Archive for June, 2009

Pick a car, any car….

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Since I was a young boy I liked cars. I have some very vivid memories of my life that are tied to cars. This isn’t so uncommon among Regular Guys and I know this because I have witnessed many men in my life who adored cars.

I understand the love affair we have with cars. There is something that draws us to them. They become an extension of our personality. I don’t know too many people, men and women alike, who don’t believe that a car is a status symbol.

Most men can’t wait to get behind the wheel of a car. How many of us had our fathers put us in the drivers seat in an empty parking lot to show us how to operate the gas and brake. Was that one of the best experiences I ever shared with my father? You know damn well it was.It’s like an unwritten code among fathers that they have to pass their love for cars onto their sons. I can recall asking my father how he drives the car. I watched for years until that day when I could finally see out the windshield with out propping up on the dash pad. That was the day I would sit behind the wheel and give it a go. Turns out, driving that car was  just as easy as he made it look.

I don’t have a son, but I did my best to pass that moment on to my daughter. And it made her day!  She couldn’t stop talking about how she rolled the car and hit the brake so hard we all jerked forward. It took her a few times but she finally figured out that the brakes are very sensitive. Probably a memory, not so unlike mine, that she will remember forever.

Most of today’s cars just don’t impress me much. Growing up right after the Muscle Car days spoiled me. Seeing all that Detroit steel rolling down the street, cruising the boulevard, made me appreciate all the different body styles and models from the big three cars companies. Even though I favored Chevy’s, I still admired some of the classic lines that separated each car company from the other. All that chrome and power, was hard not to like.

If someone five years ago asked me to pick any car I wanted, I would have had a hard time doing so. Everything looked and sounded the same. All that old Detroit metal was now Japanese molded plastic. Honda’s, Nissan’s, and Toyota’s were everywhere and Detroit’s finest were no longer a reliable option. All that chrome that was once the envy of every foreign car company was now just a piece of history. America’s cars were now just also ran’s in an industry where they were once leaders. So I couldn’t pick a car that stood out in my mind as one that would be a part of my personality. Heck I still haven’t gotten the Muscle Car thing out of my blood so how can I drive a plastic shoebox.

Today there is a glimmer of hope for all of us Regular Guys. The big three have pulled up their pants, put on their thinking caps and came up with some old fashioned Detroit muscle. Don’t kid yourself, its the same guys who wanted or owned these cars back in the sixties and seventies that are buying them today. Just check out the Challenger, Mustang and now the new Camaro.  For years my friends and I would say that Detroit should take the old body styles and use todays technologies to build some exciting cars. All those old body styles that went by the wayside when we had to become more aerodynamic. I hated those stupid wind tunnel commercials because I knew the great looking body styles were going to disappear. Bringing back the old body style idea wasn’t so far off after all. And now, they’re back baby and even better than before. Just as fast and three times as safe and comfortable.

So today if someone asks me to pick a car, any car….I would have a tough time deciding. Not like five years ago, but now, because I have some really great cars to pick from.

The Regular Guy

Where have all the young men gone?

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Running a business today is much harder than it was 20 years ago. Although I know more now than I did then, and experience saves me a lot of time and money, there are just too many changes that have taken place since I began my venture.

Probably the biggest difference that stands out most today is the lack of a labor pool, especially that of the young man. Times today have created a void for us in finding a young male between 16-21 who wants to work and learn a trade for his future. Too many young boys and teens grow up in a home where they need absolutely nothing. They are given things now that you and I didn’t have until we worked and earned the money to buy them. For instance, our first cars. I paid $700 for my first car in 1978, a 1969 Chevelle Malibu, with 49,000 miles. I thought I hit the jackpot when I found that car.  Today, if you told your son he would have to drive a car that cost less than $1000.00 he would laugh at you. Today, as he would have it, he would be driving a leased Honda or Nissan worth some $25,000.00.

The point is, that teenage boys do not have the need nor the sense of urgency to go out and work as we did when we were the same age. Teenage boys today ride $300 bicycles, wear $100 sneakers and listen to music on their $400 I-Touch phones. The only way a teenage boy gets these things is from his parents. So with all the toys you already possess, what gives you the reason to work?

I hear a lot of people complain that the Mexicans have stolen away all our jobs. I hear that the Indians and the Asians are taking over all the local businesses. I hear all this but what I see is that there aren’t any young American males even applying for these so called stolen jobs. Americans have become lazy. Most Americans today think everything is owed to them. That’s why no one wants that landscaping job, that dishwasher job or that line cook job. No young male wants to paint a home, wash a car or dig a hole. Oh yeah, he will come in for a job and demand a salary that was once reserved for a seasoned, experienced worker even without the training or knowledge of the work he will need to perform.

