My grandmother’s grandfather was a man named Andrew Rowlett. This would have been my father’s mother’s mother’s father. Rowlett was a circuit-riding Freewill Baptist preacher in the late 1800s. He rode an old yellow mule named Steve, and went from church to church, preaching around the Swifton, Arkansas area. Every year, on the first Sunday in May, all the churches would come together by wagon, horse, or just walking to have a big celebration with church all day and dinner on the ground.
When the dustbowl came, many churchgoers moved west, to California and other parts, but the tradition was handed down. My great aunt Callie started New Home Assembly of God in Fresno on East Lind, and when I was boy, her son, Bill Stanley, was the pastor (and still is, to my knowledge). Every year, on the first Sunday in May, family and friends would gather for church, then stay and pack the kitchen with cooks, pack the dining hall with food, and pack our tummies with masses of potluck chow. Then, usually we’d have a “singspiration,” where the various singers in the audience would come up and sing a song, or pick a verse from the songbook, and we’d sing until our hearts were as sated as our stomachs, and everyone would head home.
For some folks, like my Grandma, and my great aunt Tennie, home meant next door to the church, where they lived in two small houses. For my family and me it meant across town, because we didn’t even live in that area anymore. For others, it meant a drive across country from Arkansas, because family meant something special. Something worth remembering and honoring.
Once in a while, First Sunday in May was held back in Arkansas, and we’d head out there to celebrate with relatives we hadn’t seen in years. My Great Uncle Jesse with his farm and fresh warm milk right from the cow! My bootlegging great uncle JD, who sometimes lived in California, sometimes lived in Arkansas, sometimes lived with his wife Lorene, and sometimes didn’t. He showed me how to check a catfish trap once.
“Want to check the catfish trap?” He asked.
“Sure! How do I do that?!” I was ten and this sounded really exciting.
Apparently you have to go out into the middle of the crick (Hillfolk for “creek”) to check the trap. I found out the hilariously wet way. I adored that man. He used to “mow” his lawn with gasoline and blow torches.
I have spent most of my life the beneficiary of families for whom I have shown little to no respect for, most important of those being the family I’ve created with my wife. We have three children, all of whom frustrate me to no end, and I have a beautiful woman in my bed who would do anything for me, except give up on me when I do. I have not been the father or husband they deserve, the man they need.
For the last six months I have been reevaluating my life, reexamining my priorities, and realigning my dreams. I have always wanted to be someone important. Someone whose work means something to people. Turns out, I already have an audience. It’s high time I start serving their needs, because they are my biggest fans.
So this is David 6.0, or DaVId (clever, right?!). My mission on this earth is to make a safe and healthy space for my children to grow up in, earn enough money to give them as much White Privilege as I can muster for their future, and secure a happy retirement of fulfilling extracurricular activities with my wife. But instead of my previous focus on the money and the means, the focus is on the woman and the children. I am finding that if I look through a window that already gazes on them, our visions always stay in alignment.
It has been many years since I’ve attended a First Sunday in May, but maybe it’s time to start a tradition like that with my own family. How better to show them a legacy of love and togetherness that transcends time, space, or borders of every kind?
The second site in my new publishing venture is live. NomadInAmerica.com is the ongoing story of the year I went insane. I quit my job. I flew to Vegas. I bought an RV and I went driving around the western states, looking to figure out who I was, who I needed to be, and how to bring those two images together.
If you like road trips, travelogues, or beautiful scenery, you should check out NomadInAmerica.com.
I am embarking on a new journey. An attempt to find myself, find my niche, and hopefully find a place where I belong and feel comfortable in my own shoes. The goal is establish a digital media company where the sites I write for generate enough money to allow me to keep writing full-time, instead of slogging it 9-to-5 for the man. The first site in the stable is TrumpStump2016.com, a fan site dedicated to America’s most hated/loved Presidential candidate.
On this site we’ll keep track of TrumpStump’s milestones and demographics. Lessons learned in the business of creating content and stuff like that. I hope you’ll check it out, even if you don’t care for The Donald.
I had a friend who used to be amazed that I could start almost any anecdote with “Back when I was a…” and then interject a career path as far flung from my current one as you could think of… over and over again. It doesn’t really speak well for my ongoing search for career satisfaction, but it sure helps add flavor to my anecdotes. That said…
Back when I was an insurance salesman, I had one of the best bad bosses ever. RJ looked a little like Mick Foley after a hard round in the steel cage, minus the blood. His shirts were ill-fitting, he smelled of chronic cigarette abuse, and he gave not one fuck to anyone not deserving a fuck, most especially the slacker agents he had working under him. As far as RJ was concerned, the sad sacks working his desks were just hoping to skip from paycheck to paycheck on the merits of our company’s reputation, and not actually do any selling.
