1. I’ve got a friend, let’s call him Joe to spare him any embarrassment, who made it pretty big out in Hollywood. Joe struggled for years before finally finding his niche. He worked as a script reader, tried his hand at acting and writing, before achieving success as a producer.
By way of explanation for you clueless, pathetic losers who aren’t privy to the inside Hollywood shit like I am, the title of “producer” is meaningless. Being a producer is like being a Kentucky Colonel. It’s as much a joke as it is a genuine honorific.
A person doesn’t have to produce anything to be a producer. The only criteria for being a producer is having the audacity to declare yourself one. There must be tens of thousands of people, probably more, calling themselves producers, but only a small fraction of those people have ever actually produced a movie or TV show.
My friend, Joe, is one of the lucky ones. He actually produces films. About 20 years ago, he ran across a good script, found two bankable actors willing to do it, and rounded up the financing for production.
When it came time to discuss his compensation, the money men offered Joe a flat fee or a piece of the action, whichever he preferred. Now, Joe is no country boy. He is a Chicagoan, born and bred. He understands that making movies is a crapshoot. He also understands that Hollywood bookkeeping is an art form, every bit as creative as writing, painting or musical composition.
Joe opted for a flat fee.
As luck would have it, the movie turned out to be a huge hit, making several hundred million dollars. Had Joe taken a piece of the action, his payday would have been 15 times larger.
The movie did so well that the money men decided to make a sequel. They figured it was a can’t-miss proposition. So did Joe. This time he took a piece of the action. Of course, the sequel turned out to be a huge flop, making about 20 bucks worldwide. Joe claims he didn’t even make expenses.
“The only good thing that came out of it,” Joe explained, “is that now I’m able to produce more movies. You see, making two movies and having one of them be a big hit is an astounding track record in the film business. Now all I have to do is figure out how to make some fucking money.”
2. I have a good friend, let’s call him Bruce Diksas to spare him any embarrassment, who was hanging out in the Pacific Northwest around 1980. He had followed a woman to Seattle in the hope of keeping a romance alive. The woman had enrolled in graduate school and spent most of her days in class or studying, so, Bruce found himself with a lot of time on his hands. And, like any ambitious, industrious, hard-working young man, Bruce decided to spend his free time in one of Seattle’s many legal poker rooms.
Now, Bruce is a pretty good poker player, but, like all of us who enjoy the game, he thinks he’s much better than he is. He’s probably lost more money than he’s won. Despite the ebb and flow of his poker luck, Bruce enjoyed his time at the Seattle tables. It was a pleasant way to pass the time.
One of the topics of conversation at the tables was a small business located in a storefront across the street from the card room. It seemed that the business was a source of local pride. It was growing rapidly and would soon be going public. A few of the players at the tables discussed the pros and cons of investing in the company, buying a few shares to help out the local boys.
Out of curiosity, Bruce stepped outside to check out the storefront. Maybe he’d invest a few bucks. As soon as he saw its name on the storefront window, however, Bruce, knew that the company had no chance of success. It was a stupid name. It made no sense. Shouldn’t a company’s name say what it does? Shouldn’t it at least be catchy, something that sticks in the mind? Why even have a company if you can’t give it a decent name? Any company with a name like that was doomed to failure. He’d be better off investing in lottery tickets.
The company’s name was “Microsoft.”
“I still say it’s a stupid name,” Bruce said to me years later.
“A lot of those internet companies have dumb names,” I replied. “Look at Yahoo or Google.”
Pouring himself another drink, Bruce said, “You’ll notice I didn’t buy any shares in those companies, either.”
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One dollar essentially means nothing in 2017.
Is $1 you-call-it a thing on college campuses anymore? It definitely shouldn’t be, but it’d be sad if a very dangerous drink deal were to go extinct because of inflation, as opposed to it’s demise for a more appropriate reason like binge drinking is bad.
But I digress.
There are a few places in this expensive era that still honor the almighty dollar. One of those places is a local business you may have heard of, it’s called Target.
Target, if you’ve been there, has many many things to buy. Often times it has too many things to buy and a lot of times I buy a lot of those things. This problem has only increased since becoming a teacher and uncovering the jackpot that is their $1 section.
Targets dollar section has so many things, and all of the things cost $1, and all of the things go into my classes prize bin. Every Thursday I walk into the Target dollar section to re-up because Friday is a big prize day for us in first grade. Friday morning I walk in and put the new prizes into the prize bin as the kids eat their breakfast. When I’m done, I remind the kids that any of those prizes can be theirs as long as they have a good day and follow the rules.
Carrot, meet stick.
Last Thursday, I had a particularly good haul. The dollar section got a full revamp, they’d updated for summer. They had light up bracelets, flashlights on necklaces, sunglasses, and lots of things with a hamburger/hotdog/french fry print that I very much enjoyed. So, I walked into the class on Friday morning like I was on stage at the Oscar’s and about to read the winner of Best Actress.
We get excited about the little things in first grade.
I filled the prize bin with all the light up and fast food printed items and looked upon my kingdom of little people as if I’d just won them all the gold in the world. Being the perfect students they are, they reacted as if I was a queen and had just brought them back all the gold in the world. I have taught them so much.
