News & Editorial Archives, 2009

Single Women, Watch Out For the "Nice Guys"
Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009

It happens far too often -- a girl meets an extremely nice, thoughtful, gentle guy and falls in love. The guy, however, is not interested in a commitment and won't admit it because he knows he'd lose the companionship of the girl. Instead of doing the honorable thing by being truthful with her from the beginning, he misleads her into thinking they are in a bonafide relationship.

In recent months, some of my female friends have been hurt by these so-called "nice guys" and were left anywhere from a little peeved to outright devastated. I am sick and tired of seeing my female friends get hurt by guys this way, so I'm going to use my forty years of experience as a single man to dispel some myths and offer some helpful information to all of you single women out there. There are secrets you need to know about the psyche of these "nice guys" that have been left unsaid for far too long. I hope you can use this information to better protect yourselves.
  • MYTH #1: Kindhearted, gentle, sensitive men are too aloof to know they have those attractive qualities.
TRUTH: Men who have dating experience are acutely aware of what it is about them that attracts women, whether it's their appearance, personality, or a combination of both. This also applies to men who you'd never imagine would hurt a fly because they seem to be so innocent, naive, and sensitive. If they have any experience with dating, then you can be assured they already know that it's their innocent, gentle personality that attracts women. This, in itself, is not a problem. It only becomes a problem when the man uses his seemingly-innocent personality to deceive women into thinking that they've actually found an innocent man.

  • MYTH #2: "He's the sweetest guy I've ever known. He's just searching for the right person. He wouldn't hurt anyone. Believe me, he's not a player!"
TRUTH: I hope you're right, but you need to be aware that the most thoughtful, caring, sensitive, gentle, and generous of men -- the last people on earth you'd think would take advantage of women -- could be just as capable of doing it as any other man on the street. I'm not trying to scare you by saying the sweet guy next door is probably a womanizer. Chances are he's not. It's just that sometimes the ones who cause the most emotional damage come in the most deceiving packages you could ever imagine.

  • MYTH #3: Only guys who go out looking to pick up women are dogs.
TRUTH: "Nice guys" who attract women can sometimes go throughout their whole dating life without ever having to ask a girl out. Unfortunately, this can give the guy a twisted sense of absolution. How many times have you heard the excuse, "Hey, she came on to me."? If a man does not actively pursue women, yet misleads women who fall in love with him, he is a dog.

"Nice guys" are not inherently mean people. They are every bit as sensitive, gentle, and caring as they seem. They'll go to church, volunteer at the homeless shelter, mow your lawn, fix your car, take you to dinner for your birthday, and treat you like queen, and all of those are genuine characteristics of their personalities. Their one huge flaw, however, is that they are so needy for intimate companionship, if you offer it to them, they will take it even if it means deceiving you into thinking you've entered into a normal, committed relationship.

The man will keep the relationship like this going for as long as it continues to work for him. He will keep you around for companionship until either you wise up and break it off, or a more attractive opportunity presents itself to him.

