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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Whoa! I think I found my twin(s)?

They say we all have a twin out there. Somewhere on the other side of the planet is a man or woman who looks exactly like you.

Anyway, I've always believed that twin theory. So you can imagine my excitement when
Freddie posted a link to My Heritage, a Web site that, among other things, allows you to upload a photo of yourself and then does a face recognition scan of the picture and looks for matches among its collection of celebrity mugs.

It was both the funniest and most disturbing thing I've done online for a while.

Here I was thinking this program was gonna match me to Malcolm-Jamal Warner, better known as Theo Huxtable on the Cosby Show or Dennis Haysbert, AKA Pres. David Palmer on 24. I ain't that vain, but those are the guys strangers most often tell me I look like.

Instead, I swear, this thing matched my face scan to, among others, Mary Tyler Moore, David Schwimmer, Jason Biggs, Paulo Maldini, Shalom Harlow, and John Cleese.

So I tried a different photo, in case the first one was fuzzy or something. And the program matched the second photo with Beyonce, Jeff Bridges, John Cusack, Ray Romano, James Brown, and Helena Bonham Carter, among others.

Either that program's broken, or my folks have some 'splainin' to do.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

From the Dumb Dumb Files

"Caught red-handed" took on a whole new meaning today as my old paper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reported that National Basketball Association veteran Latrell Sprewell was questioned by Milwaukee police this morning for allegedly choking a woman with whom he was copulating on his yacht, Milwaukee's Best. The article suggests the neck hug was part of Spre's repertoire.

Let us pause for a moment, while I give my disclaimer: Sexual Assault is not funny. And in and of itself, neither is choking someone.

But if you're wondering about the whole "red-handed" thing, you should know that several years back Sprewell was suspended from the NBA for grabbing his then coach P.J. Carlesimo around the neck with both hands and choking the man. Bad Burnettiquette. I would never choke my editor if he pissed me off. We reporters learn early in our careers that asphyxiation is not the answer. If your editor bugs you, just talk about him behind his back.

So I closed my eyes to imagine I was the fly on the wall of Milwaukee's Best. And here's what I heard: "Hmmm. I have gained infamy for redefining 'choking' in the sporting world. And after having been deemed for the rest of my life Strangly McChoker, I think I will work that nickname - literally - into my romantic routine. No way that could come back and bite me in the can."

Let us hope that next week we don't hear about OJ getting into a knife fight.

Crying Wolf, Wolf, Wolf

So the TV weather guy just said it was going to be really hot tomorrow....So I'm planning on wearing one of the few winter jackets I brought here from Wisconsin.

Kidding, but man, could they have been any farther off with Ernesto?

As a still relatively new Floridian I had 20-plus gallons of water stashed, a camping stove, assorted MRE type supplies, flashlights, portable TV and radio, and enough batteries to operate a power plant. And I blistered my fingers getting my hurricane shutters closed.

And after all that hype, Ernesto turned out to be a punk, essentially a thunder storm. I was looking for some TV weather guys to be hanging onto trees, yelling to the cameras that the wind was very, very strong.

Next time I'm preparing for a "threatening" major storm by having a cold beverage, and sitting on my thumbs. It'll take less time than doing the well-prepared boy scout routine.

Monday, August 28, 2006

How many successes make you an expert?

That question is rhetorical, but I ask it 'cause I was talking to a buddy earlier on the phone about a mutual former friend and a con that former friend was involved in that landed him a boatload of money in a short period of time. But it also ultimately landed him in jail.

And my buddy made the offhand comment that our former friend had become a "criminal mastermind."

My response was to question two things: whether those two words - criminal and mastermind - are too contradictory, and whether one or two successes at something make you an expert.

This guy pulled his con a handful of times. I say he got lucky. If he was a mastermind he wouldn't have gotten caught so soon.

If you hit 21 in Blackjack two hands out of three, are you an expert or just lucky? If you pull off a flawless bank robbery once or twice, are you a master criminal or just lucky? Maybe it's something in between. Maybe you're just good, because you practiced.

But when I think criminal masterminds I think of people like John Gotti, and Robert De Niro AKA Neil McCauley and his crew in Heat. Gotti and McCauley were really good at their bad acts for a period of time...And then they died violent, untimely deaths - Gotti of disease in prison and McCauley in a shootout.

The only person even close to being a real criminal mastermind I can think of is Adam Worth. He actually lived to old age and died of relatively natural causes.

I honestly don't know how much time it should take for you to be considered an expert at something. But if you get snuffed out or locked up in the process you're no mastermind. You were just another stupid criminal whose luck ran out.

Weekly Behavior Awards R Back...Sort of

You may have noticed we haven't posted nominees for Biggest Bum or Best Behavior for a couple of weeks now.

It's not that there haven't been standout examples of great behavior and extreme jerkery (I know, my creation). But for a long time we got just one or two nominations here and there, often thanks only to the contributions of Bronchitikat and Og.

So when I got bogged down working on stories about South Florida's juvie homicide problem - still not done with that, BTW, got a few more stories coming from me - I figured it was as good a time as any to let the nominations build up for a bit.

And that's what we've done. However, I'm not prepared to post 'em all tonight. We're always writing about numbnuts and knuckleheads. I wanted the comeback of the WBAs to be about strictly good behavior.

