Sunday, July 10, 2005

"Brand X" Generic Rant

"He's such a great writer, I don't even know if I can talk to him. Frankly, I prefer the company of nitwits..." - Jerry to Elaine on "Seinfeld."

Okay, Cleveland (and beyond) - what do you want from me?

No, seriously, what do YOU want? I know what I want - I'm much more comfortable being "Larry David" or "David Letterman" than a "Larry King" or "Dan Rather." But, nonetheless, do you want me to give you some false hope written on an engraved cyber-Hallmark card that says, "This hug's for you"? Do you want me to give you "THE answers" to all the problems our city - and world - face? So what do you want...?

You know, I sat in the BP Office Building (which I affectionately referred to as "The Black Tower of Living Death") for almost 5 years while working at Arthur Andersen. By the last 2 years, I was so miserable at my well-paying, "secure," corporate cubicle job that I would march down to the conference room at the end of the hall - on cue - to call my friend, Pete Chakerian, on a twice daily basis. "I can't take it anymore," I would moan on a contiuous repeat "Lost" loop. "I've got to get out of here - I can't take it anymore. I've got to do something with my life!"

And then one fateful day, "it" happened. "Hey, why is it raining accountants outside my office window?" I asked innocently that day. And then the news came over the wire about the Enron scandal - and Arthur Andersen's "involvement." To make a long story short, Arthur Andersen - an international company over 100 years old - was going out of business. Poof! Gone.

So, huh, I guess I got my wish. I was free! Free to pursue my passions - but at what price?

"Even the best fall down sometimes. Even the wrong words seem to rhyme. Out of the doubt that fills my mind. I somehow find, you and I, collide.."

Do you want me to tell you I fell ass-backwards into "The Second City" branch in Cleveland - and that it was one of the greatest experiences of my life? Do you want me to tell you that I was proudly the member of the first, last and only graduating class of writers that successfully completed the Sketch Comedy program before The Universe (unmercifully?) shut the doors on it? Do you want to know that after I (and five fantastic others) produced our graduation show, "Six Pens None The Richer," and then the core group went on to form "The Public Squares" and produced our first independent show, "We Apologize in Advance..." (with much-needed help from Second City alumni, Nathan Cockerill) - that the impatient Poltergeist sucked The Second City Improv Theater up into oblivion and spit it's crumbled remains onto Bob Hope Way...? Is that want you to hear???

Do you want to hear that the scattered remains of "The Second City" gang ended up leaving for greener pastures in Chicago (and beyond) depiste anguished cries of "Why are you giving up so easily?" and "Why are you abandoning Cleveland when things are JUST starting to happen here...?" (McEditor's Note: "No, not just, Clarise ...something set you off. So what was it...? Quid pro quo.") The same tired cries I have heard over and over again in the Cleveland world of journalism - and business - and comedy - in an atypical "Groudhog Day" fashion?

Do you want to hear that everything's going to be alright? Is that what you WANT to hear...?

"And now for something completely different..."

Do you want to hear that I spent Saturday night "bonding" with a group of best friends from my youth and some fabulous free-thinking strangers at a party - and who have no idea that this blog even exists? That we argued about the sad state of current comedy movies and my best friend, Jeff, implored me to watch "Monty Python's Holy Grail" because it's the best comedy - from beginning to end - ever made? And that I said I felt the same way about "Young Frankenstein" - riffing lines so funny our sides split as we sat, drank and laughed? Do you want to hear that?

Or do you want to hear how the conversation slipped into sports - and, more importantly, the sad state our home town of Cleveland was in? People who now have kids and were raising them here despite the fact Cleveland is deteriorating right before their very eyes - and how it broke our collective hearts. Do you want to hear that?

Or do you want to hear how I sat in horror on the 17th floor of The BP Building on the day of September 11, 2001? How a few of my terrified coworkers and I watched in silent shock as The World Trade Center crumbled before our eyes? And how as I watched in frantic fashion out the window overlooking Cleveland Browns' stadium - watching for a plane that thankfully never came - to come crashing into our very own building, which was later found out to be a very real possibility as one of the terrorist planes U-turned right over Cleveland on route to another target - is that what you want to hear???

