Sunday, June 25, 2006

Barks and bites from the weekend...

"Well hello out there in TV land..."

Ed Norton made those words famous in the Honeymooners episode where Ralph and Ed sell the Handy Dandy kitchen utensil on television. If there was ever a day where y'all (Southern term of endearment I still don't get) should have seen our day in the Barkan Household, it was Sunday.

Had the kids birthday party at the house. We invited a bunch of people over to swim, play in the backyard and jump on a Dora the Explorer moonwalk. Everything was set except one minor detail: weather.

It hadn't rained down here in about 45 days. We are in a drought situation, again, as it seems we are every summer. So, Elizabeth and I go out for dinner with friends last night and as we are about to get to the car, the skies opened up. It was just a torrential downpour.

So, I am thinking, no issues. Rains now, it'll pass by and that's it.

Well, I was way off on this one. People started coming over at 11 a.m. - weather was cloudy, but hot. Got about 30 minutes into the pool when we heard thunder ... so out of the pool and into the basement we go. After about 20 minutes, cleared up and everyone back in the pool. Cool - we've dodged the bullet again. Nope.

About 20 minutes later the skies opened up and it pretty much rained cats and dogs from noon until about 6 p.m. It was the kind of rain where if Noah pulled up in the Ark, I wouldn't have been shocked.

All things being equal we had a great time. Abbie is only worried that next year, it will rain on her party day and that she won't be able to swim or jump. It's only 355 days until her next birthday, I am sure she will talk about it every day until then.

Some observations from around the world over the weekend:

It seems like a lifetime ago when the National Team Development Program was started by USA Hockey in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Many people scoffed and many people tried to tear the program apart. Thanks to the work of men like Jeff Jackson, Bob Mancini, Scott Monaghan, and Ron Rolston it lives and breaths today as one of the most successful programs in the world. 10 Americans were selected in the first round of the NHL Draft. Erik Johnson became the fifth American player to ever go first in the draft. Keep up the good work in Ann Arbor boys, after this past Olympic showing we need some new blood.

Speaking of hockey, the last original Atlanta Thrasher was traded to the Dallas Stars, Patrik Stefan. He was the first player ever taken in the entry draft by the Thrashers and he never lived up the hype/responsibility of being that first player ever taken label. Looking back on that draft, it's easy to say the Thrashers should have traded the pick to add more pieces. Problem was, not many pieces were available and not many players from that first round have turned into the players they were projected to be. I hope he can go to Dallas and be successful, but I am not willing to bet on it.

No matter what sport you may like, there's no more horribly officiated games that the World Cup soccer matches. Sunday's match between Portugal and the Netherlands was one of the worst officiated events of all-time. The Russian official handed out 16 cards (13 yellow, 3 red). For those who don't follow the sport, that's a TON of cards for a match that was between two very good teams if the official would let them play. You know how bad it is when I think Mick McGeough should be doing these matches.

And by the way, if you haven't watched the World Cup yet, watch the quarterfinals. These are the best of the best and if you ever wanted to learn the game, these are the games to watch. It's like poetry in motion to watch the Brazilians, Italians and Argentinean play.

Maybe Bruce Arena should watch as well, he may learn a little about the sport.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Three firings, two mistakes and good advice gone awry

In life, there are many lessons to be learned every day. Those lessons start at a young age with sage advice from your family. One of the pieces of advice that I still carry with me is to never forget where you came from.

You think Larry Brown wished he hadn't remembered he was from New York today? It's where he was born and bred. The New York Knicks were his "dream job." Mind you, when speaking of Brown, I use "dream job" loosely because he has had many of those in the past and still kept on moving on.

He burnt the bridge in Detroit in order to return home, so I don't feel for the man. He had coached in two straight NBA finals and had a chance for more, but he wasn't happy. The situation wasn't good enough. He wanted more.

He was paid 10 million or so for the one year and will have to fight to get the other 40 million he is owed, because the Knicks are refusing to pay him. He never should have left Detroit.

That being said, let's get to the root of the problem, the Knicks general manager and new head coach Isiah Thomas must have some kind of pictures or something on the owner of the Knicks James Dolan. If you want to fire them both - you sure as heck would have had no argument from anyone. However, if you are going to fire one person, Dolan chose poorly.

Who built this 125 million dollar mess? Isiah.

Who hired Larry Brown? Isiah.

Who has never won a title in a management/coaching position? Isiah.

In Brown's two previous worst seasons, his next year he took his team to the playoffs. Have you done that once Isiah, nevermind twice?

In the movie Forget Paris, Billy Crystal's father-in-law is visiting him and is repeating all the billboards he sees as they drive. The line all of us should share this year with Dolan and Isiah is from there, "You asked for it, you got it ... "

A long time ago, when the New York Football Giants were horrendous in the 70s there was a Monday night game at the Meadowlands. I forget who they were playing, but they were getting killed at the half. All of a sudden, a banner drops from the upper deck. It said (former owner Wellington) Mara, (former GM George) Young, (former coach Ray) Perkins - How do you sleep at night? Mr. Dolan, we can ask you the exact same question. But I guarantee you, Larry Brown will sleep well at night for a little bit, until he takes another job.

Another piece of advice I remember was no matter how well you do, be good to the people on the way up, because you will see them again on the way down.

Got a call from a friend today to let me know that two other friends of mine who worked with the University of Wisconsin hockey team were "reassigned" within the University.

The two of them have spent over 20 years each involved with the team and they had just come off winning their first National Championship since 1989-90. So things should be peachy, right?

A former Badger player, Mike Eaves, took over the job from Jeff Sauer in 2002-03. In short order, he has turned the program back around and is king of the world in Madison. He has worked very hard to distance himself from the Sauer Era.

There are many in the Badger family who are upset with him for that as well as the fact that there are many who think Mark Johnson should have been the head coach instead of him.

Love him or hate him - the man can recruit and coach. Period.

The problem is that these people posed no threat to you, Mike. They were hired by someone else, but stayed loyal to you throughout all of their time there. They LOVE Wisconsin hockey and the University and this was just downright disgusting. It was tasteless and classless and they deserved a lot better from someone who knows what it's like to bleed Wisconsin red.

Odds are Eaves will win another National title soon enough and pick up and take his ego and game to the pro level. Odds are he will probably do well there. The difference is that everyone in the NHL knows that they are hired to be fired.

I know that's a long way away for you to think, Mike. But be careful of the bridges you burn now ... before there are no bridges left for you to get across.

Just another lesson I learned a long, long time ago.... (or was it, what comes around, goes around....)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The times they are a changin'

There's a great clip from the great Vince Lombardi watching his team do something just god awful. The clip doesn't show the play, it shows Lombardi angry as heck screaming, "what the heck is going on out there?!"

