Saturday, January 19, 2008

Illiterate Iraqi Men in Ballard

I just got back from a work out. While working out, the following conversation occurred between the following people:
  • Large white rather awkward 50 year old man w/ beard, I'll refer to him as LWAYOMB for short.
  • Typical white normal middle aged Seattle-ite woman, I'll refer to her as SeattleWoman
  • And me.
I'm working out on a machine, about 10 feet away LWAYOMB says to SeattleWoman, "excuse me, excuse me, miss, uh hum, do you know if we are supposed to clean up after we use the machines. I mean, uh hum, today is my first day and I, uh hum, am not sure."

SeattleWoman: "well yes technically you are, but I'd say about 40% of the people don't and about 60% do."

LWAYOMB: "oh, uh hum, yes, I see. Well you know, I see that man over there, uh hum, he didn't clean off his machines, and, uh hum, perhaps he can't read English."

SeattleWoman: "well you know some people do, and some don't."

LWAYOMB: "yes well he looks like an Iraqi, so you know, perhaps he can't read. You know, these Iraqi's don't read English very well."

SeattleWoman kind of drifts away passively.

So at this point I'm really annoyed. I walk over and say to LWAYOMB, "Sir, I speak English just fine. You really shouldn't assume that a man merely due to his skin color is illiterate. Also, I'm not from Iraq, but if I were, why would that matter? You could simply have asked me to wipe off the machines instead of proceeding with this elaborate passive aggressive dialog."

LWAYOMB huffs and says, "oh well yeah, uh hum, I've tried that before, uh hum and it didn't get me anywhere." LWAYOMB getting red and flustered, repeats over and over again, "can you read, I mean, can you read. Can't you read?"

I shake my head and go back to working out. Later, after LWAYOMB leaves, SeattleWoman says to me, "I'm really sorry about that. I thought he was asking a straightforward question, and I was trying to say, yeah some people do wipe down the machines, some don't, it's not really a big deal either way. But after he started on the racist angle, I was shocked and sort of speechless."

I said, "yeah that was pretty bizarre. I've spent my entire life in the states, and I must say, that was the first clearly racist incident I've ever encountered directed at me. And of all places, this is Seattle, where on earth is this guy from?"

So, to all my friends over the years who have argued to prove the point to me that racism is alive and well even in lefty Seattle, perhaps you are right. But I must say, while its certainly annoying, this man is clearly in the minority, and his behavior is not socially acceptable. Afterward, when I was checking out, I chatted w/ the receptionist about the incident. Coincidentally, the man walked by at the same time. She was apologetic, clearly bothered, and said she'd chat w/ him.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Remembering Paul Yeskel: 1951--2007

One of my good and very inspiring friends recently lost a dear friend of his. He sent me the eulogy he made to his friend. I found it so moving I asked him if I could post it here; to my request, John said, "Please post away. My prayer is that everyone who gets this email will forward it." Please have a read and realize that life is precious, and there truly are amazing people who make this world a better place.

John Silliman Dodge
From Radio & Records Jan 18, 2008

I recall a scene in Tom Sawyer where Tom and Huck have staged their own deaths. The whole town is packed into the church and there’s much sobbing and lamentation. The two boys, hiding upstairs in the organ loft, are having the experience many of us fantasize about: attending our own funeral and seeing just how many people loved us and how upset they are that we’re gone.

On the afternoon of December 27, 2007 at a chapel in New Jersey, I spoke by thought to my dearest friend, Paul Yeskel who died suddenly and unexpectedly four days before. “Pauley, wherever you are I hope you can see this room filled with people all here to honor you, to declare how much they loved you and how much richer you made their lives.” We don’t know why he went to sleep the evening of December 22 and simply never woke up, but when the news finally comes, it won’t matter how it happened. Paul is gone and his wife, his daughters, his brother and sister, his world family will never be the same.

Let me tell you a few things about this wonderful man I knew for 35 years. He was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and came of age during the golden age of New York Top 40 AM radio. Cousin Brucie, Murray the K, Dan Ingram and the rest were like family members to him. The summer of ‘69 before his first year of college, Paul went to Woodstock. And if that didn't clinch his career path, I don’t know what did.

He started in radio but soon moved over to records. Promotion was Paul’s special calling and his effectiveness was demonstrated by the gold records which covered his office walls. There were stints with Ariola, ATCO (where he was instrumental in signing my band, Cooper-Dodge), and Arista Records. Then came his marketing and promotion firm, Aim Strategies. Many firsts there, including the first company to promote the (then) new Triple A format, first company to develop radio play and retail sales tracking software, first company to focus on the current side of Classic Rock with the website Besides the amazing set of rock-hall-of-fame pictures that rolls when you visit, I like this quote best:

“We have had the privilege to work with artists like The Beatles (Love), Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Heart, Styx, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Queen, CSNY, John Fogerty, Peter Frampton, Steely Dan, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Journey, Kiss, John Mellencamp, Sammy Hager, REO Speedwagon, ZZ Top and The Allman Brothers. I get paid for this. Life is good.”

Family was important to Paul. He married the girl of his dreams and together they produced two beautiful daughters. His fine family was a great source of emotional support when in 1998 Paul developed a rare and potentially fatal kidney disease. Younger brother David Yeskel (also a successful record exec) was to be the designated organ donor, but when Paul’s system started to crash in 2004 and they began the pre-transplant process, Dave’s candidacy was suddenly ruled out due to a family history of diabetes. Without a feasible Plan B, Paul was seriously worried. He knew that people died waiting for kidneys which came too late.

He shared these mounting concerns with me over dinner at The Learning Conclave conference in Minneapolis in July 2004. At one point I asked Paul, What’s your blood type? A-positive he says. Really, so is mine. I should just give you one of my kidneys. To which he responds, Don’t **** with me! But less than five months later at the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, that’s just what happened. After that life-altering experience, we called ourselves The Kidney Brothers. We nicknamed our co-project Billy, as in Billy the Kidney. Of all my life’s so-called achievements, that’s the one of which I am most humble and proud.

The next summer, the Conclave invited us back to tell our story. To a packed auditorium session, Paul described the major rejection episode he experienced immediately after the kidney transplant. In typical fashion, he made serious things light and funny. The crowd cracked up when Paul said, “But hey, I’m in record promotion. I can handle rejection.” He soon became active in the cause of organ donation. If youbd like to learn more about the organization he was involved with, visit the New Jersey Organ and Tissue Sharing Network at

Now our business is going through a fundamental revolution. But however things work out, the basics won’t change. We still need people with big hearts and big ideas to lead us into the future. We need honest people to offset the dishonest, visionaries to counterbalance the myopic, positivity to counteract the gloom and doomers. Paul was this kind of man. The kind of guy who puts a sign on his desk that says, “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”

So if imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, let us flatter Paul by imitating the better aspects of his character. He was honest to a fault, candid even in difficult situations. He was generous and genuinely caring. He was in touch with his feelings and their expression. He was one of a kind, a big, beautiful man whose warm spirit enriched the lives of everyone he touched. I’m not being sentimental here. He was the kind of guy you'd give your kidney to.

I’ll close with lines from an old Eagles song, the band that Paul Yeskel first booked in college back in 1972 and last promoted with Long Road Out of Eden in 2007:

“My man’s got it made, he’s gone far beyond the pain. And we who must remain go on living just the same. We who must remain go on laughing just the same.”

So long, Paul. We’ll miss you. In you, the world lost one of the good guys.
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