Dodger stadium is the third oldest stadium in Major League Baseball behind Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. It sits on of the most picturesque settings in baseball: Chavez Ravine. The stadium was opened in 1962 and I am convinced that all of the original staff who worked in the concession stands when it opened are still working there today. There is no slower line in the history of sports. Waiting for a Dodger Dog and drink can take an eternity. You are conditioned to accept the ridiculous high prices charged for each item but nothing can prepare you for the wait in line. The workers who are all in their mid-100’s move at the speed of molasses and don’t change speeds no matter how long the line is. Much money has been spent on updating the stadium itself but no attention has been paid to the concession stands. It can easily take two innings to get from your seat and back. The concession system is antiquated beyond belief. You would think that baseball’s largest seating capacity stadium at 56,000 would take a look at how their fans are being served. You would also think that most of the food, particularly in the first few innings, would be prepared and ready to serve. But no, each person in line has to wait for an elderly if not ancient worker to collect each item from a different station and assemble your order. It is agony to watch them pour each Coke one at a time waiting for the fizz to subside before topping each one off, then do it again three more times…and that’s just the drink portion. The hot dogs are generally ready to be served but everything else means your attendant has to go to another station and get the item. The specialty item is rarely ready so the attendant’s just hang out and talk with no reservations about the immense lines before them. Last Friday night I watched one of the attendants each french fries right out of a cup she was using for an order. Other people noticed also but only one lady spoke up but was not heard over the crowd. One of the most frustrating things about waiting to spend a small fortune on cheap food items is that while standing in line you can occasionally hear the crowd roar behind you reminding you that a big play had just happened while you continue to stand with your back to the field. You look up to the small monitor above each concession stand to see what you missed and the anxiety grows. You could show a full length movie on those monitors and those waiting in line would have the time to watch the entire movie. The whole line is now getting uptight while waiting and you’ll hear an occasional ” Let’s move it” or “Hurry up”. But the Dodger concession workers aren’t the bit fazed as they are used to hearing the same thing over the past 50-years. I had the ultimate in waiting when a gentleman ahead of me ordered a cup of coffee right when I was one away from the front. The lady said the coffee was out and she would have to make a new pot…seriously? I had no choice but to wait as I had already sacrificed an inning and a half waiting in this line and she couldn’t take my order until the gentleman’s order was complete. That game when I got back to my seat that I had left in the 4th inning they were now singing Take Me Out To the Ballgame. Going to Dodger Stadium is still a great joy for me as it has been since I was a kid and what’s a game without a hot dog and beer? Unfortunately the same people who attended the concession stands when I was a kid are still there doing business the same way they have since 1962. I think the best solution is to eat a good meal before the game, but that will never happen. Maybe I’ll change my interest from watching baseball to watching concession workers, then I will appreciate the long wait.
Throwing out the first ceremonial pitch at a professional baseball game would be an honor and a ton of fun. Between going to hundreds of games myself and watching Sports Center in the evening I have been a witness to many first pitches. The thing that amazes me is how bad some of the celebrities are in throwing a baseball. Don’t you think you would at least practice once or twice before the game to make sure you can look respectable? It’s incredible at how terrible some stars are. It’s like they’re so famous that everyone around them tells them they look great, sort of like The Emperors New Clothes. If someone were to give them an honest opinion the celeb would either put in some practice time or decline the invitation entirely. Making a spastic first pitch hurts your credibility and is just ugly to look at. Didn’t some of these celebrities ever take gym class? Perhaps the worst ever was super macho 50-cent throwing out the first pitch at a Mets game. He was cheered walking up to the mound , then after the pitch there was a round of boos…it was that bad. Immediately after leaving his hand the ball went straight left and hit the ground like 5-feet in front of him. The catcher didn’t even try for it. Here is a case of someone who just should have stayed home and avoided the embarrassment. The New York media got all over his case for his lack of athleticism and the pitch was shown over and over again on every TV station. It got worse when Fifty tried to defend himself, unfortunately it was taped for the world to see, no defense. The next in line of worst first pitches ever thrown belongs to Mayor Mallory of Cincinnati. Here is a political figure who needs votes and he throws the ball like a 5-year old girl throwing left handed when she really is a rightie…it was horrible. You would think an aide to the mayor would take the time to see if the mayor could even throw a baseball before accepting the invitation. There were a lot of votes lost that day. Then there is professional basketball player John Wall who you would think could throw a baseball being a professional athlete…wrong. The ball hits a photographer in the head and he wasn’t standing anywhere near home plate. Deward Robinson, a ex-quarterback from Michigan, who made it to the pros couldn’t