Friday, February 25, 2011

We suck, yay!

By "we" I mean those of us under 60 years old. And by "suck" I mean we suck.

From this you may assume that I think 60 year olds and above are better than the rest of us. And I do. I'm not sure how much better they are now since they are old, but at one time they were surely much better than we probably ever will be.

I've come to this conclusion by taking a 20 year-old person from 1970, adding in the relevant cultural experiences they were conscious to along with the music that was being created during their lifetime by peers of the similar age bracket and have determined that the intersection of the various critical points of time had conspired to make a cooler generation than any that has followed it.

A 20-something year old in the 1970s would have experienced the Cuban Missile Crisis - the time when the world was surely going to end. They would have had parents that had lived through a just war with a clear enemy. They would have witnessed the assassination of a President, a Senator and a civil rights leader. They would have been or known someone who was either drafted, dodging or waiting to be drafted to fight a war nobody understood. They would have been experiencing free love (whatever that means), more drugs, a women's lib movement, and the end of racial segregation. They would have been witness to the space race and how American will could lift man upwards. They would have known such uncertainty, horrors and potential for good in such a brief span of time that they would have forever changed whether they wanted to or not.

And so much of this change was expressed in the music of their time. To this day, I still listen regularly to songs from this era. Even my own children listen to music from that time. My son was singing along to Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" on his iPod just the other day. This music was already old when I listened to it, but for some reason it's a classic.

When I was 20 years old, I was not listening to music that preceded me by 40 years. And I certainly did not listen to my parent's music. There was something that made music developed in the 60s, experimented in the 70s and honed in the 80s so fresh. Much fresher than most of the music I hear today that comes across as manufactured and soulless (I realize that's a mass generalization, but really, there's not too much good out there).

It's the passion and purpose that this classic music conveyed that is so compelling. There were stories told by the musicians. Stories of causes, of love and conviction regarding ideals of the time. Each musician told it in their own personalized forms from the Beatles to Smokey Robinson to The Doors to the Stones to the Dead to Hendrix to Joplin to Credence to Lou Reed to The Ramones to The Clash to Bruce to U2 to REM to so many others that I will never be able to fill in all of them. The one point to make is that you still hear their music today. It's got legs. This music is heard in movies, TV ads, and my kid's iPods. It's music from a very special time. Along with cockroaches, this music could survive a nuclear holocaust.

The rest of us suck. Most of our music means very little. We had it easy growing up. We had very little to fight for, very little common pain. We weren't under threat of a military draft. Most of the dangers in in the world happened elsewhere. We just watched from afar.

The closest we've come to terror is 9/11, but perhaps an even bigger terror for us is the recent financial meltdown. This was one of the few things that affected us collectively.  It's going to be hard to make good music out of that.

I'm not sure how much longer I can listen to one-hit wonders like Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You" or should I say "Forget You"? But it is a fitting song of our generation - music about being soft and selfish.

Show me a good song, and I'll show you a good country. Until then, the nation's gone to hell. We suck.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Just the Facts

It's hard to take people's word on things.

As some of my friends put themselves out on the dating circuit, I get to hear the war stories they go through trying to find a new mate.

Meeting someone is like interviewing for a job. First, you have to find a job to apply to, then make contact, and if your background specs match up, you may get the face-to-face meeting. It's a process that takes time and energy.

A lot of the popular dating sites try to minimize the pain. But from what I hear, you can't always believe what you see and read. For example, most of the pictures posted are a few years older than reality. I've heard many times that the person on the date didn't even match the photo.

Also, who's going to write a bad profile? "My wife left me because I'm a fat wad who can't get off the sofa. I have reflux and I'm emotionally needy. Let's connect."

As I've said before, honesty has no place in a relationship. And you're certainly not going to get honesty from these online resumes.

That's why I've come up with a new idea. I don't want to replace these online dating sites (which seem like the only way to meet people these days). I just want to complement them with a way to save time and disappointment.

How about a CarFax report on your prospective date? Wouldn't you want to know the personal history data on something you're trying to buy in to?

And are people on the dating scene really that different from used cars? Isn't everyone just looking for an accurate representation of the goods?

Here's an example of how I would compare things. Below, we see the main CarFax checkpoints. My corresponding points follow:

A) Vehicle Mileage              
B) How Many Owners?       
C) Severe Accidents?          
D) Lemon?                          
E) Service Records?            
F) Frame Damage?             
G) Airbags Deployed?        
H) Fleet Car?                      

A) Age
B) How many marriages?
C) Is there anything salvageable here?
D) Is this person a loser? What does the community say?
E) Dental records, psychological reports, reconstructive surgeries
F) FICO scores (even a minor financial issue can hurt overall value)
G) How many dating disasters occurred prior to yours?
H) How much does this person put out?

