Sunday, July 18, 2010

off to china…again

Before my first trip to China five years ago, I wondered what the country was about.  It was going to be an adventure, sort of a Marco Polo thing in 2005.

This week, I will be going to China for what I think is about my thirtieth time or so.  Over the past five years, I’ve gained some perspective, perspective that will serve me the rest of my life.

Before I went to China, I’d traveled a lot, but mostly in the countries where I understood the language.  I’d been to Paris, Israel, England, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean, mostly places where people looked and acted like me.  I always held an America first attitude, that we deserved better.

That has changed.  The biggest thing I’ve learned is we are really all the same.  The Chinese are no different than us.  They have families.  They have dreams.   They cry.   They laugh.  Some are nice.  Some are not.

People work for less in China than they do in America.  That doesn’t mean the jobs that pay one or two dollars an hour in China are any less significant.  People there live on that, plus send money back home.  They’re not in front of the TV bored out of their minds.  They don’t carry debt.  They’re not slaves.  And, most don’t work in sweatshops.

I no longer think about a job as being American or Chinese.  I think everyone should have an opportunity to earn an honest living.  A lazy person here shouldn’t do better than a diligent person elsewhere.  If you earn it, you earn it.

We’ve become a nation of plenty.  We’ve become arrogant in  some ways, thinking we deserve more, not because we do more, but because we’re American, that it’s a birthright.

I believe that kind of thinking will eventually cripple our country.  We see it today in the way our social services are overburdened.  The word entitlement is used more than opportunity or resourcefulness.

We’ve done a great disservice to our youth.  We’ve given them too much.  We’ve gotten in the way of their success.  We’ve gotten in the way of their pain.  We’ve gotten in the way of their resourcefulness.  We’ve gotten in the way of their hunger.  We’ve just gotten in the way.

America used to be the place where the bootstraps were pulled up and the upper lip was stiff.  I hope one day we get it back.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

lunch at liliana’s

I love New Orleans style food.  There’s comfort in eating the seeds of the south prepared with a deft hand. 

Many people believe that Cajun cooking needs to be smoking hot, so hot your eyes bleed and your nose waters and y0ur speech becomes raspy.

On the contrary, Liliana’s approaches N’awlins style cooking with a hand properly on the gas and the brake, adding spices that provide flavor and interest without adding the flame throwers. 

That is not to suggest the food is not spicy; It is.  But the spices add notes to the food without covering up the great flavors.  They make you  want to eat  more, not grab a glass of whatever’s cold nearby.

On Friday, I had the File Gumbo and a Shrimp and Oyster Po Boy, with  sweet potato chips, accompanied by a white bean salad.  Served on the side were biscuits with red chili flakes, cheese and something I couldn’t identify, and corn bread.  Tasty. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

a nice surprise….

About a week ago, I was looking for the movie “Cyrus”.  In the process, I found an art house theater called the “Landmark Oriental”.

Located in a neighborhood in transition near The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the exterior shows a marquis reminiscent of theaters of my youth, with a lighted white plastic background and block letters that slide into place with movie titles and times.  There is nothing extraordinary about the exterior. 

Buildings around the theater all seem to be in the midst of transformation from older edifices in disrepair, to sparkling renovations of what can be.

Once in the theater lobby, I couldn’t help but admire the arches and detail and gold paint and filigree and gargoyles.  And then, entering the theater, the first thing you notice is the live organ music being played from the front, no previews, or warnings about cell phones, or pitches for popcorn, just organ music played by somebody who could have been alive when the building was built in 1927.   It couldn’t have been more grand.

The movie was good.  But the theater was better.    

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

a sign of the times…..

The offending sign.

If you’ve traveled over the past year or so, you’ve probably come across one of these signs that says something about stimulus money being used to fund road projects across the United States. 

These signs are mandatory for each road project that is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act  and they reportedly cost anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000 each.  I don’t believe the low or high numbers, so something in between makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is the need for a sign.  What doesn’t make sense is that we’ve spent $192,000,000 in the form of signs and promotional budgets to tell the taxpayers that we’re spending stimulus money this way or that way. 

We can see the road is being torn up and repaired.  We can see money is being spent on the road.  We can see our dollars at work.

Maybe the sign should say “We’re Broke, But We’re Arrogant and Don’t Care How We Spend Your Money.”

We’re firing teachers and firemen and police and we’re putting up signs. 

Just fix the damned road.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

a return to my youth…..

When I was a kid, the two most important times of the year for me were Christmas and County Fair.  Both of these events meant I was going to be a part of something special.  At Christmas, it meant parties, great meals, gifts, and of course, the birth of Jesus.  County Fair meant going on rides, watching tractor pulls and being with my dad.

Well, today was County Fair.   As a kid, I was allowed to have $2 a day, or $4 for the whole run.  Rides were a quarter.  You could eat a  meal for less than a dollar.  And, sodas were a dime. 


Today, I spent $9 to get in and $5 for a lemonade.  Times have changed.

County Fair seemed to be a big part of my life.  As a very young kid, it was about being with my dad, going on rides, eating stuff I couldn’t have every day, and honey sundaes.  As I got older, it was about hanging out and watching skanky girls.  There were even people with tattoos.   As a young father, it was about taking my kids, putting them on rides, and cotton candy. 

The Fair still focuses on the kids and their farm and home projects.  People enter their cakes and jellies and pies and chickens and photographs and animals and so on.  And all of them want the big purple ribbon.

But, as much as I wanted to enjoy the Fair, I left in an hour.  I guess it just isn’t the same as it was when I was with my father.

Friday, July 9, 2010

i’m writing this so i can remember this joke….

as told to me by Bruce Alexander (with some of my own observations and inclusions)

As a kid growing up, there were these great beer commercials about how beer could make you a man’s man, and that everyone deserved the best and seeing the world and all that stuff. 

At the time, Schlitz, which is no longer in business, built a campaign around the slogan, “Schlitz, the beer that made Milwaukee famous.”  Now the joke.

It seems there was a pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves (the Braves were in Milwaukee those days) named Mel Famey.  And, it is told he liked to down a few Schlitz beers between each inning during games to quench his thirst.

On one particular hot and humid day, Mel was downing more than normal and it began to affect his performance.  He began to start walking batter after batter, until finally, the manager had to yank him from the game.  He was drunk.

After that, it was said by the winning manager when asked why they won, “Schlitz, the beer that made Mel Famey walk us.” (say it out loud)

OK, this is not a true story.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

that’s my dad….

I’m a little late with this, but I didn’t want to forget.

On Father’s Day, I was doing a photo shoot at the CEO of Playboy Enterprises home for our furniture line.  I called my dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day.

He asked, “Where are you?”

“Beverly Hills.” I replied.

“What are you doing there?”

“Doing a photo shoot.”

“Where?” he asked again.

“The CEO of Playboy’s home,” I said.

“How do the girls look?”

He can’t see anymore, but he can still look!  That’s my dad.