Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Social Media - Really?

Dear Readers,

I'm beginning to feel incredibly old and fuddy-duddy-ish.
Nope, I'm not talking about people not giving up seats on the bus or train for me - WHICH THEY COULD.

I'm not even complaining about being called "sir" with a tinge of looking-down-the-nose irony by the seemingly twelve year old behind the computer help counter - WHICH THEY SHOULDN'T.


I am talking about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing that has replaced common sense and uncommon courtesy.

Social Media.

I am appalled  at the fact that people have come to the conclusion that, no matter what hurtful, hateful and berating things they choose to put out into the world on venues such as Twitter, Facebook, etc, that it's okay...because, somehow, they have free reign to be awful when not face to face with their victim.

It is, I fear, a growing concern amongst anyone with a conscience. Oh, WAIT. It must not be a growing concern at all!

My parents brought me up with a certain few rules to live by and one of those rules that I find has kept me in a lot of trouble over these many years is this:

Never say anything behind anyone's back that would not say - or have not said - to their face!

I believe that those who would use (anti)social media to broadcast messages of hate, cruelty or misogyny are cowards who hide behind the barest anonymity of the handheld keyboard to do the dirty work that they wouldn't have the strength of character to say in person or to deal with the personal and emotional fallout that their words create.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

"Don't Interfere With My Child's Creativity!"

Picture this, my friends.....

A lovely, sunny, winter Sunday. A restaurant with a fireplace in the dining room. A group of friends lucky enough to be seated at a table near that warm, crackling fire and enjoying a wonderful brunch.

Sounds idyllic, right?
Then it happens....

A child gets up from his table where he has been sitting with (presumably) his two siblings and three adults, two double strollers - blocking the aisles I might add - and heads, screaming, across the dining room with his hands stuffed with napkins, muffins from the bread basket, silverware from the table and stops. Right behind me. Directly in front of the hearth and proceeds to count at the very top of his lungs while he throws things into the fire.

ONE! A napkin which bursts into flame and flies up toward the flue.

TWO! Half a muffin which bounces off the logs, throwing sparks up and out of the fireplace towards us.

THREE! An orange slice that slips out of his grip just before being catapulted into the fireplace and lands with a sickly plop on the floor of the aisle just begging for a patron or a waiter to slip on it.

I will take a brief break in the enumeration to share the fact that the parents of this child are ignoring his actions. The woman/mother is on her phone speaking at the top of her voice - apparently to someone who couldn't make it to join them all at this circus today - and the two men are in a discussion that I am not privy to nor do I care to be.

Which brings us to....

FOUR! As the child in question holds up a fork and knife above his head, ready to throw these two utensils into the fire OVERHAND and may the chips (or eyeballs) fall where they may.

Since this child could hurt himself and he's already making a HUGE spectacle of himself anyway, I decide to spring into action. Partly for the child's sake, partly for my own since I was in direct trajectory of the sharp metal objects that are about to be airborne.
I turn in my chair, put my hand on the child's back ever-so-gently and take the flatware from him saying,"I'm not so sure that is a good idea, little man." with my best fatherly/grandfatherly look on my face.

Whereupon (and, no, I can't think of any other word to use that will convey my rage-driven, olde fashioned, shock and awe at this moment) the mother (who has, up until now, obviously been ignoring her son's actions, impudence and SAFETY) turns to me and says:

"Please don't interfere with my child's creativity."

Are you KIDDING ME?!?!
Have you comPLETEly lost your ever lovin' MIND?!? 
Your child could very well burn down the restaurant we are all in at the moment.
Your child could very well (proverbially) put an eye out - his OR mine!
Your child is only demonstrating what he has learned - or, more to the point, NOT learned at home!
Your child does not know how to act in a public place and that is YOUR FAULT.
That behavior is NOT "creative". 
It is destructive. 
It is rude.
It is incomprehensibly thoughtless on the part of the parents who obviously don't know any better themselves.

And it will NEVER stop until you, as his caregivers, get a clue and start to - oh, I don't know - CARE!

