An Astrological New Year

It’s not like I plan my day around my horoscope, at least not my entire day, but I do like to check in to see what the stars have in store for me from time to time. I think we can all admit that we will sneak-a-peek at our scope while perusing the local newspaper. For those of you unfamiliar with a newspaper it is a black and white print periodical delivered to your home or purchased at the local news stand, smoke shop or train station.

Personally, I am always encouraged when there’s a positive message about my finances, health, career or relationships. Sadly, one recent morning, over a bowl of oatmeal, my wife was less than enthusiastic when I informed her that today was the day I would find my soul mate. What a buzz kill.

By definition, a horoscope is an astrological chart or diagram representing the positions of the sun, moon and planets, including astrological aspects and sensitive angles at the time of an event, such as the moment of a person’s birth. It is used to forecast a person’s future, typically including a delineation of character and circumstances, based on the relative positions of the stars and planets on any given day. A brief daily forecast is something a seemingly large segment of the population follows on a semi-regular basis, says the internet.

I have always found it uncanny the way a horoscope can identify a person’s personality with a high degree of accuracy. I am so the Leo personality as described below.

The Leo Personality
Bold, intelligent, warm, and courageous, fire sign Leo is a natural leader of the Zodiac, ready to blaze a trail, vanquish injustice, and make a name for themselves along the way. Blessed with high self-esteem, Lions know that they possess enviable traits—and they’re proud of them. They don’t believe in false modesty and will be the first to praise themselves for a job well done. But Leo isn’t self-aggrandizing or unwilling to roll up those sleeves and do the work: this sign knows that in order to be respected and admired, he or she needs to put in the effort worthy of a leader.

But it’s not all hard work for Lions. Intense and energetic, Leos thrive on social interactions and have no problem making friends—although pinning them down to spend time with you is another story. Leos put themselves first, and will turn down a plan that doesn’t fit with their agenda or idea of fun. This trait has gained them an unfair reputation for arrogance. But on the flip side, when a Lion chooses to spend time with you, it’s genuinely because he or she wants to.

Given my bold and intelligent personality, allow me to impress you with my uniquely unqualified and misinformed attempt to predict what the year holds for each of the 14 or 15 Zodiac signs. What, only twelve astrological signs? What about the Houston Astros, Foo Fighters and White Walkers? World Series Champs, rock band and Game of Thrones? Whatever. Here goes nothing?

Your 2018 Horoscopes

Aries – The first sign of the Zodiac, an Aries is both passionate and independent not to mention extremely competitive. I see a year filled with hot love making, but also lots of intense solitaire games on your smart phone. Symbol – The ram

Aquarius – The Zodiac’s deep thinker. Aquarians are a bit bi-polar in that they can be both shy and quiet and energetic and boisterous. I like that you’re likely to have months of comatose down time and months of “call the cops” party time. Symbol – the water bearer.

Taurus – The anchor of the Zodiac. A Taurus is smart, ambitious and trustworthy. The stars tell me you will make wise decisions that benefit your career because bosses like you and co-workers know you won’t throw them under the bus despite your desire to succeed. Symbol – the bull

Virgo – The sophisticated one. Virgos get the job done without complaining. They are big picture thinkers and very good at planning out their lives. Knowing that they are amazing friends and don’t like to disappoint anyone, this year will be devoted to hosting gatherings and events with people you love. I’m available. Symbol – the virgin.

Capricorn – The Zodiac considers this the most serious-minded of the signs. Capricorn’s pride themselves on their professionalism and traditional values. Both conventional and independent, this could be a big year in your job or career. Possibly even a change, have you considered ventriloquism? Symbol – the goat.

Libra – A sign of balance within the Zodiac. Libran’s are peace loving and judicial. They also abhor being alone. With their winning personalities and cooperative style, this could be the year you find true love. Maybe don’t mention that to your spouse. See the soul mate comment above. Symbol – the scales.

Pisces – The understanding Zodiac sign. Pisces are generally compassionate, gentle and affectionate. Your Facebook and Linked In networks will explode with likes and friend requests given your likability and ability to interact with a wide variety of personalities. Stay away from prison pen pals. Symbol – the fish

Gemini – The chameleon of the Zodiac. Gemini’s are excellent communicators and adept at blending into different groups. Energetic and quick-witted, you are likely to create some form of art that makes a statement this year. If it happens to be in the written form, think Alive Book Publishing. Symbol – the twins.

Cancer – The sentimental Zodiacer. Emotions run high for Cancer’s and nothing is more important than family and home. Despite a horribly unfortunate Zodiac name, thanks to your sympathetic and empathetic nature your year will be filled with wonderful family feud-less type gatherings. Sorry. Symbol – the crab

Leo – See the description above. We are the natural leader of the Zodiac. A Leo will create a game changing app, rescue someone that needs a lifeline and host the hottest party of the year. Text me if you want to be on the guest list. Symbol – the lion, duh.

Scorpio – The Zodiac’s intense one. Scorpio’s are always caring and aware of other’s feelings. They often ask probing and penetrating questions. If the moon continues to hang in the sky, I sense that you will help build and mend relationships in 2018. Start with your sister or brother—I’m just saying. Symbol – the scorpion.

Sagittarius – The energetic one of the Zodiacs. A Sagittarius is so extroverted and broad minded that they are always open to new experiences. Knowing that it is impossible to keep a Sag down and that change is essential to this sign’s life, I see you taking on a new fitness routine to get into fantastic shape. Yes to Zumba, but no to PEDs. Symbol – the archer.

Who could write this every day? I’m exhausted. Undoubtedly, you will find elements of truth and ridiculousness in your Zodiac sign summaries above, but you try writing a game changing New Year’s article that isn’t redundant or mundane. At least I’m getting some use out of my new thesaurus. I wish I could think of another word for Horoscope, Zodiac or thesaurus. If you don’t find me an astute astrologer who can accurately predict how you will look, think or feel in 2018, then I encourage you to lay out and live out your path for the year ahead. The possibilities are limitless if you just look to the stars. Just don’t expect them to lead the way.

If I Lived at the North Pole

Bless Santa’s heart for choosing such an obscure location for his world headquarters, but he’s got to have a few neighbors who don’t work for him at the North Pole. There’s probably a Farmers Insurance agent, a cop and fireman, maybe even a CVS store manager. If somehow I ended up living in the neighborhood, I might also be a bit concerned about my Wi-Fi connectivity for Skype, my Dish satellite reception to watch my programs, our access to a Peet’s Coffee and how far away is the nearest Crunch Fitness facility?

