the origin of neals rants

Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 min­utes.

NIGH ON TEN YEARS AGO, I had a job in Seattle: I was a tele­mar­keter for the 5th Av­enue The­atre. It was one of two main venues for Broadway-style mu­si­cals, a genre that had left me less than moved my en­tire life. My job en­tailed calling ba­si­cally anyone who had pur­chased a ticket to at least one show with a credit card and tried to sell them a season sub­scrip­tion (there were six shows per season).

We con­cen­trated on former season sub­scribers, of which I turned out to be ex­cep­tion­ally suc­cessful at wooing back to the the­atre. Now, what was un­usual about this for me was that having grown up in coal-mining country (North­eastern Penn­syl­vania, the only place in the world where an­thracite coal can be found) in the 1950s and ’60s, I had a typ­i­cally straight male’s opinion of mu­si­cals: they de­fined the term “light­weight” and were often too silly to even at­tempt to com­pre­hend their at­trac­tion to anyone. And the movies that had been made from mu­si­cals had bored me since I first saw one.

(I grew up loathing Fred As­taire and Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, all of whom I now con­sider fan­TAStic! Oddly, the male actor that I loathed the most was Cary Grant—don’t ask me why; I forget—who I now con­sider the greatest “movie star” in Hollywood’s his­tory! But that’s an­other story . . .)

Of course, I also knew that the only men who went to mu­si­cals were gay! (Of course.) I say this with little or no ho­mo­phobia in­tended; that was merely a gen­eral ob­ser­va­tion of straight men of my era and upbringing. 

So, I took this job with NO pre­vious pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence with mu­si­cals. As everyone else on the sales team were fans (and most of the men were gay), I was the odd-man-out. As sales leaders were re­warded with com­pli­men­tary passes to shows, and I was in­vari­ably among the top salesmen, I usu­ally had four or more tickets to each of the six shows. Berni and I went to each, taking dif­ferent friends each time.

Guess what?

I loved it!

While mem­o­rable shows in­cluded the pre-Broadway in­tro­duc­tion of Hair­spray and a lively ren­di­tion of The Rocky Horror Show—the most sur­prising show was an an­niver­sary pro­duc­tion of Hair, but I will save that for a sep­a­rate post—I found my­self grav­i­tating to the older clas­sics. Lo and be­hold, my fa­vorite show ended up being My Fair Lady!


CaryGrant1 600

The ma­ture Cary Grant, who looks as though he was born to play James Bond decades be­fore Ian Fleming con­ceived of the im­pos­sibly com­pe­tent 007.

At the back of the bus

All of the above was simply an in­tro­duc­tion to the gist of this post: during the pe­riod in which I worked the day shift, I took the bus from Bellevue to Seattle. On my first ride, I took the last seat in the back of the bus, where I was joined by a young man (I was in my fifties, he in his twen­ties) who I will call Doug.

Doug was in the computer/IT/internet busi­ness, some­thing I knew little about. To me, a per­fect com­puter was like a car: I turn it on and drive. I don’t want to know any­thing about what’s under the hood. If I have a problem, I take it to the shop. That’s why I had a Mac.

I don’t re­call what led to our on­going con­ver­sa­tion, but, es­sen­tially, each morning we would dis­cuss some­thing that was a hot topic in the news. Once Doug found out that I was a po­lit­ical an­imal, he would ask me ques­tions about what­ever topic was puz­zling him. I would then ramble on end­lessly until we reached our stops.

To Doug, my take on topics was unique: he read the news in the pa­pers (we had two dailies and one Sunday paper in the main­stream mold and two week­lies in the “al­ter­na­tive” field) and on the in­ternet, but claimed that the way I ex­plained things was un­like anyone else’s.

He took to calling my daily pun­ditries Neal’s Rants and started passing out my ob­ser­va­tions to his co-workers. He en­thu­si­as­ti­cally en­cour­aged me to get in­volved in a new in­ternet format called “blog­ging,” of which I also knew nothing. He even of­fered to set up and main­tain a web­site for me under that name so that I could get my per­spec­tive out to a large audience.

Need­less to say (what a cliché), I did not take his ad­vice. Now, ten years later, I fi­nally have a site and one of its fea­tures is the Neal’s Rants sec­tion. Please keep in mind that I am now 62 and a wee bit mel­lower than I was even at 52, so my ranting may not seem as am­bi­tious. And, due to the (un­ex­pected?) stag­gering suc­cess of the blog­ging format, my take on things may not seem so “unique.”

Nonethe­less and what the heck, here goes! My first topic will be the Zimmerman-Martin case. I am also a base­ball fan: today’s Seattle Times an­nounced that the GM for the Mariners may be making NO trades to bol­ster his pre­dictably mediocre, sub-.500 team! I will then post rants as I am mo­ti­vated by topics in the news.

Hence the origin of Neal’s Rants, which I want to ded­i­cate to Doug, wher­ever you are . . .


5thAveTheater header

HEADER IMAGE: The in­side of Seat­tle’s lovely 5th Av­enue The­ater. The ceiling is not a painting: it is a 3D re­lief painstak­ingly made and painted by hand by a team of San­ta’s elves who moved to the Pa­cific North­west 200 years ago to es­cape the more se­vere ef­fects of Global Cli­mate Change. 

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