it's about having an inner light, and i got me some

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 | 1 Comment(s)

tonight was the first night of hannukah.  and, sadly, my 2011 streak continued with bad news tracking holiday celebration like a sniper on a rooftop on a clear day.

but tonight was a little different.  because this holiday is about a miracle of light, and i got me some of that.


on a trip to the virgin islands as a young kid, my brother (2 years older) and i, befriended another boy around our age at the communal pool at the resort.  We were "holiday friends" and the whole experience really centered around having people to horse around with more than the fostering of what might become a decade long pen-pal correspondence (remember pen pals!).  It was mostly normal kid stuff.  Until . . .  and I don't remember the details, but that kid had a younger sister, who was just young enough to not yet be old enough to be "fun."  i don't remember teasing her.  I wasn't that kind of kid.  Could we all have been leaving her out, totally.  Hell, you know what, we might have teased her.  I can't even try to defend the 11 year old me (approx. age).  Anyway, i definitely don't remember there being an acute incident of her getting upset.

What i do remember was the kid's father coming into the pool area (my childhood brain recorded his arrival as: "from out of nowhere") and starting to scream at my brother and me.  His face was red and he was really digging into us about how ashamed we should be of ourselves and bad kid this yadda yadda yadda.  he didn't scream at his son.  This. was. shocking.

We were not the kind of kids who got screamed at much.  we were, well, dorks.  But more than that, our parents very rarely brought the hammer down.  I mean, i think they punished accordingly--no real harm, no real foul.  So this guy screaming at us out of nowhere was jolting.  And here's what i remember.  I remember my brother saying back, "Your not our father!" and us running back to our room.

Back in the room we told our parents what happened.  They were, in a word, furious.  "NO ONE screams at you but us!" i recall my father saying, totally supportive and without seeing the irony (i didn't yet know what irony was, so that was just good parenting.)  And that lesson stuck.   It's akin to  "no one puts baby in the corner," except with your soul.

There will always be doubters, and worriers, and haters, but don't you dare fuck with my ner tamid.  You need permission to criticize one's character, and that right is one that must be earned.

So this hannukah.  this celebration of the light that endured. I protect my own light.  and frankly, im growing it.  So as i watch those candles multiplying night by night, i remember that the light in my soul has been around for years.  and its been multiplying and multiplying.  it burns with a vigor that that will not be extinguished.  Not by anyone.

there are days which seem dark and strung together.  its during those stretches when one's light is tested.   This hannukah, my light will endure.

Back in the Saddle

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

Sometimes, as a writer, you are cursed with an uneventful period; where you don't feel like anything is worthy of getting down on paper (or virtual paper).  Im not sure this is a "thing" or just something that happens to me, but either way, i am not in such a phase.

I have somehow found myself in the opposite situation.  Too much life in my life.  Too much real  in my life.  And its just beyond the scope of what i use this blog for; its not therapy. its more performance.  Granted, its a personal performance of my life.  But i push on.  By the numbers.

1.  This headline is seriously NOT OK (it is so serious a violation that i am using caps, bold, italics, and underline!)

Are you f'n kidding me.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!  I rarely hope for someone to be fired around "the holidays," but holy shit i hope someone was sent packing at msnbc for this garbage pun from dumb-dumb city.

2.  I know that the TV business is an unpredictable one.  Tons of pilot episodes are made, and only a select few even make a debut.  Of those that make it on air, they then have to survive the court of public opinion.  Well, at least in theory. I mean, the show Community is god damn genius and its still apparently up for cancellation, so who knows what drives this approval process.  All this being said, I have never been more confident of a shows imminent demise, pre-airing, than the new show "Rob!" Why will this show be cancelled quickly?  I need me some bullet points.
  • Rob Schneider is the Rob they are referring to.
  • The actual title of the show actually has an upside down exclamation mark in front of Robs name, because he's joining a Spanish speaking family.  Yes, i can't even type the name of this show without going into "symbols" in my fonts.  And that's not something i do for Rob Schneider's comedy.
  • When i type Rob! into google, zero of the entries on the first page reference this show.
  • When i type "Rob! tv show" into google, the 6 and 7th entry talk about this show (7 is imdb).  None of these hits are the show's page.
  • this is imdb's description of the shows storyline, "Centers on solitary guy, Rob, who marries into a huge Mexican-American family"
  • none of the promo's for the show are funy.  if you can't cut together 20 seconds of funny to draw people in.  you're in big trouble long-term.
In the interest of "fair and balanced," they do have Cheech cast as the family's father.  I'm worried it's too little too late.  Not even Cheech could smoke enough to make this show a winner.

3.  I really have started to enjoy Christmas personally. I was thinking recently that the "worst part" of Christmas for me is that mol's parents have cats which i'm allergic to.  That's a huuuuuuuge improvement of attitude.  and its all mol and her family's doing.  They really make it fun and loving and warm. And i am looking forward to it.

4.  That said, the older i get, the crazier this country's reaction to Christmas is to me.  I mean, fundamentally speaking, if you put all the effects of, um . . . Jesus's birth, and all it extends to: shopping, lights, radio broadcasts, tv specials, travel, tree cutting, school cancellation, cooking.  The US goes more gaga for "the holiday's" than they do for the woman named Gaga.  And i'm not saying that Hannukah is any better.  It's basically the same premise, just less popular locally.

Is it possible that just making a few weeks where the country on holiday (hell, maybe it focuses on the importance of family and friends and community) could be a really good thing.  I mean, nothing to fight over.  Everyone can agree on it's importance.  Now thats my holiday feeling.   We hide our love for each other in religious get-togethers, and we shouldn't need the excuse.

5.  Lastly, and on a completely different note, something for you football fans.  Tonight's monday night football match-up between the 49ers and the Steelers was completely dominated by the 49er's punter. (no, i don't learn punters names. OH, he's lucky, he was just on the screen, his names "Lee."  I'm assuming it's his last name, but i don't really care.  Again, he's a punter.)  This guy is launching 60 yard kicks that bounce straight up on the 5 yard line.  Over and over and over again.  The average starting field position for the Steeler's was the 15 yard line.  Worst since 2005.  Even when he only got a 50 yarder to the 35 yard line, the returner ran backwards 10 yard and they got a penalty putting them at the 12.   I can't remember ever saying this, but give that man the game ball.  He's the #1 reason the Steeler's didn't get in the end-zone tonight (the pass rush was reason #2).

Grover's Roar

Monday, November 28, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

I am forcing myself to write something uplifting.  Cause i want to.  Cause its hard.

And so, as the centerpiece of what i am thankful for this past year, we turn this blog, once again, into its alter-ego: Matt's Dog Blog of Grover doing incredible cute mundane things. (that's a LOT of commas, mol the reading specialist won't be pleased with me) And theyre even cuter . . . cause he's a dog!!!!

Today we will focus on his roar.  Can Grover bark?  Yes.  He can.   Does Grover bark?  No.  He's doesn't.

Since we got him a year ago, grover has barked at about a dozen different instances.  No real pattern.  Sometimes its because we are outside and he is inside and he wants us to hear him.   Sometimes, if you are getting him riled up playing, while he's anticipating, he'll bark once.  No bigs.  My dad heard him bark for the first time over the past weekend.  One bark.  No bigs.  Dad was offended.  Then laughed at himself.

But this doesn't mean that our dog is a silent dog (ok, he is a mostly silent dog).  But when he doesn't talk, he makes the most hilarious guttural, "dying-giraffe" sounding, soft "o" sound.  He's all ooOOOooOoOoOOoOoo like an old man trying to grapple with getting a book off a high shelf.  It's hilarious.  the milkweed crackle of my dog saying hello is worthy of it's own post.  it's that funny sounding.  But i don't have an audio file . . . . so thankfully, there's more.

When he does talk, when he does make his gravelly o face (don't over think that), he can't do it without a post-talk sneeze.  Yup.  He talks, then sneezes.  oooOOooOooOO.  Achoo.  Repeat repeat repeat.

And what makes it so funny to me is that he's voice is all pleading and pathetic (on purpose), but then the sneeze makes it so ridiculous that you can't help but laugh. Thus producing, for him, the opposite of the intended reaction.  It's like when a Canadian tries to say "I'm sour-ee" or a tough guy drinking out of a flexi-straw.  Don't make no sense together.

