Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rich or Famous - Call It In The Air

Sometimes I wonder if I really do want to be famous. When I'm done drooling over their homes and private planes, the reason I tell myself that it won't be worth the trouble for every man, woman, and child with purchasing power (or influence over those who have it) to know my name smacks me in the face. Jesus, this weekend Tiger was in some kind of car accident and everybody from TMZ to CNN to the almighty Fox News (hee hee)was up his butt in two seconds. It would be harder to find a more perfect example, right?

What would have happened if the rich and not famous guy or lady who lives next to Tiger had smashed their Escalade at 2:25 in the morning? The Isleworth Police Department would have investigated, the injured would have been taken to the Emergency Room, and they would have had a funny story for next year's Thanksgiving. "Remember last year when Greg smashed the car because his foot slipped off of the brake and he nailed the gas? If it hadn't been for Laura knocking out the back window (insert: laughter and Greg groaning playfully), he might have been trapped in there forever."

Everyone laughs and they go on with their evening, complaining about how they ate too much and wondering what was for dessert.

Tiger put a statement on his website today giving some insight into his emotion, but nothing that alluded to the details of the crash:

"This situation is my fault, and it's obviously embarrassing to my family and me," Woods said. "I'm human and I'm not perfect. I will certainly make sure this doesn't happen again." Woods said it was a private matter, and he wanted to keep it that way. What he failed to address was where he was going at that hour. "Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumours that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible," he said.

I understand the argument from regular people about celebrities knowing full well the world they've entered once they hit it big. I understand their seeming loss of privacy as it is connected to their chosen profession. I even understand the meteoric and unabashed curiosity we 'regular' people have with the lives and private times enjoyed by celebrities. Hell, what good reason is there for me to know what Mary J. Blige keeps in her meticulously maintained refrigerator or where the magic happens for every member of KISS?

By the same token, I can also understand why celebrities get pissed when they feel like they are required to share with us every aspect of their existence. From the angelic A-listers and B-listers, all the way down to the unimaginably funny Kathy Griffin and her supposed D-listers, we want to know everything we can about the people we see on television, watch at the movie theater, sing along with in our cars and on our treadmills, and (seemingly less so), those people whose words we read in murder and political and trashy novels. I understand how those people may feel like they are simply doing a job. I understand having a calling, and wanting some way to express whatever talent they believe has been either bestowed upon them or carefully cultivated. I understand wanting to share that talent with the world around you and hoping that the exposure results in glowing recognition. Maybe with success you can finally have some fancy clothes and fancier friends, a house larger than 1600 heated square feet to shelter your family, and quite possibly more than enough cash to quell the nagging 'how the hell am I going to afford to retire?' fears ping-ponging around your head. I get it.

I know full well that I'm riding a double-edged sword in professing my desire to be an A-lister or B-lister...or whatever novelists who sell a bunch of copies of their latest tome are considered to be. The nature of the beast seems to require that swells of interested/nosy people must be afforded the ability to root around in your business as their supreme right because they are footing the bill. Your fans are the people buying whatever it is you're putting out there - and that's the only way you'll be able to enjoy the life of luxury that comes with the fame. What I can only assume is that once the awards shows are over, the red carpets are rolled up, the rented jewelry and cars and women are returned to whomever rents such things, and people forget about the celebrity du jour on the cover of People magazine or the next premiere or nasty celebrity divorce story in some gossip rag, celebrities close the doors to their mansions and turn back into regular people.

I want all the trappings that come with celebrity, but none of the bullshit. Too bad that ain't possible. It hasn't happened for anyone you can possibly think of who still enjoys any kind of fame or notoriety. Hell, even those has-beens who fell off the face of the earth still get press every now and then (think Celebrity Rehab). My delusions of grandeur, mind you, do not extend to my becoming a wealthy celebrity writer who enjoys a life of extreme anonymity. Should I become far too famous and wealthy and tracked by Lady Ga Ga and the paparazzi until I can no longer get my own mail without a disguise, I'll gladly send my personal shopper to Wally World for my boxers and dress socks.

Maybe Tiger should have used some of his millions to pay a lacky to make that late night Wally World run for him. Fifty grand a year for somebody to duck out for diapers or whatever celebrities must have in the middle of the night seems like a worthy expense in order to avoid the controversy he's going through right now.

The populaces of America and those from abroad have contributed to help possibly make this man wealthier than any golfer/athlete in history - and he stands to make a helluva a lot more before he's done. Is it our business, then, to know what he was doing at 2:25 in the morning? Is it our business to speculate what's going on between Tiger and his wife? Or is it because he's a celebrity that we automatically believe we have the right to know the details about an accident that may have been innocent; details of the kinds of accident that happens every day across the country that nobody gives a damn about? Greg and Laura, who?

All I can say for sure is that when I crash my brand new model year Caddy and my wife breaks out the back window to free me, I hope I'll be wearing clean underwear, I'll be famous enough for anybody to freaking care, and that the crushing press and vicious rumors spike the sales of my latest novel.

Otherwise, what's the point?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For All Who Serve

Todays is Veteran's Day. And no matter what you believe about war, the protection of the United States of America, or the powers-that-be who make policy decisions with international impacts, today we honor the men and women who have sacrificed their lives so their fellow citizens can live a free and independent existence.

They should be thanked more often.

My brother-in-law is a Marine who, today, is somewhere in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan at Camp Leatherneck. He is risking his life doing a job he absolutely loves - and one which completely suits him - in place of civilians around the world who aren't compelled to do the same. I am so very, very proud of him.

They should be thanked more often.

Google's home page art today, of course, honors those men and women who chose military life and all that it encompasses. Veteran's Day comes this year in the midst of the 40th Anniversary of Sesame Street, a groundbreaking television show that made significant educational and developmental contributions to the formative years of American children, the author being among those beneficiaries. No doubt, over the decades, that transformative experience has been shared and translated for countries the world over to enjoy. Interestingly enough, there are actually parallels that can be drawn between Sesame Street and the military.

The molding of young minds and training them to perform tasks they once could only imagine is a parallel. Entrusting young people with the responsibility of not only caring for themselves, but teaching them about personal integrity and caring for others is a parallel. Constant technological change and updating of concepts, understanding the determination of establishing consequences and how they constantly impact decision-making, all the way to recognizing authority and respecting leadership are all parallels. There are so many more.

They should be thanked more often.

My father was in the Navy. My neighbors (both husband and wife) were in the Navy. Two of my fraternity brothers (Once A Pike, Always A Pike) served in the Air Force; another is a Marine. Everyone has some kind of connection to someone who served this country - it's like a military version of Six Degrees of Separation to be sure. I never had the first inkling of desire to join any branch of service, just like millions of other Americans. And that's probably why I think Veteran's Day is so much more special than most people understand. People have given up what most of us call normal for strangers like me. Men and women have lost limbs in the pursuit and protection of my freedoms. Soldiers and Marines and grunts and plebes and drill sergeants and Seals have elected to put themselves in harm's way to afford me with the right to bear arms and to vote and to say what I want, when I want to say it.

The Marine Corps. The Navy. The Army. The Air Force. The Coast Guard. The Reserves. The National Guard. Today is Veteran's Day.

They should be thanked more often.