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to know if the guy you like is truly a nice guy who's interested in you for a relationship, or a "nice guy" with a dark side who wants to use you. However, here are a few signs to watch out for:
  • Has he ever told you, in no uncertain terms, whether or not he loves you? "Nice guys" often share an unusual trait: they twist and bend the truth instead of lying, because they believe that things left unsaid will somehow absolve them of all responsibility when the girl finds out the truth. A "nice guy" will never outright lie and say that he loves you or wants to commit to you if he doesn't. Instead, if you ask him, he will give you a vague response in his most sincere voice, "Gosh... I mean, I really like you.. I just... I really love being with you, and... well... I just think we need to spend more time together... ". By giving you an answer like this, he will accomplish three things: he will avoid lying to you, he will avoid telling you that he does not love you, and he may further captivate you with his sensitivity.
  • "Nice guys" will also avoid admitting they don't want a commitment by playing the pity card and turning the conversation around. In their sincerest voice and maybe while welling up a few tears, they'll say something like, "I really like you. it's just that.. well... my last relationship ended badly. She didn't believe in honest communication, and I just don't want to end up in a relationship like that. And I'm so busy with my job, it wouldn't be fair to you..." "Nice guys" are masters at this charade, and can hold your hand and look you square in the eye while they pull it off.
Solution: If you need to know how a man feels about you, sit him down, hit him point-blank with specific questions, and accept nothing less than very concise answers. If you are persistent enough, he will realize that you have caught him at his charade and hopefully give up the game. If he continues to give you vague answers, it then becomes your responsibility to determine how you want to proceed with the relationship. If you stay with him and get hurt, you become partly to blame.
  • Is he as affectionate toward you in the company of his friends as he is in private? Guys who deceive unsuspecting women will attempt to keep those relationships hidden from their peers.
Try this: Hook up with him at a place where he is likely to be around a lot of people who know him, such as a party or reunion, especially where there might be mutual friends of yours. Put your hand in his or give him a kiss on the lips. If he becomes noticeably uncomfortable by trying to hide your hands from his friends, or he can't reciprocate a kiss, then you know he has been using you all along.  "I don't like public displays of affection" is not an excuse, because if you were a supermodel, trust me, he'd have no problem with it.  And "I wasn't brought up to express my feelings" is not an excuse, either, because if he's affectionate with you in private, what's his excuse for suddenly abandoning it in public?
  • Has anyone ever warned you about him? Unfortunately, love is so blind that a girl smitten by a "nice guy" usually cannot fathom that he could have a dark side, even when friends of hers (and sometimes even his) are adamantly warning her about him.
Tip: Heed the warnings no matter how unbelievable they may seem, and proceed with caution. You don't have to outright dump the guy, but listen to what your friends are saying, especially if their stories are similar. At the very least, watch for the warning signs and remain extra guarded. Also, have you noticed if any of his single, female friends have suddenly stopped coming around?
  • Are his words matching his actions? Remember when I said that "nice guys" feel absolved of any wrongdoing for things that were never specifically said? To clarify this point, they think that as long as they don't specifically say "I love you," or "you're my girlfriend," they have carte blanche to mislead you in every other possible way and it won't be their fault for hurting you.
Tip: If a man cannot verbally express in no uncertain terms that he loves you, then DO NOT assume he does. Don't let a man's actions deceive you, no matter how convincing they seem. There's a fine line between believing a man loves you and knowing it.

I didn't write this article to take hope away from single women. We all know that dating can be discouraging, but there are guys out there with honest hearts who would never intentionally hurt a girl. It can take quite some time to find the right one, but good guys are out there.

Christmas Present From Kittling; A Story You'll Find Too Hard To Believe
Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009

Today would have been Kittling's 17th birthday. To honor her memory, my mom and I each donated $50 to a local cat shelter. I spent about fifteen minutes at that shelter today, where many cats made me feel welcome. I knew that if I ever felt the need to adopt a new cat, I'd have a place to go. Still, I always felt that if I ever took in a new cat, it would be because the cat sought me, just like Kittling did seventeen years ago. On a cold, Winter day, she wandered into the parking lot of a rural, Wisconsin dance hall (then known as the Cedar Creek Inn) where I happened to be playing. That's how Kittling and I met.

Today, I was playing at another rural, Wisconsin dance hall -- Prairie Lanes in Markesan. As I was carrying my drums into the hall, I couldn't believe my eyes. A cute, black kitten came wandering up through the parking lot to where the band and I were unloading our cars. Instinct took over, so I cautiously approached the kitten. It scooted away, but after I got my drums into the hall, I went around the side of the building, found the kitten, carefully approached it, and finally the kitten let me pick it up. I could see that it was a stray, but that it also was living in a shed adjacent to the building where it had a little cardboard shelter with food and water. Instead of putting the kitten into my car, I let it go into the shed and decided to inquire about the kitten inside the dance hall.

