Happy End of 2012: Holden Caulfield's a Whiner

Monday, December 31, 2012 | 3 Comment(s)

I'm going out with a bang.

After that whole circumcision piece, i have that wonderful feeling you get from over-sharing with the interwebs (when it doesn't involve nudie pics).  And.  Well.  I'm going to go out on a limb once again, but this time, it's a "classy admission".  As opposed to "crude admissions" regarding smelly gasses and bodily fluids, classy admissions involve insensitive taste buds and not knowing the difference between Monet and Manet (pleeb).  And this classy admission could change our blogger-bloggee relationship.  Forever.
Deep breath.
Here we go.

Catcher In The Rye didn't speak to me.  I mean, I could follow it.  It was an engaging story.  But Holden just didn't epitomize an innermost piece of me.  His battle against the phonies never hit home for me when combines with his own, let's say, somewhat jerky, personality .  And I know that angst goes a long way in literature, and that a good 75% of you are all like "Are you KIDDING me!! Catcher in THE RYE!  It's like the best book ever.  EVER.  It's just.  just.  so . . . "  and then you make the noise that equates to your own idea of ineffability.   A noise where, in the background, you can hear the fire escape ladders being drawn up from the townhouses.  And look people.   I'm not arguing with you.  You are, in fact, the majority.

That said.  Listen very closely to the following words: Catcher in the Rye is not one of my favorite books.   Not even in my top ten.  (top five in no order: The Power of One, The Phantom Tollbooth, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Lamb, & The Calvin & Hobbes Treasury.)  Caulfield isn't even in the field.  He's kind of a whiner.  I'm just saying.

Perhaps it's because i didn't really go through my angry teens until i was 25.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my idea of "rebel punk music" includes Blink-182 and Green Day.  But my rage simply didn't match up with the immortal H.C.'s.   You know whose angst i TOTALLY related to as a kid?  Paul.  From the Wonder Years.  Now there is childhood angst.  You want slightly older.   I'll take Angela Chase 8 days a week.

If there is one take away point from this, it's that i liked to watch t.v. as a kid way more than i enjoyed reading.

But, if there is a second point, it's that i could have ended the year with a pithy little fluff piece about Fluff, or an in depth look at the magical anatomy of the unicorn.   I could have sat here and written about how JD Salinger's masterpiece Catcher In The Rye opened me up to the possibilities available to a writer, and that it was ok for a book's character to reflect a point of view counter to the accepted norm.  I could have expounded about how Holden typified how a book could be used as an amazing vehicle for expressing the anger and the difficulty of life from a variety of viewpoints.

But no one like's a phony.

So long 2012, it's been real.

Fear the Foreskin

Friday, December 28, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

I am scared of foreskins.

There.  I finally said it.  It's been a sentiment that has been eating away at me for awhile now, and when I can't find a socially acceptable outlet for my deep confessional feelings, i take to the blog.

Now I'm not scared of foreskins like i'm scared of large snakes (pun intended).  I don't think a foreskin is going reveal itself from a dark corner as it simultaneously uncoils to snap out and bite me.  I mean, i can see it happening.  But i know it's reasonably unlikely.

This is also not a homophobia thing.  I have no problem with penises.  Peni?  Hell, i even have one of my own that i like to give it as much attention and play-time as possible.  Sometimes I even procrastinate with it.  So, this isn't a simple matter of anti-penis bias.

So where does this aversion to the "natural" state of the human male sex organ at rest come from?  Well, first of all, it comes from a lack of exposure.
When I was 6, I went to my first all-boys summer sleep away camp in the Berkshires.  The camp was about 40 minutes from my parent's house, but to a kid my age, that was practically out of the country.  Just like the movies, we had a lake, no working electricity except for in the dining hall, and a girl's camp just "through the woods."  Another staple of the summer camp experience is communal showers.   At  6, this was not as horrifying experience as it was educational.  We were still too young to really compare working parts at that point (kinda like trying to compare tree stumps), but it was still the first time I can recall seeing peers naked.

Pretty much what you'd expect.  Bunch of little kids rushing to get the hell out of the bathroom.  But, one image that i still haven't forgotten involves the "exchange" kid from Korea.  Now, I don't really remember who this kid was.  He wasn't in my bunk.  I realize the idea of an exchange student at camp is fairly silly, and considering my age, I could have just been a tiny racist and assumed the Asian kid was an exchange student (not a ton of diversity in the Berkshires in the mid-80's).  However, for some reason i feel strongly that the kid was an import.  Regardless of his origin story, when i looked down to where the little Korean kids ding-dong should be, i saw something distinctly foreign.

Where I expected to see a miniature Smurf-house on its side, was instead an entirely different shape.  The base looked pretty much the same, but then the tube quickly pinched off, almost to a point.  Then, at the tip of the point, was a ball of skin about the size of a small marble.  His pee came out said marble.  I was in a state of utter confusion.  At first i thought that maybe he had some sort of half penis-half vagina.  It would be another decade or so until i could properly compare this kid's wiener to a human vagina, and I correctly predicted that i didn't have that kind of time.  My mind raced as i tried to avoid been noticed staring quizzically at another camper's junk while soaping my underarms. 

I don't think i ever figured out the sphinx that was a 6-yr-old's uncircumcised penis.  And i haven't seen another another kid's uncircumcised penis since (not really a goal of mine, i might add).  So, somewhere in my grey matter lies that tan marble of fear for even, or especially, the tiniest of foreskins.

The frequency of foreskin in my life hasn't increased much since.  If asked at this moment, i can only think of two of my friends who i know have penises untouched by carving tools.   Of those two, i have a long running joke with one of them regarding his uncircumcised scribe.  And, therefore, he has come to represent for me, "the modern uncirsumsized male."

I know this because of a dream i had about 4 months ago.  In said dream, this friend, let's call him Chris, and I are hanging out in "the city".  Now, i wish i remembered more details relating to the bigger picture of the dream, because it would create a more full reconstruction of the event, but instead I just give you the event:

For whatever reason, and somehow (don't ask me how while im conscious) in a non-homosexual way, Chris and I decided that we needed more "docking" in our lives, and then proceeded to dock one another like Marty McFly reconnecting the extension cords right before the lightning strikes.

"What is docking?" says every reader over the age of 40?   Sadly, i will tell you.  Docking necessitates two men; one circumcised, one un.  And, again, i apologize for being the one to tell you about this.  The two men take their non-erect (maybe, like, 25% erect?) penises and have them approach each other, head on, like one of them is going the wrong way down a one way street (which, in a way, they are).  Next, the uncircumcised man takes his foreskin and pulls it over the the head of his own penis and then stretches it out over the head of the other man's penis, forming a finger-cuff-like palindrome of penis.  The term docking denotes how the two penises, when approaching each other, sort of look like the male and female end of some strange human extension cord and/or person connection unit.

*I can't reiterate this enough to you people out there who don't know any gay people or have somehow barricaded yourself from the reality of homosexual america . . . this is not how gay men have sex!!!!!!!!* 

And so, there i am, awaking from a dream in which i become one in the absolute strangest of ways with a good friend of mine.  If this doesn't more fully explain my fear of the foreskin, i'm not sure what else to say.

Some clarification.  I do not think being uncircumcised is wrong in any way.  It is, truly, how we are made.  I actually think it's pretty hypocritical for the religious folks in the world to be all "we are created in God's image" and then the first thing they do to newborn boys is lop a piece of that God created image right off.  Kinda sends a mixed message.  At the same time i'm glad i've never had to have this call and response which i found over on Yahoo! Answers:
I'm 13 years old and I can fully retract my foreskin. But, yesterday I saw a white substance under my foreskin. I looked it up and it said that it was smegma. So how am I supposed to clean this?

Hi Demetrius

I am a doctor in Australia, where most guys have foreskin, so I frequently answer foreskin-related questions.

Yes, this substance is probably smegma (or commonly called d*ck cheese). The best way to clean it off is to just rinse the penis and foreskin with warm water, perhaps some gentle body gel if you like avoid using soaps as they can dry the soft skin of the foreskin and the glans (head).

Other causes of "white substance" under the foreskin can be a minor fungal infection or pearly penile papules (a type of benign nodule), although these are far less likely then just smegma.

If things don't work out with just washing it off, let me know and I can advise if it might be something else.

I am a doctor [*editors note-i find this self citation badass and plan to rip it off]
Now, i am aware that there are many other, even more superficial reasons to avoid face time (or god forbid FaceTime) with foreskins, but i'll leave those arguments to straight women, gay men, and everyone else for whom the penis plays a distinctly different role.  

