Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Part Three: The Conclusion of 'Why Recreational Drugs will Never Be Legalized'

To sum up; in last Tuesday’s Part 1 we discussed why the private sector will not make and sell recreational drugs. In last Thursday’s Part 2 we discussed why the federal government won’t do it. Here today in part three, I will dispel the myth of the War on Drugs.
First of all, since the Vietnam era the word WAR has lost its true definition. There hasn’t been a true War since World War 2. This is not to belittle the courage and bravery our military has shown from Korea up to and including Afghanistan.  What I’m saying is that they had their hands tied.  In an actual War the goal is to kill the enemy, destroy its land, cut off supplies, and inflict so much unrelenting horror that they are forced to unconditionally surrender.
In World War 2 we bombed cities and towns, killed hundreds of thousands of men women and children. We vaporized 2 Japanese cities, sank countless ships, shot airplanes out of the sky and turned tanks into broiler ovens that cooked the men inside alive. 
That’s how a real war is fought and why we all must do our best to avoid it.
And when a War is declared it should only be to eradicate something truly evil, like the Nazi’s or slavery or genocide and you don’t stop until the job is done.
The word WAR has become a catch-phrase, the war on poverty, the war on illiteracy, the war on drugs.
There has never been a war on drugs!
There will never be a war on drugs!
Why? In order to succeed the war on drugs must be fought like an actual war and with the current hypersensitivity of the American people that will never be permitted. 
Here’s how a real war on drugs would be fought.
The president asks Congress to declare war on drug traffickers and smugglers, and to treat them as a covert enemy invasion force. As such they would be viewed as spies and executed.
There is one tenant of war that goes back centuries. If you are a soldier of a country, wearing that country’s military uniform, you may surrender and will likely be held prisoner until the war is over. However, if you are caught committing an act of aggression against a country and its people without wearing the uniform of the enemy, you are considered a spy and executed (see Nathan Hale)
An actual war on drugs would last about 3-4 years. It would eradicate drug usage in the United States and be as horrifically brutal as the Civil War. And as during Lincoln’s presidency, Habeas Corpus would be suspended and anyone who publically opposes the war will be jailed until it is over. In addition, Executive Order 12,333 which prohibits assassination would be rescinded as it is not a law but a proclamation. 
Once again it would be brother against brother, one radically against recreational drug usage, the other staunchly supporting a person’s right to live their life as they please.
The internet would be filled with videos of drug traffickers and dealers being killed without arrest or trial 24 hours a day.
Scenario #1, a military helicopter chases a powerful cigarette boat and demands the crew surrender and prepare to be boarded.  They refuse, increase speed and hold up a small child to show that if fired upon the child will likely be killed too. Under the present war on drugs, the helicopter would back off and look for an alternative to bring the situation to a close.
During a real war on drugs, the helicopter would issue a second warning and if not obeyed, would launch a missile and destroy the craft with all on board. If any manage to survive, they would be strafed.
Scenario #2: A family of four crosses the border, their car is stopped, 2 kilos of heroin is found inside one of the kid’s toys. The family is lined up against the car and shot dead.
Scenario #3: The government seizes drugs smuggled into the country, executes the smugglers and injects a slow acting poison into the drugs and releases it into the black market. Drug users die, drug dealers die, the customer base dies.
Scenario four: Substantial cash rewards would be paid out for information leading to the capture and execution of drug traffickers and dealers.
The above my friends, is what a real war on drugs would be like.
And that’s why it will never happen.  We’ll continue with the same drug policy we’ve been using since the sixties until something pulls the pin, like the citizens of an American border town being wiped out by a drug cartel when they attempted to fight back.
If that happens, you won’t need to reread scenarios #1—4. You’ll be living it.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why Recreational Drugs Will Never Be Legalized Part 2

