An open Letter to Jed York, President/Owner of the SF 49ers

October 22, 2015

Dear Jed York –

I wanted to touch base with you.  I don’t think you responded to the two or three tweets I sent you recently and that’s ok.  I really didn’t expect to hear from you.  For context, let me introduce myself.  I’m a recent bandwagon jumper to the 49ers Faithful, having pledged my allegiance in 1980- a mere 35 years ago.  I’m a bay area native, working professional and Cal graduate.  I know that pales next to your Finance and History degree from Notre Dame, but it is who I am.  But then I might have a MBA in Finance, so perhaps we can communicate productively. In no way am I pretending to be a football expert, just an impassioned fan with good general football and business knowledge.  I know I don’t know everything.  But I also know I know much more than nothing.

I was touched last year by a few of your comments to the media.  One was about “winning with class” and the other was about “holding you accountable” for winning championships.  Those are great thoughts and I wished every owner of beloved sports teams held themselves to such high standards.

As a professional manager for nearly 30 years, I especially like your directive for the team to win with class.  I took that to mean the entire organization should really step up their game.  I have always held fast to the management principle when my team succeeds, the success is the teams and when we fail, it is my role to be blamed and accept the burden associated with it.

Since the team has performed poorly this year, it strikes me as odd that you have be absent in the media.  Perhaps I’m not reading the right papers or watching the right networks.  Locally and nationally, you are a ghost.  Perhaps in the Trinity of you, Baalke and Tomsula you are playing the Holy Ghost.  Interesting, but highly ineffective and not at all classy.  But then, that’s just my opinion.

It is a stark contrast to last year when you basically blamed Jim Harbaugh in the media for pretty much everything.  I think only his Khakis were spared.  You let everyone in the world know he was gone and made sure it was unambiguous, without ever saying it.  You didn’t take the blame, you even tried to pass off his leaving as “a mutual decision”.  For the record as a manger I was appalled.  As a fan I was dismayed. But I knew it was comedy gold.  Honestly, you were writing the script for Donald Trump and Ben Carson.  Jed York, Trendsetter.  Consider putting it on your business card.

So, classy is really misnomer, a gentle misdirection for the masses.  I get it, you studied history and, like PT Barnum, know there is a sucker born every minute.  So let’s discuss your love of history.  I don’t know much about the History program at the Golden Dome, but I am pretty sure you are familiar with the quote:

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
George Santayana

As I recall, there was a football team with great success.  They had won super bowls with 2 different coaches. When the second coach retired, they brought in a young brash college coach who was having some success.  He even went to the playoffs and won some games.  But the new owner, a man from outside football, didn’t like the coach in the spotlight – or so it was said.  Perhaps he didn’t get along with the coach.  It didn’t matter, the owner fired the coach.

One of the things I know about sports is that when you actively fire a coach or manager, your goal is to bring in someone better.  This owner didn’t.  He didn’t even pretend to.  He brought in someone he liked and whose name hae some cache in the collge game. The beloved football team circled the drain for 10 years.  It got so bad that even coaches and coordinators turned down employment with the team, forcing the team to hire whoever might take the job.

Surely you realize I’m talking about the 49ers and your beloved father. We all love our fathers, but most of us try not to repeat their mistakes.  In fact I go out of my way to point out my mistakes to my children so they don’t make the ones I’ve already learned from.

So, taking the axiom that one coach is removed for a better one (or one that achieves betters results), I have to ask, WHY THE FUCK DID YOU FIRE HARBAUGH TO HIRE TOMSULA?  Let’s be honest, Tomsula is a great line coach, I sense he is a great man with some leadership qualities.  He’s also over his head as the head coach, unless he’s just pretending to be out of his depth in press conferences.  I can only assume you decided that this coach would be more fun over coffee and drinks.  Perhaps he was be so happy to have the promotion that he wouldn’t make you justify odd decisions.  Good leaders want people who challenge them, people who achieve.  Dictators and fools want yes men.