As for me, I feel better.  This confession has cleansed me like the smegma off a confused 13 year old.

A High School Miracle

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 | 2 Comment(s)

Every   single     time    i hear one of the songs from that mix tape Alli (real name) gave me back in the early 90's, I'm transported back to Route 20; cruising the one lane highway from Pittsfield, Mass. to Albany, New York.   I couldn't list the songs out to you in any meaningful way.  I know a few:  Catholic Girls, My Girlfriend is a Centerfold, Jesse's Girl.  But i listened to that tape over and over in my previous car so often that the playlist is imbedded in my hard-drive.   So much so that any time one of those 20 or so songs pops onto the *sigh* classic rock station, i have a visceral response and think immediately of Alli.

I met Alli through my jewish youth group.  More accurately, Alli was my youth group best friend's girlfriend who i was introduced to at one of the many weekend events.  She was adorable and crude and I immediately loved her.   Being my best friend girl gave us the unique opportunity to hang out as platonic opposite-sex wing-people.  Sure there was some sexual tension . . . and perhaps, post her breakup with said boyfriend/best friend there may have been some mutual, and purely educational, ear-lobe suckery (hormones are a helluva drug), but 95% of the time we were just a couple of super kick-ass friends who lived an hour away from each other.  47 minutes if you don't mind occasionally getting pulled over for speeding (only once).

Now here is where it gets a little more interesting.  I did not have a wonderful time in high school.  It was nowhere near as bad as middle school, but it just wasn't my thing.  Frankly, my jewish youth group was my thing, for 3 main reasons.  

1) In my youth group i was considered attractive, popular, and hilarious.  In my high school, i was not.

2) In my youth group i had tons of friends who really liked me for who i was.  In my high school, i felt like i was hiding most of the time.  

3) And potentially most important:  In my youth group, girls wanted to make-out with me.  In my high school, not so much.  

And so, I increasingly wanted to spend my free time with these jewish friends, of whom none lived in Pittsfield.  The closest location with an actual grouping of my jewish friends was the greater Albany area.  So when the weekend rolled around, all those long weekday nights slaving through homework paid off in an ok to get the hell out of dodge.  I rode a bus or two.

My senior year I got my first (and favorite) car ever (1986 Volvo 740 GLE).   I was mobile.  The limiting factor now, however, became finding a place to stay on the tail end of these journeys.  To further bait the hook, i increasingly, and not coincidentally, i also started having girlfriends who, by totally happenstance (not by total happenstance), all lived in and around the greater Albany area.  But what parent is going to let their daughter's boyfriend come have sleepovers every weekend?  No matter how much i played up my quintessential "nice jewish boy" qualities, i needed a pad of my own.

It really was a social pickle.  And Alli popped the lid off it.  Well, more accurately, Alli and her parents.  Mr. and Mrs. T welcomed me into their home pretty much unconditionally ( i remember there few a few non-negociable rules).  I'm not sure whether it was that they knew Alli was dating someone else exclusively, or if it was because their older daughter had recently left for college, or if they are just the nicest, most giving human beings i was lucky enough to spend time with -- but they eventually set up a bedroom that was made "just in case Matt stops by this weekend."

And that's exactly what i'd do.  I'd just, be there.  Sometimes, Alli wasn't even there.  I think once I even stayed there alone.  But they became my family away from home and forever changed my high school years for the better.  Not only did i have a perfect location to visit my girlfriends from (heyo!), but i also retreated post "curfew," back to an actual slumber party with one of my best friends. 

 In a greater sense, Alli and her family turned the possibility of place where i could go to evade the dangers innate to my high school experience, and they made it real.  They gave me a place to escape to.  Whenever.  Whyever.   And, judgement free, I was always met with enthusiasm and excitement upon rapping their front door.  "Zimby's here!!!," I can still hear Mrs. T yelling up to Alli, Mr. T still enjoying his second cup of coffee and the Saturday paper at the kitchen table.  

The kindness i was shown by Alli and her family is the type that can never be repaid.  There simply is no way to do it.  Instead, it changed me as a human being.   It made me softer in the middle and more open to the simple miracles that exist when i am able to open myself up further that i felt comfortable, and to ask another person do the same.  Where those furthers overlap, i have found a consistency of simple miracles and occasional heartbreak. (ps. worth it.)  With Alli and her parents, it was all miracles. 

Interesting Matt Fact #883: The Bank of America Blues

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 | 1 Comment(s)

I have been in the process of closing my Bank of America checking and savings account for the past two years.  This is not an exaggeration.  While, in much more difficult, awkward, and painful circumstances, i have always found the strength to put my money where my mouth is (pun).  I am decidedly not all talk.  But even my true moral outrage is practically powerless compared to direct deposit.

And so i waited until i graduated grad school and no longer had my pittance wired directly to the corrupt, system-fixing, sonsofa bee.   But now the cable bill and my car insurance get auto-paid out of those accounts.  You start to see why they implement these programs.  To draw you further and further into a bank dependency where the effort to change banks is always made greater than the effort to stay.

Recently, I took the first step.  I opened a checking and saving account at my local bank.  I have my escape route.  Now it's that critical time in the break up where i try to get as many of my things out of the other person's apartment without them realizing it's happening.  "What? This ol iPod? Nah, nah, i just wanted it at home because i was hoping to use it to work out with."  

Leave the toothbrush.  You can get a new one.

At some point they took 8 of my dollars from my account.  Apparently i agreed to keep 1000 dollars in my account or forfeit 8 dollars.  I told the guy that that seemed ridiculous, and he said, "well, we would have sent you a letter."  Fuck you dude.  That's not good enough.  And it's so not good enough that instead of explaining how not good enough that explanation is, i am leaving this bank forever.   Don't take my 8 bucks and tell me you sent me a letter.  How hard is the concept of my bank just holding my money without taking it!!!  This is not one of those "possession is 85% of the law" deals because the whole (supposed) point of your institution is to hold and protect other people's stuff.  Not take it in tiny increments.  That's not the deal.  Bank of America, WHY ARE YOU SO HANDSY WITH MY MONEY.  And so, the ball had to get a-rolling.  I need out of this menagerie.

This post, of course, is all part of the process.  By shaming myself publicly i just shorten the amount of time it will take me to unravel my "assets" from one system, and recoil them in another one.  I'm just glad that my assets are significantly shorter than my computer and phone charger cords, because they have been braided for so long they have merged into some form of iDreadlock charger.

I've also tried reconceptualizing the problem.   As in, "for my new years resolution, I am leaving Bank of America."  This is a good resolution in that I may be the first person ever to give themselves an achievable goal.  It is also a good resolution in that it gives me a year.

Un-fortuantely, this deficiency of mine is a bit generalizable to other completely doable errands such as mailing letters.  Not writing letters -- i have a knack for that.  It is the mailing that stymies me.  Ask any of my wedding guests who are still waiting for their thank you notes (sorry eric).

It gives me a certain demonic pleasure to think that before too too long the postal system will become obsolete, thereby erasing my deficiency by default.  It's pretty logical to think that a similarly outsourced fate lies a bit further down the road for the banking system.  The world is coming to me.

Technology: Lazinesses greatest enabler.

The Death of Imaginations

Monday, December 17, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

It is a difficult time to find words.  It is hard to find the space in me where comforting words exist.  And it is even more difficult to imagine those words giving any measure of relief.

am i filled instead, with mental flashes of empathetic terror.  I am sickened for the children, disillusioned to the cruelty of the world at the very moment they departed it.   I think of the wonder that died.  The wide eyes.

When I was in 3rd grade, a student (who we'll call Kevin) decided to take a stand during one of our science lessons.  He insisted that one day, while playing outside, he picked up a worm and it stuck its tongue out at him.  The teacher tried to explain that, because the anatomy of the worm is just one long tube, worms don't need tongues to redirect food because everything that goes in the front end simply gets poops out the back end.  Therefore, worms don't have tongues.  This was 25 years ago, so I can't remember if the teacher went into what a  prostomium is (a tongue-like protrusion  in some worms that is actually used for sensory purposes).

I do remember that Kevin was not ready to drop the subject merely due to a teacher telling him some fact about how worms have no tongue.  He had seen it, and to a 3rd grader, that is truth.  "NO, HE STUCK HIS TONGUE OUT LIKE THIS!" Kevin screamed, as he then repositioned his mouth to show how his very real tongue could jut straight out from between his lips.  The conversation (and i use that word loosely) only degraded from there.  Soon, Kevin was throwing a full blown worm-tongue fueled temper tantrum.  He was crying.  And screaming.  Because in his world, the world he knew and felt safe in, worms have tongues.  And they aren't afraid to use them.