Right now, I honestly think the Atlanta Braves fans (the ones that haven't jumped off the bandwagon) are thinking those exact words when watching their beloved baseball team.

If you haven't looked at the standings, the NL East looks reversed. The Braves are dead last in the division and have lost eight in a row and nine of 10. It may only be June to many of the faithful, but the fact remains that the team that has won 14 straight division titles is 14 1/2 games back of the New York Mets.

It's just not the same chemistry on this Braves team as in the past. It started when Leo Mazzone left. He's just a pitching coach. Then again, right now, looks like they could use him as much as they could use a bunch of guys out of the bullpen. But for years he would take chicken s*&t and make chicken salad. He is, was and always will be more than just a pitching coach.

The move that signified that the era was over to me was when Dayton Moore, John Schuerholz's right-hand man in the scouting department left to take over as the General Manager of the Kansas City Royals. No, I am not kidding, I typed it right the first time - Kansas City Royals. Been a while since they have been part of the living, breathing competition of the American League. They also are a small market ballclub that isn't going to spend nearly the coin that the Braves did.

Schuerholz and Bobby Cox have given the fans of Atlanta more than they deserve to be quite frank. This is a front-running sports town in every way other than in college athletics. The Braves were playing to a dinner-theatre type of crowd before 1991 (where were you when Sid slid in 1992? I was in the Lansing State Journal newsroom working on a headline for that game). The Atlanta Hawks play to less than dinner-theatre crowds unless Shaq, Kobe, LeBron or some other "one-namer" comes to town. The Falcons were playing to a lot of seats dressed-up as fans before the Michael Vick-Arthur Blank era. And now my beloved Atlanta Thrashers are the "hot ticket" for a lot of folks as they jump on the bandwagon before next year's playoff run towards Lord Stanley's Cup (ESPN's John Buccigross picked them to win in 2008!).

But before we put the Braves to bed - let's ponder what they have accomplished - 14 straight division titles. Now, I will always be the first one to say that it's all well and good, but they only won one World Series. Maybe that's a bit harsh, but look at it this way, the lovable loser Red Sox and White Sox have won that many titles in the same time period.

Compare it to what I call the greatest sports dynasty's of the Boston Celtics of the 50s and 60s. They won 11 NBA Championships in 13 years. Now mind you, it was a different league, not as many teams and no free agency. Still 11 titles in 13 years - WOW.

What about the NHL's Montreal Canadiens teams of the 50s through 70s? They won 16 Stanley Cups in 26 years. In 1976-77, arguably the greatest team ever in the NHL, went 60-8-12 during the regular season and then swept two of the three playoff series to win the Cup.

Both great accomplishments by two historic franchises, but because of free-agency and the crazy world of sports, the Braves are the "Last of the Mohicans."

What has always really bothered me about the 14 straight titles in my nine years here is that you could go to the first round of the playoffs and buy a face value ticket at the ticket window the day of the playoff game. Having spent time in New York, Chicago and Boston can you imagine that? It could never happen - EVER. Those are cities where you struggle to get regular season tickets, nevermind playoff seats no matter the record of the team.

I made a bet with a few friends down here for dinner at the Palm if the Braves finish below second place - so far, medium well looks good - maybe a little surf and turf. As much as I will enjoy dinner, it will be a sad day to see a streak this incredible come to an end. How often do we get to see history and know during that time we saw something special.

It is very rare and very special. Now pass the A-1.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bayh the way ... I love to talk politics.

OK - simmer down. I know many of you are into politics and if you aren't, what the hell is wrong with you??? It's better than any soap opera or reality TV show. You want a good Survivor?? Lock up some of these Senators for a while without air conditioning and food and a bill that needs to be dealt with. NOW that would be just awesome. Although, Hillary in a swimsuit isn't going to get good ratings.

So here's a quick take on 2008 from a Democratic side. Hillary has all the money and name recognition. They love her in Los Angeles and New York, but I doubt she could do more than that. She sure as heck is not going to get the South to rise again and vote for her. One poll already stated that 46% of the voting population would NEVER vote for her. With that in mind, she to me is going to be the power broker in the group. She is a very smart woman and I think she knows that she is a polarizing figure and a great choice for the Republicans to win no matter who they run. Therefore, she can threaten every four years to run, raise a ton of money and stay the most powerful woman in Washington D.C. as a Senator from N.Y.

BTW - I was at the last Democratic Convention in Boston and let me tell you, if Bill Clinton could run again, he'd win by a landslide. Could you imagine him as the First Husband?? God help us all.

That to me leaves five people in the race. One is the former, or should have been former President Al Gore. Can't see him running after doing so well in the movie business and on the lecture circuit. Seems like he can get a lot more done out of office than in office. I mean c'mon... the guy did invent the internet, just ask him. More on why he can't win below...

The next two were losers from the last election: John Kerry and John Edwards. The best thing to come from these two was the JibJab stuff. Kerry is, was and is always going to be to stiff and too upper class for the people of this country to put him in the Big Seat. As Michael Douglas said in the American President about Bob Rumson in his great rant with the press at the end of the movie, "I always operated under the assumption that Bob Rumson didn't get. Well, I was wrong ... it's not that Bob Rumson didn't get it ... it's that Bob Rumson CAN'T SELL IT!" Kerry is Bob Rumson - he just can't sell it to the majority of voters.

As far as Edwards goes (and this goes for Gore as well), he should be disqualified from running. Why, may you ask, do I say that? Very simple. I'd like to pass a constitutional amendment banning all people on the top two slots of a ticket from running EVER again IF their home states don't vote for them. If your home state, who sent you to DC to represent them in the first place, doesn't go for you, why the hell should I??? They know you better than anyone else. I know people start with the garbage that Al Gore was really raised in DC not Tennessee because of his dad's job. That's all well and good - BUT they still had to vote for him to go to DC to represent them and they did. So they had to know something about the man and his opinions and choices.

That narrows it down to two people I have had the pleasure to meet and get to know: Senator Evan Bayh from Indiana and former Governor Mark Warner from Virginia.

Two younger men with great drive and vision. Both are great speakers and really come across as if they get it and give a darn.

Bayh, the son of former Senator from Indiana Birch Bayh, was the state's youngest Governor as well and knows what it takes to run a state. He spoke at AIPAC's policy conference this year and was just spectacular. He spoke for about 35 minutes and did it all from memory. Not one note was up there with him nor a teleprompter. What made the speech so memorable was that part of the lights in the room went out in the middle of his speech and he never faltered or stopped. Nevermind that his content was just great. If you get a chance to hear him speak, please go see him and tell him that I sent you, seriously. Look at his website - Evan Bayh.