Perhaps you and Jim Harbaugh didn’t get along.  I hear he is tough to work with.  Now I know you have limited experience outside of the family business so as a manager in public companies, let me share something I have learned over the years – some very high performers are tough to get along with.  Sure, as a manager you can fire people, often for made up reasons.  But even if they are assholes, morale takes a hit when you get rid of your best performer because you don’t like him or he has a difficult personality.  People can see it; it isn’t something you need a silver spoon to notice.

Of course Harbaugh may not be high performance employee in your book.  There may be issues we, as the public don’t see.  But aside from theft (which would be on you anyway for allowing it to happen) or sexual harassment (which we can’t know about), it is pretty hard to envision a scenario where you don’t qualify Jim and his staff as high performers.  They took Singletary’s god awful team and took them within 2 fumbles of the Super Bowl. Then to the Super Bowl one miscue from winning (the timeout, nto the pass).  And then to the brink again.  That was his first three years.  I believe that is the definition of high performance for a head coach.  Then you undermined him for a year and it fell apart.  No, we the public didn’t miss that.

I’m not a fan of your dad.  He ruined the team in my mind and I’m not alone.  I gave you credit when you hired Harbaugh.  I was dismayed at how you handled last year when decided you needed more fun at work, not the stress that a high strung, over achieving, results driven star coach.  You are the owner, and that is your call.  Are your coffee breaks better? Do you sleep well at night? I hope so.

That’s all the past and now, here we are.  I understand you lost Vic Fangio because you told him he had to report to Tomsula, his previous charge.  I don’t think that’s working out too well.  I watched your team take a lead over the hapless New York Giants and basically hand the game back to them with their porous defense.  I was actually at the game last week and watched the beleaguered Ravens hand the game to the 49ers and then watched as the Ravens drove the field TWICE(!) easier than it is for me to drive through a McDonald’s.  There were dropped passes or else the team would be 1-5.  Not that 2-4 is much to talk about.

But let’s talk about the defense.  Have you noticed the 49ers are last in passing defense and next to last in total defense?  Yep.  The 49ers are 31st in total defense.  And that Fangio fellow you encouraged to leave is coaching the Bears.  His Chicago Bears team is 6th.  Smart move in not retaining him either.  What about Harbaugh.  Looks like he’s turning the Michigan program around.  I know it is not Notre Dame, but what is?  Nope, he wasn’t a fluke with Stanford or your team.

I guess we should talk about accountability.  Please don’t mention players retiring.  I believe you should have planned for it.

Anthony Davis’ performance had been slipping since his concussion.  Did you really expect him to perform as he had years ago?

Willis, much beloved, has been hurt and while you hope he got healthy and played as he had in the past, were you so naive to just go on hope?

We all saw Cowboy (Justin Smith) was probably going to retire, so that wasn’t unexpected.  Clearly, Chris

Borland caught you by surprise.  As a casual observer, do you think your mismanagement of the team helped him decide that his health was a higher priority to him than it was to you?  It’s the sort of pattern as a manager I am trained to see.  What inside linebacker did we draft this year?

And then there is our boy Aldon Smith.  Clearly, you knew there was a chance he’d do something silly and you would have to cut your loss.  Sadly, it doesn’t look like you planned for that eventuality.  Here’s a thing to consider – bad apples with lots of illegal guns, don’t generally become boy scouts overnight.  Don’t believe me, consider Greg Hardy.  There’s a guy who is contrite and showing the world how he can change.  Yes, that was sarcasm.

Now that I have addressed some of what you haven’t done, let’s look at what you have.  The team gets kudos for Torey Smith and Jarryd Hayne, even if it is only for marketing down under.  I’m pretty sure that’s it for the positives.  There might be some negatives.

I understand that Baalke is the GM, but let’s be honest you asked me to hold you accountable. I bet you signed off on at least a few of these.

The right side of the line.  I’m not sure they’d fare well in the SEC.  You can’t be proud.

Reggie “made of glass” Bush.  The Lions didn’t want him.  Why did we?  Because he was cheap?  You still overpaid.  Honestly, between keeping Aldon Smith and signing Bush, you should have kept Smith.  Signing Bush made you look silly and cheap.  By the way, who is our back up now that Hyde is hurt?  Oh, that’s right History and Finance, not Strategic Planning.  My mistake.