Clyde (of Bonnie & Clyde's Polka Palace, located inside Prairie Lanes) said the kitten suddenly showed up about a month ago and began hanging around the dance hall. He and Bonnie set up a little shelter inside the shed and provided the kitten with a heated pad so that it wouldn't freeze. (Their efforts undoubtedly saved the kitten's life.) I expressed an interest in the kitten and asked if they would consider giving it to me for adoption. Both Bonnie and Clyde were happy to see it go to a safe, warm home. After the band job, Clyde coaxed the kitten out from the shed and plunked it right into my arms.

A young family member of theirs gave the kitten the name of Snickers. She requested that the name not be changed, so, to respect her wish, the name will stay. Right now, Snickers is at my mom's house while I'm busy making my home cat-safe.

Without a doubt in my mind, Snickers was a Christmas present from Kittling. Kittling must have felt that I was ready to share my home with a new cat, even though I'm still deeply saddened by her loss and quite apprehensive about taking this big of a step so soon. She also knew that I would never turn down a stray that found me the same way she did. I have no doubt that Kittling -- my beloved angel in heaven -- picked her birthday on which to guide this cold, hungry kitten right to me, knowing I'd recognize it as a sign of her work.

In the days to come, I will be taking Snickers into the vet for a thorough exam. I'm still not sure what gender Snickers is, so once we get that established, he/she will eventually be spayed/neutered and then vaccinated. Then it's on to living the good life in a warm, cozy home for what will be the first of many, many years to come.

Thank you, Bonnie and Clyde. But most of all, thank you, Kittling.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Dec 22: A few people who knew Snickers at the dance hall have emailed to express how happy they are to see that he has found a new home, so I thought it might be a good idea to share with everyone exactly what kind of home he has found. Because of how spoiled my Kittling was, Snickers has inherited a gold mine of luxuries:

* Comfortable climate -- the thermostat stays at 70 degrees
* Electric heat pad for extra warmth
* Clean, sanitary air, supplied by two HEPA air purifiers
* Fresh running water, supplied by a Drinkwell Platinum fountain
* Six-foot tall, custom-built, carpeted house with spiral staircase
* Plush cat bed and sheepskin window perch
* Box of over 250 toys -- everything from pom-pom balls to remote-controlled, motorized mice

Perhaps best of all, Snickers is going to receive a lifetime of healthy food and tasty treats, the best veterinary care available, a grandma (who loves to spoil!) to babysit for when I am away, and, of course, all the love and affection a cat could ever want. Snickers' new-patient examination is scheduled for Christmas Eve, although I can already assure you all that this is one healthy, very happy cat!

UPDATE: Thursday, Dec 24: It's a boy! The doctor also estimated Snickers to be 4 1/2 months old, so I counted back on the calendar exactly 4 1/2 months from today, which puts Snickers' birthdate on August 10th, 2009.

Tom the Human Satellite Tracker
Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One night in 2006 after a recording session, I was standing out in my driveway with Carol and Dennis from the Carol & the Keynotes band. Noticing how clear the sky was, I asked if either of them had ever seen an orbiting satellite. I pointed upward to demonstrate how fast they move overhead, but at exact the spot I happened to be pointing was an actual satellite in orbit. Now here's where it gets freaky...

Later that year, I was standing in the driveway with my friend Kim after a recording session. I told her about that odd coincidence that happened earlier that year when Dennis and Carol were there. I explained how I randomly pointed to a spot in the sky and happened to point right at an orbiting satellite. Just for fun, I did it again... and it happened again! I pointed to a random spot in the sky, and another satellite happened to be passing overhead right where I was pointing! Now this is where it gets downright scary...

At 5:45 this morning, I was awoken by a pack of neighborhood dogs fighting near my bedroom window. Unable to get back to sleep, I noticed how clear the sky was and thought of how cool it would be to spot an orbiting satellite, since the time was right. For a few seconds, I reminisced about those two, odd circumstances that I mentioned before. And once again, for fun, picked a random spot in the sky. Not five seconds later, right where I was looking, it came into view -- the International Space Station.