So if you hear a geriatric howl followed by a sneeze . . . don't worry!  That big headed, black-and-white cow colored hugging and licking machine isn't an assisted living code red . . .  

It's just my dog.

Is thanksgiving. Is not thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 27, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

I have had the discussion many times before.  It's a philosophical one.  it goes like this. 

Premise:  Without bad, we would not truly be able to know good.  Without darkness, we can't appreciate light.  Without sadness there is no true knowledge of happiness.

That's the premise.  It can be expanded or contracted (to one dichotomy), but the essence of the argument generally is the same. 

I should say upfront, that i've always thought that this idea was, at least mostly, crap.    I just think that if you were constantly happy, you may mellow into a contentment, but i somehow doubt that you need some good ol fashion pain to really feel good.  It somehow equates luck with necessity.   As in, someone lucky enough to escape hardship must get unlucky in order to appreciate how lucky he/she's been. 

But again, like many things in philosophy, these arguments only exist in the vacuum of theory.  In the non-existent plane where unexistable scenarios exist. 

Because bad, darkness, and sadness are, on the existent plane where existable scernarios exist, unavoidable.  And all three came to my house this thanksgiving.

If one can only know thankfulness in the face of great loss, then this year's thanksgiving was perhaps the most authentic ever.  On Wednesday, while leaving the hospital where he works as the head of psychiatrics, my Uncle Bill was hitting by a car in the parking lot.  As the news trickled up the phone lines from the big apple to western mass, we were told that his head hit the ground post-collision (the car was driven by a hospital employee who was not going very fast), and that he was in surgery.   The prognosis was unclear, but somehow simultaneously bleak. 

A few hours later the news came that his brain stem has been severed and he was, brain activity wise, gone.   And like that my uncle went from thanksgiving host to gone from our lives in a matter of hours.  Like someone took an eraser to my family and simply eliminated one of us.  So sudden.  So unfair. 

The new york laws for organ donation, i have learned this thanksgiving, are almost totally crazy.  While i realize that every one of them probably has a very sane reason (most likely stemming from totally crazy situations), in this situation, in order to use all of his extremely healthy organs, they had to wait for his body, the mechanical side (automatic processes like slight breathing can still continue without brain function) to completely give out. 

Functionally, for my family, this meant that we spent this thanksgiving waiting for the life to leave our uncle's body, so that in his last moments, he could save or improve countless other people's lives.  This process of waiting, as i implore you not to imagine, is incredibly difficult on those who love Bill, particularly my aunt.  My aunt, who has worked so hard to create the life she wanted with the man she loves so much.  my heart crumbles at the thought of her.  the thought that, were i in her position, my heart would be left a pile of dust.  This is sadness.  This is the dark. 

The memorial on Sunday was delayed til next weekend.  With all of the organ donation, the hospital wasn't sure he'd be gone in time for his own memorial.  That sentence typifies the surrealism of the past four days for me.

My mother went to new york to be with her sister, my aunt.  This is her 2nd thanksgiving in a row in a hospital.  Exactly a year ago, we were standing by my grandmother's hospital bed holding a vigil (she is doing well!).  The rest of my family went to my parents house in western mass as planned.  We sat together.  Took walks.  Chatted. 

We sat in the darkness, in the bad, in our sadness.  But together.  We put what was left of our inner fires, we took all of our tiny internal flickers, and we put them together in order to light a way forward.  And i think its fair to say that we were thankful for that.  For the comfort of the familiar that comes when surrounded by family.  And we did the best we could.  Feeling angry and lost and thankful and sad and shocked all at once. 

It should be noted that my mother is such an expert at thanksgiving at this point that even in her absence she had pre-prepared the entire meal for the rest of us.  She even made my favorite dessert for me.  I wish we could have shared it.  And i miss Bill.  And i'm hurting for my aunt. 

and all this crap.  this sad dark bad crap.  just doesn't feel like it's gonna make me understand happiness in any deeper, more fundamental earth-shattering way.  Though, if knowing its opposite is the key to unlocking that goodness . . .

 . . . i've never been more ready to be wrong.

Learning to Spell P. h. D.

Sunday, November 20, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

It's the final countdown.

i don't usually talk about work on the blog.  for many many reasons.  but at the moment, it's impossible to ignore.  I am defending my PhD on December 16th.  That's soon.

And so my life now revolves around finishing this paper.  Analyzing this data.  Sprinting to the finish.

And, much like writing an invite list to a wedding, the only way to really get through it is to put blinders on and do what's right for you.  Except in this case (the dissertation), it envelopes so much of my time that i really have no choice but to ignore all of my other worldly responsibilities.  And of course, the irony abounds considering that my dissertation revolves around the division of labor in marriage, and mol (ugh.  i dont like mol.  my only love just makes me think of that 70's (80's? 60's?) song and . . . i'll get back to that later.) is ending up doing most of the labor with me laboring RE: domestic labor.

You get it.

I also DO plan on finishing the blogs about my "birthday" this year.  But the next section is long. and i just don't have the time.

So, in summation.  I need a hall pass from you, my blog readers, until december 16th (well, 17th, i'll be up real late on the 16th).  I will try to get some stuff up on here.  But if it doesn't feel like the quality and quantity you are used to . . . gimme a month.

How Going to Wesleyan Ruined My Life

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 | 2 Comment(s)

Or more accurately, how being a dance major at wesleyan ruined my life.

i loved college.  loved it.  i experienced as much as i could, and even managed to go in a biology major, and leave with a degree in dance and psychology.  So how could such a positive experience lead to such ruinous ends.  I'll tell you.

As a dance major, there are certain degree requirements you must fulfill.  One of these requirements involves the constant participation in multiple different dance practice classes each semester.  Plus, as majors, you both lead rehearsals for dances you are choreographing, as well as attende rehearsals for dances you are a dancer for.  This is all the minimum, with additional opportunities for dancing being available through various campus dance groups.

I'm not trying to paint a "those poor dancers" scenario, but rather emphasize the amount of time that was spent in the various dance studios.  Dancing.  On any given day, i would have anywhere from one to four different dancing sessions.  That's a lot of movement . . . and touching.

Now i know its very easy to take this to an extremely sexual place.  And, as a major, i assure you i have either heard or created all versions of the sexualization of dance.  And, as a matter of fact, one of my most loved and respected dance mentors, a 60+ year old devout Christian, in a modern dance class declared, "dance IS sex!"  And, as always, she was right.  But, in this instance, i not talking about the sexual aspect of the human contact, but rather the tactile and emotional aspect.

When you are dancing, and rolling around, and massaging, and hugging, and throwing, and jumping and lifting each other, you (i?) get an almost womb-like comfort from all that human contact.  You want community?  Try contact improv.  You haven't felt community til its inadvertently flung you ten feet into the air, and then let you slide down its back to the floor once again.    While you may spend the learning process flailing about like a jelly-fish in a killer-whales mouth, the comfort you can gain from the human energy transfer can be incredible cathartic.   And so every day of college, i spent a good portion of my time in the metaphorical womb of my loving dance community.

And then there was the student body itself.  Back in the day, my day, Wesleyan was not hipster, but rather hippie.  And i never shook any of my friends' hands.  ever.  we hugged.  we hugged when me met for lunch.  we hugged when we got home. we hugged when we met to go out. we hugged when we drank.  and sometimes we more than hugged.

But, taken as a whole, the amount of physical contact i received on a daily basis in college was truly staggering.  and that became my baseline for human contact.  my intimacy meridian.  that, in turn, has caused me to suffer greatly.

Out of college i moved directly to new york city, downtown brooklyn to be more exact.  That was July, 2001.  New York is the photographic negative of wesleyan.  Where i used to be unable to avoid human contact and constant companionship, now, i had to call, confirm and schedule opportunities to see familiar faces.  And, while it may seem paradoxical, anyone whose lived in nyc can attest that for some reason, being smushed against the cold sweating flesh of a wide array of strangers during rush hour in the subway has the exact opposite affect of all other skin to skin contact.  It is the very definition of isolation.  You are dying inside alone, sandwiched between human barricades.  Suffice it to say, nyc and i were not a match.  And while i did manage to leave the city on what i would consider my own terms, i'm not moving back there any time . . . anytime.