Jerome Simpson?  Well there is stellar citizen if there ever was one.  You cut McDonald (rightfully so), Smith, but not Brooks or Miller.  I’m guessing Simpson is gone next year too.

Remember when Singletary motivated Vernon Davis and he grew up and peformed?  What happened?  Has Tomsula had the opposite effect?  And Vance McDonald looks like a bust.  Yes he caught a nice pass last week.  He drops 3-5 of those for each he catches.

When was the last time we developed a Wide Receiver?  Yes, you are right, that was Terrell Owens in 96.  20 years is a long time.  Patton and Ellington look good on paper, just not in the game  White? Doesn’t seem to play.  Do you want to throw Robert Johnson or AJ Jenkins into the discussion?  I didn’t think so.

You promoted Geep Chryst from QB Coach to Offensive Coordinator.  Did you not see Kaepernick regress last year?  We did.  What would his personal coach do better with the offense when he wasn’t much help to his QB?  I guess I just don’t get fuzzy logic.  Maybe several other coaches turned you down. Rumor has it that Adam Gase did.  If so, he was smart.  Let’s not play the loyalty card.  Laughing at that would hurt.

I think the team’s best off season move was Shareece Wright.  He had a large hand in the win last week.  If only because you threw away a million dollars to learn his glaring weaknesses.

Darnell Dockett?  Nope.  Let’s call it welfare for an over the hill player.

And then I remember your degree in Finance.  What is that 3 million dollars given away?  Well, at $50 per parking spot, you make that up in a few games.  And while I agree that you have every right to make money and that probably more people than I realize get a piece of the take, don’t you think $50 to park is a bit excessive?  You can park in the financial district of SF for less.  You are accountable for this too, right?  $30 might be high but fair, but $50 feels like financial rape.  I guess you think it doesn’t matter to the sheep that comes to feed your coffers.

To recap my thoughts today –

  1. You undermined your coach last year, contributing to a subpar record then said the organization needed to be classy.  I believe this is called irony
  2. You fired a good, but annoying coach, to replace him with an inferior leader because you like him.  When he goes in a few years, do you really think you’ll be able to attract top talent?
  3. You took the same actions as your father, which had the team circling the drain for 10 years
  4. You were ill prepared for injuries and turnover of players
  5. You may have actually contributed to the retirement of players how might not trust you (No sir, it is not a stretch)
  6. You hired inferior supporting coaches, with records of mediocrity and failure.  You won’t blame Baalke or Tomsula for this will you?
  7. You made no significant off season player signings, bringing in 3 players of note – two are gone and one isn’t playing because you ignored his history and threw away millions, but still charge $50 to park at the game.
  8. You have put an inferior product on the field; capable of winning when the opposition decides to give the game way, but not otherwise to this point.
  9. You have provided no real help to your franchise quarterback.  And yes we all see that the team friendly contract he signed will allow you to cut him at your pleasure.  And when he gets a real coach and supporting cast he’ll be a solid NFL QB.
  10. You want to be held accountable.  Done.  What are you going to do?

You know what the worst thing is?  I haven’t even watched the Seahawk game tonight.  I’m still a fan of the team, as Seinfeld pointed out we are now fans of laundry.  But I think I’ll watch Cal play UCLA tonight instead.

Make me a fan. Do something.  Fix things.  Be leader.  Consider stopping to be a ghost.  Or worse a spoiled kid playing with the toy mommy gave you. If not, in less than 5 years you’ll compare unfavorably to the image of Al Davis after Gruden.  Ponder that for a bit.

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Myriad Randomness – Drought Edition

As you may have heard, there is drought in California.  What does this mean to me, specifically?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s what I’ve changed.

  • I have a bucket in the shower. I catch the “warm up” to water the tomatoes.  That’s new.
  • I reuse my shower towel “many” times. It is 85+ most days and it dries quickly.  That cuts down on washing.  I did this in college and in my younger days.  No longer is my hamper full of towels.  (You know, that subtle status symbol of being economically stable.)
  • I only run my sprinklers 2 days a week. Usually after 9pm when the sun goes down.  My once envied super green lawn looks like every other sad, green lawn in the Nor Cal.  I haven’t decided to kill it yet.

