Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Energy Scammer Finally Says My Name

The Switch Energy scammer called me yet again trying to get me to give him the details on my ComEd bill. When he asked me my zip code, I went off on a tangent about how zip codes help mail delivery and wondered how we could incorporate Canada into our zip code system. When the rep asked me if I got any help paying my bill, I told him that, despite breaking my hand once, I wrote the check all on my own. The rep tried to clarify but I kept insisting that I was capable of writing checks without assistance.

The rep told me "You might get a little serious and quit with the jolly thing" and demanded to know whose name was on the bill.

I told him my name was Heywood Jablowme and asked the rep to repeat it back to me. When he said it, I laughed at him and told him he was the first one in several calls to actually fall for the joke.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Pet Friendly Memphis

Pet Friendly Hotels In Memphis


While planning our trip to Memphis, we decided very early on that we were going to bring the dog, Luna, with us. The decision to do so presented a number of challenges. First and foremost was finding a pet friendly hotel that was located close to the attractions we wanted to visit. The Peabody fit the bill quite nicely as it is located just a few steps from Beale Street and less than a mile from most everything you'd want to see in Memphis aside from Graceland. As it turns out, The Peabody is VERY pet friendly. Upon arrival, Luna was given a Peabody pet bowl, mat and treat. And there's a nice little green space complete with poop bags just outside of the valet parking area. You'll have to pay a non-refundable fee of $100 per stay to cover cleaning. I'd heard beforehand that the Peabody can be very strict about having your pet's shot records available. I had Luna's, but was never asked for them.

Some things to note about the pet policy at the Peabody is that pets are not allowed in restaurant/bar areas of the hotel. This includes the rooftop area. Pets are also not allowed near the grand fountain and are to remain a reasonable distance away from the ducks during the Peabody Duck March. And, of course, even if you are in a pet friendly area of the hotel, your pet is required to be leashed. If you leave your pet alone in your room and it becomes a noise nuisance, The Peabody reserves the right to enter your room and remove the pet to a private area and charge you a $15 per hour minding fee. If you don't want to take the risk, there's a nice doggie daycare place called Mutt Island just a half-mile from The Peabody. 

Some other other pet friendly hotels in Downtown Memphis include: 

  • La Quinta on Union Ave
  • The Westin on Beale
  • The Vista Inn and Suites on Union

The Peabody Dog Bowl, Dog Mat and Dog Treat. 



Are Dogs Allowed On Beale Street?

Dog Tired

In general, Beale Street is not pet friendly. I knew beforehand that the bars and restaurants along Beale do not allow dogs, but I didn't know that Beale Street itself had a ban on animals. We were halfway down the block before we discovered any signage that stated that pets are not allowed. Still, nobody batted an eye and we took Luna down Beale street several times without anyone saying anything. The one time a public safety officer warned us off the street, we were actually walking along Second Street en route back to the Peabody, so it wasn't an issue. The one somewhat pet friendly restaurant in the area is Automatic Slims. They have a very small outdoor area and we were allowed to have Luna there while we ate breakfast. And they make a pretty amazing Blackened Salmon Eggs Benedict. I suspect that we could have gotten away with having Luna at Flying Fish and Aldo's Pies since they also have outdoor areas, but we didn't have Luna with us at the time, so we didn't ask. 

Luna was quite the celebrity in Downtown Memphis. We walked her around quite a bit (always keeping water on hand for her) and a lot of people stopped to asked to pet her or have their picture taken with her. Luna was either very happy to engage with people or wanted nothing to do with them. It all seemed to depend on her mood.  She's used to walking a few blocks here and there, but we didn't know how she would do on half-mile walks in the Memphis heat. Turns out she did very well and seemed to enjoy herself. She was, however, worn out after each excursion and took to hogging whichever bed she happened to plop herself down on. 


Monday, August 12, 2019

A Visit To Graceland

"And I saw that silent mansion and I knew that I was lost. They were selling plastic souvenirs of Elvis on the cross." - Billy Joel

It has been said, in the movie "Pulp Fiction", I think, that you're either a Beatles fan or you're an Elvis fan. Well, I'm not an Elvis fan. I recognize his importance in the birthing of Rock N Roll and his influence on just about every band that came afterward, and I even like some of his songs. But, I'm just not a huge fan. The idea of visiting Graceland doesn't excite me near as much as the idea of visiting Lennon's childhood home at Mendips or McCartney's at Allerton. I don't care how Elvis lived. I don't care about his airplanes. I don't need to see all of his shrine to his Lansky Brothers outfits. I don't care if there's a pretty little thing waiting for the King down in the Jungle Room. And, yet, there I was this morning standing in line with the rest of the rabble waiting to go in.