Then i moved to the mountains of Japan.  Very much a no touching country.  Extremely no touching.  Hugging a native Japanese person (and these are my good friends i'm talking about) is like trying to coral a giant sea eel.  They squiggle and, with their arms outstretch in semi-circles in the correct pre-hug pose, they subsequently assault you to fury of tiny gentle pat-down attacks.  The contrast of squiggle and jabbing additionally makes them extremely difficult to get a good hold of.  And if you are thinking that this just makes me sound super creepy -- all grabbing them and stuff, i would argue that what is actually happening is more akin to the hug equivalent of the "dead-fish" handshake.  Fun fact, true to their country's strict separation between public and private, Japan does have a paradoxically  high rate of unprotected sex among their youth, but i have no personal experience to speak from in this area.

Fast-forward past my time in boston (where there was a good deal of hugging surrounding a certain 2004 baseball victory) to my present life in Amherst.  This is a pretty touchy-feely town.  I hug a good deal of my friends.  Not all, but the majority.  During any given day, i am practically certain to simply run into people i know and socialize with, all whilst going about my daily routine.   And i love it.  love it love it love it.  But what i'm realizing . . . more and more . . . is that wesleyan ruined my life. 

Cause i'm still south of my intimacy meridian.  Even in this almost ideal bastion of community, i still want more hugs.  I feel like the goddamn cookie monster of intimacy, where i want to (metaphorically!!!!) shove that human touch down my non-existent gaping felt (pun) mouth-hole -- pieces of the love crumbling to the floor below.  Like i said, this whole wesleyan dance major thing has turned me into a monster.

Bullet Point (to the brain) Tuesday

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

  • In my first step toward becoming an answer (question) on Jeopardy (hopefully in a post-Trebek age. Tangential Fun Fact: If you google "Alex Trebek is a douche," this blog is the #3 search result returned.  Not too shabby.), a fellow blogger wrote an entry about a study i conducted and published.  You can find his article about my article here.  Is there anything more narcissistic than re-post on your blog another blog post about yourself . . . all while being a graduate student?  i think this might be some kind of record.
  • I rarely get so moved to anger as i have by the recent unearthing of some truly horrific evil events happening at Penn St. Football Dept.  Yes, granted, Sandusky is by far the most abhorrent.  He was raping children.  Not only that, but he started a foster program for disadvantaged kids . . . and then raped them.  He also has a number of adopted children.  Five boys.  It is all really ugly stuff.  And the furor that has gone up surrounding all of those in the know, including coach Joe Paterno, is warranted.  These are children that were victims.   They deserved more responsible and effective action.  If you hear that a child is being raped in your facility, whether or not that coach is in the process of retiring is not a good enough reason for only telling your university supervisor and not calling the police.  it if was your son being raped, i bet you would have called the cops.  Where have our priorities run away to?
  • Sports radio is, by and large, crap.  And i actually don't mean that negatively.  It is the sports equivalent of US Weekly.  You aren't really going to learn much, but its fun to be temporarily immersed in the conversation.  Well, this whole Penn St. scandal brought Heath Evans to the radio microphone this particular afternoon.  and while i know Evans as a fullback for the patriots, i didn't expect what came next.  He started speaking about how one day, when he came home to his nice house, with nice cars, and 2 beautiful daughters, he found his wife, trying to take her life because of the emotional scars caused by sexual abuse.  Evans eloquently ran down the numbers.  1 in 4 girls is sexually abused/assaulted, 1 in 6 boys.  He described the situation as the epidemic it is.  He spoke about the rising number of girls, 16 and under, who are now on anti-depressants -- a sign, he contends, that we are medicating the problem instead of dealing with it head on. 
And Heath Evans is going to confront this thing head on.  he started and he is personally involved in getting free, skilled mental health services to those who need it.  He is helping to create online couselling classes that are age appropriate and can be used anonymously, for those victims too scared to share their story.  He also create as a place for victims to anonymously (or un-) share their story of abuse.  Unburden themselves of the weight of being the only one who knows.  And to dispel the myths that victims of abuse are alone, that they are the only one's dealing with pain like this, and that they feel they are to blame for what was done to them.   I am rarely impressed by the men (and occasional women) of sports radio.  Heath Evans, you are the exception.  and you were exceptional.  i honestly believe you educated the listening audience. 

  • Lastly.  Yesterday in class, the professor asked the students what they thought of my lecture the past Friday.  There were mostly murmurs, but one girl responded.  "Beautiful."   That was, and remains, a pretty creepy response.  Which, caused me to look at my co-graduate assistant Amanda and say, "what happened to the good ol days, when only the female ta's got sexually harassed."  
Here's to a happier Wednesday.

More or Less Teaching

Saturday, November 5, 2011 | 2 Comment(s)

*A brief entry unrelated to the snow and ice and tree and power-line-maggedon.  Part II will be along.  But lets take a break for a second to talk about yesterday.*

Yesterday i gave my first large lecture.  I mean, i have been teaching in various capacities for years, but never to 400+ students.  This time it was 400+ students (of a social psychology class). 

And am i crazy to think that this is kinda a big deal.  I mean, on some level, my first "snap-shot" of social psychology was in a similar lecture environment back in undergraduate.  The professor of that class, who was a mentor then--and still is today, had a good deal of influence in my decision to pursue this field as a psychologist.  He brought it to life.  He explained how these ideas he was teaching about formed the underpinnings of why people say and do the things they say and do.  And he was right.

And now.  here i am.  Being that guy.  Boom

I'm not used to teaching that many people.  I am used to 10-50 students.  You get a feel for their mood.  their personalities.  I work the room.  effective teaching for me usually leans toward overly-intelligent comedy.  But 450 people, they are a group.  They have a group personality.  and it takes awhile to gauge.  and the class in only 50 min.  So it was a little daunting. 

I started off a bit shaky.  i forgot to show a video (i remembered and showed it at the end of class).  I was pacing a bit fast and semi-stumbled through the first two slides.  And then slowly.  Gradually.  I eased into it.  Found my narrative voice.  Found the story.  And we settled in. 

Interestingly, one of the subjects we touched on in this class was the media/public portrayal of homosexuals, and how that affects our behavior, including stereotyping and prejudice.  I thought back about a year when i was visiting a relative in college.  While we were hanging in his frat, we got to talking about some topic, let's say sports, and he remarked, "oh, they're so gay."

"Excuse me?" i said.  "oh, not gay gay, not like that, just like, you know dumb, stupid.  It's just slang."
"it's bad slang" "its slang i don't want to hear coming out of your mouth" "ill slang you right in the face if you say that slang again."  Some version of all of these statements were said.  But the truth was, we were both right.  He was right that using gay as synonymous with stupid is a ubiquitous part of college culture.  And I was right in that using gay in that way is both offensive and detrimental.

this is what i was thinking about when we began covering the topic in class yesterday.  And then i remembered something, holy shit.  im the teacher.  im responsible for teaching them ABOUT this.  And so i did. 

I'm not sure how many points i actually drove home in yesterday's class.  But i do know that they were silent during this particular message.  All of these students who are starting to grasp these hidden prejudices and implicit attitudes.  And then i tell them that using the term gay to mean stupid or lame is the exact kind of hidden behavior that reinforces these prejudicial attitudes.  And then, even though they may have thought it or heard this said in the past, when its said in the context of all other similar examples of racial and sexist prejudices that are no longer considered acceptable at all . . . they get it.  They at least get it enough to, for that moment, consider their own behavior.  Consider what it means when they have said it in the past.

And that, for a teacher, is the best case scenario.

I feel compelled to add that when rereading this post, it sound like i was much like the inspirational teacher in Stand and Deliver, or at least of that ilk.  I was not.  I will not pretend that this was a life changing lecture.  Except for me.  I was my first, and that's memorable.  But it was also my first, in that there was a lot of room for improvement.  lots.  Like next time im going to staple my notes so they don't end up scattered and unorderable within the first 15 minutes of the lecture.  I'm also going to make an effort to breathe more.  Cause oxygens my friend.

