lyrical ghost

The lyrical ghost
is usually 9 miles ahead
of me
he runs on fumes
and caffeine
so I don’t try to catch up
…he’ll run out of gas
the sorry old goat
he lives by his wits
but I don’t
let him
taunt the Old Man…
I give him
a porch to sit on
when he passes thru town
when the moon is new
and he has
that old dog with him
…that 15 year old dog that sits behind the
cane chair…
chewing the cockleburs out of his fur
that old black dog
he’s stiff in the joints
(the black dog)
I make the damned ghost
swear that he will be gone
half an hour before daylight

The lyrical ghost
says there there is no
ride like a 68 Bonneville
no piece of highway like
I-49 South
no mountains like
The Boston Mountains
no land
like east Oklahoma and
the Cookson Hills
and nothing like a big block Pontiac screaming across five states in one night
don’t take the guard rails with you,
compadre
keep it between the ditches
count the lines,
smoke ‘em if you got’ em
give it your best and pray you live until Sunday
no hubcaps needed
no state troopers need apply
he’s a damned outlaw

get up when it’s still dark
check the oil and the brake fluid
kick the tires
call for the black dog
and then just drive away

I hear him rattling around
downstairs
nights when I can’t sleep
and Leah works until
4Am
at the casino
I hear him come in through
the back door
I hear him
throw his keys at the
hook by the basement door, then
he puts
Dave Dudley
on the Philco,
he plays
‘Fireball rolled a 7’
on the record player
after that
all I can do is get up and
write a poem

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Hunting the perfect moon

Paul Bowles

“…because we don’t know [when we will die] we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.” —Paul Bowles

Readers of this blog will recognize the quote above, from Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel, “The Sheltering Sky,” as having previously appeared here at EEOTPB. It is one of my all time favorite quotes, and I keep a copy taped to the whiteboard above my desk at my office, alongside a weathered printout of Shelley’s “Ozymandias of Egypt”, and the classic villanelle by Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night”. But it is Bowles’ quote that I read most often, and I also keep an electronic copy on my phone, although I could probably delete it as I know it well by heart.

I was thinking of this quote last Friday, October 18th, as I was making my way north on I-95 from my home in northern Broward County, Florida to my office in Boca Raton. It was 6:15 AM (or thereabouts), and there was a full moon hanging low in the western sky.  But this was not just your ‘run of the mill’ full moon. This was the kind of moon that you very seldom see no matter how many times you try. This was the kind of moon that only sheepherders tending flocks at night and astronomers perched in mountaintop observatories get to enjoy seeing.  Certainly not the kind of moon one generally sees as one is maneuvering down the fabled New York to Miami, balls-to-the-wall, flip-em’-off, lay on the horn and hit ’em, main drag, known as Interstate 95, on the cusp of rush hour.

It was such a perfectly beautiful moon that I would later note it in my daily planner: “Beautiful full moon this AM over Boca – tried to get pic but too low.”

So that is what happened. I wanted to take a picture of the moon, but at 75 mph with a tractor trailer half a car length from my rear bumper, snapping a picture was out of the question. In the interest of public safety, I waited until I pulled into my office parking lot at around 6:35. I parked my car and quickly jumped out, giving a lady that I recognized, but really don’t know, a bit of a fright as she was unloading her bag out of the trunk of her car.

“I’m just taking a picture of the moon,” I said to her, as I rushed across the parking lot, my laptop computer bag in one hand and my cell phone camera at arms length in the other.

“Oh, that’s nice,” she said, as she nearly ran away from me toward the safety of the building.

I hurried on across the parking lot, trying to get a shot of this perfect moon before it dropped below the trees that border the parking lot, but no matter how hard I tried, something was in the way – a light pole, a tree – something, and then finally the perfect moon withered away, into something less than perfect. I watched until it dipped below the dark outline of the buildings in the adjacent office park, and then finally it wasted away over the Everglades, and then on out over the Gulf of Mexico, and out of my life forever. Ah well, I’ll get a shot of it next time…

So after that, I went into my office and sat down and read Paul Bowles quote again. Somehow I felt a little better for it.

