Tuesday, March 13, 2018

You'll Get Nothing and Like It

Well, it's March, time for madness again

But I'm getting a little jaded about all of this.  The reason for this mentality is that, in each passing year, the very reason for why the tournament is as popular as it is slowly drains away.

I guess it actually began in another sport: college football.  They announce a playoff, however small, and I react positively.  Finally, everyone has a realistic shot at this.  Wait...there are 6 bowls involved?  Whatever, I don't care, as long...I'm sorry, "Power Conferences" is...what is that?

Well, what it is is the same lesson being told another way: there's a list of schools we care about.  The rest?  Get bent.  Oh, you're undefeated?  Don't care.  Ok, you can be in one of these 6 bowls, but not the playoff.  Hey, at least we let you in here, right?

March Madness was different.  Everyone in, and the love flowed.  Throughout my youth, seeding (which in the end doesn't matter) was appropriate on an agreed set of circumstances.  And every year, you'd get upsets.  Duke would lose tournament games in North Carolina and we'd rejoice.  Stephen F. Austin and Florida Gulf Coast would wear you down and make it happen.  Ohio would just plain beat the shit out of Georgetown.  I'd even get in the fun, especially when you'd sense a run (like George Mason) and ride the way in picks.  (A team former Pacific Gold writer Dave Blizznewski called Ghetto Magic)

But one time, a tournament started and I didn't make any picks.  No one really cared.  I just sat back and watched, hoping for upsets which didn't occur.  And another year...and another, and since I'm not ensconced in something that I'll foul up anyway, I cast my full gaze to the schools themselves.  I recognized nearly all of them, and this is in a day and age where my basketball viewing time is minimal.

A) We have the usual powers.
B) We have the small conference champions.
C) And we have this at-large pool where the committee would much rather have more schools from the A conferences and not the B.  Why?

As with many sports-related questions that are answered in opinion and not fact, I'm not told a reason.  One new answer I heard this week was "Hey, remember, this is a TV show!  You want the big names for big games!"  We can agree or disagree with that, and considering my former career and knowledge on the subject, it would be useless to tell another windbag how they got it wrong.  It's that the victories of schools from a B conference beating a school from an A conference is WHAT MADE THIS WHOLE THING POPULAR.

The first question people say when discussing the madness is "Who do you have winning the tournament?" - a statement that could cover any sort of athletic competition.  The second?  "What are your upsets?"  The NCAA will tolerate 1, maybe 2...and the rest that aren't upsets really (except in seed) help stir that talk.  Those lovable ratings.  But when those little old schools don't get to play...it's just another weekend in December with "key match-ups."

I'll be watching, of course.  I like basketball, and more importantly, entertaining basketball.  Sometimes I can even coax the Big Scoop to join me, even if the topic turns to uniform color.  It'll mean nothing to her, but I'll watch and think "you're killing what made this great for no reason other than the whims of a very, very few.  I wonder if I'm alone?"

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Heat Shaming

Because it was lunchtime, I forced myself to go outside for a walk.  This normally would not be an achievement, but it was a shaky 58 degrees.  It's been that way all week, and will next week, too.  It's Winter, I know...but when the Old Man throws in a hearty gust o'wind as well, this isn't easy. 

So I'm ambling...not struggling, just dealing with it.  You know what load of dung then entered my mind?  (It was actually a tour bus that went by, and I could, at that moment, see what those out of towners were thinking)  "Ha!  You think this is cold?  This is nothing!  Hell, where we're from, you'd be knee deep in a concoction of snow, dirt, water, and gravel!  You gotta get tough!"

OK, but...

If you live here, in Dealville, this IS cold, you see.  Which...

What makes it so that 58 degrees with fun wind is normal to anyone?  Does a person's comfort zone only exist indoors?  I don't know that it's about "rights" and wrongs, and I know I'm not alone.  The scuttlebutt around the office on Tuesday was a guarded agreement that hoo wee, it got really cold, didn't it?  I'm cold.  You're cold, so we agree?  

In my youth, I don't remember ever hearing anyone say that outside, or inside for that matter.  It's been decades, so I could have easily deleted that memory.  Maybe it's too obvious?  Maybe "no shit" would be the answer, and no one wants to hear it.

(But, no one wants to hear from Dealville when it's glorious and others are letting the car warm up, either)

I see March from here.  The sun, basketball, a big stretch.  Lemme hear those horns.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Business (Of All Kinds) is Booming in Southwest Florida

(Editor's Note: Trip Darvez once again reaches into the archives for a very early column...perhaps his first.

