Tuesday, January 26, 2016

No Me Gusta

The grease at the end of Hector's gun met my sweat. The gun, in a slimy way, drug across my forehead. "No", he said, "They keep your friend. We go to the bank machine. You pay your tab. He takes you home."

It wasn't my first trip to Mexico, nor was it the most reckless judgement I had employed there. But there I was. Sitting in the back of a cab with the Mexican version of Vin Diesel pressing a pistol into my head.

John and I were the only guys who made the trip without dates or spouses. It was our first night in Tulum, and we decided to go out to the bars after our married friends called it a night. He told me he didn't have his passport or any cash on him. I told him I would cover the rest of the night. I had no idea how expensive this offer would become.

We got in the first taxi we found, and asked him to take us some place fun. "You like the girls right?" It seemed like he thought we might be a couple. "You like music?" "Yes and yes", John shouted. After making a quick phone call, the cabby turned up the music and sped us to a "great place".

I can't believe we didn't leave right away. Looking back, it was so obvious they were waiting for us. They watched us, and whispered, and laughed. I can't believe the dangerous situations people allow themselves to be placed in, just because they don't want to be impolite.

We ordered our second beers ( was I fearing impolite behavior, or am I just a problem drinker?) Two "women" came over and tried to sit on our laps. They asked us in broken English for drinks, and if we would like to go upstairs with them. I said, "No me gusta". I'm pretty sure John was contemplating a handy. Luckily, or so it seemed, they left in a huff.

"It' time to go man. I have beers in my room and this is getting fucked up".

I signaled for our tab. It was brought over by four men. Three of the men were big, and one was absolutely huge. They looked both furious and tickled.

The "tab" was slapped down on our table.


"Five hundred pesos por quatro cervezas? Expensivo, pero OK".

The huge one remarked back in very clear English, "No, it's $500 dollars".

"Why", I demanded, trying to play tough.

He spoke slowly and calmly "It's for the ladies and the beer."

The other 3 guys moved in closer. It was very clear what was happening. I knew I had exactly $300 on me.

I almost whined, "I am sorry. We didn't understand. Can I just pay you $250, and then leave?"

One of the guys slapped the hell out of the back of my head. I bit my tongue, literally. I pulled out my wallet, rummaged through my cards, and offered him my Visa. They all laughed. "OK, I said, just let me talk with my friend , so we can split this up. We will pay you."

The only thing that hadn't gone wrong yet was John. He was a bit of a squirrel back then. He liked to crack the funnies at awkward times, and is not a big guy. But he was being cool, and luckily, pretty quiet.

"Dude, I don't have any money. What are we going to do?"

I smiled when I answered him, hoping I wasn't looking as scared as I was. Through my smile, "I only have $300. I'm going to leave $280 on the table. That still makes this a nice score for them and leaves us with cash for a taxi. As soon as I lay the money down, we are running out the door as hard as we can."

And that's what we did.

And thank God, what's the first thing we see as we burst through the door? Our taxi! We threw ourselves into the cab. "Vamanos Mother Fucker..let's go, let's go, let's go!!"

But he wouldn't go.

The bar emptied out, and surrounded the cab. I locked our doors. They rocked the car back and forth, while pounding on the windows. It wasn't just the 4 guys. At least 6 more were there, joined by 4 prostitutes. ( who were shrilly laughing )

I was convinced we were dead. I couldn't believe this was how we were going to die. Torn apart by a mob in Mexico? They stopped rocking the cab and Vin Diesel approached the cab driver. He rolled down his window and they spoke for about 5 seconds. He then unlocked the doors ( yes, this taxi in Mexico had automatic doors)

They opened up John's door, and pulled him out of the car. I tried to follow, but they grabbed and squeezed my face like a grape, forcing me back in the car. Waiting for me in the back seat was the big man. He held a gun in his lap.

"Me llamo Ed".

"Stop trying to speak Spanish Ed. My name is Hector."

"Hector, I am sorry. I only had $300 with me. We were not trying to steal. Can I leave you my credit cards, and come back tomorrow with $200? Please.."