But now, stepping onto the uncertain sea of school peers and adult learning, worms no longer had tongues, and that was an unarguable fact.  Well, more accurately, it was arguable, but that argument sent you to the principal's office.  Tongueless worms crushed Kevin's ability to make sense of his world.   Disillusionment comes in many forms.

I wonder what worlds and animal parts we lost on Friday.  There were sure to be winged walruses and butterfly penguins.  Undoubtably there were untouched and still untapped imaginations.  When you are that young, you still have the superpower of sewing together reality and creativity.

 I can remember that fateful day back in 1990,when my Transformers lined up along the wall where the shag rug met the blue wall.  Opposite them, my M.A.S.K. (Mobile Action Strike Komand?(sic)) drivers sat at the board room table in the power circle, waiting to receive their charged up helmets full of special abilities -- before boarding their own transforming vehicles.  Optimus Prime declared for the Autobots to "TRANSFORM" as they launched an all out assault.  M.A.S.K. was ready for them, however, and split off into various mini-battles.  The action was continuous as mini-battle after mini-battle played out with such epic drama and plastic manipulation as to be far superior to either individual cartoon series.

In the end, it was Voltron (the lion-made Voltron, not the weird car-mad Voltron) who saved the earth from 3 TV shows worth of good-guys.  With all of those heroes battling, i just remember there being a lot of carnage.  Enough of it to make cleaning up almost as fun as the battle itself.   And in my adult mind, this battle still seems fairly real.  Some sort of historic.

The past weekend has similarly felt like a mix of reality and the surreal, except this time the carnage can't be dumped into large Tupperware containers and pushed to the side.  We are all left standing disillusioned together.   Our worms no longer have tongues, and it is world-crushing.  And we stare out at the decimated imaginations, wondering how we got here.  Wondering how things have gone this far.

I wish this piece ended with answers.  Any answers.  How to move forward.  How to make sense of what happened, even in a small way.  I want to tell you where the silver lining is.

But, it is a difficult time to find words.  It is hard to find the space in me where comforting words exist.  And it is even more difficult to imagine those words giving any measure of relief.

The Humanity of Fame and Murdering

Sunday, December 9, 2012 | 1 Comment(s)

I think this "being a writer" thing is starting to sink in because lately i've been thinking a lot about what it means to be human.  Also, i've been mulling over what it means to be famous.  And then, naturally, the overlap: what it means to be human and famous, or human then famous, or, in the rare case, famous then human.

And it is hard in this internet-infused, video-phone enabled, 24-hr news chatcycle, to remember that famous people are human beings.  Especially in a world where Lindsey Lohan exists.  But at the end of what each of these these movie stars and athletes and rock gods call a day, they all must close their eyes in a dark room, and let their demons wash over them.

What if i'm a fraud? What if i blow out my knee tomorrow? Do i have AIDS?  

but those are specialized demons.  Famous demons for famous sleepers.  These are the devils of humanity's creation, and I'm talking about the more basic. human. fears.

I will die.  All of this money is meaningless when i am gone. What is the cost of being away from the one's i love?  Why do people like me when i don't like myself?  "Does anyone love me?  Can I ever really love someone forever?  Am I lovable?  Do they just like me for my money, fame, power, humor, connections, free drinks, car, ___________?  

The last case i mentioned in my introduction -- going from famous to human -- is particularly intriguing to me because of the parameters that must be met for it to occur.  Not everyone can fall from fame.  Far from it.  In fact, once you reach a certain level of fame, a series of events is seamlessly put in motion to encourage and publicize your tragic fall from grace and eventual bottoming out. And then your gradual but heartwarming comeback via celebrity rehab show to formal dance competition.  Which is to say that America loves tearing down its idols almost as much as it loves voting for them by phone.

So once you are a, say, a Britney or a Lindsey or dare i ask for any flavor Kardashian, you can't ever be human again.  You, unlike our banking industry, are not too big to fail, but rather the perfect-sized big enough to fail spectacularly.  Because, as we have learned, even in jail, Paris, Lindsey, and even Martha Stewart are still more famous person that human being.  We feel no tragedy in their loss (ok, maybe martha got some white people on her side).  They deserve it.  At are weakest moments, Paris Hilton pouting her way into a jailhouse is even funny.  If the idea of you being locked behind bars is funny to any large group of people, you can be fairly certain that you will never again be human -- unless maybe when you are old and living in Montana and have become completely unmarketable.  Even ironically.  Even to hipsters.

So that means to go from famous to human, you must be only modestly famous.  Famous enough to get consistent adulation, but maybe not famous enough that everyone knows you on sight.

Writers are the perfect example.  How many of your favorite authors would you recognize if they were strolling the opposite direction in the mall?  The way i figure it, a writer of any renowned is only one homicide away from being human again for the rest of their lives.  And they will spend that personhood in a jail similar to famous-person jail except that no one cares and you never get out.

Which brings us naturally to the second requirement of going from famous to human; you have to do something pretty f'd up.  I mean, we can forgive a ton of stuff as a society.  And if you're one of those really famous people, we'll forgive (or at least forget) almost anything (see Ray Lewis and murder).  

So, if you find yourself a mid-range celebrity having sex with an underaged prostitute being recorded on HD video, you better hope that DVD sells mad copies, cause your only screwing yourself (regardless of how vigorously the videotape may despite that truth).

Sadly, such an occurrence (falling from fame to humanhood, not the underaged prostitute stuff) happened recently in the National Football League.  On Friday, Joshua Price-Brent was the starting nose tackle for the Dallas Cowboys, preparing for his game today against the Bengals in Cincinnati.  On Saturday, Price-Brent went out on the town with his current practice squad teammate and former college teammate at the University of Illinois, Jerry Brown Jr.

On Sunday morning, this morning, Joshua Price-Brent was in jail accused of asecond-degree felony: intoxicated manslaughter.  Saturday night, while speeding above the posted 45 mph, Price-Brent hit the curb on the side of the road, flipping the car and killing his passenger and friend Brown Jr.  When police arrived on the scene, Price-Brent was pulling his friend from the car which was catching on fire.

This weekend Price-Brent went from famous to human.  He is a pro-athlete turned man who will most likely go to jail for killing one of his best friends.

And it was this case that brought me to this existential place about "being human" in the first place.  This is not a blog about the wrongness of drunk driving.  I think that goes without saying.  But if you   can get past the drunk driving part of this, and just think about this man Justin, it is a more complicated story.  Justin grew up in California, played college in Illinois, and was drafted by the Cowboys after being declared academically ineligible his senior year.  While in college, he was convicted of drunk driving (in 2009) and sentenced to 2 months in jail, 2 years probation, and 200 hours of community service.  Which he served.

I am not even making a Pro-Justin argument here.  What I have been attempting to do, is put myself, my humanity, into the imagined experience of Justin over the past 3 days.  From pro athlete on the shoulders of the world, to the murder of a college friend in less than12 hrours.  In his first public statement he said, "I will live with this horrific and tragic loss every day for the rest of my life."  In reading the full statement, the emphasis is put squarely on the loss of a great person and friend in Brown Jr.  He speaks to Brown's family, friends, teammates.  He is only full of apology and remorse.  I am not insinuating my personal support for Price-Brent when i tell you that, as a psychologist, I was thoroughly convinced of his misery and the infinite sadness he feels in having negligently killed his good friend.

Once again, this is a story with no right and wrong.  Piling blame on Price-Brent feels cruel in the face of his taking both complete responsibility for what happened, and also, the totality of the responsibility of taking another human life.   And yet, it is also difficult to feel wholeheartedly empathetic for the man, especially in the face of his previous drunk driving conviction.

And somewhere between involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide, we find the simple truth of our humanity.  Because, thankfully, I am not the judge or jury of Josh Price-Brent for his crimes against his friend, or the greater public at large.  I am just a white jew 2000 miles away feeling for a man who will, inevitably, go to bed tonight.  And when he closes his eye, his demons, like mine and yours, will come a calling.

And Josh Price-Brent will no longer have famous demons.  I can't even be sure that he will have same fears and questions that we all ask as humans. Price-Brent will be haunted by his past, the size and shape of which give me chills to speculate upon.  And it is my humanity, in that instant, that reaches out reflexively.  Because i saw what happened to Willy Lopez (and Willy Lomen for that matter), and I haven't been convinced since then that the reality of living with searing shame is any less terrifying.

