Author Archive: rebuilding rob

“…and the children shall lead.”

Student Gun Protests

Pennsylvania Ave, Washington D.C. during Saturday’s March For Our Lives.

I would be disingenuous to myself if I didn’t say something about the recent school shootings, the #neveragain,  #enough movements and yesterday’s March For Our Lives events held around the world.

As an adult, a parent, a member of the so-called adult demographic, I feel like we’ve let our kids down.  I think every generation of adults feels its their collective obligation to leave the world a better place for their children. In regards to school safety, we have failed to do that.  Although it was far from the first mass shooting in this country, Columbine happened nineteen years ago.  Nothing has changed since then.  Dozens of other mass shootings with scores of casualties have taken place since then.

Enter Parkland, Florida.  Something is different this time around.  Kids are leading the fight and they are not taking no for an answer.  They have utilized social media and made sure the events of Valentine’s Day 2018 have not left the collective mindset of this country.  Be honest, was ANYONE able to go on even one of their social media accounts and not see a single story, pic or status update about guns in America.  It was all over my feed, that’s for sure.

When you stop and think about it, maybe this should not come as much of a surprise. History is littered with stories of children heeding the proverbial call to action.  Children have fought wars.  Children have built nations.

And yet, this still feels different.  I was reading earlier today, and a writer far more talented than I made some excellent point about the millenials and the so-called Generation Z in particular. To paraphrase, Generation Z has lived their entire lives in the shadow of Columbine, 9/11, ongoing and seemingly unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Some call these kids “snowflakes” when in reality, they are war-hardened.  Some blast them for being attached to their smartphones and yet they are hard-wired to a media that may very well be even more powerful than the Almighty Television itself. In some respects, I believe young people are as addicted to the electronic devices as they are in order to escape the harsher realities of today’s world.

We, the grown-ups – Generation X, the Baby Boomers before us and earlier generations before them – have failed the youth of today.  And they are taking it upon themselves to bring about change in this country.

And yesterday was the rally in Washington D.C, known simply as “March For Our Lives”.  My big question is:  What happens next?  Will anything come out of all of this? The next few days and weeks will be critical for this movement.

Their music still sucks though.

On Harvey Weinstein and the rise of #MeToo.

Harvey_Weinstein

With a face like this…

The only experience I have that is even remotely comparable to sexual harassment happened to me when I worked in a fast-food restaurant as I was finishing up high school – almost 30 years ago – a time when we were just a few years removed from Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill.  There was a co-worker of mine – I’ll call him Larry –  who was gay and he apparently had a crush on me.  This came to my attention through another co-worker.  Apparently Larry was all too willing to share this nugget of information with several of my co-workers at a party – a party to which I obviously was not invited.

Larry wasn’t horribly pushy with me.  He would flirtatiously laugh or chuckle when I would do things like bending over to pick things up (I worked as the morning janitor at said establishment). Larry wasn’t a manager or supervisor or anything. He never had any professional authority or power over me; likewise, he never threatened me or blackmailed me or anything like that. The whole situation just made me a little uncomfortable – in that way that you feel when everyone is in on a joke except for you.

This experience last one weekend.  I out the kibosh on the whole thing pretty quickly.  That Monday afternoon, I made a trip into work to talk to my store manager.  She had always had my back – I was one of her favorite employees in the restaurant.  Upon the advice of The Old Man, I explained the situation to her and demanded that I not be scheduled to work with him anymore.  I also went on to say that if I felt uncomfortable in the work environment or found myself having to quit because of the situation or because of Larry himself, then the company would hear about. As I expected, Larry and I never worked a shift together again.

I didn’t share that story to say “woe is me” or #MeToo.  I share it to say that this kind of thing can happen to anyone – even a white, middle-class suburban slob like me.  I can only imagine that my experience can only give me the vaguest sensation of what a victim of full-blown sexual harassment experiences.  Going up against a person with the clout of the monster I have pictured above can only feel utterly hopeless.