If I lived at the North Pole, I would get a job at Santa’s factory. Tyler H., Age 6

If I lived at the North Pole, I would run away. Colton M., Age 8

Similar to the civic courting Amazon has recently received (238 proposals) for their second headquarters site, the Economic Development Department at the North Pole City Hall must have put together one heck of an impressive economic incentive package when swaying Santa from his previous location. There must also have been perks galore from the North Pole Chamber of Commerce and the North Pole Owner’s Association, because why else would you choose such a challenging place to set up shop…a work shop? Employee retention could be one reason, perhaps the only reason. I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but where else does a large population of elves reside? In the big picture, it does make sense to locate close to your employee base and unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think there’s a big magical elf population in Texas, Nevada or Michigan, just to name a few of the other potential suitors for Santa’s Apple-like campus.

If I lived at the North Pole, I would visit Santa every day and I would give him presents to give to the kids. Justin L., Age 6

If I lived at the North Pole, I would find Santa and build ice sculptures.  Lucus T., Age 7.

If I lived the North Pole, I would go see Santa and help him make presents. Caden R., Age 9.

If I lived at the North Pole, I would help the elves make toys and then help deliver them and then I would do it again the next year and the next year and the next year. Ava A., Age 5

If I lived at the North Pole, I would find Santa’s castle and ask him to make me an elf. Maddox G., Age 7

I’ve been enjoying some pleasant late fall weather the last few weeks of November. Chilly mornings, comfortable afternoons and cool evenings are indicative of this time of year. Some (me) say autumn is the nicest time of year to visit the greater Bay Area. Rumor has it that Santa and Mrs. Clause were seen in Walnut Creek around Thanksgiving. Granted we don’t get to experience the delightful seasonal weather changes of places such as the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, or the East Coast, but we get more variety than the North Pole. Can you imagine spending 365 days a year living at the North Pole? Well, 350 days given two weeks for vacation and one very busy workday of travel. I think the term “white-out” was conceived in the North Pole when a local mommy went to pick up the kids from school and couldn’t find the school because it was covered in snow.

The North Pole is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean amid waters that are almost permanently covered with constantly shifting sea ice. Winter temperatures at the North Pole can range from about −50 to −13 °C (−58 to 9 °F), averaging around −31 °C (−24 °F) and summer temperatures (June, July, and August) average around the freezing point (0 °C (32 °F). I could be wrong, although I rarely am, but I doubt there’s a lot of variation in the temperature during the spring or fall.

If I lived at the North Pole, I would freeze to death, Grayson G., Age 9

If I lived at the North Pole, I would build a fire every day. Pierce B., Age 6

It’s said, home is where the heart is, but wouldn’t my heart be mighty cold at such a desolate snow-centric location? Housing might be inexpensive, however can you imaging what my PG&E bill would run every month? I doubt solar is an option. It must be murder (6-9 month wait) to get an appointment with a furnace and insulation contractor.

If I lived at the North Pole, I would make an igloo house. Caleb S., Age 8

If I lived at the North Pole, I would make friends with the animals and the Elves, Zoe O., Age 7

On the positive side, my sock and sweater collection would undoubtedly be impressive. I like socks, but sweaters make me look a little bulky. By bulky, I mean that visually I appear to weigh about 350 lbs. in a nice cardigan. If I grew a white beard and wore a red sweater, the big man might have a doppelganger roaming the streets of the Pole.

If I’m getting technical, and I do like to get technical, the North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is defined as the point in the Northern Hemisphere where the Earth’s axis of rotation meets its surface. The South Pole on the other hand, lies on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole. Now I don’t know if the North Pole and South Pole relationship is quiet as contentious as North and South Korea or North and South Dakota, but for the purpose of this article I’m going to assume it’s all cool between the two Poles. See what I did there? “All cool,” get it? That said, there’s got to be a little Santa envy coming from the south. There’s no real government faction that rules the South Pole, largely because there’s no indigenous peoples and no one lives there permanently, but somewhere there’s a lonely scientist in a remote South Pole artic research station pissed off because he can’t hang with Santa and the elves at the local sports bar like his northern counter-part.

Should we one day look to downsize and relocate, the North Pole will not likely be one of our potential senior community destinations, I really like Bend, Oregon personally, however, I will keep an open mind. It will ultimately depend on where our kids end up settling and if that turns out to be the North Pole than anything is possible.

Have a happy holiday season.

Thanksgiving Carols

Every Thanksgiving, I like to gather my loved ones around the antique Costco electronic keyboard to sing a few of the endearing Thanksgiving Day songs we sang as kids. You all undoubtedly remember those cheery carols that bring the holiday to life, feuding families together, and providea much needed break in the nonstop food consumption trying to avoid the dreaded food coma.

Unless you were raised in England and still harbor angry feelings toward the Pilgrims for moving away from home to a cool new land, you undoubtedly love all things Thanksgiving. I sure do. Should you be unfamiliar with the story, let me remind you that in 1621 the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving have been celebrated throughout these UnitedStates. I should have been a history teacher.

Unless I’m mistaken, Thanksgiving carols were originated the evening of that first Thanksgiving. Granted, there was a slight language barrier, but both the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians soon found common ground as they sat around the fire pit harmonizing and gorging on pumpkin pie with Cool Whip. I hope these traditional songs bring you the same joy that others get when I break into song and sing as loud as I can at the office, the grocery store or in the gym.

Tommy the Turkey (sang to Frosty the Snowman)

Tommy the Turkey, was a hearty healthy treat

From a corn fed ranch he loved to dance

On two drumsticks of dark meat 

Tommy the Turkey, was a Butterball they say

If you liked a thigh or breast, you could never rest

Fighting all the hungry guests that day

There must have been some gravy on the stove yet to be found

For when Uncle Bob reached for the bowl

He began to dance around

Tommy the Turkey

Was as alive as he could be

Until the butcher came and he was slain

to make a family’s feast complete.

In addition to eating, eating and more eating on Thanksgiving Day, my family enjoys the occasional break to digest, rest, and reset. This is when we typically watch a little football on the tiny 80 inch flat screen. I bet you didn’t know that the University of Detroit Stadium hosted the first broadcasted Thanksgiving Day football game in 1934, pitting the Detroit Lions against the Chicago Bears and sparking a new holiday tradition. Currently, three NFL games are played every Thanksgiving. The first two are hosted by the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys; a third game, with no fixed opponents, has been played annually since 2006. I should have been an NFL history teacher. The next little ditty goes back almost as far back as that first game in 1934.

Football Games (Sung to Jingle Bells)

Rushing through the house

For the first game of the day

Over the couch I go

snacking all the way

Smells from ovens waft

making bellies growl

it’s so much fun to cheer my team

while chugging spirits down

Football games, football games

Football games today

Oh what fun it is to watch

The Lions fade away

Football games, football games

Football games today

Oh what fun it is to watch

The Cowboys lay an egg

Once the traditional day of fun, family, football, and fowl (and foul) consumption is completed and the festivities are over, it’s time to get back to a regular dietary routine, for a week or two until the Christmas and Hanukah parties begin. This delightful sing-along really sets the tone for the weeks leading up to the next caloric catastrophe.

