Archives for July 2013

Sometimes It Doesn’t Pay To Answer The Telephone

Pay Phone
I didn’t see him approach. I didn’t notice anything about him including his presence until he was standing in front of us, waving a gun and shouting for our wallets. I have a bad habit of giggling when I am nervous. I don’t like being the center of attention and now was certainly a bad time to laugh, but laugh I did.

5’8 or so and about a buck twenty sopping wet with a bad haircut and a Judas Priest shirt, that is all he was, oh and he had a big gun and an even bigger attitude. He grabbed my collar and asked me what was so funny. Before I could answer he had grabbed you.

You screamed as he pulled you in front of him and asked me if I thought that this was funny. I choked back a snigger and told him that it wasn’t. He told me that if I so much as smiled he would kill you. I wiped the smile off of my face.

It was the wrong thing to do, but I didn’t know it. The jackass cuffed me in the side of the head and laughed. It infuriated me, brought back memories of years of being teased and tortured by someone who had been like an older brother to me. So I just reacted. I kicked him in the balls and smacked him in the head.

“What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt”
Hurt– Nine Inch Nails

It feels like a million years ago but I remember it vividly. You and I were so very in love but that night the love was buried beneath anger. Maybe if we would have had some more life experience we might have recognized that fear and uncertainty was what caused that fight between us.

Maybe if I hadn’t beaten a man to death in front of you I wouldn’t have felt the need to walk away. Maybe if I hadn’t been arrested and frog walked to a squad car I wouldn’t have been so ashamed. Maybe if I had accepted that it wasn’t entirely my fault I would have been able to look you in the eyes.

That is an awful lot of ‘maybes’ and there is no saying now what could have happened. Would have, could have should have aren’t things that I can let myself think about. It is too painful.

So I stopped taking your calls and started walking, maybe not literally but in this case figurative works. I got lost in myself and I couldn’t talk to you. I didn’t know how. I barely knew how to talk to myself.

Time passed and I started to think about calling you but I couldn’t figure out what to say so I stayed silent. Can’t remember how I heard that you were married but if there was a thought in my mind about calling you that killed it.

Couldn’t imagine you introducing me to your family, what would you say.

“I used to love this guy until he killed the guy who tried to mug us and went crazy.”

Actually I didn’t go crazy- it just took a while to process it.

And now more than twenty years later I am lying in the dark holding the phone in my hand listening to your voice- wondering how you found my number and why you called.

My heart is pounding and my mouth is dry. I feel like my tongue is stuck to the top of my roof.

“I am in trouble and I need your help. They’re back.”

And then the other memories hit me like a torrent of water and I remember why I had to walk away from the woman I planned to marry.

5 Reasons Why Bloggers Must Evolve Or Be Defenestrated

Splat

Welcome back to TheJackB, home of Jack The Insouciant Dad Blogger who dreams of defenestrating those who irritate him and longs for the day when he can dump 5 tons of bananas on their driveway.

Alternatively I would settle with hiring a marching band to play When the Saints Go Marching In at 4:15 A.M., of course it would be even better if the band could play on the driveway too, alongside the bananas.

The Evolution of a Blogger

Flip through the pages here and you can find tons of posts about blogging and how to write. Look at some of the posts below and you will find some solid material there.

  1. Twenty-Five Links That Will Make You A Better Writer/Blogger
  2. Blogging Tips- Build Your Community Around You
  3. How To Build and Design A Blog- What I Learned
  4. The Easiest Way To Get Comments On Your Blog
  5. Commenting Systems and Blog Design

What you will also find is evidence of the evolution of a blogger. Hell, the entire blog really is proof of that. Sometimes I cringe when I read older posts and wonder WTF  I was doing/thinking.

But more than that I look at what I have done here and I see a chronicle of what interests me now and what used to interest me. One constant throughout this journey is my desire to write and write with passion and personality.

Repetition And the Echo Chamber

You can blame attribute this post to two things:

  1. My personal journey/goal to become a better writer/storyteller.
  2. A post I read where someone gave bad advice about blogging.

There is no single formula for success in social media and anyone who says differently is selling snake oil. Readers come and go which is part of why you can run content multiple times.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to update it in some way because you should but you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Social media lends itself to experimentation and invention.

It is part of why I play with my newsletter a bit. Some of you prefer to read the business content, you look for tips and advice and others want to know stories.