For years, I’ve heard rumblings about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women in the entertainment industry, but I don’t think anybody was ready for the outpouring of stories similar to (or in many cases much, much worse) the one Courtney Love alluded to back in 2005.  This story hit home with me a many levels.

As far as the trauma Rose McGowan suffered at the hands, of this lunatic…that goes way beyond sexual harassment or anything even remotely sexual.  I think she turned the guy down, and became absolutely obsessed with destroying her life.  The stories I’ve heard have convinced me that Harvey Weinstein once had as much power and influence as a Washington politician.  The guy, literally had former Feds working for him.

Having grown up in a racially and culturally homogeneous suburb of Detroit, Michigan, I didn’t personally know anyone who had been a victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault or sexual abuse until I went to college.  The stories I heard there were absolutely heart-breaking. I had obviously heard of such crimes but never had any idea just how pervasive they really were.  As I’ve gotten older – specifically as I see the #MeToo hashtag appear on my Facebook timeline, I feel my stomach churning all over again.

And women are not the only victims of these crimes:  men, boys and girls – no one is immune it seems, as CUCH points out here.

Naturally when I hear a story about the film industry, my thoughts got to The Auteur.  As I’ve learned vicariously through her experiences, film is an industry that is overwhelmingly dominated by men. I’d see some of the guys she went to school with, I’d written a lot, if not most, of them off as undersexed dorks who lived in their parents’ basements and dreamed of being the second coming of Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino. Some of them are a bit anti-social and don’t seem to know how to act around women.  Some are narrow-minded sexists who simply assume, in that throwback mindset, that women simply cannot tell a story, act, run a camera or do anything remotely creative – at least not without a man telling them when to jump and how high.

Harvey Weinstein is apparently on a whole other level of monster entirely.  Let’s face it, EVERY industry has sexists and sexual harassers.  Like racism, that will simply never change.  No matter how tolerant our society becomes, we will always have some outliers. I think what’s so shocking about Weinstein is not the one man or even his transgressions, it’s the fact that Harvey Weinstein is just ONE example of the kind of behavior that has become almost institutionalized in the entertainment industry.

I worry sometimes about The Auteur going into this industry.  The predatory, Weinstein types will be and are in every walk of life.  That’s just inevitable.  But I know how frustrating it gets for her when her male peers look at her and assume she’s brainless or talent-less solely she is a woman  – even though they are either less qualified or less talented (in many cases both) than she is. She’s not naive to any of this and I know she has a thick enough skin to handle it, but swimming against the proverbial ocean gets tiring for anyone – even the Michael Phelpses of the world.

I truly hope that the news of the last few weeks results in some top-to-bottom widespread changes in the entertainment industry, as well as how we all treat each other – in and out of the workplace.

Having said that, I don’t want us to become a society where the merest implication of an indiscretion is enough to destroy a person life.

Rob Reviews: 11/22/63

11.22.63

The cover from the original hardcover of 11/22/63

I’d really like to get back into this blogging business, but I’m not going to make any promises. So I’ll start with some light fare.

A few weeks back, I finished reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  Incidentally, this is the FIRST Stephen King novel I’ve ever read.  Over the years, I’ve had several friends tell me that Misery is a great jumping-on point for the worldof Stephen King; but no, I chose to take on this nearly eleven-hundred page behemoth for a starter.

Time travel stories have always been a big favorite of mine.  As an adult, I have become fascinated by the assassination of John F. Kennedy and all the theories surrounding it.  A novel that marries these two favorite topics of mine seemed almost too good to be true.

11/22/63‘s  main character is Jake Epping, a school teacher and divorcee – that’s where the similarities between Jake and Your Favorite Blogger end.  Jake is almost moved to tears by an essay written by one of his GED students,  Around the same time, Al Templeton, the owner of a local diner, tells Jake of a time portal located beneath his establishment. After Al introduces Jake to the wonders of time travel, the two address a question that has become the stuff of time-travel cliche – What if you could change history?  Al defines the assassination of John F. Kennedy as a watershed moment in world history and charges Jake with the task of preventing it.