During last Tuesday’s exciting episode of ‘Why Recreational Drugs Will Never Be Legalized’ I pointed out that since several recreational drug can kill, no company will make and sell them because if they do, they will be sued into oblivion the first time someone dies from their use.
So if the private sector is unwilling, that leaves the Federal Government.
Regardless of your personal feelings about drugs, the Federal Government will never be allowed to manufacture and sell narcotics. If you don’t believe me, just look at California, the biggest user and grower of marijuana in the U.S.  A state that is thisclose to bankruptcy, a state in as much fiscal trouble as Greece, a state, that should pot be legalized, could be fiscally solvent in as little as 5 years, a state that is arguably the most liberal in the nation. Frankly, the proposition to legalize marijuana was clearly a win-win solution for all their financial problems and… was immediately voted down.
Imagine that! California voted down the legalization and sale of marijuana, a substance less dangerous than many of the legal mind altering medications, (Paxil, Prozac, Ambien) presently available on the market.  Unlike its legal cousin alcohol, Pot is not addictive, does not lead to violence, and is virtually impossible to overdose on. It was voted down because people view marijuana as a narcotic and there is no convincing them otherwise. They were indoctrinated with this view since childhood and you will not change it.
The anti War on Drugs people claim that if something is wanted bad enough, people are going to find a way to get it, which is why, they say, Prohibition was such a failure.
But that’s a misstatement. Prohibition was not a failure. It was a rousing success! According to Ken Burns’, ‘Prohibition’ mini-series, (if you haven’t seen it, you should, it’s quite informative) at the turn of the twentieth century America’s consumption of alcohol was wildly out of control, family violence due to drunkenness was rampant. Women were so often brutalized that their death rate from domestic violence was approaching that of death from complications of child-birth. It was the escalating violence on women and children that the idea of Prohibition got its start.
Then after thirteen years of forced sobriety, prohibition ended and alcohol was again legally consumed, BUT at a greatly reduced rate.
What happened was many of the alcoholics stopped drinking because alcohol was difficult to get, they were arrested when their wives called the police when they came home drunk, they were jailed and often lost their jobs if they were in a speakeasy when it was raided. People, like electricity, take the path of least resistance and decided getting drunk wasn’t worth the trouble, and when Prohibition was lifted, they no longer had the habit or the interest. 
Prohibition was America’s rehab. It took the drug away from them, forced the majority of Americans to stop drinking and many were glad it did. Domestic violence dropped considerably, work productivity rose and alcohol related health issues diminished. That’s not failure in anybody’s book.
But that’s only one drug, Alcohol. Let’s take a look at the others and their effects.
Marijuana—less harmful than many available over the counter medications, non addictive, no serious long term usage medical issues.
Alcohol—reasonable consumption usually harmless. Overuse can lead to violence, is addictive and can lead to serious health issues.
LSD—has far reaching effects on the mind. Although usually not physically harmful, it causes hallucinations which can seriously affect the user’s judgment. People with mental health issues can be permanently damaged by its use.
Cocaine—powerful stimulant, gives a feeling of clarity, confidence and self assuredness. Is addictive and can kill with a single dose (see John Entwistle of the Who and Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers.) Can also lead to a stroke and heart attack (Rick James of Superfreak fame) Continued usage leads to severe paranoia and uncontrolled violent behavior, severely damages the sinus cavity, liver and heart. The more concentrated form, Crack, has the same effect only more so and for a shorter period.
Heroin—extremely addictive, can kill with a single dose, put user in dreamlike state, causes teeth to fall out and leaves indentations in the back muscles. Although its use doesn’t usually do serious damage to vital organs, the sharing of needles has increased the spread of the AIDS virus.
Methamphetamine—probably the most dangerous. Extremely addictive, stimulant, causes dopamine to be released into system causing sleep, hunger and thirst centers to shut down. It rots the teeth, damages the heart, liver and constricts the blood vessel to the kidneys causing build up of waste. Continued use leads to paranoia, insomnia, uncontrollable fits of rage, and hallucinations.
And people are calling for its legalization?
Well, the War on Drugs obviously hasn’t worked, they say.
True, but that’s only because there has never been a War on Drugs. There has been a publicity campaign against drugs, public service announcements explaining the dangers of drugs, a ‘Just say No’, campaign, even a ‘Drug are bad, M’Kay?’ from Mr. Mackay on South Park.  But never a War on Drugs, and there will never be one.
I will explain why next Tuesday as our exciting tale of ‘Why Recreational Drugs Will Never Be Legalized,’ continues!
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why Recreational Drugs Will Never Be Legalized

