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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Weekly Behavior Awards

So I didn't post earlier asking for nominations, 'cause frankly I haven't been getting any. But that's OK. I'll take it as a compliment and assume that y'all just wanted to see who I gave the thumbs up and thumbs down to.

So assuming I'm right (hope so), here they are:

Good Behavior this week goes to my folks for their patience with the wack jobs they encountered this week - mostly on the highways - while visiting Greater Miami for the first time. They started their final full night in town with smiles on their faces and compliments for the weather.

As for Biggest Bum, there was a two-way tie. People Magazine gets a nod for its World's Most Beautiful People 2006 list being mostly populated by the same old Hollywood dregs. It's like The "World" Series being played between two baseball teams anchored in the continental U.S. There is no way the most beautiful people in the world are mostly actors, models, singers, etc., and come predominantly from LA and NY. If People really wanted to impress, they'd send their reporters, correspondents, and freelancers to the four corners of the Earth and look for beautiful people from all walks of life. If they wanted to, they could find 'em. And to be fair, there would still be room for a few celebs on a realistically compiled list.

I won't be hugging any trees anytime soon...unless they're really, really hot. Kidding. No tree hugging in my near future, but the second Bum nod goes to the woman I watched earlier today pollute a lawn and her children's minds by littering. As she sat in her tank-sized SUV on the curb by a neighbor's front yard, she wadded up a piece of paper - a food wrapping, I think - and tossed it out the window while kids sat in the back seats. It's pinheads like her who'll scold a kid for forgetting to pick up after himself and not putting his dirty socks in the hamper, but not think twice about tossing her own mess in someone else's yard.

Back to work tomorrow, Monday, May 1st., so I'll be back on my regular sched, updating this thing a couple times a day.

Peace and hair grease,

Friday, April 28, 2006

Dress Codes

A buddy from my home town in Southeast Virginia emailed me yesterday to talk about his frustrations with not being as highly regarded at his job as he felt he should be.

He is good at what he does. I remember in college how he stood out and excelled. As I recall, he was better than most of us who shopped our wares at the campus paper.

His problem is somewhere along the line he decided that as long as he was good at his job nothing else should matter. Following an employer's dress code? Selling out, to my guy (unless of course the dress code "conforms" to the way he already dresses). Cutting his hair or shaving to comply with a work rule? Selling out, my buddy says. Part of me thinks he's right. What matters at work, but your skills?

But then another part of me says there has to be some kind of balance, and that's what we debated yesterday, that balance.

My guy says that all rules of appearance do is crush your spirit of individuality. I think that's a bunch of hippie mush. There is something to be said for taking a little pride in your appearance. You don't have to be hoity toity about it. But at least make an effort to show you care...a little.

I once worked with a brilliant guy in another city. But the guy never wore socks and his ankles were always so crusty it looked like he had gone shopping at the Michael Jackson hosiery store. It really looked like he was wearing white socks, though he had on none at all. He also rarely combed his hair and never let his clothes be bothered with an iron. Not saying anyone in that job was a better person than him. He was smarter than most and definitely a better craftsman than many. But the appearance issues were so intense that they often marred conversation about the guy. Someone would start a conversation with how brilliant a job he'd done, and within a minute or so talk turned to "Man, those are some rusty ankles!"

Fine, fine. Write me and tell me people were shallow for clowning this guy's appearance. You'll be correct to do so. But unfortunately the way things are is different than the way things should be. And as long as society is the way it is, how we look at/for work does matter to some degree.

There are limitations. When I see/hear about people being ordered to hack off their dreadlocks or be totally clean shaven it bothers me. That's not cool, unless they're hair is dirty and they're working with food or something like that. But that's another conversation altogether.

Gotta run. More tourist stuff to do with my visiting parents. And don't hate on me for my absence the past day or so. I am still on vacation.

Peace and hair grease.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hi, I'm James. And I am a cell phone Hypocrite

I confess that I am a cell phone hypocrite. I don't think it's the smartest thing to be on a handset while driving. But, when I can't find my headset I do it sometimes. And so do a lot of you, but that's not the point.

There are some things we can do that aren't the best things for us, but if we do them with moderation and care, they can be controlled.

The problem is when people overdo things. And a la Nancy Reagan some of us need to learn how to just say no, or in the case of cell phones just hang up, or at least just put 'em on hold.

Don't feel me? Here are two examples: After taking my visiting parents on a quick tour of the Miami Herald building yesterday, we headed over to Bayside for a boat tour. I had to swerve though shortly after leaving the parking lot to keep from getting crushed by a bus on Biscayne Blvd. I'm thinking the driver is having a stroke or a heart attack, 'cause his ride is weaving slightly, and when we turned next to each other he drifted at least halfway into my lane. I swerved into an oncoming lane, the bus missed us, I straightened up and pulled parallel to the front of the bus. The driver was on a cell phone with one hand, and steering the bus with the other. That fool was driving a bus, turning sharp corners with ONE hand! If that wasn't bad enough, when we got on the tour boat a little while later our departure was a little rocky - rocky enough that the boat was swayin' like a swing set. I Couldn't figure out why since the water was calm. Then my wife and 'rents, who had just finished experiencing my "reaction" to the bus driver, started laughing. I asked at what, and they pointed to the boat's pilot house, where sure enough, the pilot had a cell phone pressed to one side of his head and, yep, was steering the boat with the other.

I admit I drive while on the phone sometimes. But if I have to do something that requires more than just staying in a straight line then I'm telling the person on the other end to wait a minute and I'm putting the phone down.

