Sunday, August 4, 2013

Farewell, Dear Kiki


Our family consisted of Janice and me, Zachary, Michael, Jeremy … and Kiki.

Kiki was Christine Affouye Koffi.  She came from The Ivory Coast leaving her homeland, her family, her two daughters and her son about 22 years ago to earn money and to make a better life for them all.  She did it the only way she knew how -- by becoming a part of other people’s families and loving them.    


Kiki and her boys
Christine became a part of my family when she moved in with us about 18 years ago.  The twins were about one and a half.  Jeremy was not yet born.  Zachary and Michael could not pronounce Christine, so they shortened it to Kiki which she has been ever since.  Kiki was a native French speaker.  At first, we were concerned that the boys would not be with a native English speaker to help them acquire language.  It never mattered.  Kiki loved my boys and when Jeremy was born, she adored him as well.  She would hug them and play with them, cook for them and smile at them and always made them feel special.   She would lovingly say, “a tu…” to them.  Directly translated it means “to you...”  When said with love, it means so much more.  And she made Janice and I feel loved as well.  She called us Mommy and Daddy. We ate our meals together and asked each other about our days and little by little, thanks to her improving English and my returning French, we learned more about Kiki and her family back home. 

It is an amazing person who can leave her family when her children are so young and take care of other people’s families.  It is an amazing person who can miss her own children for years and still love someone else’s children without a trace of anger or resentment.  I remember one week when I had focus groups at work, I missed tucking in the boys 3 nights in a row.  I told Kiki that it was terrible that I haven’t seen my kids in 3 days.  She said, “Daddy, I haven’t seen my babies in over 5 years.”   It was the only time that she ever reminded me.

Kiki and Jeremy
Kiki went home to Brooklyn on Friday evenings although in more recent years she moved to the Bronx.  She cooked, she cleaned her apartment, and most important, she went to church every Sunday where she was part of a wonderful community from different French speaking African countries.  She was a deeply religious person and travelled everywhere with a well worn bible.   On Sunday night, she took the subway to the Port Authority and caught a bus back to Wayne where I met her and drove her home to our family.

When Janice cut her work hours and the kids began attending pre-school, we had to find another family for Kiki to love.  She would still be working for us if we couldn’t find the right family.  But we did find her a new family by asking around and reading classified ads.  Janice drove Kiki to the interviews and even more than the new families were interviewing Kiki to see if she fit the bill, Janice was interviewing the new families to see if they fit the bill.  Over the years there were Barbara and Bob and their daughter Catherine, Hindi and Jeff and their kids Noah and Dara, and most recently Mike and Lauren and their son, Jake.

But no matter where Kiki went, she added to her growing family.  We all kept in touch with each other and we all spoke to each other to check in.  Originally it was to see what kind of food Kiki liked.  Later on it was just to say hi and exchange stories of Kiki and the kids. 

Kiki and Alfred
One of our biggest thrills with Kiki came about 5 years ago.  We helped arrange for Alfred, Kiki’s 20 year old son to come to live in the United States.  We worked with a lawyer, filled out paperwork and one weekday afternoon, Janice drove Kiki to JFK to greet the son whom she had not seen since he was about 5 years old.  In addition to cooking, and cleaning, and church, Kiki now had something extra special to go home to on weekends.  Alfred enrolled in community college and began working in a restaurant.  On occasion, Kiki and Alfred would visit us on a Saturday afternoon to see how we were all doing.  And of course, Kiki called on Mother’s   Day, on Father’s Day and for the Jewish New Year.

This past Friday afternoon Janice received a phone call.  Kiki had passed out at work.  Janice went to Morristown Hospital as soon as she could.  Alfred arrived shortly thereafter.  Kiki was on life support.  Excessive bleeding from her brain.  It was not fair.  Kiki was only 1 year older than both Janice and me.  She had survived open heart surgery a few years back and had been doing well.  She was with another family who adored her. She had hopes of one day seeing her daughters and grandchildren.

