studs

The kind of stories I love best are about ordinary people who become heroic when put into extraordinary situations. It’s why I read so many books about war and business. With violence and money, there is no room for excuses or feeling sorry for yourself, even when it makes sense. You have to step up to hard challenges and do more than you thought you could. Some people luck out and have it easy, but we don’t remember them.

Unless they get elected president. Then we have to.

Studs Terkel was an American author, historian, actor, and broadcaster. He’s best known for his oral histories, including the Pulitzer Prize winning The Good War, which I will be finally reading next week when it arrives in the mail.

I have his book Working. Each chapter is about a different person who does a different kind of job in America. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I did read the chapters about the kinds of jobs I’ve held myself. It’s remarkable how little has changed in these careers in the decades since the book was written. Sure, computers made a lot of noise, but the way people feel about these jobs isn’t really much different. I’m reminded again of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London and its grandchild, Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. 

Terkel was a master of conversation and always managed to get people to go into engaging personal detail. He asked about and wrote about things people thought about. In one interview someone asked him about what men cared about and he said something like “women and dogs.” He might not speak for everyone in this age of fractured gender politics, but he certainly sums my interests up here.

In my writing and copywriting I aspire to venerate the working men and women who excel at what they do. This doesn’t mean everyone who punches a clock deserves consideration, though. People just going through the motions in between episodes of Seinfeld and trips to Carl’s Jr. can be forgotten. It’s cruel, but that’s just the way it is. Not everyone is important.

What Studs Terkel shows is this: not everyone might be important, but everyone has a story to tell and can achieve excellence if they answer the call to do so. Terkel shows America’s scars and foibles, but he also illuminates the glory of the average citizens who quietly go about their business, being good and kind to each other.

After this year of blog writing is complete, I have two projects I’ll be shifting my time towards. The first is a young adult book in the fantasy genre I’ve been scribbling on for years. I want to get it done and see what it can do. The kind of book it’s going to be will either flop or make be undeservedly rich. I’m hoping for the latter so Mrs. Lott will finally leave me alone.

The second project is a podcast or writing series that’s very much inspired by Studs Terkel, but oriented towards food. I don’t want to hear much from celebrity chefs (as if they’d take my call anyway). I want to hear hair raising stories about sous chefs who escaped Cartels and work 120 hours a week to send money home. I want to interview cowboys and slaughterhouse workers. There is an army of interesting weirdos that help fill your belly.

For the most part, their stories are either ignored or crafted into sad stories for liberal foodies who think even the most useless member of a kitchen deserves $15 and hour, but scoff at the prices at Whole Foods.

This is a long winded way of saying I want to be Studs Terkel when my career grows up. Hopefully you’ll keep reading and listening.


If you’ve seen HBO’s Band of Brothers, you know a lot of what made Major Dick Winters famous. I’ve been on a bit of a WWII kick lately and have been watching old movies, checking out interviews with soldiers, and reading books about the war. 

Currently I’m reading Winters’ own Beyond Band of Brothers. It’s a tremendous look inside the man’s mind. If America could canonize saints, surely this man would be counted among them. 

He never drank or swore. When he was able, he regularly attended church and by all accounts was as dependable as the day is long.

One of the strange side effect of doing all this reading about real heroes is that it makes TV heroes, especially the caped and spandexed, seem awfully stupid. Every story I read about an enemy machine gun outpost taken or a friend killed by a cruel sniper illuminates just how childish the adoration of cartoon wars can be. 

Yet I still got a bit of a thrill out of seeing Sturgill Simpson’s Telecaster marked with the Rebel Alliance symbol from Star Wars. George Lucas was deeply inspired by old war movies, and echoed much of that imagery in his own story. 

The Empire are essentially space Nazis and the Rebel Alliance in all its rag-tag glory is the Allies. Today protesters from the right and left try to paint themselves as the Rebels, but very few of any of them, regardless of how well meaning they are, hold a candle to Easy Company. 

I have to wonder how disappointed some of the men that fought on D-Day would be if they could see how much attention the keyboard fascists with their stupid barbershop Hitler youth haircuts and slovenly collegiate communists have gotten lately. Every right thinking person should reject these soft headed nerds and all their retrograde ideologies. 

Anyway, I’ve found a lot of inspiration in Winters’ book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in true heroism. 

If your hero is Batman, you need to get your shit together. 

hoodrat

About eight years ago a young boy named Laterian Milton stole my heart by stealing his grandmother’s car. As you can imagine, this untrained driver didn’t do so well when he hit the streets. It wasn’t long before he had smashed into quite a few other vehicles, causing a substantial amount of damage.

Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it:

Now, I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea. What this kid did was dangerous and could’ve gone pretty bad. But I have to tip my American flag trucker hat to him because at least he went outside. When the reporter asked him what his punishment should be, he replied that he figured not being able to play video games for a while would be appropriate.

He didn’t look to worried about that sentence.

See, little Laterian is basically the kind of kid you’d run across frequently in the 70s or early 80s. He wants to “do hoodrat stuff with his friends.” That means getting out in the world and mixing it up. Hopefully he gets tired of the hoodrat stuff, but maintains the desire to run around with his comrades in real life.

A lot of kids sit inside all day doing virtual hoodrat stuff by themselves. I think this might actually be worse. At least Laterian has some friends.


I’m currently on the road back to Oakland after a great weekend in the South of Califronia. We were down there for the Star Wars Half Marathon. The race runs through Disneyland and is really worth doing if you’re a fan of the franchise. 