Six things I won’t live to see

As I am now some months into my fifty ninth ride around The Star, I find myself now, more than ever, soberly aware of my role of passenger on this ride, and try as I might, I know that I shall never be the Captain of the ship. With this realization I have not become cynical (as many of my fellow passengers have), but I have become more pragmatic. I have come to realize that there are some things that I shall never see within my lifetime. I have compiled a short list of them here:

 1. Sub-$3.00 per gallon gas – Last week, as I was driving to work, a newscaster on the Miami radio station that I was listening to said that the price of gasoline in our area had dropped 2 -3 cents gallon. The newscaster went on to attribute this drop in price to the fact that local fuel distributors had switched to their ‘winter-blend’, which is (apparently) somewhat cheaper than the ‘summer-blend’. Well, I thought to myself – it’s high time. Since it is mid-September and temps are already plummeting into the mid-70s overnight, I damn well want that winter blend in my old truck. In this part of the country, where summer runs until – well – New Years Eve, having winter-blend fuel in your vehicle is essential. My point in this short, cynical, rant being that the price of gasoline is, and always has been, manipulated by a few. We are now headed for the days of $4 per gallon fuel, and nothing that we passengers can do (or are likely to do) can change that.

2. Return of the electric car – Back in 1888, when the world’s first electric vehicle, the German Flocken Elektrogwagen took to the street, inventor Andreas Flocken probably felt that he was looking at the future of personal transport. He probably dreamed of a traffic jam of electrically powered carriages rattling across Europe on a cobblestone, 19th century, Autobahn. Actually, by the early years of the 20th century, electric vehicles had become very popular in both Europe and the U.S. Early models were easier to start, ran cleaner and were so popular with women that they became known as ‘women’s vehicles’ – so much so that manufacturers had to install fake radiators on the cars to attract male customers. In any case, we have made little progress in the past 125 years in making electrically powered vehicles available to the general public.

Oh I know all the arguments against electric vehicles: the batteries don’t last, charging stations are expensive to maintain, the power-plants needed to generate electricity dump tons of emissions into the atmosphere too…I have heard all of it, and I don’t buy into it. Each day I watch literally hundreds of gasoline powered postal vehicles take to the streets of my city, puttering from mailbox to mailbox, all of them spewing carbon emissions into the air. Later a UPS truck pulls up to my house in a cloud of diesel smoke. The mission: to pick up an envelope at my house for overnight delivery…see my point. Even if we had encouraged development of electric vehicles for commercial purposes (as they did in Europe for many years), we might well be on our way to breaking the stranglehold that the oil companies have on us all.

Without going into greater detail, the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car” does a much better job describing “what the hell happened” than I can. If you want the short version, see item 1 above in my list.

3. Who killed JFK –   I am convinced I shall never know exactly who killed John F. Kennedy. No, I don’t buy into every conspiracy theory that comes along, but I have never bought into the Warren Commission report either. I do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating Kennedy in Dallas back in November of 1963. There…I said it. A few days after the assassination, when I was nine years old, I watched (on black and white TV of course), Jack Ruby step from a crowd in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters, pull a pistol, and kill Oswald on national television. I smelled a rat then, and I still smell one fifty years later. But, I am certain that we will never know exactly what happened. Too many of the principals have passed away and barring a deathbed confession from Fidel Castro, or the resurrection of Jimmy Hoffa from whatever block of concrete he is encased in, the truth has already gone to someone’s grave and the paper trail shredded and cold.

4. The truth about Area 51 – Note those readers who know where I live: Do not send the padded van. Also, no need to call to ask if I am feeling okay, I’m fine. I just think that denying the existence of a super secret, military testing installation, for sixty years, and then suddenly announcing its existence is suspicious. Nothing to see here…keep it moving. Of course it was there all along…That’s what our government is telling us now.