  I have a number of friends who feel the War on Drugs is a proven failure and the money allocated should be used for more effective programs. Their argument is that if drugs were legal, the drug cartels would be put out of business and the government could regulate and tax it like they do alcohol.
Let’s start with that premise. First question: Who would manufacture and sell the drugs? Pharmaceutical companies? No, because many recreational drugs can kill you and although cigarette smoking usually takes 20 years to ruin your health, their manufacturers have been sued for Billions for selling a product that is legal in every state in America and the pharmaceutical companies have taken note.
If drugs were legal the price would drop drastically. Perhaps, but we don’t know that for sure. What we do know is that the legal addicts— cigarette smokers—have been singled out for the highest rate of taxation of any group even though that is blatantly unconstitutional. How can they get away with it? Because smokers are unpopular and the government won’t face resistance for preying upon them. What do you think the tax rate will be once the recreational drug user become addicted?
Now let’s talk about the addiction factor. I smoked for 30 years and tried to stop several times over that period only to return when life’s pressures mounted and I needed a smoke. It’s been 10 years since my last cigarette yet there are STILL days that I long for that nicotine rush.
But they can regulate their distribution by only allowing their sale to people over 21.
How many people do you know who started smoking at 18? I started at 15 so did most of my friends, some even younger. So where did I get the cigarettes when I was clearly too young to buy them? I did what most kids did; I slipped a few from my old man’s pack.
It turns out my daughter, who is now as heavy a smoker as I was, did the same when she was a teen. But what if your teen slips a few from your now legal drug stash? Sneaking a cigarette won’t kill them. Sneaking some booze from your family’s liquor cabinet won’t kill them. But from your heroin or methamphetamine stash? Don’t think that could happen? Really? Remember how reckless and daring you were as a teen?
Once a few kids overdose, the lawsuits are going to fly. Pharmaceutical companies know this, so unless the government makes a law barring them from prosecution (which will never happen because nearly every member of Congress is a lawyer and lawyers don’t make laws that keep fellow lawyers from making money) pharmaceutical companies are going to pass, especially since even legal, FDA approved medicines are generating multi-million dollar lawsuit settlements. 
But let’s pretend Congress does pass a law that bars them from being sued. When you consider the staggering profits that would be made from such a venture, how could they not take a page from the cigarette companies and find a way to make the drugs even more addictive. Make it so it would be literally impossible to break the habit without physical or mental damage. The drug companies would deny it of course, like the cigarette companies did but unlike the cigarette companies, they could not be prosecuted.
Now you have a family member who is chronically addicted and unable to work. Most likely it would be a child in their late teens who would wind up on welfare or disability for the rest of their lives. So now, not only are we, as taxpayers, paying for their drugs, we’re paying for their essentials (housing, food, rent, utilities, medical care etc.)  So tell me again how legalizing drugs is going to benefit us?
The jailings and deaths due to drug gang violence would disappear with drug legalization.
That’s not true. What most people don’t understand is that the violence on our streets isn’t because drugs aren’t readily available, because they most certainly are! It’s because people addicted to them can’t afford them. So they commit crimes to raise the money, which in turn allows them to maintain their addiction which drives them to commit more crime.
 At this point I want to mention that I am not an anti drug zealot. I was a musician during the 60s, 70s and 80s. I saw my share of drug use, but I didn’t participate. Like Springsteen, I was so obsessed with the music I didn’t want to be involved in anything that took away from that. I will also point out that I am for the decriminalization of marijuana. Pot is less addictive and less dangerous than alcohol. I’ve seen many a drunk turn savagely violent but never a pothead. And the theory that pot leads to harder drugs is nonsense, what it does, like alcohol, is decrease your inhibitions making it more likely that you will do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do if you weren’t under the influence.
And so, with no business willing to take the risk…
Wait. I’ve have a lot more to say but you’ve got stuff to do and I don’t want to hold you up. Stop back Thursday and we’ll pick it up then.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Yeah...I saw a UFO

