Sunday, July 27, 2014
So here we are, in the belly of the beast. It’s wedding season full swing, which means the rest of us have to refinance our mortgage to fund your cocktail of pre-nuptial activities. This thought snapped into focus for me as I watched a caravan of Escalade Limos on the northbound side of 87 last night, no doubt ‘Toga bound. Experience has told me limo rides like that will mean two things 1) the night that follows will fall short of the hype and 2) the Citizen’s Bank card is about to take a whipping. If my days of Abercrombie modeling taught me one thing, it’s this: It’s OK to say no.
Last week I was at a barbecue. One of my colleagues was detailing the three-ring circus he’d been bullied into because his high school friend was getting married. Keep in mind this guy’s got two kids, the usual medley of monthly bills, and a good job but not a job that pays Kobe dollars. Not only is he on the hook for a bachelor party in Montreal (Montreal, are you joking me?) at three hundred a head to start, but a cross-country plane trip to Cali, where he’s expected to spend two nights in a hotel to get this guy hitched. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s in the wedding, so he has to rent a tux for two hundred bucks. His wife cannot come to the wedding, because they have two kids and can’t afford to sink the whole family into this insanity. Oh yeah, he has to take two days off from work to make the trip and buy this guy a gift. Guesstimated price tag: three grand.
Truth: He doesn’t even want to go. Who would want to suffer through that at 34 yrs. old? He’s glad his friend is getting married, and wishes him well, but the whole affair is bringing nothing but stress to the household. He doesn’t care about Montreal, can’t afford the money, his wife doesn’t want him traveling to Cali without her and the kids, and the days he has to take off work are the third and fourth day of the school year. He’s a teacher. Doing that is taboo in the teacher rack. But he feels he has to. He feels obligated. He feels guilty. I respect that stance, sure I do, but a young family man shouldn’t have to shoulder this load. It’s too much. I told him it’s OK to say no.
Same barbecue different colleague. She’s planning her own wedding for next year. Money’s tight, she’s trying to put a toehold into her own life and house and soon-to-be family. But before any of that happens, she has to flush away hundreds and hundreds this month on multiple bachelorette parties because ‘Toga-bound limos need to be paid for and drinks need to be bought and a night of saying “woo!” has to be floated. She’s miserable. She doesn’t want to do it. She doesn’t have the money. But she feels like she has to sign on because that’s what friends do. It’s OK to say no.
I’m tired of that line: That’s what friends have to do. At this age (thirty something), you’re chief obligation is to your family and that’s it. Besides, what kind of friend let’s his/her wedding guests go through this because it’s their day and it’s about them? We want you to be hitched and happy, but we have lives too. I don’t have eighteen hundred bucks to drop on your Caroline Street bachelor party and Franklin Plaza Wedding. Here I will buttress what I’m saying by admitting that the same etiquette does not apply to people getting married in their twenties. Everyone at that age is self-absorbed and should be and none of your friends should have mortgages and families at that point, so order the limos and bring on the strippers.
Perhaps my attitude on this subject would be softer if the ordeal had done a drop of evolution in my lifetime. Bachelor parties with limos and strippers. Limos are the lamest things on earth and the stripping business hasn’t progressed since the caveman age. Girl. Pole. Sweaty dollar bills. Wake me up when this is over. Wait a second . . . you actually want strippers at your BP? You like strippers? Who’s your favorite JERSEY SHORE Character? Ronnie or the Situation?
There was a time when I prescribed to this whole notion of going to ‘Toga and dropping big bucks on some dude’s bachelor party. But that time is no more. First off, ‘Toga might be the most over-hyped place on the planet. And second, bachelor parties in the made-for-the-movies sense are not fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good jubilee and appreciate the company of great friends. But getting older means the crowd gets smaller, the conversations get more meaningful, and renting limos is something dorks do. It’s OK to say no.
This year we have one wedding on the docket, and to this man’s credit, he’s gone low key and kept it mature. He’s asked us to do the following: show up, bring a gift, and have a nice time. And right now I can’t wait to do all three. I wouldn’t miss this one for the world. And when a guy does it right and treats his guests well, it’s NOT OK to say no.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
. . . Look no further than the Thompson Hill Casino Project. Here you have the Hard Rock Franchise trying to anchor a multi-million dollar construction that would turn East Greenbush into a national destination spot, but a handful of home owners have tied themselves to a tree, and this Hard Rock bid is going bye-bye, bet your bottom dollar.
On second thought, maybe the group’s got it right. I’m beginning to think the Capital Region would be a bad fit for a casino. Think of the epic traffic snafus that sized complex would create. Presently, if you live in Clifton Park and have a 3PM appointment in Albany on any given Wednesday, you better bring a good book and/or comfy pillow because you’re not getting home till 8PM. You can try back channeling via Route 9, but that’s also become a parking lot too. It’s the same blood-boiling scene on Alt 7 out of Troy. There’s ALWAYS an accident. It’s ALWAYS standstill traffic. There’s no escape.