I should give a brief disclaimer that I buy things from the dollar section for myself as well. They have many things you can convince yourself you’d use or just things that are pretty or cool to look at. We all need prize bins, you know?
This blog should be looked at as a PSA. If you’re a parent, teacher, librarian, person who has to interact with children on a daily basis, the dollar section is for you. If you like to throw parties very often, or just someone who likes to decorate things, or just someone who likes things, the dollar section is for you.
Now go forth and buy things. But also Shop Small.
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Up top, I’ll clarify the title of this post: I’m the Puerto Rican, I love tacos and I occasionally write blog posts–The boss is watching part, I’ll explain that later.
The first three are things that typically don’t mean much together, and almost never intersect, but, today, this day that my Saturday blog post is due, along with the last part–the boss is watching–have some how magically formed the basis of what you’re reading right now.
So the easy part, both my folks were born on the island. So through birth, I’m of Puerto Rican ancestry. Simple enough.
The taco part, harder to explain–logically at least, anyway. It wasn’t the stuff mom was making at home when we were kids. And don’t get it twisted, the Puerto Rican fare my mom cooked is still some of my favorite stuff in the world to eat. Period.
But, tacos. I love them shits. Love them. When I was a kid, me and my crew of buddies would save our little dollars and order as many tacos we could pay for and have taco eating contests after Sunday services. Our boy Jorgie still holds the record.
To this day, I try and make it a point to eat tacos de carne asada, cilantro and onions only, with a little bit of lime, one to two times a week.
The third part of the title, like the first, is simple enough: I write blog posts for this site. I have for quite some time now.
Now, “The boss is watching,” and how all those things have tied together to form this post?
Here it goes…
I’m being Puerto Rican today, and loving tacos, and half thinking about writing this post today–half thinking about it, I’m primarily thinking about getting some tacos for lunch.
So I head to my spot, Taqueria Traspasadas at the intersection where California and Elston meet. I’ve been going to this spot for well over a decade. They have amazing food, but are also famous for their black salsa.
I sit down at a booth, order my tacos and tuck into the complimentary cup of soup and noodles they give you before your meal.
Time passes, I’m eating my food, I’m staring out of the window at traffic passing by, I’m doing the same shit I do the thousand times before over the last decade that I’ve been coming to this joint. The last thing I’m thinking about is my post.
Only, this time, for some reason, I look up at a picture frame above my booth. What’s there, you might ask?
A cut out of a picture and article written by the Big Boss of The Third City, Benny Jay, and the Lovely Mrs. Benny Jay, sitting at the same booth I’m sitting at on this fine Saturday afternoon.
If that’s not a sign to get writing, I don’t know what is.
I sat there, being Puerto Rican, still loving tacos and being the occasional blog post writer, with the boss watching and immediately started writing this post on my phone.
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Brown Line One–Chicago
Brown Line Two
Brown Line Three
Brown Line Four
All photos © Jon Randolph 2017
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I’m walking down the Venice Beach boardwalk on a lovely day in June, when I’m stopped by the barker outside the medical marijuana dispensary.
“Hey, man, you need a medical marijuana card?” he asks.
Actually, it’s not a dispensary. It’s a doctor’s office where you can get the certificate you need to buy medical marijuana at a dispensary.
I tell the dude he’s out of luck cause I’m visiting from Chicago and, as such, ineligible to buy medical marijuana in California.
Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong, he tells me. Turns out that just about anyone can buy medical marijuana in California–even busters from Chicago.
Apparently, California truly is the land of milk and honey, marijuanily speaking.
“How much?” I ask.
“Forty,” he says.
I’m thinking–as a journalist I’m compelled to see where this takes me. So…
I follow the guy into the storefront and wind up in a reception area reading over various disclaimers. Like…
“In the event of any conflict with law enforcement,” I give my consent to have my named turned over to the feds.
After a few minutes, I’m ushered into an examination room, where the doctor awaits. He’s a tiny, hunched-over man, who looks to be 80. At least.
He asks why I need marijuana.
On one hand I don’t really like the stuff–haven’t smoked it in over 30 years.
On other other hand, I love Cheech and Chong.
I’m not sure how much of this, if any, is relevant.
So I say the first thing that comes to my mind.
“Let me check your breathing.”
He comes out from behind his desk, and places a stethoscope against my heart. Then my back.
“Breathe,” he says.
“You’re good,” he says. “You’re approved for medical marijuana.”
He directs me to a side room where I sit with several other patients, most of whom look utterly miserable.
Obviously, there’s a reason sick people turn to marijuana.
One more time–legalize it!
Eventually, they send me to a room where the cashier tells me: “That will be $80.”
“$80,” I say. “The dude on the boardwalk said 40.”
“That covers the exam,” she says. Apparently, there are processing costs or something.
“That’s okay,” I say. “I’ll just pay the $40 for the exam and leave.”
“Okay,” she says. “Make it $60.”
I’m struck by two things…
One, we’re haggling. And, two, she’s got an East European accent.
I have half a mind to pay my $40 and head out. Then I think–this operation may be run by the Russian mob. Don’t want to end up in a dumpster.
So I pay $60 and walk away with a piece of paper–with a gold sticker in the upper left hand corner–that says I’ve been approved to buy medical marijuana for one month.
Like I said–just legalize it already.
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