          I don’t like admitting that I saw a UFO. I don’t believe in them. Never have, still don’t.
But I saw one nonetheless.
          Now let me preface this by saying that I am not sitting at the computer wearing a tin foil hat. Although I am a writer and all writers are considered to be a little off, I am not a nut. Frankly, I would never wear a tin foil hat, especially now that it’s winter and my Napoleon Bonaparte bicorne hat does such an excellent job of keeping my head warm.
          Now on to the UFO.
As most of you know, I spent my younger days as a musician. One night in the mid 1980’s after finishing recording at my Bronx studio, I packed up, climbed the stairs with my brother and wife, walked outside into the night air and saw everyone staring upward in one of those, “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman,” poses.
          We looked too and sonavagun, there it was!
 I’ll describe.
          The thing was HUGE, about the size of a football field, completely black with six lights at the front in tight formation. It moved very slow, about 10-15 miles an hour, and no more than 40 feet above. Plus it made no noise.
          I’ll repeat the last part. IT MADE NO NOISE.
          Having lived in New York City all my life I saw and heard the Goodyear and Fuji blimps fly overhead, saw and heard airplane gliders whoosh through the air and even spotted and heard the occasional red propane blast from a balloon basket.
          But nothing this big could move this slowly, silently. Simply not possible back in the mid 1980s. And because it was so ridiculously slow we followed it with my car. We’d drive ahead, then stop and watch as it went by. Each person we met asked what we thought it was.
          We said their guess was as good as ours.
Interestingly enough, Some people refused to look. I didn’t understand that. This was an event a person would remember for the rest of their lives and apparently they were determined not to see it. It wasn’t until later that I learned that some people’s mental well-being is so precariously close to the edge that the possibility of visitors from space just might tip them over.  As for me, I was fascinated and baffled at the same time. Just when I thought I had figured it out, it threw me a curveball.
          We were watching for at least a half hour when I noted the six lights in tight formation had not deviated even the slightest bit and suspected they might actually be single engine planes miles ahead pulling this, whatever it was overhead, by a tether.
          Minutes later, as if in response to my growing theory, the six lights broke from formation and began swirling, doing box-like turns, moving up, down and sideways, stopping in mid motion and other demonstrations of  aerial agility that is simply not possible, even with today’s technology.
          So, there went my plane theory.
          As to what it really was, I have no idea. I suspect it was some sort of military aircraft using early stealth technology that was being tested to see how many people would detect it.
          Turns out, there were 150,000 of us. Tens of thousands of phone calls lit up police stations and governmental agencies from Poughkeepsie in mid–NY state, all the way  to Manhattan.
          What we saw that night was the famed Westchester Wing, a reportedly triangular shaped object about 100 yards long that casually flew over the New York skies for over 100 miles. It made all the newspapers and television news, was even featured on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries, hosted by Robert Stack.
          They noted that the Westchester Wing, as it had been christened, was the largest sighting of an unidentified flying object in history.
          That was almost thirty years ago which begs the question. If it was a government aircraft constructed to fly silently, invisibly and undetected directly overhead, has that technology since been perfected? And if so, where is it being used?
Frankly, I’d be more comfortable with the alien spacecraft scenario.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Another Life Lesson from Uncle Zack. The Rule of 3

     As mentioned in earlier posts, once you reach 50 the Universe starts to reveal some of its secrets. It doesn’t explain them but if you pay attention and don’t try to figure out why it works, you might find yourself with a leg up in the game. I have shared this with friends and they have, on many occasions, called to thank me. More than once it saved a job, a relationship and on one instance, a person’s life.  
     Here’s how it works.  Say you’re a salesman in a meeting with the other company salesmen. The big boss is attending and the topic is sales goals and how to cut costs. You want to pitch selling to the Smith and Jones Company.
     As the meeting comes to order and you’re about to bring up Smith and Jones, the secretary interrupts and tells you that the president of your biggest account is on the line and needs to talk to you immediately.
     Realizing the importance of maintaining their business, the big boss instructs you to take the call. You do, the problem is resolved, you return to the meeting.
     That was strike 1
     When you’re acknowledged and are again about to make your pitch about Smith and Jones, the boss interrupts and questions another salesman about a different topic. You wait until he’s finished.
     That was strike 2
     Now you’re understandably irritated and are determined to have your say. But yet again, just as you’re about to address the group, a water pitcher on the table is accidently knocked over and everything stops until the water is mopped up.
     That was strike 3 and no matter how strongly you feel about Smith and Jones, DO NOT BRING THEM UP AT THIS MEETING!!
     Another example. You’re about to go to the store, but your cars keys aren’t where you thought they were. You spend 10 minutes looking for them, then finally find them, behind a bag on the table where you first looked. Strike 1
     You get in the car, turn it on and the check oil light comes on. You check the oil, it’s down a quart, you grab a quart from the trunk and top it up.  Strike 2
     You start the car and are about to pull from the curb when a snow plow roars past and dumps a six inch blanket of snow on your windshield. Do you get out and scrap the snow off?
     Sure, if you want. Just don’t go to the store.
     The point is, if you try to say or do something and are obstructed by some outside factor 3 times in a row, whatever you were going to say, or do…
     Don’t do it!
     I don’t know why this works but, trust me, it does. Does it work all the time?
     Now before you go rushing to the comment box to provide an example in your life where it didn’t work, let me point this out. Say you are at a gaming facility and there are ten numbers on the big wheel. In nine out of ten spins it lands on the number 3. After 100 spins it lands on the number 3 ninety times. Why bet on any number other than 3?
     Is there something special about the number 3? I have no idea but it does factor heavily into our collective lore, starting with the Trinity. Closely followed by unlucky 13 (that is believed to be unlucky because putting the 1 before the 3 is supposedly in defiance of the 1st commandment.) Then there is “The third time is the charm, Three on a match, Three’s a crowd, the Three Faces of Eve, Three times a Lady, Three blind mice, Three wise men, Three Dog Night, 3-CPO,  Three sheets to the wind, and of course the ever popular, For Three’s a jolly good fellow!  
     There is also a factor of 3 in the “Are You a Horse’s Ass test.”
1)   1)  If someone calls you a horse’s ass, ignore them.
2)   2)  If 2 people call you a horse’s ass, reflect on your actions.
3)   3)  If 3 people call you a horse’s ass…