To be fair, this was true of some people. Most of us, though, worked as hard as we could to make minimum quota (16 policies a week) for fantastic commissions (IF you made quota. Otherwise it was minimum wage for the week). We worked hard for the money, but we also worked hard to avoid the Pineapple.
Before I explain what the pineapple was, let me flash forward 20 years, to the mystical future world of 2014. It’s a different era. People are sensitive toward each other’s feelings. People are more concerned with the well-being of their fellow workers and managers most definitely don’t say mean things about their employees. They certainly don’t ever ridicule an employee who’s done poorly. To do so looks bad, and looks are far more important than actually solving problems through decisive leadership and (gasp!) targeted bullying.
Earlier this year I recommended that — in order to turn a company around that was suffering from massive creative and performance stagnation — we publicly mark employees who’d failed to meet their expected development targets for the week. The company was spinning its wheels and could not get projects done on time, ever, mostly because of an powerful sense of inertia caused by certain employees stonewalling in every way possible. My recommendation was that we give them something like The Pineapple, but in a good-natured, happy way, so as to not upset the “Good Energy” we all had from working happily, and without conflict.
If you didn’t make quota at our agency (a very popular, very well-known high-risk auto insurer in the Los Angeles area), you didn’t make good money. Motivator number one. If you didn’t work late every night until you made quota for the week, RJ would hound your ass every minute of the next day to make sure you did. Motivator number two. If you were 90 seconds late to work (“Doors open at 8:59, you better be on the phones by 9:01, cupcakes!”) you got your ears chewed off and fed to rabid dogs. Motivator number three.
But the Golden Pineapple of Shame was reserved for the worst of the worst. The lowest of the low, the most wretched and villainous of the wretched hive of scum and villainry that was our office. The Golden Pineapple of Shame went to the employee who made a mistake. And if you got the Pineapple, it was yours for the rest of the week or (if you were lucky) someone else messed up worse.
RJ would deliver the Pineapple like a big league closer delivering the last pitch of the game. High, over the plate, and 120 miles an hour. That’s how mine got delivered. “DAN!” he shouted (I, uh, went by Dan when I worked here, for reasons that are, quite possibly, another blog post). “THIS ONE IS YOURS!” You could see the heads of the other agents ducking and know exactly what was coming. The Golden Pineapple of Shame.
See, I had misquoted a guy on his insurance, and not just any guy, but a radio host — on the same radio station as the not-yet-famous Ryan Seacrest. He was a pretty big deal, and if he got mad that he’d been quoted one rate… only to find out after he’d left that the rate was actually substantially higher (it was)… well, that was a huge hit for the company. Pineapple earned.
The secret of the Pineapple was this: the mistake by itself was pretty bad. Most people would go “Crap. I can’t do that again.” Others might not take it so personally. “It’s just a job,” they’d say. “Whatevs.”
But if you had that pineapple on your desk, every day reminding you of your failure. Reminding you of how you utterly screwed up so badly the boss needed to make an example out of you? That stays with you. That haunts your dreams, and if you can help it… you NEVER make that mistake again.
Motivator number four. Bam.
I believe our society is missing its Golden Pineapples of Shame. People are content to go about their business and be mediocre. There’s no shame in doing lousy work, or being a poor citizen, or letting your neighborhood fall apart while you play Xbox and complain about your health care benefits. There’s no one smacking you in the head with a stuffed pineapple, shaming you into doing a better job, taking pride in your work, and focusing on NOT making mistakes.
I learned a lot from those crazy Scientologists. I heard they ran into some problems a few years after I left, but I bet RJ is still there, quietly seething because he’s not allowed to shame his employees into better work. Think you know which insurance company I used to work for? Give you a hint: “I can’t take that bet.”
Ok, so this blog is a little lame. Sorry. If you want all the action, you need to head over to http://hardhobbittobreak.com. All the cool kids are there!
Today’s the day we celebrate the mothers in our lives. The women who birthed us, the matriarchs who raised us, the spouses who provided our own children. It’s a day to be remembered, a day to honor the roughly half the population who did the heavy lifting when it came to populating the species.
I could say stuff about my mom all day. I have great stories about the funny things she’s done, the sad, poignant stories she’s told, the crazy-mom antics she’s pulled. But those are my stories. They have no meaning outside our family. They wouldn’t be as funny or poignant or crazy. Outsiders looking in on a tight family dynamic never really grasp the chemistry that makes it run.
What I can say is this: when I hit rock bottom, my mom was there for me, and in a visceral way I would have never anticipated. She quit the best job she ever had, sold the custom home she’d just finished building, and moved to be closer to me, just to support me in my time of need. What more can be said?
