Friday, December 26, 2014

Of Course... it is NO PROBLEM

The Broadmoor Hotel and Resort in Colorado Springs is beautiful.  It is warm and traditional while being modern and efficient.  It is also among the friendliest hotels I have ever been too, Five star service with a friendly smile. The term "family" is used a lot, not just because that's the way they make you feel, but because so many employees have been there long enough to be considered family.  One generally gets the feeling that every member of the Broadmoor family is glad you are their guest.  There was, however, one thing that was  completely missing during my stay.
I have issues with the term "No Problem" used by service providers.  You ask a waitress if you can order a cup of coffee and a bagel, she says "No Problem".  You ask if you could get just a little cream, "No Problem."  Excuse me but could I get the check? "NO PROBLEM". It becomes a meaningless sound that no one listens to. Mostly it sends the wrong message to a person who is at that moment your client.  
Doing our job should never be just no problem. We should be glad someone is paying us to do it.  If it is a problem, find something else to do that is not a pain in the ass and do that.  The client is giving us money for our service. Why do we respond by saying that it is "no Problem".  Are we saying it's no problem for me to take money from you?  If the phrase has become meaningless that is all the more reason to stop using it.  I actually paid a restaurant bill in cash once.  The waiter said, "Do you need some change?"  I said, "No the rest is for you."  His response?  "NO PROBLEM".  
That was what was missing at the Broadmoor... "No Problem" I did not hear it even once.  When you asked for something the response was, "Of Course" or "absolutely".
"Could I order a cup of coffee and a bagel?"  the response was, "OF COURSE". Of course I can, that is what they serve and it is why the waiter is there.  It was charming and more linguistically correct. It just made me feel like family.
The Broadmoor is also a very dog friendly hotel.  I was occasionally shocked to see an owner and their dog walking the halls or through the gorgeous lobby. I got used to it quickly and engaged dog owners in conversation about my dog Boo.  Most of the dog owners were under the impression that they owned the greatest dog in the world; it was my job to correct them with the fact that the distinction goes to my dog Boo.  
On the last day of our trip all the friendliness became a habit with me as well.  I was coming out of the coffee shop, with a cup of coffee, "Of Course."  Just outside the shop in the lobby was a large black standard poodle sitting next to a window display of fine jewelery.   It was a beautiful dog extremely well groomed but not cut in that fruity poodle way that is so clownish.  I looked down at the dog and said, "You are absolutely gorgeous."  The owner of the dog saw me looking and nodded a "thank you".  
I looked up just in time to make eye contact with a very pretty young lady who turned on her heels from looking in the jewelry store window. She assumed for a moment I was referring to her.  She was trying to process the idea of some "older" gentlemen coming on to her in the lobby of a grand hotel.   I was completely speechless but shot a glance to the dog and shrugged.  She sorted out what had happened and her face lit up with a smile as she played along and said, "Why Thank you."  
It was pleasant enough until a 6 foot 2 guy just within ear shot of this exchange turns on his heels.  He is the young lady's husband or boyfriend or maybe even body guard.  He did not see the dog that started the whole thing,  he simple saw the two of us smiling and exchanging a moment.  He frowned at me with a look that said, "Do I kill you now or wait till we are outside."  Like in so many other moments of stress, my mouth takes over with a babbling cadence.  It went something like, "Ha, Ha, I was talking to the dog... not your wife. Ha Ha" By this moment the dog and the owner were no where to be seen.  "Oh, not that I don't think your wife is also attractive. You see.... but  I would never...." babble babble ending with, "Well, I guess I have to take this coffee to my wife, she is right over there.. Merry Christmas." 
As I walked away I was hoping I would hear the sound of laughter.  I didn't care if they were laughing at me or with me.  But there was only silence, of course.  That is one time when the phrase "no problem" would be appropriate and welcomed.
Have a Happy Last Week of December.  May 2015 be more than you could dream of in every way.
As you were,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Going Postal....