So check out this story courtesy of our friend Kevin, of


Tonight I stopped in at the North Miami Target to pick up a few items. After filling my cart with far more than I needed, I headed to the lengthy checkout line. There were three groups in front of me, a single man, a young mother with a couple of girls, and -- in the lead position -- a slightly older woman with two young children. Her cart was filled with kids' clothes, including some for children younger than these accompanying her. When Guillermo, the checker, finished the sale, there was a problem with her credit card. She was obviously upset, but not angry, more panicked. After a subdued conversation with the checker, she sighed, took her children by the hand, and walked away. At this the young man in front of me stepped around to the checker, pulled out his Visa card, and told Guillermo to re-ring the woman's purchase and put it on his card. He explained that he wasn't a relative, he just wanted to help her out, and didn't want the woman to know he was doing it. Another Target employee ran to the door to bring the woman back. Since her merchandise was still being re-rung when she returned, there wasn't any graceful way to keep her from knowing who was helping her out, so her eyes widened with incredulity when Guillermo explained that the young man was paying for her purchase. As soon as his own purchase was completed, he just grabbed his bundles of diapers and headed out, leaving the stunned woman and her children at the register. The biggest shock, to me, was when I got to the register myself and asked Guillermo what happened. He explained that it isn't that uncommon for people to help out the person in front of them with some change, maybe even a dollar or two. This, however, was the first time he had ever seen a complete stranger pick up an entire $453 tab. I don't know if this is something you'd want to follow up on or not. I don't have the clout of a reporter, so I couldn't exactly ask for more details. All I can offer is what I picked up from observation. The gentleman was in his early to mid-thirties, around six feet tall, thin, wire-frame glasses, with sharp features and close-cropped black hair. He was wearing a white polo shirt embroidered with the PC USA logo. This whole thing happened around 7:20 Wednesday night. You know, this is the kind of thing that practically defines mitzvah . On a day when not much has gone right, this stranger's kindness to another person cleared the air. My apologies for the long letter, but I wanted to get the details to you before they slipped from my soon to be NyQuil addled brain. Thank you for your time, and for your writing."

I Generally Hate Do Overs....But

with a tropical storm/probable soon-to-be hurricane heading toward South Florida I feel compelled to rerun this recent post: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, a hurricane! The only difference is this storm's name is Ernesto this time, and he's expected in South Florida by late Tuesday/early Wednesday, not the weekend.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pluto, Goofy, and Dwarfs

My editor asked me Friday to put something together on what the astronomy world's demotion of Pluto might do to the astrology world. This resulting story ran on page of one of Saturday's Miami Herald. It's tongue in cheek, but I don't think it's disrespectful of those who subscribe to fortune telling. So read on and hopefully get a laugh.

BTW, I'm loathe to say this, but I must in the interest of ego. Read the link and you'll understand that the "phew" in paragraph two was not personal. It was for humorous dramatic effect only.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Whateva, I can do what I want!

Sorry, I had to channel Eric Cartman for a minute.

Let's put it out there: You really can do whatever you want...But expect consequences, like, ironically, losing the ability to do whatever you want.

I was perusing the news earlier and saw this story about transgender prison inmates who want the govt. to spend tax dollars - $10,000 to $20,000 the article says - on sex change surgery.

But till now most state prison systems have resisted this push and insisted it's not an inmate's right to have a sex change operation. Nor, they've opined, is it necessary surgery. Some transgender advocates would disagree. Right now one inmate in Boston is awaiting a federal judge's decision on whether or not the state should pay for sex change surgery. Before you email me about sensitivity and what not, you should know this inmate murdered his wife 13 years ago and is serving life for it.

So it occurred to me that this is not at all about appropriate and fair medical treatment for a diagnosable condition. This isn't even about your right to change your sex.

I mean if I could make you guys by way of Uncle Sam pay for it I'd have a sex change operation into a guy who knows everything there is to know about sex.

Seriously, if you can find a way to work it out I say change yourself into a potted plant if you want. I don't care.

But this is really about screwing up badly and forfeiting privileges, rights, and opportunities as a result of your screw up.

If, for example, freedom in general was important to me I wouldn't jeopardize it by committing criminal behavior and landing myself a stay in a gated community. Or it would be fair to assume I really didn't care that much about my freedom.

I like butter pecan ice cream. If I get myself locked up though, I'm entitled to food, not necessarily dessert or specialty foods.

And so, if the right to have my sex changed is really important to me, I'm not going to kill someone and get myself sent to a place that is know for severely limiting your "former" rights.

What's the old gambling slogan, "You pays your money, you takes your chance?"

Who cares what your sexual status is? You throw away your life by murdering someone in cold blood, you should be happy you have a place to sleep and fresh air to breathe for the rest of your miserable life.

Say it ain't so!

Just when we were all starting to think about maybe possibly learning to eventually get along - not in the Rodney "Please, don't burn down the city on my behalf!" King way, but in the "Hey, we look different, but we're all people" way - the evil TV gods had to go and muck things up.

If you haven't heard by now, the next season of Survivor, based on Aitukaki in the Cook Islands, will start the show with four teams divided by race.

No joke. The teams will be Asian folks vs. black folks vs. Hispanic folks vs. white folks. (That's alphabetical order, so I don't want anyone griping about the listed order of their people!)

With $1 million at stake, CBS is essentially conducting a social experiment to see which race is hungrier for the money.

Don't they know that where money is involved no one will get along based on appearance?

Mark my words, in spite of CBS' best efforts people will cross the racial lines of their teams to conspire with different-colored folks on other teams to ensure their "survival" to the end of the game.

And what will that prove? That under the top layer of skin, we are all green...At least I admit I am, anyway.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pornflakes and other subliminal messages

I don't actually have any Pornflakes, but if I were trying to secretly woo the impressionable to a collection of dirty pictures I might do it under the guise of a fun breakfast cereal...with dirty pictures inside. And I'd justify it by saying that the pictures might not be the worst thing in the box. Maybe the sugar and other "processing" chemicals are worse.

See how a twisted mind works? Good, 'cause this is where I make a hypocrite out of myself.

This morning I saw a news report about British authorities banning smoking scenes from popular cartoons.

