Thursday, May 19, 2016

as the boss would note ...

“Woke up this morning?
The house was cold.
Checked the furnace?
She wasn’t burning.

Went out and hopped
In my old Ford;
Hit the engine,
But she ain’t turning.

Giving each other?
Some hard lessons lately,
But we ain’t learning!

We’re (still) the same sad story,
That’s a fact –
One step up,
And two steps back …”

-- “One Step Up” by Bruce Springsteen, off of his single most criminitely, grouse, indefensibly ignored greatest effort, “Tunnel of Love” …

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I had been waiting all spring, for one episode of television to air.

I've known the date it would air -- Wednesday, May 18, 2016 -- for quite a while now.

I had absolutely no idea -- not even a clue -- how fitting its airing last night would be, when yesterday dawned.

But as I have said from pretty much the moment I learned to talk: there is no such thing, as coincidence.

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Let me state up front, that I have to be (irs church auditing chick voice) open to interpretation and deliberately vague, in discussing what all happened yesterday.  In some cases, I can (and probably will) go into specific detail.  But in other spots, I can't, for reason that will become obvious.  So bear with me, as I try to protect not only my friends that will hate Wednesday, May 18, 2016 for the rest of their lives ... but also try to protect myself, from suffering their fate.

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I had scheduled yesterday as a PTO day a while back, planning to attend the Royals / Red Sox game that afternoon.  Given that the forecast was pushing 70 and partly cloudy, and given the Stevo Rule that "the worst day imaginable spent at the Sports Complex, always trumps the best day imaginable spent at work", taking yesterday off was a given.

I slept in a bit, and when I woke up, decided to go for a jog.  At some point, I have to start getting serious about my health, and I guess the age of 39 is as good a place to start as any.  I managed to get in a couple miles, then headed home to shower, watch "The Price is Right", and head out to the game.  (Oh, and get dressed as well.  That seems like an important thing to do, when heading out in public.)

I sat in 251 yesterday (old Right Field GA), and was headed in to the stadium from Lot A when I got a text from my co-worker Dusti *.  I can't say I was stunned to get a text from her, given that we're in the middle of our annual audit, and we are trying to get everything wrapped up by early next week.  (The deadline to finish is May 31 ... and in the ten years I've had to be a part of this thing, we have never once finished on time.  Hell, the 2013 audit was so sh*ttacular, it drug on into early August before PwC finally signed off on the numbers.  To be this close to completion two weeks early?  Is what you call a miracle.)

Like I said, getting a text from her wasn't a shock to me.  But the content of said text?

Shocked the sh*t out of me.

And not in a good way.

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(* no, not that Dusty.  He's f*cking dead to me at this point.)

--------------------

After hitting up the team store (because like you would expect from someone pushing a .20 at 12:15 on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, I left my sunglasses at home), I hit up the beer line to grab a Crown Town **, then headed out to my seat to attempt to make sense of the text I'd just gotten.

Thankfully, distraction soon arrived via the National Anthem (delivered by some chick who does Fox 4's morning weather.  Seeing as I try to avoid all things Fox when it comes to news, I don't watch Fox 4.  Still, she was cute and had a nice voice, so she's got that going for her) and the starting lineups ***.  I got the score card filled out, realized I had about five minutes to first pitch, and ran back to the beer line to grab Crown Town number two.

The game started about as well as a game could.  The Red Sox went down 1-2-3, and the Royals quickly went up 2-0 on a Eric Hosmer home run that was just crushed -- CRUSHED! -- into right center field.  And for three innings, the Royals could do no wrong.  Ian Kennedy was looking good, the Red Sox were looking bad, and the sun was shining bright and, uuh, shiny in the sky.

Then came the fourth inning, when the Sox scored a run to cut the lead in half, and forced Mr. Kennedy to throw over 20 pitches.

Then came the fifth inning, when the Sox forced Mr. Kennedy to throw almost 30 pitches.  (I had him at 95 after 5 innings.  That's not good.)

Then came the sixth inning, when after 19 more pitches, the Sox chased Mr. Kennedy out of the game by scoring the tying run.  The Royals bullpen got them out of the mess, and we headed to the bottom of the sixth tied at 2.