Activities that call for putting the phone down for a sec? Hmm, let's see. How about steering a BUS full of passengers around tight corners on narrow, construction-bombed city streets? And I think maybe driving a frickin' double-decker BOAT full of passengers - not just driving it, but backing it up calls for use of both hands. And don't think you're exempt if you're in a car. If you're doing anything but driving in a straight line - like sitting in a drivethru banking lane (thanks for the example Val, - get off of the phone for a minute! Parallel parking? Put it down for a minute! Turning in narrow lanes in heavy traffic? Call them back! Crossing or turning into two lanes of traffic without the benefit of a traffic light? Hang up!

Yes, I am a cell phone hypocrite. But I ain't stupid.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Preaching to the Choir

Ha! Thought it was just me, the new guy, who thought some people around here drive like they just don't give a rat's behind about anything?

Val Prieto, a featured subject of my recent article on guy's and their private space at home:, has a head-shaker, a tsk tsker on his blog,, about a run-in today with an inattentive driver. Hit up his link and look for the headline "Miami, See it Like a Native."

And Gigi who compared me to Cynthia McKinney on Babalublog, may your fingers fall off for typing such blasphemy. I can't even begin to go down the list. But for starters, I don't run security check points in government buildings, 'cause I'm too afraid of getting shot. And I don't hit cops, 'cause I'm too pretty to go to jail.

UPDATE: Since publishing this post last night (Tuesday, April, 25th), it has come to my attention that Gigi was not comparing me to the representative from Georgia. She was comparing the inattentive driver described on Babalublog to McKinney. My bad, Gigi. Compare away.

It Was a Good Day

Just wakin' up in the morning, gotta thank God. I don't know but today seems kind of odd. No barkin' from the (neighbor's) dog. No smog...

Sound familiar? It's the first verse from Ice Cube's 1992 classic It Was a Good Day, with my minor addition (the "neighbor's" part).

Sorry about the late posting, folks. Not a lot of time to write about my adventures today, 'cause I've been busy showing my folks around Greater Miami. It's their first time visiting Florida. And being a relative newbie myself, playing tour guide took some work.

And I gotta say it's been a pleasant vacation. I ain't Ice Cube. I actually didn't see "the lights of the Goodyear Blimp (My disclaimer: It Was a Good Day contains potty mouth lyrics and describes some adult activities and one instance of what I'm sure would qualify as illegal weapons possession. But if you know the song from back in the day, then you understand the spirit in which it was delivered - to demonstrate that even in the most chaotic of settings, sometimes things just go your way)."

But it's all good anyway. Let's recount: So far my folks are digging South Florida, though they agree with me that driving is a death sport down here. My pond fish survived two days in a "shelter" in the form of a big plastic tub and are now sucking clean water in their renovated home. When the wife and I were taking the 'rents to dinner earlier this evening in downtown Hollywood, a passing car stopped behind us before I could plug the parking meter. The driver rolled down his window, smiled big, waved me over and handed me his parking meter stub, explaining it had 90 minutes left on it and he didn't want it to go to waste. A guy riding by blasting a lame tune from the guts of his hoopty, while we ate dinner outside, seemed perplexed when his music stopped suddenly. From the puzzled look on his face, I'd guess the stereo-worth-more-than-the-car conked out. Thank you divine intervention.

I was feeling so good by the time we got home, I even let my wife talk me into watching Blowout with her. And I didn't even mind Jonathan Antin yammering incessantly about how a little dab of mud'll do wonders to your hair, and babes, and "Baberaham Lincoln," and hair so bangin' it's "Bangladesh," and just having "bangin' hair, dude." Normally, I might volunteer to run into traffic before subjecting myself to that. But it was all good.

Today was like one of those fly dreams...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Random Pinhead

The guy in the little yellow Mitsubishi who nearly ran me over in the parking lot at Publix five minutes ago, because he was too busy cherry bombing it and profiling for whoever he thought was was checking him out. "Whoever" actually turned out to be Nobody.

But dude, watch where you're going. You aren't that cool that you can afford to run over pedestrians. Besides, if the car is what has you overhyped and lead-footed, it (the car, not your heavy foot) ain't that cool either. The third installment of The Fast & the Furious is already in the works. You missed the boat, and your fad is playyyyyyyyyyyyyyed out!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Weekly Behavior Awards

OK, I confess I'm feeling too lazy to wax poetic about chowderheads and wonderful people this evening.

To be fair, I'm exhausted. I've spent the better part of this day, one day before my vacation officially begins, wading around a pond in my backyard trying to rescue a couple of stubborn catfish before my wife called Peta on me for cruelty. She could've called 'em. I just figured she should wait to invite 'em over on a day I was planning to barbecue.

But I digress. The fish are safe. The pond is patched. Tomorrow they'll be back in their home, hopefully no worse for the wear.

So on to the awards.

This isn't connected to South Florida at all - though it's strange enough to have happened here, but Biggest Bum goes to Eric D. Adams of Plain City, Ohio. Lots of people have beef w/relatives. But at his step daughter's wedding reception Saturday, Adams reportedly grew impatient over how long it was taking for the wedding cake to be cut, so he (allegedly) lost it and stabbed his step kid's biological dad and her brother. They'll be OK. But you have got to be really hungry, a bad person, or head sick to cut someone over a slice of cake, and at a wedding no doubt.

The Good Behavior Award goes to whichever of my neighbors called the cops on a loud drunk a couple of blocks away who was threatening to beat a woman to death. My wife and I were taking a stroll, heard the commotion and that specific threat and decided we should call. Police showed up seconds later though - so someone else must've called 'em first - and confronted the knucklehead. The woman was unscathed. The knucklehead was arrested. All's good.