He explained , "They keep your friend. We go to the bank machine. You pay your tab. We come back. You get your friend...and he takes you home".

I acted happy and relieved with his plan as I said, "Sounds fair. But I can't leave my friend alone with all of them. He should come, you should bring one of your friends, and I'll pay you $100 more than my tab." I looked him in the eyes and smiled.

The pistol was no longer in his lap, but pressed into the center of my dome. The grease at the end of Hector's gun met my sweat. The gun, in a slimy way, drug across my forehead. "No", he said, "They keep your friend. We go to the bank machine. You pay your tab. He takes you home". Then he looked me in the eyes and smiled.

"Sounds good Hector".

Well no wonder Hector didn't bite on my $100 bonus offer! We made 3 stops where I pulled out the maximum withdrawal of $300. ATM number four wouldn't give me cash. I explained to Hector that my bank must have frozen my account, because I never pull out that type of cash and we were in a foreign country.

Suddenly, Hector seemed to lose his grasp on the English language. He yelled at me in Spanish and pointed to my account balance from the last withdrawal. I yelled back, "I would give all of it to you if I could, but it won't let me!".

He wanted to make sure I wasn't bluffing. He put the gun to my head again. " Are you sure?", he asked. "Yeah, I'm sure. And you know I am sure, and that this is not fair. I have been fair. I paid."

He laughed. "No fair eh!!?? You want the cops? I like the cops."

A weird calm came over me after he said that. If he wasn't scared of me reporting this mugging to the police, then he would have no reason to kill us.

"Fair enough Hector". We talked about American Idol as the cab drove us back to the bar.

He actually thanked me as he left the car. Less than a minute later, John walked out. He looked confused, but fine. The taxi swept us off to our resort.

( Later that week John would admit to drinking 3 more beers, on the house, while I was gone. They pretty much left him alone)

John immediately asked me what had happened, and I told him we shouldn't say a word until we were back in the resort. We all rode in silence.

Upon our arrival, the taxi turned over his shoulder and asked for a fare. I half punched, half slapped him in the face and started screaming. I was going to kill him if I could. "Let's not go to jail next asshole". John was right.

We got out of the car. I spit at, or on him. ( can't remember) I kicked his cab as he drove off.

I told John everything that happened when we got to my room. Apparently I was still yelling. A strong knock came on my room's door. I went to the kitchenette to find a knife as I heard, "Hotel Security. Please keep it down and good night".

John left for his room. I crashed into my bed.

I learned a few things that night.

When in a spotty region, don't ask cabs where to go, tell them where to go.
If you are scared, it's for a reason.
Don't show all of your cards.
Don't underestimate your friends.

Lastly, Hector taught me the beauty of the all inclusive resort. No need to go off exploring! It's not the type of trip that makes you sound cool, but it really is the most relaxing way to travel. All of these great lessons.... and for only $1,200, and a pair of boxer shorts.

Muchas Gracias you son of a bitch.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Show Me The Way

We all know that mentors are important.  But who should be your mentor, and where should you find them?

The best possible mentors are people who have not only "been there before",  but also stand to gain little if you succeed or fail.

That last part is the curve ball, because it's easy to find people older than you in your industry that enjoy giving advice.  

Those friends can be very valuable.  They often help us gain senior level relationships, generate leads, and land some new business.  They are valuable, but not the only types of mentors you should seek.

Mentors from different industries are able to give you advice and ideas, free of prejudice.  We all mentally collude with our industry peers, falling into habits of thought.  A mentor from the outside can give clear, logical business advice that your whole industry may be lacking.  That could mean unique solutions.  Unique solutions are the key to innovation and growth. 

Mentors from the outside also don't subconsciously have a place in mind for you that suits them.  They are better able to size up your authentic strengths and challenges, thus handing you real, smart, helpful support.   It is like having a therapist. Sure you have dear friends and family that are intelligent and great listeners, but they can't be an appropriate mediator, or an objective therapist.  