Speaking of stories you never know what is going to be interesting to some and boring to others. There are readers here who write me occasionally to ask for more stories about my life in a fraternity because to them it is exotic while for others it would be boring, run-of-the-mill stuff.

And that is why I always advise people to write with passion and personality.

Personality Drives The Blog

Personality drives the blog because I infuse these words with me. Long time readers know a lot about me, I would never say it is a complete picture, but quite a bit.

You know that I am often unfiltered and unafraid to share my opinion. You might have read the story about how when I was 19 I was almost “recircumcised” when a bear interrupted my girlfriend and I.

Some of you will laugh at that and some will cringe and say TMI. But if you have been around a while you might have noticed I don’t tell as many of those stories as I used to nor do I share as many tales about my kids.

Why?

Evolution, it is all about the evolution.

Some of it is because I have other blogs I write that allow me to focus on some of these areas and some of it is because of other changes. My children are older so I pay more attention to the boundaries of blogging.

They are in elementary and middle school and I don’t want them to be teased any more than what naturally comes with school. Things I think are cute and silly might not come off the say way to kids whose hormones are starting to run amok.

Evolution Equals Growth

Evolution equals growth and if you are not growing than you are stagnating and while that may be ok for you, it doesn’t work for me.

Not to mention my experience shows that unless readers really love you they eventually get bored and move on so I figure some of this is evolution/growth stuff might help keep a few of them hanging around a bit longer and that is usually a good thing.

Unless you are the weird, creepy stalker types who I block and yes there have been a few. It is not bravado to say I am not afraid of anyone but I do have a healthy respect for  some of your crazy mofos and your willingness to take your dark selves to places I’d rather not accompany you to, but I digress.

Anyhoo, thank you again to those who are long time readers and welcome to the new ones too. Would love to see you in the comments and or on some of other social media platforms.

Cue announcer’s voice: Jack Steiner has left the building because he is really hungry and is taking a late lunch. 😉

I Had Breakfast With Teddy Roosevelt

President of the United States Theodore Roosev...

President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. Deutsch: Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten von 1901 bis 1909, Friedensnobelpreisträger des Jahres 1906. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

Those of you who read carefully might wonder if there is some sort of gimmick here or what kind of game I am playing because Teddy Roosevelt died when my grandparents were all of five years-old.

You might ask yourself if I am mathematically challenged or if I discovered some sort of way to travel back in time and I would tell you that my math skills are not in question and that I wouldn’t tell you if I had discovered the secret of time travel because that goes against all of the rules of science fiction.

“Life means change; where there is no change, death comes.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

Monday was brutal. It was the kind of day that sucks the life out of you and makes you wonder why you bothered to stand up because you knew you were going to get knocked down two or three more times.

It was the kind of day where I kept getting back up because I won’t let my children see dad role over and give up when things get tough, just won’t do it.

Because that is not who we are. It is intolerable and unacceptable, but it didn’t mean that it was any easier.

And then Teddy joined me for breakfast. Dude walked into my place in his hat and made himself at home.

Jack’s Excellent Adventure

I looked around for a phone booth, checked in the closet to see if Bill and Ted were hiding there and didn’t find them. So I said screw it, made myself a cup of coffee, scrambled eggs and listened to a dead president give me a pep talk.

Kind of cool. How many people get to hang out with one of the Rough Riders. Man had me pumped up enough I would have agreed to play for any one of the pro sports teams in Cleveland, and that is saying a lot. If you don’t believe it ask that wacky Shmata Queen.

If nothing else it served as a sort of mental reset.

I walked away from it and remembered who I am, what I stand for and focused upon hitting the day…hard.

When day is done and the lights go out what I always want to do is fall asleep knowing that no matter what happened I did my best and that when things were hard I didn’t just accept what was handed to me.

Soundtrack For My Life

There is a soundtrack for my life that I have blogged about before and will blog about again. It is like the movies with drama and action, but there is far more happy than sad.

And the reason for that is because I make it that way.

“There has never yet been a person in our history who led a life of ease whose name is worth remembering.”
― Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography

Death Doesn’t Steal Our Memories

12 segundos de oscuridad

This story may be familiar to some of you because every year I make a point to honor my friend.

“In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night. And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend…I shall not leave you.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

I made them cry, not him or her but them. You can tell me it wasn’t my fault or that it is not my responsibility but I won’t accept it.