If you've been following this blog, then you've read my rantings lately about those "Stop Snitching" t-shirts and the police "blue wall of silence" and how both sides are wrong for letting misplaced loyalty keep them from reporting criminal behavior by a co-worker, neighbor, etc.

So any time Joe Citizen can make the effort to dial 911 and bust out a criminal - even though it's the unpopular thing to do - kudos to him.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Just a reminder

Sunday night is fast approaching folks. We need nominations for the Weekly Behavior Awards. If you're new, we give one every Sunday night for Good Behavior and Biggest Bum. That's bum as in triflin' behavior, not bum as in behind. So no nominations of exes...for having big bums.

Anyway, if you have a story from the past week or so of a random act of common sense or an incredible act of ignorance, let's see 'em. Otherwise, this Sunday, once again, you'll have to read about the best/worst of I encountered over the past week.

If you're not sure who/what to nominate, here are posts of previous winners:

Peace and hair grease till tomorrow night.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Tipping Right & Commenting Rules

Two buddies and I had a debate last evening over another friend who is often conspicuously absent when the bill arrives after we've been out for a meal or a few pints.

But even when the fourth guy is present when the bill arrives he will never contribute enough to cover his portion of the bill and his share of the tip. So the other guys and I end up paying a little more to cover him and make sure our server gets a minimum 15%.

Don't any weepy types comment that we're being mean to a broke guy. We aren't. And he's not broke. Besides, if you can't cover your share during a group outing, then maybe you should be saving your money and not going out as often. It's all about priorities.

So, on to other things. I'm a pretty easygoing guy. I can take a punch - physically and verbally, though I'd rather not take a literal hit. But there are a couple of things I have little patience for. One of them is name calling, because you disagree with something. You want to describe the goofiness of an action or behavior, go ahead. That's different.

This blog is an open forum. I put my ideas out there. So I open myself up to your comments, positive and negative. But keep it intelligent. If you can't think of the right words to get your point across, rather than break down and resort to name-calling or swearing, try to think about it a little longer and then post a comment. And if you insist on taking the low road then don't do the cowardly thing and comment anonymously. And if you do use a "name" post your comment in a way that will allow people to give you feedback too. This goes out to you Big Daddy.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Good stuff

I saw an impressive display earlier when I was rolling down a rare open part of Biscayne Blvd. and stopped at a service station. I have a habit when I'm passenger in a car and it stops at a gas station I get out too. I don't feel right just sitting there while the driver pumps gas, etc. So I'll either offer to go pay or to pump while he or she goes to pay. Or I'll just stand in the elements and chat with 'em to keep company.

So I was about to climb out of my guy's car when I felt the slightest nudge. Another car leaving a different pump scraped my guy's bumper. That car, a meticulous Chrysler 300M with custom chrome rims, rolled about two more feet before it stopped. The tinted window came down and a young guy with a wild goatee and a mop of crazy hair on his head - couldn't have been more than 25 - stuck his head out and asked politely if he had hit my guy's car. I offer the driver's description to drop a little reminder hit that so many stories WE all have like this are couched in assumptions based on appearances.

Anyway, we were both so taken aback by the other driver's civility that my guy just stammered that yes the two cars had bumped but that no damage had been done. The young guy insisted though that my guy take another look and make sure his car wasn't damaged. It wasn't. And the other driver smiled and explained that he'd hate to see someone damage his property and get away with it, so he figured it was only fair to apply the same rule in reverse.

My guy shook his head incredulously, shook the kid's hand, and told him thanks for being honest. He drove off. We handled our business and left.

Let's give credit where it's due. That kid had good sense, good Burnettiquette.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Cell Phone Burnettiquette

OK, so I was doing another train-to-work day and I had an epiphany: The most evil inventions/technological advances of the past three years are cell phones with stereo-like ringer capabilities, and the availability of stereo quality ring-tones.

Two teens sitting in the seat across the aisle from me spent about 25 minutes tinkering with one of their new phones. They blasted song after song. A young woman a couple of seats behind them seemed to want in on the concert so each time her phone rang - and it rang every few seconds - she'd let it ring (or should I say let it play) till the very last second before picking up.

The elderly guy in the seat directly in front of me, in between swigs from a bottle of whiskey, even had a high tech cellie, on which he was playing an old-school video game with the sound turned waaaaay up. I couldn't see which game, but I sort of recognized the background music. I think it might've been Frogger, possibly Donkey Kong.

Anyway, the result was a discombobulated concert of whiney alt-rock, Southern hip-hop, and video game sound tracks. I seriously contemplated kicking out the emergency glass panel and jumping onto the tracks. It would have sounded better underneath the train.

Also, a colleague wants me to remind folks that good cell phone manners in theaters and concert venues doesn't just involve turning the ringers off and not talking on your phone during the show, but also not text-messaging during the show.

The bright green or blue or white back-lights can still be a silent distraction too to the folks sitting around you, he points out.

BTW, in case you missed it in yesterday's paper I really do write when I'm not updating this blog. Here's a link to my last article. More on the way:
My weekly Q&A, Unbuttoned, was most recently with Dr. Diane Walder, dermatologist to the rich and famous:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Somebody's protesting too much

I waited next to a couple of kids in a fastfood line earlier. I say kids 'cause they were younger than me. They could've been in their early 20s.

Anyway, they kept laughing and talking about how "gay" something was. They were using the word as an insult, like fat, or nasty.

