Fourth of July 2011. PLT and I had just spent a lovely weekend with Father Bloopy and Flavs. Watching fireworks from their roof, eating a variety of pot-luck home made dishes and sipping equally well homemade cocktails. It was well past midnight when we left their place. Our reservation with the car service that took us there was for 11. But when we called to confirm they were indeed downstairs waiting for us, they said they would be delayed due to traffic; asked if we could wait a half hour or so. We said we understood and hung out some more. By 12:30am we were exhausted and more than ready to go home. The problem was that our car service had decided to not come pick us up. We were downtown, New York City, well within the barricaded streets where no taxis could enter or exit. Stuck miles from home and no way to get there. I will never forget that evening. PLT and I each waited on a different corner of the block attempting to wave down cabs along with fifty other people. There were tens of thousands of people out in the streets all wanting the same thing. To wave down a cab after watching the fireworks that night. I had predicted this well in advance and hence this is why we had used a car service. To guarantee that we would not be in this situation in the middle of the night. But we were. Stranded.
My first inclination was to call them a few times and order a car and then not show up. Just to show them the same kind of courtesy. But Princess Little Tree talked me out of it. Said that I shouldn’t fight unkindness with unkindness. The “two wrongs don’t make a right” argument. So I did nothing but call their customer service department to lodge a complaint. To make matters worse, they don’t actually have anyone working in their customer service department. You have to leave a message on their voicemail system and wait for a call back. I can only imagine what it must be like for someone who has a real problem right there in the moment and needs assistance. That would be a nightmare.
Unlucky for me a few months later I was to discover what happens in those kinds of situations. Against my better judgment
we continued to use this car service. A lot. They already had all of our information and they had promised to never do anything like that again; besides they offered us a deep discount on our next trip with them. Today I needed to go to see the guys at BMG. It turns out that we have a damn good chance of being able to work with Tony Visconti on our next album, the one we are recording now. Our meeting couldn’t have gone better. Better than imagined. Lunch for four hours with the man I literally used to sit and stare at his name for hours as a kid on the backs of all the T. Rex and David Bowie albums. It was an incredible experience. Will be even more incredible once we start working together on the new albums. A teaming of Tony and this band is just about the best of all possible worlds musically speaking. It’s a pairing made in heaven. I cannot think of another producer working today more suited to my music honestly. I have dreamed of it since I was a pre-teen. And he’s as young spry and with it today as he was back in the early seventies. Probably more so now because he’s got all those years of experience; and hundreds more gold albums under his belt. But a deal must be put together. Enter BMG.
So off we rode in a plush black limo to the offices of the world’s largest publishing company. That’s another story. For later. Long story short, I had left my cell phone on the seat and forgot to retrieve it before exiting the car. I realized this in the elevator. When I got upstairs I called the car company. Was immediately told that I needed to speak with dispatch. From them I was told that “nothing could be done” by them after all. All we could do was leave a message with their Lost and Found. This went on for hours. PLT was phoning them while I was on Skype with her. She was getting mad. I was getting mad. Was this not the same car company that we use on a nearly daily basis? Providing them with thousands of dollars per month? One of many sure. But one more than none. The first thing I did was call my credit card company and cancel the payment I had just made to them. That would at least get their attention.
I’m a strong believer in exceptional customer service. In a free market system it’s just about the only thing that you’ve got above the next guy. For there is no thing as “an exclusive” anymore in this “economically flat world” where anyone can purchase any good or service or manufacturing item for the lowest price and resell it right next to yours in less than a month after you’ve released yours to the public. That’s why big pharma companies refuse to get into the nutritional supplement industry and why they demand to get patents on their drugs. It’s that patent that protects the exclusivity of their product for a short while so they can make some of their research investment money back. Most of us aren’t that lucky in the industries that we are in. Car companies are a dime a dozen. So the only thing they have going for them would be better than excellent customer service. Unfortunately for us our laziness got the better of us and we allowed ourselves to get duped again by simply believing that their egregious mishandling of our reservation (by stranding us downtown in the middle of the night) would never happen again. They had promised after all.