even reach home plate and his job is passing the ball. Even President Obama looked like a goof-ball in his first pitch for the Washington Senators and he is normally a good athlete. There is also a long list of female personalities who took the mound only to make fools of themselves. Mariah Carey takes first place for not even getting the ball past the circle of dirt which makes up the pitching mound. She wasn’t embarrassed at all like the others, “Hey, I’m Mariah Carey, I can do what I want.” Carly Rae Jepsen takes a close second for her abnormal delivery…Call Me Never. Even the Go-Go’s tried taking the first pitch in unison and not one pitch out of five reached home plate. My point is if your ever asked to make a ceremonial pitch at any level go out in the backyard before the day of the game and see if you can throw a baseball. If it’s been over twenty years you may want to practice, or at least practice a throw in front of someone you trust to give a honest answer. Chances are if you don’t at least warm-up your going to like Olympic Track Star Carl Lewis who was also booed when his throw went 5-feet long and 10-feet to the left. I once thought it may be a bad case of the nerves when throwing a pitch in front of thousands but now I’m convinced people just walk out to the mound and try to throw a baseball for the first time in years which brings disastrous results. Here are some basic tips for you when your a big-time celebrity and asked to throw out the first pitch at a professional game. 1) Confirm the time and date you will be throwing so you have at least a week to prepare, 2) set aside some practice time and measure out the distance you will be throwing and actually try it, 3) Get to the game early as the first pitch occurs before the official start of the baseball game and warmup your arm with a game of catch for a couple minutes, 4) remain calm as nerves can make an unnatural throw occur, and 5) wave to the crowd as you leave the mound. I’m still waiting for the call to throw out the first pitch at a Dodger game…must have lost my number.
Tough Question…which is your favorite monster? King Kong came on the scene first (1933) and although incredibly large and powerful he also seems to have a compassionate side. Godzilla(1954) is pure monster intent on destroying anything in it’s path and with it’s size, power, and peanut sized brain. I am slightly prejudiced toward King Kong myself having watched him stand on top of the Empire State Building a 100 times swatting down airplanes only to eventually succumb to man’s fear of him. Godzilla lovers find enjoyment in his ability to simply kick-ass which he does well. Kong comes from a scenic island in the Pacific called Skull Island where he lives with other over-sized animals, but Kong is the largest and strongest of them all, he is King. He is captured by an American film crew who take him to New York to be exhibited as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, then all hell breaks loose as he escapes from his chains. Godzilla is a enormous, violent, prehistoric sea creature awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation. It’s clear that Kong is an oversized gorilla while Godzilla is an amphibious reptile like monster that resembles a Tyrannosaurus dinosaur. In terms of looks I have to give Godzilla the point. Godzilla is a Japanese creation and many believe he is a metaphor for nuclear weapons with the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still fresh in the Japanese consciousness. Both are icons in the monster world and both have been the star of multiple movies and comic books. Kong even has his own ride at Universal Studios. What King Kong lacks in brute force he makes up in intelligence when fighting his enemies. Godzilla is all about brute force with little intelligence…he could take out a city much faster than King Kong. What I like about Kong is that he seemed to enjoy kicking back on his own private Pacific island until taken away by a group of foreigners. He becomes destructive only when put in new surroundings and displayed as a freak show. He was actually trying to save the live of the beauty when climbing the Empire State Building with her in his hand. Godzilla on the other hand does not like humans or anything else that gets in his way. His mission is to destroy anything and everything. Surprisingly Godzilla does not eat human beings but instead sustains himself on radiation. That doesn’t men he won’t kill them with a stomp of his foot or a big swing of his tail. It would seem that Godzilla would have the upper hand in a fight with King Kong and the two actually met and fought in the 1962 Japanese classic, King Kong vs. Godzilla. Godzilla comes on land in Tokyo and begins to wipe-out the city with his atomic breath. The Japanese army has no solution so they go to Skull Island and drug Kong in hopes of bringing him to Tokyo to fight Godzilla to the death. The plan goes array when Kong wakes up and breaks his chains (again). When Kong reaches the mainland he meets up with Godzilla and an epic fight begins. Kong hurls some large boulders at Godzilla, but Godzilla shoots his atomic breath at Kong’s chest forcing the ape to retreat. Godzilla continues his rampage until he is slowed down by 1,000,000 volts of electricity. Kong follows him and the fighting continues throughout the night. They take a break and begin in the morning and Godzilla has the advantage with powerful tail attacks and eventually knocks him unconscious. An electrical storm wakes Kong up and restores his energy. The revitalized Kong starts swinging Godzilla around by the tail and eventually into the ocean. After an underwater battle, only Kong emerges from the water and begins to swim back to his home island. As Kong swims home, onlookers aren’t sure if Godzilla survived, but speculate that it is possible. He must have survived because Godzilla is currently back in the movie theaters again. The first fight goes to King Kong and many are waiting for a rematch.