Funny thing is they were wearing those overly baggy jeans, and one of the guy's plaid boxers were showing - not a tough feat since the waistband of his pants was cinched at mid thigh. Every few seconds he'd tug at 'em to keep 'em up. And after one forgetful moment, the jeans dropped to his ankles. People laughed. His buddy pointed. It was funny and hopefully embarrassing to the butt-flasher.

So call it coincidence, but a buddy of mine at another newspaper came across this article from the Daily Mail in London and emailed it to me. The story and its theories are somewhat off the wall, but it carries enough humor to make you ask what is really "behind" the too-baggy jeans phenom:,,1667956,00.html

Maybe the baggy-wearers aren't tough macho guys after all. Maybe they're advertising, in a manner of speaking.

Sneakin' Peeks

So my wife and I are walking our dog through the neighborhood the other evening, taking notice here and there of passing cars and people crossing us on the sidewalk.

One car approaches us from behind and slows to a crawl. I tense up for a moment, 'cause one, I don't like people creepin' up on me, and two, we're in the middle of a block. There's no traffic signal coming up. So there's no reason for this car to slow down like this unless the occupant(s) plan to ask us for directions.

My speculation was off though. When they car is almost parallel to us I look over to see what he wants - it was just a driver inside - and it becomes clear. He is ogling my wife. He stares and stares and stares. Even after he and I make eye contact, he turns back to my wife and stares a little more before he finally has to look ahead again to keep from driving off the road. Then he accelerates back to a normal speed and takes off.

Now, as a guy I can't fault him. My wife's pretty. And I ain't just saying that 'cause it's my job. It's true. But there's something else. I know that all guys look. And any who deny it are lying like rugs.

I said we all look. We may not all stare. Staring is bad Burnettiquette. But we do at least get in that first look. Maybe it's the woman who walks by a man's table at a sidewalk cafe. Maybe it's the woman who happens to be in front of a man as he strolls through the mall. Maybe it's the countless women that parade down the beach as a man, just feet away, tries to "read."

Let's up the ante. Even if a guy is out and about in the company of a pretty woman, if he sees another he will look. He may only look once, but he'll look.

And that's fine. Do a double take. It's natural. Make a "confirmation" glance. It's natural. Ogle and stare though? And you've crossed the line from admiration to disrespect.

Get your look in, fine. But here's the rule: if you're admiring a woman who is with another guy, once that other guy is on to you, politely turn away. You've been busted. Keep staring and all you're doing is demonstrating you lack respect. And if her man is crazy enough, you risk him trying to "keep it real" on you.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Good People

That's what I call the woman in the grocery store this weekend who allowed me, with my couple of items, to cut in front of her and her full cart. It's not a big deal. But she was in line ahead of me. And a lot of folks would have considered only their place in line, and never would have thought about conveniencing the person behind them. Very nice of her to insist we switch places.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Am I being mean?

So I have a good/bad neighbors question for anyone who'd care to comment.

I have a fence surrounding my back and side yards, a standard, run-of-the-mill six foot privacy fence.

For the past four-and-a-half months - basically since we bought and moved into this house - my wife and I have been working almost non-stop to fix the place up. From painting to landscaping to more heavy duty work that we had to hire professionals for, we've busted our humps to make our home not just presentable, but nice. We wanted to get it into a shape where we'd feel comfortable and proud inviting people over.

Since the bulk of the work has been completed in the past month or so, we've had a couple of friends over at a time, as we ease into this settling in thing. So I go out my front door the other morning to look for my newspaper -and instinctively look to my left as I exit the porch. One of my neighbors from the duplex next to my house had tossed a couple of pairs of jeans over my fence. I guess they needed to air dry or something.

Now, I admit my immediate reaction was to get annoyed. I'm having people come over. I'm proud of what I've done to my house and yard. I don't want random clothes draped over my fence anymore than I want my nextdoor neighbors tossing their garbage over my fence and into my yard or parking a car on cinderblocks in their own front yard, even.

Hang your clothes out to dry if you want. More power to you. I like the smell of fresh air in my clothes too. But I don't want to see yours hanging over my fence, especially when I'm expecting company. I don't think I'm being snotty. But I worked hard for my space to look a certain way and pant legs dangling in that space wasn't part of my plan. Besides, it's my fence. Borders the neighbor's property, sure. But it's not on their property.

I didn't say anything. I figured eventually the pants would come down. After a couple of days they did. But I admit I was thinking all the while about what, if anything I should say (and how) to the neighbor if it happened again shortly before I was expecting company over.

Am I being too harsh, too picky? Dive in, please. I want your opinions.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Poser Alert

Sorry for the time between posts folks. I was having issues with blogger last evening and couldn't even get the necessary page open to do a new post. I thought it might've been my computer. But other pages opened for me just fine.

Anywho, I saw the funniest thing - and let me preface this by reminding you that in addition to being nice, good Burnettiquette is also about being you and not faking the funk.

So I was on a non-drive-to-work day, sitting on the Tri-Rail, making my way toward downtown Miami. It was a pleasant ride. I read for a few minutes, scribbled some notes for an article I'm working on, then started reading again.

My peace was shattered at one point though, when I heard what sounded like a cheap, or tiny (or both) stereo blasting a song by a couple of guys bragging about being "ballers." It was at a little distance but getting closer.

If you're old school, that word has a sexual connotation. But if you speak, or at least understand, hip-hop then you know that these days a "baller" is the cool, hip guy who has cool, hip things. The baller is the guy who says his clothes are the coolest. And they actually are. The baller is the guy who says his car is nicer than yours. And he's telling the truth. The baller is the guy who insists he gets more pretty girls than you. And he does. The baller is the guy who is cool on a full-time basis, not the civilian weekend warrior who scrapes together coins for a champagne life on Friday nights but returns to skunky beer and a shoestring budget the rest of the week.

