Thursday, February 25, 2016

An Open Letter to the Kids of Today

An Open Letter to the Kids of Today

I’ve owned a house in Royal Oak, Michigan for over 15 years and I cannot tell you how many times a kid has come to my door to inquire about being hired to shovel snow, rake leaves or cut my grass.
This is because the number of times this has happened is zero.

Yes, you kids are spoiled and living in a world of entitlement. But hold on--- I think I understand why you are why you are. It's because you say "today the world is different" and you're right. It is a different world today from when I grew up. I know this because:

Today you get a medal for just showing up and a trophy for finishing the race.
Today you get a graduation ceremony and flowers for finishing pre-school.
Today you get dropped off and picked up from school because a mile is too far to walk.
Today you have 496 channels of cable TV and still complain there is nothing on.
Today you can’t even spell because U R 2 lzy to learn thx 2 Ur parent.
Today you bitch because some new technology that was only invented five minutes ago does not work perfectly.
Today you get a car and a phone because your parents are too gutless to tell you that you really need to work for things and the reason they do this is because they are competing for your love because they are probably divorced.
Today you can’t hear “Hey batter, batter” on the Little League field because it is considered taunting and bullying.
Today you could buy a second hand snow blower or lawnmower for a fraction of what you spend on video games and work your way into prosperity---oh wait, that is no longer the goal of our country because prosperity is a bad word.

So today you get to hear people like me bitch about you because you’ve either been allowed to grow up in a culture of entitlement or this is now the norm. Either way, I am sick of it and the fact that you will one day be running this country scares the shit out of me.

Maybe I am being too harsh. I realize you are at a great disadvantage because you’ve come to idolize entertainers like Kanye West and the other jackoffs and you know more about the Kardashians than you do the three branches of Government, how to balance a checkbook or apply 4 A Jb.

Kids growing up in America today are in for a shock when they get older and have to enter the real world. This is probably why colleges have created “safe zones” so when a student gets their feelings hurt because someone disagrees with their political belief or ideology, they have a place they can run to and be coddled. And why not? This is what America has become.

But I’m sorry. My bad. I know some of you work hard to get into college and I admire that as long as you are not acquiring degree like these being offered at major colleges and universities:

Hip-hop Appreciation (need I say more?)
Queer Musicology (ditto)
Madonna Studies (which is actually injected into the gender course at Harvard)
Parapsychology, perfect for starting a career with Ghostbusters. Oh wait, Ghostbusters are fictional – Well, that’s four years wasted.

But maybe I should step back about the college thing. After all, certain presidential candidates are telling you your student loans will be forgiven and that college will be free if you vote for them.

So what I am saying is, this country is doomed and we have you and your parents to thank for it all because you decided to take a snow day and keep your lazy butts in bed texting your friends and all I can do is SMH.

By the way, that thing in the picture is called a shovel and the thing next to it is called a sidewalk.

Maybe one day your parents or your government will give you one.

Now get off of my lawn.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Lighten up while you still can--remembering Glenn Frey

Light up while you still can----- 

That’s good advice to heed in our hyper-sensitive out of control country, don’t you think? Thank God we have rock and roll music to help navigate us through this quagmire of dysfunction, which is why we all need practice what the late, great Glenn Frye preached and “Take it easy.”

That song was the Eagles first single and it was a smash hit, paving the way for one of the most storied and successful rock bands of all time as they forged their indelible career in the meat and potatoes days of rock and roll. 

By now, everyone knows that Glenn Frey grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan.  He lived a block away from my family’s first home but was cutting vinyl on Hideout Records by the time I was a toddler. Still, nearly everyone in the neighborhood had a story about him. He graduated from my high school, Royal Oak Dondero and the stories about him were plentiful, even though a good many of the people who said they remembered him graduated several years after he did. But so what. That’s ok. We’re all getting old and our memories are getting fuzzy.

The simple truth is that we want to be connected to greatness and rightly so. Glenn Frey was the epitome of rock and roll greatness. “He went to my high school” was something nearly everyone who went to Dondero bragged about over time. Face it, when you tell people you grew up in Royal Oak it was much cooler to say it was the boyhood home of Glenn Frey rather than the place Jack Kevorkian lived and worked.

Though the Eagles created a new hybrid of what many call “Southern California Rock and Roll,” only one of them was from California (Timothy B Schmidt) and a part of each of their youth was evident in their music. Frey was a protégé of Bob Seger and though he was never laudatory of growing up in Royal Oak, he never forgot where he came from and neither did we.

The Eagles were real musicians who wrote their own songs, played their instruments and created a body of work that brings me to the universal conclusion that it’s not that I am getting old; today’s music really does suck. 

The Eagles had something special and it wasn’t just a “right place at the right time” sound. This was evidenced by the fact that despite the amount of acrimony that existed in the band, they continued to make great music together even after they reunited for zillions of dollars.  Ultimately, they cared about the music and cared about each other. When Joe Walsh tried to sum up his grief about Glenn’s passing he said “It’s not that I can’t find the words, it’s that there are no words.” 

Very recently (and quickly) the powers that be in Royal Oak passed a resolution to rename the street that borders Dondero High School (now Royal Oak Middle School) in Frye’s memory and yesterday the sign was unveiled. There was and will continue to be a tremendous feeling of pride all of us Oaks have for Glenn and for how the Eagles music helped provide the soundtrack to our lives. I can’t help but think about Frey whenever I drive in through my old neighborhood in south Royal Oak---east on Lincoln Ave then past Longfellow, Mohawk and Wyandotte Avenues.

Royal Oak is a far cry from Winslow Arizona, but you can bet there will be plenty of people stopping to grab a picture at this corner, after all, it’s such a fine sight to see isn’t it?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

40 years ago, the Oakland County Child Killer

Forty years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday.

There were five words frequently spoken in homes across Metro Detroit in the late seventies. Everyone was scared and everyone was talking about it.

“The Oakland County Child Killer.”

Those words became permanent parts of the architecture of homes in Royal Oak, Ferndale, Berkley and Birmingham. The ordeal, which lasted for 13 months was an unbearable loss that has been with the families in every step they’ve taken on this earth since 1976 and 1977. It has also stuck with the rest of us.

Friends, classmates and communities were scared (and rightfully so) because we were living a real nightmare. Four kids my age had disappeared and turned up dead over a period of almost two years. I remember reading about it regularly in the Daily Tribune and trying to make sense of why it was scaring me so much. It was probably because it was scaring our parents and parents everywhere. In my neighborhood we were either walked to our friend’s houses and back or had to call our parents the moment we were leaving a friend’s house, even less than 200 yards away, to let them know we were running home.

Was it parents being paranoid and too cautious? Of course not. The crime rate was low in our “Leave it to Beaver” world in Royal Oak and kids didn’t get kidnapped or murdered; that is, until those thirteen months in 1976 and 1977. Then everything changed. It was mass hysteria. It was the worst possible crime that could be committed; kidnapping sexually abusing and then killing a child. And the crimes have never been solved.

If you grew up in that area in that time, I’d reckon these words might still make you uncomfortable:
Task force
Stranger danger
Shotgun blast to the face
Big Beaver Road
American Legion Hall
Tiny Tim Hobby Store
Drug store
And fried chicken, the last meal fed to one of the victims before he was sexually abused, meticulously bathed and killed by a psychopath who has never been caught. This case remains the most remembered in the area forty years after it happened. Was it incompetent police work? A cover up or just bad luck that it could not be solved?

Today we are no closer to finding answers than we are counting the snowflakes that fall outside in this February flurry that brings a chill to our bodies, much like the chill we felt when we heard the words “late model blue Gremlin” on the evening news.