The Business Card

I saw him at the end of the bar sitting between one of my off-duty bartenders and a regular. Bobby. Big Bobby. Bobby worked the door for me for three years before he quit.


(the only “picture” I could find of Bobby – it’s actually him)

“Dude, Bobby, you know you can’t sit here and drink while on the job – check that kid’s ID,” I joked, motioning to some young guy who just walked into the bar. “He’s still got baby fat on him.”

“Naw, that’s just regular fat,” Bobby replied, as we hugged hello.

“How have you been, man?” I asked.

“Actually, good. Really, really good.”

There was something in the tone of his voice. I knew right away this wasn’t going to be the typical 30 seconds of small talk about how good it was to see each other again before finding ourselves with nothing else to say.

Three Minutes And A Painting

Recently I went to a museum and did something I’ve never done before: look at art. I mean, really look at it.


Maybe it was my full stomach (just after lunch), maybe it was the “Mindfulness” segment I just saw on the news, maybe it was skipping coffee that morning, but for whatever reason, I decided to slow down and spend an eternity, three minutes – 180 seconds – sitting on a bench and looking at one painting, and one painting only.

I didn’t set a timer or anything, but when I looked at my watch, it turned out the day was three minutes shorter.



Prison: Rehabilitation Or Retribution?

Locals call them “angels in orange.” Others might find the name “devils in jumpsuits” more apt.


That California has been devastated by a recent series of wildfires which have claimed both lives and property – the Valley Fire has claimed four lives and over 1200 homes – is no secret. That part of the fire crews battling the blazes is made up of felons might not be so well known.


The state’s inmate firefighter program begs a fundamental question about the role of incarceration: should prisons be the tool by which society punishes people for breaking the law, or should it be the tool by which they are given a chance to better themselves, or – and shades of gray can be very unsatisfying – both?


The Trombonist

He wore his hair cropped short and slicked back. His face was heavily pock marked, his shoulders rounded and thick. His name was John Kim, but I wouldn’t know that until the end of our conversation.

(not him, but…)


“It’s a long story,” he said to me, slightly exasperated.


Those were the first words out of his mouth, as if we had already been talking, as if I had just asked him to expand on the answer to a question I hadn’t yet posed. I was sitting at the bar during a fundraiser we were hosting, waiting to catch the bartender’s attention, when the man with pockmarked skin and a tight, thin smile turned to me.

Passive-Aggressive Awesomeness, Presidential Style


Do you ask other people if they’re hungry when you’re hungry? When you want to criticize someone, do you claim merely to be passing on criticism you overheard from someone else? “Look, I think you’re restocking the office supplies just fine, but Doris in accounting said something to me the other day about us running out of staples.”

Do you allow the U.N. to scold you on your antiquated, pointless Cuba embargo, just to piss off the Republican opposition?

Well, that’s just what the Obama administration might be doing….and I love it!

The “Be Nice” Speech


Recently it was announced that UFC fighter Ronda Rousey is slated to reprise Patrick Swayze’s bouncer role in the 80′s cult classic, “Road House.”


(for the record, as a bar owner, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of hiring a “doorwoman” – I mean, seriously, how much of a douche do you have to be to swing on a woman?) Gotta talk to my business partner Mikey about it.

I never saw the original film. Well, to clarify, I’ve only seen one clip from it:

The “Be Nice” speech.

Mikey, himself a former bouncer, showed it to me after we spent half an hour trying to figure out how best to teach new bouncers – we actually call them “hosts,” (not euphemistically, either) – to do their jobs.

Food Is Weird

Food is so weird. I wonder who first thought of eating it.


Take honey. Someone, say 10,000 years ago, must’ve thought, “Damn, it really hurts when those fuzzy flying things stab me with their tiny swords, but it’s odd, their amber diarrhea smells kind of good. Maybe I’ll just stick my finger in their strange geometric toilet structure and taste some.”


How many ancient people died so that you and I know which mushrooms dress up a salad, and which lead to a slow, agonizing death?


Cancer: The Battle, The Journey (update # 6….ten days ago)


15 months ago my friend Gabrielle Burton was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. When I first heard the news, she sent me a batch of the updates she had been sending to friends and family. In them she speaks of the journey: of the initial shock, of coping, of hope, of treatment, of family, and, without every saying it, of her courage and indefatigable outlook in coming to terms with a “new normal” that never stopped changing and, with some kind of magical alchemy, brought her and her loved ones closer and closer together.


Gabrielle with her five daughters.

Her words in those candid and moving updates brought to mind something the philosopher Epictetus said 2000 years ago: “Man is not affected by things, but by his thoughts about things.”

And Gabrielle’s thoughts about this thing that was happening to her were as harrowing as they were inspiring, warm, and uplifting.

Is It “Okay” To Laugh At This?

Figuring out that this old Key and Peele sketch is hilarious was the easy part. I laughed, and everyone I’ve shared it with has, too. Figuring out whether it was racist or not? Not so much. I would love to know what black people think of it.

It is an extremely clever take on a sensitive subject: exotic African American names. They’re most prominent with pro athletes – Za’Darius, Jacquizz, Kentavious, D’Qwell – all first names of NFL players.

But who can “safely” make fun of them?



Gallagher vs. Gallagher

It’s always tragic when a large piece of fruit comes between two brothers.


Leo “Gallagher:”


His brother, Ron “Gallagher Too:”

Ron Gallagher Smashing a Watermelon

The year: 1998

The setting: Green Room, Drop Inn Nightclub, Manayunk, PA

Gallagher: So hey, Ron, we need to talk.

Gallagher II: Sure, but it’s not Ron – I go by Gallagher.

Gallagher: I know. So do I. That’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you about.

If Only They Had Named It “Fluffy McGiantPupils”


The most shocking thing about this story, of course, is that Fox News has a female African American anchor.


Harris Faulkner hosts a daytime show on the network called “Outnumbered” (yes, yes I would agree, and by a lot), and a Sunday evening newscast.

She is also suing toymaker Hasbro over its toy hamster, “Harris Faulkner.” The human Harris thinks the hamster Harris looks too much like her.


Clearly she has a point, but…

Cancer: The Battle, The Journey (postscript to update #5)

Sometimes you don’t win the battle.

A watercolour painting entitled 'Blue Ri

I knew something was wrong when I got a voice mail from a woman describing herself as “Jeff Ross’ counsel.” Her voice was friendly, even cheerful. When she called me back, she asked me to hold a moment while she patched Jeff’s wife onto the line. I have never met his wife in person. She, too, had a kind, friendly voice. They were calling to tell me that my manager, Jeff Ross, had passed away three days before.

I had called him four days before to see how he was doing, and it went straight to voice mail.