For several years in my life the Gilbert Chemistry set was "the" Christmas Gift to get from Santa. I never got a Gilbert Chemistry Experiment Lab because Santa seemed to know every year... "A Kid like you with a chemistry set like that would blow himself up."
My parents would tell me that Santa was only thinking of my safety.
Nonetheless, my friend Lindsay a couple of years older than me,who lived just up the street did receive the  Deluxe Gilbert Chemistry Set for Christmas one year. Before we went back to school  Lindsay allowed me to come over and assist in some "Experiments".
We decided to make gun powder. Yes the ingredients to make gun powder were contained in the Deluxe Gilbert Chemistry Set. It was not one of the experiments that came with the Deluxe Gilbert Chemistry Set instruction booklet. However, Lindsay found the formula, at the Library and realized we could actually make black powder.  This was supposed to be a Children's "Educational" Toy, so... making gun powder was a learning experience to me. Fortunately there was a limited amount of chemicals in the  Deluxe Gilbert Chemistry Set  to make an excess of gun powder.  I do remember being shocked at the height to which a Desenex foot powder can flew when propelled by our home made gun powder.    
But that is Christmas past here is a story of Christmas Present.   I love the dual meaning of the word "present":  it is a gift and it is also the moment. Perhaps our greatest gift is the present.
Today was a busy day at the post office. Our Christmas mailing is done, this was a business mailing I had to post. I knew the post office might be busy but,  I thought I would use the automated stamp machine. Unfortunately the machine was out of service, I had to stand in the long line with one envelope.
Several customers ahead of me become upset that there were no more Christmas Stamps.  Finally a Postal Clerk named Dale spoke loudly to the crowd.
"We are out of Christmas stamps. If you are in line for Christmas Stamps we don't have any."
A few people grumbled and left the line behind me.  After a couple more customers Dale once again announces to the crowd,."There are no more Christmas Stamps, we are totally sold out."   Then Dale yells to someone occupying the inner most part of the mail room.  "Janice we need to get a sign out here that lets everyone know we are out of  Christmas stamps."
Janice mumbled back in a way that indicated there would be no sign, it was all up  to Dale alone to deal with the Christmas stamp mob. Once more Dale announced, "There are no more Christmas Theme stamps, we have lots of stamps just no Christmas themes."
I was at the moment thinking how much stress is heaped onto a bunch of days on the calendar. Hanukkah, Christmas,  New Years Eve all crowd the same time of year.  So here is this postal worker trying not to piss people off because they have sold out of Christmas stamps.  The line behind me is now much longer than when I joined.  Dale is dealing with packages that all needed to be somewhere before next week. It is obvious he would need to decompress after this day was over.  Or perhaps he would have to wait until next week for things to return to normal. 
I digress to say my wife believes that my joke radar is not calibrated properly in public situations.  That's to say I am always going for a joke when the situation or the person in real life may not be in the mood for my humor.  Sandi even questions the idea that it is humorous at those times.  That said, it is a fine line that I don't always see clearly.  This was one of those times.
I finally made my way up to Dale. With a 50 yard stare through the place I was standing he mechanically said, "What can I do for you today?" He was in a daze.
I only had a second to think about it and no time to filter what was about to come out of my mouth.
"Got any Christmas stamps?" I said.  
Dale's distant stare was interrupted as he now clearly focused on me and what I had just said.  Fortunately he got it.  He burst out laughing and giggled through the words, "That's a good one you got me." 
My Christmas is complete.  I got a laugh from an over worked,  stressed out postal worker.  Perhaps I even saved lives.
As you were,

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ghost of Christmas Present.