We have just recently moved homes now that the children have grown and we are down to the last chore, unpacking what was in the old garage into our new smaller garage. When we packed the old garage I swear we sold, threw away or donated 75% of what was in there, which was basically crap. We held a garage sale and sold anything of value like old bikes, sporting equipment, posters, some tools, ski clothing, fishing gear, picture frames, lamps…anything. The prices on each item went from $1.00 to $20.00 for a used bike, but the majority of items went from $2.00-$5.00. It would probably have killed me to have seen what we originally paid for the items. I’m sure the markdown was about 98%. We donated to the Salvation Army what we thought was worthy of being used again and the stuff remaining like old winter clothes, bicycle parts, broken sporting equipment, even the kids past art projects all got the heave-ho. We packed up what we thought was valuable enough to move, mainly pictures of the family growing up and some files with important documents. We soon ran into a small dilemma…what do you do with the trophies 3-children had acquired over their lifetime of youth sports and high school? My wife wanted to just throw them away, seeing no value in them. She was right, most of them were just cheap plastic with few if any memories. Something inside me said we should keep them and I don’t know why. What is our fixation with trophies that we feel should be preserved over time? I mean they now give trophies away for any reason. When a child would participate in a youth sport they used to give-a-way PARTICIPATION ribbons or certificates which were usually lost in the first 24-hours. These ribbons were given out if you just showed up and were meant to make each kid feel rewarded, all it took was the ability to walk. But somewhere along the line they replaced these with a Participation Trophy which again made it harder to throw away. In fact trophies became so popular you would win one for almost any reason…Most Improved, Most Valuable, Best Offensive and Defensive Player, Best Special Teams, Most Inspirational. Even the schools got in to the trophy craze with trophies for Best Attendance, Best Grades, Best in History, Math, English, etc.. It used to be that 2 or 3 kids from a team or a school class would get special awards, now it was 100% getting trophies for participating and 6-8 more getting a second trophy for an individual achievement. I agree with making every kid feel special…but why trophies? What in us makes us love getting a trophy? Do we see the pros on TV holding their championship trophies high in the air and want that rush for ourselves. Is it the little plastic figurine on top that makes it so special? Do we enjoy showing our trophies to others to verify are skills, or do we just enjoy shoving it in another person’s face and saying, “Hey, check this out. I got a trophy and you didn’t. That makes me better than you”. I hope not. My theory is that trophies have gotten so cheap to make out of plastic that we feel we are getting something great for a very cheap price. The best trophies are team trophies for an accomplishment as a team. Seeing the Stanley Cup being hoisted above a NHL player’s head is something special, or the Vince Lombardi Trophy after a Superbowl, The Larry O’Brien Trophy for the NBA Champs and the Commissioner’s Trophy after the World Series. Team trophies mean something…going all the way with one goal in common among all the team members. Everyone feels included. Perhaps the most sought after trophy in the world is the FIFA World Cup Trophy given to the world’s best soccer team every four years…that is something special to not only the players but to the whole country that they represent. In fact with children I think they should put more emphasis on team accomplishments versus individual, everyone wins. Well, we ended up throwing away 90% of the trophies that had no real sentimental value and kept the remaining 10% that were significant. It turns out my children weren’t interested in keeping them anymore anyway so the decision was easy. I think the thrill is in just receiving a trophy, after that they just collect dust. I was happy that the trophies that meant the most to them were the team championship ones like winning a CIF title and even those seemed more important to me than the kids. I think trophies are like pennies, you feel guilty throwing them away even though they are of little value, but it is still US currency and a trophy is still a supposed testament to high achievment . I wonder if kids are so used to getting trophies it has become like a piece of paper to them and finds it’s way to the trash eventually, or are parents keeping every one on display so visitors feel like they are entering Michael Jordan’s room when they come over.