I love my mom. I always will. A decade is coming — better not be this one!!! — when I won’t have her any more. I want to make sure that when she moves on to her next adventure, she knows she did good, and that her baby will be ok. I want to make sure that in the final moments of her life, she knows how loved, appreciated, and needed she always was.
Happy Mother’s Day to all moms. We love you!
A little more than 50 hours from now, I will become a father. Again. I don’t know why.
Well, scratch that. I do know why. I am a huge fan of the why, and especially the how.
Hey, Pumba! Not in front of the kids!
What I mean is, I don’t know WHY I decided (and yeah, these things always come about as a result of a decision, right or wrong, easy or hard) to have another kid. I’m not what you’d call a good father. I mean, I guess I’m an ok dad so far: I have a job, we have a house, a car, our kids are getting a decent education. I don’t get rip-roaring drunk and beat everyone in the house every Saturday night. I play games with the kids, take them to free comic book day. But there’s more to being a dad than just being there, right?
I love my kids. I want them to be as successful as they possibly can, go through life getting hurt as little as possible, and find all the love and happiness that there is. But… I can’t stand them! OMG. I hate these kids so much. Every day. Every single day they do things that make me angry. Defcon One, launch the airstrike, kiss humanity goodbye angry. They relentlessly push my buttons and it drives me crazy.
Even now, as I type this, I’m contemplating punching one of the kids so hard my fist goes through him and impales itself in the second kid. “But officer, I only hit them once!” The little one is knocking on the big one’s door, “Bug! Bug! Bug bug bug bug bug bug. Bug!” (She calls her big brother Bug.) “Bug! Mom wants you!”
“Bug,” (We’ll call him Bug) comes out and tries to hit her for banging on his door.
“HEY!” I shout, because that’s all I do anymore. Just shout ineffectually. “If you hit your sister so help me God I will raise Mickey Rooney’s bones from the ground and reanimate his dead corpse and tell that undead monstrosity to eat your eyeballs!” The big one’s so confused about the possibility that I might not be bluffing, he backs off.
The little one now starts screaming. “NO! DON’T LET THE MACARONI EAT BUG’S EYEBALLS! DADDY! BUG NEEDS EYES TO WATCH POKEMON!”
She hits Bug, since he came out of his room and that’s what she wanted to do anyway. He shouts “STOP TRYING TO KILL ME!” and tries to hit her back. She screams and goes running through the house arms outstretched like a raptor’s about to shred her alive.
Mom is in the bedroom, trying to nap, what with a baby coming in 49 hours, and she awakes with a start with a screaming four-year-old racing toward her, and a ten year old with murder in his eyes chugging through after her like a retarded steam train on LSD. I’m on the computer, trying to write a blog post. I haven’t written anything good in five years. That was the last time I could get an hour’s worth of quiet time before 10:00 pm. It’s like trying to live through the events of Apocalypse Now from a tea cafe in the middle of Viet Nam. Now the boy is roaring/crying like a Tyrannosaurus with a Syphilis flare up. Apparently the four-year-old got a good shot in.
In two days, I extend my contract on Fatherhood, for at least another 18 years. I don’t know why. I truly don’t. Four year old is here now. She wants to know why the iluminati rule the world, and why there’s a giant eye on a pyramid on the back of money. It’s all like reverse Charlie Brown. All I hear is wahwah-wah-wahwahwah-wah.
I gotta go.
Thought I knew my mind like the back of my hand.
The gold and the rainbow, but nothing panned out as I planned.
They say it’s never too late but you don’t get any younger.
I better learn how starve the emptiness and feed the hunger.”
Here I am, back at square one.
Last year, I lost Scootergate, a beloved hard drive with a decade’s worth of files, scripts, story ideas, website code, photos, music and movies. To say it was devastating would be to lessen the impact it had. But that’s ok, right? I held on to that drive in the hopes that one day it could be revived.
Last week, I lost the webserver I’ve been hosting my sites on for nearly as long. This… I can’t recover from. There are no backups. There are no recovery options. It’s gone. I might be able to find a smattering of HH2B webcomics around. Maybe the Internet Wayback machine has some articles cached.
For the most part, at this point, everything I’ve written on the internet (that isn’t on other people’s sites) is just gone.
If you know me, you know that I’m accustomed to loss, and to losing everything. That doesn’t make it easier. It doesn’t make it right. But it gives me the understanding and knowledge of what I need to do.
So here we go. One more time. Genesis 1:1. The beginning.
I hope we can be friends. I have so much I want to share.
And there’s always retrospect
(when you’re looking back)
To light a clearer path
Every five years or so I look back on my life
And I have a good laugh
You start at the top
Go full circle round
Catch a breeze
Take a spill
But ending up where I started again
Makes me want to stand still.”