Pay attention to your children and discipline them when it's necessary.
And remember that "NO" is not a bad word. They need to hear it once in a while to learn the difference between what is acceptable and what is inappropriate.

Thanks for your time.....I know you're busy!


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Now Playing At This Theater...NOT YOU!

Friends and Followers,

I just got home from one of the nicest movie theaters in the city of New York, the Ziegfeld, where Jae and I were seeing Les Miserables with our friend Julie.
Julie is a wonderful singer and a lover of the show and we always have a good time together.
We also happen to have the same shock and dismay concerning the crumbling of manners and etiquette in the world of late.


What the world needs now is a knowledge among people that we, as the strangers around you, don't care and don't want to know what you and your friends are talking screaming to each other about.
There is no need to holler at the top of your lungs to person who is right next to you.
My theory is that these people - both young and not-so - are screwing up their hearing by sticking earbuds in their ears all the time and pumping up the volume enough to do enough damage to ruin their ears. Edit your vocal volume for your surroundings. You are NOT in a bar. You are NOT outdoors in traffic. You're in a theater....have some respect and keep your voices down.
Think of it as a library with a giant screen.

At Les Mis there was a group behind us a couple of rows in which there was a woman - I'd say she was in her early thirties - talking to a slightly younger woman...CONSTANTLY.
Not only was she talking, mind you, she was saying the most inane things. Explaining absolutely everything.
One character shot at another and she told her companion, "He just shot at that other guy."
Wanting to be the kind of guy who gives the benefit of the (always increasing) doubt, I thought that perhaps this younger woman might be blind, so I look back just in time to see the younger woman TEXTING during the film. AARRGGHH!


The actors on the screen have been paid a goodly amount of money and have a great deal of experience (Russel Crowe notwithstanding) onscreen. It's their job to act and sing. NOT YOURS.
I've made my living as a singer, both in opera and musical theatre, and I wouldn't dream for a moment to usurp the actors' performance by singing along.
Even though it's a musical...we are not in your bathroom shower. SHUT UP and let the professionals do their jobs.

And, again...I want to tell you, my friends and followers, that I don't expect, for a moment that any one of you might be guilty of any of these things and that, even if you are, you would have the presence of mind and grace to change your ways.

Enjoy the movies!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Excuse me...How Many Tables Did You Reserve??

Hi. I'm Steven and I will be serving restaurant justice this evening.

Here's the thing. I have a problem with people - any people - who pay no attention to how hard people work in the service industry.
Tonight we were having dinner at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants; a really great place that's not too fancy but always crowded.
Almost ever one of my pet peeves were touched on by just one couple at at a table not six feet from ours.
  1.  These two had the audacity to walk the hostess all over the restaurant because they didn't want to sit at the table she had chosen. Hosts and hostesses have REASONS for seating guests where they do. They spread the tables between waitpeople so that one doesn't get slammed with too many patrons at one time. They also are in charge of knowing which tables have been reserved for specific times. SIT WHERE THEY PUT YOU, PEOPLE...it's all the same food!
  2. As they sat down (finally) they took off their coats and both threw them on the banquette where the woman was seated. Put your damn coat on the back of your chair. In a crowded restaurant you KNOW people are going to show up and need that space. When the two-top next to them did get seated they acted as if it was an affront to them, personally, that they were being asked to give up space which was not theirs to begin with.
  3. When they had been served and had finished their appetizers, the man picked up his used plate and put it on the clean, unoccupied table adjacent to theirs. I can't imagine that anyone would be thoughtless enough to not understand that putting a used plate on a clean table that is not your own is unhealthy, that it makes more work for the waitstaff or bus staff and just plain rude. Wait till your waiter or busboy comes to take it away. It was yours...own it.
  4. And, PLEASE! It's not rocket science. It's not brain surgery. It doesn't even take all that much intelligence to realize that YOU SHOULDN'T LEAVE YOUR PURSE OR BRIEFCASE ON THE FLOOR IN THE FOOT PATH OF OTHERS. Come on...wake up and think of others for a change.
Please, folks, tell everyone you know how hard restaurant employees work (if they don't know already) and encourage them to treat them accordingly.