But the doctors said she was essentially brain dead and was being kept alive by machines.  We returned to the hospital on Saturday.  We sat by Kiki’s bed and were joined by Hindi and Jeff who showed up as well to say goodbye.  We reminisced.  We showed pictures and told stories.  Kiki’s friends came from her community in the Bronx.  Women wearing similar dresses and head scarves.  They refused to accept the prognosis.  They gathered around Kiki’s bed and chanted and prayed and petitioned God on behalf of their sister, their aunt.  They said they believed in miracles.  And Alfred wanted to believe in them too.

The doctors were hoping to have Alfred on board before they withdrew life support.  But he was not on board.  How could he be?  Without him the process of Kiki’s passing would be drawn out.  Janice spoke with the doctors and nurses and then sat down with Alfred.  She took his hand and hugged him and tried her best to explain the circumstances.  It was the very least she could do … to show her love and her concern to the son of the woman who did the same for our sons for so many years.

Today, the friends continue to come, the prayers continue to be said.  But God has already decided.  I don’t know why but he has decided to take a young woman with a perfect soul and a beautiful heart away from us, a woman who lived a life of humility, who gave and gave and loved and loved.   A woman who never got to see her own grandchildren back in The Ivory Coast but a woman who loved and cared for so many families with such tender love and such warm spirit.

It is an amazing person who can leave her family when her children are so young and take care of other people’s families.   Today, there is one less amazing person in the world and for that, so many of us are heartbroken.  A tu, Kiki.  We will miss you so much.

 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Legs, Limbs, and Privacy


Martin should be enjoying The Stanley Cup 
There were legs and there were limbs.  And they weren’t attached to where they were supposed to be attached.  The finish line at The Boston Marathon was anything but a scene of joyous celebration.  Instead it was a surreal and sudden war zone where dreams jogged to a violent death.  It was a place where seven year old Jane Richard lost her leg.  It was also where she lost her eight year old brother, Martin Richard.

In the aftermath of the chaos, another set of siblings, related to the Richards by the vilest of  circumstances, were planning the next phase of their adventure.  A spur of the moment trip to New York City – Times Square to be precise. That was where Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tasarnaev planned to set off their remaining explosives.  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told the FBI under interrogation that he and his brother were heading to New York to cause more destruction, blow off more legs, and destroy more lives. 

Fortunately, the boys never made it to New York.  For on the day of the Boston Marathon, surveillance cameras at The Lord & Taylor Store across from the Forum Restaurant, where the second bomb exploded, revealed the brothers with backpacks in one shot and without them in another.  The FBI correctly ascribed a linkage between the missing backpacks in the second shot and the brothers’ role in the Marathon bombing.  In doing so, they violated the privacy of so many people who were also photographed that day by the store cameras.  Was it a fair price?  Unfortunately in this case, we can agree that it was.    

Where we cannot agree is when we learn that Verizon Wireless, in addition to AT&T and Sprint provide information on every single call routed through their networks to the NSA, and has been for perhaps seven years.  We cannot agree when we hear that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple all have some sort of arrangements with the NSA.  The only major on-line player who has denied NSA requests thus far is Twitter, which is OK since it is next to impossible to relay bomb-making instructions in 140 characters or less.


