contemporary vantage point, if you have opposable thumbs, you are carte blanche entitled to an opinion, relevance of opinion playing no role at all in your acquisition process.  That is a good thing and yes, even a lofty notion arguably associated with what is best about democracy. From your perch in the universe you can not only jealously cling to your opinion but you are free to vociferously advocate on behalf of your opinion. Conversely you may rise in total opposition to mine. That’s cool.

I am good with all that as long as you are not screaming at me with veins protruding from your forehead or you are covering me in a shower of spittle while postulating.  My favorite old dead-dude Aristotle noted, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Over the years I have mastered that technique to the point where your perception of me could be charted on an attitudinal continuum somewhere between slight yawning to full-on narcoleptic snoring with your opinion as the dependent variable.  Apathetic? Well, that is your opinion.

I had a colorful paternal grandmother with a fabulous way of turning a phrase about simple things. She was a crusty old smart-ass farm-woman with the nose of a somalie  for discerning non-Shinola from Shinola — if you catch my drift. In today’s vernacular, she would “call you out.”  On a side note she could jump the barbed wire fence down by the barn with two five-gallon buckets of hog-slop and not slosh a single drop. Today, you would need a focus group to figure out how do to that.  I suppose it was her bone-head simple approach to life that demonstrated to me that even the village idiot is capable of grasping the principles of reasoned discourse.  I learned very early on, and have long since held the position, that “it doesn’t take all day to look at a horseshoe.”

Thus, spending time listening to your incessant belly-aching when the blindingly obvious is three-dimensionally apparent, bores me. To be crystal clear, I respect the sacrosanct  idea that you are entitled to your opinions but please, return the favor by understanding that I may not choose to feel a similar burning sense of entitlement. So, if it’s all the same to you, I really don’t care and life is way too short to get wound up in cerebral gear-jamming with you. Nothing personal dude.

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