Which quickly became 3-2, after a "That What Speed Do" triple, Jarrod Dyson scored on Alcides Escobar's grounder to first.

From that point on, for the first time in almost two weeks, a Royals fan could just sit back and let "The Process" play out.  Hochever went 1-2-3, all strikeouts.  Herrera allowed two hits, but no damage done thanks to "That What Speed Do" with an incredible throw to third to nail the runner.  And Davis gave up a long fly ball ... caught at the warning track, for Out Twenty Seven.

Cue the Hall of Fame dude planting that big beautiful W *** atop said Hall of Fame, and it was one sweet afternoon.

Well, at least at the ballpark.

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(**: I irrationally love this beer.  And those of you who know me best, know that I don't drink a lot of beer.  Gives me horrid heartburn anymore.  (That, or my liver is playing mind tricks on my esophagus.)  But I absolutely love Crown Town.)

(***: Stevo's Score Card from yesterday:



(***: if you've never seen the movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", you should.  There's comedy, there's high comedy, and then there's Sylvester Marcus and his mama.  To say nothing of that dastardly Englishman.  But if you have seen the movie, then you know that it is about five people who are trying to find $200,000 hidden "under a Big W".  The lesson?  Damned if I know, other than I like Big W's.  (Just not all W's.  I'm looking at you, George.)

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After the day game, I wasn't sure if I wanted to hit up the nightcap or not, so I figured I'd make a decision while enjoying some quality chili at Dixon's up the street on 40.  I hadn't eaten at Dixon's since the one in Lee's Summit closed, and that was what, five years ago?  It'd been a while.  I have to admit, it will not be five years before I go back.  Holy God, that chili spaghetti is to die for.  Throw in a couple generously sized (and generously priced) Budweisers, and I decided to go ahead and call it a day. 

After all, the episode of television I'd been waiting all spring for, was barely two hours away from beginning.

But also,, because of the text I got from Dusti?

I had people I needed to talk to.

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I love "Black-ish".  I genuinely and honestly have no idea why.  It's not exactly a show tailored to me as a demographic.  (In case you don't know me, I am white, 39, single, and have no kids that I have been made aware of.  Oh, yeah -- and I wouldn't vote for Barack Hussein Obama if you put a gun to my head and began to pull the trigger.) 

And yet, I genuinely and honestly do know why I love this ABC sitcom so much: because it's ridiculously funny, never fails to make me laugh, and is the first comedy in literally decades that isn't afraid to "go there", and tackle the realities of the day.  Really, not since ABC took a chance on a moderately known comedian named Roseanne Barr 28 years ago, has a sitcom dared to "go there" on the flashpoint issues of the day.  Most sitcoms the last 30 years would rather just grab an audience, than make an impact on that audience.

Last night, "Black-ish"'s season finale paid tribute to my favorite sitcom of all time, "Good Times".  I could probably spend the entire thirty minutes of time the show aired, pointing out the factual and continuity errors on display last night.  (Pause).  Fine, I'll spend at least five.

* The dream sequence had to be set in "Good Times" final season (season six), given the presence of Keith (played by Ben Gordon, who was only on the show in its final season).  Yet somehow, James (John Amos) was in the dream sequence, which would be impossible given that "Good Times" killed off his character to start the fourth season.  (He actually quit the show because he thought the character of JJ was an indefensible racist caricature of a young black man in the 1970s.  Esther Rolle, who played Florida, would quit the show for the exact same reason at the end of season four.)

* Penny never wore glasses, or had vision issues.  The Penny from Dre's dream sequence did. 

* Bookman was way too undersold.  If you love "Good Times", you love (willona woods voice) Booga.  I love Bogga.  Everybody loves the maintenance guy who never fixes anything, can barely squeeze through the door due to his size, and somehow eats everything you have in the fridge, while failing to fix the problem he's there to solve.  Who doesn't love a guy like that?  (Pause).  Put that hand down, Schneider -- Bookman was you before you were you, sir.

* The dream sequence presented Thelma as knocked up by Keith (which did happen in the show) … but said knock-up didn’t occur until (a) after they were married, and (b) was revealed in the final scene of the show’s history.  It wasn’t a driving storyline; it was a happily ever after, uuh, after-thought.