"I visited a DJ I'd met at a convention, and I ended up submitting this to the Miami Phoenix newspaper...they turned me down, but when I moved to LA to work at KLAQ, I ended up submitting this to the LA Reader in 1980.  It was enough to get another audition and, eventually, being added to the staff.")

You start noticing it when you get off Interstate 75.  Signs everywhere: "Coming soon!  Lakeland South housing development!  Southwest Florida's newest golf 'community' with fine dining!"  Get closer to the beach, and they change their prose but not their enthusiasm: all major hotel chains are here, along with condos for the snowbirds with enticing names like "Pelican Cove" and "San Carlos Harbor Inn" and "Bayside Estates."  They're here, new, with more on the way.  The reason is that the first real domino fell: the highway, expansion, and all that planning gets everyone jumping.  The new airport will be ready by "the early '80s" (as many remind me) and with said Interstate going from the Canadian border, they're ready to welcome everyone down.

This vibe isn't held by just the tourists, either.  I figured the locals would resent this, but they've embraced it, all for their own reasons.

Building Up

Like Hawaii, this is an early-to-rise part of the world, so construction starts a half-hour early down here, and site manager Nelson Quinones says whatever the extra time might hit him in labor costs, things can get done a week or two early.  "That's really priceless."
We're walking around what will be called "Island Towers" which will be complete with "Sunset Views, Beachfront Fun, and a slice of Paradise!"  Estero Blvd. seemed like a main drag for the island offshoot, but it's connection on both sides is bringing everyone: supermarkets, restaurants, you name it.  For the locals, the ever-increasing amenities for day to day living now here outweigh having to put up with noisy trucks here and there.

"Building this up is really a combination of things.  You want things to blend in."  How does a building aptly named "Tower" blend in with the homes, all exclusively 1 story?  "Well, I could have gone bigger.  They're going to do that on the east side.  Look, 6 stories is not, you know, obscene.  We're not doing a huge parking lot as you'd guess.  But by doing it this way, it's..." (He smiles)  Exclusive?  "You're getting the language down now."  As they are, this whole stretch of Estero will be dotted with similar properties, with churn year round.  Nelson is just one of many here to strike.

"They're loading up!"

If Nelson ready to strike, Lowell Vera of Parkway Liquors is ready for the rush.  The street is actually called College Parkway, but Lowell figured he'd run into trouble if he called it "College Liquors."  Florida's liquor laws prevent hard liquor in supermarkets, but distance has nothing to do with it.  Many locations have a liquor store either in walking distance or conveniently attached...Lowell is here on his own, not far from a House of Pancakes and, if you're coming east, you'll see it before the 7-Eleven.  "I really thought when that went in, that's it for me."  A customer interrupts with a bag of ice and a 6 pack of beer.  "But I got food here...no Slurpees, but I ain't gonna hassle ya." 

"It used to be that we'd get some college kids, and people coming from Cape Coral over the bridge, but..." Lowell fishes out a Kent, tapping it on the counter as if to emphasize his point "the 7-Eleven didn't help, but the slow period, that's what I like to call the Summer, that was strictly locals...it's not as slow.  Lotta construction guys coming in here, even in the morning."

A lady (his wife?  fellow employee?  I never got to meet her and he never offered a name, so we'll never know) rotates and stacks more iced oatmeal cookies on the shelf.  "Some of these guys, they just showed up down here, it's their first time, they have directions but don't really know the area.  So they see us, and I swear they were getting stuff like they'd be out on the water for weeks.  These two guys, remember?  I see em just get a Styrofoam cooler and put it on the counter and just start getting 8-packs and bags of chips, beef jerkey, didn't say a word.  I turned one and said 'you're loading up' and he just smiled.  My kind of sale!"

A "Growth" Business

Having a good time is getting easier in this area.  The boats roam a night, so I've been told, and the daytime business keeps going.  It's the business of feeling good, and business is, well, getting better and better.

"Terry" is a man who makes that his business, and the demands of the business are starting to get in the way of those good times.  "Shit, yesterday...(he takes a long pull of a rum runner and a hit off a joint, so much so that I wasn't expecting him to continue) some of the girls we had in here started just talking and talking.  We'd brought in a shipment, and I spent a day with (names redacted) cleaning that shit.  I just need a day or two to relax.  You know?  And they were just talking and..."  Another drag, and a look off into the sunny sky.