If you are from Generation X, consider finding some mentors younger than you.  There is huge value in having younger mentors.  They know how to reach today's audience, and are much more tuned into "what's coming next".  They are not playing catch up because they are busy writing the new rules.

Some of my most valuable and helpful mentors are several years younger than me.  I was about to start a very high risk, low margin, cash flow dependent distributor last year.  My younger friend, Dave, who is not in the furniture business, walked me through the business plan.  He didn't tell me not  to give it a try, but his excellent questions and ideas led me to a wise halt.  Had I not hit pause, I wouldn't have met my now business partners ( and mentors) at Seibold Baker.  I'm now helping lead a profitable business model perfect for my goals and expertise.  

We, Seibold Baker Illinois, just added a new line to our rep group.  Clarus Glassboards.  Clarus is only five years old, and the owners are quite a bit younger than me.  That said, they have still managed to become the largest manufacture of glass erase systems in the USA.

The fresh, clear perspective Clarus brings to our industry has already been eye opening for me. They have a progressive, clear brand, with lightening quick customer service.  I chalk much of this up to their younger leadership.  I know I am going to learn so much from these guys.

One of best presenters and speakers I have met in a long time is the head of sales and marketing for our manufacturing partner, Izzy.  He may be my junior in age, but is leaps and bounds ahead of me as it pertains to design trends, workplace strategy, and overall moxy.  I'm reading books he has recommended and following his thought leaders from twitter.  All have been inspiring and insightful. 

The main point is to avoid getting into a rut with your mentors.  Enjoy your wise industry friends, but don't forget to enlist people born after you, and from outside your industry.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Exit Sandman

Generation X walked off the mound last night.

Mariano Rivera debuted in May of 1995, the same month I walked down a hill wearing a cap and gown.  

Mariano pitched before the dot com boom, and during it's bust.  He was the set up man for the Championship team of 1996.  

Mariano and his Yankees enjoyed an amazing, wild, successful ride in the late 90's.  He was the dominant closer for the World Series Champions of 1998,1999, and 2000.

Mariano was pitching in New York when the Towers Fell in 2001.  

Mariano's team fell from their dominant perch that year, failing to win a World Series after winning 3 straight. 

Mariano gave up the winning run in the 2001 World Series, and was credited with the loss. It was on a chop single up the middle, by an over matched team.

Mariano's Yankees made it to the Series again in 2003, but got run by a one year phenom from South Florida.

Mariano pitched while we fought in 2 long, ignored wars, that were never won.

Mariano pitched during another financial crisis, in 2008.

He closed games that same year, as our first Black President was elected.

He was a World Champion again in 2009, finishing for the iconic team, making it's slow recovery.

He tore his knee up shagging fly balls in 2012, and missed almost the whole year. He was 42 years old.

He rehabbed his knee, so he could play one last season, and go out "on his terms".

He was still an excellent closer this year.  He pitched very well for a team that came up short of the playoffs.

Mariano walked off the mound last night, in tears, after hugging Derek Jeter and Andy Petite. ( Two of the guys he came of age with.  One is also retiring, and one is still holding on, fighting injuries, hoping for one or two more great years)

Mariano took his curtain call, and was wildly cheered.

He sat down, and just looked out.  

Now what?

Friday, January 11, 2013


Sometimes you have to bank one in

Ben McLemore was the best player on the court all night tonight.  On the
way to scoring 33 points, he missed only 2 shots.  He took advantage of
screens by his teammates, and also created  when the rest of the team fell
apart.  Perfect from 3 point land, opportunistic transition play, and pull
up jumpers.  Fucking masterpiece.  He did all of the right things.

But doing all the right things wasn't enough.  Even though he played the
best game of his young career, his team was going to lose.

But then he banked one in.

With .01 second(s) left and the team down by three, Ben put up a three
pointer. This time, his teammates did do all the right things.  They all
executed.   Coach drew up a play to get Ben the last shot of the game.  Why
not?  Ben had been perfect the whole night.

Ben then  put up his worst shot of the night.