So how funny was it that as the racket of the stereo grew closer to my seat the source became more visible? It was a young guy - I'd guess early 20s - who recited the song's lyrics verbatim. And he was serious. His brow was furrowed. He was concentrating, waving a hand for emphasis, and not missing a word. He looked up every few seconds with a practiced scowl and stared down other train riders who dared glance at the person making this boisterous entrance.

And his music machine? A tiny portable DVD player. He was watching a music video as he walked.

I watched him for second, and then had to stifle an involuntary laugh. I brushed it aside and turned back to my magazine, when it hit me: This is funny, because this guy isn't a baller. He's a simp! No real baller, who really had the diamond watch, the hot gear, the luxury CAR this guy was yammering about, would ride a public train.

Posers. They have no Burnettiquette.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

And Another Thing...

While I'm on a roll, in the mood, on this issue of being "real," how's about the kid I saw on my way home yesterday sporting one of those "Stop Snitching" t-shirts?

If you're not familiar with them, the t-shirts grew popular months ago on the East Coast with young hip-hop heads who wanted to show that they were cool and that they weren't tools of "the man (cops)" and that they placed some (misguided) loyalty over telling on a wrong-doer.

I hate these shirts. They send a bad message that you're a real, down, salt-of-the-earth kind of person if you refuse to tell authorities some bad act you observed or know about. It says you're a snitch, a bad, disloyal person, if you tell.

So I got a message from an old cop buddy in Milwaukee, where I lived before South Florida. This guy was a good source to me when I used to cover crime, and he eventually (after I stopped covering crime) became a friendly acquaintance to me. We talked a little about out-of-control kids and about those stupid t-shirts. He lamented that they make his job difficult, because "stop snitching" has become a rallying cry for "don't cooperate" in some neighborhoods.

And then we talked about a trial happening in Brew City right now involving three cops who are accused of beating a guy to a pulp after he allegedly stole a police badge at their house party.

Over the past week or so, cop after cop has taken the witness stand and sworn that they didn't see or hear anything happening to the beating victim - though the pictures of him taken in the hospital make it a pretty safe bet that this wasn't a quiet assault. And they all testified with straight faces.

Then one cop took the stand and was broken down to tears as she described how other cops shunned her when they learned she was going to testify against other cops in this trial. She talked about how she got prank phone calls and veiled threats, and how her tires were slashed.

"Know what," I told my buddy. "Whoever made those calls to her, menaced her, and damaged her property may as well have been wearing a 'Stop Snitching' t-shirt."

So I guess it's not just the kids and the posers on the wrong side of the law sending the foul message that you're wrong to report violent criminal behavior of someone close to you - be it neighbor or co-worker.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I Rest My Case

It's a shame another life was lost in the hip-hop music world yesterday, but it's time for some accountability folks.

Now Detroit Police are saying that Proof, close friend to Eminem and best man at the rapper's recent wedding, shot another man yesterday before being fatally shot in the head himself at a Motor City nightclub. Why was he carrying a gun? Why was the other guy? And why would you want to hang out in a place where you felt you needed to pack heat in order to feel safe?

I don't want to hear anymore about these cats being unable to leave their tough backgrounds behind. We leave behind what we're not willing to tolerate and embrace what we approve of. Besides, half these rappers are fake suburbanites pretending to be thugs. And the rest choose to stay involved in the old life.

I love elements of the culture and some of the music, but I know there is a distinct line between entertainment and reality. It seems some in the music biz have forgotten that line. And as long as some of these guys walk around gun-slinging like they're in the OK Corral, believing the mob-themed lyrics they rhyme about, then they're gonna keep dying for no good reason.

This, my friends, was yet another example of "When Keepin' It Real Goes Wrong." Except this time it wasn't funny.

Speaking of Reality

I got an email in reference to my most recent Weekly Behavior Awards,, asking why I called the cops instead of just getting a little nuts with my former bad neighbors and menacing them the way they did others.

My response? That was the stupidest question I've gotten in a long time.

If you've ever seen the (Dave) Chappelle Show, then you might be familiar with his "When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong" segment. It involves comic sketches of Chappelle in different scenarios portraying a man more intent on fitting a stereotype and portraying an image than in exercising good sense.

In one episode, Chappelle's character gets fired from a great job after threatening his boss whose attempt to make the character feel "included" caused the dummy to think his street cred would be diminished. In another episode, Chappelle's character is angry that another man is flirting with his girlfriend in a bar. The character decides in a split second that it's more important to "keep it real" than to collect his girlfriend and leave. So he accosts the flirter... and is promptly beaten like he stole something.

So let's review. Had I "kept it real" and got in my rude neighbors' faces, what bad could possibly have happened?

Hmm, let's see. They could have called cousin Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel, or cousin Ray Ray, the wannabe thug, and said I offended their honor. Suddenly I have a new enemy in Cletus or Ray Ray, who won't be interested in talking things through to non-violent resolution.

Or, my neighbors could have called police on me and said they felt menaced. Then my dumb behind gets led away in handcuffs all because I felt the need to prove how tough I was. And there's no way I'm letting that happen, 'cause I'm too pretty to go to jail.

So to anyone who thinks violent outbursts are a legitimate way to get your point across, you have fallen for the hype - especially that hype that comes in the form of song lyrics and music videos. Think. In some cases, "keepin' it real" is not all it's cracked up to be.

Reality Bites

If you know anything about me you know one of my favorite things to do is poke fun of rappers and fake bravado.