Mark Warner is a self-made millionaire. He's the only man I know of that begs you to keep your cell phones on when he speaks. The reason? He helped start Nextel. He's a very sharp man and he knows what it takes to win. You really should read his bio. He's a man with a vision and what he can do is something I don't think many people can do in the Democratic party: be competitive in the South.

What's incredible about the two of them is that they are moderate Democrats that have been successful in Republican states. Look at the history of their states and neither is great with Democrats - but they did vote and support these two men and still do.

If there was ever a time for the Democrats to turn things around, the opportunity is going to hit them in the next two elections. If Howard Dean can stay out of harm's way and the party can unify behind a message. They cannot be against everything the Republicans stand for and not stand for something on their own. If they get a platform and the right ticket, they can take back the White House.

But there's a ton of time between now and 2008. And as we all know, Osama has to show up sometime. I still bet it will be about two weeks before one of the next two elections.

If you want to watch two races for 2006 that will tell you which way the world is turning. Watch the Pennsylvania Senate race between Republican incumbent Rick Santorum and Democrat Bob Casey. Casey is up as of now, but he had a big lead against Ed Rendell for the Governor's race a few years ago and lost that. It would be a big pickup for the Democrats. If we were in Vegas, I would bet on Santorum to hold his seat.

A race in the House to watch is a battle in John Nunnally's world of Ashville's 11th district. Republican Charlie Taylor has a tough battle to keep his seat against Democratic challenger Heath Shuler. That's right, it's not a typo or mistake, it's the same Heath Shuler (who is originally from the Ashville area) who played quarterback at Tennessee and the NFL.

I met with Heath when he came down to Atlanta and I asked him, "why after the way the folks in Washington treated you when you played there do you want to go back?" His response was priceless, "I just want to be able to go back and get things done right. Unlike the first time." I also asked if it was true Norv Turner would be his campaign manager and he chuckled heartily at that one.

Polls show that he has a lead at this point, but it's early in the game and anything can happen. If Shuler can pull out this race, it's also a good sign for the Democratic party.

For those on the other side of the aisle, well, you'll have to wait until next week for your answers and hopefuls.

And a child will lead you....

The people of Tobacco Road got to do something they rarely do. They celebrated a victory of one of their sports teams winning a title.

Usually, when you talk titles down in North Carolina, half the state is happy and half is mad as heck. Monday night the party in Raleigh looked like it would last a while as the fans didn't sit down from the opening puck drop until the Canes took the Stanley Cup into their locker room.

The only issue I have is that they still are and always will be the Hartford Whalers to me. In honor of that, I ask you all to take a moment and listen to the Brass Bonanza. The best team song in hockey by and far. An old friend of mine, Chuck Kaiton, who has done radio for the Canes for years, was on ESPN with his call of the empty netter. Good for him! He deserves it.

BTW - I might wear my old blue Eric Weinrich Whalers jersey to my daughters' birthday party this weekend. Be a tad hot, but I know I should put it on and do a nose dive into the pool to celebrate. Maybe the wife will let me play the Bonanza as we do the cake?? Doubt it but great thought.

If you ever question which trophy is the hardest to win in pro sports and which trophy is the most revered, you didn't watch the postgame awarding of the Cup.

Captain Rod Brind'Amour has played 17 years in the NHL. He had never raised the Cup before and if you saw him lift it, you could tell what it meant to him. He played college hockey at Michigan State University for one season, led his team to the Frozen Four and then signed on with the St. Louis Blues.

As the Canes skated the ice with the Cup, Rod handed it to Glen Wesley, who had played 18 years in the league with out winning it. His face and tears said it all as well. Wesley had had two chances to win the cup before with the Boston Bruins, only to have the Edmonton Oilers stop him twice.

Still don't believe how much that silver chalice means? There's Doug Weight who separated his shoulder in Game 5 and missed the last two games. He was in full uniform after the game on the ice, barely being able to lift the Cup above his head. But you knew after 15 years in the league he wouldn't miss this.

Meanwhile, none of them touch Lord Stanley's Cup if not for a 22-year-old named Cam Ward. A native of Sherwood Park, Alberta comes in after the Canes lose the first two games at home to Montreal and never looks back. In winning the Conn Smythe Trophy (MVP for you non-puckheads), he becomes the third youngest to ever do so. He is only behind Patrick Roy and Robert Gordon Orr. Not bad company.

Hats off to Edmonton - sneak in with the 8-seed in the West and take it down to the last few minutes of winning the cup. Great to see a Canadian team in the finals and even better to see the fans in Edmonton. As good a group of fans as I have ever seen.

Amazingly, two ex-Thrashers played major roles last night. Frantisek Kaberle scored the clinching goal on a power-play in the second period. Right off of Jason Smith's sweater and into the net. And of course, Steve Staois who made an incredible play at the end of the first to stop (supposedly) the puck from crossing the line and give Carolina a 2-0 lead in the first. Both played a lot of minutes and it was nice to see them both do well in their playoff runs. Just hope we can have one in Atlanta soon. By the way, the Southeast division has won the last two Stanley Cups - do I hear three??

Quick funny story from my past life on Canes GM Jim Rutherford. The night before the NHL Expansion Draft of 1999. The Thrashers braintrust is in Atlanta GM Don Waddell's suite going over who we are going to take from each team. As the staff is going through all the possibilities, Don is calling different GM's to talk about possible scenarios for who he will and will not take and will you give a pick if I don't take this guy or that guy. Wasn't very late, probably around 10 p.m. Don calls Jim Rutherford to talk about his team. Jim answers the phone and I remember Don with a funny look on his face. After about a minute, Don hangs up and walks back in the room and tells us that he had woken up Jim and that he pretty much told him to do whatever he wants he was going back to bed. Well, Jim wasn't sleeping when he picked Peter Laviolette to coach his team. Nor was he sleeping when he put this squad together. Congrats Jim - now get to Vancouver, the draft is Saturday!

Last note on the NHL season post lockout. Great game with the emphasis on playing and not trapping. Good job by the officials to enforce the same rules from beginning to end of the season. Let's hope they keep it up. And please - get off of OLN and get back on ESPN!

Sunday, June 18, 2006


OK, I was going to wait until Monday morning to post this ... but I couldn't sleep on this one.

Matter of fact, as one of the players in the movie Slapshot says as the Hanson brothers come on the ice for the first time, "I can't believe my freakin' eyes!"

How in the heck did Phil Mickelson lose the U.S. Open? Well, I have the answer. Mickelson may just well be one of the most arrogant golfers I have ever seen.

To start, he was lucky to be in the tournament after missing most of the fairways from the tee all day long. At one point, NBC shows that he is 2-10 in hitting fairways. My first thought in seeing that is that he cannot win the U.S. Open with that kind of percentage from the tee, right? Wrong - at that point he was still tied for the lead.

