Random thoughts from a random mind…

Posts tagged “Inspiration

Customer Service: Not Lost, Just Harder to Find

In an age of “I need it now,” customer service has taken a back seat to mediocrity.  People have learned to no longer expect “good” customer service, but to rather settle for customer service that is better than “bad.”  How many times to you choose a restaurant or business based on its great customer service? More than likely, it’s not very often.  But on the flipside, how many times to you choose where NOT to go based on how bad the service is? I’m not going to go into a huge lecture on how we’ve lost our sense of what great customer service really is, that is for Seth Godin to do – and he’s really good at it.  What I am going to do though, is fill you in on a place that knows what it means to stand out as a company with good, nay AMAZING customer service.

I understand that not many of you out there may be runners, but we all need shoes.  And more often than not, running shoes are what people end up getting because of their comfort.  Many of us, me included, are bargain shoppers and stray away from the stand-alone stores for fear they will have jacked up the prices.  There is a place that I’ve been shopping for the past couple years for things for my wife.  Luke’s Locker in Colleyville is where I do my shopping for Megan when she is in need of some new running gear.  As I said, I have been shopping here for the past couple years, and the salespeople are great and very knowledgeable about running and gear, for they all run, themselves.  Their prices are right in line with anyplace else you’d find similar gear, even the chain stores, so I was more than happy to shop here without worrying about paying too much.  Now, I didn’t have a bad perception of this store at all, but I never realized how GREAT this place really was until I shopped there for myself.

I found myself in need of a new pair of “tennis shoes.”  If any of you know me, and as I have already mentioned above, I am a very frugal shopper.  Hell, I seriously can’t remember the last time I paid full price for a pair of shoes, let alone any clothing.  But as many of you can attest to, the older we get, the more important a really good pair of shoes is, so I made my way to Luke’s Locker.  I knew that they would actually tell me what kind of shoe my feet really needed, and not just put me in the next best thing. I went into the store one day after work, and Ed was my salesman.  This man was so very helpful.  He knew exactly what to look for in what my feet needed.  He made me walk a line so he could actually see how my feet moved and reacted with each step.  He then came out with 3 different pairs of shoes for me to try.  The thing is, he knew which shoe I was going to leave with, but he wanted to give me options.  This man took the time to learn about me and what my intentions were with the product, so that he would be able to provide me with the best solution.  Seems so “Business 101,” but when was the last time someone gave you this kind of service when you shopped? I was truly happy with the service that I received from Ed and everyone else at Luke’s Locker.  I wouldn’t be taking the time to share this blog post if I wasn’t.

My point is that we shouldn’t get as excited as I was about a good experience.  We should expect it.  We have been so desensitized to mediocrity that we don’t care about what good service should be.  Yes, this was a great experience, and yes, they have earned my loyalty as a customer – but it’s a shame that other businesses can’t do the simple task of listening and truly observing their customers like the staff at Luke’s Locker.

 


Properly Aged Cheese

Various CheesesResources say that it can take a few days to several years for cheese to ripen, but how long does it take for “good” cheese?  I guess it would depend on the cheese that you enjoy.  Cheese has been a product of the Brooks family for as long as I can remember.  My dad started in the business long before I could ever talk, but the art of attempting to create “good” cheese is engrained deep within me to the core.

Cheese can be a very acquired taste amongst individuals.  Most people don’t mind mild cheddar, but sharp cheddar is another story.  And then of course there is the stench of a good limburger cheese.  The various types of cheeses around the world are of no comparison to that of which has been cultured and ripened within my family.

This post is just another proof that cheese is not just created in my family, but is running rapid through my veins without any cure.  If you haven’t already figured it out, my family has never actually made cheese.  Well maybe someone attempted to make some mozzarella along the way, and I know I’ve done a few experiments growing mold on cheese as a kid, but no one has truly made cheese as you know it.  The cheese I’m referring to is similar in terms of the acquired taste and whether or not it is “good,” but you may not want to eat it.  I’m referring the cheese of jokes that cheesy dads set forth all across this world of ours; the stupid puns that shoot out at a moment’s notice to the reaction of rolling eyes and the occasional success of a good laugh.

My father is the master or jester of the cheesy joke, and from what my family tells me, I’m not far behind him.  This is where my theory of “properly aged cheese” comes to fruition.  You see, a good cheesy joke is very hard to come by.  Most of the time, people will just ignore you, roll their eyes, or laugh “with” you.  The art of the cheesy joke comes with age.  You learn how others will react, you better your timing, and you better your understanding of the English language to “help” not make a fool of yourself (this result is and never will be guaranteed).