Area 51 was, and still is, a top-secret military installation located in the Groom Lake area in the desert north of Las Vegas, Nevada. It was never a real secret. I mean you could drive out there — until they stopped you. For years we’ve heard about the plain white passenger jet that left each morning from McCarran airport, returning each evening – the Area 51 shuttle.

Those of us who have studied the area for decades have no doubt that the area is a super secret seedbed for advanced avionics programs. Programs that were born out of competition with the Soviets during the Cold War. But in the wake of a very suspicious crash of an airborne vehicle in Roswell, New Mexico in July of 1947, it is small wonder that rumors soon spread that the U.S. Government was involved in the secret back-engineering project of a craft that might have come from another world. Some people, like airline pilots, U.S. astronauts, scientists and thousands of others around the world, myself included, have seen things in the night sky that we know are not errant weather balloons or swamp gas. We also know that the same government that has purposefully denied the existence of Area 51 knows more about this phenomenon than they are saying, and they are likely to maintain this silence in the foreseeable future.

5. Travel to the moon – We are not going back to the moon. When Eugene Cernan departed the moon at 5:40 GMT on December 14, 1972, it marked the last time that man will set foot on that celestial rock for many, many more years to come. We shall continue to make noise about returning to the moon, spouting nonsense about man’s inherent need to explore the unknown, citing perhaps Magellan’s desire to circumnavigate the earth, or Columbus’ drive to find a passage to the East – but these guys had air to breathe and they were motivated by the dream of great wealth in undiscovered lands. Plus they didn’t know how heavily the odds were stacked against them. We will not return to the moon in my lifetime because: a) It is simply too dangerous to send a human there, and b) there is nothing there. Unless we discover oil on the moon, we will never travel there in the foreseeable future (notice I keep using the word ‘forseeable’. I am not a big believer in the word ‘never’).

Similarly, we will not send a human to Mars, even if we could actually find sane people willing to give up a decade of their lives to a cause that will likely result in their deaths. We will not go to Mars because: a) It is simply too dangerous to send a human there, and b) there is nothing there. Unless we discover oil on Mars, we will never travel there in the foreseeable future.

6. Rational gun control in the United States – We will not institute any significant gun control legislation in the United States for a very, very, long time – if ever. Today, as I watch members of the Florida Chapter of the Armed Citizens Project offer up free shotguns to Florida citizens as a way to protect themselves against crime (this in the wake of the D.C. Navy Yard massacre by a demented young man armed with a shotgun), I am now more than ever convinced that we are too far gone. We are destined to go from one shootout to the next, with the same scenario playing out each time. We shall see the innocent brutally gunned down by the deranged. The NRA will remain respectfully silent for a few days. After that, the cry will go out to arm the citizenry in greater numbers so as to reduce the risk of the innocent being brutally gunned down by the deranged. The way to ‘stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’…blah, blah, we blather on.

And so we shall continue – sitting in class with our bullet proof backpacks at the ready, casting a wary eye over our shoulder as we shop at the mall, planning an escape route as we sit at out desks at work, and hoping that the terror that we experience at the movie theatre occurs only on-screen.

But we shall go on.

So that’s it…I gotta go…

My tinfoil hat is smoking…

Mahalo,

–Ed

Disappearing fishing tackle sparks my short rant on Wal-Mart…

So there I was, last week, at my local sports equipment store. It is a chain store near my house that I go to on a regular basis, although I don’t need much of what they sell there. I don’t golf, my bad knees forced me off of the running circuit years ago, and I am far too old to need football pads, or baseball cleats. I go to this particular store for one thing only – fishing tackle. And they stock lots of it, or at least they did. That is why I was so surprised when I stopped by the other day to replenish my supply of 2 ounce pyramid sinkers, and found their once packed shelves were nearly empty…devoid of tackle.

Frustrated, I  hailed a young store employee to find out what was going on with the fishing tackle.