A nurse in London ended her life from the shame of being pranked by Australian Radio DJ's pretending to be the Royals checking on Princess Kate.

And when Justin closes his eyes, he will invariably be haunted by the visage of his college friend, teammate, and self proclaimed "little brother".  And he will feel the pain of his incapacity to go back in time to Friday, when he was famous and Jerry was alive.   And in that moment of human anguish where he realizes that he is both the problem and the inability to fix that problem, my entire heart goes out to him.  For that pain, you need the salve of the world, and the only people we reserve that kind of compassion for, are famous.

Interesting Matt fact #682: revisited

Friday, December 7, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

Just for jollies i'm reposting an old blog that i'm guessing most of you reading now didn't read then . . . so . . . yah.  Because i can't get creative juice from my stone brain at the moment, i will harken back to a juicier time.


I like green peppers.  That is not the interesting fact. You should have known that because that is not interesting.  I say that i like green peppers because I have a fairly extensive "no fly zone" when it comes to vegetables, (I'm looking at you eggplant.  asparagus.  brussel sprouts.) that the green pepper is nowhere near.

*tangent.  Whenever I tell someone that I don't like eggpant, their first reaction is one of pity.  I don't know why, but I see it, and it's there.  After that split second when the part of their brains that mediate "appropriate behavior" kick in, their tune changes in a more Hare-Krishna direction.  By which I mean--conversion.  "oh, I make it so it tastes just like a chicken cutlet."  But here are the problemS that I have with that.
1) If I want to eat something that tastes "just like a chicken cutlet," why don't I just eat a chicken cutlet.

In my mind, they respond, "oh, but eggplant is so much better for you."

2) In almost all cases, this is true.  the EXCEPTION of course being when you bread and deep fry the shit out of either of them.  At that point, I don't really think the health benefit margins are too thick.

3) It is an insult to food to think that the preferred preparation of a food would be to try and mask its taste to taste like something else.  Now I realize that this totally imaginary conversation I'm having is about chicken/eggplant cutlets, so getting all philosophical about the place of food is a bit of a reach, if not just completely nit-picky.  But you're forgetting something.

I'm having an imaginary conversation with myself.  So I can BE reach-y and nit-picky.  that said, I respect eggplant enough to realize that people enjoy it.  And I am ok not being one of those people.  Let's just leave it at that.

end tangent*

This was a blog about an interesting fact about me if you recall.  ADD is amazing.
Anyways.  When I cut open a green pepper, and you get that weird white almost foamy stuff that connects the inner pepper walls to the seedy core.  That white stuff.  Freaks.  Me.  Out.   I think it's gross and otherworldly.  It's a totally green food, why is there white in there.  And the consistency is totally inconsistent with the rest of the vegetable.   The pepper iscrisp and firm. The alien white crap is limp and fungus-y, and is the vegetive equivalent of the limp "dead fish" handshake.  Fuck that freaky white shit. (seen here on the viewer's right side)

On a separate note, I respect garlic for having an outer skin that knows its place.  You squeeze (great word--Q & Z, both 10 points) a garlic clove hard enough and that skin will slip right off.  It realizes that its function is to act as a barrier up to the point that the garlics innards are being accessed, at which point, its job is over and the quicker it gets out of the way the better.  Good on' yah garlic skin.
Not onions.  Onion skin will cling and grasp at itself like saran-wrap on, well, saran-wrap.  it can be an awful bother.  Fuck you onion skin.

Seriously, they are called the Washington REDSKINS

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

How the hell is the Washington D.C. football team still called the "Redskins"!?!  Every time i watch football I think this same question.  I mean sure, the NHL (when it exists) has the Chicago Blackhawks and a smiliar logo.  But at least the Blackhawks are a tribe of Native Americans -- not a slur we used to dehumanize them.  And, of course, baseball has the Cleveland Indians (with their highly offensive "Indian" cartoon face (essentially the Native Ameican version of those Uncle Tom blackface figurines) and the Braves (while their "Indian chant" may be offensive, using the word for a warrior and the tomahawk as a symbol were fairly smart choices-ish).  But somehow the Redskins seem to put themselves atop the gross gross gross gross grossness meter for dumb decision making. 

I mean, think of new expansion teams in the same vain.

The Brooklyn Kikes -- I mean, why keep the "Nets" logo.  It's so bland and unappealing.  How cool will the basketball players look with peyus twirling down the side of their uniforms and a special "secular" outfit for Saturday games.

The Vancouver Yellowskins -- in an attempt to increase Asian turnout at hocky games, the Canucks decide to revamp their traditional uni's for something a bit more derogatory and defamatory.  While the sushi in the stands works out great (until they start throwing it on the ice), fans are caught off guard by the conical rice worker hat logo around the helmets and ExtenZe advertisements everywhere. 

And of course

The NFL's new San Francisco Queers -- Rainbow uni's abound as the none too subtle helmet designs were passed around.  I mean, a criss-crossed star with a missile heading toward it?   Keeping it classy.  The other teams always seem tentative to hit the Queers, even the pre-game stretching has taken a turn toward the awkward.  It's hard to innocently stretch out your teammate when the unicorns on your spandex pants line up juuuuuuust right when you do so.  

If you think these are super offensive and ridiculous, again, I present to you the football team playing in OUR NATIONS CAPITAL:  The Washington fucking Redskins.   Perhaps we just need a few doses of our own medicine. 

this kinda says it all
What about Rednecks instead of Redskins?

Life's Donkey Punch

Monday, December 3, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

It has been a long week.  

It has been a week when the list of things I have to do, or I want to get done, or that need doing, seems to always have one more item I forgot to add, and unfortunately there are no lines left on the "to do"notepad in my head.  And somehow this transforms the world into a panicked place.  A place where  bills will never cease to pile up, errands will always need running to the store, and friends always could use just a little more of my time.  In this panicked world, I am a rubberized figurine being drawn and quartered by the four horsemen of responsibilities.   Always with a bit more stretch in my limbs, when i am pulled to my max, my original form is subtly but substantially changed.  At some point in the process, I can no longer snap back to normal.  Psyches, unfortunately, are less like a measuring- tape's extensions and retractions, and more like gummy worm's extension and bisection.  

And this feeling of having my ability to deal with adversary depleted Plinkos around in my chest, unsettled by the dissonance caused by the mesh of offsetting emotional pegs and the constant unending draw of gravity.  Downwards.  Ever downwards.

And in a life full of cognitive dissonance and juxtaposed feelings, here is the current battle.  On the one hand i am so insanely thankful for my life and the ability to lead it freely that I somewhat regularly have episodes of deep fear involving the contemplation of my own demise (see blog title).  And yet, in appreciating this miraculous and metaphor-laden existence, I also seem strangely attuned to the idea that life is an incredbly difficult, painful, and oftentimes cruel series of events.  We lose those we love.  We find ourselves motivated towards all the things we don't have.  We are bombarded by an "advanced" society that spends a majority of it's social capital convincing the public that there is something wrong with them.  That they either lack something (perfect skin, money, attractiveness, intelligence, cool clothes, a big enough tv, credit, Facebook friends, twitter followers, a significant other, etc.), or they have entirely too much of it (pimples, body fat, vices, fun, cholesterol, dirt, work, free time).  We are born perfect only to be wholeheartedly convinced otherwise for the rest of our lives.  

How do you appreciate this gift of life when it can hurt so much, so often?  Must we constantly be walking the tightrope between gratitude and defensiveness?  

I haven't figured out the answers to these questions.  At least not in any way that seems like a comprehensive solution.  I know appreciating and making time to spend with your favorite humans and animals is part of it.   It points you in the correct direction.  Loved ones keep you facing towards your principles and help prevent you from drifting sideways towards the mirages of quick money, easy fame, and false-friends.  

But even after you have reoriented yourself post-spin, you still have to pin the tail on the donkey.  And often, as i stride forward blindfolded with a confidence that is best described as completely faith based, what i feel in my hands is not a tail, but rather the size and shape of another donkey head.  And i know that I am supposed to pin the second head to the first donkey's rear end in order to win the game.  However,  there is no closure in completing the final image of a donkey replete with two heads.  It instead leaves you searching for the missing ass's ass.  

And this metaphor once again eats away at me because there are days when I feel just like the two-headed donkey, where every way is forwards and backwards simultaneously.  And other days,  I just feel a donkey's ass.