His worst shot of the night saved the game because it banked off the
backboard and fell right through the net.  Tie game.  ( team won easy in

Sometimes you have to bank one in.

About an hour after the game I got  a phone call from my wife.  I' m
traveling on business tonight, and was just falling asleep.  I have worked
my ass off this week, and today was especially  exhausting.  I almost
didn't pick up her call.

My wife and I are expecting our first child.  We are thrilled, but we are
secretly afraid.

Apparently, she got pregnant shortly before badly injuring her back this
Summer.  Her back's injury and all of the prescriptions and treatments
masked the fact that she had 1st Trimester symptoms.

So we just kept trying, and kept trying, and then got a positive test.

We went to her doctor, thrilled for what we thought was a 7 week sonogram.
Less than a minute into the sonogram, we were told the baby was at least 18
weeks old.

I was Scared and Mad.

Kate had taken pregnancy tests ever since we got off the pill to avoid any
risks.   She took prenatal vitamins for a year.  She went to her doctor for
advice and was told, quite directly, she would not get pregnant the old
fashioned way.   She did all the right things.

The news of our 18 week old pregnancy  didn't feel like a win.

What might we had done to our child?  Pain Killers, MRI, epidermal, a boozy

Then we got a call from the doctor saying our blood work indicated a higher
risk than normal for Downs Syndrome.  We had such a  wonderful plan drawn
up, executed it so well, but it all seemed off.

I'm glad she called and woke me up.

All tests indicate our child is healthy.  The odds were always in our
favor, but Kate and I had been quietly afraid, even keeping our fear from
each other.  Noble, but kind of lonely and sad.

We had planned so diligently, and then it all went sideways.  Our plan
went wrong, so something had to go wrong right?

Sometimes you have to bank one in.

We weren't really  trying to get pregnant late August, but it happened.
The shot was off, but it went through the hoop..and it counted. ( Yeah,  I
just wrote that shit)

You can prepare.  You can do all the right things, or at least all of the
things you think are right, but it still might not get you what you want.

Other times, you  can just let it fly.  Put yourself in the right place,
keep trying, completely miss-fire, but still somehow win.

Fair has nothing to do with it.

Fair has nothing to do with anything.

Sometimes you bank one in and win.

Sometimes you prepare with perfect execution, but fall short.

Life is a tough and wonderful game.

I love it so much.

Monday, December 31, 2012

My amazing 2012 blog!!!

2012 was, like most years, a horribly beautiful year.  I got some of the best news of my life, and I got some of the worst news of my life.  A wonderful, challenging, thrilling, exhausting year.  But where is the humor in that?

This is not Thanksgiving.  It is New Years Eve.  New Years, the snarkiest and most insincere of all holidays. 

So here it comes.  My shallow list of things I won't miss about 2012

The General Election. I don't care how you vote, the election process leaves everyone bruised.

Old White Dudes pontificating on rape

The Olympics.  I wouldn't cross my street to watch most of these events. 

Lebron James winning his first championship

Jon Calipari winning his first championship ( until vacated)

The Nationals, or any baseball team, shutting down their staff ace.... just in time for the playoffs

The Kansas City Chiefs

Apple Maps

People reading "Fifty Shades of Grey"

People talking about "Fifty Shades of Grey"

People writing snarky blogs

People thinking irony equates to creativity

People hiding behind self effacing humor

People named Ed Connealy

Call Me Maybe

Honey Boo Boo

All of the Vampire shit.  It's done now right?

Showtime's "Homeland".  A TV show about counter terrorism, absolutely blew itself up during the close of season two.  Season two's second half was so bad, it managed to ruin season one.  

Into New Year's Resolutions?  Consider the following for inspiration.

No, you are not "starving", you are just an American who is not full right now.  

Not everything you like or approve of is "amazing".

Almost everything you don't like, or don't approve of, shouldn't be called "retarded".