“We’re not stocking ‘fishing stuff’ any more,” he said, sounding almost happy about it. Then he waved his hand at the few rods that were still standing in their vertical holders, and the nearly empty racks where lures and spoons and hooks were once displayed, and the empty shelves that once held a multitude of tackle boxes, bait bubblers and sand flea rakes.

“Why would you get rid of the fishing tackle?” I asked.

He shot me one of those, isn’t-it-obvious looks, and then he replied. “We need more room for the Lacrosse gear.”

“Lacrosse gear,” I snorted, “you’re kidding me. This is South Florida – sport fishing capital of the world. The Fishing Hall of Fame is a few miles down the road. And you’re clearing out the fishing equipment to make room for Lacrosse gear? Where are we supposed to go now for rods and tackle?”

“Try Wal-Mart,” he said over his shoulder as he walked away, “they have about everything we have.”

“Wal-Mart,” I said. “I never shop at…,” but the young sales associate was long gone.

Of course I was about to ask him why a seemingly bright young man like himself, would possibly direct a customer to Wal-Mart. Didn’t he realize that as goes the fishing gear, so go the propane stoves, tents, and overpriced sneakers? The golf clubs, weight sets and treadmills will soon follow. In another year he’ll be directing disillusioned young lacrosse players to the Wal-Mart Super Store two miles up the highway, and shortly after that he may find himself filling out an employment application at aforementioned store…doesn’t he know that!

Wal-Mart, with roughly 2,200,000 employees (2011 figures), is the number one private employer in not only the United States, but the entire world. And frankly, I could care less if they had ten million workers, as long as they made some halfhearted attempt to pay them better. Their anti-worker message is articulated clearly in the recent events going on up in our nation’s capital. Scheduled to open six new stores in D.C., Wal-Mart axed plans to open three of them based upon the D.C. City Council’s elevation of the minimum wage to $12.50 per hour for so called ‘big box’ stores. Big box stores being defined as those stores with floor space in excess of 75,000 square feet and annual revenues of over 1 billion dollars.

Since by some estimates, each Wal-Mart worker displaces 1.4 local workers it only seems right to me that they pay their workers a livable wage, whether $12.50 per hour is a livable wage in the D.C. metro area is debatable.

In vast areas of the United States, especially in the rural areas of the Midwest, Rocky Mountain West and South, the appearance of a Wal-Mart Super Center is viewed with the same tepid enthusiasm that accompanies news that a new prison is coming to town. It may not be exactly the industry that they want, but at least it will bring jobs. At least their young people will have somewhere to go to earn a paycheck…you know those young people, the ones that for a multitude of reasons are unable to pack up and leave for greener pastures as a good Republican friend of mine suggested to me recently.

And bring jobs it shall, and they shall be derived from the displaced workers that once owned and staffed local businesses.

Or so this seems to me.

Quotes we carry

Social media is awash these days in quotes, and I have to admit that I am a sucker for a good quote, be it from a deceased politician, company CEO, famous author, or Hollywood celeb. We used to have to wait for pearls of wisdom to filter down to us through the print media, but now we have quotes that we are free to use, download, send to Facebook friends, Tweet, or incorporate into blogs, as I have here at EEOTPB upon so many occasions.

Quotes lift us up, they make us laugh, and they make us sound worldly when we’re really not. An appropriate quote, delivered with proper timing can make or break you in corporate America.

One afternoon, half dozing through a staff meeting, I was roused from near slumber by a stammering colleague who seemed reluctant to commit to a plan for a product delivery. Waiting for the proper entrance into the fray, I responded with one of my favorite quotes by General George Patton:

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

Of course I attributed the quote to the General before delivery. The response was at first a subtle chuckling that rippled through the room, but my manager smiled and told me he liked my attitude. By the way — my colleague was soon asked to leave the company, and although I can’t say I was fast-tracked to a corner office, I wasn’t dismissed either. If there is ever a quote that shows balls-to-the wall commitment to getting the job done it is that one (depending upon the situation, skip the word ‘violently’, you never know how that is going to be taken). So remember it, oh Corporate Drones.