Pranking Myself

Friday, November 30, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

As a psychologist, i worry about self-fulfilling prophecies.  When naming our dogs, we were even neurotic enough to make sure the names weren't "aggressive sounding" and didn't have negative behavioral connotations.  We are admittedly a little kooky, but i've seen enough self-fulfilling prophecy literature to back up said kookiness.

It's hard to go wrong with "Grover" (our first dog's name).  I mean, the muppet it harkens back to is fun loving, honest, and amazing at nailing simple opposites (nearrrrrrrrr.  farrrrrrrrrrrrr).  And at worst, people just think of Grover Cleveland, who no one really knows anything about.

For our second pup's name, we delved a little further into the preverbal rabbit hole.  So far, in fact, that we arrived at yet another puppet: Falkor, from The Neverending Story (we altered the spelling a bit to Falcor).  

I'm not entirely sure why picking a flying dog-like dragon didn't set off any of the aforementioned warning sirens.  Probably cause Falkor is so darn cute and mellow that you don't even think of the flying as lack of restraint.  And so, inevitably we got a mini-blue pit who can sky when he jumps.  Hops his brother with ease.  he can even land himself on our slick kitchen table if it means a better view out the window.   And our Falcor knows very little restraint.  Flying across the neighbors' yards like a blueish-grey blur of kinetic energy.  He is . . . unbounded.

Thankfully, we left ourselves an insurance policy in the event that this name backfired and did, in fact, create a (adorable, puppy-faced, munch muffin) more monsterable version of luck dragon.  And we did it by pranking ourselves.  

Now, when Falcor, semi-predictably, at 2 am in the morning, bolts full speed to the backyard in order to explore (even though i was just opening the door for him to take a quick pee), i am left with three options.   Call him.  Shake a bag of treats.   Go and retrieve him in my t-shirt despite the frost of the early morning.  I go through my options in that order.   I scream, "Falllllllllcorrrrrrrrr.  Falllllllcoooorrrrrrrr."  

And then.  I laugh my ass off at myself.  Pranked again.  I am transformed into Atreyu, waiting for my mount to swoop down from the clouds.  I am in the movie, shouting the line.  I find this the most hilarious consequence of our name choice.  Usually, the laughter is large enough to motivate me on to the treat-bag shaking and eventually puppy reconnaissance that at some point becomes inevitable.  Thankfully, the frost doesn't bite quite as hard with a smile on your face.

Do Tattoos Hurt?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 | 1 Comment(s)

I hear this question thrown around a lot.  Most of my friends have some sort of tattoo, and those who visit from say, the Midwest (generally), are often startled by the sheer ubiquitousness of tattooery here in central Massachusetts.  And, often the inroad to conversations on the subject begin with the most naive of questions, "does getting a tattoo hurt?"

Well, I sat for the second session of my octopus tattoo on my lower left leg and foot yesterday.  For five hours.  And, if i may, i would like to definitively answer the question today, while the memory of the experience is still fresh in my mind.   

Tattoos hurt.  Every single one of them.  They do, however, hurt various amounts. Like, for instances, if you get a simple, black and grey piece on your upper arm, I imagine the pain sensation would be filed under, "manageable".  The scale then grows in threshold amount depending on the size, complexity, and colors involved.  Oh, it's also just like real estate: location location location.  I don't care how simple the design, you put that outline of a rubber ducky on your upper inner thigh, and you are gonna pay for it in towel biting, grunts, and blood (and/or tears).  Another horrible place to get tattoo'd is your ankle bone.  Don't get a tattoo on your ankle bone.  It hurts like the needles are actually penetrating your skin and entering straight into some lower level of hell.  I, currently, have both of my left ankle bones tattoo'd.  Which means i twice delved into a pain that reached past searing and into a more ludicrous level of torture.  Fittingly, I broke out into uncontrollable laugher.  Truly.  The pain climbed so far past reasonable that my body reacted instinctively by guffawing at the joke of it all.  

At the five hour mark, as my tattoo artist was just putting color to the suckers on the last 3 of the 8 octo-legs, his next client walked into the doorway.  The guy was big and strong looking with huge well-defined arms.  He smiled sympathetically at me, as i lay on my front,  my achilles being violated by a needle and ink.  He tells me that he doesn't have the balls to get tattoo'd where he's watching me get tattoo'd.  I reply that i didn't realize how stupid it was until the ink was already going into my skin.  Ignorance had not been bliss in this particular case. 

My tattoo artist, obviously friends with his next client then tells me this gem as he puts the final excruciating touches on my current session:  He says, "Oh, Calvin here (Calvin being the dude i was chatting with) takes his heavy duty sleep medication before the session and he literally sleeps through it.   It's kinda weird though, tattooing someone while they are out cold . . . I don't really enjoy doing it."

Me response:  "THAT WAS AN OPTION!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I am fortunes fool once again. 

(pics to follow)

Let's Hear It For the Boy

Sunday, November 25, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

My personal family-of-origin tradition regarding thanksgiving revolves around the break taken after the turkey day meal, but before we indulge ourselves in devouring the awaiting rice pudding and chocolate mousse.  In my family, we go around the table and say what we are thankful for from the year past.   It can be intense.  Often, upon honest reflection of your year in front of your family, there are tears.  There are also laughs and most importantly, the process of being honest together and sharing thanks and love as a group creates a tangible family bond.  A feeling of closeness across a group that allows such raw emotions, mostly hidden in our public lives, to exist and be heard in a non-iudgmental way. It is a gift.  

This year I spent thanksgiving as the outlaw in a large group of my in-laws (both my wife's mother's and father's side of the family joined together for the epic feast).  All up, there were 23+ of us across four tables.   One huge turkey and two hams.  We did not (and i, in this case, am thankful) go around the tables and say what we were thankful for.  

Pre-wives (my brother and mine), my extended family, at its most extended, stretched about 10 or 12 strong.  In general, the jews have not been blessed with long and thriving family lines.  While the ultra-orthodox may be fruitful and multiply as much as possible, modern jewish families don't tend to have kids as if they were trying to stock their own minor league farm system.  I digress, but all of this is an extremely long-winded way of saying that being surrounded by such a huge number of family members was a bit daunting going in.  I'm pleased to say that the experience itself, minus all the ham, was communal and accepting and jovial and a lot of fun. 

But, as you can probably already tell, this blog is about having "missed out" on giving thanks.  the guilt of it.  The lapse in this purging tradition.  i must have satisfaction!

but here is the crazy thing.  i didn't go to facebook to say what is meaningful to me (which many others did).  I didn't even give my 140 characters of thanks on twitter.  and, when i thought about it more, i didn't really feel like giving thanks this year. 

I immediately hear my inner Jewish grandmother saying (not unlike Kyle's mom on South Park), "What what what what!/!/  Not thankful! Have you ever heard such a thing! *spits on the ground twice* You ungrateful meeskyte!" 

So let me immediately clarify.  It is not, in the slightest, that i do not feel thankful.  Quite the contrary, i feel almost a soul wrenching amount of thanks for the sheer luck that has provided me with a virtual unending number of possibilities.  What i do not feel this year, is whatever motivation or impulse that leads us to purge ourselves by making a public declaration.  

Now, if you were to ask my family, they would tell you that this is incredibly unusual. I am a bit infamous for my semi extended-cut thank you's.   I don't think i'm the longest per say, but I definitely feel like i have a pretty high average length.  As i said, I feel incredibly thankful on the whole. 

But this year, im just not feeling it.  And i think it mostly has to do with the perseverance that brought me to this thanksgiving.  The past year I graduated out of a miserable graduate school experience, and walked away with both my doctorate and my integrity.  While it has taken the following 5 months, i have also begun rebuilding the tower of joy that used to reside inside me before the wrecking-ball of graduate school took its toll.  And the new tower not only comes equipped with all of the integral friendships of the previous version, but now it also has the bling bling feel of luxury created by a newly minted loving wife, two ferociously adorable doggies, and the freedom of forging my own path.  It's super hype yo.  

And this year I, with my partner in crime, threw a flipping fantastic wedding (best wedding ever?), which captured both our love and our zany giddiness for getting a forever together.   And in pulling off this colossal party, almost every pillar of strength in my life (both literal and metaphoric) were tested for structural integrity.  Through the danger of some pillars' crumbling foundations, i was forced to choose which structures were worth fighting for, with the knowledge that collateral damage was a certainty.   Some pillars fell on me.   But these battles became less about the wedding we were trying to have, and more about the man i wanted to inhabit.  the principles i wanted to live my life by.  