     Buy a saddle.
     As always, if you enjoy my posts why not sample one of my books at
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Friday, January 13, 2012

I originally posted this blog on November 20, 2011. I e-mailed a copy to NY Senator Schummer and President Obama. Today on this site the President offered it as solution to our tax issues. Go to

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A reasonable solution to the tax rate issue

Politically I am a radical moderate who believes the only sustainable solution to any impasse is compromise. You get something, we get something, you give up something, we do too. Right now our system is seriously broken and yet our elected leaders seem willing to let the system collapse rather than to give any leeway to the opposition.
I have a different idea. I call it the Zackary Richards Plan and overall it’s beneficial to both Republicans and Democrats.
On a recent news show Warren Buffet pointed out that he (billionaire) was paying 17% in taxes while his secretary (middle-class) was paying 28%. Some said that was very unfair while others claimed that people like Buffet, who create jobs, should be given tax breaks so they can create more jobs. Both arguments have some validity but what’s missing is verification. We have had the Bush tax cuts for ten years now and there are fewer jobs than ever. So apparently somebody is pocketing the money without doing what the tax cuts were designed to do, create jobs.
So here’s what we do to fix that
Bump up the ‘job creators’ like Buffet to the middle class rate (28%) on January 1 while at the same time, create a tax rate scale that lowers the tax rate on those in upper management who actually create full time jobs and hire AMERICAN workers. For example say my company www.aripublishing.com has 100 full time employees and I hire 5 more after January 1st, then my taxes and those of my management team would decrease (by how much I would leave to those in tax accounting) if those 5 are still employed by December 31. The more jobs we create the lower our tax rate would be until finally capping at the original 17% .
On the other side of the coin, those in upper management who downsize AMERICAN workers and cut jobs would find their taxes increasing by the same percentage rate until it caps out at whatever the highest tax rate was  (I believe it was 36-38% but again I leave that to those in tax accounting)
This, my friends, is verification. In addition it encourages companies to hire AMERICAN workers who in turn will pay taxes which will make up for the lost revenue brought about by upper management’s lower tax rate. It will also increase revenue from the added taxes placed on those in upper management who blunder and stumble their way to lay-offs and plant closings.
So, in the long run, the real ‘job creators’ will have their lower tax rate. We will have lower unemployment. It will revitalize the middle class whose buying habits fuel this economy and address the concerns of both the tea party and the OWS
No doubt there will be those who disagree with this plan and that’s fine with me, however, if my plan makes sense to you and think others should know about it, please e-mail, SHARE or Tweet this to friends, family and associates and maybe something will get done. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Different St. Valentine's Day Massacre