But there are quotes that hit us where we live, aren’t there? Have you ever printed out a quote, trimmed it neatly, and folded it into your wallet, or pocketbook? Has a particular quote elevated itself to “wallet status” – something you want to keep near you, to refer to when you are not quite sure of the shaky ground upon which you walk, or the future into which you enter, ready or not?

Maybe your personal quote is hand written on a  post-it note, folded five times and tucked behind your drivers license just in case you need it someday, or maybe it is in your pocketbook, written in the margin of your DayTimer, or some such, but you know where it is so you can find it always – that’s the kind of quote I am talking about – one that makes you think about life in a way you always knew that it should be thought of, but that he or she said it so well, and so much better than you could have.

The quote that I carry with me is a quote from the classic 1949 novel by Paul Bowles, “The  Sheltering Sky”. Bowles, if you recall, was the only child of a New York City dentist, a father who, according to reports, was a harsh father who left Paul as an infant to die on a window ledge during a winter storm. Perhaps such harsh treatment as an infant infused young Paul with a unique outlook on life. The stark finality, and reality of this quote, has garnered it a place in my ‘electronic’ wallet and I refer to it daily, although I can recite it by heart:

Because we do not know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really.”

In this passage Paul Bowles goes on to suggest that in a lifetime we only watch the full moon rise perhaps 20 times…

If you have a quote that you carry with you and it means something special to you, please feel free to share it here.

Mahalo,

–Ed

Remembering the Draft

Sometime back, during the Vietnam-war-torn year of 1969, a young California man named Dwight Stone went to his mailbox and opened a letter (much like this one) from the United States Selective Service. The letter began:

“Greetings:

You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States…”

Similar letters were received by more than 1.7 million other young men during the Vietnam War era of  1965 – 1973. Needless to say, such letters were met with varying reactions, ranging from quiet submission to fleeing the country for life in Canada, or Sweden. If you were a U.S. citizen, and a young man between the ages of 18 and 25 you had a draft card (unless you burned it as a few did in protest to the war), you were well acquainted with your local draft board, and you had plans to either volunteer for service, or to postpone service by obtaining a draft deferment. In any case, the thought of being swept off to fight in what was fast becoming a very unpopular conflict was a real possibility.

Mr. Stone, being little different than many young men his age, was less than enthusiastic about military service. As a man of little means, Mr. Stone lacked the funds to leave the country. In the words of Mr. Stone himself:

“I [sic] ain’t no Rockefeller.”

In the African-American, inner city community in which Mr. Stone lived, the war, by his own account, was not popular. As a poor man of little influence, he felt that his odds of ending up on the front lines, and returning to the States in a body bag was great indeed. Much greater than those whose families could afford to send their sons to college, thus gaining them an educational deferment, or to buy them a ticket out of the country.

So he did what he could. For three years, he attempted to avoid induction at all costs, including a failed attempt at a student exemption. When that didn’t work,  Mr. Stone went into hiding. Finally, with the U.S. Government nipping at his heels, an exhausted and frustrated Mr. Stone called his local draft board and turned himself in.

On June 30, 1973, Mr. Stone was inducted into the U.S. Army, thus earning him the distinction of being the last man drafted into the U.S. Military. This Sunday, we ‘celebrate’ the fortieth anniversary of Mr. Stone’s induction. Perhaps all for the best, no young man has been ordered to report since. One has to wonder if it were not for the unpopular Vietnam War, if we would not be calling young men (and perhaps young women) up today for service.