Then he took the lead with two holes to go. People were falling apart all around him as if to hand him his first ever U.S. Open. I can still see Payne Stewart holding his face after he beat Mickelson to win the Open at Pinehurst and I am thinking the gods are lining this up for him.

Jim Furyk misses a putt on 18 that would have caused a playoff with Ogilvy. Colin Montgomerie also missed a chance for a playoff on the last hole as well. Nevermind Padraig Harington going bogey, bogey, bogey to play his way out of a chance of his first major title.

So, back to Mickelson. He's standing on the 18th tee and he finds out from a scorer that Monty just double-bogeyed the hole. All he needs to do is par the hole to win the Open. PAR! Nothing fancy. Nothing heroic. Just par. Why on Earth do you pull driver out of your bag? You haven't hit it all day long, why on the most important shot of the day do you think, "now I can hit this straight?"

The 18th at Winged Foot is a 450-yard par four. How far could Phil have hit his five-wood or his two-iron??? Probably about 250-270? That leaves you 200-yards to the hole from the center of the fairway. Do you like your chances of par from there??? I sure as heck do.

Now, there's one more person to blame for Mickelson's collapse, and that is his caddy Jim Makai aka Bones. If you remember the movie Tin Cup where Romeo, Tin Cup's caddy, got in a fight with him on a hole over what he should do. He got so mad that he started snapping his clubs right there on the course. Usually, I wouldn't condone this behavior. But for the love of god Bones, why didn't you just snap his driver in two?

But what you will hear everyone that watches golf and knows Phil say is, "that's just the way he plays the game. He's a gambler."

That's all well and good, but for some stupid reason I thought he might have changed that attitude by winning three majors and realizing that sometimes par wins you tournaments.

NBC had a shot of him sitting with his wife, Amy, in the locker room after he gift wrapped the tournament to Geoff Ogilvy. He was and will be in shock for a while. But to be honest - can we really be THAT shocked with this result??

It's not like we haven't seen him choke before. He hasn't done it in a while and that is what threw, at least me, for a bogey.

Wonder what Tiger was thinking watching in Florida?

Sunday Sunday ... so good to me ...

Happy Father’s Day to all.

Have gotten a lot of responses to the start of the blog. Most good and many asking for me to delve into specific topics. I’ll start with the requests later – starting with my rendition of Danke Schein for newlywed Rico Cooney in Lansing, MI. (YES – for those of you keeping score at home, after 13 YEARS of courting – Rico and Tracy FINALLY got married. I was there to see it with my own eyes!!!!)

We just got back from a few days in Sea Island, GA. Stayed at the Cloisters – which is very pretty and very, shall we say, non-Jewish. I mean just because everything had bacon and mayo on it.....not that there's anything wrong with that!

Many of you may know it from a few years ago when they hosted the G-8. There are trees named after Tony Blair and a whole room where they met that is still intact. Anyway, it is very Southern (slow) and very waspy. All I could keep thinking about when I was walking around was Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack. He shows up at Bushwood with his friend Mr. Wang and he states, “Hey Wang it’s a restricted club, don’t tell them you’re Jewish.”

All that being said, it was absolutely beautiful – the beach was great and the girls loved it. All Miriam wanted to do was eat the sand. Abbie and I saw dolphins about 75 yards off the beach and the weather was just perfect.

Many people have “shacks” down there. Only problem is to you and I a shack is a 3 bedroom house on the Cape and down there a shack are 8 bedrooms, 8 baths and the lots start at 3 million. As my old pal Itchy would say, “not horrible.”

Funniest thing I saw was every morning after breakfast, there was water aerobics. The average age of the participants was dead. Sort of reminded me of going to visit my father’s parents at the Moorings in North Miami Beach as a kid.

Anyway – kids both had great birthdays. And the 5 hour drive home was relatively uneventful.

Quick soapbox moment (these will come from time-to-time) – played golf on Friday and we had a caddy named Rick. I got to the course before Richard and Jay and got to talking with him on the range. He was about 37 or 38 and is a widowed dad. His wife was killed about 5 ½ years ago in a car accident and he has raised his daughter since she was about 1 ½. For those of you men with kids, please ponder this. I know that if I was in his shoes I wouldn’t know where to begin. If I had to do it alone, no matter what the reason, my mind would be mush. Rick quit his job as a baseball coach so that he can caddy to be home with his daughter every night. So when you think its bad – it can always be worse – always are tougher.

OK – enough with that. I am off to hang with the kids today and see if Phil can win his third straight major. BTW – how does a referee who has been suspended before and had a questionable past end up refereeing the U.S.-Italy game??? Not that we are that good – but as if we need him helping the other side?

Also for those of you who like hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs of 1942 are the last team to come back from 3-1 down to win the Stanley Cup. I like Edmonton’s chances to be the latest team to do it. And if you have watched the games, how great are the fans in Edmonton singing both of the anthems? Only things that rival it is Rogette Duchette of the Montreal Canadiens heyday of the 70’s or Kate Smith's God Bless America in Philly (that's for you Z!).

Have a great Sunday – you stay classy!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Magical Mystery tour begins ....

Wow - so this is what "Brave New World" is talking about.

Welcome to the Barkan Dawg. My name is Jon Barkan and I am a former journalist who misses writing. So over time, I will make up for what I have missed out on and hopefully you will respond and give me more food for thought and topics to discuss.

Thanks to the great, wonderful world we live in - there will be stories on everything from A to Z on here on a daily basis. If you have something you want to vent or talk about - throw it out there and let's see what happens. Most people that blog have an agenda - I just have the will to want to write about any and all issues. It may be sports related one day, or on how dumb the Senators looked trying to grill Judge Roberts, or on how my three-year-old talks from the time she wakes up until the time she goes to bed.

A little bit of background on me, I was born on July 10, 1968 in Hackensack, N.J. I am the only child of Neil and Judie Barkan. They had been New Yorkers for their entire lives until they moved to Atlanta in June. Talk about culture shock? I am sure there will be many pieces on them. If you want a good mental picture - combine the Seinfeld and Costanza parents into one group - and there you have my family.I went to Northeastern University in Boston. From there, I lived in East Lansing, MI, New York City, Washington D.C. and now Atlanta, GA. Been a Southerner for eight years.

I am happily married to Elizabeth for the past six years and have two beautiful daughters - Abbie, who is almost 4 and Miriam who is almost 1. As I have said all along, my penance for my past life is to have all women around me and so far it is dead on. I am sure you will hear about them in future blogs.

I am a registered Democrat but don't vote party - I vote person and the issues. If you are political - then I am sure you will email back with your views or comments. I have only one caveat - if you don't vote - don't complain! It is a privledge and honor to be able to vote - what people are dying for all over the world and too many people don't get off their asses and make a difference because it's too far or it's raining. If you don't vote - don't bitch!

