Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Fine Art of Losing


So I played some sports in junior high. I think we lost every game except the one where we piled off the bus in the rain to stand limp 70’s hair miserable on reclaimed strip mine land next to a still working strip mine and after 15 minutes of kicking up clods of roll-a-lawn soccer pitch the ref glanced at his watch and called it in our favor, clearly the Knoxville team had elected to forfeit. We piled back on the bus and enjoyed the couple hour bus ride back to Washington College Academy, glowing for the win regardless how we’d come by it, though might’ve been the glowing warmth of hypothermia versus the bus’s sole dysfunctional heater vent.

High school I took a pass, no pun intended. Though my German teacher also coached the Soccer team, or Fussball as he might’ve called it, the scarlet and white letter jackets didn’t grab me. Despite my sudden growth spurt between eighth and ninth grade, a bit late but welcome all the same, and the family relocation to Kentucky from Tennessee, from Christian private school to better ranked public school; I didn’t feel like towing anyone else’s teamwork line, had enough speaking when spoken too in the private school, not ready to rah rah for the alma matter quite yet. Turned to Speech Team, Debate Team, School Paper, School Plays, Yearbook Staff, and Mock Trial Team.

I may never have won the gold, never been best in state or best in show, never got the lead role, never wore the prom king crown despite attending several at a variety of schools, sometimes as Michael Anthony Hall, sometimes Duckie, and sometimes Ferris Bueller. Didn’t get to write the lead comedy articles, didn’t get to do the front page illustrations, didn’t get invited to the biggest parties or summer chalets or houseboat hootenannies. My highschool job had a polyester uniform. My summer vacations were piled in the back seat of a Ford Escort stationwagon with two siblings, a Walkman, and a 120 minute cassette tape full of Bau Haus Jim Shambhu recorded for me.

I’ve at bets been Assistant Manager over and over again, for movie theaters, for the corporate offices for the Limited, Layne Bryant, Structure, Abercrombie Fitch, & Lerner stores. I’ve been a lead for game studios for years, but lever The Lead, let along the Director of any sort.

I’ve designed and collaborated making toys with a company that’s a cornerstone of the DIY and Art Vinyl market, one of the earliest artists on board and the first American one, although Raymond still credits me as Canadian, did so even before I moved up here. Does anyone in that community know who I am? Largely only the ones I’ve given one of my toys too.

I’ve ridden on huge international flights, but I’ve scarcely even seen what business or first class look like. I’ve been flown across the continent for interviews and then not been reimbursed for taxi fare (LucasArts in SF). I’ve ridden in cars I’ll never afford, seen backstage to shows and events I’ll never be a part of or invited too. I’ve spent the night in a mansion owned by a Mob Lawyer with a Tommy Gun collection, with a master bedroom and elegant trophy wife, a man that slept on the couch with the TV turned to a satellite network rerunning hunting programs.

I’ve met celebrities, shared a smoke or drink or bowl of fries with artists I’ve idolized and been influenced by. I’ve been honored to sit with panelists of people I’m not remotely a peer too and speak from the perspective of the industry I’ve worked in the past decade and a half. I’ve taught classes for government funded instituted and advised on juries for students wrapping up projects at overpriced, non-accredited vocational schools.
And I’m OK with it.

Sure, I’m baffled why people would wind themselves up to tears over the over publicized, overly televised wedding of two rich folks living worry free on the backs of the citizens of England. I don’t know them, so I’m not surprised to not get an invitation to their wedding, though I hear it’ll be quite the bash. Why wouldn’t it, tax money is paying for it. Better spend money on entertaining the masses then buying more bombers or tanks or prisons. Except the government will still buy the bombers, tanks, and prisons.  And the Elite in North America enjoy many of the same unearned perks. The Bush daughters will have expensive, lavish second and third marriages, tax dollar subsidized directly and / or indirectly. Obama’s wife dresses in vintage clothing, but not from the Salvation Army, restored worn once by Jackie Onassis multi-thousand dollar throw rugs. Harper didn’t have to stand in line overnight to get his kids into the choice pre-school. Brook Shields, Queen Amidala, and most Olympic Gold Medalists for Ice or Water related sports got Ivy League educations for free. The Olympic archer kid ended up working for a Wendy’s I believe. Hopefully he’s got some great drive through targeting tricks.