Elvis Presley was and still is referred to as The King and the Beatles are a household name associated with the British invasion. Many believe The Beatles were responsible for dethroning The King. But Elvis’s popularity peaked in the late 50’s and the Beatles came on to the scene in the 1964 leaving a gap that was filled by a new Southern California sound, Surf Rock. Surf Rock began in the early 1960s as instrumentals dominated by electric guitars and rapid picking. The reverb on the guitar was used heavily to emulate the sound of waves and became known as the “wet sound”. Dick Dale and the Del-Tones are credited with launching the surf music craze in 1961 with his hit “Let’s Go Trippin'”. It was a fast, energetic, racy guitar sound that was very unique. I happened to see Dick Dale at a car show some 40-years later in 2011 performing the same same sound and songs and the crowd loved it. Like Dale most early surf bands were formed in Southern California, with Orange County in particular having a strong surf culture. “Wipe Out ” performed by The Surfaris in 1963 became probably the most well known instrumental of the era with it’s drum solo copied by kids everywhere with just two pencils and a table-top. The song has been featured in over 20 films and television shows since 1964. The flip-side of “Wipe Out” was “Surfer Joe” which was also widely popular in the early 60’s. The surf rock sound was still considered regional to So. Cal until two vocal groups came on the scene, Jan & Dean and of course the internationally popular Beach Boys. Jan & Dean had the hugely popular “Surf City” which topped the charts in 1963. Other chart topping hits included “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” and “Dead Man’s Curve”. The Beach Boys, 5-kids from Hawthorne, CA came on to the scene in 1961 and make surf music popular across the US. They relied more on vocal harmonies and lyrics reflecting a youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance. Early Songs included “Surfin’ USA”,”Surfer Girl”, “Little Deuce Coupe” and “Surfin’ Safari”. Brian Wilson, one of three Wilson brothers in the band, was the creative force and chief songwriter. The Beach Boys were “It” in the early 60’s. Teenagers everywhere blasted their songs while cruisin’ in their suped up hot rods or even their parents borrowed car. The big striped t-shirts that the Beach Boys wore became standard for kids and teens and wanna’ be surfers were the norm. Life was good. The lyrics were catchy and simple to remember. I think any person who grew up in Southern California since the Beach Boys came on the scene could recite the lyrics to half a dozen Beach Boy songs, particularly “California Girls” which has been covered multiple times. In 1966 they released Brian Wilson composed “Good Vibrations” which was a departure from the simplistic surf rock sound but made music critics take notice of how good they really were. The Beach boys have often been called “America’s Band” and have sold over 100 million records worldwide ranking them number 12 on Rolling Stone. Unfortunately two Wilson brothers have died…Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983 and Carl died of lung cancer in 1998. The remaining three founders with additional back-up continue to do periodic tours to sold-out crowds and spreading Good Vibes to a new generation. It’s easy to remember Elvis as being The King and The Beatles as the Fab Four, but there is period of time in the 60’s when surf rock owned the airwaves. The Beach Boys was by far the biggest name to come out of that era, but the lesser known names such as The Surfaris, Dick Dale, and Jan & Dean all were popular names to listen to while driving to the beach with the surfboard on the roof. One fan of this surf rock era is Quentin Tarantino who featured several retro surf songs in his movie Pulp Fiction.