Do you want to hear as we raced down the building stairwell - shaking in terror - as air sirens blared in the background? Do you want to hear how I begged my coworkers to get away from the building (and they replied: "I want to wait for my friends so we can all head over to Starbucks") in case it came crumbling down around us? Is that what you want to hear?

Do you want to hear how I ran away in a "War of the Worlds" like fashion amidst my fellow Clevelanders in a horror movie that was all too real? Or how I shook uncontrollably for hours as I took shelter in my friend Jeff's house as we watched the terror unfold on his television screen?

Do you want to hear how I later sat and listened to an ex-CIA specialist on cable news who declared that a nuclear device will be detonated within our U.S. borders by twisted terrorists some time in the next 10 years - and I, sadly to my dismay, agreed with him - and, sadly, nothing we do in regards to "security" will change this fact? Do you want to hear that?

Do you want to hear how my other good friend, Frank, and I sat in a bar on the night of the Iraq invasion and shook our heads in utter disbelief - because this was an unnecessary - yet "justified" - pre-emptive strike by our government? And how every one else in the bar cheered on our troops to "victory" because FOX News (as well as most of the mass media) informed them it would "unpatriotic" to do otherwise? And how Frank and I trembled in disgust because our brave men and women in the military would lose their lives and limbs - in an utterly unselfish fashion - defending our freedom in the process? And how much - despite our protests to this "war" - we thanked them for doing so? Is THAT what you want to hear?

Do you want to hear that now I - a college graduate - work in retail (and writing) to survive day-to-day? And how lucky I am to work in a "union store" that pays me "above-average wages" in addition to medical benefits and a pension - despite the fact our company would love to join Wal-Mart and go "non-union" at every possible turn - (and most likely will when our current union contract expires in September)? Is that what you want to hear me say?

Do you want to hear that I follow the advice of Suze Orman now - and take financial matters into my OWN hands by eliminating credit card debt and investing in the stock market? Because other financial gurus STRESS the importance of reinvesting every penny of my income - into something other than PlayStations, Best Buy trinkets and McDonald's Super Size "meals" - that will bring me financial freedom - and peace of mind - in the turbulent future?

Do you want me to tell you how much I secretly admire my old boss, Cindy Barber, after a successful run in journalism, turned the corner - in a "Flashdance" stance of "take your passion, and make it happen" - and followed her OTHER dreams by owning and running an independent and highly successful rock'n'roll club - that has all of Cleveland buzzing?

Do you want me to tell you that all television shows are "idiotic" and "beneath you" when in fact, like any art form, many are not? Do you want me to tell you that "Rescue Me," "nip/tuck," "The Shield," "Lost," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Alias" and "Gilmore Girls" have more substance, style, and HEART - than most junk you would visit on a movie screen ...independent, art house or otherwise?

Do you want me to tell you that when my new nextdoor neighbor asks if I mind that his American flag - hoisted on a mast - occassionally blows onto my side of the outdoor patio, I proudly proclaim: "Hell no!" at ever turn?

Is that want you want to hear, Cleveland? Because I don't HAVE all the answers as you stare at this blog in "a deer in headlights" stance hoping I can give you the rhetorical required responses - YOU have to come up with some answers on your own sweet time.

So, just like the "ABC After School Special" always states: Don't judge a book by it's "cover." The one thing I have learned on my journey is that there are many sides to many people (Even I just NOW learned something in the process) - and tonight, hopefully, you got a "sneak peek" at a side I usually reserve for only close friends - that eclipses any "King Kong" trailer.

I may write in the cyber-world, but I LIVE in the real one. In the meantime, I'll be out in the sunshine enjoying my freedom: living, laughing, and loving with my friends - just as I always have done to this point.

P.S. - Thanks to The Plain Dealer's "PDQ" for their "shout out" to this poor man's blog - I found out about it after the fact, but appreciate it, nonetheless.

No Hoegaardens were harmed in the making of this post. We now return you to our regularly-scheduled program already in progress...


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