The exclamation point.  Stop typing this (!) all the time.  This (!) is supposed to articulate overwhelming enthusiasm.  You know, something that would make you raise your voice.  I'm amazed you don't get this.....it's kind of retarded!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New Basketball Season, New Perspective

“One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.” 
― Rita Mae Brown

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

True forgiveness.  You know if you have experienced it.  It's a soul cleansing you can physically feel on your face, your chest and your shoulders.  

That's why last year's Hawks will always be one of the most interesting, surprising, and special teams in Kansas History.

Jayhawk fans, in no way, were due any contrition's last year.  At least not in reality. But fans do not live in reality.  Fans are fans so they can escape their reality.  With that understood, many Kansas fans were smarting going into last year's season.  

KU's losses to NIU and VCU the two years prior were avoidable and awkward.  In a way, those losses seemed to take away from 2008's National Championship.  It was like someone drew a moustache on our Mona Lisa.  When spoken of nationally, it was not KU's amazing string of conference championships and recent National Championship that was spoken of.  It was an ongoing choke theme, belabored.

KU had player of the year candidate, Thomas Robinson.  KU also had the most frustrating player in years running the team.  Tyshawn Taylor.

Everyone wanted Tyshawn to change.  For 3 years, we all wanted him to be something he was not.  Some just wanted him gone.

There will never be another Jayhawk who's name brings up so many different types of emotions.

He didn't change.  He played his game. He made more shots than he should have, and sliced through traffic, and turned the ball over, and hit clutch free throws.  He played awesome defense.  He thrilled, and he frustrated. He was a Bill Shakespeare hero in high tops.

Then he leads the Jayhawks to another conference championship.  Then he leads them to a Final 4,   and all the way to the Championship Game.  KU over achieved fin the big dance for the first time in decades.

Once the Tournament started, KU played excellent defense, but stopped hitting outside shots.  The games were painfully close.  I have never been to a NCAA Tournament win and had less fun that the win over North Carolina State.  Shame on me.  I didn't get it.  It was horribly beautiful.  


NCAA tournament upsets
Tyshawn Taylor
Myself (for being such an idiot fan the last few years)
Roy ( about time Ed)

I am quite certain this year's team will play great defense, but beyond that, I have no strong opinions and even less expectations.  I like this new approach.

I think the development and contributions from Tharpe and McLemore will be key, but it's just a hunch.  Happy to say, I don't care.   It's time to enjoy the play.  

Thanks for the lesson Tyshawn.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's only going to get worse

Junior Seau killed himself today. His death will statistically support a horrible fact and trend. NFL players die much sooner than the rest of us.

There is no way anyone can say why he shot himself in the chest. Maybe he didn't want to force his loved ones to see his face destroyed. Perhaps he wanted to let his traditional, Catholic mother give him an open casket. There is a chance he found a gun shot to his chest, less frightening than pills or slit wrists. Any of these reasons are possible.

It is also possible he mimicked the recent suicide of Bear's great, Dave Duerson. Duerson left a suicide note explaining why he chose to shoot himself in the chest. He wanted to make sure his brain was intact so it could be tested for trauma. Trauma, caused by all of the concussions he suffered as an NFL player.

Seau drove his car off a 100 foot cliff in 2010, after a fight with his girlfriend. No drugs or booze were in his system. I do think that qualifies as past suicidal behavior. Maybe he had his friends and family fooled. Today, they all say he was happy and had so much to live for. Could be, he's always fought demons and battled depression. Perhaps stories will surface soon, bringing different shades of this man to light.

It doesn't matter to me. As the saying goes, "stats don't lie". The average NFL player dies before his 55th birthday. This is a horrible truth.

He played in parts of 20 NFL seasons. He's in the Hall of Fame. He's gone forever at age 42.

We constantly hear players referred to as "warriors" and "modern day gladiators". I wish this was typical, sports caster hyperbole, but it is not. It is spot on. They ARE like gladiators in the coliseum.

They are out there dying every week. We may not see them pass away on the frozen tundra. No, they are not carting off corpses each game. But we are watching these guys kill themselves all the time. And the league has never been more popular.

This is only going to get worse.