* The dream sequence noted that Keith had a major knee injury that would prevent him from signing a NFL contract (which did happen in the show) … but (a) said major knee injury didn’t occur in a tryout; it occurred because JJ tripped Keith the Groom at his wedding.  Also, it was noted in the dream sequence that Keith was trying out for the Houston Oilers.  In the show, he tried out (and eventually scored a job with) the Chicago Bears (which makes far more sense; the Evans family lived in the projects on the South Side of Chicago).

* There was no notation of Keith’s alcoholic phase in the dream sequence.  Yet there was a (funny as hell itself) notation of Florida’s famous “damn!  Damn!  DAMN!” moment to open season four, as she finally had the death of James affect her.  In the dream sequence?  James is still alive, and working four jobs (which actually does jive with the show’s story line through seasons one through three).

* The dream sequence presents Michael (on “Good Times” played by the awesome Ralph Carter) as a “militant midget”, as his father James referred to him on the show.  This is accurate … only Michael was well past his “militant midget” phase by the time Keith and Penny showed up on the scene, in season six and five, respectively.

* Where the hell was Sweet Daddy Williams?  Or Wanda?  Or Worm?  Or Ned the Wino?  Or Alderman Fred C. Davis?  Or Mrs. Gordon?

(On second thought, it’s a good thing we didn’t get a Mrs. Gordon sighting.  Any woman who would burn her kid with a f*cking iron, deserves to be unremembered.  And deserves to have said hot iron applied on her privatest of parts, while still plugged into the electrical outlet.)

* Finally … the portrayal of JJ by Marcus Scribner (Dre Jr on “Black-ish”).  (Pause).  Actually, this was (clap) Dy-No-Mite!  That kid NAILED the part of JJ Evans (as played by Jimmie “JJ” Walker on “Good Times”).  He absolutely nailed every scene he was in. 

And in the interest of fairness?  EVERY damned scene of last night’s episode was nailed, by EVERY damned actor or actress on the show. 

This was television comedy at its finest.

I couldn’t have been happier at the outcome.

(Pause).

As opposed to the text message I got, at exactly noon o’clock, on a gorgeous mid-May afternoon, that left me anything … but happy.

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Last night’s episode, courtesy hulu.com:

(Note: if you need a Hulu log-in, just send me an email; I’ll give you mine if I know you … and I’ll give you mine if I don’t, if you offer a decent enough bribe.  (Hint: I’m out of Weller.))

(New Note Added 9:25pm CT 5/19/16: I have no f*cking idea why the link isn't working.  I copied it accurately and everything.  But if you need a Hulu log-in to watch it, the previous note still applies.)

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Text received at exactly noon o’clock yesterday:

“I know u are probably at the game but wanted to let you know….they just did a big round of layoffs.” – my co-worker Dusti.

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When I arrived at work this morning, I had an email in my inbox, touting the First Quarter earnings reporting for “company I work for”.

(Note: this is the point where I have to strive to be deliberately vague.  I will probably fail … but I’m going to try.)

“Company I work for”?

Reported $1,100,000,000 (harrison ford in “clear and present danger” voice) “and change”, in operating profit, for 1Q 2016.

For the mathematically challenged, that is $1.1 BILLION in profit, through the first three months of the year.

And that?  Earning more in three months than every single person reading this will earn – combined – in our lifetimes?

THAT?

Wasn’t enough!

Because seriously – how can anyone subside, on $1,100,000,000 (harrison ford in “clear and present danger” voice) “and change”, for three months?

Let alone a lifetime?

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My entire former department – what was left of it anyways – was sh*t canned yesterday.

There will literally be nobody left, come August 2016, in the department I was hired into, on July 10, 2006, in the Financial and Actuarial Reporting area, here in the KC Metro area.

When I started at “company I work for” on July 10, 2006, I was the 81st person in Financial and Actuarial Reporting.

I am – quite literally – the last man standing, ten years later.

Albeit in a different (yet similar) job, in a different department, on a different floor, than where I started.

I am the last guy who stands up to pee from that department, still employed by “company I work for”.