What does this mean?  We are mandated to cut our usage by 25% from 2013.  May I was down about 50%.  No earth shattering changes.  Just lots of little ones.

I know I’ve been a bit outspoken politically lately.  Quite honestly I’m both thrilled and heartened by many (but sadly, not all) of the responses I have gotten.  Don’t go by the comments here, there aren’t many and I delete all the “I want to kill Ashley” or “I want Ashley to host my Bukakke party” comments.  Most are far worse.

But seriously, how can things continue to unravel in our world?  Pope Francis works hard to bring the Catholic Church into the 20th Century and Fox News calls him the most dangerous man in the world?  People I know on Facebook call him “EVIL”.    I guess the world still must be flat, the sun revolves around the earth and Torquemada was misunderstood.  Really?  You know what I think.  I just can’t understand how some conclusion could be reached, held so tightly and preached so violently.  We know the gene pool is flawed, just saying.

I still love my coffee.  Have you had Equator Coffee?  I’ve been buying their stuff on line (their roastery delivers for free for a $50 order and I have it in 2 days) and now they opened a shop next to the Warfield.  We know mid-Market is on the upswing, but this is huge.  Granted it’s a mile walk from the office, but I get exercise, the coffee is great and they have food too.  Check it out.  Only downside is that their bean selection is limited.  No fear here, I don’t mind the online thing.  The sweet spot is the 2 pound bags.  I’ve been drinking the Brazil 45 Espresso (it makes a mean, well rounded regular cup).  $13.25 for 0.75 lbs.  That’s $17.67/lb.  Or $30.05 for 2lbs.  $15.03/lb a savings of 15%.  Compare that the various coffees at Peets’. They are $14.95-$16.95.  So the same price or less and much more complex and delicious.  And honestly, smelling Major Dickasons at home today, it smelled burnt.  Fantastic coffee doesn’t always mean expensive.  But there are expensive options too.  Ping me if you need coffee advice.

Sandra Bland was in jail for 3 days.  She was arrested for an illegal lane change.  Later, she hung herself in her cell (allegedly).  She was college educated.  She was back in her college town for a job interview. And she was black.  I have about 400 questions.  If you don’t, stop reading this now.  You probably shouldn’t ever come back to this page. I’m sure incidents like this have happened far more often than “white” America realized in the past.  It is glaringly obvious now.  Our blinders are off.  They need to stay off.  I’m not going to pontificate on this today.  But I am outraged.  You should be too.  How can you not be?

I’m pondering a long piece on the death of middle management.  Clearly, I’m not in the top 2% and I see so many fixable issues that are allowed to fester.  That’s what 30+ years of working in corporate America will do for you.  Of course I worry about being to self-centered and whiny.  And that you won’t care.

And for those of you that don’t know, R+L=J.  It is known.  It always has been.   Three words: Tower of Joy.

I’ve read a few things lately that you should might enjoy.  I loved the latest James SA Corey Expanse entry Nemesis Games.  It is getting mixed reviews from my friends, but I’m firmly on board and can’t wait for the show on Syfy.  It looks fantastic.

Tex Thompson’s second book Medicine for the Dead builds on her debut, One Night in Sixes and shows vividly what a fantastic writer she is.  Seriously, in 10 years you’ll wonder how you missed this.  She’s going to be huge.   Trust me.

Did you like Flowers in the AtticJR Johansson’s Cut Me Free builds off a similar premise.  It is defiantly YA, but sometimes I act as if I’m 14, so it makes sense.  I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to reading more of her stuff.  Especially those that are painted in horror tones.

I’ve never given Leigh Bardugo column space here.  Her Grisha Trilogy is fantastic.  Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising are all great reads.  Her next novel, Six of Crows, is set in the same universe with new characters.  It is scheduled to come out later this year and I’m excited for it.

In the kitchen this year I’ve mastered hummus.  Who’d have thought?  But homemade is so much better than store bought, especially when you can spice it to your tastes.  More lemon? Yes.  More harissa? Yes.  More fresh onion, garlic and herbs? Yes.  Hummus it’s not just for hippies anymore.  No need to wear the tie dye today.  Tomorrow you can.