As a kid every Saturday was like a holiday. There was no school and the day was wide open to do whatever you wanted. I remember waking up before my parents, going downstairs in my pajamas, making a bowl of cereal containing a mountain of sugar, turning on the television and watching a couple of hours of cartoons, all before 9am. The rest of the day contained zero plans, just the way I liked it. Sunday was for church and family outings while Saturday remained open always for imagination and fun. It usually included getting on my bicycle and checking out the neighborhood for fellow riders and soon forming a pack. The pack then roamed with no real direction, but with just a little imagination the pack could be a platoon of Army Jeeps in search of the enemy who could be hiding around any corner. Long sticks could be used for guns and shorter ones pistols as you hunted your enemy down. It became popular to pretend to be The Rat Patrol and hunt down General Rommel. As interest in that game began to wane the sticks would turn into swords and our bikes in to horses and we became Robin Hood and his group of merry men. Sword fighting with sticks was part of almost every person’s childhood, it was why sticks fell off the trees in the first place, unless you saw the perfect stick still on a tree and were compelled to rip it off as it was the excalibur of swords. Sword fighting would usually last until someone got hurt or an over protective parent would make you stop because it was too dangerous and someone might get their eye poked out. Not once during childhood do I ever remember myself or anyone I knew having their eye poked out. That is a classic parents line, but it still worked, just imagine your eyeball being stuck to the end of your friend’s sword. It was enough to make us stop…that line has never stopped working. We would then ditch our horses and swords and go to the most basic of all kid’s games…TAG. Nothing needed for this game. One kid is it and they have to tag someone else to make them it.We could play this forever or at least until one of the fatter kids would constantly be tagged it and everyone else could always get away easily. The overweight kid would quit, so we move on to another favorite, hide-and-go-seek. This game required only a tree as home base and the ability to count to ten. It kinda sucked to be the counter and after a fast round of “Not It” the counter was selected. As the game progressed and the same person got tired of counting they would inevitably start to cheat and peak as to where each person was hiding. It became obvious to the others and after some arguing about it the game usually ended there. Anyway it was lunch time now, time to go to home base, have a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, wash it down with Kool-Aid or Tang, and back out the door for more free time…there was plenty of time left on Saturdays. It was time to explore which meant riding your bike to some far off location, or so it seemed, and pretending to be the first people to have ever seen this location before. As the new conquering explorers you could name your land whatever you wanted and control the territory until a group of bigger kids came along and took control of your new land. You leave to explore new lands and come upon a treasure chest of fun…a big cardboard box that once was home to a parent’s new appliance, but was now transformed in to one of the coolest sliders in the world. After flattening it out and finding a small hill you were soon taking turns on toboggan runs that were super fast and bumpy. You would start at the top of the hill with 4-5 riders and end up with just one at the bottom. This game could last as long as the box did. It was now time to take a break, lay down in the grass, and make-up stories of heroism, like the time you caught a home-run ball from Mickey Mantle. When asked to produce the ball, all you could say is that your parents stored it away so no one could steal it. So the stories got bigger as did the made-up lies until you realized that it was time to get up and build a fort. This meant scavenging any materials you could find and creating your own hide-a-way, see the fort made you invisible from anyone who was not in your club, particularly older siblings. You would venture out with your new found swords and protect the castle until you heard those fateful words being yelled in the distance, ” It’s getting dark, time to come home”. That was the way Saturday always ended, having to go home when daylight ended. You had only seen your parents for two short moments that day, once in the morning and once at lunch. You were free to roam the neighborhood at will with no worries. Parents weren’t nervous about their kids being out of sight as they are today, the world seemed safer. It is amazing how wonderful Saturdays could be as a kid and all done with imagination.