(There are three others of the eighty-one of us left, all females: my co-worker Dusti (who was laid off in 2008, and in the single smartest decision I’ve made in the last three years, re-hired in March 2014 by me), Donna (who just celebrated her 30th anniversary at “company I work for” … and had to move on to another department to (bee gees voice) stay alive, and my friend Courtney (who I’ve known dating back to Transamerica … and also had to move on, to (johnny bristol voice) “hang on in there baby”). 

That’s it.  Four of Eighty One, still standing ten years later.

Somehow, I’m one of the four.

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I lost more friends I’ve known for ages yesterday.  Tim, who saved my ass many a reporting period by figuring out the Loss Triangles (even though it wasn’t his job), was downsized.  Nineteen years on the job?  Meaningless!

David, who I’ve sat by for three years and known for ten?  Don’t let the door hit you in the ass, on your way out of said door!

Bill, who I pass every day as I leisurely stroll the paved sidewalks of south Johnson County at lunch?  Twenty years meant nothing, compared to expanding that $1,100,000,000 (harrison ford in “clear and present danger” voice) “and change”, to be $1,100,000,236 (harrison ford in “clear and present danger” voice) “and change” in operating profit!

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It’s my former work family, in my former department, that makes me the most p*ssed off at this point.

My former boss Lucy – one kid about to start college in the fall, another entering high school.  Twenty years in the job.  Gone just like that.

The incredible friend I sat by for the better part of five years, Pat – thirteen years meant nothing.  Her husband just beat cancer.  They’ve had a horrible year.  This can only make things … worse.

My friend Janet, with a child with autism?  Goodbye reliable health insurance.  All to send that extra $0.02 every quarter, to a shareholder.

Teresa, who has a husband with disability issues, and works from home as a result?  Will have to show up at the office, only to spend 30 seconds of time saying goodbye, before security shows her the door, in a couple months.

And Brad – who ultimately I reported to in that department, and still to this day the single most decent, fair boss I’ve ever worked for (although it’s a tie between him and Belk), who has one kid in college, another about to start, and was looking at retiring before the next Presidential election cycle begins in 2019?

Now has to find a stop gap for three years … or swallow hard, and “interview” for his position, that is moving to another part of this country, for less pay.

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I guess I choose to close with this.

I am the one person in this life, who does not believe in coincidence.

“Black-ish” airing a tribute to THE ultimate working-class sitcom of all time last night, as this sh*t was going down?

Ain’t a coincidence.

“Good Times” was about the struggles of a poor black family on Chicago’s South Side.  It was a “never give up” story that ultimately ended in true redemption (no matter how unrealistic said “true redemption” was).  It was a story about a father who never abandoned his family, no matter what … until God took him home, to that (“jeffersons” theme song voice) deluxe apartment, in the sky.  It was about a family that stuck together, no matter how ugly things got.

That’s why yesterday was the ultimate Charles Dickens Day to me.

It was the best of times.  Spending time with friends at a ballgame, soaking up some sun, enjoying one awesome late lunch / early dinner, seeing my favorite sitcom of all time truly honored, by the only show on television today with the actual "street cred" to truly honor it.

And it was the worst of times, as the family I chose through work, was massacred Jonestown style, through no fault of our own.

I both loved – and hated – the hell out of yesterday.

Yesterday was truly, both the best of times ... and the worst of times.

Because the Royals?  Our Boyz N Blue look like they’re coming around, headed to AL Central leading Chicago this weekend.

Because “Black-ish”?  Has firmly established itself as the best comedy on an alphabet network (much like “Good Times” was, when I was born 39 years, 5 months, and 16 days ago).

And because to the family I have chosen, through friendship and professional commitment?

No truer words describe today, than the theme song to “Good Times”:

“Keepin’ yo head above water!
Making a wave where you can!

Temporary layoffs?  (Good Times!)
Easy credit ripoffs?  (Good Times!)
Striving and surviving?  (Good Times!)
Hangin’ in a chow line?  (Good Times!)

(C’mon – we all know how this ends!)

Ain’t we lucky we got ‘em?
(Na Na Na Na Na)

Good Times!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I guess that's what I am ultimately grateful for.  No matter what happens in this life?  There will always be the good times.

You just might have to look really long, and really hard, to find them.

(Pause).

You're damned right I can make any post porn-friendly (rimshot!) ...

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