I have been running our business since I was 23 years old. Okay, I am one of the lucky ones in so much that my dad put up the money to open the business. But I am also the one who sacrificed my twenties and thirties to build this successful business. I have tried in vein for the last 15 years to find someone to take over this business. I have looked for a young man with the desire and passion I had at 23 years old to teach my trade to. I always believed that I would someday pass the torch to the next generation baker to carry on my work. That dream for me died a slow death. I no longer believe in the young American male with a passion for anything. If he is out there, he is a hidden gem among a bevy of stones.

It is sad to think that my generation has given so much to their children that they took away the thing that made us who we are. Was it that we felt we needed to give our kids more than we had growing up? How do you now tell your kid he has to get a job for minimum wage and earn the money for that phone? I think parents are more concerned with pacifying their kids than parenting them. It is rare today to see a parent reprimand their child, tell them “no” and mean it. “No” today means “not now but in five minutes or so.”  No used to mean no, and then it was followed by a back hand if you didn’t listen.

What used to be taught to kids was if you wanted something you had to work for it. Nothing was supposed to come easy to us. That was the American way. You worked hard, earned what you got and no one could take that away from you. Today, everything is to easy to attain.

Where have all the young men gone? They are home playing video games……..

Just one man’s opinion

The Regular Guy

I am now my dad

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Middle age has a way of creeping up on you. One day you’re this young guy and the next day your not. The crazy thing about it is I realize it every morning when I look into the bathroom mirror that the man I used to be is no more.

When we are young, we tend to think that everyone else is old. For instance, when I was a boy in fifth grade, I had this crush on my teacher, who I thought was so old. Not old in a grandma sense, but older, like my parents. Looking back on it now, she probably was my parents age, which would put her around twenty-five. When I was twenty five, I thought my dad was so old. He was only forty-nine then, which is of course what I will be in less than a months time.

So how does it happen that one day we wake up, look in the mirror and we see our dad? When he was forty-nine, I thought he was old, but now that I am the same age, I don’t feel like I am old. It truly is a crazy thing. I don’t feel any older now than I did when I was twenty-five, but when I see my reflection, I have to believe that I am forty-eight. Looking in that mirror every morning I see a guy I think is some one else. I see a guy with a gray hair, love handles (that used to go away at least once in a while), hair in places that I never had it and missing from places I did. Maybe the most convincing thing about aging is how our bodies don’t just respond so fast anymore. Getting out of bed each morning takes a series of steps to insure that I don’t twist something the wrong way and wind up out of work for a week with a bad back. What used to be a jump out of bed is now a deep breathe and push up on my elbow to take the stress off my lower back.

I watched my dad age but never heard him speak about it until he was in his fifties. Him and his friends would joke about things like getting out of bed every night two or three times to pee. I just thought he was being funny or something and never payed much attention to it, but now its my friends who are saying the same things. With all the talk about prostate problems, its something our generation needs to pay attention to, and could probably learn a lot about from our dads.

People, especially young girls, treat you differently at this age too. Most young girls stop noticing men at about age forty. You can go to a club now and twenty- somethings walk by you like you are invisible. Waitress’s call you “sir” which at first makes you look around like she must be talking to someone else.  This is not really good for your ego. I hear women get really pissed when people call them “ma’am”.

Although aging is a tough pill to swallow, it’s really not such a bad time for the Regular guy. A lot of good things happen to you when you reach this age. You find that there are more things in life to laugh about, even if it’s something that drives you crazy. Your relationship with a woman is easier because you both have done most of the stupid stuff already and hopefully won’t repeat the earlier mistakes. Your kids are probably grown and now you have time for yourself again to enjoy the things that you couldn’t do for years. Your friends are different too. They are around more now then they were when you were younger and they are better now too. There is a sense of oneness with each other that is unlike when you were younger. I think its a feeling that we all came so far in our lives and that it’s good to have friends to share those experiences with. When you were young it was every guy for himself, but now it’s more like a “band of brothers”.

In my mind I am still twenty-five. I say twenty-five because that is the age that I think we become men.You leave the boy behind and people notice that. You start to get the respect that you have earned from your family, friends and co-workers. You are probably in the early stages of your career and feeling good about how far you have come. Your starting to aquire things like your own place and a cool car. You are responsible for yourself now and thats okay with you. I liked being twenty-five. It’s just the right age. Not too young and definitely not old. Your whole life is out there waiting for you.

