Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You Can’t Flip the Switch on Fame

Don’t ask for something you don’t want, you just might get it. I thought of that old adage this week as I watched the travails of Jon and Kate Gosselin, who appear on a TLC reality show featuring their eight children.

“Jon and Kate plus Eight” is a cute show with a cute title featuring a cute couple and their cute kids. But things aren’t so cute lately. In fact, they are downright ugly. In case you haven’t been in a supermarket checkout line, here’s the rundown:

· Jon may or may not have been canoodling with a 22-year-old woman
· Kate may or may not have been cozy with her bodyguard
· The couple may or may not have been perpetrating this cute little fraud on all of us for months

Most of it was painfully laid open before our very eyes earlier this week. As they suffered, TLC racked up its biggest ratings ever.

I feel a lot of sympathy for the Gosselin children, but very little for the couple, despite their rants against the paparazzi and their cries for privacy. After all, from the fertility treatments to the reality TV show, this is the life they chose.

In better times, they parlayed their celebrity into free trips, access to sporting events, tummy tucks, hair plugs, a bigger house and book tours. Now, Jon, in particular, seems like he wishes it would all just go away.

But fame isn’t like that. You can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube. Like it or not, Jon’s life will forever be defined by “Jon and Kate plus Eight,” just as Omarosa will forever be a sore loser and Steve O will always be a jackass.

On the latest episode of “Jon and Kate plus Eight,” Kate tries to maintain some semblance of normalcy by planning a birthday party for the couple’s sextuplets. In one particularly poignant moment she spots the paparazzi following them to a party store. Children shouldn’t know about paparazzi, she says. Ironically, she says this into a camera – one of a group of cameras that have been documenting her family’s life for the past four years.

Kate is right, of course. Five-year-old children shouldn’t be stalked by paparazzi. Mine weren’t. But then again, I never turned their lives into a television show.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hanging up His Hooks?

For most of my dad’s life, he has been defined by one thing above all else: His uncanny ability to stalk and catch black bass.

If black bass had their own vocabulary, then my dad could read and write it fluently. He understands where bass live, what they eat and how they think. For all I know, he spawns like a fish. He used to drink like a fish, too, but that was another time.

I know the stories of my dad’s fishing exploits are true because I’ve seen the videos … countless hours of videos.

Dad, of course, takes great pride in his reputation as an extraordinary fisherman. He also takes great pride in the tools of his trade, including his truck and boat. Both are black and spotless. On occasion, he even dresses like the boat, replete with matching black clothes and logos, looking like a combination of Johnny Cash and Dale Earnhardt.

So it was with great surprise that I learned that dad sold both this week. It was all gone suddenly in one fell swoop to a guy from Bardstown, Ky. I heard talk about scaling back, but didn’t take it seriously. In retrospect, I should have. Dad can be impulsive, like the time he bought a car at a yard sale or sold a house out of the blue.

But this decision isn’t impulsive, he said. As it turns out, fishing is a lot of hard work, especially if you tackle it like he does. Unfortunately, I can’t be of much help either. You see, the fishing gene apparently skips a generation.

Dad says he’ll keep fishing. He’ll simply leave the upkeep to his younger friends. There will be more fish to catch and more videos to film.

Dad won’t look back. He never does. There’s already discussion of a new car in the garage to polish.

For my part, I’m having a harder time letting go. It’s too much to process all at once. Among other things, I’m starting to wonder if the guy from Bardstown with the black truck and boat will now be the one watching my kids!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Got a Caffeine Monkey on my Back

My name is Doug Bennett and I’m addicted to Diet Coke. For most of my life, this hasn’t presented much of a problem. But things have changed. I now find myself scouring downtown streets for just a few drops of the good stuff.

Let me explain.

When I first started working at Humana, we had a refrigerator stocked full of free drinks, including Diet Cokes. From now on, I will refer to this time as the golden years. Oh sure, there were a few hiccups. I can recall a few times when the lovely administrative assistants in government relations couldn’t stock them as quickly as I could drink them. But for the most part, we had a virtual endless oasis of brown nectar right at our fingertips.

Unfortunately, like GM and Chrysler before it, our refrigerator fell victim to the ailing economy. Juice and water survived. Diet Coke got the pink slip.

My world came crashing down around me. I felt confused, vulnerable and sleepy. Not to mention the fact that I’d need thousands of quarters to quench my thirst.

Even with a pocket full of change, finding a new supplier proved difficult. The soda machines in my building exclusively carry Cokes in plastic bottles. I prefer canned Cokes, which is a quirk I hadn’t really noticed until the refrigerator ran dry.

As a result, I was forced into the streets, broken and thirsty with a big caffeine monkey on my back. After a few days of emptiness and lukewarm bottles, I found a snack shop in the lobby of a building across the street that carries Diet Cokes in the can.

I wish this was a happy ending. But, like the government relations aides before them, the snack shop people can’t seem to keep pace with my ravenous consumption. On bad days, I turn the corner to find empty slots where Diet Cokes ought to be. The entrepreneur in me wonders how they could possibly let such a golden opportunity slip away.

Anyway, things might be finally looking up. One coworker is willing to sell me Diet Cokes at a discount to finance her wedding. Additionally, I hear the building is moving to canned sodas as part of its greening initiative. And who knows? If the automobile industry can recover, maybe the refrigerator can, too. In the meantime, I’ll see you on the mean streets.