What he must be thinking now
We cannot agree because we just don’t know the magnitude of the attacks that have been prevented.  The reason we don’t know, simply put, is because they have been prevented.  They have been prevented with the help of records obtained from phone companies and on-line companies.  They have been prevented because our privacy was violated.  Our privacy was violated and I am very OK with that … for now.  But before George Orwell climbs out of his grave and takes me to the woodshed, allow me to explain.   
I still believe we live in the greatest country on earth.  I still believe in the powerful words of the Gettysburg address that we have a government of the people, by the people, for the people.  I believe this means that the people’s best interests are at the core of how our government acts.  I also believe that there are millions of differing points of view on what constitutes the best interests of the people.  To me (and perhaps selfishly so) my best interests lie in taking a bus every morning through the Lincoln Tunnel and not having it be blown up around me … the same goes for the Wall Street building in which I work.  To me, my best interests lie in the safety of sons who are attending colleges in major metropolitan areas which have already both been targeted by terrorists.   
I am OK with the Government’s ability to go through my phone records or my web browsing history.  Perhaps if I was into bomb making, illegal weapons purchases or child pornography, this would be more of an issue for me.  But for now, I am happy that the Government might be investigating people who choose to dabble in these areas.  As it is, we voluntarily share information on our locations, our purchases, and our interests with anonymous people and businesses around the world.  For now, I am glad to see that our Government is keeping pace.  If I’m OK with Mark Zuckerberg and Sergei Brin being able to track my movements, I am OK with the NSA doing so as well.
“He knows if you’ve been bad or good. You better be good for goodness sake … better be good for goodness sake.”   --The Boss and The Big Man
I was at a concert several years back when Bruce Springsteen and the Boys sang Santa Claus is Coming to Town.  The crowd exploded when Clarence Clemons echoed his iconic “better be good for goodness sake.”  I imagine that this was before people knew that the technology existed by which being good for goodness sake could actually be tracked.  I appreciate how people’s opinions may have changed since then.  And more important, I appreciate that we live in a society in which these changes of opinions can be expressed freely.

And just because I want to keep my limbs and buildings and bridges intact, I don’t ever want my Government to lose sight of the fact that they are a government for the people.  I love that the press has been filled with viewpoints from around the country on both sides of the surveillance issue.  I love that fearing a public backlash, Facebook and Google are publishing their policies and history regarding NSA requests for user data.    I love that I have friends and colleagues on both sides of the issue and I love that some are adamantly upset and are letting the government know about it.  And I love the fact that the Government is engaged in open dialogue with us.
I love the fact that I have used the phrase “for now” several times in this post.  It means that if the time comes,  I can change my opinion, write another blog and protest with people who feel the same way as I do.  But for now (there I go again) I am thankful that we are feeling safe in what has become a very dangerous world.   For now, I mourn with the Richard family and I celebrate that instances like The Boston Marathon bombing are in fact being prevented on a regular basis.  To me, that's what a government for the people is about.
Stay safe.  Happy Father’s Day, Everyone.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Where Have You Gone, Burt Roseman ?


I guess you could have called Steven Roseman a friend of mine.  We were 7 years old.  We played with the same group of neighborhood kids and we attended the same elementary school.  Our families were friendly with each other, our moms chatting for hours in front of our apartment buildings at a time when people were not forever rushing off to do something else.  But Steven was the type of kid who cried easily; he spoke in a whine, ran awkwardly, and if you had last pick when choosing sides for sports and you got stuck with Steven, the result was a foregone conclusion.  And then he’d whine some more.

So I hit him.

I cannot say how many times I hit Steven over the course of our friendship.  It was after all, some time ago.  And other than hitting Steven, I was not a bad kid.  My teachers loved me. I got excellent grades in school.  I was funny and I amused my friends and my family with my quick wit and charm.  In fact, I was a good kid.  But sometimes when Steven and I were together and he was acting in an annoying manner, I felt like something had to be done.

So I hit him.

Never in the face, mind you.  It was usually on the shoulder or back.  Once however, I gave him a good punch in the belly.  That was quite the show stopper.  Steven dropped his school books and ran upstairs to his apartment sobbing uncontrollably.  I had wondered if I had gone too far.  I couldn’t just go home because Steven’s books lay on the ground.  The honorable thing for me to do was to wait for Steven to come back down and retrieve his books.  I would tell him I was sorry and that would be that.

But Steven didn’t come back down.

Instead, his father Burt did.  And before I could apologize for what I did and before I could hand him Steven’s books, Burt grabbed me tightly by my shirt and pushed me against the wall.  He then lowered his head and tobacco breath to my level to ensure that I heard and smelled every word that he was about to say.  Our noses almost touched as he spoke forcefully.  “Listen to me and listen to me good, you piece of garbage,” he said deliberately as his face grew redder. “If you ever touch Steven again… hell, if you ever talk to him again, I will put you through this wall.  Do you understand?” Words were not an option to a child frozen in fear, so I just nodded yes.  Satisfied, Burt loosened his grip and walked back into the apartment building.