Most of these guys professing thug life were raised in mellow 'burbs where the worst things they had to be angry about were lattes being served cold and not making the starting lineup on the water polo squad. And some, in spite of the booty-shaking women in their videos, are rumored to be in love with each other... not that there's anything wrong with that. Seinfeld said so. And I have no reason or desire to argue.

But it wasn't funny last night when I saw on the news that rapper Eminem's best friend and best man at his latest wedding, a rapper stage-named Proof, was killed in a shooting at a Detroit nightclub.

It's kind of spooky that both men made a music video last year for a Slim Shady song called Toy Soldiers, calling for an end to the potentially violence-provoking tension between their "team" and another rap faction. In the video Proof is shot and taken to an emergency room where he later dies.

Life imitating art.

There is no better example of lack of good sense than shooting someone or even thinking about doing so for no good reason.

I once covered a homicide case at another newspaper, where a young girl (I think she was 12) was struck and killed by a stray bullet. It turned out the shot was fired by a guy on the sidewalk who was spraying bullets at another man who'd stepped on and scuffed the shooter's girlfriend's shoes in a nightclub the night before.

His best explanation was a long drawn-out version of oops. Yeah, to all you tough guys out there, that's "real."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Don't Piss Me Off... Nights after 9 p.m. or Weekends

This isn't particular to Miami, but what in the world is up with people committing cell phone assault lately?

There are the allegations (and criminal charges now) of Naomi Campbell braining her assistant with a talk piece a couple of weeks ago.

And then Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia), is alleged to have been clutching her cell phone when she popped a Capital cop for grabbing her in an effort to stop the congresswoman from continuing past a security checkpoint last week.

It's bananas, but a novel idea. Think how menacing you could be if you told a nemesis "I'd knock your head off right now... if I didn't only have 100 anytime minutes left till next month."

Two Kinds of Stupid

This is for the woman I passed on the sidewalk, while walking my dog. We were both on the sidewalk... Only one of us was on foot.... On the sidewalk.

Anyway, moving on, my beef with her wasn't so much about blocking a walking path but that when I tried to get a better look at the moron behind the wheel, I saw she had a small child sitting on her lap. The woman was chatting with a guy next to the car on the sidewalk.

They drove off a moment later with the kid still on the lap. Hopefully the child made it to where they were going.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Weekly Behavior Awards

So folks, we have a couple of winners, and in one case I use that "winners" very loosely.

Crack---, disruptive neighbor of Manola, who hosts/authors sex and the beach (, takes the Biggest Bum prize. I'd spell out his full nickname, but this blog, like the newspaper that supports it tries to keep it rated PG.

Anyway, it seems Crack--- is a loud, obnoxious, disruptive, and even alleged thieving neighbor. He's tried - I assume under the influence - to open doors to apartments that aren't his, chucked neighbors' stuff off their balconies and more.

Not cool to make your neighbors' lives miserable.

Manola, before I moved to Miami I declared war on a couple of bad neighbors in Milwaukee, my last home city. We lived in a neighborhood that was best described as "redeveloping." You could walk one pristine peaceful block, and then on the very next block find yourself in unkempt, unsafe territory. My block was trying hard to join the always peaceful club. But a couple of holdouts made things difficult at first. One apartment building directly across the street was home to a 40something woman, her 20something daughter, and at any given time her several of her daughter's friends. Seemed like they were drunk and making a racket constantly. At all hours of the day and night they (mom, daughter, and friends) would blast their home stereo with their front door wide open. They'd dance on the front porch naked showing off nicked-up, scarred, stretch-marked bodies, or exposing naughty bits. They'd have loud profane arguments for fun on the sidewalk with children nearby. They'd intimidate and menace other neighbors.

After a couple of months of the triflin' behavior, I decided I'd had enough and took 'em on. First stop, City Hall. I learned the rules on landlords' legal responsibility for their tenants' behavior. I also learned there was a limit to what the cops would put up with, when it came to complaints about nuisance behavior. And I learned that if safety is a concern, police can take anonymous complaints on nuisance tenant behavior. The important thing is that they get complaints, because it leaves a paper trail, a record of how often the offender has been reported. Eventually the landlord in this case was pressured so much by the city - in the form of warning letters, police visits to the tenants, and the looming threat of fines for not keeping his property in order - that he gave the tenants the boot. The hassle they presented became more potentially costly than their rent money was worth to him.

So you can do something about this guy. Most municipalities have ordinances in place that hold landlords at least partly responsible for bad tenant behavior. When I moved to South Florida a few months ago, I found one of my next door neighbors was a knucklehead who liked to bump his stereo in his driveway 30 feet from my front door for hours at a time. And I decided right away I was too old to deal with amateurs again. I checked with the cops in my city on landlord/tenant rules and found that they were virtually identical to those I was familiar with in Wisconsin. My neighbor has since moved out, but had he stayed I was ready for him.

Declare war on Crack--- and drive his behind out without lifting a finger to do more than write a letter and make some phone calls. In the mean time, let's give him this award and hope that somewhere deep down inside a sense of decency will be stirred up. And maybe a little old-fashioned shame will mellow him out.

And to end on a positive note, the winner of the Good Behavior Award goes to the woman walking her dog across the street on Young Circle in Hollywood Friday evening. While I sat at a red light, the woman's dog stopped in the middle of the intersection and did his business (of the solid variety). A lot of people would have left it there and kept walking. Middle of the street, right? Granted, she took a step as if to keep going, but then hesitated, turned, looked at the steaming pile, and walked over to a nearby row of shrubs where she found a plastic bag snagged on a branch. The woman then walked back to the crosswalk with the bag and cleaned up after her dog. Good for her... and for the shoes of anyone who walked in that crosswalk after her.