In sports, the N.Y. Giants, Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Thrashers. In college, I am a Michigan State and Northeastern fan. I root for Georgia because it's my wife's family team. When in Rome, be a Roman.

I am very involved in our community in Atlanta, and there are many times I will talk about what I do. I am a nice Jewish boy from N.J. and I am involved in AIPAC, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Hillels of Georgia, the Davis Academy, Cystic Fibrosis, and Temple Sinai and Ahavath Achim synagogues. I don't care what your causes are - there are many good causes. All I ask is that you help - do something to make a difference. Too many people complain about being asked to do volunteer work. It is a great thing to be able to help people - try it and you will see.

So - that's a good start to my blogging life. I hope you stay with me on this fun journey to who knows where. Feel free to email at

Until next time - I will leave you will something I was always told: "Wake up, read the obituaries. If you name isn't in there, get up, get dressed and get smiling. You just received another gift."

Time flies when you are having fun ... or have kids

So here we are - June 14. Abbie's birthday tomorrow and Miriam's on Saturday. Where the hell has the year gone?

It's mind boggling to me that 365 days can be gone in a blink of an eye. Heck, Abbie is turning 4 - how in the world did this happen??

It's so funny - Elizabeth and the kids went down to Sea Island yesterday with Ann, Jay and Richard. So they get there and Abbie calls and leaves a voicemail on my cell, "Hi Dad, we're here. Everything is good. Going to walk on the beach. Talk to you later. Bye." She sounded like a REAL person - it blew me away.

Almost as scary as where 38 years have gone ... but hey I have a few weeks to contemplate that one.

Anyway - all's well here. I am off to Sea Island to meet the gang tonight to celebrate the birthday's and get away for a few days.

I found my old blog from when I went to China and I added it below in case you wanted to check it out.

Hope the world is treating you well.

Until Monday... Happy's Father's Day.


Old stuff - from my trip to China....

Day Ten:
Looking for the Shanghai Noodle
May 6, 2004

Good day all - as I start this note, I am sitting on a Shanghai Air flight from Wenzou to Shanghai. This will be our last stop on the trip. We spend the night there and it's basically a little time to go over everything we did work related on the trip and to enjoy a night in Yao Ming's hometown.

The airport in Wenzou was an old, old airport. Looked like something out of a black and white movie. We walked outside to climb the old staircase on the car to get onto the plane. Been a while since I had to do that one.

And on the note of flying, the flights on the China airlines have been fine. The planes aren't brand new - but then again neither is Delta's. Matter of fact, an attendant just handed me a gift. Little retractable phone cord for the computer to hook up to the phone. It's made in China - so I am sure it didn't cost them much to make .. But when was the last time a domestic airline did that one???

With that all said, I can't wait to see that 777 of Delta's at Toyko tomorrow. Can't think of the last time I was dying to see them. Matter of fact, when I get back to Atlanta, I will officially be a Gold Medallion with Delta. In a little over five months, I have put on over 50,000 MQM's with them ... just wild.

I am very excited about 36 hours from now when I touch down in beautiful Atlanta. Love to travel and this trip has been great. I have learned so much in this short trip, but I can't wait to get home and see the wife and daughter. It is the one downfall of what I consider to be the most rewarding and challenging job I have ever had.

This morning, we traveled all around Fanrong checking out many different factories. As amazing as I made YiWu sound, this city is better. Reason being is that there are all factories there - you deal directly with them instead of the showroom folks like in YiWu.

I met Mr. Sheng Hailin. He runs a woodshop factory in Fanrong. He makes all of the different things that Dean's company does with Home Depot. So he wanted to check the quality of the latest project. We then went to his showroom where he had just some killer closeout deals as well as regular goods.
He then took us to a few of his friends in town who have factories - man was this incredible. Some of the deals that are available to us are just mind boggling. Dean and I sat there with the incredulous look on our faces when we heard the prices on most of the things we saw.

Didn't have much time in Fanrong because we had to catch our flight. Mr. Hailin drove us there in his Honda Accord - which by the way cost 240,000 RNB (30,000 US). On the way, we saw our first car wreck - which I have to tell you is an absolute freaking' miracle. Wish you can see how nutty the driving is here. Anyway, the other thing I found out is that they don't believe in seatbelts here. The guy driving the car was taken away by ambulance by the time we got there, but he went through the windshield. Have to tell you, I think I slept with my seatbelt on here ... just to be safe.

The one thing I have to say is that I know many are not fans of public bathrooms in America. I will never complain about them again ... after what I saw in China, they are a dream. Only had to use them twice to pee, but it was the most horrific smelling, looking things I have ever seen. Enough said on that issue.

Well - about to go have dinner with the boys one more time. Then we'll go out for some drinks and look for the Shanghai Noodle .... Diamond, if she wants to "sexercise," I am going to bust a gut.

Early morning wakeup and flight to Toyko and then home.

For those of you scoring, I am down to five pack of Ritz crackers left .... made it with some to spare!!!

Until later ... JB

Day Nine:
Down the Backstretch
May 5, 2004

Morning all - hope all's well, "in your neck of the woods."

I start this note in the back of a Hyundai minivan on the way to Pharong from YiWu. We have a good four and a half hour ride on mostly bumpy roads and a two lane highway. Any of you that know me at all know that I am sitting in the back with The Grateful Dead going in my ears. Not much better than a little Jerry singing Ramblin' Rose as we ramble down the China highways or whatever they are called.

It's amazing how many people there are here in China. Small towns have a million people. Drive along and see all the people in cars, on bikes, walking - it is just surreal.

Have to tell you, feel like I am on tour with a band and we are schlepping all over the place to play shows. Constantly on the run ... but it has all been fun. Thankfully, we are coming to the end of this leg of the tour.

Well - after taking a short nap - I awake to find us totally lost in China. Our driver like most men, thought he knew where he was going and got us totally lost. Now instead of a four hour ride - it was a 6 hour ride. I thought I was going to hurl the whole way. Made a NY cab ride look like a walk in the park. He stopped 12 times for directions and he still has no clue!!!!

And speaking of driving ... my wife is all over me for the way I drive and sometimes she is right. BUT this country is full of the worst drivers I have ever seen. I don't understand why they have signs, lanes on the road or traffic lights. NO ONE pays attention to any of them. Twice so far we have been on roads where someone was going the wrong way on the road straight at us. I thought for sure I was dead and then they swerved out of the way.

The one funny thing they have here on their traffic lights are timers. It tells you how long until the light turns colors. Can you imagine this during rush hour in NYC? Be like one gigantic drag race. People revving up their engines at five seconds and flooring it at one - would be a total nightmare.

Spent the day in YiWu shopping. Would say that we "finished" but there's so much to see and buy that there is no way on god's green earth we could have gotten everything we needed. Odds are I am going to have to come back here at some point (Sorry E) for a week - just to YiWu and finish up some categories.