I’ve also kicked up the frequency on my bacon jam. Bourbon Maple Bacon Jam.  It goes well on crackers, bread, grilled cheese sandwiches AND on your burger.  I made a huge batch and my guests inhaled it.  Guess I’ll need to make more soon.

The view from my building

And I love working in SF.

Blue Tuesday

It was a Tuesday, much like any other Tuesday.  Filled with hopes and dreams after the depression that was Monday, but still lacking the joy of a camel on Wednesday.  Nevertheless, dawn broke and employment beckoned.  So, I got up, showered, dressed and joined the commute to work.  This was the day the BART strike ended, but there weren’t many trains running in the morning.  Thusly I drove. Amazingly enough, nothing memorable happened on the way to the office.    When I drive, I park on the street (surely you know this and the parking Nazi at 229 Harrison St.), but then I climb some stairs and take a sky bridge over the train tracks to my office.

Our story will start at lunch.

I decided that lunch should be consumed about 12:30 or so.  I grabbed my book and made my way to Chop Bar for lunch.  I eat there at least once a week and would eat there more if my diet didn’t prohibit me from my previous lusty relationships with their Reuben and Hamburger.  But, at least they have two different salads that allow me to believe I’m eating both healthy and (marginally) decadently.

We may be different you and I, but when I sit at the counter by myself I like to leave an open seat on either side.  It probably goes back to relatively large size and not wanting to encroach on other people’s space.  Or have them in mine.  I don’t like strangers in my space.  Especially, on BART.  So I took a seat one to the right of the couple talking.  She was on my left and he was on her left.

As I opened my copy of The Republic of Thieves, I quickly realized this couple was not a couple.  I saw that there was an open seat between them, but the real eye- opener was his voice.  Gravelly like a rock quarry and grating like brake calipers with worn pads, he was trying too hard to hit on the woman next to him.  He was 3 or 4 beers into drinking his lunch and she was scarfing down the last few bites so she could escape.  “Good,” I thought, “it will make it much easier to read my book.”

I enjoyed roughly 5 minutes of peace when another woman walked in and took the same seat. She ordered a drink and set up her iPad for use.  And then it started.  Reading became difficult and soon reading became a charade.  This was entertaining.

“Is your accent fake? It seems like it.”

He wasn’t happy with that question.  He was from New York and New Yorkers sound like him.  How could she not know?  Turns out she was from upstate New York, so he belittled her for that.

“Is Yiddish your first language?” I couldn’t really believe she asked that.

“Why would you say that!” he raged as though she called his mother a whore.

“My Husband’s Jewish.  You look Jewish.”

From there he attacked her naiveté.  And then he got to the fact that he has triple citizenship: US, Italy and **gasp** Israel.  If this guy is Jewish, I many consider converting. I’ve always thought the Hare Krishnas were on to something.  If G-d wants me in heaven, he needs me to have a ponytail to pull on, right?

Let’s be honest:  he was an asshole and she seemed to one of the people who help keep the average IQ at 100.  Not stupid, but she’s not in line for a Nobel Prize or finishing the Times Crossword Puzzle any time soon.

By now she’s flustered and her food arrives.  She asks for a to-go box and gets out of there quickly, though he is still trying to engage her.   3 minutes after she leaves, he leaves.

At this point I’m the only one at the counter.  I’ve probably read 5 pages. I’ll never finish this book (I did).  I notice the staff gathering at the other end of the counter buzzing about what happened.  I wait a moment. When one looks my way I say “if you want to know what happened I’ll tell you.”

They had missed most of the conversations and thought he was nice.  I dissuaded them of that opinion.  We all had a good a laugh and I went from the guy who comes in all the time to marginally more than that.  Good thing I can chat with some of them about Game of Thrones.  Yeah, I know a bit about that.

A weird experience:  a bit annoying and ending with a laugh.  Not bad for lunch.  But for Tuesday?  Nope.  There’s more.  So much more.

I tried to leave about 5pm, but silly little things kept cropping up and it was just after 6 when I was able to head to the elevator and make my way to my car.  Since I drove, I get off on 2, say goodnight to the guard (yeah, our building has the guard on 2) and walk across the sky bridge towards my car.  Straight across is the parking structure for the building and there is a large apartment complex to the left.