I was driving with my dad to the local YMCA on the evening of February 25, 1964 and we were listening to the Cassius Clay (future Muhammed Ali) vs. Sonny Liston boxing match on the car radio. I had become enamored with Cassius Clay. He was young, cocky, talented and most of all …exciting. He would recite poetry about how he was going to demolish his opponents, get in loud arguments with the media because of his brashness, and back up his claims in the ring. Clay was a glib, fast talking 22-year old who enjoyed the spotlight and the majority felt he had no chance against the veteran, Sonny Liston. The brash Clay was disliked by reporters and a good majority of boxing fans because of his cockiness, all the more reason for me to like him. Even though Liston was the heavy favorite, he failed to come out for the 7th round and Clay was the new World Champion. I loved it and the year was just starting. 1964 was a landmark year in many ways and it seems odd to me that 50-years have passed since then. It seems like so many firsts and momentous events happened that year that it is almost overwhelming. I was still a kid and my memories have faded, but those I do hold seem so much closer than 50-years ago. The Beatles came to America to tour for the first time in 1964 and the British invasion was on. The Beatles coming to America was an explosion of excitement and I was at their first concert at the Hollywood Bowl which is an experience I remember vividly and chronicled in one of my earlier blogs (3/11/14). Other British groups were soon to follow including the Rolling Stones and the Animals and together with the American talent of the Supremes and Bob Dylan many say this was one of the greatest years for music. My interest in rock ‘n roll and collecting records sky-rocketed. It was also a year of turmoil with the Vietnam War taking center stage. In ’64 the US authorized war against North Vietnam after years of US intervention and an increasing American death toll. It was called the first war to be watched back home on television and from what I remember seeing it was flat-out ugly. The generations split with the older convinced that the US needed to be at war in Vietnam to stop the spread of communism, while the younger wondered why we were at war half a world away in a country that we had no business being there. The split between generations broke up a lot of families as some older kids rushed out to enlist while others ran north to Canada to avoid it all. At my younger age I just sat back and watched with interest and sadness. It was hard to take sides at such a young age, who to believe, how much was media driven, and would I ever be forced to serve in the future. I had already developed a negative image of the war and had no inclination to enlist. As the war continued my initial feelings were confirmed, this war was not mine or ours to fight. The strife continued at home as well as abroad. After three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi the President, Lyndon Johnson, signed the Civil Rights act of 1964. I still find it hard to believe that legislation was not approved until my lifetime that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It was a landmark piece of legislation but it did not stop the violence as it continued to increase in many American cities. I remember watching the Nightly News with my parents and it went from scenes of the war in Vietnam to riots in major American cities. The world seemed to be on fire and everyone had their own opinion of what was right or wrong and were willing to be heard. It was not until the next year, 1965, that Watts in Los Angeles blew up in flames bringing current events close to home. In 1964 Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize. We were still a couple years away from the Peace Movement associated with hippies but one can see how the movement came to be with so much turmoil both internationally (Vietnam) and nationally (Civil Rights). I was just a 11-year old kid in 1964 but I do have distinct memories of the events mentioned and it is odd that one year can provide so many. Cassius Clay would soon become Muhammad Ali, The Greatest, and the Beatles would become one of the most loved rock ‘n roll bands ever, Vietnam ended in complete chaos, and the Civil Rights Act had to be forcibly instituted. My memories of 1964.
Last weekend I was standing in a slow line at Home Depot patiently waiting my turn to check out. I had nothing else to stare at and I happened to notice that everyone in front of me was paying their bill with a debit or credit card. About half were able to do it in a timely fashion, the other half had trouble sliding their card in the right way, punching in their password , or trying to figure out how the cash back worked. When it got to be my turn I pulled out my checkbook and could hear a collective sigh from those in line behind me…”Oh,this could be days waiting” I imagined them thinking as I checked out. Was I that far behind the times that it was now a sin to write a check? I guess so. My own son laughed at me on a separate occasion that I used a checkbook to pay for items at a retail store, and I was buying the items for him, Thank You. When it comes to bill paying I had always used checks. It is easier to track and record in my opinion, but that opinion is fast becoming the minority, in fact it already is the minority. With mobile and online options taking hold, traditional checks represent only about 10% of all US payments. 