July and Detroit for Jay Inslee

Just as Governor Jay Inslee is seeking to transition the United States to a green economy, I continue my transition from unpaid comedic genius to unpaid political strategist (despite loving The Dark Knight like a child I have never quite heeded The Joker’s advice of “If you’re good at something never do it for free”).  After watching the first debate I offered the Inslee campaign some reminders and some unsolicited advice on how Governor Inslee should adjust his messaging (right down to word choice) and debate approach. HERE IT IS if interested.  But with Kamala Harris taking over the second debate and possibly snatching frontrunner status from Joe Biden (with a combination of charisma, a deft challenge to Biden, a host of platitudes, a major inconsistency, usage of clichés and the lifting of not one, but two winning lines from Governor Inslee) I thought there was no time like 530am on a Tuesday in my underwear to start drafting my next set of tips for the Governor’s team:

  1.  Unions will be a big topic in Detroit at the end of the month.  Governor Inslee was the only one to mention them in the first debate.  Whether it’s Kamala Harris doing her second backflip on Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all plan, Julian Castro guaranteeing the right to abortion for trans women or Beto O’Rourke busting out his Spanish, the debates are going to be full of pandering. And with the second debate, union labor and working class American will surely be courted heavily (won’t people find it odd if the economy only gets talked about for 15 minutes in 4 hours in Detroit the way climate change was only talked about for 15 minutes in 4 hours in Miami?) by the candidates.  Governor Inslee has made reinvigorating organized labor a centerpiece of his Evergreen Economy plan. And he drew some bipartisan pundit praise for being the only candidate to mention the need (and his plan) to strengthen unions.  Well, he will be one of 19 other candidates to do so in Detroit (I cannot guarantee what the hell Marianne Williamson will say). Without appearing to be whining he MUST make sure that the rust belt knows that he made unions a centerpiece of his plan and has not just talked about them while pandering in Detroit (language might seem strong, but so what – use it). “Not one other candidate talked about union labor in the first debate. But don’t trust what I say in Detroit. Look at my state of Washington. Highest minimum wage in the country. #1 in employee satisfaction and in state GDP.  And look at my Evergreen Economy Plan. Union labor and strengthening collective bargaining are the centerpieces of my plan to transition our 20th century economy into a 21st century economy.  It has a GI Bill to help workers move from fossil fuel industry to clean energy economy.  Labor and factory workers will not be left behind in a Jay Inslee economy – they will be out in front leading it. And you don’t have to take my word for it because I’ve already done it in Washington State.” and related to that…
  2. Make One Page Summaries for The Various Plans.  Governor Inslee’s plans are in depth and rigorous. They also don’t make for easy sharing except among the deeply interested and learned.  Make one page, bullet-pointed summaries of the plans, especially the Evergreen Economy.  Easier to share and digest for the average person and voter.  Debates do no play to all of Governor Inslee’s strengths, given the number of candidates and the brevity of answers allowed and 36 single-spaced pages do not allow for easy mass consumption.
  3.  Iowa Cynicism.  For much of the year Joe Biden has led in Iowa polls.  In second has been Bernie Sanders.  They could not be much more opposite as far as Democrats go, but oddly enough, in Iowa, the supporters of each had the other as their second choice.  Since we are all adults here, the message in that is clear – an older white man still represents tradition, stability, comfort and “Presidential” to that segment of the electorate. There is no other explanation since their politics are as different as their demographics are similar.  That simply means that from a political and, sadly, a demographic stand point, Governor Inslee can probably pick off votes from both of those camps, especially Biden.  This does not mean change messaging or pander, but facts are facts and Governor Inslee is a steady, telegenic leader like Biden (but not too old), but with a consistent and progressive record to assuage Bernie Bro concerns.  I guess this just means that making a big splash in Iowa in January is not just necessary for Inslee, but also possible.
  4. Do not let Warren skate and do not let Harris get away with stealing lines.  As I wrote last month naming one’s opponents is a clear winner, as those who attacked Beto can attest to. Saying that Warren has good ideas, but that Inslee has actually already made them law is more like a backhanded compliment than an attack and I think could work, at least in terms of making people look at the Governor’s record and give him serious consideration.  And Harris claiming “I call it the climate crisis” or using his winning line from the end of the first debate about Donald Trump being the biggest threat proves she is a Pitbull (yes as a prosecutor, but also as someone who samples others’ work and makes it shittier).
  5. Make Donald Trump’s incompetence a new, main line of attack. I am very proud Governor Inslee has repeatedly, forcefully and unequivocally condemned Donald Trump’s entire political career as a racism-driven movement. From Birtherism on, Governor Inslee has called it as it is.  But the cold facts are that some people are numb to the accusations of racism. Others are turned off by it.  I don’t agree with or condone that apathy or ignorance, but the goal is to win the nomination and beat Donald Trump.  As someone who has plainly called out Trump’s racism and has an impeccable progressive record, the lane that really could work well for Inslee (and yes, while courting some of those Biden and Bernie voters from #3) is to highlight the massive incompetence of Trump and his administration (thanks to Pete Dominick of Sirius XM who got me thinking about this line of attack):
    •  His diplomatic, ego-driven failures (Saudi, North Korea, Iran, etc)
    • That he exited the TPP, but then wanted back in when he realized it was the best way to fight China (but he was more concerned with continuing his attacks on our First Black President – double whammy – incompetent and racist, without saying the R word)
    • His tax cut failure – did not help the middle class, but sure helped real estate developers (self-dealing)
    • His record turnover of cabinet officials – claiming they are the best people and then within a year trashing them as (insert some of the insults)
    • The corruption within his administration
    • His lies about coal
    • His inability to heal the nation even in the most obvious and painful of tragedies like Charlottesville
    • etc