          I don’t like to promote my books on my blog because I like to think of it as a place where people can hang out, relax and BS. It would be like being at a Superbowl party with a bunch of friends when one turns and says, “Man, this is a great game. And speaking of great, have you guys thought about your insurance needs? Because at Geico…”
          So you see my point, but recently there’s been a sharp spike in the sales of my only non-fiction book, “When Long-Term Marriages Go Horribly Wrong- The Middle-Aged Man’s Survival Guide,” which surprised me because January sales are usually slow.
          Then I remembered St.Valentine’s Day is coming.
          Good old St Valentine’s Day, the day that—if your long term marriage is in trouble—comes at you like a psycho with a meat cleaver. You know whatever you get for her won’t be good enough, unless its money or jewelry, which at this point, are the only things she wants from you. 
          Now ladies, before you fire up the comment section and proceed to rip my head off, please note that on the first page of “When Long-Term Marriages Go Horribly Wrong” is a disclaimer that says, “There are plenty of good, decent women out there, this book isn’t about them.” 
          And it’s not. I was married for 25 wonderful years and then I wasn’t. The woman I had married had somehow been replaced with someone who hated me with a white hot fury that I still don’t understand.  I hadn’t changed other than gaining some extra pounds over the years, as did she. But we had both been pretty thin to begin with so it didn’t make that big a difference. I had never been abusive or a drunk or a philanderer. I battled alongside her when the kids went through adolescence and rode out the exciting adventure of menopause.
          So what went wrong?
          I needed to find out.
          I met with other divorced men my age, men who had been married for 2 decades or more and as they told me their stories I was amazed at the starling similarities in their break-ups.  So many that I decided to write a book about them.
I started with the warning signs, little things that women, looking to get out of the marriage, do, that most guys don’t realize has signaled a serious shift in the relationship. Then I address the many types of ‘set-ups’— which are tricks women use to make the break-up look like the man’s fault. I point out how society automatically blames the man because apparently, women are made of sugar and spice and everything nice while men are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails, used condoms, vomit and road kill.
Then I get into the legalities involved, which is extremely important because what you believe to be honest, true and forthright has absolutely nothing to do with divorce law.
Unfortunately too many men learn this the hard way.
I also address the emotional devastation; the soul searching men do, trying to figure out what they did wrong, how to deal with the sense of loss when they discover that a huge part of their life doesn’t exist anymore. The wedding anniversary, the yearly vacation to that special place you both loved, the family photo albums, family videos, even the wedding ring, now only reminders of their loss and of a life that no longer exists.
And finally, I explain how to recover and begin a new life. A life just as joyful and filled with promise as the one you began with your wife so many years ago.
So with St Valentine’s Day right around the corner, consider giving “When Long-Term Marriages Go Horribly Wrong-The Middle Aged Man’s Survival Guide,” a look.
Scroll down and read the reviews. If you download it to your electronic device, I PROMISE you won’t regret reading it.  It only costs $2.99 and you might even e-mail me to thank me. One guy simply wrote “You helped me dodge a bullet, buddy. Thanks.
You’re welcome!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When Worlds Collide