26% of people who responded to a survey wrote several checks a month, compared with 38% who said they never write personal checks. In the past five years, the Federal Reserve reports the use of paper checks in the US has fallen dramatically, from 35% to 15%. Well my technologically advanced wife now has us set up to pay most of our regular monthly bills online while I use the checkbook to pay the remainder. Gone are the days of painstakingly trying to balance the monthly statement, a feat in itself, especially if you tried to balance to the penny. It could take up to 2-hours to check off each check, and double-check your math, before finding out you were still unbalanced by over $200…very frustrating. I gave that up and now just go on-line to get my balance. Not surprising the vast majority of current check writers are 55-years or older, that’s where I fall in. I had always felt I could keep better control of my outgoing cash by writing checks and subtracting from the current balance giving myself a new balance. That turned out to be old world. The younger generation has the same use for checkbooks as they do for land-line telephones…basically zero. Sixty-one percent of people aged 18-24 never write checks. This often pisses me off though that younger people will make purchases of a slurpee and a candy bar and use their debit card. The total could be $1.19 and out comes the debit card. This really slows the line down. My next question would be “Am I the only person who still carries cash on them”. That same 18-24 crowd who never write checks also never carry cash. In my opinion, “Cash is King”…no cards to slide, no writing of checks, and no waiting. Wouldn’t it be nice if people could carry $5, $10, or $20 around with them to make incidental purchases…especially at Starbucks, the debit card capital of the world. Workers (baristas) look shocked when I bring out a $5 bill to pay for my coffee, that means making change, they appear never to have seen paper money before. I can see the problems with time consuming check writing, but when cash is no longer accepted, I’ll cry foul. I can eventually get used to not writing checks but would feel terribly insecure not to have any cash on me for small purchases or God forbid, and emergency requiring payment in cash. Banks used to send all your processed checks back to you in the mail on a monthly basis for tracking purposes, but no longer, that has gone the way of the dinasaur. Now if I become super famous I won’t be able to sell my returned checks on e-bay as authentic signatures. I believe in the future each individual will just carry some device that can be swiped just by touching a screen and the transaction will be complete. Well, I’ve still got a checkbook even though it’s being used a lot less now and cash in my pocket…the next step is to learn how to check-out in those lines without cashiers where your responsible for scanning, bagging, and paying with just a debit/credit card.
Despite spending an estimated $57 billion on airport security improvements since 9/11 a 15-year old from Santa Clara manages to walk on the tarmac at San Jose Airport and stowaway in a planes wheel-well. The fact that anyone would try something so insane amazes me and that he got away with it is even more amazing. The 15-year old it turns out was a refugee from Somalia and wanted to get back home to see his mother. Good intentions but a bad choice on mode of transportation. The wheel-well? Really? My first thought is that when the landing gear went up after take off you would get squished by the incoming wheel and gear. I guess not. The teen spent more than 6-hours on the ground before the flight took off and then another 5 1/2 hours in the air on his trip to Maui, Hawaii. He actually didn’t even know where the plane was headed, but he knew it was going somewhere. The wheel-well is not pressurized and there is no oxygen equipment. The outside air temperature is minus 50-degrees…that is quite a bit to deal with, not to mention it being pitch black dark. I’m still baffled at his intentions and desperation to put yourself in such a life threatening situation, but he survived the ordeal. The boy told authorities that he lost consciousness when the plane took off on it’s 2,350 mile trip over the Pacific Ocean, which turns out that might have helped save his life. The extreme cold and lack of oxygen created a state similar to hibernation slowing down the heart and circulation making it possible to survive the extreme conditions. The kid regains consciousness upon decent and one hour after landing climbs out and walks across the tarmac in Hawaii in seemingly good shape. The story caught my attention immediately as it was one of the most bizarre stories I have seen or heard in a long time. I thought it was just an isolated incident that came out of the blue but as I read on it turns out since 1947, 105 people are known to have attempted to fly inside wheel wells on 94 flights worldwide. Of those, 25 survived, including a 9-year-old – a survival rate of just 24%. Did I miss out on a new trend like playing chicken with cars or laying down on the white line in the middle of the road? Those odds are even bad for Vegas. But my question is what goes through one’s mind to even attempt such a plight. My guess is not much. The fact that he so easily walked up to a plane on the runway and climbed aboard without being noticed just confirms my theory that no matter the security, if someone wants to get access to a plane, it can be done. This person could have been carrying anything on him when he tucked away. Someone in security at the San Jose Airport must have been grilled with a lot of questions after this incident, if that person still has a job. That is really a major snafu in airline security. While we’re taking off our belts and shoes someone is leisurely walking right up to the plane and hiding in the wheel well. Fortunately the teenager had no bad intentions and security experts said they expected the incident to prompt airport security reviews across the nation. My theory is that it was human error which is usually the reason. Perhaps someone took their eyes off security cameras or fell asleep at the wheel. The story stole my attention last week , but thanks to LA Clipper owner Donald Sterling and his racist remarks, I’ve got something new this week to ponder.