But here we were again, dealing with the same kind of disrespectful and unkind behavior. At just about 7:30 pm they telephoned PLT and told her that they had found my phone and that I could come pick it up. That’s not the worst news we could have received. Trust me, I get that. But the wait plus the way they handled the situation was incorrigibly heinous and rude. No “Hold on just a minute ma’am. I’m so sorry to hear that. Let me see what I can do and get the driver back with the phone…” as one would expect from a company they do business with on a regular basis. Rather they treat you more like cattle or ants beneath their feet, with no sense of propriety or acknowledgement or appreciation of customer loyalty.
Unfortunately for them they had asked me to go pick up the phone at their corporate headquarters. And they wanted to see a photo ID. As if I had magically deduced that someone had left their cell phone in that particular car at that moment in time and here I was with nothing better to do than go get someone else’s cell phone. For what? So I could do what with it? Sell it? In this day and age? These days iPhones are basically engraved with your personal information inside of them. You couldn’t hack out a person’s personal ID from an iPhone if you wanted to. They’d simply disable the phone from Verizon and render it useless. (Or so we are told. Though I hear cell phone hacking and reselling is big in Africa and South America.) They also wanted me to pay them for the fare in cash. This made sense. I had after all just paid them with a credit card a few hours earlier and cancelled it.
Once inside, I was surprised how little security there was. It was as rundown as one of those temporary one month in business telemarketing offices. Generic Staples office store furniture. A stale stench in the room. “OLD” was everywhere. Suffusing out of every crevice of the interior. Everyone we had ever spoken to was right there on three floors. Reservations, dispatch, the so called customer service, who in reality were just two elderly Jewish people, Stars of David around their necks; very likely the owners of the business themselves. Short, poorly dressed, real New Yorkers, strong Israeli accents mixed with a “long time in New York City” dialect mixed into it. Sweaty, uncouth, slow, random, casual. The women held my phone in her right hand. Slapped a piece of paper down and asked me to sign it. Then asked to see my ID and have me pay her for the driver plus the tip. “The tip? You’re kidding right? You’re lucky you’re getting paid at all.” She said nothing. She could tell by the look on my face that I was beyond angry. I was in that realm that exists beyond anger, halfway between rage and crazy. “How much is it?” I asked.
“$48 for the fare without tip.” she said. “Here. Here’s $60. Give me back $12.” Obviously there would be no tipping. She patted her polyester workout shorts as if to imply she didn’t have pockets to carry cash but couldn’t come up with the energy enough to actually say it… she then uttered “Bernie? Do you have change for this?” to her partner but speaking to the air just in front of her. How we are meant to believe that the largest car service in Manhattan doesn’t have cash on hand in their corporate offices I don’t know. But people like this exist. We encounter them everyday in our lives. And if we aren’t careful, if we aren’t diligent, if we aren’t vigilant, we can easily become a victim of their slovingly poor service and careless lack of customer consideration.
The man counted the money out and gave me my change. I put it in my pocket, took the phone from the lady and began to walk out. Right at the door, at the edge of the door, piled up against the wall, were three giant bags of trash. One black one, and two clear ones. I stopped. I did not look back to see what the two neanderthals were doing or whether they were even still there in the little alcove of a room with me. Almost without hesitation I grabbed the first bag of garbage, the largest one that I saw, and ripped it open from the top of the bag. I then turned around and dumped it upside down on the large conference table that was in the center of the room. The woman who had just been helping me stood there with her mouth hanging open. “Sir! Sir!” she managed to get out. And that’s about the only thing I heard her say. The garbage poured out of the bag easily. It quickly became too much for the table and tumbled onto the floor and the chairs that encircled the table. I glanced over to my left and on the wall in front of the table was a dry erase white board. It read “Team _____” the second word being the name of their company.