While young men have been drafted since the Civil War, the draft that spanned the Vietnam War period had actually been in place since 1940. Throughout the peacetime years of the late 1950s, men continued to be called for service, including perhaps America’s most famous draftee, Elvis Presley. Elvis reported for duty on March 24, 1958, after receiving his “Greetings” letter sometime around Christmas of 1957, while celebrating the holidays at Graceland. Of course there were few bullets flying in those days. The Cold War was in full swing though, and with the threat of global nuclear annihilation looming over us all, The King packed off to basic training. After basic, he shipped out to Friedberg, Germany where he served honorably in the 3rd Armor Corps’ 32n’d Tank Battalion, Company D.

By the time Elvis mustered out of service on March 2, 1960, to return to the recording career that had been kept alive by Col. Tom Parker, he had achieved the rank of sergeant, met a young girl named Priscilla Beaulieu, who he would eventually marry, and become a role model for countless young men who would come to view military service as a patriotic obligation.

In the years since, much has been made of Elvis’ off-base life style, where he lived with family, and entertained in comparative luxury compared to his fellow soldiers. While this is true, I still find it difficult to imagine any of today’s recording artists (think Justin Bieber), reporting for duty and shipping out for Iraq, or Afghanistan (no disrespect to ‘The Biebs’ intended). Times have changed far too much, and while we rightly rush to thank our servicemen and servicewomen for their service, a draft that would conscript a young person of Justin Bieber’s celebrity would be almost unthinkable.

So I am thinking about the draft today. Actually, I have thought about it on other days too, especially during the early days of the Iraq war. For a time, as it became increasingly evident that the rationale for this conflict was being framed using some very shaky facts, I wondered if the public would be more questioning of our involvement, if the draft were still in place. I remembered a saying I once heard that describes my feeling succinctly: “Let’s fight. Here, I’ll hold your coat”.

Oh yes, getting back to Mr. Stone. It seems he actually came to enjoy military life. He did his basic training at Ft. Polk in Louisiana, and after further training went on to become an electronics repairman at Ft. Richie, Maryland. Mr. Stone served honorably, and was discharged after serving 17 months. Today Dwight Stone works with disadvantaged youth in Sacramento, California. In a 1993 interview with the Seattle Times, Mr. Stone said:

“Serving your country is not a bad idea, as long as you include everybody,”

I have nothing more to add to that statement.

Mahalo,

-Ed

Medical weed on the ropes in FLA…Bong ban goes into effect July 1

I suspect that some of you may imbibe from time to time in a bit of the ganja as you surf the blogosphere. For that reason, I thought that a few words about what is going on here in Florida may be of some interest to you, regardless of where you reside.

Before I get started, I want to make it clear that I am not a pot apologist. I am far from it, but I do think that the drug laws in the United States need to be overhauled. Especially those laws related to marijuana. So let it be known that I am not a cannabis user. At least I don’t plan to use it unless I find myself afflicted with one of several chronic diseases, the pain of which seems to be markedly lessened by a daily dose of marijuana (a joint or two).

Should I find myself in constant pain brought on by one of these diseases, I would think that I would have enough to worry about, without being concerned that the authorities could descend upon my home at any time and seize my plants. The plants that I had nurtured since they were seedlings in the privacy of my own home; the ones that I lovingly cared for in the privacy of my own home; so that when they were mature, I could pluck forth a few leaves and dry them, and then in the privacy of my own home, smoke said leaves, and in so doing achieve some relief from the pain associated with my disease.

You’d think…

Which brings me to Parris, Florida resident, Cathy Jordan. The 62 year old Jordan suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Confined to a wheelchair and barely able to speak, Ms. Jordan, with the help of her husband, Bob, grows her own marijuana, or at least she used to grow it, until deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff’s office raided her home and confiscated her plants, seedlings and all.

Ms. Jordan, who is a high-profile activist for legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, was given three to five years to live back in 1986. Today, by her own admission, she has outlived many of the doctors who treated her – a fact that she attributes to her daily cannabis regimen.

Today, Senate Bill 1250, the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, is slogging its way through the Florida legislature, probably not destined to become law anytime soon, if ever. If enacted, this law would have allowed folks like Ms. Jordan to legally grow up to 8 marijuana plants for personal use. Frankly, it does not look good for this important legislation during this session. If you reside here in the Sunshine State and you believe that this measure is important enough to warrant a few minutes of your time, please contact your state legislator and voice your support.