          I’m reading ‘THE FIVE” by Robert McCammon. Been a fan of his work for some time, but his latest really spoke to me. THE FIVE is about a rock band being stalked by an ex-military sniper. Not that this happens to me often, but I have been shot at.
Seriously. But that is a story for another time.
Anyway, McCammon paints a true to life picture of a rock band out on the road and how different that world is. There are no alarm clocks, no suits and ties, no rush hour traffic, no mowing the lawn, no getting to know the neighbors. No watching your language because there are ladies present because in this world there are no ladies, there are no gentlemen, only rock and rollers.
Your world consists of putting yourself out there before strangers, performing songs you wrote and praying they like it. It’s endless hours of driving and setting up and tearing down. You dress how you want and live life by your own rules. You are walking life’s tightrope without a net! No healthcare, no disability insurance and no rest. You must move faster and work harder to reach the velocity needed to break free from everyday life.
 You’re an outlaw among other outlaws, a member of the night people. You get out of work when most of the world is asleep. You deal your musical dope to the masses and hope they get addicted. Because baby, like Lennon once said, it’s the toppermost of the poppermost! It’s also about sleeping in the back rooms or floors of club owners, about getting stiffed by these same club owners when bad weather causes poor turnout. It’s dealing with band members who get high before going on stage, being BROKE ALL THE TIME, about knowing how to duck a punch because some ape needing to prove to his girl-friend that he’s better than you is preparing to kick your ass after the show. It’s about keeping what lousy equipment you can afford, functioning, it’s about trying to get some damn attention paid when frankly, nobody gives a shit, and those who do, are trying to sabotage you. It’s dealing with the hard reality that there are thousands of bands out there, all competing for record deals.
Your entire world consists of the same people morning, noon and night. You eat fast food and live on caffeine. Hookers, hustlers, druggies, mob guys, the seriously insane, the hangers-on, and the groupies are all in orbit around your world. After a while, the bizarre becomes part of your everyday life. I remember my girl-friend, who was the band’s bass player casually chatting away at a club with a woman who had only moments before had stepped off the stage totally nude after completing her strip tease act. I regularly had dinner with a prostitute because I didn’t want to eat alone and she wanted someone to talk to who wasn’t trying to get into her pants. The owners of a club I worked regularly supplemented their income by performing live sex shows on 42nd street. One night playing solo in a Greenwich Village club, a group of Hell’s Angels came in, sat down and after listening to my beautiful love ballad for about a minute, started banging on the table and shouting, “Rock and Roll!” Well, I thought, am I going to let them dictate to me what kind of music I was going to play?
Damn right I was!
And that was because I was a Rock and Roller, not an imbecile. They wanted rock and roll and I wanted to leave the club in one piece.
In that world everything comes at you so fast you don’t get time to analyze anything because something else is already barreling toward you. My prostitute friend died from an overdose in an alley, found laying at the foot of a dumpster. She was 19. The strip club was burned down (supposedly by the mob for the insurance money). The producer of a live music show called in the middle of the night and had me rush right over to perform because one of the acts failed to show up.
And the strangest thing of all is when you actually succeed, when all your hard work and sacrifice finally pays off. That world, the world in which you’ve made your home, kicks you out. Why? Because you’re no longer an outlaw living on the edge, you’re a successful businessman and employer. You have a lawyer, an accountant, an investment portfolio; you pay taxes and take business deductions. You own a home, drive a new car, and travel first class. You might even be invited to the White House.
But like Morrison said, “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near.”  Why? Because music changes. The clean cut rock of the early sixties became hippy rock which became disco, which became metal which became hip-hop which became grunge and so on. And very likely, you and your brand of music will eventually be left behind. No more arenas, no more television appearances, no more gold albums, no more White House invitations.
But that’s okay, because although the world of success, wealth, status and influence is showing you the door, there is one ready to welcome you back with open arms. And that’s because, as Bob Segar so clearly put it, “Rock and Roll never forgets.”

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Exciting Adventures of Uncle Zack