And, come this present November, I am thankful to say that I am proud of both the wedding, and the skeletal decisions I made in laying down the framework for my married life.  

So perhaps, upon reflection, my muted impulse to sing the songs of my thanks, has more to do with the fact that this year I am thankful that I persevered.  I am thankful i walked and ran and crawled and clawed and was carried and then still kept on moving forward until this moment.  This present of pregnant possibility and no game clock.  I am proud of myself, and thankful to be a person i am proud of.  And, while i play a wonderfully ego-maniacal narcissist online, getting up in front of my favorite people and being thankful for myself isn't really my thing.  

Unless you consider that I am a product of all those people and puppies who care about me.  Which I do.   And then, in essence, i am just being thankful for everyone around me.  Which i am.   And if i follow this rationalized line of reasoning, i can almost flip myself through the mental gymnastics necessary to take myself to the precipice of declaring how eternally thankful i am for my continued persistence and overall kicking of life's preverbal ass this year.  

But as i hear the words form in my head i immediately let out a reflexive, "WHAT a friggin dickhead."  And i decide that i'm more than happy to just wait for next year.  

Happy Familysgiving

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

As we pull up to the driveway of another thanksgiving, i am once again left thinking about the imprint family makes on us all.  This past year has been critical in my own personal development of what family is and what it means to me personally.  In the process of executing a wedding, there is internal pressure to surround yourself with those people who have most brought you to that moment.

and inevitably, they can't all be there.  some are missed because they live across the country and have far too many children (i kid [pun!]).  Others are missed because their candles blew out long ago.  Others less long ago.

as we come upon the one year anniversary of my uncle's passing, i still revel in the happy memories of the "outlaw in-law" who dazzled us with knowledge ranging from fix-it man to culinary expert.

but in order not to depress us with its cruelty, life also springs up anew, and shines it's big-eyed glory,  hope, and promise of good yet to come.  And when you're lucky, this life looks like this.

my niece Sheriff Myla

And with this adorable cowgirl, i am transformed into the uncle i miss.  I am put in the position to be the family i have lost.  And i am reinvigorated. 

I've also thought a great deal about the dotted line between friendship and family.  The baby boomer generation defined family by blood -- or rather genetics.  Descendants were paramount, outsiders secondary.  Thats not how it has worked out for me.  My closest friends have been around me more than 15 years, and i would gladly put my fate in their hands.  I am honored to call them my family, and it would insult our relationships to pretend that they were anything less.  They are the ones who rally to my side in the worst of times, and they are the same people I want around to share my best times with.

and those instances where the family you are born into happily overlap with the people you love the most, are phenomenal.  however,  it seems as important to recognize the people that have filled up the voids left by the imperfection of how real life families of origin actually work.  the family we choose because we are driven to make ourselves feel whole.   This is a time to be thankful to the family we were given, and the one who gives us everything else.

An Atheist's Dilemma: When Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

Monday, November 19, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

When I came back from living abroad in Australia the first semester of my Junior year in college, i briefly lived  with a close college friend who was a studio art major.  Briefly, as in, 2 weeks.  I then moved, as semi-scheduled, into the extra room of the senior year house of my best guy friend.  But i already digress.

Now, first some facts about this early living situation.  This woman i moved in with is still an incredibly close friend of mine.  She was also (and IS also) an incredible artist (and now also an architect) .  And finally, I was moving into an apartment that she had already been living in for 6 months.

All of these bits of flowery potpourri are just to dull the blow of what's coming next, which is the living "situation" that i returned to find.  Here I come, bags of college-ready crap in hand, to find a living room . . . . oh wait, i couldn't find the living room, because it lay there, trapped and obscured, by a cacophony of paint and life supplies.  I seriously couldn't see the floor anywhere under the thunderous mess.  As i high-stepped my way across the "living space" i would focus in on tiny little tableaus of homemaker grotesquery: Two gleaming pools of red and blue paint, purpled in the middle, being held in tiny cups made out of the shag carpet they rested on/in.  The overall feel of the apartment was one of living inside a giant piece of modern art with WET PAINT sign still hanging on it.  

I moved, because i wanted to live with "my boys".  But if I'm being completely honest with myself, i also moved to remain friends with my goddess of an artist friend.  I didn't want to have to kill her.

This story is important as it was the first, and perhaps the only time, where i found myself in a living situation that was just "too dirty" for me to be happy in.  And a lot of it was the "wet mess".   As i've said before on the blog, clothes on the floor don't bother me, cornflakes and milk on the floor, however, does.

My personal line of tidiness concerning my living space says a great deal about me as well.  If it takes a palette-like rug to phase me, i am probably messier than the average human being.  Or at least, my tolerance is higher than most.  My sensitivity to this particular measure has been skewed by years of co-habitating with a best friend who is more on the OCD side of the cleanliness spectrum.  Thus, i have felt slovenly by comparison most of my young adult life.  And now, having a wife who also finds safety in wide swatches of dusted and polished surfaces, i fear i may be the "messy one" for my adult adult life as well.  I have accepted this.

But more and more as I get older, i have found that many of the people in my figurative neighborhood have formed an altogether new relationships with cleanliness around the home.  (I am not saying that what follows is a new phenomenon, but rather that it is new that i have given it much thought).  Somewhere along the line, the cleanliness of one's house became a proxy for:

1) how together you are as a person.
2) how matured you are.
3) how well your relationship is going.
4) your mental health.
5) if you actually qualify as an adult.

This is where i have a problem with cleanliness.  Put simply, if cleanliness is next to godliness, what does that mean for an atheist?

I admit that having things in order provides a calm of organization and knowing that everything both has a place and is in it.  But i can't understand how not feeling this way is at all maladaptive.  And we aren't talking hoarders either.  If you house is cluttered, and it's all coupons, or box tops, or cats, or doomsday supplies, i encourage people to judge away.  But when i walk into my friend's mother's house in western Mass and find a great room with murals haphazardly coating the walls and piles of interesting papers and magazines stacked across old wood tables, i see beauty.  It looks like a room you would find at Hogwarts.  A room expectant of wonder and encouraging exploration.  A room pregnant with possibility.

Others would call this women a pack-rat.  The room gets plenty of natural light, and so you can see the dust that has landed on the tops of the tallest stacks of records.  The room is unclean by the standards of  respectable mothers and fathers everywhere.  Were my parents to walk in on this room in the center of my future home, they would be forced to expend great energy NOT commenting on how the room looks.

Again. I don't get it.  I mean, couldn't you imagine Gandhi not caring where he put his robes down after a few days of hunger fasting.  What about Napoleon?  You think that little shit ever picked up for himself after conquering a new land.   No way in hell.

And the Napoleon example (more-so than the Gandhi one, which was mostly meant for humor) actually gives away what i think is at the root of this bias to believe that what is clean is what is good and right.  Napoleon didn't pick up after himself because he was rich and powerful enough to have people do it for him.    Hmmmmmm.  This sounds familiar.  It sounds familiar because in the history of feeling judged about my cleanliness by folks, almost all of the "worst offenders" of person-centeric judgements based on home cleanliness have had outside help in managing the cleanliness and upkeep of their homes.  Once again, the bias come from the "haves" and is projected onto the "have-nots"

And i feel ridiculous calling myself a have-not, because of the ridiculous amount of privilege i was both born into and live amongst -- but in another way this emphasizes my point.  Even with a wife, two jobs, and a manageable sized living space, my wife and I simply don't have the extra income laying around to hire someone to dust and do the laundry for us.  I assure you that if we did, our house would always be a ton clearer.  Obviously.  But somehow it gets lost that having a personal cleaning service is so far across the privilege spectrum, that most people can't even fathom its size and shape all the way over in "trying-to-meet-their-familys'-needsville."

And that's why, when adults from privilegetown visit their kids in needsville, it almost never goes well.  "What aren't you older, making more money, and living in a style of life we've grown accustomed to?"  "Mostly because we work full time and we don't have Sally coming over on Thursdays to strip the sheets, wash the towels and vacuum the carpets."

But we don't talk like this.  We don't talk of privilege or responsibilities or priorities.  The actual conversation goes like this,  *parents scans the room* "Well, your place looks (scan around a bit more) nice.? (it is half statement half question)  *kid reading the insincerity loud and clear* "Um . . thanks Mom and Dad." (there is no thanks in his/her thanks)   And they both walk away feeling bad.  The older adults wondering where they went wrong that their child either is forced to live in "such squaller" or, even worse, chooses to live like this.   The young adult walks away wondering why he/she was just subjected to such uninvited and unnecessary insult -- and the distance of age and mutual misunderstanding somehow widens unnecesarily.