There are of course, a few catches.  This is not a “time machine”.  Jake can only travel back to a certain point in time, in this case 1958. Should he decide to stop Lee Harvey Oswald, he’ll have to wait for events to unfold in the past.  Much of the novel’s action includes Jake living in the past, waiting and preparing for the fateful titular day in Dallas.  The novel explores the idea of a man living in and having a working knowledge of the past, but addresses the conflict of unfamiliarity with everyday life there.

I was absolutely hooked on this book.  I typically don’t read  books of this size, but I was amazed at how quickly I moved through it. At times, I found it easy to get lost in the daily minutiae of Jake’s life in the early 1960s  – making a living, working, personal relationships – and actually lose sight of his over-riding mission to save the President. To that end, I was absolutely amazed at the level of research that King, and his researcer put into the creation of this story.

If you were history, how would the world be different?  What would be the inherit dangers of something as exciting as time traveling?  These are all questions the novel explores.   Inevitably, King does have to address the conspriacy theories regarding Kennedy’s death.  He makes a nearly-definitive statement on this matter – stating both in the novel and in interviews that he’s pretty sure Oswald acted alone – though in the story Jake does take steps to determine once and for all if Oswald was infact, the sole assassin.

Does Jake succeed in saving JFK?  Does he even bother, or let history unfold as we know it to be?  How would the world be different if Jake did save JFK that day in Dallas?  And what becomes of the people he meets while living in the past?  Of course, many other conflicts and complications arise through the story.   I’ll let you, the reader, find these answers for yourself; but I will say this: at 1100 pages, there is a little something for everyone in this novel.

RE: The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.

via The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness. – The Boston Globe

This is a topic that seems to hit home as much as any I write about here.  In fact, it may well become my next great topic on this blog. I too suffer from this sense of loneliness – as it would seem many men of my age do.  I’m not exactly sure how it happened, or when it began, but over the last few years, I’ve realized just how lonely I am.

In my alter ego, I have 297 Facebook friends. This includes family, friends and acquaintances.  For the life of me, I could count one one hand the number of those friends I could call up and say “hey, I could really use a friend right now.  Wanna hang out?” I don’t say this to whine or spew sour grapes.  This is where my life is right now; and apparently, I’m not alone.

How does this happen to us? Life gets in the way. Work, Significant others, families, kids.  Social media, as the article suggests, give us the false impression that we are more socially connected than we truly are. I agree wholeheartedly with the article when it says that men almost need an event or activity to bring them together.  I even like the “Wednesday Night”  idea that the author shares.

The trick is to get other people on board…

picking up the reins

detroit-panorama

Downtown Detroit.  Photo courtesy of The Auteur

Yesterday, as part of a belated Valentine’s Day celebration, The Auteur and I went to an Extreme Midget Wrestling show and stayed the night in the city.  We had a great time and it was a much-needed, albeit brief, break from the day-to-day grind. We probably didn’t really have the money to do something like this, but this was one of those time in life where we had to be a little selfish and splurge on ourselves just a little. It was the kind of thing that we don’t do enough of and need to make sure we do more often.

Our hotel room had a spectacular view of downtown Detroit.  That alone was probably worth what we paid for the room.  From our window, I could see Comerica Park – the home of the Detroit Tigers and a place where I spent many an afternoon – and a few evenings – with my Dad watching our favorite baseball team.

The morning after the wrestling show, as we were getting ready to check out, I got a little emotional standing on the 26th floor of the casino hotel overlooking the city.  Seeing Comerica Park made me think of the Old Man and I started to cry a little.

It’s weird because I didn’t attend a single Tiger game in 2016. I would have to check back on this, but  last season is probably the first time in 20 years I didn’t attend a single game all season – including my time down South. Last season was also the first season in which my family did not have season tickets to the Tigers since at least 1997 (or 1996?). And while I went to a few games after The Old Man passed in 2015, I think I was a little apprehensive to go back to the stadium last year. Had we still not had his partial season-ticket package, I doubt I would have gone back there at all in 2015.