I made many other suggestions in my last three political blogs about how Governor Inslee should approach debating and how he should get his message out, so hopefully some people have read them (including a social media ad campaign of 30 second videos on issues where other candidates are scoring rhetorical points for policy, but Governor Inslee has already implemented them as law).  The voters are not set in stone as the Harris rise and Biden fall showed this week.  But Governor Inslee needs to be more forceful and carve out a unique path that highlights his considerable strengths while not treading the familiar ground of failed candidates past and present.


LeBron James Must Stay In Cleveland

I went to see LeBron James in person on Tuesday night at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.  It was awesome.  As I have joked with crowds all week, “I want to see him in Cleveland before he follows me back to NY.”  In all honesty I hope LeBron does not go to New York or any other city.  He belongs in Cleveland and as much as any athlete can, he belongs to Cleveland.

The people in this city may have already crossed into disturbing hero worship, bordering on something out of the film The Man Who Would Be King (look it up), but it is clear that the Cleveland Cavalier fans have a unique and special relationship with LeBron James that has all but been lost in sports.  Derek Jeter has it with NY, but if he had merely performed well, without winning a title he would not have it.  LA Fans love Kobe, but more because of their star worship.  But LeBron is from Ohio. He has yet to win anything, but the Cleveland area loves him as if he is family.  They get angry when you suggest he may leave for NY because they don’t believe he will do that.  If he were never to win in Cleveland they’d be disappointed for him. If he were to never win a title in New York, the fans would feel bad for themselves.

Speaking of New York, LeBron should not go to NY because NY doesn’t deserve him.  Patrick Ewing was the last hoops superstar in NY (and he does not compare with LeBron’s star power), but many Knick fans (especially the corporate douchebags that flood the Garden during times of success as if they were having an auction of 20-something blond Midwestern transplants) consider Ewing a failure, a choke artist and do not recall the fact that he gave everything he had for 15 years to try and get a title to NY (literally millions of gallons of sweat) .  Utah does not treat Malone and Stockton as failures, but many Knick fans still consider Ewing a failure first, a great Knick second.

In fact the Knicks this year have played above expectation (thanks in part to the exceptional play of David Lee – a rare white American star in the NBA – but who the Knicks have continued to portray as a scrappy hustler, in line with typical white stereotypes), but many Knick fans are waiting for next year to show their support when they get star power (seriously NY is starting to feel more like the stereotype that LA has owned for so long – the sporting event is not as important to people as the event surrounding the sport).  That is what the Yankees organization banked on when they started selling $2500 dollar tickets to Yankee Games: that New York, a city renowned for its grit and character was actually just becoming another Los Angeles (it is – if I see one more salad place open up with a one word name – “chop’t,” “toss’d,” “crisp” I am going to go postal.  These places may very well be in other cities, but they are starting to feel uncomfortably appropriate in NYC).  Well, thanks to the economy it turns out NY was not quite ready for $2500 tickets, but $1250 tickets were not so bad.  And the addition of LeBron will just further push out many Knick fans who can probably barely afford pre-LeBron ticket prices.

