“Am I the only one around here who gives a @#%! about the rules?”

August 25, 2012

I know that Walter Sobcheck does, indeed, give a @#%! about them. He was willing to send Smokey into “a world of pain” for a foot foul in The Big Lebowski.

Admittedly, Walter was a bit extreme and Smokey – as you know if you’ve seen the movie – had emotional problems besides pacifism.

(but, unlike ‘nam, there are rules in bowling)

I kept thinking about Walter as I drank coffee and watched ESPN’s coverage of Lance Armstrong being stripped of his Tour de France triumphs over doping allegations. I was unsurprised that public opinion revealed a groundswell of vigorous support for the cyclist.

I am not a cyclist, a doctor, or a chemist.

I am a sports fan, so I’ve casually followed Armstrong’s saga and know the basic plot points.

I have no more idea than you likely do as to whether he cheated or not.

I do know that one recurring argument I keep hearing is that, because of his status as a cancer survivor, because of his contributions to cancer research, and because he has provided inspiration and hope to millions, Lance Armstrong should be left alone.

If Armstrong is guilty of what is alleged and he did cheat, he probably did so for the reason that most humans throughout time have cheated – he stood to benefit.

His altruistic efforts are laudable and deserve kudos, but Armstrong has certainly been rewarded for his cycling success and the possibility of that success being ill-gotten is troubling.

Troubling not so much in the context of Armstrong and what he may or may not have done, but troubling in that there seems to be a lot of ends justifying the means going on everywhere.

I’ve observed in the corporate world a willingness to bend the rules that has become pervasive. It’s business, it’s said, and, if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

But there are repercussions to massaging the truth so you or someone higher up on the corporate food chain might have enough scratch and stock options to be able to replace organs or own a back-up yacht.

In the financial world, the numeric voodoo and dishonest culture that seems to be so accepted has left the global economy in shambles and millions in distress.

If Armstrong cheated, I suppose that he could be accused of robbing someone else of the chance to achieve their dreams and to bask in glory. Yes, that would be unfortunate, but not quite on the scale of vaporizing the economy.

So, when all is said and done, I’m not particularly concerned about Lance Armstrong. He seems to have retained a lot of support and, though his world might not be seashells and balloons, he should still be good.

I’m more concerned about Monday morning.

I will commute to work and spend the week walking a tightrope. The more honest I am with clients, the more I’m at a disadvantage which well might be my undoing because, apparently, only Walter Sobcheck gives a @#%! about the rules.

Walter also said, “@#%! it, Dude, let’s go bowling.”

Here are four songs that appeared in The Big Lebowski

Townes Van Zandt – Dead Flowers
from The Big Lebowski soundtrack (1998)

Songwriter friends I have known revere the catalog of Townes Van Zandt and I’ve dug the little of the late Texan’s work that I know. The Big Lebowski made use of a live recording of Van Zandt’s cover of The Rolling Stone’s Dead Flowers.

Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
from The Big Lebowski soundtrack (1998)

Kenny Rogers cracks me up, but Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) is pretty groovy and surprised me the first time that I heard it.

The Gipsy Kings – Hotel California
from The Big Lebowski soundtrack (1998)

The Dude had strong feelings regarding The Eagles and, needless to say, he wasn’t going to go bowling with Frey and Henley. Perhaps he was more of a fan of The Gipsy Kings flamenco-styled take on one of The Eagles’ classics.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Run Through the Jungle
from Chronicle: The 20 Greatest Hits (1976)

The Dude lost his Creedence tapes, along with his briefcase and some business papers, when his car was stolen. Fortunately – and despite the pessimism of the officers handling his case – he did get his car and his Creedence tapes back.

Run Through The Jungle was among CCR’s impressive string of brilliant singles that the band seemed to churn out at will during a three-year stretch in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

In the ’80s, with lead singer John Fogerty having a successful return to music with Centerfield, it was Run Through The Jungle that Fogerty was accused of plagiarizing for his The Old Man Down The Road by his former label president.

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Keep The Faith, Frenchman, Maybe We’ll Get Another Cold War

February 18, 2009

Paloma suggested to me the other day that I call The Drunken Frenchman. The Drunken Frenchman, a craggy-faced, disheveled fellow, was someone with whom we both worked at the record store where she and I met many years ago.

The Frenchman was also an integral component of a gang of us from that store who would head directly to our neighborhood bar following our shift. With respect to my knowledge of music, Frenchy might have been the straw that stirred the drink.

Yes, get several rounds into the evening at our local cantina and The Frenchman was likely to – with no relevance to the ongoing conversation – make a declaration such as – “Colonel Sanders! A great American.”

He would also mourn the end of the Cold War, a period when “We knew who the enemy was. We didn’t like them and they didn’t like us.”

But, The Frenchman – who was a good fifteen years older than the rest of us – had accumulated a frightening amount of knowledge of rock music (pre-1980 – that line of demarcation drawn when the saturation of Kansas, Styx, Journey and their ilk on radio drove him to abandon most hope for the music to come).

This knowledge would spill out of him with reckless abandon as the bar would reach closing time, supplemented with his own personal tales. He had drummed for one of those bands that come thisclose to breaking. He and his bandmates had befriended a, then, up-and-coming R.E.M.

At some point in the evening, The Frenchman would usually raise his index finger and remind us that, “I did something once.”

He never did divulge what “something” was. We simply knew that he had done it once.

Personally, I’m grateful on many levels that the secret was never revealed. The possibility of some kind of Crying Game moment aside, the mystery – the tradition – of not knowing was more compelling.

Paloma’s suggestion to contact The Drunken Frenchman held no allure to me. He was a side character – a very unique one, no doubt – and he’s served his purpose in my life.

I have no doubt that sharing a drink with him now would leave me feeling like I had seen some anemic remake of a classic movie.

With Will Farrell cast as the lead.

But, as a toast to The Drunken Frenchman, here are some bands of whom I know he would approve.

The Byrds – So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star

The Who – I Can See For Miles

Fleetwood Mac – Oh Well, Pt. 1

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son

The Monkees – I’m A Believer