Some people feel weird to go back into a parent’s bedroom – seeing where they lived and their most personal belongings –  after they’ve passed.  The reality is that during my college and early adult years, I probably spent more time with my father at Comerica Park than I did in his house.  In a lot of ways, going back to Comerica Park is not unlike seeing his bedroom again; going through his belongings; or his man cave.

But here’s the thing that I do know:  It’s my turn now.  It’s my turn to be the dad, to take my kids to the Tiger games,  to teach them the game, and bask in those lazy summer days, weeks, months and years and pass that great family tradition on to my kids.

It’s time to become the man that I was born to be (and yes, that made the list…)

 

my landslide

8dc8ac53de3477066bc9ff689a0e1c09--getting-older-fleetwood-macForgive me if this sounds familiar. But some things have happened lately and some familiar thoughts are racing through my mind.  That, and I really used to make some pretty good posts and I’m hoping to get back into it.

I found out the other day that a guy with whom I graduated from high school died of cancer.  Notice I don’t call him a “friend”.  We were school friends, I guess.  That is to say that we spoke to one another.  We never really hung out or anything.  Then, graduation happened and I haven’t seen him since.  And of course, high school ended 25 years ago.  This guy isn’t the first person I graduated with who has died, but it still hit me surprisingly hard; at least, it got me thinking about my own mortality once again. I think a lot of these feelings are coming to light since plans are in the works for my 25 year high school reunion.  (For info on my 20 year reunion, click here).

At times like this, whenever I’m forced to think about my own mortality, I think of Captain Picard’s line from Star Trek:  Generations:  “I’ve become aware that there are fewer days ahead than there are behind…”

The Old Man died at 67.  I’m about 60 days shy of 43.  If I am to die at the same age as he did, that means I’ve got about 24 years left on this rock.  And unless I live to be 85, there really are fewer days ahead of me than there are behind me.

I’m doing what I can to make myself a better person.  The List of Rob was a huge step in that direction.  I’m actually crossing some things off of that list as accomplish them.

“But time makes you bolder // Even children get older //  And I’m getting older too”

of resolutions and resets

Special thanks to:  The Old Man, The Auteur, Wil Wheaton and Chris Jericho (and not necessarily in that order)

One day, shortly after Jabba and I separated, The Old Man called me out to his Man Cave. It was his garage, but he had put a TV, a couch and a fridge out there.  At the time, I was back living my parents.  I had no job, no car and no money and I was ready to start using the George Costanza line from Seinfeld episode “The Opposite”.   I know I’ve talked about this one before…

The Old Man asked me to bring out a pen and a notebook – something that I was going to keep.  He gave me the following directions:

  • Create a list of goals – on where I want to be in five (5) years
  • On a separate page, create a list of things I need to accomplish in four (4) years in order to reach the aforementioned 5 year goal.
  • On another page, he told me to create a list of things I need to accomplish in three (3) years in order to reach the 5 year goal.
  • On yet another page, he asked me to create list of where I want to be in two (2) years, in keeping with the 5 year goal.
  • On a final page, he asked me to write down where I want to be in one (1) year, again keeping in mind the 5 year goal.

I specifically remember him saying that these lists were for me, not him.   But he wanted to know that I would be okay; that I would have some goals and direction.  He wanted it written down because he didn’t know if he’d be around in 5 years to see if I accomplished what I was setting out to do.

I logically understood what he meant when he said all of this.  I just never actually thought he would be gone in less than three years of this conversation.

On his own blog, the actor, writer and self-professed geek Wil Wheaton wrote about a life reset.  This is the story of mine.