All im arguing for is a moment of teaching.  A moment of trying to be the change you want to see in the world.  A moment of putting my money where my gay mouth is.

The Dirge of Halloween 33 -- Part 1

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

"Halloween is cancelled!!!!  Halloween is cancelled!!!!!!!" 

That's all i heard as i flipped from radio station to radio station in my car.  But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Saturday Night: With my friend driving in from CT, through the beginning of the craziest snowstorm i have ever seen in my life, mol and i got reservations at our most favoritest eatery in the world, Chez Albert.  They are friends.  They are community.  They are also the site of our future wedding rehersal dinner.  Because we are still last minute doers, when it comes to things like "making reservations," we are sometimes out of luck.  In this case, we got a 9:15 reservation.  The late shift.  We piled in the car, mol at the wheel, and drove through the now driving snow (homonym double usage!!!). 

As we pulled into the back parking lot at Chez, we saw the kitchen, nay, the entire restaurant power flick on and off.  This smelled of adventure.  We parked the car and went in. 

Inside the mood was more panicked than usual.  While the Frenchman (capital F!) is, by nature, amazingly loosey-goosey, you could feel the kinetic energy of the pace being picked up.  We sat.  They told us what we already knew; they've been losing power.  They were waiting for us before they shut it down.  They love us and the feeling is mutual.  Touched.  I was touched.  So, we ordered immediately.  All courses. 

And they came and they were delicious.  Which is obvious, considering the source.  What is more note-worthy was the now fully raging storm outside.  We lost power temporarily too many times to count.  The small tree outside by the sidewalk was now coated in freezing wet snow and blowing in the breeze, resembling a Chinese dragon slinkily dancing in a parade.  And as we were paying the check, the first crazy piece of news came.  A tree branch had fallen on the cars.  And, "you're ok, as long as you don't drive a Subaru." Mol drives a subaru.  Amazingly, while there was a huge branch on the hood and windshield of the car, there was no real damage.  And that began the craziest f-n drive home i've ever experienced. 

*brief tangent.  did i mention that the card machine was down and we didn't even pay.  yah.  that happened.  thats community.  I mean, they DO know where we live if we never come back.  then again, never coming back would be punishment enough.  end tangent*

We pull through town, to a frozen snow-scape.  If it hadn't yet, it now becomes apparent that what is happening is some for reals shiznet.  and it is not messing around.  Trees are down everywhere.  Tree's are coming down everywhere.  A main road now has a canopy of trees leaning across the top, creating what feels like a driving version of Russian roulette.  Will they snap now, will they snap later. 

We are lucky to have many many different ways to get to our house.  Because of the mayhem, we decided to go home by the main roads. 

Main road #1:  main road number was has live power lines down and active.  The scene is dire enough that it quickly attracts a cop and his flashing lights.  We turn down a side road to turn around in their cul de sac.  Halfway around we are met with a full tree across the road.  Mol, aka. the driver aka our savior, pulls the half circle in reverse, and we are on our way.  Well, almost.  A guy and his car blocked our backtracking turn, as he struggles in reverse.  This went on long enough that my friend and i went out to help this guy stop being an idiot.  "I'm stuck," he said.  "No you're not" we replied, "you just need to go forward."  With that, he went forward.  We did tell him about the tree in the cul de sac.  I can only hope he did not die there, trying to back around that O.

Back on the road, we tried going past our house and doubling back on our street.  Up ahead there was a massive combo of tree/power line disaster, now block the major thruway.  (Would later come to find out the road we would have turned on from there was also SUPER un-passable). 

Turned around again.  Back toward town . Again the trees hanging overhead, threatening to snap.  New route home.  This time we took the road we usually take home.  It's a bit of a sideroad though, and we were playing it smart.  Miraculously . . . . let me say that again  . . . miraculously . . . that street was passable.  Street were no longer "clear." that was no longer a designation.  This particular street had a huge amount of trees down, but none of them completely blocked the road.  miraculous. 

We turned onto our road.  Probably 1/4 of a mile to go.  No chance.  Trees down. Plural.  big trees.  No chance. 

We go up past our house to the last remaining inroad to our home.  This is blocked, but only by movable branches.  We move them.  We then turn onto our street.  We are one house away, and we have to weave left, right, left to squeeze through 3 downed trees.  and then we are home. 

We park, get out of the car and hear "creeeeeeeeeaaakkBOOM."  A tree falls behind us, completely sealing us off the roadway. 

I. am. not. kidding.   This happened.  It was as indiana jones as it seems. and we were scared.  As we walked to the house, the sounds were of trees creaking and falling.  It was so constant and consistent that you could just sit there and listen to the neighborhood crumbling.   Surreal.

Suffice it to say, the power at our house was out.  Thankfully, we had a huge bag of tea-lights, and it was already pretty late at night.  We spent some fun time in candle-light, bundled up, and went to bed.

Not a bachelorette, but not yet a wifey

Saturday, October 29, 2011 | 1 Comment(s)

Today is the one-year anniversary of my engagement to mmf.  So, i have been using the term mmf for exactly a year.  Which means its time for something new. Something that expresses less surprise (at having a fiancé) and more excitement (at the upcoming metamorphosis into a wifeypants).  Hmmmm.

Some brainstormed thoughts:

FOTF - fiancé of the future.   This one was vetoed because its sounds too permanent.

ffTff - fiance for the foreseeable future.  This is a front-runner.  Only being held back by the connotation that sometime in the future, i will somehow find (build?) a stronger better faster stronger fiancé, whom i will switch her out for.  Like she has an expiration date.  Which she doesn't.

smmf - still my motherfucking fiancé.  I think this one's veto is obvious.

mmf part II -  see above.

mff - my focaccia fiancé - just cause it sounds so fun.

fiw - fiance in waiting -- both too british and the process leading up to the wedding is anything but a passive process.

twp - the wedding planner -- reallllllllly sends the wrong message.

mol - my only love - yah.  lets go with this one for the time being.  i like.

Anyway.  I was trying to figure out what an appropriate gift is for a proposeiversary.  I mean, there is no script for this one.  No rubric of material.  And trust me when i tell you that a second diamond is out.

So, considering she's from "the Kingdom" in Vermont, I decided to get her a foot of snow.  You know, to make it feel like home down here in balmy Massachusetts.  And wouldn't you know it . . . it came right on time.  A white halloween, and not just in the bathrooms at college halloween parties either.  we are talking october inches of snow, falling merrily from the sky.

Either the worlds gone mad, or i am.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 | 2 Comment(s)

Today i got a parking warning.  What is a parking warning, you ask?  It looks just like a university issued parking ticket (same little yellow sleeve and everything), only on the piece of receipt paper, instead of a fee, it read, "this is a warning."

"A warning for what," I though to myself as i stood beside my car, located in the parking lot for which i have a pass.  It was for "failure to display parking pass."  The best part, the part which made me actually laugh out loud, was that at the bottom of the warning the attendant had typed in my parking pass info (which i can only imagine they read off the pass).

Now i don't know whats going on.  I drive straight to the parking services office.  I show them the warning.  "It only a warning," the woman there says.  "yes, i reply, but a warning against doing what."  She admits that that is a very good question.  I appreciate her honesty.  A minute later the tall be speckled parking manager comes around the corner.  He comes around the corner like a man who usually is coming around the corner to give the final word on some bad news like, "we towed your car" or "we lost the keys to the car-boot".

to me he just, "let's take a look at it."  And a few moments later we are both staring at my pass, at the warning, and at the matching numbers.  Now he is shaking his head.  That makes me feel better than anything.  "You're good," he says.  And he says it with a tone that says, "i have no friggin clue why this yahoo decided to write you a ticket."

I suspect that the attendant probably didn't see the pass at first, started writing the ticket, saw the pass, and turned the ticket into a warning.  In the panic of having an extra slip of meaningless paper, he/she sleeved it in yellow and put it on my car anyway.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

I think i came up with a way to make millions off of this blog, and all id have to do is stop writing about the things i want to write about.  And since that isn't happening, i'm giving the idea away for a small slice of any profits made off of its use.  copy-written.