Jenny Craig is coming to Town (sung to Santa Clause is Coming to Town)

You ate helpings galore

You reached for the pie

Buttered your bread

You thought you might die

Jenny Craig is coming to town

You devoured the bird

The stuffing was nice

She’s gonna find out who ate gravy with rice

Jenny Craig is coming to town

She sees you when you are snacking

She knows when you eat cake

She knows when you sneak late at night

So be careful what you bake

You better work out

You better not lie

You better not booze

I’m telling you why

Jenny Craig is coming to town

There are obviously countless more traditional holiday songs that I could share with you, but I have an eight hundred word limit. Suffice it to say, any one of the following tunes could be your family favorite.

Do You Eat What I Eat? (sung to Do You Hear What I Hear?)

O Come, All Ye Hungry (sung to O Come, All Ye Faithful)

Joy to the Bathroom (sung to Joy to the World)

Oh Little Mall of Pleasanton (sung to Little Town of Bethlehem)

What Movie is On? (sung to What Child Is This?)

Regardless what songs you and your family or friends sing this Thanksgiving season, remember it’s about the spirit of the holiday and sharing memories with loved ones because no one ever wrote a holiday song about Black Friday. 

Whatever Happened to Customer Service? The Sequel

Back in March of 2008, I wrote an article for Alive entitled Whatever Happened to Customer Service? After years of dealing with rude, arrogant, selfish, distracted and hopelessly ambivalent front line employees, I decided to voice my displeasure to corporate America. Like many of my friends, I was so tired of feeling unimportant, unappreciated and invisible to those who were taking my money that I spoke out for the masses. The masses may be a bit of an overstatement; maybe just a few friends, my sister, and a second cousin on my dad’s side.

 As a self-proclaimed connoisseur of “Customer Service,” I am constantly rating my “CS” experiences at restaurants, financial institutions and retail stores. My wife and kids will tell you that I’ve been known to rate the customer service I get from our spa service technician, my dentist and the people who work at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum/Arena. Just for the record, I love my dentist! (A big shout-out to Melanie Koehler, DDS, and her staff, in Danville.) I’m also known to regularly assess the service I get from the various airlines, rent-a-car agencies and hotels when I travel.I’m one of those old school guys (because I’m old) who believes if I’m spending my hard earned money to pay for a good, service or experience, then I should be treated well by the employees working for my business, unless I’m being a tool, which I try not to be, for whatever that’s worth. However, that brings up a good point. Let’s face it, the customer is not always right. There are more than a fair share of malcontents, scammers and “Grifters” out there trying to get over on unsuspecting businesses. Additionally, we live in a very litigious society. Therefore, while there should always be a high priority placed on customer service, I’ll understand if there’s a “once burned twice shy” underlying edict at work. I would just hate to see anything undermine a company’s CS based corporate culture.

While I was beginning to feel that customer service was becoming a lost art when my original article came out nine years ago, I’m here to tell you that I’m encouraged by the resurgence in customer care and the fine art of servicing your customers with respect and appreciation. Somewhere (Alive Magazine – March 2008), the word got out that the buying public was sick of being ignored, shunned and minimalized and the time was right to turn that ship around. In this Millennial “Me Generation” it’s good to see the more sophisticated executive management teams from a good number of companies are prioritizing customer service again.

Customer Service is something that I feel should be addressed at every level of an organization. If I ran a company such as Copeland Tech, Copeland’s Pet Emporium or McCopeland’s Irish Pub, once I hired a new employee I would enroll him or her in our Customer Service University (Go CSU). Before they could interact with my customers, they would have to complete their degree. Promotions would require an advanced degree. On day one, phrases such as “Hello, we’ll be with you in just a minute,” “Thank you for waiting,” “We appreciate your business,” and, “Please come again’” would be built into the culture. We would likely also add, “If you like us on FB or post a positive review on YELP you’ll receive a discount coupon for your next visit.”

I would periodically send in shills to rate their customer experience so that I could weed out the flunkies. Every organization has its share of flunkies or non conformers and they need to be purged. Not from the planet, just from a front line position of working with customers.

Ownership encourages us to think of our customers as guests. Our goal is to ensure our guests are treated like family. At the start of every season, part of our staff development is to instill trust in each other and trust from our guests.” Johanna Wilson, Guest Relations Director – Bridge Bay at Shasta Lake

In my original article, being so much younger and impetuous, I had no reservations about throwing a company under the bus if their employees displayed poor or non- existent customer service habits. That included Circuit City, AT&T, Abercrombie & Fitch and American Express. While some of those companies are still in business, other’s that disappointed me, such as Sports Authority, Washington Mutual Bank, Macaroni Grill and Radio Shack seem to have had trouble surviving. Is there any direct correlation? Me doeth think so. Don’t even get me started on the DMV or US Postal Service.

In that article, I also complimented numerous large companies that had placed an emphasis on training their employees to treat the customer with respect and gratitude. That included Safeway, Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, San Francisco Giants/AT&T Park and Wells Fargo Bank. This was obviously before Wells opened millions of fake accounts for their unsuspecting customers. That’s “No Bueno” in the customer service world.

Needless to say, an emphasis on serving the customer starts at the top. Every successful CEO knows the importance of maintaining customer loyalty through exemplary customer service. Titans of industry such as Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Tim Cook may not have returned any of my calls for this article, but that doesn’t mean they don’t recognize that need for their front-line employees to be nice to me and make me feel appreciated and smart and special. Virgin, Tesla and Apple all do a wonderful job of training their personnel and my experiences have been great with these companies, although to date all I’ve done at Tesla is waste their sales peoples time, but (fingers crossed) one of these days I’ll be an actual buyer.

Recognition goes out to the following local companies/people who make customer service a priority everyday. Greg Meier of Diablo Motors and his staff go out of the way to make a prospective car buyer feel important and appreciated. Kurt Chambliss at TMC Financing and Matt Cheeseman at City National Bank should both win awards for how well they interface withclientsand how they lead by example with their respective teams.Both Greg Vella at Alpine Awards and Karen Cordeiro of Danville Bakery are to be commended for their willingness to go above and beyond at every turn and their commitment to the community. Finally, Jennifer Burton at Interior Motions(a workplace workspace company) could teach a graduate class in customer service at CS University. She may be the best I’ve ever seen at showing appreciation and taking care of her clients. Finally, Gotta Eat a Pita, AutoTech and Dublin Jewelers have all shown that they know the meaning of good customer service.

If we go with the basic definition of customer service, that being that it is the art of taking care of the customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high quality service and assistance before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met, then I’m happy to report that apparently it’s an additional core value that’s been added to a lot more company’s mission statements and that makes this customer feels like he was heard, “way back when.”

