Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Burned by Scantily Clad Women

By Sal Emma

Every word of what you’re about to read is true. Honest!

Beth, of course, says differently. And she takes great pleasure in telling her side of the story. Here’s what really happened.

On the long drive home from North Carolina after a recent family mini-reunion, we were targeting a spot to walk the pooch and grab a bite. The weather was OK. Sunny and dry, so we opted for the outdoor mall at White Marsh, Md.

As the family’s resident beer snob, I volunteered to pick the venue while Beth and Max took Westmonster for a walk. Lots of choices, but as always, beer selection was the prime motivator. I stuck my head into two or three places. Narrowed it down to the brewpub and, across the way, Tilted Kilt, a chain pseudo-Irish pub.

Let the record show, your Honor, that I’d never before heard of this particular establishment nor had I ever set foot in one before this occasion.

On any day, I’d go with the brewpub. I avoid chain joints like the plague and will almost always opt to enrich the true local economy by patronizing locally owned haunts. But I couldn’t this day. The problem, the place was heavy with the dense and somewhat overwhelming aromas of brewing. Stink, most would say. As a brewer myself, I have only respect for any brewpub trying to make a go of it (especially in such a horrid location as this, a Disneyesque fake main street in a fake mall parking lot.)

But the place was really ripe that day. I could have tolerated it OK but I knew Max would be unhappy, with his more easily offended olfactory sensibility.

So I decided the simulated Irish pub would be the better choice. No malodors to contend with and the beer selection was off the charts. Perfect.

I went back in to inquire about the dog. He’s a service dog in training, so most places understand that they have to let him in under ADA rules. But on very rare occasions, we’ll run up against an uninformed restaurateur who holds his ground, for one reason or another. So out of courtesy, we tend to ask ahead of time instead of barging in and demanding that the place accommodate him. I approached the hostess station.

It’s important to note, your Honor, this object’s construction.

It was a tall wooden box, maybe four and a half feet high. A young woman was standing inside. I could see her neck and head, and little else. I’m not much of a fashionista so I don’t normally notice what people are wearing. But in this case, the cabinetwork obscured her duds so they were completely out of mind. I asked if the service animal would be OK and she was very polite and friendly in her approval. I took a closer look at the beer taps, where I saw the second of only two employees I encoutered during this reconnaissance: a guy in a T-shirt.

Key details, your Honor. Woman in a wooden box. Guy in a T-shirt.

Back outside, I circled around to the bookstore to pick up the rest of the family, satisfied with my scouting mission. We headed back across the pseudo-street and marched through the front door.
At this point, we were immediately approached by a trio of Tilted Kilt representatives, female, bubbly and enthusiastically welcoming.

One thought went through my mind: I am so screwed.

Let’s just say the Tilted Kilt work uniform allows unrestricted views of almost all piercings and tattoos. If you’re not against scantily-clad women, take a look. 

Oh well. Already in deep, no turning back. We sat, settled the dog and I held the giant plank of a laminated Technicolor menu before my nose to avoid eye contact with my wife. It was in vain.

“So. We came here for the beer selection, huh?” came my spouse's incredulous response.

For the foreseeable future, “beer selection” has officially become our family’s euphemism for the architectural features of a pretty, perky and barely contained young woman.

“Wow. Would you look at the beer selection on her?”

And of course Beth won’t think of letting me live it down.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rubber Pancakes ... crowdsourced!

Yeah, man. We're at the cutting edge now. Crowdsourcing like the best and brightest, web-savvy 20-somethings.

Well. As long as you consider one guy a "crowd."

It was my buddy Denny. Part of my hope in posting the "Anyway" piece was that somebody in our vast global audience would know more about it - since it came to me without writing credit.

Denny nailed it:

It's called "The Paradoxical Commandments for Christians." The author is Kent M. Keith. He wrote it in 1968 when he was 19 and a sophomore at Harvard. It was part of a pamphlet he wrote for high school student leaders. It is now the basis for his book titled "Jesus Did It Anyway."
Keith penned the commandments in the 1960s and they quickly became fodder for the pre-Web Xerox sneakernet. Even Mother Teresa was rumored to have kept a copy.

Mystery solved! Thanks, Denny!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Anyway ...

By Sal Emma

[Postscript: a savvy RP reader recognized the poem, identified the author and taught us more about its origin.]

If there was one day I first began to absorb the amazing power of the World Wide Web, it was probably this one. It came into sharp focus, 20 years after the seed was planted.