I am performing in the Broadmoor Christmas Show this season.  I love the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.  The history and the old style elegance are tangible and pervasive. I guess my show biz pedigree stimulates a love for really great hotels. This one makes me feel like a Vanderbilt.   There are plenty of places where I can sit and write while looking at the Rockies framing the lake. Or if I find that sort of view too distracting to concentrate I can find hundreds of other writing carrels from a dark wood Pub bar to a mahogany library.  Currently I am in a large lobby like room with only a few desks. If there were fewer people it would be too much like the "Shining" but for me it is the perfect place to write.
The altitude takes some getting used to.  I was late for a cue on rehearsal night and ran to get on stage.  Bob and I made it but our breath did not reach us for several minutes.  Funny the things we take for granted like breathing during the act.
The Broadmoor is all about history and they have old pictures and artifacts decorating the walls.  I find that particularly fascinating and humbling.  There is a hallway where pictures hang of all the celebrities and performers who have been here over the years.  I get a warmth inside realizing one of my hero performers walked these halls before me.
One of the pictures on this "wall of fame" is Bill Cosby.  Several weeks ago that picture might not have caught my attention among the rest.  I liked Bill Cosby but he was never a hero of mine.  I stood there for a moment wondering.  If the walls of the Broadmoor could talk would they say more than has already been revealed about Cosby?  It is easy to imagine that one of the beautiful bars at the hotel might have been the back drop for something other than Fat Albert jokes.  There is even a rumor that Bill Cosby is soon to return to the Broadmoor for a few performances.  There is no promotion of that event on site and scuttle butt has it that the performance will be cancelled.  As much as I don't want to engage in the discussion of Cosby, it seems impossible to avoid. Like the Boradmoor wall of fame, there are so many places where his image has been given a special place that now flashes like a warning beacon.
The idea that a performer, especially a comic on the road, would have an eye for the women who would want to be "with" an icon like a Bill Cosby is not that unusual.  And I have always heard that Cosby was a horn-dog with women.  But what doesn't make sense is the drugging aspect of the stories.  Why would he have to do that unless it is some weird sort of fettish ritual?
I have no skin in this game. I don't care what happens to Bill Cosby. I have no illusion he is any more than a successful television performer. He is not a role model nor a father figure, to me he is a massively wealthy comic who made it big with an act.  I have known a lot of comics that were not the cute fun loving person they play on stage. If people feel betrayed because they held Cosby to a higher moral standard, the pedestal placers are to blame.  If the allegations are true he should be punished like any other serial rapist.  Unfortunately there will never be a judicial remedy, only gossip in the public forum.  He is a rich man and the justice system operates differently for the rich. But Karma is a great equalizer. He has already been convicted and punishment given. No matter what, he will never be allowed to be Bill Cosby ever again. There will always be an asterisk, next to his name that will recount the revelations of the last couple of months.  I doubt this will be of any comfort to the women who now feel violated and betrayed.  But, perhaps for a narcissistic comic who wanted the world his way, it is cosmic justice.
As for me I am pissed that I allowed the contemplation of Bill Cosby invade this lovely day at the Broadmoor.
As you were,

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

NOT a Self Promotion....

Brandenburg Gate at Christmas Time
If you are within Wifi of my Facebook, Twitter, Domain site, email or happen to live next door, you know my DVD is now shipping. In fact I am almost getting tired of saying it.
Even though my college Marketing Professor, Dr. McQuarter, said "there is never a time when sales can take the day off," This blog is not about the DVD.
Being dyslexic and a little OCD it is hard for me to concentrate on one thing for very long, like the DVD release.  This "special" condition of mine also has another odd side effect.  Once I make myself concentrate enough to get some "on going task" done, it becomes an obsession. Then I find it difficult NOT to engage in that activity.  Perhaps this conflicted brain is one of the reasons I am able to partition my mind enough to create characters on stage.  As I read this back to myself,  this sounds like some clinical definition of mental illness.
You know my friend Bob Mandan who played Chester Tate, but you may not know him the way I do. He is quite silly and often becomes the "piss elegant" character he played on SOAP for my amusement.  Well,  he was kind enough to attend the Egyptian Theatre Screening of "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" last week.
At the end of the screening and the Q and A there was a fan who ran down to talk to me.  He mentioned that he had Asperger's then launched into a litany of every performance I ever did. He had seen them all and kept asking me if I remembered them too.  He was phrasing my resume in a way that sounded like he was telling me something that I had never heard before.  At one point he started talking about SOAP and how revolutionary it was.
As Bob Mandan is coming down the aisle the fan is saying, "And Chester Tate was the womanizing ladies man who was not faithful to Jessica, Chester was played by Robert Mandan... do you remember that?"
This person had not seen Mr. Mandan yet.  I got this idea that I would freak the fan out and say, "Well as a matter of fact this is Bob Mandan right here." As the fan kept talking I locked eyes with Mandan.  He had sized up the situation completely and knew that I was probably going to rope him into the melee.  Mandan simply raised one finger and shook it side to side with a "NO No, you don't" gesture.  I burst out laughing. Fortunately the Autistic Fan thought it was something funny that he himself had said and never knew.
The picture above is from a Christmas a couple of years ago we spent with our son in Berlin.  It was certainly a different Christmas than what we are used to in LA.
Happy Holidays,
As you were,

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Bang Bang... "Stop or I'll shoot."