It's hard to just do with two of us and one interpreter. We probably would need two or three buyers and interpreters to really do this correctly in one week. Hard to explain how enormous this place is and how many different people sell the same or similar kinds of products.

Anyway, we are off to Pharong to visit a factory that Dean does some work with for Home Depot and look at a few other factories. Staying one night here and then go to Shanghai for one night to sleep and then depart for home.

Down to eight sleeves of Ritz Crackers. Think I can do that one in my sleep.
Until tomorrow. JB

Day Eight:
YiWu Two ...
May 4, 2004

Morning all - Tuesday evening over here in YiWu.

Just got back from another day at Commodity City. We started nice and early at 7:30 and we hit the road running.

Wouldn't have been so bad if we didn't go out for a little Karaoke for the third night in a row last night. It is UNBELIEVABLY huge here. Absolutely funny to listen to people sing in Chinese. Most of the American songs here are from 20 years ago if not longer. So freakin funny can't begin to explain.

Anyway - back to work, we were in the housewares side of the world today. Went crazy buying some great things for Little Bucks. Buy of the day ... tough one, we found so many great things today .. have to say the knifes we found were pretty solid. Great stuff.

Had a working dinner tonight to go over everything we bought and two things struck me tonight ... first off is service. The Chinese are just incredible at making sure dinner is an experience or any meal for that matter. There are people all over that as soon as I put my glass down, they are refilling it. Just something I can't remember happening in the US. I also did laundry - when it came back each piece was folded and put into a poly bag and it was all brought up in the wicker baskets and left on my bed with a note thanking me for using their services.

The second thing is that I found out that if you have more than one child in China - you have to pay $50,000 RNB or $6,100 US. Pretty wild to think about in our world no???

Back on the home front, The Davis Academy had its annual golf tournament today and raised in the neighborhood of $100,000. Another great golf tourney from what I hear - went to a new course this year and it had two courses where the players were split up on both sides and the rounds took less time and it didn't rain this year.
Another fun filled day on both sides of the world. Time to crash - sorry so short today. I am just spent.

Day Seven:
YiWu is Yi-Wow!
May 3, 2004

Well good morning campers - hope that today is off to a rousing start for a Monday.
OK - well today started at 7 a.m. with a 2 1/2 hour private bus ride for me, Dean, Mr. Wang, Lee (who runs Mr. Wang's factory), William Wang (our agent and tour guide), Jason and Scott (who do some work with Dean and have been with us for some of the trip). The bus was an old beat-up 15-seater. The one good thing I will say is that the air conditioner worked great on the bus. We arrived around 9:45 at a town called Yiwu - otherwise known as Commodity City. The reason it is know as such is that you can get anything here to sell in our kinds of stores. It is a huge convention center type of building and at least THREE time the size of the Canton fair. People have little booths that they sit in all day. Some bring their kids to work and it's just a family affair.

It is split up into different sections ... housewares, toys, giftware, seasonal, etc. But there are hundreds of booths with the same kinds of product. The same product can sell for five different prices for some reason. It was just nuts - we are only here for two days and there is alot of things we need to buy and look at. I think it would take two people a good week to work this area properly.

With that said, Dean and I went to work and started attacking. The deal of the day ended up being Christmas trees. Last year we did a great promotion for 5 ft. silk trees - buy $100 worth of Little Bucks stuff and get the tree for 99 cents. Last year we paid $5 for each tree. This year - almost the exact same tree ... we can buy for $2.45. What an unbelievable deal ... best we had heard until today was in the $3.00 range. As if that wasn't funny enough, there is a shortage of taxis in YiWu ... so the people we bought the trees from gave us a ride back to the hotel. Dean, William and I got into this VW Passat with these two young women. We come to find out that the girl that is driving... it is her FIRST day driving!!! Well kids - guess who was in the front seat?? She was driving and I was holding on for dear life ... tad scary, but not to bad.

We are spending the next two nights at the Kingdom Hotel in YiWu. When we came back, not sure why, but there was a band playing right outside the hotel in fully uniform. There were two wedding parties standing next to each other and people were congratulating them as the guest came into the hotels. Dean of course walks right up to one bride and wishes her the best. Hotel is a five-star. Only thing that is great to me is that it has HBO! Maybe if I get lucky - the Sopranos will come on tonight.
After the long day, I passed on going out for a long dinner and came up to my room to do some work and see what is going on in the world when I got hungry. Well, I hate to say it, but I took a walk around the corner and walked into a McDonalds in YiWu!!!! First off, it was one of the cleanest restaurants I have been in here ... and it is cleaner than a ton of McDonalds in the US. I had a double hamburger, french fry and Coke for 27 RNB ... basically was $3.25 US. Have to tell you - food hasn't been that bad so far on the trip ... but this was a darn good hamburger! I needed that.

Down to 11 packs of Ritz ... had a couple for lunch today as we worked right on through.

That's all for now. Long day ahead tomorrow - so I am going to make it an early night tonight.

Four days till I hit the homeland ... can't wait to get back!

PS - Hey E - can we have GOOD chinese food when I get back on Friday night ... ??? HA!

Day Six:
One Word for You: Plastics Benjamin ...
May 2, 2004

Good day all. Live from beautiful Qingdao Airport as we sit and wait for our flight to Hang Zhou, I’d figure that I’d sit down and write my daily news and notes from Red China. It’s 6 p.m. local time – which is exactly 12 hours ahead of my beautiful home of Atlanta.

Last night’s hotel was nice – but the mattress was even harder than the Ramada from a few nights ago. Felt like sleeping on a brick.

This morning we woke up and went to visit Mr. Wong and the plastics factory. On the way there, Dean wanted to stop at a bookstore to try and pickup some postcards for Heather. It was a local bookstore in Wei Fang – while walking around a young girl and her father walked up to me in the children’s book section of the store. The girl couldn’t be any more than 5 years old – they walked right up to me and the father told the girl to say, “hello, nice to meet you.” She repeated the sentence and smiled the cutest smile with some teeth missing. They knew a little English and I talked to them as best I could so they could understand. As we were leaving, she turned and said, “have a nice day, bye-bye.” Was a cute moment.

Anyway – we get to the plastics factory and it is a little compound. Mr. Wong is building a new factory about six times the size of the one he has now and will be open in November. He was granted the land from the government it is a fifty year lease – only problem is that they reserve the right to take it back whenever they like. So he can build his buildings and get the factory all set – but you never know when they may come to him and ask for their land back.

The people who work for Mr. Wang make only 80 dollars a week. They live in a dormitory on the property and the factory runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can produce all kinds of ziplocks, plastic wrap and garbage bags for a good price.