          I mentioned in a recent post that when I was a teenager I worked picking up litter in a drive-in movie following my gigs as a musician. It reminded me that I also worked there as a security guard on the nights when I didn’t have a gig.
          On my first night on the job, me and the other security guards got a call on our walkie-talkies to go to the front as there had been an incident. In most drive-ins there is a playground under the screen and after the movie was over and the cars were leaving, one plowed through its chain link fence.
          Now here’s a little back story. The manager was a big (and I mean BIG) Missourian with an authentic cowboy hat, cowboy boots and authentic cowboy balls. When we all reached the site of the crash, the manager (I’ll call him Big Dave) was talking to the Driver of the vehicle. I saw there were three others in the car, a man in the passenger’s seat and two women in the back.
          After making sure everyone was okay, Big Dave explained to the Driver that for insurance purposes, he had 2 choices, he could sign a release stating that he and his passengers were unhurt or the drive-in would have an ambulance come and take them to the hospital. He also explained that this would be paid for by the drive-in.
          The Driver refused both options. So Big Dave explained that if he didn’t agree to either he would have to call the police and file an accident report.
          I should point out that everyone in the car was pretty drunk and Big Dave was trying to give them a break. Make the problem go away. This was the Bronx in the 1970’s and nobody in their right mind wanted to stir things up.
          Apparently the Driver wasn’t in his right mind because he unleashed a tirade of curses and threats at Big Dave which ended with him telling Big Dave that he and his friends were leaving and he couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
          The Driver was apparently mistaken because that’s when Big Dave reached into the car with one arm and yanked the Driver out through the opened window. Seeing this, the guy in the passenger seat takes the car keys, jumps out the door, runs to the back and opens the trunk.
          Okay, more back story. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my fellow security guard, a southern gentleman named Billy was a Viet-Nam vet. He was missing his left hand and his jaw had been constructed from one of his ribs, as he had been severely wounded when his unit was ambushed by the Viet Cong. Billy, I soon learned, was not a man to be messed with.
          So here’s what happened. The Passenger opens the truck, leans in and reaches for a shotgun. 
          I see the metal glistening in the moonlight, there is another gun in a holster packed beside it.
          I was stunned. We didn’t receive any training to deal with this. Was I supposed to jump the guy and wrestle the gun from him? Run away? Duck and cover? What?  I didn’t know how to react.
          But Billy did. And looking back I think he prevented a bad situation from getting a lot worse.
          With a shrug Billy pulled a snub-nose .38 from inside his blue jean jacket and pressed it against the back of the Passenger’s head. What followed was the sound of the gun being cocked. With an expression of the utmost sincerity Billy said in a slow southern drawl, “Yo’ lay a hand on that shotgun, son, and yo’ brains is gonna be all over it.”
          I am going to assume the Passenger picked up on the sincerity of Billy’s tone because he immediately raised his hands and stepped back. After Billy brought him to Big Dave at gunpoint, I bravely stepped forward and closed the trunk.
          I was sent in to call the police, (which I also did very bravely) and it turned out the car was stolen and in addition to the guns there were also drugs.
          Billy and I went on to become work buddies and we had several other adventures together. One led to a full scale riot and the other had me on the roof of the concession stand trying to convince some nut high on PCP to drop the knife and to please get off the roof because the customers were complaining that he was blocking the picture.
          But that’s a tale for another day.

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Compassion as a Weapon

            If you own a television, you’ve probably seen him. It’s the holidays and he’s hard at work. He’s the guy who looks like Santa Claus, with his white hair and beard, standing in the muck and mire in some third world country, reminding you that the world is filled with sad-faced, big-eyed children and needs to know why YOU, a fat-assed, pizza-eating, beer-drinking, football- watching, turd has not sent ONE MEASLEY DOLLAR A DAY! to feed these obviously abused and starving children.
“Well,” (foot tapping in disgust) he asks, “I’m waiting… Isn’t it time you did your part, you uncaring, racist, child-hating, hedonistic, parasite?!”
Well, since I regularly give what I can to charity, I’d like to help, but first, I need some questions answered
First question, “Where is the guy with the fucking rake!?”
 That’s what I want to know. You show these poor children running through the filthy water, over mud-covered, discarded boxes, into garbage strewn alleys but never explain why no one in these villages has gotten off their dead ass and cleaned up the place.  
When I was a young musician, after working a club, I would supplement my income by picking up garbage at a drive-in movie in the wee morning hours before I went home to sleep. It wasn’t that hard a job. I had a broom-handle with a nail at the end to stab trash and put it in the bag I was carrying. The place had litter everywhere but with a crew of four we disposed of it in a mere six hours.
Second question. Where the hell are these kids’ parents?”
You see, my wife and I worked VERY hard and often did without to make sure our children were protected, clothed and fed. So where are these kids’ Moms and Dads? Where are the people responsible for little Billy’s sad state of affairs?
Third question. Why isn’t birth control being addressed?  Why are there so many of these poor, starving waifs roaming the streets? Wouldn’t it be easier and less expensive to provide free birth control than to provide three meals a day to an ever increasing populace? If the parents had fewer children they could provide for the ones they have, feed and clothe them properly and get them educated so they’d be able to earn a living.
Please note that I am certainly not advocating cutting off aid. These children are desperate, hungry and clearly not responsible for those terrible conditions and public contributions are probably the only thing keeping them alive. But this is the twenty-first century and we’ve been sending CARE packages for over fifty years! The time has come to stop asking for money and address the problem!
So instead of reprimanding me for being too busy, or forgetting, or not having enough time, why don’t you make a commercial that clearly states what the problem is, what it will cost to fix it and how much time will be required to complete the work.  There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that kind and generous people throughout the world would contribute the money to complete that project, if for no other reason than to make you go out, get a real job and stop guilt tripping us when we are with friends and family enjoying the holidays.
Happy New Year folks!