However, Cleveland is the real reason for LeBron to stay.  He is to Cleveland what General Motors is to Detroit.  If he starts to pack up I feel like it will devastate the city.  The pre-game theatrics at the Cavs game included incredible movies and pyrotechnics for God’s sake!  I have been to 6 NBA arenas (not yet to Mecca in Salt Lake City) and these were by far the best I have ever seen (though the Bulls’ intros in the 90s are untouchable, as far as I am concerned, for theatrical originality, culminating with the 6’6″ guard from Nooooorth Caaarolinaaa…”

There have also been rumors that Nike, in light of Tiger Woods’ sexscapades, was encouraging LeBron to go to New York so that they could have Kobe and LeBron on the coasts and build up that campaign further to stem some of the losses that Tiger may/will incur.  It is bad enough that politicians are all owned by corporations, but now athletes are being dictated to by them as well?  I would love to have LeBron tell the owner of the Knicks and any other big market team a la Michael Corleone in Godfather Part II: “We are all part of the same hypocrisy Mr. Dolan, but don’t think that that extends to my family.”


Because Cleveland is like LeBron’s family.  In fact, Cleveland is like LeBron’s wife and children that have stood by him as he built his reputation and skills and career.  They have done everything to make him happy.  If he goes to New York it will be like he is leaving his family for the hottest of the many of the gold digging tramps that roam the clubs and high society functions of New York.  Although Bill Simmons, ESPN’s “The Sports Guy” likes to call Baron Davis Teen Wolf, for this discussion I would like to call LeBron Teen Wolf.  And he has a choice – he can date Boof, the cute, loyal and real person and be a success in life and as a person, or he can go for Pamela Wells, the blond who has emerged only after the onset of Teen Wolf’s new found success.  NYC has enough guys that would go for Pamela Wells – LeBron should do the right thing for everyone and stay with Boof.  But if he leaves, it falls on his doorstep and he will have killed one of the last real fairy tales in sports.


Detroit & Haiti Part II

This past weekend I was in Detroit performing at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle.  It was a fantastic trip.  Or as fantastic a trip as is possible when spending 15 hours on Amtrak to get there and almost 18 hours on Greyhound to get back to NYC.  Unfortunately the trip ended with some terrible news for my family from Haiti.

The highlight of the trip going to Detroit was certainly the Amtrak bus.  To get from Toldeo, Ohio to Detroit via Amtrak requires usage of Amtrak’s bus service.  The bus was comfortable, on par with a Greyhound bus, but due to my bladder unable to hold itself for one more hour before arriving in Detroit I had to use the bus bathroom.

Someone of my size in transportation bathrooms (airplanes, Amtrak, buses) has to find a position where I can both lean against a wall to create stability against bumps and/or turbulence, but also in a position that facilitates urination.  It is a delicate balance that I have become expert at.  However, the Amtrak bus bathroom presented a previously unseen problem: anonymous urine.

As anyone who has ever used a bathroom on transportation before – the toilets are not free standing the way they are in regular bathrooms.  The are sort of portals in the middle of a steel shelf.  Well, as the bus driver drove stopped and started a mysterious liquid began pouring down from the steel shelf: anonymous urine.  Apparently the previous user of the bathroom had not perfect the lean and piss and had managed to get what felt, given the fear of getting it on my shoes and jeans, like a quart of their urine on the shelf.  All of a sudden my evacuation began to feel like an Indiana Jones movie where I had to finish my work and duck out of the bathroom before the urine poisoned me.  In this metaphor my sneaker would be playing the role of Indiana Jones’ hat.

I escaped the bathroom sans Golden Shower and made it to the Hampton Inn for a lovely 8:30-1145 AM sleep.  By the way Hampton Inn in Madison Heights, MI – can’t get a much better deal for $50/night.  Close to several restaurants, a movie theater and free Belgian waffles each morning.

I spent each late morning in Detroit at the movies, where matinees where $4.75 a piece – which is like crack to me (with Manhattan movies at their much more expensive prices being cocaine).  I went to see It’s Complicated and Youth In Revolt, the latter of which was apparently a private showing for just me – this is the sort of VIP treatment you get when you are a feature act at a Detroit comedy club I guess.