Being the observant buy I am, I scan the building to my left (It’s called The Bond, in case you care.)    Not expecting to see much I looked and saw too much.  I stopped and gathered myself.  FUCK!  I didn’t know what to do.  On one hand I’m appalled. On the other I’m shocked.  I turn and walked back to the guard at the desk.

“Uh, can you call the cops for me?” I stammered.

The young guard looked and me quizzically.

“Not 911. It’s not an emergency, but there is a naked man masturbating in the window across the street.  I really don’t think the women of the building want to see that.”

And by naked man, I’m guessing 6” 375lbs.  He’s got a substantial and firm gut.  I really shouldn’t know this much.

I’m all for letting consenting adults do whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes, but nothing about this event was private.  It was meant to be a spectacle.  I figured I should do something about it.  I don’t want to be guy who did nothing.  That’s too easy and too wrong.

The guard pulls up the camera on that side if the building and, nope, it stops right below his window. He believes me but doesn’t know what to do.  He radios his coworker.  The coworker won’t talk on the radio and insists they talk on the phone.

When he gets off the phone, he tell me that since it is not in our building he can’t do anything, including calling the cops for me.

Seriously?  I might have been shaking with anger when I left.  So much for doing the right thing.

Years ago, when I worked in the Financial District in San Francisco a coworker caught a guy trying to steal his wallet from his jacket.  The jacket was behind his office door.  We were on a locked floor in a secure building.  This guy was in a ratty suit.  If you glanced, he looked like he belonged in the office.  If you looked, you could see the suit was threadbare and his shoes had holes in them.  I came when hell yelled for me and we escorted the thief to the guard downstairs.

When we got there, the Guard shrugged, the thief bolted out the door.  We looked to the guard who calmly said, “I didn’t see him do anything, I can’t do anything.  There’s too much personal liability and I’m not allowed to.”

That’s when I learned the cameras in the elevators were props and building security is an oxymoron in most cases.

Back in the present, I walked back out of the building and about 10 minutes had passed .  The Wanker, as I was calling him in my head, was still at it, although off to the side, rather than front and center.  As I crossed the street, I realized the light was on in the lobby of his  building.  I walked across to the building and knocked on the window for the desk person to let me in.

I was probably a bit disjoined as I explained what the problem was.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  I asked if she was going to do anything.  Clearly she couldn’t use the “it’s not my building” excuse.

“We got a call about that earlier,” she said.

“Oh.”  I started to leave.  And then I stopped.

“When did you get that call?” I asked.

“Around 11.”

“Seriously? It’s still going on!  Don’t you think this is a bigger problem than that?”

Then she told me in effect that it was none of my business.

I left there madder than a hatter.  No wonder people don’t speak up more often and try to help; doing the right thing can be aggravating when others prevent you from doing anything.

Oh, and he was jerking off, fully naked, in the window again Wednesday after work.  I still see him in the window most nights, but now he stays a few steps back and has at least a shirt on.  I doubt that will last.

 

 

 

The Black Marks on My Permanent Record

Sometimes I reflect on the various events, characters and problems I’ve run across in my career.  Like today, I thought back to an event that happened in late 84 or early 85.  It was a different time.  One of the most important members of a company was the receptionist.  On some levels it was because that was the first person visitors met, but more importantly the receptionist was the voice of the company.

There was no email, faxes were becoming prevalent and a PC on every desk was not a given.  In 1984, I had one of the first 10 PCs in the company.  There were over 200 people in our office.  More significantly, there were very few direct lines to desks.  Every call came to the receptionist and she transferred them to an internal extension.  I sat just inside the ever open double doors, not far from the lobby.  There was nothing between Tina and I.  Except my cubicle walls.

In those days, I was trying to make my mark at work, but I was still a clumsy guy always fumbling for the right thing to say and understanding how to behave in a corporate environment.  And this was corporate – an insurance company in the Sears/Allstate family.  I knew enough not to hit on the receptionist.  Not that she wasn’t really cute; she was a very attractive Hispanic girl, a tad younger than I, from San Francisco’s Mission District.  I wasn’t suave enough to flirt or ask her out.  I wouldn’t have, because I knew she had a boyfriend and my father had taught me not dip my pen in the company ink.