And I have to confess their argument that smoking was being made attractive under the guise of a cutesy cartoon made me angry.

We all know what smoking can do to your health - make you sick, kill you, yadda, yadda. But I want to see some evidence that Tom or Jerry taking the occasional drag has made large numbers of kids start smoking.

With the climate of criminal violence we live in today I'm more worried about my neighbor's kid adopting some other cartoon behavior and beating my brains out with a baseball bat, convinced all the while I have nine lives and will get up and shake it off.

Watching the cat and the mouse smoke when I was a kid never made me want to smoke. But watching Wile E. Coyote try to slaughter the Road Runner did make me wonder if dropping an anvil on my sister's head was feasible.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Definitely Bad Burnettiquette

So I was perusing the news earlier and saw that someone in an Arizona theater last night watching Snakes on a Plane decided to prank the rest of the folks by releasing two baby diamondback rattler snakes into the audience.

I don't believe I have any particular snake phobia, but, of course, I haven't tested that theory either.

Still, I can already imagine what I'd say to the judge at my arraignment: "I'm sorry your honor. I thought this was justifiable homicide, because of his temporary insanity."

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Public Service Announcement by request

I received an email asking that I post a note encouraging guys who have man breasts to immediately cease wearing see-through t-shirts, particularly those thin-fabric ribbed tanks, commonly known as wife beaters.

As this (man breast) is something I am not a fan of, I had no problem posting this request.

So here you are.

More on Indy

OK, in case there are any doubts, I was not condemning the entire state of Indiana in my last blog posting. Nor was I condemning the entire city of Indianapolis. I was only condemning the consistently poor service my friends and I got in downtown Indy during our stay last week.

I know or know of plenty of good people from Indiana, including a few I've sarted getting to know in the Blogosphere.

Still, Terry really did save the day.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Terry Saves the Day

So I just got back to SoFla this afternoon from Indianapolis where I spent the past five days at the annual convention for the National Association of Black Journalists. And I'm exhausted.

But that's a good thing.

See, when I arrived early in the week I immediately began to encounter rude people. The folks were great at the Indy Motor Speedway, where the convention held an opening night reception. Otherwise, everyone with a service job my guys (roommates and co-hosts of a blogging seminar) and I encountered was snarky. One day it was the concierge at the Hyatt Regency downtown - actually on several days it was the concierge. Other days it was a bartender or waitress. When we got service at all it was given grudgingly and with attitude. The only redeeming quality to that hotel was the collective friendliness and attentive service of the wait staff at Porch, a hotel restaurant.

It was a shame, 'cause the 'tudes were contrary to the beauty of downtown Indy. It really is a nice looking downtown.

So my guys and I got increasingly discouraged. And by Saturday evening, as we sat inside the Rock Bottom Brewery waiting for our dinner, we were pretty salty and saying pouty things like "Can't wait to get out of here," and "I'll never come back to Indianapolis, bunch o' jerks." You get the picture.

But then we met Terry. Actually we saw him first. In order to save time we sat and ate at the bar, and we noticed Terry sipping an ornate stein and leaning against the corner of the bar a few feet from us. He was watching Venezuela (and I think Japan) play a Little League World Series game on a nearby TV, and every few minutes he would smile or chuckle at something we said.

Finally, my guy Steve, who is the most outgoing person on earth, made eye contact with Terry. And the two of them sized each other up. A few seconds later, Steve, as is his style, stands up reaches across me, extends his hand to Terry, and said "How's it goin', homie? I'm Steve."

Terry took Steve's hand, smiled back, and introduced himself. He then extended his hand to my other guy, Andrew, and me.

Terry began to chat us up and confessed he'd heard bits and pieces of our conversation. So he insisted that we accept his apology on behalf of the knuckleheads we'd met in Indy.

He told us he sold mechanical equipment, and we told him we were reporters - me at the Miami Herald, Andrew at the Houston Chronicle, and Steve at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

We all talked for about 40 minutes, getting to know each other, debating politics and engaging in all the usual pub chat.

We talked about the different seminars and workshops at the convention, including the panel discussion with the reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton about the state of black leadership in this country. And we talked about how we couldn't figure out who had designated that pair leaders, 'cause we certainly hadn't gotten the memo announcing their elections to, well, anything.

When we got bored with the place and decided to leave the three of us put our heads together and agreed we should invite Terry to come along. He was thrilled and over the course of the next several hours showed us some of the best downtown Indy has to offer, including Nicky Blaine's, the absolute best cigar lounge I've ever seen.

Terry wasn't a politician, but for his salvaging of our unhappy time we designated him the "Other Mayor" of Indianapolis.

He was truly a goodwill ambassador and compelled us to re-evaluate the judgement we'd passed on his city.

You're lucky, Indy. If not for Terry, this blog posting would have ended much differently.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Leaving Indy

Sorry about the lack of posting this week, folks. Been tied up from morning till evening each day at this journalism convention.

Things went well, and I moderated what I'm told was a successful workshop/panel discussion on blogging and its convergence w/mainstream news delivery.

Heading back to SoFla in the morning. And I'll post the Weekly Behavior Award nominations tomorrow evening.