It all seems like much ado about nothing.  No one has won or lost a Nobel prize based on the number of sweatshirts they left on the floor.  I certainly haven't seen any studies linking picking up after oneself with success in computer programming (i bet we would find that more mess is actually correlated with more success in the computer sciences -- but i digress again).

I mean, does everything have to be right or wrong.  Black or white.  Does clean have to equal good?  And if so, does that leave messiness as bad by default.  Why can't we, like the dust-bunnies that have  grown into a warren behind my couch, live in that middle space between Comet and vomit.  A place where our relative neatness is just another compatibility factor like snoring, or shared extra-curricular activities.

I'm not saying we have to give a voice to mess-loving Americans, we just need the godliness of cleanliness to be more humane.

In the Stye of the Beholder

Saturday, November 17, 2012 | 1 Comment(s)

Ok.  Let's get the spelephant in the room out of the way right away.  When writing an advice column, it is important to spellcheck.  especially the word "advice".  Especially if that word is in the title of your post.   Message received.

*warning.  from here on the post gets graphic.  end warning*

i have a sty.  and it is wondrous how a small ingrown hair under my eyelid has the ability to physically and psychologically break me down. i have been soaking my eye--with a washcloth, in the shower, with homeopathic anti-sty drops-- for the better part of 48 hours.  So much so, that now, in addition to a swollen eyelid, i have my own red badge of courage circling round the entire eye-socket.  I may have even burned the eyelid itself with the constant cycle of hot compresses.  The sensation is one of having a minuscule piece of fiberglass embedded, sword-in-the-stone style, adjacent my tear duct.  the human inclination is to try and kneed the enlarging bubble of puss out the duct.  My slightly more OCD approach is very similar except the manner in which i attack the problem more resembles an animal with it's paw catch in a trap.  in my attempt to kneed the lid, i am half-peeling it off my face.  The red zone around my eye deepens to a more crimson hue.

I try to ignore it.  go about my business.  play some video games. write.  talk on the phone.  but none of it is normal.  i do all these things distracted, always half-paying attention to the scratch scratch scratching against the back door of my corneal lens.  99.9% if my body is operating at maximum capacity, and yet the entire machine is incapacitated by this well-placed ingrown invader.

 It has me collapsing in on myself.  Doubting my ability to help others as i act out my Möbius strip of obsessive compulsiveness, like a glass cleaner seeking the perfect spit-shine from the tinted windows of my soul.  And the whole process leaves me feeling weak.  Weak, as this tiny non-sensient invader has taken over my life without permission.  Weak, as I awake beaten, as a boxer, eye swollen shut with the crusted over reminder of yesterdays defeat at my own hands.  the hands of my enemy.

a man and his dog

Saturday, November 10, 2012 | 1 Comment(s)

When i hug my dog.
i hug him with my worries.
i hug him and i tell him, "holy shit.  i am going to die some day."
i hug him and tell him how weak i feel.  how worried i am.  and how fast it all seems to be going.

and he lets out a soft sigh that is his version of a purr.  a sign of total contentment.
he sighs at me and says, "it's all ok."
we have this moment and we are together and that is enough.
he sighs to remind me how frivolous my worries are.
he sighs to remind me that he is mine, and i am his.
and that promise deserves a tomorrow.

this is the love between a man and his dog.
while he was the one abandoned,
i am the one left fearing abandonment.

Trying to find solutions . . . and my winter clothes

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 | 1 Comment(s)

Dash-point wednesday.  Do the Dash.

- Today I am wearing a sweatshirt over my sweatshirt.  While the first reason for this is that it is incredibly cold outside today, the larger reason is because my wife has not shown me where she "packed up my winter clothes."  This includes all of my coats.  Of note, the container with all of her winter clothes in it was miraculously left resting comfortably in our guest bedroom -- and not in the attic with my stuff.  The Sneak sneaks again.

- Obviously the election is in the forefront of people's minds.  There is a lot of discussion in my facebook feed regarding the number of political posts on Facebook.  Whether or not this is: annoying, the correct place for discourse, shouting into the wind, etc.  There was another strain of conversation concerning the vitriol expressed by both supporters of the President's victory, and by Mitt Romney lamenters.  Here's is my takeaway from all of this discussion:  I think that its all good (as long as there is no violence).  Let's indulge people with the feeling that they are wrapped up in their countries political process.  Let people use their voice, in whatever form they might have it, to express their beliefs.  And of course we won't agree with all of them.  Some are going to be friggin bonkers (we are ALL looking at you Donald Trump).  But better we have a cacophony of citizenry fighting to make themselves heard than an apathetic populous, unconvinced of their personal power to enact change.

-New York and New Jersey are still in severe disaster mode, and with a new storm coming tonight, the danger and devastation in that region can not be understated, so please don't think my next comment has anything to do with the seriousness of the current situation in the Northeast.  But.  and you knew there was a but.  I am struck, when watching news coverage about the situation in NYC, how different the tenor of the newscasters is.  And potentially it is due to the fact that they are reporting from New York in many cases, and therefore this disaster is quite literally close to home than say, Katrina.  But I keep getting this feeling that there is a subtext to their pleas for help and contextualization of the disaster that says, "The devastation and suffering is still ongoing tonight in New York . . ." [*begin subtext* and these are white people!]  It's as if it location of the hurricane affects its interpretation.  Or perhaps it's just the first time in awhile a hurricane has hit an area that believe global warming is real.

- I saw a figure a few days ago that 25% of soldiers who return from active duty have some form of PTSD.  That is CRAZY (... and some of them are white people!)!  One in four.  If you are trying to construct an argument for how inhuman war is, start with this.  At a minimum (remember that PTSD is only one condition that can result from disturbing experiences) one in four brains is traumatized from the experience of going to war.  Our humanity rejects it.   This number also reinforces the responsibility we owe to the men and women who selflessly put their own lives at risk for this country.  Whether you believe in the job or not, unless you'd rather do it -- give some massive props.  And certainly don't leave the population who defended this country with the promise of an education and health care upon their return, left bearing the financial AND emotional scars of this war.  Here is my idea on this topic.  America spends more on our military than all of the other next biggest militaries combined.  How about we put veteran benefits et al. under the umbrella of the military budget.   That way, without cutting military spending (which some find taboo), we can use that money to ensure our military's future (including veterans) is secure both on and off the battlefield.

On Giving And Receiving Advice, Part II: Giving

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

to be honest.  i've kinda of painted myself into a corner with this whole advice giving post.  Don't get me wrong -- i've got at least ten things to tell ya'll, but it is a bit daunting to say that these are the "10 best pieces of advice i've given or received."   So, because it's my blog and i get to change the rules to suit my needs, i'm gonna say these are 10 top pieces of advice i've given or received.  What a world of difference a little word rearrangement can make.

oh, and, these are just the first 5.

1) "In love (and often sex), it is not about your batting average, but rather your number of at bats."

this one is mine.  and it's wildly true.  People spend entirely too much time fretting about rejection.  Or worrying about the potential for rejection.  Rejection needs to be considered more and more like a glancing blow.  you have to embrace rejection, drink it in and let it fill you.  Realize your ability to survive it, and then move forward less encumbered.  The other option, is that it paralyzes you.  slows your confidence and forward momentum until you find yourself staying on your couch more, and experiencing others less.   And thats where it can really hurt you.  Cause love and sex is a numbers game people.  The more people you meet, the more your dating pool grows, and the chance of a compatible mate rises.  Also, by interacting with more people, you gain a finer understanding of what you want from a relationships/sex.  So, as my staying goes; Don't worry about striking out, just make sure you get out there and take your swings.

2)  "I have learned to accept the fact that we risk disappointment, disillusionment, even despair, every time we act. Every time we decide to believe the world can be better. Every time we decide to trust others to be as noble as we think they are. And that there might be years during which our grief is equal to, or ever greater than, our hope. The alternative, however, not to act, and therefore to miss experiencing other people at their best, reaching toward their fullness, has never appealed to me. " -Alice Walker

My friend Mia gave me this quote handwritten on a piece of paper when I was struggling my sophomore year in college.  My best friends were abroad, my gf had broken up with me, and my family was having communication issues of its own.  Additionally, on of my very best friends had seemingly fallen of the face of my earth.  This confluence of even left me lonely, depressed, and not feeling very hopeful.  This quote (which i still have), hung next to my bed for that year, and in its multiple rereads, i found a supportive voice.  A wisdom that aligned with my worldview.  And in its internalization, i believe i became a better human being.