In this lucrative blog, what i spend my posts doing, is making funny and social relevant commentary on the random ads that appear in and around my posts.  Ok, maybe i just make fun of them in a witty way.  Ooooooor, maybe i show how their corporate greed is a building block of the failure of the modern american dream.  Ok, probably mostly jokes.

Anyways.  Because i am so hilarious and insightful, other advertisers will fight for the future ad space around my oh so magnetic words, and soon there will be massive bidding wars just to advertise near me so that i might skewer their products in a visible way that will boost sales.

Is this the definition of selling out?

$$$ for Nuthin but your PhD's for Fee

Monday, October 24, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

Those of who take notice of blog changes.  all four of you.  may have noticed that ads have begun popping up in and around my blogspace.  i did that. 

I figure, can't hurt.  I have made $1.75 so far.  and if i get enough to take mmf out for dinner, thats what ill do.  Interestingly, i believe that in the agreement for running the ads i am not allowed to A) click on the ads myself (i truly have better things to do) and B) I don't think im supposed to encourage my readers to click on the ads (which i wasn't thinking of doing in the first place).  This second rule is a bit strange to me as i also have the option of editing which ads are shown, to better fit my audience. 

Which means i'm essentially being asked to figure out exactly what you guys/gals would like/want/need, but then not to encourage you to get it.  it all seems very backward.  Which means it will probably work. 

In other relevant news.  Being in my building in graduate school is becoming a metaphor.  How so?  Well, they've begun construction on the area all the way around our building.  Which means that the parking lot is gone, as well as the grassy hill where you could watch the sunset (the one beautiful thing that this building has is a great view of sunset).  Now its a dust bowl.  And the building vibrates.  And there's beeping.  This is the "new view" from my office window (which doesn't open).

home sweet home

As grad school has excavated my will to continue this "educational" process, the machines outside are reflecting this process before my very eyes.  Living a metaphor. 

Speaking of things that are totally wrong.  I saw this scene unfold at the coffee shop over the weekend.

I'm at the counter, talking to my barista friends, when i hear a girl/woman speaking in noticeably loud Chinese (not sure which dialect).  I turn my head and see the girl sitting at "the island" talking super loud and i figure her friend (obscured by the pillar in front of me) across from her must be running over the "close talker" episode of Seinfeld in her/his mind (if Seinfeld made it to China). 

Then i turn and realize, there IS no one across from her.  This girl is rattling off a conversation, volume turned up to 11, while voice-chatting over her computer.   it was too good not to try and capture.  So, with the help of some friends, i got some surreptitious video.

Some notes on the video:  1.  it's back lit.  sorry bout that.  no control over the sun yet. 
2. The volume doesn't really come through.  You can hear her, but you can't hear how, relative to the other sounds in the shop, she was like a verbal firework going off in the center of town.  I think this has more to do with the microphone on my iPhone, more than me exaggerating the actual volume.  Enjoy:


And.  To close.  Some words of wisdom:

A dirty dog, is a happy dog.

The Sneak Strikes Again

Thursday, October 20, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

Bullet Point Thursday!!!!
  • This is how i imagine the meeting going at the advertising center of Wendy's headquarters: 

Ok everyone.  I want something fresh, hip, new.  We need a slogan that says "come to wendy's." Something that will speak to the young people.  

Executive: how about "Where's the beef?"  Exec Head: you mean our old slogan from the bygone era?
Executive: yup.  how about that again.  but you know.  again.  the old people will remember it fondly, and the majority of people will have never heard it before.  Exec Head: "BRILLIANT"

Me:  not brilliant Wendy's.  I'm not THAT old and i remember where's the beef.  What i can't for the life of me remember is why i give a flying squirrel.  Oh, that's right, it makes no sense anymore. (did it ever?).  I don't think this is going to be the moment where Wendy's surpasses McD's or even Bugger King (sic) and a purveyor of cheap questionable meat.  And they aren't in subway's league.

  •  As long as i'm bagging on advertising . . . . have you seen the new Sims game?  You know, the game where you pretend to be someone else as you interact with a fake real world?  Well the new Sims asks, "Are you a cat or a dog person."  but they mean it literally.  In the new sim it looks as if you can play as an animal OR a human (and potentially a human with a animal head--i haven't entirely listened to the commercial).  But i did catch the advert beckon you to, "chase some tail."  Does that mean they've animated pets having sex?  sadly, i am pretty sure i know the answer to my own question here, but it begs the secondary question: is there any wonder that the world has so many problems when some of our best computer minds are animated animal porn instead of, well, anything but that.

Also, are they really marketing these games directly at the stereotype of lonely shut its with only their pets as company?  I mean, i have a pretty uncomfortably close relationship with my pup, and even i find no draw toward playing with animated pictures of pets being controlled by other people who may or may not want to get it on with me doggy-style.  again, literally.  

  • I have grown to enjoy (GROWN to, mind you) Chelsey Handler's Chelsey Lately tv show.  I have a soft spot for ladies with sass who don't give a rat's ass.  That said, the strength/format/most guest comedians on that show are simply not funny enough to allow for a "guest host" to suffice during Chelsey's absence.  That is all i have to say on this.

  • There is an old William Carlos Williams poem (one of my favorites ever) that reads: 

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

Here is the version i wrote and dedicated to the sneakiest sneak in the sneak-o-verse, mmf:

I have eaten
some of the candy
that you hid
in the kitchen drawer

and which
I know you hid
under that cloth napkin.

I forgive you.
the kit-kats were delicious
and the tootsie-pop
so sweet.

 It took me 2 weeks to find that goddamn candy!

Moments: It's NOT just how you ask for breath fresheners

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 | 1 Comment(s)

I just had a moment.

thank god i just had a moment.  i needed a moment.

it's funny.  these days great moments often get measured by the sell-ablity of the subsequent screen play.  Disney moments.  Those are the super big bucks moments.  Because all of the 'lovable losers who come back and win' story lines have been played out, now we mine reality for our success stories.  And perhaps I'm being cynical here,  a criticism that i rarely get.  perhaps shining a spotlight on the wonders that happen to real world underdogs is what we need more of.  real world glory.

but a part of me can't help but think that this is real world glory in the same way that the Little League World Series is now a month long event on ESPN.  Yes, these kids are playing their hearts out.  And yes, there is something beautifully raw about the way they care and play the game.  But do i need to be watching it?  Some 32-year-old guy watching a the worst day of this 13-year-old's life play out in front of a newly minted national audience?  You have to admit, even the biggest skeptic would have to say that there is something, let's say, exploitative, going on.  And i feel like that is the mildest way of saying my feelings on this.  The most mild.

And that's how i feel about the Disnifying of real life triumph.  Why can't the recognition of the moment be glorious in and of itself.  We look for our moments from the television and miss the one's that happen in our day-to-day.

today, at the back end of a long day, i had a moment.  And i'm recognizing it right now.

5 years ago i taught a first year student-success course (this is not completely un-related to the piece that i authored that was recently published on this issue).  I had 3 sections of 20 (or so) first years -- and my task was to help acclimate them to the college lifestyle, and give them the tools (note-taking, studying, etc.) to reach success at the college level.  But, as i've grown to understand much more, i was also there to put a friendly face on "college" and give these kids an outlet for connecting with someone affiliated with the university.  Often students end up in large survey courses their first year, and can go long periods of time without having actual face-to-face contact with a professor.  As you might predict, this is not good for their general college well being.

In the smallest of these three sections, the one with 12 students, was Chris.  Chris was a light-skinned black kid with a puffy winter jacket and a Yankee's cap -- flat brim -- pulled down over his forehead.  He was quiet and reserved and thoughtful.  But also spectacularly disengaged.

It's fair to say i liked him immediately.  Which is to say i was a little harder on Chris than i was on most of the other classmates.   First, the Yankees cap had to be addressed.  His eyes engaged immediately.  He wasn't just wearing the cap for show -- he was a fan.  While sports fandom often gets a bad rap, it provides an opportunity for two people to connect instantly.  If i throw a red sox barb your way (5 years ago we were smack dap in the middle of our glory years), you are required to reply.  What kinda yankees fan wouldn't?  And so he did, and then i did, and then he did, and then i made sure he didn't half-ass any of his homework assignments all semester.  It's called teaching.

