Archive for May, 2015

May 19, 2015

#93) Escape artists

Note: this is a simulblog, appearing both on “D-Theory” and “Positive Music Place.”

When one of my friends posted her concerns that the internet would spoil the finale of “Mad Men” before she had a chance to watch it, I reassured her in my typically smart-ass manner: “Already saw it. Vader is Luke’s father.”

My knowledge of “Mad Men” consists of having watched about 10 minutes of it and listening to people praise it. The show has helped me see that just because something is popular, that doesn’t make it bad. I get the show’s appeal: timeless themes of pride undone by a tragic flaw set against a glamorous ’60s backdrop is a winning combination. I’ve realized that the problem is not Don Draper; it’s another “D”. My tastes in TV are escapist (see #44 and #84 for more info). Thus, if I don’t want to be judged for favoring lighter entertainment when it comes to the tube, I shouldn’t judge those who prefer Adele to Mahler.

A few days ago I was listening to a popular country song that was the requested first dance at a wedding where I was performing with the 40-Oz. Band. Overhearing it, my wife gave me a look that needed no explanation. All I could do was tell her, “Not everyone wants to be challenged on their wedding day.” Similarly, not everyone wants to be challenged after a long day at the office.

Like all creative professionals, us musicians put so much work and heart into what we do that when someone doesn’t notice, it’s a hard pill to swallow. We shake our heads when people download Nicki Minaj tracks by the millions  while our heart-felt oeuvre, honed by the light of a midnight lamp, is met with indifference at Open Mic night.

Yet we ignore, too: whether it’s by eating fast food instead of going to the farmer’s market; by reading “Twilight” instead of Shakespeare or by watching “The League” and “Shipping Wars” instead of “Mad Man.” That doesn’t make us bad people; everyone needs convenience and escapes now and then. Most dieticians agree that you can’t expect yourself to eat perfectly 24/7. Play for the people who want the challenge, don’t let the ones who don’t bring you down and step outside your own comfort zone now and then. You may pleasantly surprise a writer, chef, candle maker or photographer who assumed you were just looking for an escape.

May 11, 2015

#92) An open letter to the small businesses of America

Dear Small Businesses of America,

I would like to take this opportunity to respectfully request that you get your shit together.

Not all of you, of course. Some of you do everything you can and as a political independent who favors decentralized economies and who has several friends who own small businesses, I admire your collective efforts to provide top quality goods and services. Many of you are pillars of your communities. Some of you, however, have been disappointing me lately.

Without naming names it’s hard to provide specifics, but let’s just say this: if I walk into a restaurant and see a long line being slowly served by dour-faced employees, I’m marching my sorry ass across the street to the chain store where bright-eyed servers address me by name. Yes, it’s a bit Stepford-y, but when it comes to lunch, I’m happy to settle for a skin-deep experience if it’s pleasant (and more importantly quick). When I walk into your liquor store, I’m doing it because odds are you have beers other than Bud Light. Looking down on me because I haven’t read your wine blog doesn’t add to my experience and though I have to bite my lip to say it, more and more big boxes are jumping on the craft beer bandwagon.

Look, I get it. Owning a business is fucking hard. Democrats want to tax and regulate you into extinction; Republicans talk a great game about supporting small business but when the rubber hits the road they can never seem to get out of bed with the Fortune 500. Serve loyally and faithfully day in day out and no one notices; one off day and it’s all over Yelp. It’s not reasonable to expect that you will have the same enthusiasm five years in as the day you opened. All I’m asking is that you put your best foot forward.

I think of my favorite small businesses as friends. As a heterosexual male, getting my hair cut is simply an errand to check off the to-do list, but thanks to the Den and JH Color Machine, it’s now like getting to hang out with friends (with beer). Though I no longer live near Olives Gourmet Grocer (you may remember them from #30) the family-like vibe exuded by the store makes me want to go out of my way for their terrific Cubano.

Even good friendships have their ups and downs and most good people will forgive imperfections. We want the friendship to work, just as we want to see the little guys succeed. Some friendships just aren’t meant to last though, whether because of little things or the big things. If you forget your customers’ names, the clerks at the big store down the street will remember them, even if it’s just because corporate has ordered them to read your credit card.

Sorry to rant; remember I’m here for you.