3) There's only one thing that I know how to do well
And I've often been told that you only can do
What you know how to do well
And that's be you,
Be what you're like,
Be like yourself.

-they might be giants

This one is pretty self-explanitory.  It's from the song "Whistling in the Dark."

4) Speak truth to power   4.5) This too, it shall pass.

these are my two favorite cliché pieces of advice.  Both have served me well at various times.  Because they are fairly ubiquitous, i won't go into a lot of explaining.  

5) i will end with the advice that i give my classes on their last day with me.  This is the message i try to float along with them along the current of their individual streams:

"Whenever you do anything truly remarkable or worthwhile in your life, someone will ALWAYS try to diminish your accomplishment or tear you down with rejection.  Always.  And they may even be people close to you.  You must resist their negativity as if your life depends on it.  Put your faith and trust in yourself over giving weight to the voices of naysayers.  Cause the doubters will disappear, and you have to live with yourself forever. 

On Giving and Receiving Advice, Part 1: Receiving

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 | 3 Comment(s)

Today, my 34th birthday, I have been thinking a lot about advice.  Advice I’ve given (truth be told I love being helpful even when it’s not always warranted), and also advice I’ve gotten.  More specifically, I have been thinking about what the best advice I’ve given and or received has been. 

What I keep coming back to as I mentally compile this inspirational top 10 list, is that the most important part of each experience was me.  And while we all know I am that narcissistic, in this case I mean that it was only by putting myself in a place to receive advice, a place where I can be told instead of asked, that the wisdom was actually departed. 

Put another way.  Today in honor of myself, I went and got a massage.  And, just like advice, a massage is not a one-person activity.  It is a partnership.  A mini-dance.  I could lay there, muscles tense, as my masseuse tried her best kneed my tendons apart.  But it wouldn’t work.  Most likely it would be both frustrating for her and painful for me (I’m pretty sure the metaphor is holding up fantastically.).

If I like nice flowy even pressure and my masseuse digs in for a deep tissue beat down, regardless of her skill, I’m going to leave feeling worse than I came in (metaphor of the year award here I come.).

It’s only after my masseuse and I communicate about how this massage could best be received by me (again, all about me) that the unwritten social contract can play out in a way that allows her talents to be utilized to their fullest, and my emotional and physical well-being can be relaxed into a state that crazily rides the line between orgasmic and napping in a pile of puppies.  No overlap.

Same with giving and taking advice.  Another mini-dance. Some people just need someone to listen to them.  To be there.  If some person tries to fix the problem (aka. I try to fix the problem), you (I) can only make it worse (aka. Matt, stop trying to FIX everything!).  Other people like an active listener.  Someone who responds and gives insights.  This approach is more intimate and can be more jarring for the person getting advice back directly after lamenting the problem.  Either way, you need to match the needs of the advice taker with the approach of the advice giver.  And this is the only arrangement that works.  The person giving advice can never go solo successfully, it just ends up being words in the breeze.  The deal is, the taker sets the boundaries, but then must open him or herself up and put her or himself in a place to receive.  (I think this metaphor might also be applicable to sex, but I’ll try that blog later.).

For my birthday, I wish myself more of these moments of openness.  More minutes and hours where I remember how much I still don’t know. (thankfully I have many friends who never cease to remind me of this.) How much world I have yet to conquer, and how every new stranger holds the potential for a life-changing experience.  But it takes more than one person, and you have to catch me in the mood to learn a new mini-dance.

Live Blogging Sandy from my Caffeine Perch

Monday, October 29, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

A brief live blog of sandy as seen from the coffee shop in the center of Amherst, MA

1:45.  The Speed Limit just outside the window is experiencing "torque".  My wife secretly is hoping it flies away.

1:50   Man walking outside has his hat fly off.  He goes to chase it.  Enters the coffee shop 3 minutes later, with hat on.

1:55  Doors begin opening and closing on their own.  First the back door, and now the heavier and significantly more substantial front door is popping open like a drunk 20 year old.

2:03  Bay windows fly open.  Thankfully, half the people currently at the coffee shop are current of former employees.  Windows are quickly secured.

2:08  Heavy winds.  Moderate rain.  College kid unlocks his bike to ride home.  Is loudly mocked by friends.

2:15.  Homeless person's pizza slice that he left in a box on the stoop blows away, leaving the slice face down directly in front of the back door.  Employee steps in it accidentally, then throws it away.  See pic below.
throwing away the first casually. RIP Pizza slice.
2:24.  Just a pic to show you what things look like.

It's hard to see the wind.
2:34.  If the Snowpocalypse snowed out my birthday last year.  Is this the snowicane? frankenstorm?  I guess we'll have to wait and see.  Disgruntled locals lament everything closing.  grumpy is a religion in Amherst.

2:29  I have it from a fairly unreliable source that as of next year, the dirty truth in northampton will be changing its name to Yahu's Waffles.  I think we can all agree, that this would be a change for the better.

2:31 aforementioned source says i've already gone stir crazy.

2:47  Coffee shop managers give me the inside scoop.  Send me this very VIP pic of managerial disaster prep.

is that a hurricane disaster kit? or a moleskin.
2:57  Power at the coffee shop goes out.  Then it comes back on. Apparently this is the second time it's happened so far.  This is scary for a few reasons.  1) it cut off a great cover "what a man" -- which thankfully they played to completion when electricity began to flow once again.  2) apparently the wifi goes out when the power goes off.  Crazy right?   Hard to post without the internet.   this is causing me to think carefully about relocation.  3) It really isn't even raining outside.  There is a lot of wind.  a lot.  but very little anything else.  if this wind is enough to cut the power, we may be in for a bunch of dark nights ahead.

3:03  I am called outside to photograph more Sandy destruction.  This time it's a coffee chair that had been blown all the way down the sidewalk and into the parking lot.  Sandy really is a heartless bitch.  Char char (pictured just left of the upturned chair in the background.  (Click on the picture to see how psyched Char is about the coming storm!)

Mr. Chair, why do you run away from my love?

3:08  I pack up to continue coverage from the warmth of my house, which is not warm, because we still haven't turned on the heat.  Cause my wife is from Vermont.  and it's a matter of personal pride.

3:20  Home safely.  Road report.  Most smaller stick and branches falling.  Some bigger chunks on the road.  Pretty much every tree is losing their leaves. Some are losing their evergreen needles as well.  The real loser in Hurricane Sandy is going to be political lawn adds.  Lawn adds are about to become the modern day tumble weed (some have already).  With the election only a week away, Elizabeth Warren, Scott Brown, Mitt, and the President are all being uprooted and relocated.  Perhaps it's a metaphor for the bi-partisan support this country needs. Perhaps this will cause confusion at the polls.  One minute you are a fervent Warren supporter, the next minute you wake up, look outside, and realize that your lawn is postering for Scott "dudu" Brown.   Just try to remember who you were going to vote for pre-Sandy.

3:46  Disaster porn pictures begin to flow on facebook.  Wife and i celebrate engagiversary with a kiss. Video game playing and knitting commence.

4:37  Wind officially has a voice.  Unfortunately, that voice is monosyllabic.  Also of note, apparently our dogs like to walk in the hurricane.  Wife is displeased.  Husband is lucky guy.

5:14  Video games happily interrupted by a video chat with my niece myla-bug. also my brother and sister-in-law.  but myla stole the show.  They are in nyc, happily unevacuated.  Stay tuned for some killer screen grabs.  I had to move my car to a safer second location due to already falling branches which are remanent dangers from last years storm.   Our puppy is freaking out.  CLimbing on us.  Usually this means he needs to pee, but unless he has an puppy incontinence problem, he's just nervous.

5:37  The coffee shop lost power at 4pm.  Got out of there just in time.  In happier news, here are screen grabs of my niece.

What a MUNCH!!!

baby and uncle big eyes!!!

Already more computer literate than Daddy!
5:39 Live blog is interrupted by realization that we should find out candle supply, just in case.

5:43  Candles found.  Panic squelched. Live blog resumes.

7:57  Power is still on.  Dinner is being cooked.  It is not wet inside.

8:01 It's hard to know whats going on outside once it's dark.  The sausage that's cooking smells delicious.  it's inside.

8:50  Unless something really awesome happens, thus ends this live look in on Sandy.  Stay safe and warm.  Come over if you're homeless.