It’s because there’s too much stuff here already (Global Foundries, that Nano Science place, all the two-year and four-year colleges, Saratoga Track Season, the State Offices, Jack’s Burgers in Albia). We’re already trying to shove a basketball-sized plan into a softball-sized setting. We're putting houses on top of houses. To build a casino here would bring that Northway nightmare I just described to every highway system in the area, all day every day. Unless the State is planning on adding fourth lanes to the Northway, Alt 7, and 1-90, that’s what I see happening. I think you have to put a casino in the middle of nowhere.
Are Capital Region residents really casino people? I don’t think so. Casinos demand a sad, depressing kind of individual. It’s not sharp suits and high-risk poker and glitzy and glamorous like in THE HANGOVER. That’s Vegas. That’s not casinos everywhere else. Try walking through the gaming room at Mohegan Sun or Turning Stone. It’s a galaxy of extras from the TV show ROSEANNE. And nothing is scarier than watching that scoop-brained lady pull slots. If you build it they will come. I’m not even going to write about the cesspool of degenerates a joint like that would bring, or the prostitution, or the addicts. We don’t need it.
The state may need the added income of a casino system, but the Capital Region doesn’t. This area has stayed above the fold through the Great Recession and the Double Dip Recession. We’re the economic little engine that could. But maybe we’re just not on Boston’s level or Philly’s level and that’s OK. The roadway construction is already round the clock. If we wanted to go next level, we’d have to rebuild every rung of the Cap Region ladder. It would be construction everywhere you looked for the rest of your life.
Last night we drove home on the Northway at 11PM, and all six lanes were on fire. That’s what happens when track season hits. People from every part of the country come here to wear goofy hats and play the ponies. And when that whole scene gets dull, we have our casino up there. So stop by and see the ladies pull slots. And leave it at that and nothing more.
. . . America is the greatest country in the history of the world, and it’s fantastic that the Group still has serious weight. Suburban mom with her arms crossed and a look of disdain on her face can stop a speeding bullet on the spot. On second thought I'm all right with that.
Read More: http://wnyt.com/article/stories/s3505654.shtml
Monday, July 14, 2014
On Friday, LeBron James announced he’s ditching South Beach for Cleveland, back to the fans that burned his jersey in the streets. Again, he’ll play for an owner who bashed him in writing for the public. Forgiveness may be divine, and you can always go home, but LeBron James is the most dominating force I’ve ever seen play pro ball, with the mindset of a melting ice cream cone. This was about reversing the number-one blunder on his record AKA the decision, not about winning rings. He wants people to like him. Jordan didn’t give a damn about his public record. It was about basketball first and PR second. And you can guarantee MJ would never fly back to an owner who trashed him on ESPN. LeBron’s softer than Jordan and Kobe, but he’s a better player than both. He’s a Yankees fan AND a Cowboys fan but isn’t from New York or Dallas. See what I mean?
James stumbled publically when announcing on ESPN he was “taking his talents” to South Beach in 2010. He’s not a bad guy. He’s just has the wrong people around him, and he's easy to manipulate, I guarantee it. For the record, “I’m taking my talents . . .” was originally done by Kobe when he was in high school. So LeBron filtered his most famous line from circa-17 Kobe. But he’d crush Kobe in one-on-one. The duplicity is utterly frustrating.
So who's LeBron James? Let me put it this way: James is best friends with Johnny Manziel, the NFL’s answer to Mike ‘the Situation’ Sorrentino. And I get the impression 5’10” Johnny’s the alpha. When leaving Cleveland, LeBron followed Wade to Miami. While playing with the Heat he conducted postgame interviews alongside Dwayne Wade, like they were equals. Wade missed half the season in 2013-14 and was a non-factor in every playoff game. They’re not equals. When Michael addressed the media, nobody in the Bulls organization was allowed to breathe loudly. But LeBron and Wade are best friends, so they share the spotlight, and no one needs to be the star. Kobe needed to be the star so bad he had Shaq run out on rails. Kobe addresses the media in six-foot mink coats; LeBron wears fake glasses and Justin Beiber t-shirts. That’s the difference. ESPN’s treating LeBron’s homecoming like Flight 370. He’s the biggest star on the planet. But you’d never know it and I don't mean that in a good way. There's such a lightweight energy about him off the court.
At seventeen, LeBron was already the world’s best player, not even close. But instead of filling the role of the “Chosen One” and blazing an original trail, he decides to keep Jordan’s #23 into the pros. Then a few years later, announces no NBA player should ever wear #23 again. Why even raise that issue when you’re the most visible culprit? Classic LeBron. This past season in Miami he started publically working in references about “his guys” and “leading the team” and “It’s up to me” to reverse the PR perception that he can't lead. Sorry, not buying that from a guy who went back to Cleveland so people up there would stop booing him. What does LeBron James owe Dan Gilbert or that city? He was holding all the cards here but decided to people-please. There are a handful of NBA ballers all time who are defined by rings won, and LeBron's one of them. This was a demotion. This was a backwards move. This was weak.