Tom Brusky Band Receives $1,500 Bail-Out Package
Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

The decrease in support of polka music, coupled by the tanking economy, proved to be too much for our band earlier this year. Our last quarter's profits were down 18%, which is the sharpest decline we've experienced since the live music recession of 1993. Faced with certain bankruptcy, we contacted the United States Department of Performing Arts and applied for a bail-out. The application process took more than two months from start to finish. During that time, the DOPA thoroughly reviewed our financial records and determined that $1,500 would bring us out of debt and sustain us through the next two quarters. So far, so good.

Of course, the bail-out came with a few stipulations. I had to sign a contract under executive order from the President of the United States declaring that our band restructure. Apparently the National Pastime & Heritage Coalition had been lobbying the government for years to mandate the downsize of polka and other ethnic bands across the country by one musician. Somehow they calculated that the ratio in live entertainment income and the lowered band expenses would spread wide enough for polka and ethnic entertainment to become economically self-sustaining by June of 2010. Although we're not pleased about being told how to run our band, we didn't have much of a choice.

We want you to be assured that this restructuring, so far, only affects ethnic bands that have applied for bail-outs. A complete list of bands is on the DOPA website, but here are some of the polka bands I recognized:

Tom Brusky Band
Happy Henry & His Mates
Ronnie Tercek Band
Bert Dombrowski Band
Dynaco & Co.
Mike Smith Ensemble
Pennsylvania Polkateers
John Gornicki Band
Louie Slimroda Band
Ohio Polka Squeezers
Fairfield Kickers Button Box Club
John Gajewski Band
Polka Push Power
Jolly Roger & the Dyna-Jakes
Joe LaBotz Band
Dutchmen of Swing
Polkatime Express
Oberheimer Belka
Walt Lesmann Orch.
Frankie Schneider Trio
Eddie Funtino
"Concertina Al" Liturski
Silver Fox Revue
Dottie & the Polkadots
Steve Rybowski Band

These polka bands are among hundreds of ethnic bands facing the executive order to downsize. However, in my opinion, it is only a matter of time before President Obama begins assuming a larger portion of control over the live entertainment industry in America. He's already working on running the banking industry, the automotive industry, and now the entertainment industry, one polka band at a time. Don't be surprised if, within the next decade, you're paying taxes just for listening to the radio... all because polka bands like mine were forced to apply for a government bail-out. Sadly, you'll probably be paying those taxes sooner than I can wish you a happy April Fool's Day.

When Things Don't Work Out
Saturday, February 14, 2009

The entire experience of being human involves making mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes aren't exactly unintentional, because as humans, unfortunately, we're also capable of using poor judgment. When poor judgment results in someone else's loss of money, property, or quality of life, we have the legal system to iron out the situation. But what can you do to prevent such situations from going that far?

