Ex-Yankee, Jr. Chamber Commerce VP – Haunted Houses were greatest fun, collaboration, and skill builder

There’s a house in Monroe that is the epitome of Halloween greatness. Our Junior Chamber edition grew to over 150 panels, and single greatest scarer was Jason with a Chainsaw – you could hear it the whole time, you just didn’t know when it would be your turn.

Having a successful Haunted House was great for group morale throughout the run. Documenting the process (Chairman’s Planning Guides) proved early on how necessary the paperwork is in successful companies – the ability to repeat Success is in the details.

I recently took advantage of a community group’s Oyster Roast (Two tickets – $75, beverages free) return to annual lineup of events on Saturday, and a small sigh still escapes when I see particularly well-done Halloween decorated porches in my #gshorkonsharonroadseam neighborhood.

During Junior Chamber of Commerce days of long ago, our chapter (Albany, NY) produced six memorable Houses, all at different malls, with unique setups.

Improving the skills of our members, making them better workers for their companies, capable of handling different situations, was always my organizational goal as Community Development VP. Doing -thons of various kinds are common for many groups, Haunted House was our biggest fundraiser, an All Hands on Deck! collaboration for most of six weeks, involving engineering-hard core construction, planning, food supply, characters, and community-scholastic support.

Many people don’t know that the PGA tour stop long known as The Greater Greensboro Open, was originally a Jaycee project.

This was one of 23 documented projects our chapter worked on, earning three State-level awards, in my Community Development VP year. Having a successful Haunted House was great for group morale throughout the annual run, and documenting the process (Chairman’s Planning Guides) proved early on how necessary the paperwork is in successful companies – the ability to repeat Success is in the details.

Greatest Scare #1- Jason with Chainsaw

The kid hit every wall on the way out.‘ Even wiseguys are willing to pay a couple bucks to see how great a Haunted House is, and sometimes they try messing up a good time along the way. The walkie-talkie message “Get this kid” was unnecessary – one-on-one, I never missed a Diss-er.

Looking through the blinds into a blood-splattered shower Psycho scene, the disser was right in guessing there was someone, me, in the area behind the shower, but I knew he wouldn’t DARE open the door to find out. We had a strobe light linked to that door opening, and after waiting an extra couple seconds, kicking it open and charging out with that chainsaw going, it really didn’t matter what I said behind the hockey mask (“Not so cool NOW, are you punk?!”). He was crabbing backward until I backed up a step, then he hit every wall in second half of the House running out.

It was the topic of much discussion at pizza break, who had gotten that kid, and its always been a point of pride, keeping my Never Missed rep.

Okay, Year Two, when a saucy young girl got similar treatment, she’d just had something to say to three witches, the end of House was in sight, then I boosted myself on a railing, and was about nine feet tall, waving that chainsaw. The girl did a full 3-second movie scream and was GONE.

Group Scare, Nine Pancaked People

7 Girls, 2 high school guys were on floor, 5 characters kept them screaming. Again, Jason with Chainsaw was big factor, plenty of fog machine, mirrored back wall, and strobe were great – I was actually running in place and yelling. While that was usually enough, a bunch of Key Club-ers were also there, and every one (person in grave, Dracula, Frankenstein lurching from a wall, a zombie popping up next to the group) were joyful about having a piece of getting their friends flat on the floor. The two guys who climbed over the girls to escape, LOL.

Best practices learned, #1, 2

While a terrific success financially and creatively, Year One, everybody coming down with wicked sore throats (and still showing up) was an obvious challenge. Wiping down-disinfecting each sweaty mask at every break was the solution forever after. That we’d had *loose leaves and electrical cord* throughout our first House was stunning in retrospect. The setup-walking space was tight, if there had been an emergency, it probably would have been a disaster.

Early in Year 2, the Town of Colonie showed us zoning laws-fire ordinances still needed to be obeyed, when they tore down a nights work of covering the windows in an old Burger King location with dark paper. We wound up having to paint a lot of glass black, weekend days were still a lot lighter, though props held up well.

Amazing how younger kids wanted to come in, but were definitely scared of the monsters. We gave the little ones lollipops or small plastic spider rings to show to monsters “and they’ll be nice.” Parents loved the creativity and energy.