All of this growth in the area is offering a lot of people the same chance: the moment to relax and take stock.  Yet, none of those seem to take the time to do so, whether there is the time, or not.  "I bet you could talk to guys on the east coast, and...well, maybe in..."  (rum runner swig, and a shake of the head)

Terry returned from his office with a store-bought Key Lime pie.  We were both hungry, so we went head first.  "The demand keeps going up" Terry says, removing a crumb from his mustache.  "All this stuff distracting me, ruining my buzz, but I run out of shit more and-"  (more singing by the girls he loathes)  "Would you guys can it already?  You know?"  The music is lowered and "Got it" is yelled back.

"I guess I'm getting to be known, we're moving it out.  It's all going to be legal soon...by 1980, you could probably get high at 7-Eleven."  We both laugh at an idea that, if he's right, isn't far fetched.  Just then, one of the girls comes over with hair that's (so I've been told) dyed blonde.  "It really hurts."  She followed this up with a laugh, and Terry just waved his hand.

I leaned back and wondered...all this change, people busy making it happen.  You can't help but wonder where it will take you (and everyone else) next.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The narrative moved, too

As a sports fan, it's never fun when things don't "go well."  But think about it: how often does it go well?  Is there a hard and fast definition of "going well?"  Don't things have to at least "go well" for you to take time our of your day to involve yourself in some way?

The Dodgers lose game 7.  Georgia loses in OT.  The Rams lose in the playoffs.  It might not have ended the way you wanted, but it was better than expected, wasn't it?  Does that constitute as "going well"?  Sure.  Outdoing your expectations validates your time, right?  It was worth it.

Or...so the thinking goes.

Each team of each sport knows this and thinks this way, too.  Shit, some of them have to because, for some employees, it's their job on the line.  So...if YOU'RE not thinking about the team that way, they'll do their best to get you on their side.  It's how they keep making money.  By not doing that, you can't even convince the hardcore fans all that money and time is worth it.

Now, if I'm talking about a team having to work overtime to keep fan interest (despite the play on the field), you know I'm talking about the Chargers.

The Chargers.  (allows moment for laughs to subside)  A team who bent over backwards to upset their loyal fanbase.  An owner who had no idea on how to use that fanbase to grow it's value.  A "new" fanbase that doesn't really seem to exist.  If it does, you wouldn't see them at their stadium.

A team that now is comfortable being a second fiddle, renting a stadium....until a larger, newer stadium can also be rented from another team.  How do you end up this way?  This decade tells you how: you're just good enough...how you keep people thinking it's about to get better, and how if it's not better now, it's so close to being better, you'd best stick around.  Right?  Hello?!

2010: Coming of a 13-3 season.  A team with the #1 offense AND defense...has 4 punts blocked, gives up 3 kick-offs for touchdowns.  A loss to Kansas City in Week 16, and they don't make the playoffs.  9-7.

2011: For those of us in LA who didn't have Sunday Ticket, you'd be stuck with shitty AFC West games at 1PM more often than not.  (It was this poor viewing audience that windbags would point to and say "see, LA doesn't care about football".)  A season where 3 of the division's teams are 8-8.  Denver wins the division, because the Chargers start 4-1, then slide with a 6 game losing streak.  2 home games are blacked out.  (Back when that kind of thing happened)   8-8.

2012: Typical Norv season.  Never really in it, 0-4 vs. NFC teams this season.  7-9.

2013: A new coach, a strong ending to the season, everyone else losing, so the Chargers make the playoffs!  Better yet, they WIN a playoff game.  A close loss to Denver in the divisional round, but it was a clear improvement.  See, fans?  Things are getting better.  We're looking forward to an even better 2014!  9-7.

2014: They start 5-1.  Look out!  Hey, are they gonna get a new stadium?  I bet if they keep playing good they'll...wait, did I just talk about finishing the season strong?  I did.  In 3 of their last 4 games, they fail to get more than 1 TD.  In week 17, its a win and get in game vs. Kansas City.  Guess how that went down.  9-7.

2015: The middle of the season sees a truly Chargers-style losing streak: 6 in a row.  What makes it Chargers-style?  The first 5 games lost during the streak are by 1 TD or less.  That new stadium talk has swiftly been replaced with moving.  A bad team, bad record, fans hear this news and don't show up.  All this cannon fodder for the owner.  All to see...the team have to stay?  4-12.

2016: A fanbase who has been told the team has one foot out the door anyway (all the while crying poor) sees a 5-6 start end with an artistic 5 game losing streak.  As the caption read before the Week 17 game in San Diego (the last time, for the last time) before a half-full stadium  "This is what being dicked around looks like."  5-11

2017: Hey, we moved!  Not too far away.  And it's...OK, it's a soccer stadium, but look!  We're here, LA!  What?  Oh yeah, another team came here first.  And they play in the big stadium, and they played here for a long time.  But we're here, too! 