Till then, peace and hair grease.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Random Tidbits from Indy

  • Gotta give props to the good folks of Indianapolis. The downtown, which I have not seen in about five years, is well-stocked with nice retail stores, eateries, boozeries, etc. It's very clean. Too clean. Almost sterile, one of my colleagues pointed out. But it's a welcome change to be able to pause on a street corner, look at a map, and not worry that someone who saw you looking at that map is gonna assume you're a slack-jawed tourist who just fell off the back of the yam wagon and try to beat your brains out.
  • I'm a fan of Hyatt hotels (sorry Hyatt, but I'm a bigger fan of Marriott spots, since I've got a stack of frequent visitor points with them). But I'm not a fan of Hyatt's Internet access policies. My roommates and I each brought our laptops 'cause we each have work to keep up with while we're here. Well, when I signed up for I-service to "our room" no one at the front desk mentioned that the I-service was restricted to my computer only. My roomies tried to log later from their machines and were told the access I'd purchased was for my computer only, not the room, and they'd have to purchase separate access. Boooooooo, Hisssssssss, Hyatt!
  • Made a visit to the Indy Motor Speedway earlier in the evening, and I have to admit it was a very cool place and a cool experience. Prior to the visit, which was for an opening night reception for the convention I'm attending this week, I have to confess I'd never have voluntarily gone to a race track. But after seeing and feeling the place, I think I'd go to check it out during a race. I took a few pictures while standing on the track. Curiously, I saw another convention attendee kneel down and kiss the bricks that beat a path across across the track and the pit lane to the bleachers. I know the whole story about the history of the "brick yard." But I thought only the Pope kisses the ground when he visits a new place.

Anyway, back to "work."

I'll post more later in the week.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Short Day

Before I forget, I'm not sure if some of you got that I was being a little tongue in cheek with the chores post. Just kidding! I don't do 'em all well or quickly. But I do my chores.

Anyway, I'll just be posting this one time today. I have a flight to catch in a couple of hours and I still have to pack.

And I have no gripes today except for my own shortcomings. But enough cryptic scribble.

Until I post again tomorrow from Indianapolis, where I'll be spending the rest of the week, here's my latest article for your reading pleasure. It ran today on page one of the Miami Herald. I have to warn you though, it's not a cheery topic.

Monday, August 14, 2006


First, you'll notice we posted no Weekly Behavior Award winners this week. What can I say? We got no nominations. Actually, we got one at the start of last week - the piglet dude for Biggest Bum. But that one was a given and not worth a formal nomination.

So onto chores. Maybe I'm slow - 'cause it's taken me one year of marriage to figure this out - but there is a chore double standard, and I don't like it.

It finally dawned on me this weekend that there are guy-specific chores, and gender-neutral chores. But there are not so many her-only chores. That's not to say that she does not handle more domestic duties than me. But at any time I can be called up to active duty on any of those things. The draft, as it were, does not work in reverse.

I, for example, must mow the lawn. It's something guys do. If my wife asks or insists that the lawn be mowed, I know without question that it is my job.

If, however, we finish a meal and dirty dishes need cleaning I had better not say "Dishes? I'm not doing those. That's your job!" That would be chauvenistic of me.

Car washing? When it needs to be done, it's MY job.

Tidying up the house, like straightening flower arrangements and putting away or recycling loose paper? That's OUR job.

Entertaining the cute little kitten while she plays, so she doesn't tear up the house? OUR job.

Getting up in the middle of the night and at the butt crack of dawn to let the dog outside? MY job.

For some reason I feel wronged. But I don't think N.O.W. is gonna return my calls.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Head start

It's a lazy Saturday afternoon folks, and I only have two gripes today: the usual bad drivers, and the wave of too-chunky people in thongs at the beach this morning.

So use this time to try to get in some nominations for the Weekly Behavior Awards in before tomorrow night.

If you don't know this blog, the WBAs are given out every Sunday night (occasionally Monday morning). I try on Friday and Saturday afternoons to call for nominations for Biggest Bum or Best Behavior.

If over the past week or so you've observed remarkably good, kind, civil, behavior in public then nominate that person for the Best Behavior award. If in that same period you've observed inconsiderate, mean, uncivil, or downright triflin' behavior in public then nominate that person for Biggest Bum.

We'll post the nominations for all to read Sunday night.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Breaking up with friends

When it comes to friendships, I've always subscribed to the Seinfeldish philosophy that you can actually have too many. Remember the episode of Seinfeld where the pool guy at Jerry's gym tries to work his way into Jerry's circle, but Jerry rebuffs the guy 'cause he has no open slots for friends? I sort of think that friendships require a lot of time and commitment so they shouldn't be entered into lightly. And if you take on too many people, then you risk stretching yourself too thin and not giving adequate time or attention to anyone.

So when a real friendship and not an acquaintanceship falls apart, separating can be like parting ways with a romantic interest. It can be tough.

This all comes to mind 'cause I got this message from Anonymous-SP, who lives in my old stomping grounds, Milwaukee: "A friend of my girlfriend's is Psycho. Not just a bit crazy or too loud after tequila, but freakin' nuts. She creeps whole bars full of people out and due to her behavior, ends up moving to a new city every 2 years or less. Both me and my girl thought, initially, that she was just a bit odd but generally nice. We were wrong. During her first few months here in Milwaukee, she dated a guy we'll call Dude. After about two months of dating and another two of him trying to get it through her head that there was no "he and she," (I actually heard Dude tell her "You are not the one" one evening at a local watering hole), she got the picture and realized they are no longer an item.It's been months since she made the realization but still stalks Dude. Follows him from bar to bar to bar at night. This all came to a head over the past weekend. She stalked him from bar to bar again. This time he was on the lady-hunt and snagged the attention of an attractive blond. While we were all sitting at the Nomad (you remember the Nomad, James), Psycho was sitting by herself and her ex-dude and his new blond interest were sharing a chair. Then, outta no where, she shoves them both over and off the patio area. Both hit their heads and spill their drinks. But wait, it gets better. Dude and the blond then decide they have put up with enough and leave. Dude goes to blond's house. He proceeds to get 40 calls and VMs from Psycho throughout the night. Next day, Dude left blondie's house and went home the next morning, and who does he find sitting on his back porch, still drinking and now crying, at 10:30 a.m.? Yup, it's Psycho. For good reason, this freaked Dude out. He's now talking restraining order and we agree that might be in his best interest. (Sorry for the whole story)So, my question to you is: How do we (her former, now-frightened friends) let this lady know that we no longer want to ever hang out or be friends anymore? She clearly isn't good at taking such hints. How do you break up with a friend?"