Great Engineering-Construction

FLYING WITCHES!! Having a couple engineers-architect types in the group is helpful in making things work. For the Witches, it was filling three-50 gal. drums with water (counter-balance) and having a supply of smaller HS girls willing to be hooked up and go about 30x a shift. The cable they were hitched to didn’t need to be a steep incline, just keep them moving, and a light flashed on them going past, with the accompanying cackle and witchlike behavior in a 10′ view.

One drawback: A couple times the required ‘catchers’ didn’t do their job, and the witches came through the black cloth at end and crashed into a barrier only 6 feet later. Trying to protect themselves, the girls often came through with knees up, a little something extra to watch out for in the relative dark.

Safety is always paramount, touching isn’t allowed. While residents of Insane Asylum could reach from behind rebar to within inches of passing viewers, nobody grabbed even a school buddy, and no-touch works both ways. Workers ‘inside’ featured rooms have to know escape routes for any emergencies.

FOOD!

Considering the amount of time and personnel necessary for construction, free food is an economic necessity. Because most Jaycees were coming from work, being able to grab some chow on breaks was necessary. McDonalds was willing to have someone pick up a bunch of burgers at specific times, pizza-donuts-cookies-soda were always around. Thankfully, mall food court merchants were always generous, Haunted House was always a traffic builder – kids bring parents with $$$.

Having people on the phones willing to ask strangers for food was a big job, like a constant three person job determining the when and how much we were able to get ahold of for a month of thirty-plus people daily.

COLLABORATION TO THE MAX

Stating that the collaboration of efforts and leadership skills – sharpened in the reality of projects and available for years thereafter – is always going to be my #1 “You should try” advice about Junior Chamber activity, thats REAL effective networking. Having that link, being part of a specific cadre of talents that brought events together for a greater good, that counted in all my professional accounts going forwards.

Often quoted in complaint, ‘Getting volunteers to move the right way is like herding cats,’ isn’t wrong.

The Haunted House construction was always a terrific challenge, with a whole trailer-load of props to utilize, and the screaming and scaring was the payoff. Knowing how great the gig was (again) versus thinking it would be economically beneficial to our chapter was #1 Attitude.

The chapter had lots of bankers (Key Bank), and was a ‘rebuild’ of what had been a 300 member (Metro size) Albany Chapter that divided into three smaller groups. Albany had some history, so being in that initial dozen or so, previous Jaycees now ‘Roosters’ (past age 39) provided direction, and we carried forward. Continuing good handoffs help the community and the helpers.

Yay! for seasonal Halloween scaring, for the houses that decorate, and may there be a Haunted House for the kids and you to enjoy in 2022.

Haunted House tours often began with the Psychic, who told worried kids that she foresaw a time they might use a lollipop to make the monsters be nice.

This being a political blog aside, today is better than Recession or Kurds situation

20190802_191640
During the Recession, you didn’t sweat talking politics over the grill, we were all worried about the same things, and Trumpies hadn’t been invented.

Back in the early, terrible years of the Recession, I had several opportunities to have a cigar and some scotch with one of my brothers, the high caliber banking guy, while the Thanksgiving turkey was deep frying. He was an excellent person to bounce all the information I’d read and heard off, and I really felt smarter in other conversations after those talks.

If you weren’t trying to learn more then, all you could do was cower in fear that the Economics Gods didn’t body slam you any worse. Between a job I disliked and Trumpies though, I admit the below-my- abilities job was easier to deal with.

There wasn’t any difficulty about the facts of what we were going through then, and those who had jobs were mostly just a little happier than those on – or over – the hairy edge. Neither side was about Good or Bad, we were all struggling. There was an expectation that our government had its hand on the tiller, and nobody was seriously being dissed or crushed just because of their economic situation or heritage.

Sure, people abandoned pricey homes and took lifestyle hits while reducing ten days in an exotic locale to “stay-cations,” taking kids out of private schools with $20,000 a year tabs, holding on to cars “until things get settled a little better,” and not automatically going out to dinner three times a week.

Things aren’t anything like that now

Yes, the world seems stuck on the politics of things in 2019, and if the choices are “Love him or hate him,” LOTS of people – including me – are on the latter side of that with Trump.