But do not think our Florida lawmakers are sitting on their hands waiting for the session to end, oh no.  They have pushed through a new law to take effect on July 1, 2013 to help protect us from the evils of pot. As of that date we Floridians shall be forbidden to purchase ‘bongs’, or those pipes especially sold to smoke weed. Well…they are sort of banned. Sale of bongs is now relegated to only those establishments that derive 75 percent of their income from selling tobacco products.

Mahalo,

Ed

Thoughts on: Yahoo’s C.E.O, Marissa Mayer, pulling the plug on home workers

Last week, when I heard the news that Yahoo’s C.E.O., Marissa Mayer had decided to end the company’s work at home policy, it hit a nerve. As a home worker myself, although not for Yahoo (but for a company just as large), I had to go digging for the reason behind Ms. Mayer’s decision. It didn’t take me long to find it. It seems her decision to terminate the Yahoo work at home policy was based on data gathered by reviewing company VPN records. Without going into the more arcane details about VPNs, they allow workers to access company resources when they are in a remote location (like home, a hotel room, Starbucks, etc.).

Apparently, Ms. Mayer didn’t like what she saw in the VPN data report. Home workers were not accessing the network with the same fervor as their cubicle dwelling counterparts. There was no mention of any other indicators of declining productivity – such as missed delivery dates, delayed projects or late reports. (That may well have been the case, but it was not mentioned in any of the online articles I reviewed.) It appears that quite a number of Yahoo work-at-homers simply were not, well…working. Who could blame Ms. Mayer for doing what she did. Confronted with such data, she hit the problem with a large hammer – gather your laptops you work-at-home slackers, and report to the office tomorrow at 9, and don’t be late (or something to that effect).

Now I know what some of you are thinking…those of you who go to work every day to do things like put out fires, arrest criminals, teach children, build roads, attend the sick, minister to the masses, cut lawns, plow fields, drive the big rigs, and sell beauty products door to door – you people are probably saying to yourselves, “those cry baby corporate drones are a bunch of whiners. Somebody makes them change out of their bathrobes and report to work in an office, and they act like it’s the end of the world.”

In some cases, I might agree with such thought, as some of us are whiners. But most work at homers, including myself, will tell you that spending your day chained to a computer in you own home isn’t as inviting as non-home workers believe it to be.

Some years ago, when I told someone that I worked at home, I would get one of two reactions, one being, “you are so lucky. I wish I could find a job like yours,” or, “oh I see,” wink-wink, “you’re working from home,” with the wink-wink emphasis on the word ‘working’ – catch my drift. As years passed, and more and more companies allowed, and in fact encouraged, workers to work from their homes, the novelty apparently wore off. Today when I tell someone that I work from my home I rarely get a response of any kind.

So here is what I have found so far, based upon several years of home work:

First – I find that I work longer hours than I did in my cubicle back at Corporate. Since I have been relieved of the time consuming task of preparing for, and driving to, an office, I can spend that time…working. And for the record, I have never worked in my bathrobe.

Second – home work is lonely. Occasional face to face time with co-workers is mentally healthy. Everyone needs to complain now and then, and we need someone to listen to us and nod, and tell us that they have been feeling the same way about the way management has been off-loading more work on those of us left after the last layoff…blah, blah, blah…you don’t get much time to complain sitting in a room by yourself with a laptop.

Third – and this is a huge giveback to The Man that  flies completely under the corporate radar: Nobody gets sick anymore. Or at least they don’t where I work. Back days of yore, before I worked at home, I could spend those occasional days when I didn’t feel ‘up to par’ on my couch, feet propped up with a box of tissues in hand, watching daytime TV. It was called, ‘calling in sick’. Not so today. It is not that people don’t get sick, of course they do, but the bar has been raised on what warrants complete and utter absence from work.