The highlight for me was reconnecting with an old friend from my nightclub days, Miriam. It had been a few years since we had seen each other face to face. Like all great friendships, we picked up right where we left off. 

I did my usual zero training protocol. That’s not some weird program you haven’t heard of. I mean I did no actual training. Miriam also didn’t really train. But she also had never run more than three miles. Her pre-run meals the day  before consisted of an impressive tour of park food, none of it performance oriented. 

She crushed it. It was impressive. 

My knee and hip are in bad shape, so I’m going to rethink this whole no training deal. I still don’t think you need to do a lot of miles for a half, if you’re just looking to have fun, but mobility and weight training can’t hurt. 

Anyway, on to your questions. 

How should I select which character to cosplay and how committed should I be?

If you pick a character that has similar features to you, it’s going to be an easier sell. I saw a light skinned black dude with a skinny mustache as Lando Calrissian today and it was awesome. His costume was probably a B-, but his look made it a solid A overall. 

That shouldn’t restrict you through. Asian gender-bender Iron Man? Also great. Samoan Luke Skywalker? Do it. 

I think the ultimate decision should be how much you love the character and want to bring it to life. If you can get a killer costume together with exquisite detail, that’s how to do it. Just have fun. 

As far as commitment? Go hard or go home. 

What is the best car for a Star Wars fan?


What do you think they’ll do about Carrie Fisher in Episode 8 and 9?

I’ve heard that 8 is totally done. I’ve also heard that she was to be a huge part of 9. 

Personally, I’d like to see her status as a General explored. Imagine her smashing a rebel controlled Super Star Destroyer into whatever giant dumb weapon the First Order comes up with, killing her no good son, Millenial Vader. 

Whatever it is, it needs to be a righteous death befitting her level of heroism. 

Would you join the Empire or The Rebels?

Rebels all day. Fuck all fascists. Plus you get to hang out with weird aliens and wear whatever you want, unless you’re one of those sad bastards that wear the stupid long white helmet. Those guys always die. 

Is Luke or Han more heroic?

Han is the bigger hero. Luke is a messianic figure with the advantage of having magic powers. Everything he pulls off is because he inherited high level force powers from his dickhead father. 

Han doesn’t owe the rebellion anything, but he comes back and basically saves the day. He does the right thing, not because he’s the chosen one, he does it because he is a badass with a code. 

And no matter what you heard or saw, he shot that green nerd Greedo first. That’s how you do it. 


Last year when I ran the Star Wars Half Marathon I had just finished reading a biography about Walt Disney. The man was pretty incredible and changed quite a bit about how filmmakers tell stories. 

The park, according to the biography, was really his passion. He wanted to make the vision in his head a reality. That’s about as ambitious as it gets. 

I can’t say that I matched that level of ambition in my training for this event. It’s haven’t run in about three months. Not once. And my shoes are not what I’d call appropriate for distance. So basically I’m going with my usual plan. If my knee doesn’t blow out, it’ll be all good. 

This is actually a pretty slow race. It’s all about looking at cool costumes and taking pictures. Easy peasy. 


I’m just about done re-reading Kitchen Confidential. Bourdain tells several stories of people working through horrific injuries. In the kitchen, cuts and burns are common. 

It’s a testament to the focusing power of living paycheck-to-paycheck that so  many people in the service industry will work through anything. When I got my office job it was shocking to me that I could just call in sick (which I never do) and fill out a PTO form. 

I know you’re supposed to stay home when you’re sick for the public good, but that shit doesn’t fly when you have a busy night ahead and none of your comrades are picking up their phones. I always made a mental note to reciprocate the amount of help I got from coworkers, but almost always took shifts if I could. Money is money. 

The worst injury I ever worked through was a scooter crash. On my way to a shift as a waiter, I crashed on some wet train tracks. I wasn’t wearing gloves and ended up with a ravaged right hand and a broken wrist that still hurts when it’s cold. I was closer to work than home, so I picked my bike up and rolled into work. 

The manager helped me wrap my hand up like a mummy and I worked through my shift. There was never a conversation about going home early. That’s just how the restaraunt industry is. Or at least it used to be. 

I hear crews are a lot softer now. 

droid

I’m sure some absolutely buck wild shit happened somewhere today, but I managed to stay off news sites and get quite a bit of work done today. The freelance work has been rolling in and I never say no to any work, so I’ve got a bit to do.

On account of a super fun project I can’t talk too much about, I’m calling this one early. This time tomorrow I’ll be relaxing in LA with the wife and getting ready to run the Star Wars Half Marathon in Disneyland. I haven’t run a single time since I set my PR at the Tiburon Half Marathon before Thanksgiving. This isn’t too unusual a training plan for me. Hopefully all my bike riding and home calisthenics will pay off.

I’ve lost quite a bit of weight (down to 145lbs) with this bullshit cough and asthma keeping my appetite and activity down. It doesn’t seem like 5 or 10 lbs would make much of a difference, but for distance running, lighter always seems better. Fortunately this race is kind of a slow one because there are a lot of people who just walk it and take pictures of all the cool stuff  to see. Disney really does it right.

Last year when we ran the race I was completely wiped out financially after we bought the loft in West Oakland. If you’re buying soon, I recommend having about $5K more than you think you need through the move because you will need it. Anything that can add cost to an already expensive event will probably happen.

I didn’t have that extra money so when I got to the race expo, I didn’t have any money to buy any of the cool Force Awakens gear. I didn’t love Episode 7, so I wasn’t heart broken, but I absolutely enjoyed Rogue One. I have a little surplus freelance dollars this year, so it’s going to be nerd Christmas in January for me.