To me, this is something that truly comes with age.  As we grow older and wiser, we learn more and more how to deal with what life throws at you.  I am one of those who believe that one of the reasons we are here is to touch other lives; to make other people’s lives a little brighter and put an extra smile on their faces.  Whether that be at our own expense in a horrible cheesy joke, or the success of a great one that will come up in future conversations.  When someone needs a little pick-me-up, there’s nothing better (or worse) than a “good” cheesy joke.  Either way, they will smile and laugh.

As I just celebrated my 35th birthday a few weeks ago, I wanted to write a blog that talked about growing older and lessons learned in life.  This is what I came up with (pretty sad, huh?).  The world is full of those trying to perfect the art of the cheesy joke, and I am still far from ripening that good cheese, but will continue to do my part in helping others.  As for the family business, I have a feeling it will continue to grow as my son takes a shine to the cheesy side of life, working on the perfection of the craft.


Origins of a DJ – Part 4

I’m Really Doing It!!!

So here it goes; DJ Buck-5 has begun his journey into the life of a DJ…Well, more like a DJ in training still, but I’m really doing it!

My first official gig went really well at the Mill Avenue Sports Club.  In fact, they offered me a regular spot: Wed and Sat nights.  It was pretty funny, Wednesday nights were South Park night! I would DJ for a little while, and then we’d stop to watch the new episode of South Park – Keep in mind, this was back in ’97 when the series first started, so there was a market for a night dedicated to the show.  Once the show was over, I would spin the rest of the night.  Then came Saturday nights.  This was fun.  Usually there was a band scheduled or two, or three, and then me.  This was something that I got very used to in my “career.”  The places I would spin would usually also be a venue for local or touring bands that would play, then I would wrap up the party into the wee-hours of the morning.  I digress, Saturday’s at Mill Avenue Sports Club became very interesting.  Tempe was, like any other college town, a thriving base for upcoming musicians – you may have heard of  some of them: Satellite (Stephen Ashbrook), Dead Hot Workshop, The Gin Blossoms (Robin Wilson), and The Refreshments (Roger Clyne – one of my favorites of all time).  Maybe you have heard of all of them, or at least one or two.  I know you’ve heard of the Gin Blossoms, and can guarantee you’d know a Refreshments song if you heard it.  Anyway, These were only a few of the many bands that have come out of Tempe.  These are ones that have at least made a name for themselves…not that others haven’t, but they are partial to me.  These are bands that we used to go and see on a pretty regular basis while going to ASU.  We used to go and see Satellite every Thursday night at Long Wong’s in Tempe on Mill Avenue, and as for Robin Wilson, lead man for the Gin Blossoms, and Dead Hot Workshop, well…I got to work with them quite a bit.  I’m sure by now, none of them would know me, but I used to do shows with Dead Hot on a pretty regular basis.  And then Robin and his then band, Pharaohs 2000 began playing there on a regular basis as well, with me rounding out the night.  I got to do some Hip-Hop nights, some pretty big weekend parties, all sorts of cool things.  I was getting very good with the beat mixing too.  I would even invite my mentor Marcus along for help with some of the events if he was available.  I felt like this truly was my first step to making something of this DJ’ing thing….and then we moved.

You see, my ex-wife was pregnant with my son, Brendan, and she wanted to be closer to her family as the baby was coming.  So we picked up and moved to Western Michigan, a home-coming of sorts, but I never really wanted to go back.  I mean, I’m one of those, “everything happens for a reason” kind of people, so without this move, I wouldn’t have done all the things I have….but I really didn’t want to move back to Michigan.

As for DJ’ing, this meant I would be hanging it up, at least for now.  I had eventually set up my tables in our apartment, but I had no crowds to play for.  I did do a few small things for friends here and there, but it wasn’t the same (no offense).  I felt lost at times.  My release had been released.

Eventually, we found ourselves moving to Detroit (well, north of Detroit), but I saw this as my chance, my opportunity to once again get my wheels turning – pun intended.


Soccer at 35 (well, 34, but close enough)

First of all, pardon me as I take a slight “random” break from my DJ progression, and give you a little insight to my most recent brush with insanity.

My son has been playing soccer for the past two years.  I have really enjoyed watching him play, and helping him with some techniques (not that I really have any, but he thinks I do).  It is quite fun, and I even would help coach the team every once in a while.  This past season, they played on an indoor league at Stampede Sports in Southlake, TX.  This just made my inner kid want to join in even more.  I had already been trying to subdue this playful energy since watching him play, but the indoor thing started to make me really curious if you will.  It is such a faster version of the game, being able to kick off the walls, as if making a bank shot in pool.  So, yes, I just did the unthinkable last week…I signed up for a men’s league.  I didn’t go too crazy, the league I signed up for was a men’s “take it easy” league.  Well, I didn’t think I was going too crazy anyway.