International Pub Crawl

Despite the underwhelming response to My Beer Garden article in the July issue of Alive, Eric Johnson – CEO of Alive World Wide, graciously bestowed upon me the enviable assignment to write an investigative journalist piece on pubs, inns and taverns throughout the United Kingdom. Who could say no to an all-expenses paid “Stamps in my Passport” trip to sample beers, lagers and ales (not to mention a little whiskey) from Great Britain and the Isle of Ireland? Truth be told, I drank more beer over the eight days of our tour than I did in the eight months leading up to the trip. Now my liver needs a vacation. 

Saturday – Our trip began with a short plane ride from San Jose Airport to Seattle where, due to a 4½ hour layover, we decided to give the magazine credit card a tryout by joining our friends, Dave and Roxanne, for lunch and a couple beers at the Roanoke Inn on Mercer Island. After relaxing on the deck on a beautiful sun filled day, it was back on a plane for an eight ½ -hour flight to Heathrow Airport in merry old London, England.Sunday –Upon arrival and checking our bags at the hotel, our first sleep deprived stop (after some light shopping at Harrods) was to a wonderfully authentic Chelsea pub called Churchill Arms. Later that evening, we had another beer at the Lion & Staff, followed by a satisfying classic fish n’ chips dinner at Brew Masters in the Piccadilly Circus area (London’s version of Times Square).  Thanks to my iphone notes app, I was diligently logging in all of our stops because the memory app in my brain is forever crashing.

Monday – Bright and early, we boarded a Trafalgar coach (fancy English term for  bus) and headed north into the English countryside. Upon arriving in Stratford upon Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare, we made our way to the Yard of Ales. From there we made a three-hour drive to the Golden Fleece (often seen on English TV’s Most Haunted) in the town of York. I think the ghosts drank some of my beer because three pints later, I barely had a buzz. Dinner that evening was at a beautiful little establishment known as the Pine Marten Pub & Eating House in Harrogate, which also had 12 rooms available for weary visitors. Apparently, we weren’t weary enough because we stayed at a fancy hotel adjacent to the Harrogate Convention Center, some 15 miles away. 

Tuesday–We traveled through the Lake District of northern England and stopped in a charming lakeside town for lunch. We dined at a delightful little café across the street from a 300 year old cemetery, however, my chicken-pot-pie tasted like it was 300 years old. Later that day, as we crossed over to Scotland, we sampled some Gretna Green whiskey at the rest stop distillery. Highway rest stops are a somewhat unusual location for a whiskey distillery, but being a foreigner I wasn’t judging the Scots. At sunset, we toured Stirlin Castle and the William Wallace Memorial. For dinner, we strapped on our kilts to enjoy a traditional haggis dinner at MacDonald-Crutherland, a restaurant located at the base of the castle. Personally, I prefer my haggis served with secret sauce between two lightly toasted buns – like every other McDonald’s meal, but it wasn’t all that bad. It reminded me of a soggy meatball.

Wednesday–What a wonderful day we had touring Edinburgh, starting with another castle and ending with a cup of coffee at The Elephant House. This is where J.K. Rowling penned her moderately successful novel series, Harry Potter. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Prior to our mid-afternoon caffeine fix, we enjoyed lunch and a pint at the Malt Shovel, and another pint at Deacon Broadie’s Tavern. It was very warm that day. There might also have been a scotch stop somewhere in there.

I’m told that night we dined at The Corinthian Club in Glasgow, but for the life of me I don’t remember it. This either means I was blacked out drunk from all the drink in Edinburgh, or I went into a food coma from the heaping helping of haggis, smoked haddock, and porridge we apparently ate. I’m told that I especially liked the blood pudding for dessert.  I think I had seconds.

Thursday/Friday–Perhaps the coolest bar we visited the entire trip was The Crown in Belfast, Ireland. This ornately decorated bar had so much character, so much history (established in 1848) and so many beers to choose from while we relaxed in a snug (small enclosed booth) with some of the locals. If The Crown was my favorite watering hole, Searsons of Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland that night was my favorite meal. I had a lamb shank and Shepherd’s pie that brought me to tears. Not to mention, an Irish coffee (in Ireland) that was to die for.

Friday – On our second day in Dublin, we visited the impressive Guinness Storehouse located in the St. James’s Gate Brewery district of downtown. The tour started in the Gravity Bar on the seventh floor of the massive beer distribution facility and we worked our way down to the ground floor gift shop, sipping numerous pints along the way. The Guinness Storehouse is the most popular tourist destination in all of Ireland. Kiss the Blarney Stone? I was kissing the Guinness tap as we were taught how to draw the perfect pint of dark stuff. 

Fortunately for us, Guinness was a short stumble to the Teeling Whiskey distillery. The Teeling Whiskey Distillery is Dublin’s newest destination for whiskey fans and anyone with an interest in Dublin’s long association with Irish whiskey. Located in the heart of Dublin’s City Centre, Teeling is the only operational distillery in the city.

Several dozen whiskey samples later, I swear I saw two leprechauns making-out in the parking lot. We finally stopped for a little food at the Blarney Inn, just to let the fish n’ chips soak up some of the alcohol. Did you know, the rock band Thin Lizzy (The Boys are Back in Town, Jailbreak, Whiskey in the Jar) was from Dublin? There is a bronze statue of the late lead singer, Phil Lynott, in the city square.

That night, we enjoyed a wonderful cabaret show at The Castle Arms, a thatched roof restaurant and playhouse. Admittedly, I do enjoy me some good Celtic river dancing, but it was an 80-year-old comedian who brought the house down.  He did a solid 45 minute set that killed. We ended the evening in the hotel bar singing Van Morrison songs and enjoying another Irish coffee until wee in the morn.

Saturday– We migrated south toward Waterford, Ireland, where, after storming another castle in Kilkenny, we lunched at Kyteler’s Inn—established in 1450. Apparently the original proprietor was burned at the stake, presumably due to assumptions that she was a witch, although it could also have been due to incredibly slow service.  Touring the Waterford Crystal factory was a lot cooler than I anticipated. Good thing I was sober when we toured the gift shop.

Dinner that night was at the lovely Saratoga (seaside) Inn where we were treated to some authentic Irish folk music performed by four old Irish guys—a  geriatric version of U2, if the Edge could only remember two chords and Bono was extremely overweight and toothless (but still wearing designer shades). Our travel companion Alex proposed to his gal, Kayla, on the shore of the Irish Sea that evening.

Upon returning to the hotel, we discovered that there was a street festival going on, hosted by five local clubs, and featuring a cool techno band fronted by twin sisters who were obviously the love children of Bjork and the band Devo. Given that the sun doesn’t set until 10:30, this was a great way to wrap up a quick stop in Waterford.

Sunday proved to be a long day of coach and ferry travel as we crossed from Ireland to Wales. Dinner was at the scenic Llamerch Vineyard in the countryside of Pontyclun – Hensol. The wine wasn’t anything to write home about—too sweet for my sophisticated palate—but the setting was beautiful and they poured a mean Fuller’s lager.