One More Chance

Sorry for my absence of the past two days folks. Had some family matters that don't qualify as blog fodder. Don't worry though, it was nothing that involved me actin' up or forgetting my Burnettiquette.

So tonight's the night when we announce our Weekly Behavior Award winners. If you have nominees for either the Biggest Bum or Good Behavior categories get 'em in. I've gotten a couple of nominations so far. I have plenty in mind, but am trying to share the wealth, so to speak. I'll be posting the winners later this evening. So you have till about 7 p.m. to get me your recommendations.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Time to get a hotel room

No worries. This post isn't about illicit activities or sneaking around. It's about where you stay when you visit friends or family out of town.

This is a constant topic of debate among my friends, especially those who are still single. And it came up again yesterday.

Here's a little background: If you're single, out of college or trade school or whatever, and are working and supporting yourself, there is a good chance you are living alone, unless you just can't afford it or you are close to settling down with a significant other.

Until I got married last fall that was me. I hadn't lived with another human being since the mid '90s in college. Even then I only had a roommate for two semesters of college. And I liked it that way. I maintained plenty of friends. We spent plenty of time together. But we had a rule when we were hanging out - at the end of the day/night go home. Sleeping over at your buddies' or if you're a woman, your girlfriends' homes all the time is a perfect example of a situation where familiarity can breed contempt.

It was a great rule and worked out well, but a funny thing happened. After a year or two of living alone and never having any overnight company my friends and I developed a "habit." Our solitary space became as necessary to us as three squares a day. It became so necessary that when I visited other friends out of town I always got hotel rooms. When I visited home I got a hotel room. Maybe that makes me a nut. But I figured I was most comfortable when I was in my own space and could walk around without even the slightest worry of breaking someone else's rules. If I let crumbs fall on the couch it was OK. My couch. If I wanted to stroll around in my boxers and stay up till 4 a.m. watching movies it was OK. My time, my movies.

Seriously, I couldn't have fathomed anyone but a really significant other seeing the sun rise in my apartment. Even the thought of overnight company was annoying. The one time I tried to make an exception was for a friend of a friend. A bunch of us guys gathered in Milwaukee (my old stomping grounds) for a bachelor party. I volunteered to be designated driver, which should give you a hint about how this story ends. Anyway, at the end of the night we found ourselves back downtown at my apartment. It's where everyone else had parked. One guy had caught a bus into town for the party, and even though he wasn't my friend he begged to just crash on my couch. I was reluctant, but my buddy who knew the guy said he was OK. So I allowed it. Worst mistake I ever could have made. The next two days of my life became a Seinfeld episode, because after this guy slept off his booze the next AFTERNOON, I couldn't get rid of him. I woke up early, went for coffee and a paper. I got home. He was still there. I showered, changed clothes and went to the gym. I came home. He was still there. I went to meet a friend for more coffee at a shop on Lake Michigan. I came home. He was still there. But now he was awake, stretched out on my couch, remote in hand, a pizza on my coffee table - he'd ordered delivery. We made small talk. He talked about how much he liked my apartment, a gratuitous compliment if I ever heard one, 'cause that place was nothing special. And I dropped hints about how nice it was to blow through town occasionally. He didn't get the hints and finally let me know that because it was so late in the day at this point he'd just crash on my couch one more night. Especially since I had HBO, he said. This all started on a Friday Night. I finally got Couchy McFreeloader to get back on the bus and out of town Sunday afternoon.

That experience drew laughs when I shared it with my guys later. But it raised the question, where do you stay when you visit family and friends?

Maybe I'm a hypocrite for this, but I don't mind extremely close friends staying with me. I actually enjoy when my best friends stay with me. If they don't mind being in my (and my wife's) insane world, having my ever-shedding dog trying to eat off their plates, and my occasional insomnia, that's fine by me. I just won't stay at their homes if I'm visiting their necks of the woods, because I know I'm incapable of being as comfortable in someone else's home as I am in my own. I can't stroll around in my boxers. If a belch slips out I'm worried about offending someone. If I can't sleep, I can't pace at someone else's home or sit up loudly pounding away on my laptop. That's not comfortable living in my book.

Unless my friends/fam have guest suites at their homes that will afford me the privacy of my home at the end of the night, I'm getting a hotel. I don't ever want to be that guy who commandeered my couch.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I'm not the authority

on good manners, civility, etiquette, etc., in case you thought I was. Kidding. I'd never assume that, but if you want to check out some other notions on the subject don't forget the excellent story on rudeness done last month by my Miami Herald colleague Martin Merzer. Here's the link:

BTW, some smart alleck asked what I do at the Herald to get paid other than update this blog. I write feature stories, many of which run in the Tropical Life section. I don't always think to plug my stories through this blog, 'cause I've never been great at shameless self-promotion - so so, but not great. But a couple of bosses told me to get over it and plug away.

Free Web access to those articles only lasts seven days from the posting of a story online at . If you want to see older articles online, sign up. It's a great deal. But only one piece I've done over the past couple of weeks is still available for free viewing - a Q&A from Monday's paper called Unbuttoned. It's a regularly weekly feature I do, in which I try to get behind the facades of interesting S. Florida characters with short, fast interviews. Here's that link: //

Next up for me, a story on a specialty nursing program at Florida International University. Should run Sunday. I'll provide a link when it does.


BTW, I'm still waiting for nominations for my Weekly Behavior Awards (categories are Good Behavior & Biggest Bum). If you know or know of someone or just observed a situation that warrants mention in either category, give us a reply with the related story. So far Manola ( has made the only nomination.