As we were being ushered in, a lady turned to me and asked "When did Elvis die?".

I replied "Once he started making movies". I'm lucky I made it out of the mansion alive.

The story of how the Jungle Room came into being is an interesting one. Elvis' father, Vernon Presley had gone into town and saw what he called "the world's most ugliest furniture." When he returned to Graceland he told Elvis about it and Elvis went to go check out the hideous furniture for himself. Elvis because he bought the entire set and brought it back to Graceland and had lime green shag carpeting installed on both the ceiling and floor. This is where Elvis kept his friends waiting for him. Talk about a test of friendship.

Once you're in the Jungle Room, you're free to wander about the mansion on a self-guided tour. I was surprised at how small the house at Graceland really is. It's basically just a lavishly decorated Colonial. Once you're out of the house, you end up in the meditation garden where Elvis and some of his family are buried. In death, Elvis has become a tourist attraction. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Graceland every year, and with the cheapest tour being just north of $40, Presley makes more money dead than he ever did alive.

If you'd like to visit Elvis' grave but don't want to shell out $40 for a morbid tour of the mansion, then you can visit the Meditation Garden for free between the hours of 7:30 am and 8:30 am nearly every day.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

The National Civil Rights Museum

"Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights. And so just as I said, we aren't going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around. We aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. April 3, 1968

Jacqueline Smith
Jacqueline Smith has been sitting on the grounds of the National Civil Rights museum in silent protest for 31 years. The museum complex includes the Lorraine Motel building where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was killed in 1968. After his assassination, the owner of the hotel, Walter Bailey converted the hotel to low-income single room occupancy housing. In 1982, Bailey declared bankruptcy and the Lorraine would have been sold at auction had the Save The Lorraine organization not stepped in and bought it.  In 1984, the Save The Lorraine organization changed their name to the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation and hoped to raise funds to restore the motel and convert it into a museum. This meant closing the hotel and having its residents move out in order to prepare for the 8.8 million dollar renovation.

The Lorraine officially ceased operations as an SRO hotel on March 2, 1988. On that day, deputies were called to forcibly remove Jacqueline Smith from the premises. She had been living there since 1973 and had worked for the motel as a housekeeper. Upon her eviction, her belongings were thrown into a pile across the street where she covered them with a tarp and set up camp and continued to live as she daily maintains her protest vigil. I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Smith at her camp today.

Smith believes that the money that has been spent and continues to be spent on The National Civil Rights Museum would be better spent furthering the work that Dr. King left unfinished. That's not to say that she believes there shouldn't be a museum. "There are several civil rights museums throughout the country and Memphis should have its own.", she said. In her opinion, however, locating the museum in the South Main Street area has led to gentrification and has pushed low-income residents out of their longtime homes. Smith believes that by locating the museum in the place of Dr. King's death, it is essentially the James Earl Ray memorial, as the museum is focusing too heavily on the violence of Dr. King's death rather than concentrating on the work he did while he alive. This goes against King's message of peace and non-violence.

I asked Ms. Smith what it would take for her to end her protest. After all, what's done is done. The museum is there and the money has been spent. She referred me to an opinion piece that she wrote last year: "Let's relocate the museum within Memphis along with its Klan hoods, James Earl Ray rifle, and other negative memorabilia and turn the Lorraine into an establishment that Dr. King and Memphis can rightly be proud of and where visitors can experience his dream in action", she wrote.

Before leaving, I asked her how she was holding up and she said that she was hanging in there just fine. The authorities don't bother her or try to move her on and most people are generally very nice to her when they engage with her.

The Lorraine Motel. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Room Is Marked With A Wreath

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Peabody



Our headquarters for our long weekend in Memphis is the historic Peabody Hotel. It's best known for its duck parade where, twice a day, a paddling of ducks is led from their 13th floor (referred to as "The Skyway" rather than the 13th floor) home down to the Peabody's lobby fountain. This whole tradition started in the 1930s when General Manager Frank Schutt came back from a hunting trip and allowed some of his live call duck decoys to play in the fountain. Guests liked the idea and the Peabody has embraced it ever since. And, I mean they REALLY embraced it. There are ducks on everything here from the swizzle sticks to the toilet paper.

The Peabody is in a great location, situated within walking distance of many Memphis attractions such as Beale Street, Main Street, Autozone Park, FedEx Forum and a wide array of historic sites. They offer first-rate accommodations (seriously, they even pamper the dog here) with a refined yet relaxed vibe.