Bird’s Boston, Kobe’s LA, Jordan’s Chicago. How are we supposed to archive James’ successes on South Beach? LeBron choosing to reassume his relationship with Northern Ohio is the same as Timberlake getting back into NSYNC. Why did LeBron even leave in 2010? What was the point? A week ago, Pat Riley--in his role as Heat Prez--met the media and talked “staying the course” and mental toughness in hard times. “Trend this,” he said, “I’m pissed.” He was calling LeBron out, just like Dan Gilbert did. Only difference is Riley treated LeBron like a son; Miami treated him like royalty, but he had to "Go Home," and ESPN's acting like he's Martin Luther King Jr. for doing it.
Going to Miami in the first place was a mistake. LeBron’s South Beach dynasty didn’t inspire anyone except fourteen-year-old boys. People grew tired of the Heat. Miami’s a fine town. I’ve been. We ate Cuban food. But actually live in Miami when I’m globally the best in my profession? Miami isn’t even the most relevant city in its own state. It’s second, to Disney World, a place of make believe. If he ends up winning in Cleveland, that will be wonderfully regional, but we’re talking about a once-in-history skill set with James.
Truth is he never needed Miami or Dwayne Wade or Pat Riley. Anywhere LeBron went in 2010 would’ve immediately been the best team because they had LeBron. The Carmelos and Durants and Garnetts would’ve come. FIELD OF DREAMS inspires us because Costner builds it, not the other way around. What has LeBron built? New York was always the answer. There’s nothing better or more important than winning in NYC, and LeBron dodged it . . . twice. He chose Hidden Pond, when he could’ve had the East River, Hudson River, and Atlantic Ocean. Jordan’s six in Chicago and Kobe’s five in Hollywood are historical, but being the first to hang dynasty banners in MSG, that would’ve been something. Instead he’s moving back into his mother’s house to do selfies with Johnny Football.
Monday, July 7, 2014
Countless things have changed about America from the first July Fourth to the one that just went by. But one thing remains constant: the Group is the most powerful force going.
99% of the nation’s wealth is controlled by the top 1%, the middle class is evaporating, a NY Yankees ticket is $900.00, and we have a black guy in the White House, but when eight housewives get together and decide they want something a certain way, you better believe that’s how it’s happening. Look no further than the Thompson Hill Casino Project. Here you have the Hard Rock Franchise trying to anchor a multi-million dollar construction that would turn East Greenbush into a national destination spot, but a handful of home owners have tied themselves to a tree, and this Hard Rock bid is going bye-bye, bet your bottom dollar.
It’s not just casino constructions though. Think about teachers and school employees. If one community member doesn't like something, and that community member gets a group of his/her friends to follow lock-step, it’s checkout time for the offending teacher or school official. You see it in the news constantly. Remember the Bullied Bus Driver? People got together and raised her $400,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Disney because some fifth grader called her fat. There truly is an unbreakable strength in numbers and some things never change.
Why are we so petrified of the almighty group? Look at the fiasco in North Adams over the closing of the Regional Hospital. It made absolutely no sense (or cents) to keep that facility operational, but enough people griped and complained and carried on, and they’re gonna find a way to keep it going, I’m telling you. Does this fear begin in grade school when staying aligned with the popular pack is the surest bet for personal/social survival? We feel empowered when we’re in a group vs. being alone, and when a group comes up against us, we feel that same feeling in reverse. Am I onto something? Facebook is such a scary tool in today’s culture, because you could truly accomplish anything if you mobilize enough people, and what better place to rally the knuckleheads around a cause?
In some cases the power of a group is a good thing, but so often it’s a dangerous deterrent to progress, and here’s why: People are sheep. The same way they picked on Little Timmy in third grade because the cool kids were doing it, they’ll raise fists to fight a casino or get a teacher terminated. They’re just doing it to do it. Was that ever-more obvious than that nonsensical Occupy Movement? They literally could not verbalize why they’d halted their individual lives and gathered. But thousands and thousands blindly/sheepishly went along with the protest.
America is the greatest country in the history of the world, and it’s fantastic that the Group still has serious weight against the wealth and raised Yankees rates. Suburban mom with her arms crossed and a look of disdain can stop a speeding bullet on the spot. But before we storm the Capitol Building to protest Common Core Standards or whatever else is buzz-worthy, let’s make sure we know the pros and cons of said issue. Fighting this fight (or any fight) because Helen from across the road said so is not good enough.
The power players in this country know all about appeasing the Group. Everything in this country is marketed to target the masses, and it works. NASCAR is the most watched sport in America. Justin Beiber is worth 200 million dollars. The Kardashians still get 3 million viewers a night. If you watch the Kardashians, I don't want you spearheading any major movements. And maybe that's the scariest part about the Group Dynamic. Smart people can mold and manipulate them into fighting the wrong fight or buying into the wrong side. Look at the epic saga this country turned Donald Sterling into. Oh my God, the outrage. They destroyed a man's name and his business because he said black guys on a tape.
ESPN's Colin Cowherd said it best. He talked about being in sports radio for twenty years, but admitted if a group of listeners got irritated or offended by something he said on-air, even if those listeners misunderstood what he'd said and why, his ESPN career would be over. And he's right. God Bless America.