I'm just trying to help here. I believe standardization will offer full disclosure, more efficient dates, and transparency. No longer will you run the risk of dating someone with costly hidden problems. Reports can be accessed in seconds. Just ask them to show you the DateFax, and wedding bells will be chiming before you know it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Full of Reservations

I hate planning for most things in advance. I don't know what I'm having for dinner. I don't know where I'm going to retire. And I really no thoughts about where I'm going to be buried. But after my night out last weekend, I realize a little upfront legwork can be useful.

My wife and I drove our 14 year-old daughter into Manhattan. She was invited to a party and sleepover with camp friends. Usually, a trip into New York is a pain in the ass when you live in the suburbs. But if you can go in at the right time and beat the traffic, NYC can be a stress-free adventure for the bridge and tunnel folk.

And we did just that, making it from home to party spot in 35 minutes on a Saturday evening. Very cool. Most Manhattanites can't even travel within the city that fast.

We dropped off my daughter at a seedy looking establishment in Chinatown located right under an elevated subway line. All 82-pounds of her were wearing high heels, a skirt that just covered her puberty and a tank top. It was 38 degrees outside. Good luck, honey. If you need any money, try hooking.

We took off and headed for Soho - an artsy part of town. We found parking immediately on Mulberry Street and thought this was an omen for a good night.

We walked around the neighborhood taking in the liveliness of the crowded streets. We couldn't help to remark how trendy the area had become since we used to show up there. The hole-in-the-wall apartment on Spring Street near the Bowery (and the old CBGB's) where my good friend lived after graduating college, had become an upscale area.

Back then, it was still a bit dicey to walk around there - day or night. Even my friend's landlord was a bit suspect. He would leave threatening notes to his tenants if they were a few days late in rent. "Rats Die" could be penned on a note in your mailbox sometimes as a reminder.

These days, few of us could barely afford the rent being charged to live in that same shitbox. I hate to think what would happen if someone is now late with the rent.

The evening was getting chillier and we thought we would duck into a local restaurant for warmth and sustenance. The beauty of New York is that there's some type of food establishment on almost every block you walk down. And we found a small, inviting place serving a Middle Eastern fare that was wedged on the street level between two old buildings. The place had a cozy feel. People were standing near the small bar making even smaller talk. And the kitchen was exposed to the street with a big glass window. More importantly, there were a few empty tables in sight. More luck.

We walked in, spoke to the maitre d', and were told the wait was about an hour. I looked around at the empty tables and then back to the man. "Perhaps, a bit sooner. Have a seat at the bar," he said.

We walked over to the bar. Or should I say the wine bar, because that's all they were serving! I was actually in the mood for a bourbon on this cold night. So after a few minutes, we walked out to try our luck elsewhere.

We headed back towards the main thoroughfare of Spring Street and came to the bustling Balthazar restaurant, or a bistro as they like to call it. The place is huge and is known for its wonderful bakery as well as its breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. It was hopping inside and a fully stocked bar took up one wall of the place. It was just past 9 pm now so getting a seat should be no problem ...

... if you still lived in the suburbs. It seems 9 pm is still early in Manhattan and a two-hour wait for two was going to be too long!

The ambiance of New York was beginning to wear off. The cold air was not so pleasant anymore, and our hunger was beginning to turn to agitation.

"Let's just head to Hoboken," my wife said. "There has to be a place there."

The thought of leaving the city and heading back across the Hudson was depressing. But Hoboken has really changed and has some fine eateries as well as a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline. At least, we could feel the city's presence from there, have some good food and then get home quite easily.

It only took about 15 minutes to get across, although to my wife who fell asleep during the drive it felt like hours.

"You're a lot of fun," I said.

"I'm hungry alright," she snapped back after popping her eyes open.

We drove by a few familiar restaurants and then decided upon a familiar steak house. The charming thing about Hoboken is that it is filled block after block with old apartment buildings and brownstones. The other thing is that maybe like 22 people have garages in the entire place. Everyone else parks on the street. This means no one really moves their car.

We circled the block that the restaurant was on. We expanded the circle by two blocks, then three. Nothing. We did this for 45 minutes. I had thought about calling the restaurant to place a pick up order but that would've been another 30 minute wait. We would've killed each other by then.

"I can't keep my eyes open," my wife mouthed as if she were on her last breath. And yet, she mustered more energy to bellow, "you should've made reservations."

I was tits up in a ditch. I had failed to find one place to eat in one of the best gastronomic cities in the world. I had failed to find parking in one of the most densely populated one-square mile cities west of the Hudson. I had turned a Saturday night filled with hope and romance into a night filled with hunger pangs and snores from my wife's mouth followed by drool (yeah, I said it).

I thought about this as I sat in the comfort of our suburban diner - the only place open at that hour - located one and a half miles from our home and ate my chicken gyro sandwich with tzatziki sauce on the side. My wife nursed a coffee.

"You gotta go back tomorrow morning to get her," she said.