The slow old man walked in at that moment. He rushed towards me as if his first reaction was to try to stop me, but I quickly jerked my head around towards him meeting his eyes with mine and if there was ever a moment where “he had the look of the devil in his eyes” were true in all the accounts of it that we’ve ever read through the years this would have been one of them. I was shooting fire out of mine. “Don’t!” was all I remember saying. I let the bag fall out of my hands on top of the garbage that was piled all over the floor on the sides of their conference table. I then did a 180 and grabbed the big black bag of garbage that was next up in the pile and ripped it open at the top. I took my right hand and turned the door knob of the door to exit and opened it. I slowly turned around to face the two homunculus and slowly let the bag turn upside down to start shedding it’s contents as well. But this time I was walking. Out of the door, and lucky for me down the staircase that led outside, for as I walked down those stairs a ton of gloriously disgusting garbage poured from this giant black bag all over the stairs.
I heard the man say something to me as the woman was kavetching behind him, but I was too amped up on adrenaline to recognize what he was saying. My heart was beating quickly. I knew I only had a few more seconds to get out of that building before a swarm of employees would come running surely hearing all the noise from the cans and bottles and other garbage items hit the ground beneath my feet. “This is how we treat each other here? This is what you want? Are we to stoop to your level in order to do business with you? This is what you want?” I yelled at the man. His mouth was hanging wide open. For a moment, and literally only a fraction of a second of a moment I almost felt sorry for the old man. He looked helpless, sullen, discouraged. I must have dumped 40 pounds of garbage all over his office and now his entry way and hallway. He did not answer me. So I just continued to walk towards the exit down at the bottom of the stairs letting garbage fall out of the bag to the floor, much of it tumbling down the stairs as cans and bottles tend to do when left to their own devices. When the bag was empty I dropped it and kicked the front door open and exited the building. I walked at a fast pace to the nearest corner and made the turn.
My heart was moderately racing. I was more surprised by my actions than scared or worried of the repercussions. When I was a younger man, as these Diaries attest to, I used to do things like this all the time. It was de rigeur. But it was anger for the sake of anger. The quintessential angry young man and rebel without a cause. But it was misdirected anger. Innocent people got hurt in my process. This caused me to go through a major rethinking that led to what some would call an awakening, a spiritual transformation. I made amends for all my misguided acts of rage and the people who got hurt. I felt true remorse for the terrible things I did. But i believe — looking back now — that in the process I gave up something very valuable, my God given sense of pride and self respect. I was so afraid of doing something out of integrity or hurtful towards another that I allowed myself to be taken advantage of numerous times, always believing that the “meek shall inherit the earth” and that there is a rainbow of goodness awaiting those of us who are good here on earth.
But things have changed in my thinking lately. I have a wife now. And children. I have a wife that I love more than I ever thought possible. And I have seen her get hurt and not be able to do anything about it; she like many write it off as she best as she can; with her only solace being that she “knows she’s a good person.” Lately I’ve been thinking that that’s not enough. After all, we are in the realm of the physical here on earth. This isn’t heaven. This isn’t a perfect world. This isn’t paradise. People like these scumbags at this car service will take advantage of you if you let them. Again and again in fact. And they won’t do a thing about it to make up for it afterwards. It’s some people’s way. How they are. And it is OUR choice whether we take it or not. No one else’s.
Last night I had the unfortunate opportunity to see the documentary “The Koch Brothers Exposed.” I watched in horror at the brutal tactics they employ on a daily basis to undermine the smallest and weakest people among us in order to serve themselves. They’ve literally hijacked the entire republican party in the United States with their money in order to put forth a shockingly small minded and “only for the purely insane” platform that uses fear greed bribery and blackmail to get legistlation and laws passed that hurt millions of people so only they and people like them can benefit. The GOP is just about as far away from “grand” as anything you can shake a stick at. As I watched I seethed.
The Koch Brothers are the men who bought the Tea Party three years ago and took control of it, inserting ridiculously outlandish and stupid goals into it’s platform, which at one point actually made sense: it originally was set up to try to curb government spending so as to control the nation’s rising debt. But the Koch Brothers invested millions of dollars into it and now controlling spending in Washington is just about the last thing on it’s mind. Now they’re all about resegregating schools and neighborhoods. this is true. They have actually done it. Time and time again. Taking away the right of gifted children of color to be allowed to go to better schools that are not in their neighborhood, forcing them back into the ghetto so they can’t get good educations. They have also invested nearly a half a billion dollars into rewriting college text books and even whole courses to take out anything they don’t agree with or anything that is the least bit democratic leaning.