Thanks so much and I'll see you out there!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

O, Dio! Not At the Opera!!

Dear readers, followers, rabbi, parents, grandparents, relatives and friends,

(oops! Sorry, I got caught up in the rhythm of the ubiquitous bar mitzvah speech salutation)

At any rate... today's installment comes as a result of my long overdue night at the opera just last night.
Now, some of you know about my background in the world of opera - I maintain that I 'impersonated an opera singer' for many years before my career in the theatre so I still retain a love for the art form. I just feel no outrageous need to DO it anymore. I have the greatest respect for the huge amount of work and dedication it takes to be a professional opera singer and there, I guess, is from where this blog posting springs.
As I mentioned, this visit to the Metropolitan Opera last night was the first in far too long. Opera is a costly indulgence and one I haven't been able to afford as often as I'd like so it's been a few years since I actually sat in that magnificent space and witnessed live music making at some of its very best.

Now when I say "live music making" I want to be clear. I've said it more than once - frankly, I've said it to anyone who will listen - there is nothing on earth as grand as Grand Opera.
A large orchestra pit filled with some of the world's best instrumentalists and conductors, a truly gigantic stage with sets that can be up to three stories tall, sometimes hundreds of singers and supernumeraries (those are the non-singing or -speaking spear carriers and such), elephants, dancers...anything you can imagine and many things you can't.

"Live music making" also means we are NOT in your living room, we are NOT out on the street, we are NOT in a restaurant and we are definitely NOT in your office.

This, to the initiated and uninitiated alike, should make it clear that there should be NO talking, NO scratching things or rubbing things, NO eating or drinking and absolutely no texting during a performance. Not only that but I find that it is the ultimate in disrespect and disregard of the singers et al onstage to be taking flash photos - or any photos for that matter - of the stage.

What's that you say? The show is over and it's only the curtain call?

Well, let me tell you something from actual experience...when a flash goes off in the audience it has the potential of blinding those onstage for a second or two and, trust me when I say this, that's all it takes to trip during a curtain call and fall on one's face or into the orchestra pit. And, YES, it does happen.

Also, the curtain call is your opportunity to express how much you appreciate the combined hundreds of years of preparation, practice and work involved to have produced the evening for which you have just paid a hefty sum. Take some time to applaud. Not just for the performers but in acknowledgement of the long hard hours YOU have worked to afford your tickets, YOUR patronage of the arts and for being able to pay for the triple espresso that you purchased just to be able to stay awake in a darkened opera house with beautiful music playing after having to do all that you did during the day before you came.

What you should NOT do is, take a picture with your cell phone, check your messages and mail while trying to get out of the theater while the cast is still on stage bowing so that you can get to your car faster than the next person.

Keep supporting the arts but please do it with a modicum of style, grace and manners. You'll be surprised at how your GOOD behaviour might influence others' bad behavior.

And in the words of Mimi......"Addio....senza rancor"

 - SSG

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Well, howdy readers!
I know it's been quite a while since I've posted a rant ... comment on this little blog of mine.
You see, I've been trying to get myself to be a bit more mellow, less judgemental, maybe a little more tolerant of the apparent shortcomings in the thoughtfulness of others.

APPARENTLY that's not working!

I have realized that those who came before me - Emily Post, Leticia Baldridge, Judith Martin and scores of others - had the right idea.
The common (and I use that term in every facet of its meaning) man (and I use that term in a multi-gender, multi-age way) clearly is losing the meaning of politeness in today's culture (and I use THAT term as loosely as humanly possible).

I cannot fathom the ignorance and perceived entitlement of most people today.
And what is worse is that if and when these etiquette marauders are called on their behavior or, heaven forbid, become the victims of that same treatment by others, they are appalled and become irate for the same infractions of which they themselves are guilty.

SO, I have decided that in this new year of 2013 I would take up the mantel of ESH - Etiquette Super Hero and boldly go where no one with taste, thought and manners has ever gone before.

Well, that was certainly a bit egotistical and prideful and, frankly untrue, because I used to go there ALL the time and I'm just resuming my decision that is shared by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of this great city..."If You See Something...Say Something."

