It was just 11 years ago, that my older brother Ron’s birthday was stolen from him by 19 Militant, Islamic, fundamentalists, who attacked the U.S. killing several thousands non-combatant, American citizens.
So it is, Once again — With all due respect to those who died, and to their survivors, and loved ones that I respectfully choose to choose to not talk about them today, but to wish my brother a very happy birthday!
Happy Birthday Ron, may they all be happy and bright!
Over the course of the past 25+ years I have worked at quite a number of festivals, musical events, and outdoor celebrations for dozens of organizations (once I worked as backstage security @ a Beach Boy concert in Bridgeport, CT and refused to let the Mayor backstage; hey he didn’t have the right credentials and besides, I’m from Norwalk, I had no idea he was the Mayor). Anyways, this past weekend i worked at The Gathering of the Vibes, which is essentially a celebration of Grateful Dead culture that has been going on for 17 years.
I had worked for the Vibes several years ago when the event was held in upstate NY, but hadn’t for the last five or six due to my association with the SoNo Arts Celebration, which is just two weeks later. The proximity of the two events and my level of involvement with SoNo precluded me from working the Vibes. Well, as I’m no longer associated with SoNo, I let it be known that I was interested in returning to the Vibe Tribe.
As it turned out I was contacted by them and offered the opportunity to watch the VIP showers (indoor, hot-water showers), and I agreed. Well, I had the best time while there. From the moment I stepped on site of the event (Seaside Park, just off the campus of The University Bridgeport) I was stress-free, and in the groove.
As it turns out, overseeing the entrance to the showers was not only fun, but entertaining as well. Most of the folks passing by my post were wonderful and delightful; several even were quite nice to me, taking pity on me that I was essentially nailed to one spot for 11 hours a day, and brought me all sorts of gifts, including (but not limited to) food (fruit, cookies, etc.), drinks (coffee, beer, water), and the like.
The entertainment value of each day (from my perspective) came in the form of the young ladies who flirted (back) with me while I flirted with them. On day one, two very lovely young lasses (who were clearly feeling no pain) offered to “Do ANYTHING” if I let them shower. (Anything, really, you want to go with “anything”? because I have a pretty vivid imagination as well as a long list as to what “anything” encompasses). On day two, a couple of women asked me if I wanted to shower with them in a 3some. (An offer I seriously considered, but ultimately passed on, but only because there was no one to watch the door and cover my shift had I gone in with them.)
Another gal wanted to know if I could help her get to the “difficult to reach” spots; while a couple of other young ladies were so grateful for the chance to shower they even gave me hugs when they came out. One gal had apparently cut her foot and showed us her injury by lifting her foot and placing it on the table; which was fine, save that she was wearing a short skirt and gave both of us guys at the table a clear shot of her panties. After she wandered off the building manager (who was sitting with me at the time) and I both wondered if she was aware of what she had just done, and concluded that she had to have known.
Also of source of amusement were the folks who didn’t seem to grasp that they had to pay for the showers (VIPs had it built into their ticket price and got first shot at the showers; after 2:00 regular campers could come in but for $5.00 a person). One fellow wandered away muttering “Well I guess that people with money get treated better.” (Well Duh!) Another trio of teen gals had trouble processing that things cost money and inquired as to why they had to pay. I attempted to explain that we had to pay the university for the use of the building and the grounds, the music, food, and all of the things relating to the staging of the festival cost us money to put on, and we acquired that money by taking it from them (they looked at me with that glassy-eyed look of pure astonishment, wonder and utter incomprehension that only teenagers can muster.)
Further, as I was station in one spot, I was under a pop-up (which, along with my complete “Gordon’s Fisherman” style rain gear kept me warm and dry), stationed next to a building with electricity, and with access to, and power for, my nifty (relatively new) Netbook, I also had Optimum WiFi, and was able to get to the Internet, and write all weekend. So while I was working I was also able to read (and review) a book that has been on my desk since January, as well as write half a dozen reviews which I’ll post later today.
In addition to the interesting things that were occurring to me at my station, I did get to interact with my many friends who both work and perform at as well as those that merely attend the Vibes, which was a delight in and of itself. So, yeah, it really was fun, relaxing, and thoroughly entertaining (for which I not only was paid, but was able to get a serious amount of writing done). I’m definitely going to have to do this kind of stuff more often.
In October of 2001 I introduced my son, Dylan to a television show that I had been watching for two years; that show was The West Wing. That show was a very densely-written program about the goings on of the President’s senior staff of the West Wing of the White House. I began watching that show at the very beginning of its run because I had heard that Rob Lowe was going to star in the program. I was something of a fan of Lowe, and thought that it would be interesting to watch.