Here’s your trivia question of the day – Mr. Wang drives a 2004 Toyota Camry – it is fully loaded and is a very nice car. Same as the one in the U.S. Question is how much does this car cost in China???? I will give you a hint … it’s a tad more than what you pay for it in the U.S. ANSWER LATER

After working, we go to lunch at a local eatery. We go upstairs to a private room. Most restaurants here have many private rooms for you to eat it. Tons of people waiting on us. When they ask us if we want rice, the answer of course for me is yes. Well in the all-time classic, we go to a Chinese restaurant where they have NO STEAMED RICE!!! Think about that statement for a moment, please. That’s like going to McDonalds and they run out of French Fries at lunchtime. Not a big deal, food was very good there.

We then drove to see the city of Qingdao. It is on the ocean and will be hosting the sailing regattas when the Olympics come to Bejing in 2008. We drove along the beach where there are many beautiful homes that cost around a million US dollars. Very pretty city. We saw many people who were getting married taking pictures along the beach.

Then headed off to the airport where I now sit and wait for our next adventure. So far, this has been an unbelievable experience. The one thing I forgot to speak of is how the soldiers and military police are all around you here. Some carry guns – but they are magnificently dressed in their Army uniforms. Reminds you that you are not truly a free man in this part of the world.

Had one pack of Ritz on the plane - down to 13 for 5 days... gonna be tight!
TRIVIA ANSWER – The Toyota Camry cost $70,000 US or 560,000 RGB. The cheapest Mercedes Benz starts at $120,000 US.

That’s all for now, hope all’s well on the other side of the world.

Day Five:
Notes and Observations
May 1, 2004

Good Shabbos all – hope all’s well back in “your neck of the woods.” (Sorry – borrowed that one from Al Roker … )

This Shabbos morning – I woke up to pack and prepare to leave beautiful Hong Kong and the Shangra La Hotel in Kowloon.

Let me take this time to plug both of them. For any and all who love to travel, please make sure to put Hong Kong on your radar screens. It is such a beautiful city and the people here are just as friendly and wonderful as can be. It is one thing to see it on TV and in books, but to see Hong Kong in person is just like looking at a Picasso. Magnificent.

But as incredible Hong Kong is, the Shangra La in Kowloon is just as nice if not better. I have stayed in many hotels and I have to tell you, the service in this hotel is surpassed by none.

Dean has been coming there for 20 years once or twice a year – when we walked into the hotel, people where greeting him by name. When we got to the Horizon Club (the top two floors are Club levels) everyone knew him like they have been seeing him everyday for the last 20 years. Now obviously, it’s hard to forget Dean… even though sometimes I try, but as I watched the staff, they did that with ALL of their customers. Just unreal. That have a great club lounge that overlooks Hong Kong and the harbor – cocktail hour is from 5-7 pm every night and drinks are free as well as breakfast every morning. The view when the city is lit up is just phenomenal. The club level you have access to a butler that presses your clothes and shines your shoes every day. Great restaurants, bars, etc. You get the point. The club level runs about 300 US$ a night, but it is well worth it.

The one thing I have noticed is that the drivers and pedestrians here have no respect for human life or each other. They use turn signals less here than cabbies do in NYC. I mean I haven't been this scared in car - EVER! And if it was bad enough, these people on mopeds, scooters and motorcycles are just plain wacked. Saw three people on a scooter with no helmets... they make left turns from the right lane. Just unreal!

OK, back to our regular scheduled email, we had breakfast and took one last look at Hong Kong from the club lounge. We packed up and then took a last walk around Kowloon. As we did, I.J. called Dean with the news that we had done over $100,000 in two days at our brand new store in Gainesville and that we had done over $100,000 for the day in all six stores combined for Friday. Here we are half way around the world and we get some just awesome news instantaneously.

How incredible the technology is over here. Unlike the US, cell phones here are unlocked. Basically, what that means is that if you had AT&T Wireless and you wanted to switch services – all you would need to do is get the SIM card from the new company – not have to buy a phone. All the info stays in your phone without anything having to be done.

So any of you who know me, you know what I did …. I bought the new Motorola V600 phone with the Bluetooth wireless headset. Dean bought two – one for him and one for Paul. (YES ALAN, HARRIS, TIPPY AND DIAMOND – I really needed another phone!)

Anyway, when I did that I went and bought a local SIM card for 100 Hong Kong Dollars (about 16 US$) and put it in the phone. Worked perfectly – about to call home for about .08 per minute. So when I get home – pop in Cingular SIM and it’ll work just fine. Actually my US cell phone worked great from Hong Kong … just cost $2.50 per minute.

We then headed to the airport to board a China Eastern flight to Qingdao. What a huge airport Hong Kong is. Make Hartsfield (can’t say the other name… just a joke) look tiny. They have all kinds of shopping stores all over for us foreigners to spend our last dimes before leaving the country. There were 6 Starbucks in the airport – God Bless America baby … once again, this is what they all call “American Culture.” It’s right up there with McDonalds and KFC. Can’t tell you how many of them I have seen in the first five days …. Too many to count.

The flight is about 2:55 minutes and we are headed north east from Hong Kong. Funny, Dean and I are the only two Americans aboard. And the only two sitting in the eight seat first class. Difference in the classes is 23 US$ … how many back home would pay $23 US to move to the front of the bus???? Well not here. Flight has been a bit bumpy, but not too bad.

We will be visiting factories and trying to set up some basic programs that we can buy container loads of things such as plastic bags (aka Zip-locks). We will be meeting with another one of Dean’s friends William Wang. He lives in Taiwan, but travels all over the Orient and knows it well.

For those of you scoring at home …. (God whatever happened to Keith Olbermann??? Bad move to leave SportsCenter. And speaking of which, they have ESPN International on here … haven’t been missing SportsCenter – just seeing a lot of cricket and soccer highlights) – I ate one pack of Ritz on the plane today. So I am down to 14 packs for 6 days left. Dean tells me that the food won’t be the same until we get to Shanghai on Wednesday. Vegas has me on the board at 5-1 to finish them before I hit Delta 56 on Friday.

Well, that’s enough rambling for now. Hope all of you are enjoying these as much as I am. Love when I can paint the picture of what I am seeing for all of you. Wish you could all be here with me to see the incredible things, both good and bad, that I am seeing. Once again, any questions, comments and concerns are always welcomed …
Talk to y’all soon.


Day Four: S
lowboat to China
April 30, 2004

Good day all - today started out at 4 am for me as I finally slept for 6 straight hours. Stayed at the Ramada in Gwan Xho. Slept on the hardest mattress ever invented .. funny as heck. As funny as this may sound, the Ramada is considered one of the best hotels in Gwan Xho.