Two EMT's are called to see after a man who is sprawled on the sidewalk outside a bar.  When they get there they see that the man is already dead. There is nothing they can do and it is almost time for them to be off work.  One EMT says to the other,
"Let's go have a drink inside before we have to haul this guy to the morgue."
"What do we do with the stiff?"
"We leave him right here.... he ain't going nowhere,"
They go inside the bar and have several drinks.
After awhile a  Cop comes along and sees the man lying there and says, "Hey buddy move it."
The stiff does not comply.
"I told you to get out of here buddy" and he pokes him with his baton.
The stiff doesn't move.
"Don't make me get all up on your ass. Move on."
The stiff is still noncompliant.  With that the officer throws a choke hold on the guy puts his knee on the guys neck and starts to handcuff him.
At this very moment the EMT's walk out of the bar.  They see the Cop wrestling with the corpse. They run up,  pull the Cop off the guy and say, "Officer he's dead."
The Cop says.... "I had to kill him....he pulled a knife."

I used to think that was a funny joke.  Perhaps not so much any more. There is a lot of speculation about how to interact with the police these days. Excessive and lethal force being used against unarmed non threatening people seems to be the rule. I am hearing on the news that I should just "do what the policeman tells me to do" and I won't get shot.  I am not persuaded.  This "compliance" theory is only as good as the trust I have in the Cop telling me what to do.  A Cop's desire to be a control freak does not negate my rights as an American and a human being. What about the cases we know about when officers have made women strip naked for their mug shots.  Or the recent case of deputies sodomizing a detainee with a broom stick.  Are we simply supposed to "comply" to those orders to avoid being beaten or shot? Seeing the underbelly of society so much of the time a Cop can start seeing everyone as a perp. Instead of seeing each encounter with the public as a unique situation, the public becomes objectified as criminals who have not been caught... yet. 
What you hear a lot is: "Well, if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to be afraid of."  That is the stupidest reasoning ever, and usually comes from people who have had little or no interaction with the police.  Innocent people are the victims of mistaken identity more times than not. To a Cop everyone is a suspect.
The idea that as Americans we are innocent until proven guilty is completely not true.  Every time you go to the airport you have to prove to the TSA that you are not a threat.  You are a terrorist until you submit to invasion of your privacy so they can determine you are an innocent traveler.
It is the same if you are detained by the police.  You are not innocent in his eyes.  You are guilty until he says you can go free. 
Routinely people who are stopped by an officer are handcuffed for "YOUR SAFETY and MINE" says the Cop.  It has nothing to do with YOUR safety.  You are restrained so the officer can control and dominate you until he decides how to proceed. No matter what the reason for the stop, when a policeman detains you there are hundreds of laws he can use to justify your arrest.  There is only one way you will be let go;  the policeman has to determine he has nothing on you that will stick. 
I don't want to be a policeman. I appreciate someone who takes charge of a dangerous situation and has the training to defuse it.  But Cops think they are in the detain and arrest business, when they are actually in the "trust" business. If Cops worked harder to develop our trust in their snap judgements we would be safer, freer and ultimately happier. But until Police know they will face swift and just punishment for their abuse of power the bad apple cops will continue to abuse their badge. 
Rodney King said, during the worst of the LA riots,  "Can't we all just get along?"  Sounds easy enough and simple enough but how can I get along with a Cop who needs to cuff me behind my back before we have a conversation or if I am struggling to say I can not breath under the weight of his boot on my neck?  When Cops are not made accoutable they become a gang of bullies with badges.  "If you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear?"  That is never true with bullies.
As you were,