You know the only problem with being young?  It is that you don’t realize that you are and how fast time will go by. I don’t have many regrets in my life and probably wouldn’t change a too much, because if I did, I would not have met my wife. When I was young I didn’t do too much except work. Building a business will do that to you. Luckily when I turned thirty-six,  I woke up and realized I needed to balance my life better. Since then, I have made up for most of the lost years I had while building a successful business. Today I can say that the balance is pretty damn good.

We learn a lot as we age and hopefully with all that we learn, we can make aging a positive thing. People say that men age gracefully so that’s a positive thing to look forward to. And I hear ARPP isn’t such a bad thing either. They make a five minute hair dye for men that is probably one of the reasons a man can age gracefully. If this is middle age we still have a lot of time left, so get busy! Don’t let the second half of your life slip by like the first half might have.

Being my dad is not so bad after all.

The Captains Inn, Forked River NJ

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

I haven’t been to The Captains Inn since sometime around 1987 or so. and I didn’t like it too much back then. I haven’t been back there until last night when the skies promised rain but gave us sunshine in our eyes while we sat on the outdoor deck that overlooks the back bay across the street from the main restaurant.

Most Tuesday evenings I ride my motorcycle along with my friends and we always wind up at a new spot to eat and have a few beers. Tonight was different as it was supposed to thunderstorm all evening, so we decided to take four wheels instead of two to be on the safe side.

The suggestion for us to meet at The Captains Inn brought along some anxiety for me as my last memory of this place wasn’t a good one. Not to say that the food was terrible, but it was just so so and the atmosphere was old and seashore smelly. But this night would be a first for me as I had never visited their outdoor bar and grill.

Upon arriving, the place looked pretty inviting with the music playing and the sun sitting low on the bay reflecting what was left of a great day. The place is set up nicely and very spacious with a lot of seating both open air and covered.

The five of us are greeted by a young girl who takes our drink order and leaves us menu’s. Not expecting too much I figure this place to be a burger and fries or sandwich spot, so I peruse the menu in search of something chicken. I order up a chicken panini which is dressed in field greens, bleu cheese, olives and tomatoes. I opt out on the bleu cheese as I am not a big fan of this molded variety.

Drinks and sandwiches arrive promptly and we continue to order a couple more rounds, being that we aren’t riding the bikes tonight. All in all the food was pretty good and the service, although not extremely friendly, was okay. Here’s the thing I just don’t understand about young waitress’s serving a group of guys. Where’s the smile, the flirting, and the over the top attention? Don’t these girls know that the tip is going to be based on them playing it up a bit?  I just can’t figure out why a girl wouldn’t go all out to be over friendly in hopes of getting a bigger tip. It really couldn’t hurt. Someone should start a service that trains a wait staff on how to serve customers based on the clientele. You have to treat a guest differently based on who they are. When I waited tables in college I would always lay it on extra thick when I had a table with all women. They loved the extra attention and it almost always netted me a bigger tip. One other thing that really ticks me off is a waitress/waiter that doesn’t have answers to my questions. This one waitress didn’t know that a pint was the same as 16 ounces so we didn’t expect too much from her.

So what’s the deal lately with keeping drink prices off the menu? How about the shock when the bill comes and the price of the drink is ridiculous? Too late now to send it back. We happened to order three Mojito’s that were served in a 7-8 ounce plastic cup with not so fresh mint. The drinks were weak and very sweet and not what a good Mojito should be, but until the check arrived it was forgiving. The Mojito’s, as it turns out are $8.50 a piece. Whoaaaa! I have had Mojito’s in 4 star restaurants that cost that much and they are perfect too. Bad move on the drink pricing Captain.

So what can you expect to pay for four sandwiches, an order of fried clam strips, a side of onion rings, 12 beers( only two in bottles, the rest are draft in 12 ounce cups), and three Mojito’s? Does $125.00 sound right to you? We probably wouldn’t have ordered the Mojito’s if we knew the cost of each up front. Being that the food cost us roughly $50.00 the bar bill was pretty high.

With the tip, we were set back $30.00 a piece. Man I could have had a really nice dinner and a glass of wine somewhere for that much. Live and learn, as they say. Too bad because the food and atmosphere were pretty good and I probably would have paid a return visit.

Regular guy rating   * * 1/2 ( don’t sucker punch me with the drink prices!)

The Captains Inn

Lacey Road

Forked River NJ