Monday – Our first stop of the day was Bath, England and a delightful lunch at Sally Lunn’s Buns. I believe there we enjoyed a pint of Diet Coke in our efforts to dry out a bit in anticipation of our visit to Stonehenge. Stonehenge, for those unaware, is a rock formation undoubtedly assembled by a group of inebriated aliens. It’s actually very impressive given the engineering and slave labor involved if you don’t buy into the extraterrestrial conspiracy theory.

We ultimately arrived back in London, England just in time for a final couple of pints, and another amazing lamb dinner at the Rose Pub. The Rose is located on the bank of the Thames River. After dinner, we walked past Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abby, enjoying a beautiful London evening on our way back to the hotel.

Tuesday was our departure day and the first day of rehab. I watched several historical movies of the countryside we had just toured during our flight home. First, Braveheart for Scotland; next was Michael Collins for Ireland; and finally, Bridget Jones Diary for England. All and all, our international pub crawl and tour of the United Kingdom was a wonderful experience.

This article could not have been possible without the contributions of the following people. I would first like to thank our amazing Trafalgar tour guide Gino DiLulio from Wales.  Next, I would like to credit our travel companions Kim and Craig Nunn, Kyle and Emily Nunn, Kayla Nunn and Alex Johnston. Additionally, gratitude goes out to our international travel group including Craig and Jodi Miller from Bundall, Australia, The Van Der Merwe Family from Johannesburg South Africa, Jeff Lyddon and Renita Elzinga from Ontario, Canada and George and Lillian Payne from Lusake, Zambia.

Best wishes and safe travels to all on your next adventure.

Summer Writer’s Block, Vol. 4

Yes, if you’re keeping score at home, this is my 4th summer of writer’s constipation. As both of my loyal readers know, I struggle each year with something to write about at the conclusion of my summer vacation season. Sadly, “vacation” this year ultimately means moving my daughters to their respective colleges, (pause for a heavy sigh), and not tanning in my sexy Speedo swimsuit at some far away, yet affordable, sun-soaked destination spot like Lodi or Copperopolis .

At the beginning of the summer, I set three goals for myself; #1, Spend quality time with my daughters (without driving them crazy), #2, Eradicate (painfully) the gopher gang wreaking havoc on my backyard landscape and #3, Try to somehow strike a stronger resemblance to my younger, thinner and more handsome Bitmoji. I had also hoped to craft a Summer Writer’s Block piece that informed and entertained the ALIVE audience with a splattering of offerings related to my current surroundings. This is more a mission statement than a goal.Prognostication

If anyone out there in readerville remembers my 2016 Summer Writer’s Block Vol. 3 piece, I predicted the Warriors would go 81-1 in the regular season and 16-0 in the playoffs. It would appear that I wasn’t too far off. My bookie thought I was nuts, but happily took my money, when I laid down that bet in late September 2016. Granted, I was a little nervous when the Dub’s lost that first game of the season against the Spurs, which then required them to go 81-0 the balance of the season for me to collect, but I didn’t feel it was impossible . Alas, I’m just happy Steph, Clay, Dray and KD brought the NBA championship back to the Bay Area even if I didn’t win any money. Next year, I might wager on 200 points in a game (every game). Unfortunately, my Giants vs. A’s World Series bet isn’t looking overly strong right now, but there’s still time and anything can happen.

Speaking of sports…

A Switch

This month, I’ll be trading in two teenage girls for 40 tween-age boys. Beginning August 1st, I’ll be once again coaching the junior midget (11-13 years old/90 – 150 lbs.) Division of San Ramon Valley Thunderbird football. Along with Head Coach Sean Gann, OC – Scott Harper, DC – Eric Nystrom and position coaches Rob Rutchena, George Schramm and Dave Stallard, (and numerous other coaches at the five separate divisions) we’re out to turn boys into men…or at least into big boys. Full-pad tackle football is a huge time commitment consisting of conditioning, contact drills and playbook comprehension. The players have some work to do too. I can’t give these young men enough credit because when a majority of their peers are glued to a video screen during the last few weeks of summer vacation, T-Bird players are working hard (physically and mentally) in ninety plus degree heat to compete at the ultimate team sport. I am undoubtedly biased, but it’s hard to dispute that football builds character, integrity and camaraderie with your teammates that is hard to match playing Mind Craft or watching TV.

Speaking of watching TV…

Binge and Purge Watching

I just wrapped up binge watching House of Cards, Bloodline and Orange is the New Black. That was preceded by 13 Reasons Why, Stranger Things and old episodes of The West Wing. Now that I’ve digested all of those TV calories, I need to purge something. Perhaps, there’s a television laxative I could take to clean out the viewing bowels. I can’t wait to hurl out Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med. I would have completely blown out Chicago Justice, but luckily it only lasted one season. Fortunately, thanks to counseling, I’m currently digesting a more reasonable serving of Veep, Silicon Valley and reruns of Modern Family. Maybe I should think about reading a book.

Speaking of books…

The Trilogy

People in the street are constantly approaching me, asking when I’ll be coming out with my third book. First, they ask me for spare change or if I want to buy some weed, but then they ask about the book. SPOILER ALERT: The third leg of my trilogy is in the works, but I need another year’s worth of material before I can reach the required 300-pages of dribble/er, content. I always knew my book series wouldn’t be complete until the third installment came out. Much like Hunger Games, Divergent, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the 50 Shades of Gray series, it takes three books to tell the entire story of Mike Copeland. That and I am a sucker for the concept of self-publishing, self-promoting and maintaining my high self-esteem. Now if I could just get my former school library’s to carry my books.

Speaking of school…

Grad Party Burnout

My wife and I attended our share of high school, college and 8th Grade graduation celebrations this summer, not to mention going to a few away/farewell parties. One might say I have a grad party hangover or perhaps a hangover from being over served at every grad party we attended. Now that we are two-time veterans of the grad party wars, I feel the need to share a few valuable grad party tips or grad party Do’s and Don’ts, if you will. Do hire a mobile caterer to handle the food; my recommendation is El Paisa Taco Truck from Oakland. The food is out of this world. Don’t feel the need to throw back a shot of tequila with every guest that walks through the door. Bad choice. Do start making your plans ahead of time and not the night before. Been there/done that = gradtastrophy. I’m trying to talk my wife into hiring herself out as a Grad Party Consultant next year. If you’re looking to outsource the stress of organizing a raging grad party, she would coordinate the food, booze, music, games, decorations and favors for you. She has experience and references (me). Book now for the 2018 graduation season, or by December of 2017, if your child happens to be graduating from trade school, cosmetology school or the exotic dancer academy. You can pay her in taco truck bucks. I love that gosh-darn food.

Speaking of high school…

Heart Felt Home Town Recognition

Alongside telling you about some of the lighter parts of my life’s journey, on a more serious note, I must also mention dear friends who will be missed—all of whom were important parts of that journey.