Well, first, since I know who you are SP - I have to say ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Only you could find a soap opera of this making in Brew City.

Sorry, had to get that out of my system.

Now second, I'd hide my bunnies, kittens, puppies, and all other pets that aren't large enough to defend themselves against this woman and the pot of water she will inevitably boil.

Third, I'd consider a restraining order for myself if I were you...and your girl.

Fourth, I'd sit the offender down in a completely sober state and tell it to her straight. I'd tell her something to the effect of "Listen, this friendship is not going to work out. Frankly, your behavior frightens us, and no true friendship can be stable if it's built on fear, unless, of course, the friends are a pimp and his prostitute. Your behavior not only frightens us, but it's causing tension in our extended circle of friends, and it's not fair that we risk losing our other friends because they don't want to be around you either."

Finally, if you don't want her to sneak over and kill you in your sleep after the breakup, I'd finish it with something like this: "I know this sounds tough, but right now you need to dote on yourself, and spend all your time and attention on you, not friends, not other people. Get some counseling and get things together. Right now it's not a good time for us to be friends, but who knows? Maybe down the line things will be different."

That way you give her a little hope that all is not completely lost and she won't project all her anger onto you guys for initiating the breakup.

Of course, my disclaimer is I'm no pro head shrinker. So in case I'm totally wrong you might want to go ahead and get that restraining order.

What do the rest of you guys think?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The trouble with assumptions

So this is my last word on a run-in a couple of us had earlier this week in this, my Web house, with a man who seemed hell bent on making broad generalizations about entire cultural groups and lambasting me for not fitting his molds of what a black man, a blogger, and a reporter should be.

Consider this an open letter of sorts.

John - that's the name you identified yourself with last evening, you messaged me then to say with a hearty "LOL" that I hadn't proven your comments were offensive and that in so many words you were just being light-hearted with your "piglet" routine.

I find it ironic that a person who questioned my "blackness," the caliber of my wife, and my commitment or friendliness to other black people, would then wrap up his comments by saying "In fact im proud that an African American has a blog at the Herald. Im sure you worked hard, and have endured many sacrifices to get where you are. I will not contribute to the hurdles which are sure to face in Miami."

Dude, you got one thing right: that I have worked hard. Otherwise, your comments generally sum up where you went wrong. Condescension is the wrong tact with me. You don't know me! And don't send me a predictable response that I don't know you either. You're right. I only know the image you portrayed of yourself through your crude words.

I knew cats like you - or the you that was portrayed through your comments - back in the day. I didn't walk, talk, look, or breathe the way they thought I should, so they challenged my being. Half of those dudes are now turning figurative tricks for a living 'cause they were so busy back then trying to fit stereotypes that they never fully developed and came into their own.

Let me tell you a little story about people not being who you think they should. When I was in college, I wrote for the campus paper. Unlike most of my colleagues though, that gig wasn't helping stock my shelves with Ramen noodles. I paid all my bills and fed myself w/a full-time job as a machinist on a nearby U.S. Naval base. The newspaper job was just a way for me to try to be a bit of a regular student, stay connected for a few hours a week with what was happening on my campus, and gain a little experience in news writing.

Fall of '97 we had an annual music fest on campus, in which a few pop groups came through and performed in our dust-gathering football stadium. The performers were R&B group SWV, pop boys 98 Degrees, rockers Foo Fighters, and I think Talk Show, the spinoff group from Stone Temple Pilots.

Anyway, I wrote a review of the performances and appearances, and I panned SWV. I felt they were lackluster and even rude in a couple of instances.

When that issue of the paper came out a couple of days later, "leaders" of the Black Student Union blew up. They accused me of being anti-black because I had criticized a black singing group. They threatened sit-ins at the school paper, boycotts of the paper, and demanded "talks" to figure out how to get more of the type of news they wanted into the paper. The talks were fine. You want things to change, talk out a plan and get it implemented. The rest was bogus though.

So for days afterward I dealt with a firestorm of angry comments and glares from students of all stripes who lived in a bubble of classrooms, dorm life, and campus activities. Much of their social interaction was limited to each other.

When I couldn't take the repetitive chatter anymore I responded with a column about what they did not know. Those same students who told me I wasn't black enough - know where they were nearly every Thursday night throughout the bulk of my junior year? Hanging out around the community TV in the student union building watching sitcoms. Know where I was those same evenings, like clockwork? Counseling juvie inmates in the local city jail - most of them black inmates.

Saturday mornings when my critics were sleeping in, I was on my way cross town from my apartment to be by my father's side (he's a retired military vet and a minister) picking up garbage on the streets of our city's poorest 'hood - a black hood, visiting with residents who were trying to hold their neighborhood together, and helping him take supplies to the sick and elderly - black folks - in that 'hood.

When the critics were griping about how tough their 12-hour-per-week jobs in the campus bookstore or cafeteria or answering phones in some professor's office were, I was spending 50 hours a week in a machine shop with guys who hated me for being young, black, and in college, and proudly told me so on a near daily basis.

Weekday afternoons when my critics were chillin', shootin' the breeze after they'd concluded the bulk of their classes I was tutoring kids - mostly black - at schools near our campus, when I should have been home asleep 'cause the graveyard shift in that machine shop was no fun.

After that column ran, calls from the BSU for protests of the paper and sit-ins ceased immediately. To their credit, several of the leaders of the group came to me and apologized. I didn't need an apology, but it showed class on their part. And to the letter, do you know what each said? "We didn't know," as in we made assumptions about who you were...and who you weren't.