The shows were the best though.  Out of five shows I had 4.99 good ones.  The only blemish being the very last show, which featured two hecklers – one blond skank in front, whose boyfriend had neither the authority, nor the balls to tell her to shut up, and some frat dude in the back who made a gay joke, which I likened to something you would hear a high school JV football player say.  The crowd backed me against both.

And just so you know that math of a glorious feature act:

  • pay – $300
  • Hotel – $200
  • transportation – $200 (including taxis – plane would have made this $400)
  • assorted necessary food items (approx $150)

So as you can see my comedy career is in need of a Black Friday.  It should be noted that the reason for this was to be seen for headlining in 2011.  In that case your room is paid for, you get transportation to and from airport/train station/greyhound prison and you are more likely to sell merchandise as the top dog.  Not to mention a higher pay from the club.  So I hoped to make up the difference by selling my CDs, but then the Earthquake hit in Haiti and I decided the least I could do was give the money I make off of CDs to the Red Cross.

And thanks to the generosity of the people of Detroit, a city that is not exactly on easy street itself, I sold all my CDs before the last show of the week (previous high as a feature had been 15 in 6 shows, this time I sold 20 in 4 shows).  Probably half of those were because they wanted my CD and half were being charitable.  Either way I hope they enjoy them and am very thankful for their help.

The ride home on Greyhound (Detroit-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Philadelphia-NYC) was interesting for several reasons:

  • It was 17 hours and 20 minutes on Greyhound buses.  And I was sitting next to a crazy woman for half of it.
  • Seriously 1030 am departure, 4 am arrival.  Really gross.
  • Greyhound Stations have somehow managed to be near absolutely nothing edible in every city besides New York.  In Cleveland and Pittsburgh, not exactly tiny villages, the only eating options within sight were vending machines and snack bars that specialized in stale food and sold items like cereal, but not milk.  My Dad, a conspiracy theorist bordering on Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory, thinks that the aviation industry has enough power to make bus and train travel inconvenient to encourage air travel.  Given my experiences with Amtrak and Greyhound it seems quite plausible.
  • Greyhound Stations are how Cormac McCarthy should have envisioned a post apocalyptic future.  They are near nothing of significance, the most recent music playing was Hootie and The Blowfish, indicating that the blast occurred sometime in 1995 and the roving group of creatures known as Greyhound travellers have the diversity and desperation of people you’d expect to have survived an apocalyptic event – Asians and Mexicans who have come from afar, black people, white people, and one giant mix of them who shall lead them.
  • Arriving at Port Authority at 4 am on Sunday I was so delirious that I could have almost been convinced to become a runaway teenage prostitute.  I can only imagine the actual runaways that arrive at Port Authority on these buses.

Unfortunately, the trip ended on a sad note.  When I turned on my phone late into the trip I had a message from my brother that my Uncle Henri had died in Haiti, as a result of the Earthquake.  Right now my Aunt Denise and My Uncle Maurice are safe.  My Aunt Adeline is still unaccounted for.

A few days ago we received word that Uncle Maurice, who is in his early 90s – my Dad’s oldest brother had been in his house when it collapsed.  Uncle Maurice is a relatively feeble man, obvious given his age, but we had not received word whether Uncle Henri, my Dad’s younger brother and closest in age of all his syblings was in the house as well.  As it turns out Uncle Maurice survived the Earthquake, but Uncle Henri did not.  A picture was taken of him to confirm this before he was brought to a “morgue,” which may or may not amount to a mass grave.  We don’t actually know.

My Dad is rather stoic when it comes to death, but there is no doubt that this has been tough for him, both in personal loss and in seeing his native country basically blown up by a natural disaster.  My Uncle Henri and Aunt Adeline were/are my Godparents and were by far the most frequent visitors to my house form my Dad’s side of the family.  When they were children my father shared a bed with Uncle Henri, and if this did not speak to their closeness enough, my older brother is named Henri.

From my perspective my Uncle Henri was also the “coolest” of my Haitian relatives.  It seems that the younger my Haitian relatives got the easier they were/are to relate to.  For example my late Uncle Jean had the countenance of a dictator with an unpleasant thought.  This may have been just reserved for me because he had been the tallest member of the family at 6’4″ before I arrived.  Further down the line was my father who had a sense of humor, but one that seemed to stop at Red Skelton and The Smothers Brothers.  Then my Uncle Henri, the youngest of the Cauvin men of my father’s generation was the one who would come over and talk NBA hoops and was definitely the easiest laugh.  My family’s loss is just one of thousands of sad stories, and at 76 my Uncle Henri certainly was not someone “taken too soon,” at least statistically.  However, it is tragic nonetheless.