Sadly, I recently attended a funeral for perhaps the greatest athlete my high school (the original Mountain View High School on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA) ever produced. Denny Mateo was not only an incredible three-sport athlete, he was also an exemplary husband, father, brother, son, teammate and friend. Denny was a larger-than-life quarterback who had just led our small, military-base fed, ethnically-diverse high school to a Central Coast Section (CCS) Football Championship his sophomore year. Denny’s hard working, humble, non-assuming demeanor was something everyone at our high school respected, and it proved to be a leadership lesson for players to come. He truly cared about people and his compassion inspired people. Denny was also the older brother of two of my close high school friends, Chris and Tim, and the son of my former coach (Mr. Dennis Mateo). Denny was someone special and my heart goes out to the entire family for their loss.

It seems I’ve lost too many friends my age the past few years. Joe Baker, Sean Cooley, Mark Fox, Ted Helgans and Pat McCarthy are all missed. It goes without saying that we all need to appreciate the time we have with the ones we love. In the immortal words of Rod Stewart, Life is so brief and time is a thief… and like a fistful of sand it can slip right through your hands. Live, Love, Laugh are good words to live by, especially if you’re struggling with an imaginary case of summer writer’s block.

 

Planting My Beer Garden

I’m sitting here at the Danville Brewing Company, waiting for a few friends to arrive for a much needed Guys Night Out (and Uber ride home), when I realized that I’ve written over 200 articles for Alive and not one has been about beer. This is an interesting fact because I really like beer. Truth be told, I’ve always liked beer, especially with pizza, but over the last couple of years I’ve grown to really appreciate a finely crafted brew. I’m mostly a wheat beer Hefeweizen kind of guy, but as a side effect of my mid-life crises, I’m starting to challenge my taste buds and venture out to try and enjoy an IPA, lager, pilsner, stout, and pale ale. I feel so mature.

My friends are such beer snobs. They tell me they’ll only drink craft brews.  I said to them, “If you like Kraft beer you’ll love their mac n’ cheese.” ~ Tony Camin, Comedian

While recently moving our daughters out of their freshman dorm rooms at the University of Colorado, a friend and I found an inviting food and libations establishment called Murphy’s Tap House in Louisville, Colorado. While engaged in a stimulating conversation with Matthew, the Master Brewer, we came to the realization that the brew pub has in some respects become a late afternoon/evening extension to the popular coffee establishments (Starbucks, Peet’s and Tully’s) as a trendy place to hang out and socialize with friends, neighbors and business associates. You need not look any further than Starbucks recent experiment adding beer on tap to their menu. Ultimately, either the idea of a wide-awake drunk or the Sumatra IPA didn’t pan out. Starbucks has more recently announced an end to the pilot program. 

The emergence of new beer emporiums is predicated on the demand from beer-happy patrons, anxious to experience the latest and greatest bold Belgians or Saisons, while others might prefer the hoppy greatness or dark and malty boldness of a flight or pint of ale from the states or abroad.  Let’s not forget the light and refreshing options of an occasional Sourhouse.  If I come off as a beer aficionado, it’s because I am considering becoming an uncertified beer cicerone, the equivalent of a wine sommelier.

My husband and I love visiting breweries and tap houses because they are a great place to socialize with friends and you get to try new beers. I don’t think the appeal will fade out as long as the brewers don’t run out of ideas/recipes and continue to brew high quality beer. ~ Michele Milz, Livermore.

If you’re a statistics nerd like me, you’ll appreciate that the National Brewers Association (the other “NBA”) reports that the U.S. consumed approximately $107.6 billion of beer last year of which $23.5 billion was craft beer. Overall craft beer consumption is up approximately 6.2% in the United States.

The Home Brewers Association (“HBA”) states that there are over 1.2 million home brewers in the United States. According to HBA statistics, two-thirds of the 1.2 million started brewing in 2005 or later, the average home brewer is 40 years old, 78% are married or in a domestic partnership, 68% have a college degree, and collectively, they produce over 2 million barrels of beer annually.

Geographically home brewers are spread across the country as follows; 31% in the West; 23% Midwest; 26% South; 17% North-East Coast. (For more information check out Hop Tech Home-brewing Supplies in Dublin.)

I like the science aspect of brewing beer and the social aspect of drinking beer. ~ Craig Nunn, home brewer.

Beer played an integral part in my social maturation in high school, er…I mean college, once I turned 21, of course. A Friday afternoon brew at the campus pub was a great way to wrap up an exhausting and stressful week of lectures, assignments, homework, essays, group projects, exams and pursuing coeds. I spent many a Sigma Chi fraternity party hanging around a keg, collaborating with my brothers on the merits of abolishing pledge hazing, the importance of themed sorority mixers, and the constant need to update our CSUN test and essay library. I was convinced that beer consumed responsibly and in moderation can be a great source of carbohydrates and nutrients. I don’t however recommend it as a substitute for meals.

Sadly, my limited college budget regulated my beer choices to Hamm’s, Pabst Blue Ribbon (aka “PBR”) Meister Brau, Schlitz, Olympia, Miller, Keystone, and Old Milwaukee. Splurging for the expensive stuff (to impress a sorority girl or her father) meant coughing up several more dollars a six-pack for the golden tastes of Lowenbrau, Molson, Fosters, St. Pauli Girl, Lone Star or the premium name at the time, Heineken.  I do find it amusing that several of my high-fluting bowling buddies casually refer to a few of the above mentioned brands as Satan’s urine. I bet they weren’t so pretentious when they were young, dumb and broke.

My introduction into a new form of “craft” beer began in the late 80s. These ales, were heavier, richer and a lot more flavorful than was my naïve palette had ever experienced. A variety of brands that included Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Rolling Rock. Anchor Steam, Redhook and Pete’s Wicked Ale brightened my previously dull beer-drinking repertoire. In 1987, the Tied House opened in downtown Mountain View, my hometown. The brainchild of Lou Jemison and Andreas Haller, it was fashioned after a microbrewery in Andreas’ hometown of Beden, Germany.  It took a little while to catch on, but once it did it became, and continues to be, the “go to” place by locals and visitors alike.  Sometime later, Stoddard’s Brewery in Sunnyvale opened, followed by Gordon Biersch in San Jose. 

Today, the choice of specialty and craft beer is almost immeasurable. Visit any BevMo or Trader Joes and your head will spin upon viewing the humongous selection.

As I am always open to trying something new, recommendations and/or gifts are encouraged. Please feel free to drop off a growler or six pack of your preferred brew at the Alive world headquarters in Alamo. Until then, I think I’ll work up a plan to plant my own beer garden. Octoberfest is right around the corner.

Favorite Home Town Brewery: The Tied House, Mountain View. I drop by whenever I’m in the old neighborhood.