Did he always enjoy this process and extra attention?  definitely not.  His outfit said it all.  A bundle of puffed out clothes between him and the world.  In his shell.  Quiet and succinct responses.  And so when i made him phrase his answer in a complete sentence . . . and then complete that thought . . .  and then tell me why he thought that might be . . .

He suffered.

But he did great in my class.

The tough part about this type of class for me, is that when it is over, i am left with their comments on teacher evaluation forms, and then back to my grad school life.  They are left with my teachings, and very little reason to ever see me again.

Six months later i got an email from Chris, asking if i would write him a recommendation for a summer job.   He explained in the email that at the end of his first year, i was the only instructor that he felt knew him at all.  Like no one else could pick him out of a line-up.  And i did it gladly.  And life went on.

Today i ran into Chris on campus.  He was wearing a yellow v-neck t-shirt and no hat.  He had lost a significant amount of weight, and his posture was chin and head held high.  No slouch.  When he recognized me, as i approached him, he greeted me loudly and cheerfully.  Sunny t-shirt, sunnier disposition.  he told me he was a super-senior, he had added a second major, and that he was in the midsts of applying to grad schools.  for what?  social work.

boom goes the dynamite.

This kid made it.  He succeeded in the system.  he found his voice and his direction and it made me sincerely overjoyed.  it was a moment.  and while i certainly don't pretend that his success was the sole result of my tutelage, i do contend that i was a part of it -- and that I contributed to his success.  And that is what teaching, for the best teachers, is all about.  While you can never be solely responsible for a student's success or failure, you can take their resulting success or failure personally, to whatever degree you contributed.  That's how teachers take pride in their work, and how they push themselves to do better.

Today, for me, a got to see a W for education.  It broke a long string of recents losses.

Which is why i needed the moment i got.

Un-Friend Request

Sunday, October 2, 2011 | 5 Comment(s)

*Disclaimer* This may be a blog first.  i'm not going to use someone's real name in this post.  usually i do. but I suspect that some people who i went to high school with may read this blog, and I'm just not sure i want to deal with the possible repercussions of using this person's real name.  I guess I'm just admitting to myself that i don't need or want more drama in my life.  but i still want to say whats on my mind. *end disclaimer*

The city (small city) i grew up in was not a particularly fun environment back then.  And whilst most of the time in high school i was just cool enough to stay off people's radar, there were some kids who just seemed to really zone in on me.  Mark Johnson was quite possibly the worst.  At least in high school.  While the soccer team has its own brand of fear tactics and prejudice language, Mark Johnson somehow managed to make his anti-me anti-jewish kid agenda extremely clear to me without ever even being on a sports team with me.  He literally chucked pennies at me.  i mean, who fucking does that?  They do stupid shit like that on after-school specials -- not in actual high schools.  He did.  He knew all the slurs. It's amazing that such a dumb-fuck of a kid had such a wide vocabulary of religious (and requisite homosexual) slurs.  I hated Mark Johnson.  I hated him in the way that the 15-year-old inside me still hates him.

I remember one English class where the teacher stepped out into the hall for some reason, and immediately he stood up and shouted slurs and made fun of what a lame jewish gaytard i was in front of the entire class.  There never seemed to be any repercussions for his behavior, and the injustice of that stuck with me.  I should mention that by high school i was no longer defenseless.  Well, no longer defenseless in the sense that while i still had no actual defense against Mark and his bullying, i had figured out that the issue was one of his anger and poor parenting, not some innate defect of mine.

In my experience, while that may take away the sting of the assaults, it rarely kept them from leaving a mark (bully pun!).

Now the question you may be asking yourself is why i'm dragging this sob story out.  Well, on friday -- the Jewish New Year and high holiday of Rosh Hashana, Mark Johnson sent me a friend request on Facebook. (i do wonder if the irony of this act was completely lost on him)

The whole world has literally come full circle. Or at least the definition of "friend."  Friend somehow morphed from the people you care about the most, to some of the people i care about the absolute least in the world.

A few weeks back my dad told me that an old middle/high school acquaintance of mine had been caught embezzling money from his uncles business.  I have zero connection to this person anymore, but on some base level i felt bad for him.  I mean, i knew the 13-year-old version of this guy--and that kid was no embezzler.  He was just a little fat drama geek trying to survive high school like the rest of us.  If someone told me that Mark Johnson was thrown in jail for whathaveyou (let's say, for shits and giggles, a hate crime) . . . I wouldn't care.  Not even a little.  And that's crazy to me, because it's not the type of person i am.  Or at least not my conceptualization of myself.  I think of myself as over-empathetic, crying at videos of the Japanese tsunami or Andy Rooney's last broadcast on 60 Minutes.

I think it's that my 15-year-old self still cries for retribution.  Mark Johnson is as much a symbol of the abuse i took in high school as he was a source of it.  And that abuse is an integral part of the lens through which i see a world full of beautiful underdogs who simply need a healthy watering of love and acceptance. And he is a symbol of the judgement and criticism and self-hatred and shame that form the gauntlet we call by the startlingly benign name of adolescence.  So to my emotional self, any downfall that befittingly comes to Mark seems like a move in the right direction, even though my rational self knows that a bunch of horse crap.

Either way, i did not accept his friend request.

If a Picture is 1000 words, this post is over 21,000 words long.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

For a change of pace, and because i recently was notified (by my phone) that i have an excessive amount of photos on my phone (just above 2,500).  I figured i should share some of them.  and give some of them captions.  maybe funny ones. we'll see what happens.  Some of these first one's won't even be of my dog.  Here we go:

Halloween kitten. 
Turns out this kitten was not super excited with her new pit-bull roommate.

she lets her hair down
 my beautiful mmf.  Stunning.

bird on a hot aluminum side mirror 
 I'm not sure what you guys consider notable in your days, but 2 birds on a car side-view really revs my engine (car pun!)

i'm almost positive this is art
 This is a picture, and i'm not making this up, of eggplant roadkill.  Fresh eggplant roadkill.   I feel like this picture is the punchline to a joke that begins, "you might live in the country if."

however, I think someone was sending a message.  I think some small time farmer got mixed up with the wrong people . . . spaced out a few of his loan repayments . . . and his bookie is just making sure he doesn't pay late again.  it's sad that an innocent eggplant had to die because of it.  (i actually hate eggplant myself, so my heart is cold to such appeals.

pure motherf*cking heaven. 
 Yes, that is chicken and waffles and bacon. i'll pause to let you wipe your mouth.

thats not a chupah . . . THIS is a chupah!!!

also love
This wack-a-doo is our marriage officiant.  I think we made the right choice.  I mean, he's a stickler for time . . . so thats a positive.  And who couldn't use a quick lube job from time to time.

*new topic.  it is both dangerous and hilarious to have a board with rearrangeable letters on it near a bunch of drunken wedding guests.  As Ryan & Laura, who got married on the 3rd floor of the Woman's club found out.

end of wedding
I do recommend the latin congo company.  they tore the roof off that biatch.

And now its time for pictures with dogs in them:

My friend Liza has this thing with my dog where they take amazing and powerful photos together seemingly by accident.  The first one in this next series may be on my top 5 all time pics i've taken:

This past weekend Grover had a play day-te (and date that lasts all day?) with our friend's lovely old english bulldog Sadie.  Sadie was a little stand-offish at first (hard to get anyone?), but the two 2-year-olds ended up having a blast together--as the video at the end proves.  Enjoy!

new friends!!!
look how awesome we are together.  syncro-sitting

don't. ever. leave me.

is he still looking at me?

He's crawling over here, isn't he?

crawling right into your heart!!


tired friends

"Let's do this again soon!"

*the sugar on top*

What a Difference a Half a Decade Makes

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | 3 Comment(s)

I remember back to my first year in graduate school.  It's the one year of grad school that i can kind of say i enjoyed.  I have this vivid memory of walking down our 6th floor hallway, whistling.  Literally whistling.  I can't remember what song, and let's face it, once you get to a "whistling" level of contentment, the tune matters very little.  My eyes were cooked egg white back then -- no red.  And  this memory of a care-free me, forging forward on my career path is striking in its juxtaposition to the now.