Friday, August 9, 2019

Walking In Memphis

"Put on my blue suede shoes and boarded the plane. Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues in the middle of the pouring rain". - Marc Cohn.

Summer is nearly over and I've been way too busy with various projects to take any of the vacations that I have been wanting to take. And with my daughter busting her butt with her Summer job, I figure the poor girl deserves a trip before school starts back up. So, we trekked on down to Memphis for a short vacation.

The first thing we did was slide on down to Beale Street for a quick walk down the historic avenue filled with booze, music and good times. The Beale Street Entertainment District is only a few blocks long, and, much like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, open carry of alcohol is allowed. So, the first thing I did was stop at a "to go" desk to get a beer. And I actually got carded. So, I handed over my license.

"Do you have something that isn't expired?", the bartender asked as she grimaced at my license. I had recently renewed my driver's license online and the new one had to be mailed and hadn't gotten to me yet.

"So, once my license expires, I am now somehow under 21?", I asked. "Wish I looked it!", I added.

"I just don't know if it's real", she said.

"Do I LOOK under 21? Hell, do I look under 40?" I asked

 "We ID under 103 and you look younger than that.", she said.

I can appreciate that and I took it as a compliment, so I showed her my passport card and got my beer. Then, kiddo and doggo and I walked along Beale Street. Early on, my daughter pointed out to me that various posted signs indicate that dogs are not allowed on Beale Street. Yet, plenty of people came up to the pup to pet her and get their pic taken with her. Some police officers even petted her, so I guess it's not that strict of a rule. It helps that doggo is adorable.

My initial assessment of Beale Street is that it's cleaner than Bourbon Street and it's much easier to get a beer to go. However, the area is much smaller than Bourbon Street and there's just not as much going on. I still had a pretty good time walking around and listening to the music, though.




Wednesday, August 7, 2019

What Font Is My Com Ed Bill Printed With

Clovis got yet another call from those Com Ed energy scammers. He had been suffering from a case of the scoots so poor Clovis was on the toilet when the rep called. Clovis was asked to find his Com Ed bill and had to rummage through the desk in order to find it. Once he did, the rep asked how his name was printed on the bill. Clovis wasn't sure what font his name had been printed with. He suspected Times New Roman, but wasn't sure, so he yelled for his wife for confirmation. His wife thought it was Comic Sans but Clovis knew that couldn't be correct.

The rep hung up after hearing Comic Sans. Nobody wants to deal with Comic Sans.

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Yeti Rambler

The coffee situation at work has become untenable. Everyone in the office prefers to use the Keurig and have spurned the purchase of a simple drip-brew maker. There isn't room for both in the break room, and we're not ponying up for a dual-brew. So, I've got to either drink sub-par K-pod coffee or I've got to brew my own at home and bring it to work in a thermos. No-brainer: I went with the thermos. For a while, I was bringing my coffee in a 16 oz knock-off Yeti tumbler. That worked okay, but it didn't quite hold enough coffee to get me through the morning and, by the time I got to work, the coffee had lost a noticeable amount of heat. Enter the 26 oz Yeti Rambler Bottle.

I came into work the other day with this bad boy in my clutches and got immediately side-lined by a last-minute meeting. Two hours later, I came out of the meeting looking like a coffee zombie. I would have even slurped up K-pod coffee and been glad to have it. But, I didn't have to, thanks to the Yeti Rambler Bottle. When I untwisted the lid, I could still feel the heat wafting out of the coffee. My coffee was still piping hot!

I'm a pretty huge klutz, so the best thing about the Yeti Rambler Bottle is that it seals up so well that I can drop this thing down the stairs and nothing will spill out. Okay, I haven't done that just yet, but it's only a matter of time before it happens organically. And once it does, I'm willing to bet that the Rambler is built Tonka Tough enough to gambol down the stairs without sustaining any dents.

Personally, I don't drink directly out of the Rambler, so I have no need for the optional straw-cap or the 5oz cup cap. Yet. Instead, I just let the Yeti Rambler store my coffee and pour it as needed into my coffee mug at my desk, so the included triple-haul cap works perfectly for me. Your usage needs may vary from mine, of course.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Com Ed Scammer Apologizes

Clovis got a call from an automated attendant saying "This is an apology call from Com Ed. We have overcharged you....". When the rep came on the line to get Clovis' information, Clovis insisted that the rep issue the apology that he was promised. Once the rep apologized, Clovis was triumphant and the rep ended the call.