Bottom line, as the kids like to say, they couldn't "fade me," and you can't either dude.

You think you're encouraging me by saying you're proud an African American is blogging for the Herald?

Save your pride and your pity. Blogs are free to any schmuck with a computer and Web access. I didn't sacrifice anything but cold weather to get to the Herald. Hate to bust your image of the woeful black man who, like That Girl, made it after all. But I got here because I'm good at what I do for a living. That plot might make for a good CBS Sunday afternoon movie, but you couldn't begin to know how far off you are about me.

Seriously, you think you know me and who I should be? Don't feel bad. You're not the first to have no idea.

That's all for me folks. I'm trading this soap box for a bed and going back to sleep.

Till next time, peace and hair grease, and don't make an ass out of u and mption.

PS. BTW John, the only hurdles I've faced in Miami are over-priced real estate, really bad drivers, and (my rapidly developing) road rage. The rest is pretty much the same as anywhere else I've been on this planet, ethnic and cultural differences notwithstanding.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Had to do it

Folks, I've turned on comment moderation. If you don't know what that is, it means that whenever you leave a comment on my blog now you'll see a little pop-up note that says I have to approve it before it gets posted. It won't require any extra work on your part. It'll just require more vigilance and more frequent reading of the comments on my part.

No worries. I won't start blocking disagreeable comments and only allowing those that agree with me. I will, however, block comments that are mean-spirited with no purpose, spiteful with no purpose, or racist - in other words, comments that serve no purpose to further the conversation.

But the fact that a knuckle-dragging mouth breather taunted me into wasting a good chunk of time responding to his/her bone-headed comments this afternoon and evening compels me to put a check & balance system in place.

I didn't mind when he/she was saying stupid things to me. I actually thought it was a little funny in a sad sort of way. I have visions of a lonely old dude in a one-room efficiency under a single low watt light bulb, surfing the Web through a 14K modem on his Tandy, plotting clever comebacks to post to my blog - no doubt a half empty bottle of peach schnapps sitting nearby on his card table. But then this person reached out to another person who commented on my blog and with a goofy message. It may look like a simple flirty comment, but this person's temperament in earlier comments suggests it'll just lead to more tacky words. And I don't want another blogger getting hassled by a numbnut who found them through my blog.

Clearly this person needs help. And if I could I'd send over a social worker to make sure his/her shoes are tied and that he/she is wearing a crash helmet, eating fresh food, and looking both ways before crossing the street.

But alas, I don't know where to tell the social worker to look.

You know who you are. And you crossed the line from simply distasteful and rude to downright creepy when you tried to be lewd with a friend and regular reader of this blog.

And so the rest of you - especially those who tend to disagree with me - know that I'm not exaggerating the idiocy on display I've left up a couple of this person's comments. What better than his own words to give people a peek inside that head?

So as my uncle Will would say, out-of-line-commenter-who-fancies-yourself-a-barnyard-animal, you don't have to go home, but you have to get the H out of here!

Peace and hair grease.

For the Guys (Meaning Ladies We Need Your Comments Too)

A buddy emailed me this afternoon about a first date he'll be going on this Friday.

He doesn't date often and is a little shy in the conversation arena, unless his date wants to talk about hard drives and RAM and sci-fi flicks and D&D.

But he's my guy, so I love him like a brother and want this date to go well for him.

As he tries to prepare himself mentally, he is curious about one thing. And I pass his question on to you:

During a first date, if a woman asks a guy to tell her about his most recent dates or his last girlfriend, how much or how little should he say?

I told my guy to keep it simple. Tell her the last date or two was nice or wasn't nice. And if she asks for more, just tell her he clicked with or just had different interests than those last dates. And if the question is about the last girlfriend, definitely don't say too much. Just tell her things didn't work out 'cause your lives were on diverging paths. Do not give her specifics like "My ex thought I slept too late in the mornings," or "she hated that I only shower twice a week" or "she thought me being a felon was a deal breaker."

I'm joking about the felon thing. But seriously, I say never reveal your flaws to your potential new love. I don't mean to suggest you should be deceptive. But what if you click better with the new person than you did with the last? Those personal flaws that plagued your last relationship may not even come to a boil in the new one. Maybe you'll be so inspired by the new person that you won't engage in your bad habits. So don't shoot yourself in the foot by being too self- deprecating.

But as always, my disclaimer is I could be wrong.

What say you?

The Handshake

How many people have observed guys give each other that handshake?

Can I get a show of hands? Kidding.

You know what I mean by that handshake though - not the standard, traditional firm grip with one or two shakes. I'm talking the light slap of palms, the gladiator grip, and the ending with a flourish, maybe a finger snap or two.

Back in the day they called it "dap." And I once wrote on another blog in another life that "Dap is that coolest of handshakes. It's the urban greeting that says 'I could just grip your hand squeeze and shake twice, but you and I have an understanding, so I am going to throw some 'English' on this handshake and jazz it up a little, as a sign of our friendship and mutual respect." That's right. That handshake.

I ask about that handshake, because last week on the way from the newsroom to the cafeteria, I bumped into a guy on the escalator who I see from time to time. Usually it's on the way downstairs or on the way up, and usually we either stand in silence or chat about weather, sports, etc. But I don't know the guy. I don't even know his first name. We're not close.

So when he tried to give me dap on the escalator I wasn't comfortable with it.

Laugh if you want. I know it's not like a guy trying to kiss a girl he just met. But dap is a personal handshake, not to be traded without forethought.

And to give dap to just anyone is a violation of the Cowboy Code, which says dap is reserved for your closest of buddies or those guys who may not be buddies but who have earned your utmost respect. If you come across a guy you don't know well or at all, then a standard, traditional grip and two shakes will suffice.