Last week, shortly after I logged into work from my home office, an email popped up from a co-worker. The subject line read: “Still not over the flu – will be checking email throughout the day.” That email arrived a little before 7 AM. I knew that my co-worker had been suffering with the flu for a few days, but every day she dutifully logged it to check her email, and every day she continued to ‘work through’. I called her at 4 PM and she was still online.

“I thought you were going to get some rest today,” I said, “you must be feeling better.”

“Feel like crap,” she responded, “I’m going to lie down in a little while.”

One email had led to the next, then a series of instant message exchanges with our London office, followed by a conference call with the development group in San Francisco, and the entire day had melted away.

So there you have it – my communique from the work-at-home front line. I am not here to defend Ms. Mayer’s lay-about, home workers. I certainly don’t have enough information to say her decision was wrong. Indeed it seems she had a very good reason for herding the sheep back into the corporate fold. I am wondering though, if the same work habits that made these people ineffective home workers will simply follow them into the office.

An icon falls…Tulip calls

My phone rang early this morning. It was Tulip calling from Vegas. I hadn’t heard from her since before the holidays, so I knew that something big was up.

“Hey Trop,” she said, “have you heard the news?” She started out like that, like we talked every day. Her voice was raspy and her speech a little slurred. I figured she’d been up all night.

“Well hello to you too, Tulip,” I said, “I thought you’d dropped off the map. Where are you anyway?”

“I’m staying at Bally’s,” she said, “but that could be temporary, depending…I drove over for the Super Bowl.”

“You drove,” I said, somewhat shocked, knowing Tulip’s aversion to distance driving, as well as the condition of her classically restored 1978 Ford LTD. “All the way from L.A.?”

“Times are a little tough right now,” she said, “I’m trying to save on airfare.” A few seconds of silence followed, and then I heard the flick of a lighter, and I knew she’d lit a fresh American Spirit. “But if you want some fodder for that blog of yours,” she continued, “just turn on the TV.”

I did as Tulip suggested and turned on Channel 6 News out of Miami. The news of the day was just shocking. Dan Marino, or ‘Dan-the-Man’ as he is so often affectionately referred to here in South Florida had fallen, and fallen hard — within the space of only a few hours. He’d plummeted from iconic sports hero to dirt bag extraordinaire. I am sure that all of my loyal readers know by now, that Dan by his own admission had an extramarital affair — one that resulted in the birth of a child. Dan doesn’t deny the allegations and has in fact admitted that he has supported both mother and child, and apparently very well.

If you don’t live in South Florida, then you might not realize how Dan Marino is idolized here. Oh, the guy has his detractors for sure. A contractor friend of mine who worked on Dan’s house told me that he was cold and distant (translated to arrogant asshole who wouldn’t sign an autograph), but for the most part Dan-the-Man has achieved hero status here. He is after all, the immortal number ‘13’ – the star quarterback for the Miami Dolphins who, back during their heyday led the team to greatness, including the yet to be challenged ‘undefeated season’, of 1972.

As many of we Dolphins fans watch grainy footage of Dan’s gridiron exploits on the stadium jumbo-tron during pre-game hoopla, we find ourselves hoping that someday our team might find another Marino, and in fact every quarterback fielded by the Dolphins is compared against the Marino yardstick…sigh…

So Dan Marino has fallen, or maybe not. So far, lovers by the score are not stepping forward (see Woods, Tiger), and for the moment it seems to be a private matter between Dan-the-Man and his family…so far…

So I think Tulip was wrong. There’s nothing to see here beyond another fallen athlete. I don’t think this story will grow legs. I told Tulip that when I called her later in the day.

“You’re wrong Trop,” she said. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Wanna bet,” I said. There was silence on the phone and  I thought better of it. “Forget I said that, what’s your pick for the Super Bowl?”

“Ravens by 3.”

“By 3?”

“Yeah, in overtime,” she said.

That’s Tulip.