It was fine ... but I know some people (whom I married) who would have been looking at me with a third head if I brought her there. Anyway - got an early start at the Canton Fair on the last day of the fair. Found many great factories that we are going to pursue working with. Some incredible products as great pricing. We will see how it all works out - but it is a very promising start for Little Bucks in China. Lots of great dinnerware, coffee mugs, flatware...

After the fair - we couldn't get a ticket on the direct train to Hong Kong. So basically - we travelled with the locals. Wasn't bad - just didn't have air conditioning. Not an issue if it isn't SUMMER! Can I tell you that the smells on the train reminded me of the garbage strike in the summer some years back. Yikes.Took that train for an hour before having to change to another train to get to Hong Kong. The direct train takes 90 mins door to door - the local way took over 3 hours. Oh well, such is life .. but it made for a long day.

Back at the Shangra La where I am waiting for Dean to come back. Having dinner with our hosts Samuel and Diana at the hotel and then I think we will be packing and going to sleep early as we leave to head towards Shanghai and Mainland China for the rest of our time here. Monday starts Labor Day holiday here in China - most people are off for the whole week. We will be visiting factories all over the Shanghai and other surrounding areas. Well - on the Ritz Update - haven't had any today. 15 left with 7 days left ... so far so good!Until Day Five ... JB

Day Three:
Soapbox and My Day
April 29, 2004

Well good day all. Hope this note finds everyone doing well.
Sorry to do this, but today’s note starts out with me being on my soapbox. I am not one to do this often, but when I get to a point in life where something just hits me the way this day has started, I need to share a little philosophy with y’all (Southern term of endearment that I STILL don’t get… damn Yankee!)

I start this note as I sit on a double-decker high-speed train heading to Guangh Xho to go to the Canton Fair. I am traveling with John Tam who is working with us and we are on our way to meet Jimmy and walk the fair and see what we can buy for Little Bucks. As I travel to Mainland China for the first time, I am looking out at the surroundings. As I do, there are many beautiful pieces of scenery. Gorgeous mountains, green grass and tress for miles and miles – it is just spectacular (and real!).

As the train moves quickly by, we go past many villages that look like they have been around for a long time and small cities with brand new buildings that look totally state of the art. But it’s the small villages that are striking my fancy this morning. I can’t help but looking at these people working in the fields or factories and living in these “sub-standard” ways of living. When I say “sub-standard,” it is said in an American tone. Being the “little, spoiled, Jewish kid from New York,” I looked out at first and thought that there’s no way that I could survive the lives that these people lead. And then it hit me. It could just as easily have been me – “BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I….”

I am not the mostly overly religious person. But I am spiritual in my own way. I look at these shacks that people live in with no indoor plumbing and no stoves and think that no Jewish man/woman I know could live in these conditions. I mean for god’s sake – I struggle when the damn Tivo doesn’t record something I was dying to watch! Sad isn’t it … ???? This is what is important to me … Tivo?

My father and I always joke about my autobiography that someday will be written. I tell him that my working title is, “The luckiest white boy on Earth.” As I ride this train, it still stands to that title. I realize as I ride on the train that I am lucky because of the “Grace of God.”

I grew up with a wonderful family. I have a wonderful wife (most days - KIDDING!), brother-in-law, in-laws and extended family. I have made some incredible friends. Make sure you tell someone you care today ... never know when it will be your last!
SOAPBOX OVER - back to the work phase. The Canton fair is in this convention center that is just massive beyond control. Looks as if you can fit THREE football stadiums inside of it. We walked around all day and saw everything that you can imagine can be made in China. Walked from 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. with a quick lunch break (BTW - first pack of Ritz Crackers went at lunch...15 to go). AND we still didn't get to see more than 70 percent of show. Just wild.

Went to dinner tonight with about 12 people from a company Dean knows well and we are starting to work with at Little Bucks. Ate at a Brazilian steak house - was very good. Just got back to the room to find out that our 6th store is open in Gainesville. We had 400 buggies there for the shoppers - only problem is that we had 1,000 in line waiting to get in. "And the hits just keep on coming...."
Back to Canton fair tomorrow and then back to Hong Kong for tomorrow evening.
Until Day Four.... JB

Day Two:
Two Heads are Better than One ...
April 28, 2004

Hello all - survived first full day here in Hong Kong. What a blast - took the train around town and walked around this morning before getting down to work with our agents.All was going splendid and then we went to lunch. We walk to this beautiful and jammed packed restaurant and sit down in the beautiful back room. Lunch is surved on Lazy Susan's and then you share. No big deal. Our hosts William and Diane ordered for us, but they asked us what we liked, so I wasn't worried. Next thing you know the appetizers shows up and there are a few things I have eaten before ... tried some new things and everything was crusing along. The main course comes ... and there is chicken on the table ... I look closer and not only is there chicken breast that looks great ... the chicken HEAD is on the plate with the breast!!! So - most of you who know me ... know I was dying on the inside, but I didn't want to insult our hosts so I just kept my mouth shut and smiled. As if that wasn't bad enough - they then bring out Chicken Feat. Folks - that's where I drew the line. I couldn't do it!!!

Got through the lunch and I was thankful the first meal was over. This being said - Ritz crackers are still intact. Haven't opened them yet. Off to the Canton Fair tomorrow - odds are may have to break them out tomorrow. Staying the night there before coming back to Hong Kong for Friday night ... then off to mainland China for the rest of the trip.What a great city - our hotel is in Kowloon and overlooks Hong Kong and the harbor. Had cocktails in the bar overlooking the harbor and it is just a sight to see.Hope all's well. Until tomorrow.JBPS - ANSWER TO YESTERDAY'S TRIVIA - - a few of you got it right ... scares the hell out of me that a few of you are as dimented as I to know World Famous Wei Wang. The headline from USA Today Online during the 1996 Olympics .. "Wei Wang Won!"
Day One: In Search of Wei WangApril 27, 2004Well - it took 27 hours, but I have landed in Hong Kong. Checked in to the hotel and I am spent .. what a pain in the butt it is to get over here. Never mind, Delta held us on the ground for two extra hours in Atlanta ... did I tell you how much I love them???

Hong Kong looks to be a beautiful city. Am about to go out and have a beer with my travel partners and them come back and crash hard.....I will be here for two days and then off to the Canton fair and then to Shanghai and beyond. If you have any questions or comments, please send them and I will do my best to be a travel agent.
We are taking bets - I have 16 packs of Ritz Peanut Butter Crackers ... the question is when will I run out of them? Anyone who knows how picky I am as an eater .. factor in that the hotel has a Ruth Chris Steakhouse in it.
BTW - dad is home and doing well after his surgery. Thanks for the thoughts and wishes.

Until Day two ... Sionara... (SP?)


PS - Bonus points to anyone besides the USA TODAY gang who knows who Wei Wang is.... Dave Reed - "this must be my Kim Lucky Day!"