I don’t mean to sound entitled. Just wish the playing field were a bit more even keeled, the opportunities more uniformly available until an individual has had ample chance to prove aptitude, ability, and worth. Instead of endless, needless foreign wars motivated more by greed than ideology, put the people’s money back into bettering the people. Education, humanities, athletics, hospitals, medical care, subsidized housing, advanced career training, subsidized / free higher education, and an earnest effort to remove non-constructive, hopeless situational cycles like Chavs, of getting on the Dole, or being able to get repeatedly rehabbed without being held accountable. Give people ample opportunity for people to prove themselves, to have access to the means to prove themselves, and then deal with them accordingly, compassionately, and fairly when they don’t, instead of relegating them to welfare hotels, minimum wage jobs, and gutter existences.  

Celebrities, politicians, old money families, royalty, they’ve gotten the golden tickets to all the great things, the open doors, the back doors, the VIP doors, and they’ve gotten to write the rules the rest of us live by. History isn’t the only thing written by the winners. Huffington and so many other press outlets regularly release discoveries about how little taxes the elite pay into the system, while living lavishly through loopholes in systems local and abroad. You can do this when you can afford the best lawyers. You can open multimillion dollar bed and breakfast retreats for other elite in Colorado and as long as you rent some sheep for a week during the summer qualify as agricultural land like Tom Cruise did. Maybe not have too long to wait for the farmer or rancher down the road to go bankrupt so you can pick up that acreage for a song at the liquidation auction, if the banker handling the deal didn’t afford your people a chance to bid over a cigar and a cognac in a room with hollow leather bound books and hand stitched chairs made of Navaho hide.

Around me more people seem concerned about the Stanley Cup playoffs and the royal wedding tomorrow than the imminent election here in Canada. That’s a strange thing. U.S. hasn’t been much different. Entire neighborhoods and municipalities going bankrupt, or foreclosed, or rotted through from inside out, and some royal shenanigans in England matter? Maybe the younger royal brother will get into a bachelor show looking for a wife in Detroit, or Vancouver, wouldn’t that be a hoot. Could happen, he smokes fatties doesn’t he? I grew up around a lot of kissing cousins in the South, they smoked fatties too. Only difference I can see is that royalty enjoy indoor plumbing and travel further than the next country. Yes, I’m saying royalty are inbred, possibly why a royal wedding is such a big celebration, finally some fresh blood in the royal gene pool. I’m kidding, I love England. I love their pints, their comedy, and their insanely dense, slang strewn pulp magazines.

I’m not a sore loser. I have a wonderful wife, stupendous son, fantastic friends & extended family, and a gargantuanly groovy gig. I mean, I make escapist entertainment for a living, an alternative for folks to funnel their energy into instead of sitting around feeling cheated to have been born into a life that requires effort, requires dedication, requires sucking it up and walking it off. A life that doesn’t care how well you were liked in high school, or how much you were bullied in a private Christian school, or how good you were at avoiding hazing in the Navy. A life with biweekly paychecks that will keep you just abreast of the minimum payments needed for your lines of credit and that tarot deck of plastic cards. A life with knowing how to use a broom, shovel, rake, mower, bolt cutter. Of knowing what a tetanus shot is, or an immunosuppressant, or dialysis twice a week, or chemotherapy before puberty, or cystic fibrosis tests before you can eat solids.

I believe I make a lifelong predisposition to second place look pretty good, and I take very little for granted. Some cats get the big life; born into it or luck into it or craftily work up to it, and while I’d love to experience some of the adventures they can take for granted, at the same time I’ve done a lot, and enjoyed a tremendous amount of generosity from friends and family and collegues through the years, throughout my life.

So fuck it, I’ll take being a loser, cause over all, I think I’m pretty happy with the consolation prizes.

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