My brother is going to Haiti with my cousin Gregory today.  They will try to persuade/assist my surviving relatives to go to the U.S. and hopefully find my other Aunt.  Good luck and safety to both of them.



Detroit & Haiti

With the Detroit Auto Show in town I did not want to give the impression of being a corporate fat cat comedian, so I took Amtrak to Detroit, which only costs $78.  The catch is that it takes a 14 hour train ride (looping around New York State instead of a direct line – who knew going through Rochester and Buffalo was the fastest way to Ohio and Michigan?) to Toldeo, Ohio and then a one hour Amtrak bus (yes, Amtrak has buses) to Detroit.

For those of you who have never taken the train outside of the popular Northeast Corridor (Boston-DC), it is a real treat.  It is basically people too obese to travel by plane comfortably, people afraid of being near TSA agents and 6’7″ comics attempting to be frugal.  The winner from my trip yesterday-today (3:45 pm-730 am in total) was a woman proudly sporting an Ohio State t-shirt who must have threatened to beat her daughter at least a dozen times.  My favorite threat was after leaving the snack car, she said, word for word,  “Now eat your snack or I will beat you.”  Now I am all for the occasional beating of a kid as discipline, but this woman was threatening so much, without delivering that I almost yelled, “just fu-king hit her already!”  Of course I had some sad thoughts about this girl if her Mom really does just beat her up in private all the time.  But then I thought, assuming her father is not in the picture, she will probably make some young man and/or fraternity and/or strip club clientel happy one day.  It’s all connected in the great circle of life.

After getting a quality 45 minutes of sleep around 3 AM I was woken up by horrific snoring from behind me.  With most of the train car sleeping I considered using one of those cheap Amtrak pillows to smother the person to death, but I opted against it.

When I finally arrived in Detroit I had to take a cab from the hotel.  The cab driver had on what appeared to be a relatively mainstream urban station (black people) and they were talking about whether the earthquake in Haiti was a sign that the End of Days was here (presumably they did not realize that the terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger film was released 10 years ago).  If that was not enough for me to question the radio’s mainstream status, the female deejay was listing numerous natural disasters, including “tusanamis” – rhymes with two sodomies (I believe she meant tsunamis, but she should have axed her producers during a commercial break if she was unsure of the pronunciation).  Of course my thoughts immediately went to, “So this ignorant bit*h gets a radio show and I am off to a Hampton Inn to inevitably lose money on another comedy gig?”

It should be noted that my return trip to NYC is a 17 hour Greyhound bus ride.  I am currently getting CDC guidelines for what inoculations I need before taking that trip.

Of course my travel discomfort is but a mild diversion from the the horror occuring in Haiti.  Right now, my father has not been able to get word yet on family members, including my Aunt and Uncle, but hopefully things turn out for the best.  My Dad who is usually rather detached and uncomfortable with death seemed shaken (at least for him) because it looks as if his homeland has been destroyed – he is from Port-Au-Prince.  It feels like a big waste of strength and time to be in Detroit writing a blog, rather than doing something concrete to help (given my size and name I could be of use in Haiti).  So, in addition to texting some donations I will give all the money I make from CD/DVD sales this weekend at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle to the Red Cross for Haitian disaster relief (which to my family, before the Earthquake, hd meant me getting money from my Mom to subsidize a failing comedy career).  I brought 20 CDs/DVDs which I will sell for $10 each(iTunes/on-line sales for the rest of the month will be donated as well).  Now you are probably thinking, “J-L, what good will $10 do for the relief effort in Haiti?”  Well, hopefully every bit helps.

I am getting paid $300 for the gigs and my hotel and transportation for the trip equals $328 so the CDs were going to be where I made my food money/profit (mostly food money – I eat a lot).  So if you are in Detroit or know someone who is,encourage them to come to the show or to buy a CD – I will count ALL money towards on-line purchases/iTunes returns for the rest of the month to my Red Cross donation).  Or if you want to get something for your donation you can buy my CDs, even if you are not in Detroit.  And if you hate me or my comedy, but still want to help, just donate.