Monday, July 29, 2019

I Hosted A Jazz Concert

Fresh off of my run as the co-star of a two-person musical, I got a call from a concert organizer asking me if I had any interest in doing a Jazz benefit. For a very brief moment, I thought that I was being asked to sing. But, no, despite my recent good reviews as a singer, the organizer was interested in me being the M.C. for the show. I was told that it was a two-night featuring three different singers backed by two different backup bands. All I would have to do is give some opening remarks, say a few words during intermission, and then wrap up with remarks before the big finale. There would be a rehearsal the night before the first show, so I figured I'd be given more specific instructions and an at least an outline covering the main points the organizer wanted me to hit during my remarks. Instead, I was just put through a mic check and told "just be you".

The Friday night run-through of the show was, for me, mediocre. I had no set list, very little information on the musicians and singers involved, and no outline on specific points to hit aside from the occasional verbal notes from the organizer. I was asked to fill ten minutes before introducing the first act, but struggled to fill five. Originally, the organizer didn't want me to introduce the individual acts, but that was quickly determined to be the wrong move, as the audience got confused over who was on stage. Things got better after intermission because I started talking to the artists and asked them pointed questions about themselves and the songs they were performing, just so I could have something to talk about on stage.

Ultimately, I wasn't satisfied with my performance during the Friday night show, so I spent much of Saturday morning thinking about how to improve my performance. What I came up with is

How To Be A Good M.C. :


1) Be Prepared: You don't have to write down everything you want to say, but it's a good idea to at least have a written outline. For example, my outline for the opening remarks went as follows:

  • Welcome
  • Introduce Myself
  • Anecdote about being asked to host
  • A very brief history of Jazz
  • List performers
  • Anecdote about first performer
  • Introduce first performer


2) Do A Runthrough: Even if you know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it, it will help to do an actual run-through of your remarks to see how they sound. Written remarks on paper can come off very differently in delivery, so it will help to practice your remarks. Even better if you can do it as part of a full event rehearsal. 

3) Realize That You Are NOT The Star: The purpose of an M.C. is to get the crowd warmed up and guide the direction of the show The M.C. sets the tone and is there to make the main stars of the show look good. The M.C. is not in the business of self promotion

4) Lay Off The Jokes: Funny anecdotes related to the event are fine, but try to refrain from telling actual jokes with punchlines. There's nothing worse than trying to recover from a joke that bombed.

5) Get To Know Your Performers: They will be a source of material for you to draw your remarks from. I asked one of the performers about the songs she chose and she told me that she had written them all herself and had written a particular one at the age of 12. That made for a good story and I used it when introducing one of her sets.

6) Be Positive: Even if you don't like the event that you're promoting, you're still being brought in to build the audience's enthusiasm for it. When an act finished up their set, I made sure to say something good about their performance and asked the audience to applaud by saying something like "Let's hear it for them? Weren't they great?"

So, with the above directives in mind, I had a much better show on Saturday than I did on Friday. Even thought it was a small and tough crowd, I managed to get them fired up for the show, and, by the end of the night, they were clamoring for an encore rather than running for their cars.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Energy Scammer Won't Say My Name

"Kevin", a rep from an energy savings company called Switch Energy called me looking to get me to switch from ComED in order to save on my energy bill. He asked me to get my current electric bill while he held the line. I said "Hold The Line. Love isn't always on time!" in reference to the Toto song. "Kevin" asked me how my name appears on my bill, and I told him that my name appears to be printed. When he asked my name, I told him that my first name was Heywood and my last name was Jablowme. That didn't seem to phase him until I asked him to say my name back to me.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Marlins at White Sox 7/22

Every year, the Mac siblings all try to get together for a White Sox game. Usually, there's at least one sibling missing for whatever reason. This year, it was looking like all five of us were going to be able to make it. But, alas, my sister had her jaw shattered and two of my brothers were delayed due to a Metra incident. It seems that the Mac siblings simply can't all be in the same place at the same time, lest cosmic destruction and galactic chaos ensue. So, it was just me, one Mac brother, and three of the Mac kids who all filled in at the last minute. For two of those kids, tonight's Marlins at White Sox game was their first ever MLB game. 

And what a game it was. To begin with, this was the first game at Comisky Park (screw you Guaranteed Rate Field) to use extended netting which is becoming the norm for MLB ballparks. It seems that, due to modern day performance enhancements, foul balls are causing more injuries to fans that in previous years. Since this was a Monday night inter-league game against an unimpressive foe, attendance was on the low side at about 14,500. This meant that lines at the concessions and the washrooms were almost non-existent. Our little group also got featured on the Jumbotron for about 15 seconds. What a thrill that was. 