I recall her vividly asking me one day, “Lee I need a favor.”  Always wanting to be helpful I walked to the counter and offered my kind assistance.

Lee’s rule of work #1 – always help the pretty girls.

Of course what she wanted was not at all what I was expecting.  I knew she was taking classes at CCSF, being a reasonably fresh graduate perhaps she wanted help with math or something similar.  It’s not like I was the guy who put staples in the stapler or could solve crossword puzzles with ease.

“Lee, you’re a native speaker and I’m having trouble with Spanish.  Would you help me with my homework?”

I was dumbfounded.  Floored.  She answered every call and transferred them to my desk.  She knew my last.  How she thought I was from Mexico, Guatemala or Spain escaped me.  Now I realize this might have been an opening to ask her out.  So much for being on my game.

“My last name is Greenberg.  I’m Jewish, not Mexican.  No habla espanole.”  Ok, so I was often confused for being Mexican when I was working in East San Jose.  I am a bit dark skinned and was more so when I was younger.  I could tell people I couldn’t speak Spanish and that was it.  My ethnicity traces to all over Europe, not the Americas.  I laughed very much at this exchange.  I don’t recall her reaction.

I recall this incident and realize I might not have handled it as tactfully I should have.  Ah, the perspective of 3 decades.

There was one other incident with Tina I recall.  This wasn’t quite so fun and it was handled much better.  Sometime later, in 85 I believe, there was a commotion in the office.  I walked around to see what was happening and Tina was running into my department.  I think I had moved to another part of the floor by then.

It turned out her boyfriend, or I should say ex-boyfriend, had come to see her in the office.  And by “see her” I mean he had a knife he wanted to stab her with.  We quickly found a closet and put her in there.  It was the wiring closet for the phones as I recall.  We all went back to our desks and acted as nonchalant as we could.  I have a vague recollection of a large man running by.

About 30 minutes later I had heard the police had him on one of the lower floors.  Wow.  I think she left the company within a month or two of that incident.  Over the next 9 years at that firm I realize I was witness or near witness to several other events I would group with this one.  I would not categorize the CFO walking into a board meeting with her dress tucked into her panty hose in the back as one of them.  But it was memorable.

I’m pretty sure you, gentle readers – all 40 of you, will ultimately have the opportunity to read about most of them.  Shall I continue?

 

 

Bart Strikes and the Entire Bay Feels

July 1st, the beginning of short week; the run up to Independence day.  And the beginning of a BART strike.  You might think a transit strike only effects the people on the transit system.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, over 400,000 people a day take BART somewhere, many of them to San Francisco.  The buses and the ferries can’t add that many more riders.    The morning back up at the Bay Bridge went from 20 minutes to over an hour.  The Oakland Ferry holds 310 people. They didn’t add 1000 more trips. They added 6 or so.

But it wasn’t just the toll plaza that was effected; those cars backed on to the approaching freeways, creating roadblocks and traffic jams.  I ran into a lot of it.  I generally ride BART into Oakland each day.  It is a 31 minute ride, part of an 60-70 minute commute – I have to walk a mile from the station to the office.  Each day I drove in to the office it took at least 90 minutes.  A normal drive is 45-50 minutes, or 60 when something goes wrong.  But that is just me. What of everyone else, stuck in different directions and longer rides?  It was a miserable week.

On my first day driving to work , and in retrospect I was glad it was only 3 days, the horror of the driving dead started on the city streets I took to avoid the freeway.  I was on an “expressway” like road.  The speed limit was 50 mph and the lights were spread out.  When we hit a light, there would be 4 or 5 cars stacked in each of the two lanes.  I was always second in the fast lane.   Normally, this was no big deal.  Not today.  As the cars to my right moved and begun to speed up, I had to believe the driver in the car in front of me was caught in the throes of a death curse or self love.  3 cars from the other lane would  speed by and cross the street before he got across the intersection.  And then, he’d pace the car next to him so I couldn’t get around.  Once, was driver error.  4 times was madenning.  I offered my soul to Cthulhu to get out of this madness.  There was no luck.    Cursed to endure this madness for eternity, misery for my commuting soul.