I can honestly say that this incident was one of the most frightening of my entire life.  I can also honestly say that as time goes by, Burt Roseman has made a tremendous impact on me as both a child and a parent.  As a child, whenever I saw Steven walking down the street from that point on, it was me who crossed the street to avoid a confrontation.  I was fearful that Steven would say hi to me and I would respond hi back thus setting the wheels in motion for Burt to keep his promise to me by putting me through a wall. 

As a parent, I admire the fact that he put an end to a situation and made his child feel safe.  And while I am fully aware that Burt’s actions today would likely get him arrested and even jailed, he stopped the bullying of his child.  I thought of Burt several years ago when one of my sons came home after taking a punch to the head from a neighborhood punk.  (I guess the rules had changed regarding punches to the head).  I found out the name and address of the kid and was about to pay a visit.  However Janice wisely convinced me that the phone was the proper route to go given my rage at the situation.     

On the phone, the kid’s mom was apologetic.  Channeling my inner Burt, I told her to take her apology and shove it and instead convince me why I shouldn’t go down to the police station to file an assault report.  After listening to her plead for understanding, I told her that I documented the situation and I needed her to know that if her son came anywhere near mine, I would file a police report.  I told her that if any of her sons’ friends came near my son, I would file a police report.  I told her that if my son happened to trip over his own two feet during the course of the day, I would be filing a police report and I would also be reporting the incident to his current school principal as well as the principal of the prestigious private school to which he was applying.  

 Thank you, Burt Roseman, you inspired me.

This week, I read in the newspaper about Gabrielle Molina, a 12 year old Queens Girl who hanged herself in her bedroom.  She was teased by her classmates who called her a slut, mocked her for her failures with boys and even teased her for her choices in music.  She was beaten up by her former best friend, in an incident that was taped and posted to YouTube.   She was a pretty, sweet young girl and now she was dead.

I do not know her tormentors because they are minors and cannot have their names mentioned in the media.  Perhaps they did not consider themselves to be bad kids either.  But an unspeakable tragedy happened as a result of their actions. 

And today, the arsenal of weapons available to tormentors has grown far beyond a punch in the head.  E-Mail,YouTube, and Facebook, are the new tools of bullies.  They have even enlisted a new class of bully, the types that are not physical with their assaults, but who have words that live and hurt forever at their disposal.  With cyber-bullying, they can carry out their assaults any time of the day or night in the safety of their own homes.

I wonder what would Burt Roseman do now? 

I don’t think he would be threatening to put kids through walls.  That was part of another era.  I like to think Burt would have adapted.  He would be visiting the homes of bullies and laying down the law with their parents.  I think he would call the police and he would visit teachers, and principals and school boards.  He would enlist the help of other parents to put rules and legislation in place that would seek to prevent bullying.

And I think Burt would appeal to the parents of good kids.  I think he would beg them to be on top of their kids to ensure that they were not acting in a bullying fashion with their hands, their mouths, or their on-line behaviors.  I think Burt Roseman would see how bullying has escalated in recent years and would be shocked.  As parents, educators, legislators, and kids, we need to be shocked as well and be vigilant in ensuring that our good kids are not participating in behaviors that can have consequences which are far more catastrophic than a punch in the belly ever was.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jerome Collins and The Three Hour Gang


Jeremy:
I read your blog about Jason Collins coming out of the closet.
Me:
Thanks. Did you like it?
Jeremy:
It was OK.  Wasn’t Jason Collins also the name of the guy who beat you up in the 7th grade?
Me:
No, that was Jerome Collins 
Jeremy:
Why don’t you blog about him?
Me:
Because of the off-chance that he is not in jail right now and has suddenly learned how to read, I am afraid he may wish to do it again. 
Jeremy:
I really love that story.
Me:
Thank you.  Which part of your father's pummeling entertained you the most?
Jeremy:
I guess all of it.
Me:
I think I’m going to take a pass on Jerome Collins.  In fact, I was thinking about taking a week off from the blog.
Jeremy:
The blog is too new for you to take a week off.  You need to maintain your momentum.
Me:
Why are you such an annoying person?
Jeremy:
Genes.
Me:
Your mother?
Jeremy:
No.