My friend and former co-worker Mark reminded me of this little tale in an e-mail exchange yesterday. We were talking about how you try to do the right thing for your friends and neighbors and sometimes you get no thanks for it. Occasionally, your reward for doing somebody a favor is a swift kick in the pants. And we agreed that you have to do the right thing, anyway.

Which reminded me of a 20-year quest for a sentimental little poem.

Those of you old enough to remember a world without e-mail and Facebook might remember the analog version. The network administrators were office workers. The platform: Xerox. And by that I mean the ubiquitous photocopy machine. It was a sneakernet. You made the copy and carried it, on foot, to another who might make a copy of her own. On the network, jokes, cute stories, obscene drawings, bawdy limericks - you name it. All the same crap today's office workers zip around the world at the touch a button. But in those days, it took a little more effort and the network was a bit slower.

They were copies of copies of copies - the IBM Selectric typewriter font swelling to barely-readable Rohrschadt blobs of ink and toner. Most folks pinned these to their cubicle walls for casual observers.

Others - let's call them the bloggers of the pre-Web world - carried them around. Sometimes, full color on coated paper. These guys were serious. When you met one of these characters in the street, he'd say something like "Have I showed you my pride and joy?" Then extract a crinkled snapshot from his wallet for your examination. Really.

I met one of the former variety at a car stereo shop just north of Trenton, N.J. Beth had recently inherited her father's Oldsmobile, a lot like this one. It was about the size of a Korean grocery store and had a really cheesy GM/Delco radio with tinny transistor radio speakers. I decided to ask her to borrow it so I could secretly have a decent sound system installed as a birthday gift. AM/FM/cassette, of course.

I was buddies with one of the guys who worked at the shop which was the only reason they let me hang around during the install. Normally, a place like that will chase the owner away so they can curse at him and make fun of his car when he's not around. The guys at this shop were nothing like that. They went out of their way to be nice to me and were happy to share little trade secrets as they went about their work. At first I thought it was just my connection making the difference - but as the job progressed, it became apparent that one guy in particular really was that nice. He wasn't showing me any special treatment. It was just the way he interacted with everybody.

I was really taken by this guy. His no-questions-asked attitude of treating me like his greatest friend really impressed me. To this day I regret that I never figured out a way to befriend him. But in the 1980s, guys didn't exactly ask other guys for their phone numbers, if you know what I mean. It could send the wrong message.

At some point I had to go into his office for some paperwork. And I noticed one of these 27th generation Xeroxes pinned to his wall among the invoices, receipts and other work trash. It stood out - it might have even been in a frame. I went in for a closer look. It explained everything.

"Wow." I must have said, or something equally pithy and profound. Seeing my reaction, he told me it had become his life philosophy. And it blew me away. I was barely out of my teens and already working hard on cultivating a guarded, skeptical, cynical and somewhat angry-at-the-world mentality. And here was this guy, only a few years older than me, living a completely different kind of outlook.

It would be an overstatement to say that poem changed me. But it sure did stick with me. That entire day would have been forgotten I think, had it not been for the poem moment. My memory is notoriously bad for details of routine happenings three decades ago.

It impressed me. But not enough to prompt me to ask for a copy. Something I wished I had done for decades to come. It wasn't a big deal, nothing earth-shattering. But every three or four years, I'd think of that day, that car, that installer and that poem and think – crap, I wish I'd taken a copy of that thing.

Well, every three or four years quickly turns into 20. That's about how long it took for the poem to find its way back to me, thanks to the World Wide Web.

Somewhere around '99 or 2000, I was telling Mark about it, one day at work. And I thought ... hey, I wonder if anybody has posted it yet. I was skeptical. I could only remember one line of the poem, something about getting kicked in the teeth. But I also remembered a repeating word ... anyway. It was like - if you do this, you'll get that. Do this anyway. And so on. That was all I had.

It was enough. I think I searched "kick teeth anyway." And there it was - the very poem I'd remembered - and forgotten. Another one of those 'a-ha' moments that stick with you. That was the day I fully realized that we were seeing the world change in a gargantuan way, right before our eyes. I probably said "whoa," or something equally pithy and profound.

And here, for your edification, is the poem as I found it that day. It moves around with me and gets installed on each new computer as I upgrade. It's not tacked to my office wall but, like the time I was without it, I think of it every couple of years. When I do, I find it on my hard drive and reread it:


People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest person with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs.
Fight for underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building up may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help, but will attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.
Give the world the best you've got and it may kick you in the teeth.
Give the world the best you've got anyway.