My right eye is red now.  The lid above is puffy and it recedes when the stress level recedes, which is rarely -- usually during vacations.  yesterday i woke up, poured myself a cup of coffee, and sat down to do some morning work at home.  I then threw up in the toilet.  I am ashamed to say that my first thought, post-hurl, was not, "crap, I'm sick!" but rather "crap, now i'm going to have to buy coffee on the way to work."  yes, thats sick.

At work i felt worse and got permission to skip the class i TA in order to reserve energy for the night meeting for the same class, and then running a 2-hour TA session for said class until 8pm.  After the review session i limped home, got to watch some new tv with the mmf and then it was bedtime.

The overall impression this day left was a big ol skid-mark.  the underpants kind. A skid because mostly the day was a blur of nausea and information exchange; and a mark because the whole thing stunk like shit.

And that was a pretty normal day for me.  I have no real complaints about the day.  i was not treated unfairly in any way.  it was a day.

But i didn't whistle.  Not even close.  I can safely say that the idea of whistling didn't even cross my mind.  i have, at a minimum, been changed by this graduate school experience.  And that change, unfortunately, has taken the whistle out of my work.

These are the Creepers in your Neighborhood

Sunday, September 25, 2011 | 2 Comment(s)

If you were to go looking for me, at any given time when the sun is out--there are a few places you would look right away.  My house, the psychology building, and the coffee shop.  This post happened at the coffee shop.  My coffee shop.  Amherst Coffee.  (hi kylie).  Now i don't own Amherst Coffee.  It's not even a position i aspire to.  But, i do know every person that works there (or has worked there in the past 4 years) and a good 80% of the people who frequent this amazing coffee mecca.  It is my home base.  My social strike zone.  My tangible metaphor for community.

So it was not at all unusual to find me at the seats outside the front window, sipping an Americano, eating a muffin, and sitting with friends and puppies (grover's friend sadie and my friend becky were in for a visit--more on this later), chatting in the sun.  Mmf was inside talking with some friends, and i was outside with becky and two friends from our local bar.

There are, of course, downsides to community as well.  There are weirdos in your neighborhood, and ours is no exception.  Today weirdo is "the Creeper"

the creeper looks like a skinnier (but not skinny) strung out version of Ben Franklin.  glasses and all.  his long white hair is wisp, straight, and gray -- but it mostly is reminiscent (to me) of the hair that grows from burn victims heads.  Spotty.  He covers it with a floppy round brimmed fisherman's hat which really adds that pedophile feel which he probably isn't purposely going for.  What's amazing, is that none of this is why we call him the creeper.

This guys particular feature of creepiness includes: slowly sidestepping his way into other peoples private conversations and then, once physically close enough, using the close proximity as an excuse to just begin inserting himself into the conversation.

It's rude, uncomfortable, and, because the shit that comes out of his mouth is not benign (foreshadowing), its super duper annoying.  His creeping means that if you are having a conversation with friends, and you see this guy, you have to essentially move or shun him actively.  Good stuff.

So here we are, the four of us, sitting outside the coffee shop, with Grover (my pup) and Sadie (becky's adorable old english bulldog), when the creeper shuffles up.

Creeper (to me): "What was your dog's name again?"  

(we both live here and therefore he's seen my pup before)

Me (friendly): "oh, this is grover."

Creeper: "he's ugly."

*all of us are in a somewhat stunned silence*

Me: "excuse me?"

Creeper: "he's ugly . . . ugly . . . disgusting actually . . . .  he looks like you."

and he walks away.

This actually happened.  Verbatim.  My friends who were sitting with me looked over at me and all said, "if you told me the story of this happening, i wouldn't believe you. Or at least i wouldn't believe you that it happened JUST like it happened.  I would think you were exaggerating."

i am not exaggerating folks.  Stranger comes up, insults the cutest puppy in the world, then me (more understandable), then walks off.

And crazier still, this guy looks like the after photo of the super-villian who gained his evil powers after a horrible chemical plant accident.   The guy looks like he's got some kind of venereal disease all over his skin.  (i get mean when people f with my puppy)

But with every hilariously inappropriate insult from a stranger, there is a silver (hopefully padded) lining.  The creeper will creep near me no more.  I was so shocked by his out-of-nowhere insult, that i didn't have time to retort (he also went away).  I can assure you i will have no problem telling this guy to "go away because no one is talking to you" in the future, when he stalks up alongside us.

I did mention to him, on my way to my car, that the day that puppies seem ugly, might be a good day to take a long look in the mirror.

While i doubt he took my advice on the matter, if he did, i hope he found himself one strong-ass mirror.

I Ordered a Double Burrrrgerrrrrrr

Sunday, September 18, 2011 | 1 Comment(s)

Another Chicago tale.

Same friend that i was staying with.  And this story took place at his house, so i must give you some particulars about his place.

For those of you who live in chicago, he lives in Lincoln Square.  Because I'm an idiot, i constantly told people that i was staying in "lincoln park" (because of the band).  But, i was constantly immediately corrected by nearby friends, as i learned that lincoln park is ALSO a place in chicago which is very much NOT lincoln square.

And his place is super nice.  2 bedrooms and a huge sitting room.  My favorite part is that it has a long hallway that runs through the middle of the place.  And, since my friend is a bit of a "Monica" aka. likes it neat -- the place is both well decorated and immaculately clean.  Which makes the place feel nicer still.  Additionally, they have a small back yard and garage, but now I'm just bragging.

But.  There is a but.  In true chicago, living in the city, style -- my friends primo place is directly next door to a Burger King  . . . . with drive thru.  And while this, as kids, would probably have been fertile ground for all sorts of shenanigans and pranks -- as a man in his 30's, being able to spit and hit the BK has less appeal.  Important to the story, the drive thru ordering microphone and menu sign is directly outside my friend's kitchen window.  The scene is set.

Here i am, sitting in the kitchen.  Eating a sandwich.  When i hear shouting coming from across the parking lot, in the direction of the BK order box.  Now, mind you, when i got to this conversation, there was already shouting, so i missed the lead up.  But, given what i heard, i think i can Sherlock it all together for you.

When i opened the window i saw a man idling in a CRV SUV, with a kid in the back.  He is screaming at the woman on the other end of the microphone ordering mechanism.  From her reaction to his tone, I'm guessing the speaker on that baby doesn't have a volume nob.  (put that one in the suggestion box).

He is screaming, "NO NO NO NO NO.  there is a discrepancy!!! It says something here and then its different there.  THERE IS A DISCREPANCY!"

this goes on for, no exaggeration.  5 minutes.  Enough that i have now called my friend to the window and even have thought to wake his wife up from her nap to watch the ongoing coverage of BK parking lot crazy.  (we didn't, but we should of).   We are also (maybe just me) DYING to know what the discrepancy is that he is talking about.  it seems massive -- his tone makes me think the discrepancy might just be the difference between him making rent this week or not.

Then, he breaks this one off . . .

"Fuck it, ok fuck it! I don't care about the .50 cents anymore . . ."

Let's pause it right there.  50 cents!!!  That whole friggin canipshit was over more money than it took to keep your 17 mile-per gallon road monster idling all that time.  That's makes you an idiot sir.  and it also means that, while berating another human being is never truly an ok thing to do (but come on, when we are getting f'd over, we all make exceptions), in this case -- there really was no warranting it, as it was an obscenely small amount of money.  It also means that its the type of price misprinting discrepancy that the poor woman taking your order at the Burger King drive thru window in the middle of Chicago certainly has no control over.   Short version, it means this guys an ass.

Back to his rant . . . cause it gets awesome.

"Fuck it, ok fuck it! I don't care about the .50 cents anymore . . . just add a Double Whopper meal, an onion rings, and a kids cone."  (i LOVE that at the end of this order always comes "and a kids cone." reminding us that all this assery is happening in front of a child."

BK Woman:  "So you just want the Double Whopper meal, onion rings and a kids cone?"