That is because I was the one who made the telephone calls. I was the one who called our friends and told them you were dead.

Some of them screamed and some of sniffled in silence but I heard their voices and we shared the pain of your loss.

Today is your birthday or should I say it would have been. I don’t have a clue what you would have done for this one or where you would be living.

Maybe you would be married and maybe you would be a father. It is a relatively easy guess to make and probably not far off of the mark.

Instead of writing to you and wondering if somewhere you can hear, see, feel or read this I would call you and make some crack about how old you are. You’d give me some sort of sarcastic response and I’d tell you about my family.

It wouldn’t be the first time. I have visited your grave and sat next to you. I have told you about your funeral and how very blue the skies were. It was hot that day and not just because we were wearing black suits.

Nor was it because we buried you.

That has always been important to me. We buried you because you were loved by your friends. We buried you because it was among the last kindness we could bestow directly upon you.

Every year I remember the moment when I saw your mother’s face while I was shoveling dirt on your casket. It was horrifying then and as a father it is only made worse.

Yet there is a piece of me that smiles because I know you would have done the same for me and because I know your parents appreciated it. I know that in this moment of utter horror they knew that people who cared about you were doing our best to help.

We would have done more. We wanted to. Had we known earlier we could have helped carry the load. You knew more than us. You knew this was coming sooner but didn’t say.

Perhaps it was your choice, but we would have listened. We would have shared more with you during a time when we could both communicate.

Life is pretty good now. It has its challenges but that is to be expected. I keep tabs with your siblings and your parents. They are good too.

I don’t regret having had to make those calls or having been a part of the merry men of grave digging. Shit happens and we deal with it.

You are gone but not forgotten. You helped change more lives than you know and that is a legacy to be proud of.

Happy Birthday old friend, I’ll see you again.

All You Have To Do Is Try

Spiral staircase

Sometimes it is easier to see where you have been than where you are going.

The rule is simple, “all you have to do is try.” It doesn’t just apply to food or to my children, it applies to me too.

That is because I can’t ask my kids to do things that I won’t do but it doesn’t mean that I can’t tell them not to do as I have done. That is because one of my responsibilities is to help them avoid making the same mistakes I have made.

Can’t promise they won’t because you can’t screw an old head on young shoulders and they are just as strong willed and determined as I am.

Who, What, Where and Why

It is noon in Texas which means that it is ten in California and my kids probably at the beach now. And if not there, then I am guessing they are tooling around somewhere in San Diego.

While I was hanging out by myself in a theater in Fort Worth watching Wolverine and thinking about how he is still one of my favorite superheroes they were heading out to hang out with family down south.

Yesterday they sent pictures and texts of their time at Legoland and I sat at the computer and worked. Sat here thinking about who I am, what I do and why I am here.

If I was in the service my MOS would help explain why they are there and I am here in terms that are easier to understand or so I tell myself.

Truth is that it is not hard to explain, this is where the work is and where the pay comes from. They stayed behind because it was the sensible thing to do.

Write About What Matters

Last week when I was back in LA my son asked me to tell him again why I couldn’t take advantage of technology to work from anywhere and I told him that while it makes it possible to do so, it doesn’t mean the boss will let you work from a remote location.

He said he didn’t understand why they didn’t trust me to do my work and to talk via phone or video. I told him that sometimes people like to see you face-to-face and he said so do your children.

I understood why he said that and told him that I was working on things that would make this feel like a momentary blip in time. It is true, wasn’t me trying to fool him.

But I didn’t get into all of the details because he really didn’t need to know how to make a clock, just what time it is. And I didn’t want to get into a philosophical discussion about how I was following my own rules.

It was 11 PM and that wasn’t the time to discuss the importance of taking chances and changing things up when the old way doesn’t work anymore.

Books and Writing

I have spent the majority of my weekend reading several different books and exercising. Been caught up in 11/22/63 by Stephen King and not just because I like his writing.

Texas is a big part of the setting and he writes about places I know. Normally I am somewhat jaded about these things, probably because I have seen a million movies that were filmed in places I know, but this time it is different.

Not really sure why, just that it is.

Writing seems to be cyclical for me. I write daily, but there are moments in time where the content explodes from my fingertips as opposed to where it is more of a trickle.

I am never blocked or at a lack for material, but sometimes there is just less production. Don’t know that I consider it to be an issue or problem, just something that I noticed.

More to come about all of this.