Sometime after becoming enamored of the program I became aware that the program was written by Aaron Sorkin, who had also written another TV show (that I then began to watch entitled Sports Night) as well as a film I had previously seen (The American President I immediately became a fan of Sorkin, as I loved the way he could dialogue (David Mammet is another writer whose ability to craft masterful dialogue). I began watching Sports Night when I realized that Sorkin was the writer, and was upset when that show ended its run.
Soon after taking up with The West Wing, I began to record episodes as it would turn out, inevitably, someone or something would interrupt me while I would watch it, and I would miss part of the episode. I soon discovered that by recording it, I was not only able to catch every line of each episode, but that I was also able to re-watch each episode at least once more befor the next week’s episode aired. In October of 2001 I introduced Dylan to The West Wing because of the episode, Isaac and Ishmael.
The West Wing goes under lock down as a suspected terrorist is found to be working at the White House. Stuck with a group of high school students who were visiting the White House, the staffers, President Bartlet, and the First Lady all debate the issues regarding terrorism. Meanwhile, Leo sits in on the questioning of the terrorist suspect and learns a lesson about our perceptions of terrorists.
This episode was Sorkin’s response to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. the month earlier. It was such a powerful episode, and the events of 9/11 were still so fresh in my mind that I felt that watching it would have a profound effect on my then 10-year-old son. So we watched the show that I had already recorded, and I remember stopping the episode frequently so that I could explain things to Dylan. The following week, feeling that he was old enough to watch the program with me, I invited him to do so, and again, I would record show, and stop and explain things to him that I thought might be above his head. Needless to say, watching The West Wing soon became our regular thing, and we would look forward every week to that time when we could sit down and watch the program together.
When it came out on DVD we purchased each season, and would re-watch the show together. Eventually we acquired the entire set of all seven seasons; the last three or four seasons Dylan purchased and gave to me as gifts. When he left for college in 2009, he took the entire set of DVDs with him, and repeatedly watch them while at school. When Dylan turned 18 in 2009, he registered as a Democrat (something which truly surprised me, as I was all but convinced that he was going to do what I did when I turned 18, and register as a Republican; an error in judgement that I had personally corrected in 2009 when I switched parties and became a Democrat after watching Michael Moore‘s Fahrenheit 9/11).
Dylan and I would later go on to talk extensively about The West Wing, how much we both loved the program, and how we so totally wanted to vote for President Bartlet. Dylan admitted that it was his earlier days of watching The West Wing (among other things) that helped convince him to register as a Democrat, and that helped to form the basis of his desire to do public service (as a family we also spent many years working for a number of community organizations and events; which also helped lay the ground work).
This year, just prior to the end of his third year at Syracuse University, a series of events caused Dylan to wind up with his mother’s car about a month or so shy of the end of the school year. This wound up allowing him to stay on campus for an extra few days, and meant that I didn’t have to drive up and pick him up on the Saturday after his classes ended; thus saving me a five-hour, solo drive up to his dorm. Well, as it turns out, Aaron Sorkin was the commencement speaker for the class of 2012, and, upon learning of this, Dylan chose to stay an extra few days to hear his talk. This meant that instead of being home for Mother’s Day, he would be arriving on Mother’s day, later in the evening. Still, this was something that he really wanted to do, and how could we object to that, after all it was Aaron Sorkin (Hey, I almost drove up to hear him speak).
Well, here, in its entirety, is Sorkin’s speech:
For my own part, I too not only learned quite a bit by watching The West Wing, but it also indirectly lead to me acquiring the job I currently now have. I’m the Deputy Registrar of Voters for the City of Norwalk, CT. By changing parties in the Summer of ’04 I became employable by the then Democrat City Clerk to work at the polls (Democrats hire Democrats Republicans hire Republicans so there is a balance of party workers). The City Clerk was a friend of mine, as was the then the Democrat Registrar (for some reason, since moving to the city several years earlier I had become friendly with many of the town’s Democrats). In following years the Democrat Registrar continued to hire me to work in the polls. When she was succeeded by another friend of mine in that position, he wound up hiring me as his Deputy, where I’ve been for the past four years.
Since I have begun working there I have either implemented or help implement a number of changes and improvements to the office that have help streamline the way we run elections as well as saved the City thousands of dollars a year for the cost of running elections. In fact I’ve actually run an election or two. Right now, I’m working on a plan that, if implemented could potentially help save the 169 municipalities in the State of Connecticut about a million dollars a year. Yeah, really, me.
Turns out, Sorkin was right. Decisions are made by those who show up.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”