When I countered escalator guy's dap jab and parried with a traditional handshake, he got exasperated and shuffled off mumbling.

Seriously, a handshake is no big deal. It's a friendly gesture. But offering up that handshake to a guy is almost as presumptuous as trying to kiss a girl before you've even asked her out.

A little history

Yes, waaaaaay back in the day that handshake was a black thing. There, I said it.

It was one of those ways that black men who felt all alone while trying to integrate themselves into predominantly white workplaces and social settings, and society in general, had to bond, to establish a camaraderie. In a crowd of white people in the 1950s, for example, two black men who spotted each other might have exchanged that handshake. But even then it was never so much about separating oneself from the group. Rather it was a way for two men of similar backgrounds and experiences to silently say "I don't necessarily know you, but I'll bet we have similar experiences. And therefore I understand you." It was a comforting gesture.

But then things changed in popular culture. Through the 1970s and into the '80s it became more acceptable to not just observe and/or admire another group's mannerisms. It became OK to engage in whatever interested you - activities and interests that had been deemed specifically "white" or "black" became fair game for whoever wanted to try 'em.

At that point race was no longer of major importance with that handshake. It became more about guys of all stripes silently saying "We're cool with one another. We're close friends. We're at least close enough that we share mutual respect."

So back to escalator guy. I don't dislike him. I don't lack respect for him. I just don't know him. And until I do, he gets a firm grip and two shakes, but no dap.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Weekly Behavior Awards

OK, you guys just don't like me anymore. It's just me and Bronchitikat this week.

As usual, our friend from across the pond has attracted goodness like honey draws bees.

B's nod for Best Behavior: "Gotta nominate the white haired guy who, on seeing me trip up the kerb & land heavily on the pavement (clutz!), stopped his car & crossed the road to come & check that I was ok. He offered to help me up (no, thanks, I'd rather just sit & collect myself for a few minutes) & told me about the walk-in treatment centre just round the corner if I needed it (I didn't).On my assuring him I was ok, & thanks very much for bothering to check, he crossed back over, got back into his car & drove off. There are gentlemen out there! Yay! I now have grazed right elbow & knee & left ankle, oh, & the odd stiff bit where I landed!"

And my nomination for Bum(s) of the Week: The triflin' people who forced the management at my storage facility to issue moving carts like library books. I'll explain. Many of you know the wife and I have just been in Florida since the end of '05. And in typical South Florida fashion we have been moving reeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaally slooooooooooooooooooooooowly in getting certain things about our household set up. Don't get me wrong. My wife's a great organizer, and she essentially oversaw the renovation and set up of our house. But she and I both had a closet worth of stuff we couldn't seem to fit into the house and we weren't willing to give up - like winter clothes we might need again some day, and some of her teaching supplies. So we found one of those pay-by-the-month storage places a few blocks from our house and signed up. In the months after we first signed up I'd drive up to the place, unload a few things, grab a cart from just inside the door and lug my stuff upstairs. Well, lately I've been noticing that the carts were all gone when I arrived. I assumed it was just 'cause other customers had 'em. Turns out I was sort of right. I asked the manager where the carts were, and he said from now on I had to come to the front counter, leave my driver's license, and sign one out. I asked why. He said, because other customers were using the carts to move their stuff in or out of storage lockers and then stealing the carts. How much of a punk do you have to be to steal one of those flatbed moving carts? Why don't you just steal a grocery cart while you're at it?

It's a new work week tomorrow, folks, and we have some good stuff on deck for you. Coming Monday morning: the secret handshake.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Just one of those weekends

Now why did all the nut balls have to go and behave this weekend?

Odd as it may sound I have not observed any outlandish behavior over the past couple of days. What can I tell you? It's bizarro world.

So I will be relying on you all to provide colorful tales in regard to the Weekly Behavior Awards.

We will review those tales and post 'em some time Sunday evening.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Good Deeds

For every cynic out there like me, we need three Fredrick Cromitys.

Before an hour ago, I didn't even know Cromity existed, but as I approached a cash register inside a Burger King a few blocks from the Miami Herald building Cromity walked up, excused himself and asked a colleague and me if we'd mind him cutting just so he could hand some money to the cashier. We said sure. Cromity stepped forward, handed her a buck and change and said "It's for a burger, I think a Whopper Jr., for the homeless guy back there in the corner."

Then he thanked us, stepped out of line, turned and gestured to the homeless man to come forward. The smiling homeless guy walked to the counter, took the receipt from Cromity, and waited for his burger. Cromity didn't say another word. He just walked back to the table where his young son was eating and playing a video game.

Before father and son left the fast foodery(yes, I made this word up) maybe 20 minutes later, Cromity went back to the cash register twice more to buy burgers for a couple of other homeless guys.

What can I tell you? His generosity made me curious, and I am a reporter. So I stopped Cromity and introduced myself. It turns out he's a pastor and a communication & broadcast arts educator at Hallandale High School.

I asked why he fed all the homeless guys in the burger joint, and Cromity didn't have a flowery speech prepared. He thought about it for a second, then answered he was "just trying to help."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, a hurricane!

Kidding. No hurricane yet. But according to every broadcast TV channel in the Southeast and every cable and satellite news channel in the continental United States a storm is coming our way.

His name is Chris and he could be touching South Florida by the weekend. Right now he's still a tropical storm. But it appears soon he'll be a hurricane.

So come Saturday or Sunday if you see your neighbors running around like chickens w/their heads cut off, and the trees nearby start bending to one side and all the pets crawl under your house or apartment building and all the birds (even the frickin' penguins and emus) fly away, then you should probably go buy a flashlight and some batteries, and water - several gallons of it. And if you only have enough cash for a carton of cigs or a water and light? Well, I'll leave that one up to you. And on the serious tip, if you don't have cash for water, then scrub your bathtub, rinse it out thoroughly, put the stopper in it and fill it up with water. And if things look even worse outside, be the storm whisperer and screw the water and light. Take your few bucks and jump on the first train out of town and don't look back till after the storm.