The most ignoble of their actions have been the families who have died in the small towns of backwoods America where they dump their toxic chemical waste from their “Georgia Pacific” chemical plants. Some of these plants have killed whole neighborhoods full of people too poor and ignorant to understand what is happening to them. All of them live within a mile of these chemical plants. All of them died from “multiple cancers”. And none of them have been saved or compensated, let alone even acknowledged that there was something in the air and water that was killing them.
Some of their other most noteworthy misdeeds is this new trend of paying local and state governments to take away “bargaining rights” from workers’ unions. Yes, that mess up in Wisconsin with Governor Scott Walker was their doing. They were funding that project. Walker didn’t care one way or the other. He just wanted the money they were willing to pay him to cut the rights of hard working Americans off at the knees. They’re also responsible for what turns out to be a myth in the United States: that Social Security is bankrupt and going to fail. It turns out that it just isn’t even close to the truth. But they put think tanks together with the sole stated mission to dispel this misinformation out into the public through publications and media appearances. They are also behind “voter ID laws” in 32 states in the country right now that aim to take away voting rights for minorities and the handicapped. I knew there was something afoul to all this voter ID business. I just wasn’t sure what it was or who was behind it. But now we know. One company. A very very large company. Run by two men who are brothers.
Just to be clear, the Koch Brothers are not the only evil monsters among us. They are but two. There are plenty. All around us. The car service I served with their just deserts this evening is just a small example. Banks, credit card companies, financial institutions of all kinds, governmental agencies. Anyone or anything that does not have our best interest at heart or in mind. These are the enemies within. And from this day forward let that bell ring to announce that the battle has begun. For regardless of how many marches or demonstrations we have participated in over the last ten to twenty years, we were only being attacked, but we were not fighting back. And that’s no battle. That’s an invasion. A real battle means that both sides are fighting.
What I am suggesting is a full on war against any entity no matter how big or small who shows us disrespect or malintent of any kind. Be it dumping garbage in their office, or setting fire to their automobiles, pies in the face in public forums, or traps set to catch those dirty rascals red-handed, for every action that is against us let there be another, a reaction that is equally damaging to the perpetrators of said action. Now is the time to fight back. And fight hard. Do not let the idea of karma stand in your way. For they have proven to us time and time again that history writes karma and those who win the battles write history. It’s about time that we the people start winning and writing our own history. No matter how small or helpless you think you are, surely you have a trick or two up your sleeve. Instead of thinking about it or fantasizing about it, now is the time to do it. Take aim and fire. And let’s send these bastards packing and running the hell out of our way.
Our goal is simple: true fairness, equality, kindness, reciprocity, honesty and truthfulness, nobility and justice for all. ALL. All of us. Each and every one of us. So no matter what they say on the TV, in the papers, in the media or from government podiums across the country, let us not believe them until we are actually experiencing these things for ourselves. In real time. In our own lifetimes. Let the battle wage on until every last scheming slimeball with an agenda that is evil, wicked, selfish or greedy, unfair or unjust or even unkind or uncaring is gone from our midst. Then we can get to rebuilding this great world of ours in our own image of what true democracy really looks like. to put it more bluntly, starting right now, this very minute, refuse to take shit any longer. From anyone. Do something about it. Take an action. You’ll be surprised how good it feels. It will surely prompt another. And another. Soon there will be thousands of us doing so. And soon after that millions of us doing so. It is only a matter of time until we take our dignity and self respect back from demons like The Koch Brothers and anyone else who leans in that direction. Prepare tonight and act tomorrow. Remember, they’ve already attacked us; too many times to even count. The only thing that anyone is waiting for now is for us to strike back. And then the battle will truly begin.