I got myself signed up last week, and was told my first game would be Monday, June 7th.  I had very little time to get ready, but I wanted to do this.  I went out and got all my equipment: shoes, shin guards (which are way cooler than when I was a kid), soccer shorts, socks, and a new ball (well, I “needed” this, because my son’s ball is a size 4 and I “need” a size 5).  Everything was in place.  I even started doing some “sprints” on the treadmill.  For those that don’t already know, I’m not a fan of running.  I give my wife so much credit for the long distances she endures.  I can’t go more than 5 minutes without wondering “are we there yet?”  I was ready, excited, and yes, definitely nervous.

The day came, and I got really nervous.  I hadn’t played an organized game of soccer since the 4th grade!!! I remember thinking to myself that some of the kids on my son’s soccer team would ask if I play soccer because of some of the “moves” I had, and that my thinking I could really play truly was  just an insane thought (remember, they are all 10 and 11).  As the day went on, my nerves began to dwell upon the unknown: will I be out of shape? (yep), will I pass out? (almost), will I get killed?! (no, but felt like it once, and got pushed around a lot).  My family wanted to come to watch me play, which I was truly happy for, but it just made my anxiety rise even more (I can’t let my son see his dad get carted off on a stretcher because he passed out!).  As we drove to the arena, I was really starting to freak out.

I got all my gear on.  Even began to question my overly cautious and protective nature in whether I needed a cup or not (YES, definitely glad I went with that decision!).  As we walked in, I saw the game before us (same league), and a sense of relief fell over me.  These guys, well most of them, were older than me, and doing well.  Most were pretty big guys, and I don’t mean football player big, I mean couch potato big – but they could move!  I was finally starting to calm.  That was until the air would no longer go into my lungs through my mouth during the game!

Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I was definitely OUT-OF-SHAPE! The team we played had like 5 subs, and our team only had, NONE!  We held up pretty well for the first 5 minutes or so, but were sunk after that.  It’s pretty sad when we were swapping to goalie for a break (I didn’t take on this responsibility – call it cowardice or just the fact that I’m too small to black such a big gap in the wall).

The other team were some pretty big guys.  Yes, similar to the team I saw when I entered, but some were actually football player size.  They pushed a lot, but I held my own as well as my small stature could – which I feel was pretty well since I didn’t hit the turf once!  They were a good group of guys though, no one wanted anyone to get hurt.

When all was said and done, we did ok.  We did lose, 7-1, but none of us died.  A few bumps and bruises, and I’m sure I won’t be able to walk all that well tomorrow, but all in all, we survived to play another game.

I felt great after…yes, I was sore, but it was the best exercise I’ve had in a VERY long time.  I am truly glad I joined the league, and would like to continue this – at least for now.

I really feel the need to thank my wife and my son for their inspiration in doing this.  Yes, it’s still somewhat ludicrous, but sometimes we need that in our lives.  We are only mandated to grow old, not up.


Origins of a DJ – Part 2

DJ Cheesy Dad

ADD MUSIC AND MIX

My love of music grew more and more as I was introduced to more genres.  In fact, even today, it still grows.  My appreciation of truly talented artists is really what I base my “favorites” on (more on this varied list later).  I knew long ago that I wanted to do something with music.  In high school, I began my trials of making mixes (in a very elementary sense) of music for parties.  I would be the one going from CD to CD, playing various songs to make the people enjoy their evening.  I wasn’t ever one for drinking or really partying.  Music was my drug, it was what made me happy (or at least one of the things).  Dancing also became one of my favorite past-times.  I found myself very good at being able to follow a beat.  My friends and I would go “clubbing” every weekend all through high school.  Our main hang was a teen dance club in Big Rapids known as Gatorz.  Prior to Gatorz was the Skate Estate lol…oh the memories.  Gatorz eventually was closed due to “racial tension” – can’t we all just get along?  Gatorz was my first real interaction with a club DJ.  Occasionally I found myself hanging out in the booth in awe of the equipment and the crazy things you could do with music and similar beats.  My friends and I would constantly joke about buying a club one day where I would get to be the DJ.  One day…part of that dream did come true, and it lasted over a decade.