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We used to refer to middle school as Junior High School.  And since Joseph Pulitzer was not a roll off your tongue kind of guy or even a president, we simply referred to our school by it’s municipally bestowed, “JHS 145.”  I was in the SP Program at 145 which combined 7th, 8th, and 9th grade into 2 years, the goal being to enter high school as a sophomore and finish it in 3 years.  On the other side of the spectrum were those students who seemed intent on stretching out their public school experience as long as possible.  I will tackle them later, or perhaps more aptly, they will tackle me.

My friends were a mix of my fellow SP class mates plus kids from my afternoon Hebrew School class.  At this point you are probably thinking “WOW, kids from the SP program AND Hebrew School..  What a cool group that must have been!”  Well, we certainly thought so.  We harassed our substitute teachers as well as those girls who had not fully developed by the age of 14.  We played poker a couple of days a week after school and we wore denim jackets, which were called dungaree jackets.  They were “bright blue new” and definitely not faded.  They allowed minimal arm movement and made a rustling noise if you tried too hard.

 At one Friday poker game Todd was excited to show us something great.  It was a round embroidered patch with a picture of a snake on it.  He saw it when he was in the fabric store with his mother and decided that it would be a great idea if we all sewed snake patches onto our dungaree jackets and become “kind of like a gang.”  “We could call ourselves “The Snakes,” he added, demonstrating his fine-tuned flair for the obvious.   He was so positive that we would be enamored with his idea, that he took out seven more patches from his bag and gave one to each of us.  Now I was not a student of gang history at the time.  However, I was fairly certain that the tougher ones did not trace their roots to a visit to Jo-Ann’s Fabrics with one’s mother. 

And speaking of mothers, none of us were adept at sewing, so the task at hand lay in convincing them of the benefits of “snake camaraderie” and then having them sew the patches on the back of our jackets.  Doing our homework, taking out the garbage, and running errands -- we had the weekend to apply the charm and work our magic.  On Monday, we would show up in our Snake Dungaree Jackets and win the admiration of our friends and schoolmates. 

I unfortunately was dreading the embarrassment as I could not convince my mother to ruin the beautiful dungaree jacket that she had paid $11 for by sewing a snake on it.  Todd and four others were successful in convincing their mothers to do the deed.  Jeff and Stewy did poor jobs of sewing on their own emblems but at least they were part of the gang. 
Come Monday morning, we stood together in the school yard – my clean patchless jacket identifying me as a snake outcast -- when a critical lesson of gangdom was about to begin.  Clarence Longer, Jerome Collins and their posse came up to us and complimented us on our cool gang jackets.  We almost bought their admiration as sincere until they told us that since we were formally a gang, we were formally trespassing on their turf and that after school in the school yard, they were going to formally beat the shit out of all of us.

“Wait a minute,” I said turning around, my back facing them.  “I’m not a snake.  See,” I pointed, “no patch.”   When I turned back around, the tough kids were already walking away as we looked at each other in despair.  And thanks to my lame protest, I also happened to snag a few looks of disdain as well.  During the course of the school day, The Snakes got desperate.  Jeff and Stewy were thankful for the poor sewing job they did and started pulling out the threads of their snake patches with scissors from the art class.  Lee and Carl threw their jackets in the garbage can in the bathroom.  Todd faked an asthma attack and had the school nurse call his mother to pick him up early. 
3’o clock came and we decided that the school yard might not be the best place to congregate and walking home as a group might not be the wisest thing either.  I was walking home quickly, eyes constantly looking back over my shoulder when maybe 2 blocks from school, my path was blocked by Jerome Collins.  He was the tallest kid in the 7th grade as I believe he was the previous year as well.  He wore a white t-shirt which had a box of Newports rolled up in one sleeve.  He wore black jeans without the nerd cuff and a new pair of black Chuck Taylors.  As I tried crossing the street he blocked my path and said in a muffled voice “you the biggest snake of all.”  And if that bit of irony and symbolism didn’t hurt me enough, he then powered into me with a fist to my stomach that bounced me off a parked car and onto the sidewalk.  A small group of students looked down on me as I took deep breaths and tried my hardest not to cry.  I was successful for all of 3 seconds when I started wailing. Mission accomplished, Jerome walked away and lit up a cigarette. 