When I finally got around this idiot, I ran into a new problem. If the previous driver was the driving dead, this next driver had a death wish.  In traffic, we often follow cars closer than we might otherwise. I was about 2 car lengths behind the car infront of me, with 2 cars behind me acting similarly.  There were plenty of cars to my right as well.  We were moving at a reasonable speed.  Not too fast, not too slow.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the car in the back of my lane dart to the right.  He sped forward. Faster. Faster. With no where to go he cut in front of me, using the extra 6 inches that were there.  Thank god he was daring enough to risk a few lives to move 40 feet forward in traffic.  Me? I’m too timid. I’m sure if he and I were timing our commutes, he’d beat me by a good 90 seconds every day.  What’s the down side in that?  Perhaps my timidity was the curse of the old ones.

Who needs a horror film?  I had plenty of scares from the new drivers on the road.  I watched one car completely misuse the merge into the center bore of the tunnel and cut of a car completely unawere that danger lurked in front of him. And behind him as he slammed on the brakes that no one expected.  Cars went everywhere; I merely shook my head.  Transit strike or no, some people should not be allowed to drive.  Period.

Since I normally ride BART most days, I got to listen to the radio. A lot of radio. Sports talk. Baseball. Music.  On the first day, The DiVinyls came on.  Everyone loves “I Touch Myself” don’t they?  I quickly remembered that I have half a post – a critical analysis of love songs  versus masturbation songs – in my head.  I will work on that another time.  There was too much time in the car last week.  Too much time to think.

At one point I passed a bus, parked on the street in front of the Lafayette BART station.  The driver stood in front of the bus, in the street.   It had a great scrolling marquee.  It read:

“Try Transit!”

“Ride a Bus”

“Out of Service”

I am pretty sure the irony was lost on most everyone involved with that bus.

A Room with a View or Two

Sometimes, we forget to really see what is right in front of us.  In the midst of several issues, I took a breath and walked to the lunch room and looked out the window. This is the view from our lunchroom.  Jack London Square, The port of Oakland, the old Alameda Naval station and in the distance, San Francisco.  The San Francisco skyline looks so small here.  Trust me when I tell you that it looks fantastic in real life.    This picture, while spectacular, does not do justice to the view from the wall of glass at the west end of the building.  We can actually see ATT Park from here.

Oakland 13-4-17

There it is, a water view most people would kill for.  I can have it all I want — from the break room.  Is it any wonder why I try to move my meetings with vendors and consultants on to our balcony, where the view can help make a dull meeting worthwhile.

Back at my desk I have a great view of the restrooms. I work hard not to make eye contact with everyone intent on doing their business.  I do sit a few cubes back (and yes they are very low cubes with no privacy) so I am not in the middle of the road, so to speak. One guy was.  I think a certain exec (or 6) got tired of a perky “Hi!” every time they visited the pot.  That guy got moved.  and I know he doesn’t understand why.  Being the mentor I am (think Big Brothers but for stupid workers, not disadvantaged kids), I explained it to him, quite bluntly.

Sometimes I just stand up and move to the window.  It is basically the distance from my cube as the restroom, but 180 degrees behind me.  when I look, this is what I see.  What you can’t see is that the train runs right next to the sidewalk across the street.  Every 20 minutes, in both direction, so roughly 5 times per hour.  With a train comes the long horn.  Some of the engineers are heavy on the horn.  Its annoying.  But the view is not.

oakland west 13-4-17That is downtown Oakland in the distance.  I walk from their to work.  It’s just under a mile.  That Blue building with the yellow stripes in the foreground? it’s a winery/tasting room.  I need to actually go in there one day.

Not too many attempts at laughs today.  Just a Million Dollar view.  And the runner-up in the &1.97 Beauty Contest of Views.

Today’s blog brought to you by Rip Taylor and J.P. Morgan.  I was never really a Chuck Barris fan.  But I did meet Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine.  But that is another story.