Favorite Brewery Visit When Traveling North on I-5: Fall River Tap House, Redding, California. I drop by whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

Favorite Local BreweryDanville Brewing Company – try the Poke Nachos with any beer on the menu.  DBC is in my neighborhood.

Favorite Tri Valley Brewery: Altamont Beer Works, Livermore. Somewhat in the neighborhood.

Favorite Hole in the Wall Brewery: Schubros Brewery, San Ramon. Neighborhood.

Favorite Brewery Vacation Spot: Bend, Oregon. Over 27 brewpubs are sprinkledthroughout the town. A bit of a drive to be in that neighborhood.

Favorite Six Pack for Parties: 805 by the Firestone Walker Brewing Company. A welcome addition to our neighborhood parties.

Favorite Beer Publication: THIRST, published and distributed in Colorado.

 

 

More Than a Feeling

Tri Valley resident, David Victor, former member of the mega-popular classic rock band Boston, is launching Strum & Spirits, a “guitar and sip” class for music lovers. The structure is similar to the popular“paint-and-sip” classes, only here the art is making music. The class is tailored for beginners and even the guitars are providedDavid will share the basics of the guitar, and take you step-by-step through the cord progression of a classic rock ‘n roll song. By the end of the class you will actually be playing along with everyone else.

Along the way, you enjoy wine or beer in a relaxed and social setting while David also entertains you with rock and roll stories of his time on the road and in the studio with Boston. Strum and Spirits is ideal for private parties, company functions, corporate/team building events and neighborhood socials. David recently inked a deal to produce his own line of acoustic guitars which he will be selling at shows and classes.

David says the classes are picking up momentum and he could even see franchising the idea one day. He has teamed with Carol Shelton Wines to use her Wild Thing line at several of his shows. Additionally he has been approached by a private chef to do in-home private parties consisting of food, spirits and music. 

Each class wraps up with an audience participation/play along and an acoustic performance of a few songs by David. Given David’s history of life in the studio and on the road with Boston, BOSTYX and Rock Stars & Stripes, this is a special chance to see him perform in an intimate setting.

Upcoming Strum & Spirit events open to the public include July 13thand August 17that the Grand Theater in Tracy, August 4th at We Olive in Walnut Creek and August 24that the Firehouse Theater in Pleasanton. These events are open to the public. To sign up, visit StrumAndSpirits.com

 

 

Dadisms

I have been a dad for almost 20 years. Despite what you might have heard to the contrary from two Danville girls in their late teens, whose names rhyme with Banana and Bear, I’d like to think I’m a pretty good dad. There’s no question I have a few flaws; over protective, overly involved, and I like my eggs over easy, however, I try my best to overcompensate for my weaknesses by not being hypocritical or judgmental. Instead, I’ve always tried to be patient, understanding, compassionate, empathetic, and always loving. Like every father/daughter relations, we have our share of arguments, disagreements and general conflict, but there are a lot more good days than bad, (roughly a 29:1 ratio most months).

If you’re the emotional type and cry easily, feel free to pause and grab a tissue before continuing with the rest of this article. You see, the two greatest days of my roughly 19,692 days on Earth, were the days Hannah and Claire were born, followed closely by the day I made First-Team All-League my senior year of high school football. But seriously, I truly love being a dad and the time I get to spend with these two smart, funny, beautiful, creative, clever, compassionate, strong, amazing young women.

In past articles, I’ve declared that being a dad is the greatest job in the world, but in reality, being a dad isn’t a job at all. There’s no pay, no regular hours and no personal time off or paid vacation. The dad job doesn’t offer stock options, a 401K or even an expense account. Despite the fact that I am somewhat of a family CEO, I don’t get any of the fancy CEO perks like a car allowance, Giants season tickets, or even my own designated parking stall. It’s been a big “DAD” adjustment with Hannah now being away at the University of Colorado and Claire getting ready to attend the University of Oklahoma in the fall. I’ll soon be coming to grips with the reality of the “empty nest syndrome.” Where are my tissues?

As a dad, part of my “job” description includes inspiring and lifting up my children whenever possible. Ever since my girls were presented with a Danville-required smart phone, immediately following their 5th grade promotion ceremony, I have sent them periodic text messages that I thought were profound, topical, motivational,encouraging and, dare I say, inspirational. I come across these jewels in books, songs, and my friends’ Facebook posts. Occasionally, I also make one up. I like to call them Dadisms. Please allow me to share a sampling of my Dadisms with you now. Again, keep the tissues close.

  • If you can’t be good, be careful.
  • Forget all the reasons why it won’t work and believe the one reason why it will.
  • Pay attention to your gut No matter how good something looks, if it doesn’t feel right, walk away.
  • Be nice to someone for no reason. You never know when you’ll need someone to be nice to you.
  • Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t give up.
  • Be somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody.
  • Don’t chase people. Be an example. Attract them. The people who belong in your life will come find you and stay. Just be yourself and do your thing.
  • A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.
  • When you see something beautiful in someone, tell them! It may take seconds to say, but for them, it could last a lifetime.
  • If someone treats you like crap, just remember that there’s something wrong with them, not you. Don’t go around destroying other people.
  • Think before you speak. Is it true, is it helpful, is it inspiring, is it necessary and is it kind?
  • Who to spend time with: Those who make you better, those who want to see you grow, those who see the greatness in you, those who are good for your mental health, those who are inspired, excited and grateful, and those who force you to push yourself up a level.
  • Don’t be impressed by: money, followers, degrees and titles. Be impressed by: kindness, integrity, humility and generosity.
  • Rules of Action: If you do not go after what you want, you will never get If you do not ask, the answer will always be “NO.” If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place.
  • Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.
  • Beauty isn’t about having a pretty face, it’s about having a kind heart, an accepting mind and a beautiful soul.
  • We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges.
  • Life lessons are rarely inexpensive or painless.
  • Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.
  • If you stumble, make it part of the dance.
  • There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right and pray for the ones who don’t. Life it too short to be anything but happy.
  • 10 Things that require zero talent; Being on time, work ethic, body language, a positive attitude, passion, being coachable, effort, extra effort, being prepared and listening.
  • Take pride in how far you’ve come and have faith in how far you can go.
  • You either get better or you get bitter. It’s that simple. You either deal with what life has dealt you and allow it to make you a better person or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.
  • Having real friends is better than having many friends.
  • Successful people build each other up. They motivate, inspire and encourage each other. Unsuccessful people just hate, blame and complain.
  • No matter how educated, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people tells all. Integrity is everything.
  • Pick your battles. Sometimes peace is better than being right.
  • Other ways to say “I love you”… I miss you; Sweet dreams; Are you hungry? How’s your day going? Drive careful; Call me when you get there so I know you’re safe; I hope you’ re feeling better; Be careful; Don’t worry; I’ll take care of it for you; Do you need a hug? You don’t have to hear the words I Love You to know you’re loved. Listen carefully. People speak from the heart in more ways than one.
  • Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed. If you persevere, you will find joy in overcoming obstacles.
  • Life is amazing and then it’s awful, and then it’s amazing again. In between amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living our heartbreaking, healing, amazing, awful, ordinary lives and it’s heartbreakingly beautiful.
  • Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of simple embarrassing bravery and I promise you something great can come of it.