Take an analogy of the high school bully-cretin who knocked the books out of your hands every time he saw you. Bet you didn’t think, “But he’s a helluva player when he’s on the court!”

Hell no. The aggravation and humiliation of having to pick up your stuff while others mogged along, maybe kicking your books, trying to get to their class in another wing of the school an over-arching consideration. You probably said, “Yeah, 23 points a game, but he’s still a d**khead” to your buddy.

You might keep your mouth shut after a buzzer-beater against an arch-rival, but day to day, he was a blot on almost any happiness you could imagine being in the same school could bring. No sense telling the cute girl in biology class your opinion, her friend was dating the guy, and Cutie was probably jealous of that.

What has that got to do with any concerns we have about education, immigration, the national debt, torquing the relatively naive President of the Ukraine, or shafting Kurdish allies in Syria in the most obvious and life-threatening way?

Expectations of what America stands for

Unlike back in those dark economic times, you didn’t stop caring about how the people down the street were doing. You didn’t walk away from them, muttering about their character because they rooted for the “wrong” team. It was legitimate to think they weren’t too smart to be a Browns fan, yet poking fun at stuff like that wasn’t taken to the Nth degree of thinking thugs from ICE should haul them away.

The question of “What happens after…?” is just as real today as during the Recession years. Yes, impeachment proceedings are going to tear this country up, but like we *knew* back then, the Biblical “This too shall pass” was something to believe in. As I told an Italian lady I tutored, this is still shy of the heart-breaking nastiness that Vietnam was for Americans, mostly because LOTS of (young) people died in those times.

When *every*single*person* that came into the current Administration was placed in a role that gave them the ability to sink an institution they HATED – and it seems many are face-first in the public trough – that sucks though. I often use DeVos – whose “expertise” for Education ends with her $1 million donation to Trump campaign – with her desire to kill public education funds, and Pruitt, the grifter from Oklahoma who opened the sewage gates wide on the environment, as examples. It was depressing to think the next day meant another humiliation, having their books (figuratively) slapped out of their hands, for that piece of America under their boots.

So now there appears to be light in the tunnel that ISN’T another damn train. While not the final word on things many, many, many don’t like – including former allies around the world who think badly of US actions – “we” don’t have to just take it. Walking the other way instead of trying to discuss ANY situation with a Trumpie doesn’t bring any real sense of calm, just that we can see *something* is finally being done that might change this long sled ride towards the bottom of the American soul.

Mostly I write about business, although some of the sports pieces have a lesson to them. Am I doing better than during Recession? Well, yeah, but how much of any piece of anything else in 2019 am I happier about, that seems a valid criteria to judge life on.

Hmmm… That knee replacement (God bless the ACA) at end of 2017 changed life pretty dramatically, I don’t have to skip across the street to avoid getting run over. It’s (finally, after 50 days) raining in Charlotte today, nothing wrong with that. I have a meeting about a next ‘gig,’ using my God-given ability as a “content creation person,” at about twice the $$$ I was making in retail back then is good, as is not being homeless in this rain.

And yes, knowing some real angst is is on the horizon for Trump and his enablers in Congress  – and even the schlubs for voted for him and think he’s doing a great job will have to stay quiet – is okay by me.

A cigar and some scotch at Thanksgiving, I’m looking forward to that. Doubt that we’ll be talking politics much though, and there’s nothing wrong with leaving that behind. That brother’s knowledge was superior about negative economics then, but knowing at least *something* is working towards Better Days, 2020 seems like sunshine in America time.

Sex for a Past-60 Writer in #MeToo Era: Something is Amiss

gs-prime

Having knocked out 50,000 words for a NaNoWriMo submission this past November while working a never-saw-this-possibility-on-radar job pre-loading UPS trucks overnight, I recognized (not for first time) how much more difficult the love scenes were to write without some, you know, relatively recent transfer of that sexual energy.

Watching reruns of ‘Mad Men,’ I’m not talking Don Draper, drunk but always ready-able to get it up and in at any opportunity – THAT hasn’t been a reality for waaay longer than being sixty.

An aunt I truly respected suggested (well, stated) that I needed more-better bait than just being a Good Guy and the right equipment to find-deserve That Woman. I get that more clearly now.