I’m going to a Dodger game tonight and I can usually judge how early I have to leave by knowing if they are having a free give-a-way night or not. Whenever it is announced that a free bobble head, fleece blanket, keychain, beach towel or any other merchandise will be given away free as you enter I know to leave 20-minutes early. People always arrive early on these nights to make sure they get their freebie before they run out. It is a wonderful marketing ploy…people love to get stuff for free. I use the word stuff because the life expectancy of most of these items is a week at the most before they break, tear, or pop. The marketers have their logo and tag line stamped across the item so when you are you are using it you are also giving free advertising for Target, California Pistachios, State Farm Insurance or whoever is sponsoring that night’s give-a-way, but hey it’s free with the purchase of your $55.00 Dodger ticket. What ticks me off are the greedy pigs who horde as many free items as they can. You can see them as they walk back to their car before the game to store all the free bootie in the trunk. I don’t know what you do with that many rain ponchos in L.A. but it’s free. I have seen the police called in at Angel Stadium when they ran out of bobble heads due to the first group grabbing as many as possible leaving others out in the cold and not happy about it. People stormed over the poor volunteers who were well in their 70’s to try to get one. The volunteers eventually ran for help leaving a feeding frenzy among the sharks. It was an ugly scene, people got hurt, kids were left crying and it took police force to calm the situation down. All of this for a bobble head, which by the way is the crown jewel of all give-a-ways. The worst part was that it was the adults who were doing all the shoving, swearing, and hording. The kids would have gotten trampled if they got in the way. Then in most ballparks they will shoot out free t-shirts to the crowd which causes another fracas. Why? It’s free. It doesn’t matter what the t-shirt has written on it or the size, just elbow out your neighbor and grab the t-shirt. I have also learned that there is nothing free about getting a free sporting event ticket. Yes you get in the stadium for free, but you will end up spending $20-$60 on food and merchandise. A hot dog, beer, and peanuts will run you $20 alone. You can multiply that times the number of guests and if you buy a beer or two for the person who gave you a free ticket you can easily come close to spending close to $100, almost twice the ticket cost. The cost of stadium food is on par with movie theaters for mark up. I understand the need to make a profit but $5.50 for a hot dog and $11.00 for a beer would be laughed at anywhere else. Yet at the ballpark the lines are long to pay these prices. Once you are in there aren’t any alternatives and people seem to have accepted the ridiculous prices just like movie theaters.
I learned a lot about freebies or chachkies while working at a local television station. The station would have community events with booths or tents set up at the event to disperse free samples and information on the sponsor’s product. It didn’t matter what the give-a-way was, if it was free people would line up to get it. It could be a basic household pen that may write for 2-days tops but it was free so there was a line and if someone wasn’t monitoring the booth the pens would be grabbed up by one piggy. It isn’t limited to any economic class, people of all ages and incomes love free stuff. We once took a group of sponsors to Spring Training in Arizona. We paid all expenses including airfare, hotel, meals, and tickets to the games. We also gave each client a bag of merchandise including a hat, sunscreen, a disposable camera, and a signed baseball. It was a very nice trip for those who had spent a good sum of money to sponsor the baseball team. The guests were all well off, many of them owned their own car dealerships or held a high ranking job at their corporation. Yet despite the best of intentions I got a call at 2am in my hotel room and it was an upset sponsor who said he didn’t receive a disposable camera in his bag. The man could have bought 20 thousand disposable cameras but he felt cheated that he didn’t get a free one like everyone else. We got him his camera the next day and being a good salesperson all I could say to him was that we were sorry for the mistake when I really felt like shoving the camera up his ass…I mean how much could a disposable camera cost? I’ve been told, “There are no free lunches” and it is true. When you are given something for free there is almost always a catch. “Enjoy a free weekend in Palm Desert” the letter read. All you needed to do was listen to an 4-hour seminar on time shares to qualify. “Buy-one-get-one-free”…that isn’t really free. “Call for a free consultation” then spend $100 dollars for the next visit, no freebie there. People love free stuff and to aggressively step over people to get it is wrong. Take one and move on so that everyone can share equally. That may sound idealistic, but the alternative exposes the ugly and selfish side of people.