While in college at Arizona State, I was working for FDS (Federated Department Stores – Macy’s, Bloomingdales, etc.) in their call center. During my time there, I met my mentor, Marcus McBride aka DJ Metro (well, back in the day…now he’s known as DJ Marcus McBride, and has his own remix company, Full Tilt Remix – So jealous!).  Marcus shared my enthusiasm, no, hunger for music.  We would have many conversations about music styles and artists, both current and past.  He enlightened me on the magic of techno and electronica music.  This was a genre that I hadn’t had much exposure to as of yet.  I explained earlier that my mother showed me many types of music, but my old stand-by was hip-hop/rap, more specifically – old school hip-hop (nothing like “diggin’ in the crates”).  I don’t really know what it was, but I was always (then and now) drawn to it.  Marcus and I would go on and on during our shifts at work about these topics of musical creativity.  At this time, Marcus had already been a DJ for a few years while living in Cincinnati.  He was beginning to toy with the idea of getting back into the game now in Phoenix.  I was so intrigued by this.  This was something I had always dreamed of.  We got to a point to where he was willing to help teach me the art of mixing.

The first lesson was more on BPM’s (Beats Per Minute).  I already knew the concept, but I needed to learn more.  BPM’s are very crucial when DJ’ing.  You truly need to understand and begin to simply hear the BPM’s of a song, and how it will connect with the BPM’s of the next song.  Just as a marker, most rap songs are 80-90 BPM’s, hip-hop 90-100, Techno 120-140.  Now, that isn’t always the case of course, but that is a pretty close summation of where your songs will lie.  Understand this is the first step to learning how songs can be mixed together.  You wouldn’t (although you can in some circumstances) mix a 92 BPM song with a 123 BPM song.  Back then, a good rule of thumb was to stay within 5 BPM’s of each other; using that rule to build up or down to your next set.  We were just working with turntables and a CD deck that didn’t have the bells and whistles of those out today; we didn’t even have any type of beat counter!  Therefore, we had to stick to this rule pretty closely.  Now, keep in mind that this was back in the mid-90’s, so no Serato or MP3 mixing programs yet (which in my personal opinion are so not the real form of mixing – the MP3 programs that is…Serato at least still uses tables).  The tools Marcus had to begin my journey were a pair of Technics SL-BD2200 belt-drive tables (1200’s were on order) and a GLI DC-5000 dual-CD deck.

I got the concept of BPM’s down pretty well, because if you understand music and can count, you can get this part quickly.  Although, you do need to keep learning BPM’s of all your songs…that takes time.  Next came learning how to manipulate a song to match the one that is playing.  Oh, this is the fun part! This is when you get to use your fingers to speed up, slow down, or bend the songs.  This is the true art…to me anyway.  Well this and being good at song selection, but this was something I always had a knack for.

For the most part, we stuck with getting me started by mixing on the tables.  The GLI CD deck was very touchy, and we wanted to get that soft touch needed for vinyl.  In my opinion, I think I picked it up pretty fast.  I do believe I even heard Marcus say that I was a “natural” at some point.  After only a few sessions, I was mixing…matching beats…it was heaven.  I truly can’t explain what this does for me, but it truly makes me feel good.  If you’ve ever seen me DJ, you would understand.  Don’t bother talking to me, I’m truly in a zone when I mix.  I was by no means good yet, but the concept was absorbed.  Now on to the first gig!

Marcus and I went around Tempe, selling our talents….well his, I was just his roadie for the most part.  One of the places we went to was Bash on Ash.  It was a newer club on the backside of the infamous sports bar, McDuffy’s (Which I’ve heard is no longer in Tempe? – very sad).  We (Marcus) got the gig.  It was a pretty sweet place, just not too many people knew about it yet.  If you’re in the business, you know and understand how hard it can be to get a new club going.  I got to mix a bit here and there, when Marcus would go off for a drink or what not.  It’s way different mixing in front of people instead of in your own apartment.  I very quickly learned I still had a lot of work to go, but I would NOT give up…Hell, I couldn’t give up – I was on the verge of getting MY first gig!

Practice, I would, every night.  I quickly went to Guitar Center to get my own set-up:  a pair of Numark TT-1700’s and a Numark CDN-24 (hey, they weren’t anything fancy, but they got the job done).  As I saw it, if I could learn on these “no frills” instruments, I could use anything.  I’m not sure how long we had been working at Bash, but it wasn’t very long.  I had just recently pledged with AKPsi at ASU.  Word got out that I was a DJ, so…I was recruited for an upcoming social event as the DJ.  OMG, I was a DJ!  Here it was, my opportunity to really do this.  Working with Marcus at Bash was real, but this was going to be a huge party at a small venue, and it was going to be just me….Tell you the truth, I was scared out of my mind!