Shortly before the holidays, I made the decision not to make a trip down South to see The Kid for the holidays.  I could have pulled it together. Mother would have certainly helped me finance it.  But I haven’t been working much lately to help contribute financially to my own family, and making one situation slightly, momentarily better with The Kid didn’t seem worth rocking the proverbial boat with my own family.  Of course, I didn’t want a repeat of The Perfect Storm.  Most of all, I felt like my life needed a good old-fashioned ass kicking.  I’m hoping that that ass-kicking starts here:

reset buttons

My own life reset

The List of Rob

This was going far beyond a hokey New Year’s Resolution that would be forgotten before Groundhog Day.  This was to be a multi-faceted look at my life – what works, what doesn’t work, where I am, where I want to be, where I’m going and how I plan to get there.

Without getting into too much detail – out of respect to the parameters I set down upon the creation of this blog – I broke this list into ten distinct areas:

  1. Work
  2. Finances
  3. Me & The Auteur
  4. My family (me, the Auteur, 1B, The Kid & The New Guy)
  5. My relationship with The Kid
  6. Dealing with Jabba
  7. Health & Wellness
  8. Recreation
  9. Mending Fences
  10. The Future

There are action points listed under each of these categories but again, respecting the parameters of this blog, I will not get more specific here.

I’m still working on some of the details on certain parts of this list, but I am focusing a little bit on everything.  I’m not saying everything is going to magically be better by 2018, but the truth is, there are many areas of my life with which I am not happy.  There are other that I would like to see improvements.  Then there are others still that like all good things in life, need maintenance.  But this is the most comprehensive self-assessment I’ve ever made – including the list The Old Man had me make nearly five years ago.

People often lament about the things in their life that they want to change.  Some even use that blanket statement “I really got to get my shit together”.  The List of Rob is not only about getting my proverbial shit together.  It’s about keeping it together, and putting the tools in place to keep it together for the long haul.

I’m going to be 43 later this spring. I’m not a kid anymore.  I’ve lived most of my life day-by-day and for the most part, it has worked out pretty well for me. But things could be better.  Of course, there are some things that will not work out for me, no matter how hard I try – areas of my life in which I will inevitably fail, but I’m tired of just going with the flow; being reactive instead of proactive..

Oh, and speaking of that list The Old Man had me make, like any list of the sort, there are things I accomplished on it and others I didn’t quite get to. But the things that I personally deemed very important, I did.

The Return of The King

Take this as you will…

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Rob Reviews: Louie

louis-ck-fx-louie

Here’s one I’ve been waiting a while to write.  A few months back, I decided to check out Louie on Netflix.  For those unfamiliar with the show, Louie is written, edited, directed by and stars comedian Louis C.K.  It is semi-biographical in that it tells the story an aspiring stand-up comedian juggling his a career and his children while he muddles his way through date and his forties in the aftermath of a divorce.

This show resonated with me on a lot of levels:  first and foremost, it’s funny.  Louie intersperses stand-up comedy bits with skits about his personal life, à la Seinfeld.  Louis C.K’s humor is honest, self-deprecating and at times dark,  but it is almost always funny.

Perhaps the one line that sticks with me most from the show is in an episode from the show’s second season.  In it, Louie says that divorce “makes you look at yourself in the mirror and realized that there’s no one left to be an asshole to.”  It is part funny, part true and all honest.

Just as any stand-up comedian  goes out on stage and occasionally bombs,  here have been a few misfire episodes:  one in particular that comes to mind was when Louie pined for an African-American grocery cashier – simply because she was Black – only to be completely and utterly shot down by the woman.  In the episode, Louie comes across as stalker-ish, rather the victim of unrequited love.  But taking chances is the hallmark of any god comedian.  Some stuff is funny; other bits will bomb.  As an aside, I recently read that the stand-up skits in each episode are brand-new material.  Louis C.K. does not use material from his real-life stand-up act in the series.

I’m looking forward to getting caught up on the rest of the series.  so much so, that I’ve gone ahead and read the synopses for some later episodes.  God bless Netflix for introducing binge-watching to unsuspecting world.

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