This is where his brain pops. i swear.  it pops.  he is now shouting at his full volume WHILE striking the top of the front console of his car while getting brick red in the face (remember that we are watching all of this from my friends kitchen window--and sorry for the oncoming caps lock). "NO NO NO NO NO.  ARE YOU AN IDIOT!?!?!" NO NO NO NO NO"

He is interrupted in his rant by the BK woman asking him to "please not scream at her."  He replies, half screaming, that it is hard not to when she is being so difficult.  Totally lack of realization at the irony of his statement.

He continues at a slightly SLIGHTLY softer scream.  "I STILL want the 7 Double Whoppers, (insert a shit ton of food here), and THEN i want the the Double Whopper meal, onion rings and a kids cone?"  

this really puts that 50 cents into additionally crazy perspective considering the massive haul of "fast" (not anymore!) food he is ordering.  7 Double Whoppers?  To feed his army of goats?  (they'll eat anything!)  And then who was like "no no no i don't WANT a double whopper, i want a DOUBLE WHOPPER MEAL!"

All of these questions are racing through my mind as the woman finally tells him to drive up to the window, which is blocked by cars amazingly still waiting for their food.  Amazing considering we've been watching this atrocity for a solid 15 minutes, and i can't imagine how the other orders weren't finishing.  Less surprising is the loooooooong line of car behind the SUV from hell, who are no doubt debating whether or not they should just drive through to another drive thru.

As he pulls forward, he looks right and I'm pretty sure he saw the two of us gaping out the window (we were laughing and shouting at him pretty loudly by that point).  I swear he waved.  Maybe just with one finger, but I'm pretty sure he waved.  He still had to wait anther 10-15 minutes for his order.  We imagined one of two scenarios taking place inside his vehicle.

Scenario 1:  with the threat removed, and his kid in the backseat, he reverts back into his mild mannered self and feels shame and embarrassment.   But, i have to admit, this seems less likely considering the behavior we have just witnessed.

Scernario 2:  Stewing.  Sitting there, anger brimming like a smokey pot stirred by wart-covered witches.  In this scenario i wonder if he starts to ponder all the obscenely grotesque crap they are currently putting his food through.

"Front of the pants or back of the pants" the cook is asking the just screamed at order taker.  "Oh definitely back of the pants," she is replying.  And thats not even getting to the "special sauce and condiments."  You really shouldn't screw with people who both don't give a shit and are making your food.  It's a delicate balance . . . and your shouting just tipped it in the direction of 'boogers' over 'burgers'.  Sorry.  i meant Double Booger Meal.

Bon Appetite assface.   and a kid's cone.

Some Like It Wet

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 | 1 Comment(s)

A few weekends ago i went to chicago for a wedding.  Before going to said wedding on the sunday, i spent thursday thru saturday with my friend (from the early summer chicago wedding) relaxing and eating various blocks of chicago style meat cubes.  No one does chunks of various meats like chicago.  One of my favorite such meat logs is a burrito from "Garcias" (?), where i can get a cheeseless, marinated-beef stuffed, guacamole-smothered, tasty-ass burrito--that should, practically speaking, be eaten for two meals.  Obviously, that was not the case here.  Mouthface destruction.

i also went to "Chubby Wieners."  A joint (pun) that specializes in chicago style meats.  The Chicago-style dog (which i respect and enjoy but is not my favorite preparation) is one popular selection.  Another is the "Italian beef." Italian beef not only specifies the meat--but also the bun and condiments and the sauce.  It's a thing.  And its a tasty friggin thing. 

Sauce is especially native to chicago.  (i learned a lot about sauce this trip.)  While one would think that sauce is a fairly viscous, ketchup-like consistency--its actually mostly watery.  But its warm and pretty much meat-juice and spices.  Yum.

Well, i like to try things with the local flavor, so when the guy behind the counter asked us if we wanted our beef "wet" . . . (first i giggled internally) and my friend immediately said "yes"-- so i also said "yes."

Big mistake.

Here's what "wet" is.  Wet means they dip the entire bun in that sauce, til its soaked, then apply meat and veggies.  We took ours to go.  And while my friend lived right around the corner, by the time i went to eat my sandwich, it resembled meat encased in a meaty bread pudding.  But then it crumbled like a wet graham cracker (i dip!).  All in all, i think chicago gets a big fail on this one.  i do not like biting through a sand castle of soggy bun to get to my deliciousness.  I have consulted with friends from the area, and they say that if you house your sandwich right on the spot after getting it wet, its awesome.   Not sure i'm gonna give this one a second chance. 

Still ate the whole god damn thing, of course.  Let's not get crazy.

oh yah.  there was also chicken and waffles.  did i not mention the chicken and waffles?   they tasted as good as they looked.

So Doggone Smart

Thursday, September 8, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

This is not a dog blog.  which means, of course, this post is about dogs.

Recently i was having a conversation with a labradoodle owner.  And, not surprisingly, she said what i've heard many other dog owners say to me about their dogs.  It is always something like, "oh, my ______ is just sooo smart.  We thing its the labrador in her, but poodles are smart dogs as well."  Now i love the labradoodles--they are just plain cute and as a kid of allergies, its extremely hard to hate on hypoallergenic dogs--even designer ones. But i just don't know why a 'smart dog' is a thing.

So i laugh.  Cause I think its the most ridiculous thing ever.  

It's not that i don't understand what they're telling me.  I do.  I get what a 'smart dog' is.  They do tricks.  Maybe they even fetch your slippers if you wear slippers and if its a really smart dog.  I still don't care.  Because unless you are wheelchair bound or blind or otherwise impeded from retrieving your own slippers/shoes, all that is is a nifty way to move less.  It is a remote control for your shoes.

(*sidenote: service dogs who do all of these seemingly mundane tasks for their owners are, indeed, very smart and unbelievably amazing.  you should assume from here on out that service dogs are outside the realm of even poking fun at. cause they obviously rule.  in fact, i want to be a service dog when i grow up.  all this said, as i continue, i think you'll see that service animals fit into my sense of what makes a dog good, anyways. end sidenote*)

So your very smart dog knows what it's bed is and which toy is "bunny."  So smart.  Is he going to college?  Is she putting that intelligence to work getting scholarships? Are your pooches on the job market?  No.  Of course not.  Because, other than staying away from the road and remembering to eat, pee, and poop, dogs have very little need for intelligence.  In fact, i have it on some authority that a number of, what in the human world we would call "mentally challenged" dogs, live happy healthy amazing dog-lives with their families.   They run into walls and their family laughs and loves and life goes on. 

Because, for us humans, a dog's real job is to love us unconditionally.  To be a companion.  To show us the loyalty that fellow humans often falter at.  So if you tell me that your labradoodle is unendingly loyal to you.  Well now, that's tell me something.

I think an example of what im getting at may help illuminate my point.  let's take grover.  Grover, in general, sleeps in our bedroom at night.  He has a bed comprised of two comforters (one is so fluffy we call it "the marshmellow") laid on top of each other. Behind the comforters are two big file cabinets (the metal cabinets actually form the back boundary for the bed.  In front of his bed, is our bed.

To understand this story, you need to know that on school nights, mmf goes to bed a few hours before me.  She wakes up much earlier, so this makes sense.  Therefore, grover and i cruise into the bedroom in the low light of the hall lamp, and settle in.  On this night, as i am "tucking" grover into bed, my elbow hits the metal file cabinet drawer which makes a fairly loud noise (especially loud considering the hour and otherwise silent room).  Grover was solidly terrified and shot like a bullet up on the bed (where mmf was sleeping) and turned.

This is important.  This is relevant.  Was he scared?  Hell's yah!  But, in his fear of danger (the sky is falling!!!), he didn't bolt downstairs, he didn't go hide in his crate, he jumped in front of mmf and faced the threat.  I'm not saying that House of Pain was going to do anything (watch Swingers for the reference).  I mean, grover is not a fighter.  But he is loyal.  Deeply.  And he's wired to be at our side when shit goes down.  And that, i would argue, is more important than smarts or being able to jump through a tire.

Is grover a 'smart dog'?  Well . . . you tell me.

and yes, he did just pin his back paw down with his front paw to stabilize it for his face.