Another day in the life for Jerome Collins.   As for me, snake patch or not, I never wore a dungaree jacket again.

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Me:
Do you like the draft?
Jeremy:
You seemed to cry a lot more when you told me the story.
Me:
I’m allowing myself literary license. 
Jeremy:
What does that mean?
Me:
It means that each embarrassing detail need not be embellished.
Jeremy:
I guess that’s why you failed to mention pissing yourself as well.
Me:
I guess.   Why do you continue to be such an annoying person?
Jeremy:
At least I’m not a snake.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

7 Feet Tall and Gay ? No Way !


Jason Collins can’t be gay.  I say that because I know gay.   After all, some of my closest friends are gay.   So what do you think of that!

I know gay from a lifetime of gay stereotypes that have been engrained in my psyche over the past 40 years.   I envisioned the first openly gay basketball player to be white, not black.  And the first gay basketball player certainly was not going to be a 7 foot center.   No sir, my first gay basketball player was going to be a Caucasian point guard, no more than 6 foot 2.  He was going to be a very unselfish player…, polite even.  Someone who passed the ball to his teammates as opposed to driving to the basket on his own.  My first gay basketball player was going to be an ex NY Knick, certainly not an ex NJ Net.  After all, everyone knows New Yorkers are more cosmopolitan than their Jersey counterparts.  My first gay basketball player would have long hair, kind of like Steve Nash did a few years back when he played for The Suns.

So along comes Jason Collins who has totally burst my gay basketball bubble.  With all due respect, you are not what I was expecting,  Jason Collins.  Your height, your position, your skin color… you got it all wrong.  You are messing with my perception of what a gay athlete should be, and for that, all I have to say is “thank you.” 

Thank you, Jason Collins. I am glad it was you who broke the barrier that took too long to be broken.  I admire your courage.  I admire that you are not a point guard.  I admire that you are tackling more stereotypes than you imagined would be the case by coming out.  I am glad that people will get to know you better.   I am glad that you will be contributing to the discussions on civil rights and gay marriage and whether anyone really has a chance against the Miami Heat.

We have become better today as a result of your move to the basket, Jason Collins.  Congratulations to you.  Congratulations to us all.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

THE ART, SCIENCE, AND WISDOM OF SHARING


Adam’s credentials were impressive.  A junior at Brandeis.   Fluent in French, Spanish and Hebrew.  His Italian, rapidly improving thanks to his spring semester at The University of Milan.  The distance was the reason for our interview being conducted via Skype. I had previously helped Adam’s sister land a job with one of my ad agencies and I was now helping him in his efforts to secure an internship with a translation company.    

“Is there anything else you need to know about me?” Adam asked as our video chat was coming to a close.  “Just one thing,” I said, ready to impart a painful lesson.  “In your Facebook status from 3 weeks ago, you mentioned that you defeated one Eric T in a tennis match and as a result, he was now gargling with your balls.  I’m just a tad curious. Is ball-gargling a pleasant experience or a painful one?  I would think it could be quite painful."

Adam’s youthful confidence quickly shattered into pathetic despair as his mouth opened but words eluded him.  “Here’s what I think you need do” I mercifully chimed in to break the embarrassing silence. “I think you need to grow up.  And if that doesn’t seem to be a realistic option at this stage of your life, I think the very least you should do is adjust the privacy settings on all your social media sites to keep your adventures between you and your friends.”  Adam’s hands were awkwardly covering his mouth to conceal the extent of his quivering. “And one more thing,” I added as he struggled to avoid further eye contact with me. “Call me on Tuesday.  I think I may have a company in mind for you.”      