Today I have two subjects. The first of which is Hats & Hoods.
It's January and I completely understand the need to keep one's head warm. I, being a bald man, may understand more than most, as a matter of fact.


When you wear a hat or hood that cuts off your peripheral vision on the streets when you are among other pedestrians, cars, buses and the like....PAY ATTENTION to what's going on around you!

I could be completely selfish and tell you that I only say this to get you - and you KNOW who you are - to stay the hell out of my way, but the whole truth is that I honestly don't want you hurt either. Or anyone else for that matter. So, for clarification and emphasis, I will repeat:

Now....the next subject for today is something that I witnessed just yesterday at a specialty grocery store here in New York called Trader Joe's.
I like to shop at TJ's for a number of reasons. Things are more on the healthy side. Lots of organic product and great prices. They also have a great attitude about giving back to the community.
Yesterday I was witness to a woman's entitled attitude the likes of which I have rarely seen in life - let alone in a place like this.
She had a poor staff member cornered by the canned beans and was complaining bitterly that a man had just taken all but two bent cans of the beans on the shelf to purchase.
CLEARLY, the beans were meant for this woman's cart and she was vehemently complaining how rude this man was to take them all except the damaged cans!
The employee made it clear that the man had a prearranged order for the beans because he worked at a food kitchen for the homeless and unemployed but she would be happy to check the stock area for more of the cans in question.
The offending woman then said something that kind of blew my mind:

"Well, if he works at a shelter, why couldn't HE have used the dented cans and left the good ones for us?!"

Yes, dear readers, you read it correctly:

"Well, if he works at a shelter, why couldn't HE have used the dented cans and left the good ones for us?!"

Upper West Side, obnoxious, thoughtless, clueless, rude and nasty entitlement issues at their most heinous. And what did the staff member do? I really wish I could say that she stayed silent, turned on her heel and walked away, but that's not how Trader Joe's treats their customers - even the most disappointingly thoughtless ones. This lovely young lady said,"I'll see what I can do, ma'am."
And she didn't even say "ma'am" ironically as I would have done.

Take a lesson folks. Rudeness doesn't always beget rudeness but, unfortunately, it's not the same with stupidity and lack of manners. Teach your children well.

All the best in the new year and beyond. And I promise to be more forthcoming in this blog!


Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Direct Reprint From A Like Mind

Here, dear readers, is a reprint from my friend David Cameron Anderson.
It deals with thoughtlessness in the face of beauty and nature and I wholeheartedly agree with his words and intent.

Profile Picture

I've been fascinated by plantlife for as long as I remember - I've come to be quite protective of it.... There are people who walk down the street haphazardly, grabbing leaves or flowers of whatever plant is in reach, then they lazily drop them to the ground as if these plants were simply something to keep their hands occupied while they walk. Those folks will always get a dirty look from me (they either don't see it or ask me 'what's your problem?') There is little that drives me crazier than people who don't understand the concept of a garden. People who have no idea how flowers got into the planting beds...as if they just showed up...I was walking along the periphery of Central Park when I saw that a pair of preschool teachers had brought their classes into the park and onto a large lawn. Twenty or so of the forty children (ages 4 and/or 5) were running around and rolling in a tulip/daffodil bed (the plants were 6 inches to a foot tall with buds already, due to the warm weather)...crushing a good many of the flowering bulbs...I leaned over the railing and got the attention of one of the teachers and said, 'Excuse me - this is a flower garden - where you're standing and the children are playing.' She said, 'Oh, I don't think so.' and turned away... Of course, as Policeman to the world, I continued ...eventually convincing her that these were flowers that were actually planted by the Central Park Conservancy and that the HUGE HUGE lawn adjacent to this garden was a better place for the children to play. She took a few children and exited the garden...and I walked on...turning back a few moments later to see that she had called ALL the children over to play in/crush the plants... This world is inhabited by some odd folks is all I can figure. Something tells me that she came to the same conclusion after meeting me...
David Cameron Anderson
February 25, 2012

I hope all take this in the manner in which it was meant...and those that need to learn from it do just that!