Six vs. Half-dozen?

That was the question, or at least part of the what's-the-difference question I asked earlier to the woman driving the blue Monte Carlo that hit the bumper of my truck on Biscayne Blvd. downtown.

I asked because after I felt the jolt and tried to get her to pull over so we could both stop and sort things out, she pulled alongside me and and answered my accusation of "You just hit me!" with "No, no, I didn't hit you. It's OK."

Of course, I insisted it wasn't OK. But she continued to deny. After about 30 seconds of back-and-forth, she - a grandmotherly type - began speaking a little more slowly (as if that would make me understand her denials better) and explained "Listen, I didn't hit you. I bumped you, because I was doing you a favor, trying to get out of your way."

Now even if I had just fallen off the yam wagon, I don't think I could've fallen for that explanation.

I never said she totaled my truck or even damaged it. I said she hit me - her car collided with mine, and I wanted her to acknowledge that and stop so we could make sure there wasn't damage.

She didn't stop. I got her plate # just in case, but it turned out there was no damage.

Still, in case I ever lose my mind, she gave me an idea for my criminal defense.
How do these sound?
  • Your honor, I didn't punch him. I caressed him with my fist!
  • Stab? No, that's too strong a word. I didn't stab anyone. I poked a few people with a sharp object.
  • And I would never slap those people! I just gave one-handed claps to the sides of their faces.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Non-Florida-Related Pantloads of the Day

New York, the Flavor of Love - Yes, I watched a couple of episodes. What? It was anthropological research - contestant, who was runner up in the show to win Flavor Flav's heart, and Pumkin, the contestant who spit in New York's face when she was eliminated.

In the reunion special moments ago, both women swore at each other like sailors. And New York confronted her nemesis and tried to pimp slap Pumkin with a back hand. C'mon New York. Clearly you've watched enough episodes of Springer to know a proper pimp hand is delivered palm forward.

Surely I don't need to explain the Burnettiquette violations, even the one that involves me admitting to watching this show.

Breaking News! Vinci is innocent!

It has been brought to my attention that I clowned the wrong 8th & Ocean model several posts ago.

If you recall I took jabs at the male model who bragged in the opening episode about seeing "anus everywhere," like the kid from the Sixth Sense saw dead people.

I speculated that maybe the model was having nightmares from his job at the friendly neighborhood proctology clinic. I wondered where else he might be hanging out - perhaps inside a toilet? - that he might have such a view everywhere and all the time. I opined it was bad Burnettiquette, or just crazy as that bad hot place (no, not Arizona). And I said I thought it was Vinci who spoke those weird words.

Well, a reader and someone I assume to be a fan of the show contacted me this morning and said it wasn't Vinci. I did a little more homework, and sure enough the reader was correct. Turns out it appears Adrian sees dead people, I mean anuses, everywhere.

So, my apologies Vinci. Carry on, carry on. And Adrian? Good luck with those visions, bro.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The First Weekly Behavior Awards

Starting tonight Good Behavior and Biggest Bum will be two regularly weekly awards given on the Burnettiquette show.

Why weekly? Because annual takes too long.

No trophies, and no acceptance speeches. Just the hope that the Good Behavior winner will feel by osmosis the gratitude of all of us who appreciate manners and good sense. And for the Biggest Bum? May he or she feel by osmosis the scorn and tsk tsks of all of us who don't think being a jerk is cool. And may that scorn feel so badly that it guilts them into being a little nicer.

Without further ado, the Good Behavior nod for the week of Mar. 27th goes to the two 20something guys sitting at a table near me in a downtown coffee shop listening to tunes. One of the guys had a newer cell phone that doubled as an MP-3 player and they were both getting a kick out of playing songs and sampling the phones other bells and whistles. It wasn't bothering me, 'cause at least there was some sort of flow to the noise, unlike the sporadic eardrum splitting rumble of the semis rolling by. Had it been a quieter setting in the first place, my opinion may have been different. Anyway, they were playing some randy tunes - tunes I admit I've bobbed my head to a few times - when a woman and small child walked up and sat at the table next to them. The more aware of the two guys saw their new neighbors and elbowed his friend who was engrossed in the phone. Phone guy looked up, immediately put two and two together and turned the phone off, giving his buddy a sheepish smile. Kudos to these guys for considering the feelings and the ears of the child.

The first Biggest Bum award for the same week goes to the knucklehead whose little SUV was stopped at the front of the cab cue at the Hollywood Amtrak/Tri-Rail station Friday evening around 7:30. Notice I say "stopped" at the head of the cue, not "parked." Imagine a row of taxis parked in a straight line, and imagine one rogue vehicle parked perpendicular to that line at the front, essentially blocking the row of cabs in. Imagine that cab cue being parallel to a very narrow one-way lane in which there's barely room for other cars to pass by. Now imagine the rear end of the rogue vehicle poking out and halfway blocking that parallel lane. So frustrated driver after frustrated driver weaves his way around the rogue car, trying not to hit any other vehicles. I'm in that growing line of frustrated vehicles. The driver I'm with has enough so he honks his horn at the rogue vehicle. In a perfect world, RV would have straightened out his truck so the other vehicles could pass more easily, or he would've pulled into a parking space and gotten out of the way altogether. Instead, with at least one kid sitting in his back seat he screams out a profanity-laced rant at my guy, gives him the finger, and asks "What's your problem?" Surely, this guy was the biggest bum I saw all week, as my wife said later, "what a moron."

That's it for the weekly awards folks. Don't be shy. If you have candidates for either category, leave a comment or send an email with 'em.

Peace and hair grease till tomorrow.