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Not so lucky is Rebecca Martinson, the Delta Gamma sorority member from The University of Maryland who has recently become the rage of the web thanks to her foul-mouthed email rant going viral.  Her correspondence attacks fellow Delta Gammas for essentially failing to properly “engage” during a recent social event with a brother fraternity.  It uses homophobic, racist and utterly foul language that would make most sailors blush.  It also threatens violence against those sorority members who don’t get their acts together.  

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks for young Ms. Martinson as she has disproven P.T. Barnum’s adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  Dozens of pages now appear when you search Rebecca’s name on Google.  She has resigned her position at Delta Gamma where a national spokesperson announced, “We now consider this matter to be closed.”   Maybe for Delta Gamma, it is but the Internet has posted a virtual scarlet letter on Rebecca in the form of fiercely negative commentary and video parodies of her rude behavior.  Unless she does something radical like change her identity, I would say her future prospects appear to be quite dim.  (On a side note, when you finish reading this blog, Google her name along with actor Michael Shannon’s to get a glimpse of what her new found celebrity has resulted in).

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This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending The Media Kitchen’s 6th Annual Digital Media Venture Capital Conference (gotta talk to them about shortening the name).  It’s an exciting day featuring some of the hottest marketing trends in the digital space as well as those technologies that are the driving forces behind tomorrow’s innovation.  
Are you aware that if you mention to your on-line community that you recently bought a pair of Ferragamo shoes, that the technology now exists to identify you several weeks later as you walk by a Soho boutique and target you via your mobile device with a special offer to buy a matching wallet?

As a marketer, I am blown away by the precision methods that are now available to target our best prospects at the best time.  As a consumer however, I have to admit to a serious case of the heebie-jeebies in knowing that a seemingly private post between friends is being used to follow me, identify me, and target me at a specific point in my day.  Granted, it’s only a discount offer for a wallet, but it only takes a little bit of imagination to figure out where this can all lead and how even George Orwell would be blown away by all that has transpired in recent years.

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Three stories.  All tied together by a common theme.  What you choose to share on line, no matter how harmless or how vulgar now lives forever and can often come back to find you in ways that you never imagined possible.  The technology is mind-boggling and exciting.  I’m just thankful that it wasn’t around when I was a kid. 
Oh yeah, good luck, Rebecca.         

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Raising Them Right --LET'S GO METS

      


Given all the articles and afternoon talk shows dedicated to the topic of raising ethical and well-adjusted children, it continues to amaze me how many parents error on a critical first step that will shape their child’s development.  When faced with the decision of steering their kids towards a lifetime of rooting for the Mets or the Yankees, most parents continue to choose the Bronx Bombers, thus setting the training wheels in motion for a lifetime of frustration, unrealized expectations and an inability to celebrate the small achievements in their lives. 


Since I am sure no one will be offended by my previous statements, I will provide irrefutable support for my opinions.  Ever since the dawning of the George Steinbrenner era, Yankee fans have been characterized by a sense of entitlement that accepts nothing short of a world championship.  A team of all-stars at every position has become the norm with the best players being lured into pinstripes at prices that no other team could match.  And when one of these all-stars became injured for more than two weeks, he was immediately replaced by another high priced all-star from a team that could no longer afford him.  While George’s son, Hal has taken a more conservative approach to spending, today’s Yankee fans have become more impatient and irrational in their expectations.  Many are unhappy and even depressed despite what is viewed as a very good, if not championship caliber team.

Met fans on the other hand are a grateful and appreciative lot.  We enter each season with the lowest of expectations.  For years, there has been no serious hope of making the post season so we endure and even thrive by learning to celebrate the smallest achievements that come our way.  The impressive debut of a minor league pitching prospect, the slumping batter who finally gets a hit after going 0 for 23, the joy of a three game winning streak…all are relished and fawned upon as signs of a better tomorrow.  We may not have experienced a World Championship in 27 years, but we have acquired an enviable resilience that helps us look forward to brighter horizons while accepting the fact that the best things in life aren’t always destined for our doorstep.  We have learned to smile at our own faults and more than most, we have learned how to be content.  Last year when our team was in contention through the all-star break before falling apart at the seams, Met fans appreciated that our team was able to last so long.  Yankee fans on the other hand would have been calling for heads to be served up based on the second half meltdown.