I believe there is one, major reason why there are so many disputes in the polka world. Polka people, by nature, are set in their ways. There's nothing wrong with that, but if two people don't agree with something, rather than try to understand the other's point of view, they fire up a defense mechanism and vehemently stick to their "I'm right and you're wrong!" attitude. If neither party can set aside their stubbornness, the dispute can escalate to the level of animosity. At that level, the only communication between the two parties has been eroded down to accusations, discredits, and possibly even slander.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe situations in which two bullheaded parties are butting heads can be fixed with compassion and a little swallowing of pride. Let me offer a few hypothetical scenarios.
  • SCENARIO #1: I'm not paying a cover charge!
    • A patron walks into a bar to listen to live polka music and sees that there is now a cover charge. "I never had to pay one before!" And the bartender replies, "Sorry, we have to charge it, but our cover is still less than most of the other clubs in town." The patron becomes visibly angry, and begins to storm out. The bartender lets him walk out, chuckling at the patron's childlike behavior. Result: The bartender loses the patron for life.
    • Now, suppose the bartender took the man aside and explained in the warmest tone possible, "I'm sorry the cover charge offends you. It's just that live music is suffering everywhere, and I have to follow in the footsteps of all the other clubs just to stay in business. The cover charge isn't to punish you -- it's to keep me from going out of business. Listen, between you and me, I'll waive your cover charge just for tonight, but I won't stop you from buying a drink or two." :::wink::: Result: Problem solved. Compassion wins over a patron.
  • SCENARIO #2: You stole my song!
  • A musician picks up a polka CD and realizes that not only did another band record his song without permission, they took credit for it, too. So the musician calls up the bandleader and starts spewing legalese. The bandleader feels offended to be talked to in such a harsh tone, that he fires up a defense mechanism and spews legalese and excuses right back at the musician. Within minutes, the two parties are at the level of animosity, and the musician files a lawsuit. Result: A lifetime of animosity between everyone involved, and a huge, black mark on the polka industry for all to see.
  • Now, suppose the musician stopped out to hear the band play live, and during a break, sat the bandleader down, bought him a drink, and brought up the subject of the song credit. In a warm tone he explains, "You guys recorded a great version of that song, but I was kind of surprised to see Joe Dokes credited with writing it." Without feeling threatened in any way, the bandleader replies, "That's not Joe's song?" The musician then explains how he, himself, wrote the song. "Hey, believe me, I know how these things can happen. Sometimes it's really hard to figure out who wrote what these days. Tell ya what, let me send you a copy of my CD that has the original version.  I know you can't change the printing on the CD cover, but if you wouldn't mind maybe making a credit correction on your website, I'd really appreciate that." By the end of the week, the band's website says, "This song was written by our friend..." Result: Problem solved, and a new friendship has been made.
  • SCENARIO #3: Hey, that was my idea!
    • Polka promoter Jane Doe comes up with this idea of getting all of the top bandleaders in the state to come together and form an all-star band for charity. Doe plans it, organizes it, and trademarks it as "Wisconsin Polka Power." Meanwhile, promoter John Q. Public from a different organization likes her idea, so he calls up the individual bandleaders and asks them if they would perform at his event. They say no problem. John Public then advertises that "Wisconsin Polka Power" is going to be performing at his event under his direction. Jane Doe finds out what John Public did, and calls him to advise him that what he did was wrong, and that he needs to put a stop to the concert. Public agrees to delete all of the advertising that infringes on the WPP trademark, but is unable to pull some of the ads in time, and they go to print. Doe becomes livid about the content of the advertising that couldn't be retracted, and blows up at Public. Public is abhorred by the language by which he's been subjected. His feelings toward Doe likewise sour, and their relationship as fellow promoters goes down the hill. The animosity between them lasts indefinitely, preventing them from finding a way to make amends. Can anything be done? Is it too late?
    • What if John Public admitted that he was wrong? What if he said, "Jane, I was so impressed with your concert idea, I wanted to bring it to my area. In restrospect, I see that I didn't go about it the right way, and I'm sorry. I should have contacted you before doing anything. I did everything I could to pull the ads, but I'm afraid I couldn't pull them all in time, so I will credit you in the next publication. Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention, and know that it will never happen again. You're a great promoter and perhaps wee can work together on future projects. Please accept my apology?" Jane Doe would have replied with, "That means a lot,. Thank you so much for understanding."  They shake hands, and the public enjoys the benefits of two organizations working with each other.
Stubborn people who are involved in situations like this always appear to want nothing more than vindication. They want to be right, while everyone else is wrong. But, even if they are 100% right from a legal or technical standpoint, what is proving it to the world going to accomplish?  How can the polka community possibly benefit from continued animosity between two people?

You don't actually have to be wrong to admit you're wrong.  But sometimes it's when you do that you are doing the right thing.

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