The White Sox destroyed the Marlins 9-1. The White Sox homered four times during this game thanks to Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, James McCann and Ryan Goins. It was looking a little hairy for him towards the end, but Ivan Nova pitched a complete game and, of course, was given the win. This makes the White Sox undefeated with their new extended netting. This is what Sox fans needed to see: The White Sox defeating a clearly inferior opponent. Now, let's get some momentum going. 





Monday, July 15, 2019

Telemarketer Loses His Script

I have no idea what this guy was trying to sell because he flubbed his script the second I answered. When I asked him why he was calling he asked me what services I provide. I told him that for $100, I would shave his head, and for $105, I would give him the Kojak special where I would shove the scissors up his nose afterwards. I asked the rep again what he wanted. I could hear him laugh a bit nervously. He said he was going to come find me. I told him that I am a long way from India and he said he lived next to my apartment.

"I don't live in an apartment, dipshit!", I said.

"Do you live in a house?", he asked.

"Well, gee, if I don't live in an apartment, then what do I live in? I thought you lived right next to me!".

When I told him that it was the lamest telemarketer call I had ever gotten, the rep said I could ask him any question I wanted. I asked him why he was originally calling and what he was selling. The rep said he was just calling random people in order to ask random questions. I said that I could hear people in the background so it was obvious that he was in a calling center. The rep said that it was his father and brother talking. "Yeah, they are saying how disappointed they are in you!", I said.

The rep eventually asked me what advice I had for him and I tossed out some random thoughts and insults. I advised him to get a job where he wasn't scamming people. I even told him that he could write a book afterwards about his journey from telemarketing scammer to contributing member of society.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

I Met With A Casting Director

I went on an audition recently for a small TV show that is being filmed in Chicago. It was a very small role and I had been recommended to the casting director by a fellow community theater actor. I had no delusions of being discovered or becoming famous due to this, but, work is work, so I spent a few days getting some headshots together along with a sizzle reel before meeting with this lady. I did my audition and sat down with her to get her thoughts.

"You're good", she said. "You're even a natural. You say you've had no formal training?"

"None", I answered. "Aside from having been cast as a tree in 'You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown' in first grade and being constantly ordered to stand still".

"I can tell that you're undisciplined, and that's the problem. Had you ever considered acting classes?". The casting director went on about honing my skills and offered to refer me to an acting coach who charges a reasonable fee. I instantly suspected that I was being directed to this acting coach so that the casting director would get a kickback for referring me. Or maybe I'm just an overly-suspicious bastard.

"That just isn't for me. I like acting, and I'm dedicated, but I'm not going to shell out money so that someone can tell me not to put my hands on my hips or shoot rubber bands at me every time I step off my mark".

"Do you like breakfast?", she asked.

"Of course", I said.

"So, you like bacon, eggs, sausage, those sort of things. You get up in the morning, and if the mood strikes you, you eat breakfast. When you're full, you push yourself away from the table and go on with your day. So many people are looking for the quick path to fame. You say you're dedicated, but you're really just enjoy the meal. The chicken and the pig, they are the ones who are dedicated".

"The chicken and the pig have no choice. They HAVE to be part of the meal", I offered.

"Exactly", she said smugly. "A dedicated actor has no choice. It's a calling. They HAVE to act. That's dedication".

That sort of rhetorical nonsense is difficult to argue against, especially if you're trying to keep within the analogy. The best I could come up with was: "Dedication is a blind submission to fate and contains no indication of ability. The pig is dedicated, but that dedication isn't a guarantee to be delicious simply because it gave its life up for breakfast. The egg isn't guaranteed to not be rotten simply because it was called to the frying pan. I admit that I can't give you that level of dedication. But, what I can give you is devotion. I'll be enthusiastic in eating whatever is put on my plate. Given the choice, I prefer my eggs scrambled , I love eggs benedict and I hate sunny-side-up. But you can cook the eggs however you want to cook them.Use traditional or turkey bacon. Serve me sausage as links or patties. You can even include stuff I can't stomach such as tomatoes and ham. Whatever is on my plate, I will eat it as if it's the best meal I have ever had, and I will always be full".

After relating this story to some of my acting colleagues, the general agreement was that I've tanked any hope of getting "professional" work in the area. And I honestly don't care. Maybe I do lack dedication. But, on the other hand, I also am not looking for instant success or even the kind of success that comes after paying my "dues". I just want to work. But I want to work on my own terms. If that's incompatible with 99% of the available work out there, then so be it. I'll hang around and wait for when the 1% becomes available.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Loan Depot Not Home Depot

A telemarketer from Loan Depot called and once I got past the automated attendant, I pretended that I thought he was from Home Depot. I asked him where my ladder was and he said it was on the delivery truck. Once I purposely got his name wrong, he decided to hang up.