So parents, especially Yankee fans yourselves, can you do what’s best for your children and do what your parents neglected to do for you?  Guide your children towards Queens and the Mets.  Every parent wants to see their children succeed in a way they never did.  Choosing the orange and blue is a step in the right direction and one of the most selfless acts you will ever do.  And if you need help in justifying your decision, I have summarized the reasons why young Met fans are destined to grow up to be happier and better adjusted adults with a set of values that parents relish.
10 REASONS WHY THE ROAD TO A HAPPIER CHILD BEGINS IN FLUSHING

1.      Met children don’t expect Dad to fix every problem by throwing money at it.

2.      Met children know how to appreciate what they have.

3.      Met children have a sunny disposition and are always looking forward to tomorrow (kind of like Annie).

4.      Met children have empathy and compassion for the underdog.

5.      Met children are content with their lives.

6.      Met children learn how to be fun and spontaneous (You can’t wake up one day and say let’s go to a Yankee game.  Met children and their dads can wait until the last minute and still get pretty good seats).

7.      Met children are never boastful.

8.      Met children do not feel entitled to the best money can buy.

9.      Met children accept themselves for who they are.

10.  Met children (and their fathers) learn not to take themselves too seriously    8-)            
 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cool Daddies in a Red Cup Nation




Tall red plastic cups were lined up in big triangles on each side of the ping pong table.  Within minutes of the photo being taken, most would no doubt be filled to the top with foam. The accompanying Facebook post from my friend read, “Father/son weekend at ΣΑΜ fraternity... what could be better?”

A mere two hours later, over 40 endorsements were received through the “LIKE” button.  Comments ranging from “show them how it’s done” to “teach them a lesson” offered greater encouragement. 

Then one buzz killer wrote, “What could be better?...How about not supporting, publicizing, and participating in underage drunkardness?”

Within a few minutes, my friend texted me.  “Could you please remove your comment?” he asked.  I responded promptly, “Could you please remove yours?”   Now, I’m not exactly certain of all the rules pertaining to Facebook etiquette.  However since I did indeed post on his “property” and he is basically a good guy, I took down the offending remark.

I also decided that now was the right time to begin writing a blog, something that I had been considering for the last few months.  The reason for my delay was an uncertainty about what topics I would cover.  Yesterday, I realized that a defined list of topics was not as important as the passion behind them.  And since it’s my blog, I hope no one will expect me to remove any of my offensive comments.  And for what it’s worth, I won’t ask you to remove yours either.  

But back to my friend.  I did email him last night to tell him that it was not my intention to upset him.  I simply explained that I had a big problem with this red cup generation that boasts to an expanding social media audience of their excess drinking and raunchy behaviors.  I explained that I had an even bigger problem with parental “atta boys” that encourage such behavior.

And I have my biggest problem with beautiful teenage girls who have taken their own lives following date rapes and party rapes, with photographic evidence of the assaults being posted on social media to the point where they literally humiliate their victims to death.  I did some research and learned that at least 70% of sexual crimes on campus are associated with excess alcohol consumption by the perpetrator.  And around 50% of the victims had been drinking as well.  And the last time I checked, the legal drinking age in this country was still 21.  And the last time I checked, Lauren Spierer a New York girl attending Indiana University was still missing after a night of hard partying. And the last time I checked, my kids still referred to me as "Dad" and not "Buddy."

Far too many of my contemporaries struggle to appear cool in front of their children.  Too many of them endorse and encourage under-age drinking and rowdiness while ignoring the consequences that can often result.  And too many of these manly fathers have daughters of their own.  If you want to be cool, join me and others your own age for Thursday evening hoops at the Y and a couple of beers at The Greenhouse afterwards.  If you want to be cooler, explain the dangers associated with underage drinking and partying to your children.  Talk to them about sexual abuse. Talk to them about Lauren Spierer and not leaving your friends alone and defenseless when they've had too much to drink at a bar or a frat party.  You might not get 40 “LIKES” tonight, but in due time you’ll get a thumbs up from your kids when they realize what you did for them.