Frankly ladies, we all want to know we’ve still got ‘It’ on that front, and not that you’ll be needing The Rabbit to satisfy you when we leave.

Introspection, not analysis

For those who might be expecting an analysis of recent opportunities or techniques related to that 60+ category, ummm, today I turned 61, and the past 366 days haven’t included sharing that desirable activity. I’m sorrier than you’ll know about not being able to enlighten anyone about empirical factors the title might suggest.

Mostly I’m believing I’m not the only guy wondering which end is up in the post-Weinstein scheme of things. We’re a million miles from getting through awkward breakfasts in college, much closer to Seth Meyers recent proclamation when hosting the Golden Globes that, “For the male nominees here tonight, this is the first time in three months it won’t be terrifying to hear your name read out loud.”

There has been LOTS of documented abuse of women along the way by Hollywood and/or male brethren of all stripes. I’ve never been a ‘crotch cricket’ as Dad referred to womanizers (like a college roommate) of a certain stripe, or walked around with my pants to my knees. Like Meyers, I’ve seldom had the power to hold sex over anyone, although I might’ve said something similar to what local Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson allegedly did, about the shapeliness of certain jeans-wearing females.

Hey, college and the herpes-challenged ‘80s featured Jordache and similar $100-plus jeans, and it was pretty much mandatory that noticing and commenting was expected. Now, and sixty-plus, is an obviously different day.

A Good Man is Hard to Find

Working in scholastic fundraising in the ‘Nineties – where younger, smart, good-looking teachers were common and I wasn’t close to sixty – wasn’t the place for “cutting a filly out of the herd” reputation-wise. The divorced moms with kids I dated after moving to Charlotte were okay, often just a scheduling thing. Ditto for my real estate years, although I was in a relationship then.

6-16brunch
Being invited for mimosa or Bloody Mary brunch works for me.

The Great Recession flat out sucked – that’s the nut I’m working with.

Fundraising success and feeling very Good Human Being-ish while participating in Junior Chamber of Commerce activities back then was legitimate, and shouldn’t we admit that ‘successful,’ like my aunt stated, trumps POS Guy at this point (with Chippendale types always being an exception)?

I’ve been told I’m pretty well-preserved, and with a now two-year old knee replacement in 2020, personal energy is higher than its been in years, though finances since the recession haven’t sparkled.  It seems those Women who have houses (or got as result of divorces) are a bit more concerned about possibility of sharing resources with ‘keepers’ than less equal (even if kind of studly) older lovers.

‘A good man is hard to find, but a hard man

is good to find’

SEX, whether sweaty or sloooow good, is less like the lady who once told me, “Just because we’re not going to be forever doesn’t mean we have to give up something we obviously both like.” Perhaps not Beyonce and ‘Put a Ring on It,’ although relationship status doesn’t really affect The Act.

I’d bet that a quantity of the negatives we’ve heard about still kinda fit in the category of “I seem to remember the circumstances a bit differently,” that Lauer and Rose used, as un-PC as that might come out.

 Is it possible that Al Franken is the ONLY guy from SNL days that groped someone?

Writing-wise, I seem to be using OLD memories. While I’ve never been graphic-graphic in book scenes, and I know the sensuality and caring still flows, actual pillow talk and bouncing previously written material off a date (while noting which parts reeeeallly worked for her), made things so simple. Sex isn’t as distant as the moon, but it doesn’t show up every Friday night either.

Contrary to what ol’ Bill Clinton danced around, sexually guys DO know what is, is, but cuddling isn’t sex.

My question is: If or when I hammer that 50,000 or so words into a script and it miraculously become a Success, will it get easy to find mutually desirable-willing ladies again? Or, will *I* be on guard about life resources coming down the proverbial stretch? Would I, hard to believe, become too picky myself?

I admit missing the notion that, “A good man is hard to find, but a hard man is good to find,” “It takes two,” or yes, very definitely, “There’s a Good Woman behind every successful man (and she wants you to get your clothes off NOW!)”

To say good sex still comes from the heart and not a little blue pill is problematic—I’ll let you know after I’ve been in a situation where that little blue pill might make a helluva difference.