And for love of good sense, do not wait for FEMA.

So if you are prone to ignore these type warnings, pay attention to this one, 'cause if you live in my 'hood and you act like you don't care before the storm don't come knockin' on my door asking for a bottle of water or a spare light. Like Elaine and her sponges, and come to think of it her toilet paper, I won't have one square to spare.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Still a hypocrite

If you've been reading this blog for a while then you know that occasionally I have to admit that I am a hypocrite.

Well, I got busted at it again today, except this time it had nothing to do with cell phones (click the link above to understand).

Today I was a music hypocrite. And I know I'm not alone. Tell me - if you're 30 or older and reasonably sane and reasonably responsible - that you have never gotten annoyed when you see a younger person rocking out to too-loud music with naughty lyrics.

I know some of you have. I don't care what the musical genre - rock, rap, country, whatever.

For me it tends to be rap/hip-hop. Nothing annoys me more than seeing a car full of teens roll past my house or pull up next to me at a traffic signal bumping window-shattering bass. The funny thing is they're usually playing songs that I know, songs that I have listened to as well.

So today I was driving up Biscayne Boulevard - a major north/south corridor to those of you who don't live in South Florida - and though it probably makes me a dork to admit it I was bobbing my head to songs from The Chronic, rapper/producer Dr. Dre's first big album from back in the day. Just as I pulled up to a light with my windows down to catch a little fresh air and breeze - sometimes you need that, instead of AC - I was singing along "Ain't nothin' but a G thang baaaaybeee, two loc'd out (naughty words) going craaaaaazy....fallin' back on that a$$ with a hellified gangsta lean, gettin' funky on the mike like an old batch of collard greens!"

Then I felt eyes on me. I looked up and to my left, and two elderly women who also had their windows down were looking at me with those disapproving half smirks that only grandmothers can pull off effectively.

It worked. I nearly choked on my words, and if I could've turned beet red right then I assure you I would have. I immediately smiled that silent apology, turned my stereo down and roled up my windows and cranked the AC. And I sat, gripping the steering wheel and staring straight ahead till the light turned green. To be fair to me, I know that my stereo was not really cranked up too loudly, but I'm pretty sure those women heard my recitation.

So back to the hypocrisy. I really do hate it when I see teens doing the same thing. You can call me a crotchety old-before-his-time man if you want. But the way I justify it is by telling myself that more people in my generation know that music is just entertainment than in the younger generation. I know, for example, that after listening to "Nuthin' but a G Thang" I will not feel inspired to become a thug or gang banger. I just know better. So I don't mind me or guys my age listening. I just fear that some of these kids take certain tunes as guidelines for life. That's a scary thought.

I spent part of Monday hanging out with the rapper/actor Ludacris for a story I wrote about him in today's Miami Herald. And when I got back to the newsroom to write the article I did a little Web surfing to see what fans were saying about him, and I found the following short story on a fan site written about parents who listen to tunes they keep from their kids.

I don't have kids of my own to protect like the guy in the article, but the writer sums up my sentiments perfectly; just substitute your favorite style of music for hip-hop:
"When his son, Clayton, is asleep, Mtu Pugh steps into his home office, pops in a CD and becomes a hip-hop headbanger, bobbing to the infectious beats and profane rhymes of rappers such as Eminem, Ludacris and 50 Cent.
But when Clayton is awake, Pugh keeps the discs hidden on a bookcase, behind a child-proof lock. Never mind that the child is just 14 months old.
"The last thing I would want is to have him sitting here as an infant soaking up [music] that plants something that really is only appropriate to be picked up later in life," said Pugh's wife, Lisa Givens, 33. "I'm on the very conservative end."
Perhaps, but she is squarely in the middle of a generation putting an old set of questions to a new beat. In the 30 years since the birth of hip-hop, the children of the 1980s who fell in love with the music have become parents faced with a dilemma:
How do they share rap music with their children, when so much of it today is laced with tales of sex, drugs and violence?
Popular-culture experts describe it as a case of generational deja vu--hip-hop parents find themselves mimicking their counterparts of the 1920s and 1950s, who were appalled by the racy sounds and moves of jazz and then rock 'n' roll.
Unlike previous generations of pop culture gatekeepers, however, many of the parents worried about rap's effects on their children still love the music."

Breaking (Funny) Bad News

A friend emailed me about her cousin having a bad date experience.

The cousin went out with a guy, who mauled her at the conclusion of the date. Not literally. I don't believe he scratched her up and bit her, though that may have been a better ending.

Instead he tried to kiss her. Well, he didn't try. He succeeded, but according to my friend that would depend on your definition of a kiss. If it includes slathering saliva on the other person's face, as your out of control lips and tongue do a tango, then he hit a home run, she says her cousin told her.

Her question: Her cousin liked the guy up until that point and most certainly would not have minded a smooch had he delivered a good one. But the bad kiss was a turnoff. So what should she (the cousin) do?

I'm no Ann Landers (thank you very much, Big Daddy). But I say if she dug the guy that much, teach him the right way, the way that doesn't include leaving slobber all over the other person's face. So next time he tries - assuming he gets a next time, guide him through the process. Guys, women tend to be better at these things than us, anyway. On the other hand, if the botched kiss was that much of a turnoff decline a second date, citing incompatibility, leave it at that and move on. A third option, if she thinks the guy has a thick skin, is to just tell him that lip-locking is an exercise he's no good at. And he needs help that she is willing to give.

But none of that ducking his overtures and hiding from his calls. That's what amateurs do.