An 0-4 start, a stadium on the small side of "MACtion" with empty seats and those filled usually by fans of the other team, and the welcome never shows.  After the bye, the team goes 6-2 (beating only 1 playoff team, and that was the week the Bills decided their back-up might be a good idea).  But those two losses?  To actual playoff teams.  They need "help" to get in and don't get it.  9-7, the eternal Chargers record.

So what's the headline, buried on the site?

"After 0-4 start, Chargers finish strong and build momentum for 2018."

The narrative never changes.  Good start, bad ending, bad start, good ending.  Next year?  Just keep on spinning.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

I'm One

Smile.  Head down.  Chop wood.  Quiet.  Check in and out.  Thankful and grateful.

But...I look out the window...the view, me oh my.  Breathe.  Relax.  Lean back.

Arrive.  Sit anywhere.  Take it in.  Listen.  Ask questions.  Get more tea.

Absorb.  Collect.  Look over, again and again.  Learn.

Stand in the sun.  Reflect, but just for a moment.  It's beginning.

All of this, I keep to myself.  Well, 90%.  OK, maybe 85%. 

I wouldn't say I've done a lot of "strange" things for a living.  Most have been at conventional locations, organizations known out here.  When you have to explain it, you can find out right away the kind of person you're talking to: and if that and any other conversations go further.  Shit, that's just the job.  Some places encouraged a healthy happy hour vibe, at work and not at work.  Others, I'd pair off with 1 or 2 people.  We all remember the places where you were the odd man out.

Part of the fun of having real friendships that span time is to see that people can evolve and change, but if they're truly your friend, it takes little for it to "feel like old times."  It doesn't mean things are the same, or that you'd want them to be.  It's the connection.  I wouldn't limit that to a person, either.  Your favorite sport, restaurant, vacation spot, doesn't matter. 

It's not easy when the "old neighborhood" changes and it's not the same as your youth.  Sometimes, awesome restaurants and bars close.  The friends you made there equally disappear.  Your vacation spot is now not as "off the beaten path" as before.  You still like listening to The Best of Heatwave, but now not everyone in the car agrees. 

What's new?  Well, don't you want to find out?  Can we watch college football and eat snacks, like always?  Of course we can.  But once the games are over, we're going for a bike ride?  Instead of drinking more beer on the couch, solo?  Shit, ain't that something?!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Looking Forward

A few years ago, I returned to my monitoring cell in Beverly Hills and saw the sun setting over the swankiest zip code in America.  I was confident in the future, and I was making it happen.  A self-referential moment, I liked where my life was headed.  It was a step up. 

And then, right after I took a step up...I fell down the flight of stairs.

And now, after all of the bullshit, I begin again.  Not doing the items of the past, but the goal all along.  Future-thinking, forward-thinking, all that shines.  I haven't had to live as much of a shell game as right now, but at least it's a game.  At least you get another chance to win...or keep playing. 

As I've said in the past, in this town, what you do is the 2nd, sometimes 1st question people ask (so they can judge and rank you, of course).  But if you want to live in polite company and not tell people to shove off, so it goes. 

It's great being normal again.  Now, on to the list.  New desk chair?  Yeah, but...look, 1984 Stars in Motion LA Olympics T shirt.  And...purchased.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"I wanted to give you an update"

Hey Trip!  I hope this finds you well.  Thank you for reaching out to us about this position.  We'd like to speak to you this week.  Please let us know if the time below works for you. 

Great!  I look forward to speaking with you then.

Trip, thank you for talking with me.  I've passed along my notes to the hiring manager, and they'd like to speak with you.  We do need to fill this position as soon as possible, so we'll be in touch by the end of the week.

Trip, I apologize for the delay.  Would you be free next week for a phone interview?  Please let me know.

I'm glad to hear the phone call went well.  We'd like you to come into the office to meet other folks in the department.  Is there a time later next week or the week afterward that would be best for you?  We do need to fill this position by the end of the month, so the earlier you could come in, the better.  Please let us know.

Terrific.  I'll send you information before the meeting.

Trip, thanks for writing.  I wasn't aware of any delay.  As a matter of fact, I know they liked you.  Let me reach out and I'll get back to you.

I just spoke to the hiring manager, and they said the job is on hold, but just temporarily for now.  I should have an update in 2 weeks. 

Hi Trip.  As far as I've been told, the position remains on hold.  I will definitely let you know if anything changes.

Hello.  I am currently out of the office.  I will write you back when I return next month.