There are more, but I don’t want to lose my audience. For those of you still awake, I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into my “sensitive dad” soul.  When I’m not being deep, I occasionally send something light-hearted such as this gem:

“I often look at my children and can’t see me in them. Then they open their mouth and say something sarcastic and I’m like…’Oh, there I am.’”

If you think your son or daughter could benefit from receiving one of these nuggets above, please feel free to pass them along as your own Dadism or Momism.

With the house soon to be very quiet, I may finally have to find a hobby that pays more than writing magazine articles. Perhaps I’ll create my own Dadisms App. I’ve already got the copyright#dadisms and the domain name, www.dadisms.com. Don’t forget Father’s Day is June 18th.

 

 

The Music in Me

I don’t have a musical bone in my body, but I have always loved music. As a kid growing up in the 1960s and 70s, I would listen to Elvis records on my portable record player, playing air guitar and lip-syncing before it was called air guitar and lip-syncing. When I was a little older, I longed to be a member of the Partridge Family or Osmond Brothers. As a teen, I dreamt—actually dreamt—of starting my own band, cutting records and touring the world. My fictitious band name was Gigolo, and I even designed the t-shirts and posters we would sell at our concerts.

Sadly, or some might say unfairly, I can’t play any instrument. I certainly can’t sing, and despite having a little bit of rhythm, I can’t even dance.  I’ve taken guitar, drum, bass, saxophone and tambourine lessons and can’t play a note. Some days, I have trouble just playing the radio. Maybe this hard to admit truth is why I’ve always been so drawn to musicians. Not drawn in a sexual way, although certain members of the Go-Gos and Bangles were pretty hot in their day, and don’t even get me started on Nancy Wilson of Heart.

Due in large part to my lack of talent, I’ve been inspired to assist my musician friends by promoting their talents through some of my magical resources. In the early 1990s, I started a booking agency and helped line up gigs for the likes of Floyd’s Ordeal, Blue House, The Del Toros, Paul Blote, The Marina Towers Band, Gary Tackett and a little known country artist named Paul Jaqua.

Since that time, I’ve gone on to organize and promote club shows (Suburban Slow Death, Replica, Tyler Stimpson) and produce music fundraisers (MdK, Jeff Campbell, Courtney Randall, Pine & Battery and Heather Combs). I’ve also written numerous profiles on the likes of Michelle Maeso, Floyd Killen, Paul Jefferson, David Victor, Steve Albin and Suzanna Spring.

It’s not much, but if I was a roof-raising rocker or cerebral coffee house singer/songwriter, I would truly appreciate it if someone would help me generate some much-needed attention for my mad musical skills by penning a feature article on me or inviting me to play a show.  

I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone with less musical ability than Mike Copeland. ~ John Floyd Killen, Founding Member of Floyd’s Ordeal

I am a fan of every musical genre, however despite meeting Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire at the Viper Room in West Hollywood, I’ve had more luck meeting rock musicians than country, R&B, or hip-hop artists. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to meet a few true blue rock stars such as Eddie Money, Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, Eric Martin of Mr. Big, James Hatfield of Metallica and the late/great Ronnie Montrose. I’ve even separately met four members of one of my favorite bands, Journey – Steve Perry (Scoma’s in Sausalito), Jonathan Cain (Caesars Casino , Lake Tahoe), Ross Valory (Bank of America, San Ramon) and Neal Schon (Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View).  I was once in a Las Vegas strip club (doing research) at the same time as Axl Rose and Duff McKagan of Guns & Roses, however, they were much too preoccupied for me to drop by to say hello. 

Of those who I actually engaged in a conversation with, most were cordial yet distant. Steve Perry was hands down the nicest and most congenial and even invited me to join him for a short time at his table. I got the impression that he had a lot of free time on his hands.

Many have heard my story that during my sophomore year of college, at California State University, Northridge, I lived next door to a fun and charismatic girl named Paula Abdul. She was working as the choreographer for the Laker Girls and had aspirations of staging dance shows in Las Vegas.  We hung out a fair amount, never dated, but were good friends for over a year.

Several years later, I was listening to a catchy pop song “Straight Up”on the radio and just about drove off the road when I heard the artist was none other than Paula Abdul. Upon reading her story in People magazine and being blown away by her physical makeover, I wrote her a couple of letters (±200) congratulating her on her success and wishing her well.  Alas, there was never a response.  Despite the restraining order, I did catch one of her shows and enjoyed it immensely.  The boy band, Color Me Badd, opened for her just in case you were wondering. That’s Badd with two d’s.

In the summer of 2008, my wife and I made a pilgrimage to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. We spent close to six hours roaming the halls and I could easily have spent six more just wandering all six levels of the 150,000 square foot cathedral. Highlights of our trip included the U2 3D concert film, the Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd exhibits and the numerous displays and concert footage. Recently, I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and thoroughly enjoyed that experience too. There was a fantastic Songwriter in the Round event with Pat Alger who wrote countless country songs with or for Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Lyle Lovett, Dolly Parton and Crystal Gayle. Alger performed many of his biggest hits and fielded questions from the audience, mostly me. To be honest, I enjoyed those two museums more than any Smithsonian in D.C.

I’ve seen close to 100 concerts at venues that ranging from the Cow Palace to Circle Star Theater to the old Winterland Ballroom. I’ve also been to the Hollywood Palladium, Irvine Meadows Amphitheater and Whiskey-a-GoGo in Southern California. I’ve seen U2, The Police and attended a Day on the Green at the Oakland Coliseum and enjoyed Pablo Cruise, Marc Cohn and Bobby Kendal of Toto at the intimate Firehouse Theater in Pleasanton.

I’ve sat in the first few rows for shows by Bon Jovi, The Who, Luther Vandross, Bryan Adams, Journey, Kiss, Ray Charles, Hall and Oats, Kenny Loggins, Kenny G, Foreigner, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Train, Maroon Five and Madonna.  I’ve also sat in nose blood seats for shows by AC/DC, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Earth Wind & Fire, ELO, The Commodores, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Jimmy Buffet, Alabama and Bruno Mars. There were also unforgettable shows by Prince, Rod Stewart, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Jackson Five, and Van Morrison. You should’ve seen my concert t-shirt collection back in the day. 

I, long ago, gave up hope that I would ever hear the words, “See you at band practice,” or that I would perform on a stage in front of a live audience. However, thanks to the video game Guitar Hero, and living vicariously through my musician friends, there will always be music in me. #supportlivemusic.