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.

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Book (You're Writing)

Friday, October 26, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

For me, and every other normal human writer, he hardest part of any writing assignment is the blank page.  It's like it has eyes.  Staring at you, daring you to ruin its splendid pristine void.  Sometimes I just try to write two sentences and then take a break, knowing that when i come back i'll have a piece of writing that's already been started "for me."  Makes it easier.

When I began sixth grade, my folks went to the parent open-house.  It was early in the year, so the teachers were still getting to know us students, and thus parent night was less one-on-one conferences, and more parent orientation for each individual subject.  This is the only time i remember my parents returning home from one of these nights giggling.  My brother and i (he was in 8th grade and thus this night was über stressful and relevant to both of us) snuck closer to be sure it was giddiness we were registering and not seething.  A misinterpretation like that would be akin to begging for permission to lead the infantry's surge.  

Nope.  It was definitely giggles.  We emerged from our dining room lookout position and made our presence known in the kitchen.  "What's so funny?" i asked.  "Well," my mom says,  "your English teacher, Mrs. Daily, she goes up in front of the class and holds up a blank piece of paper."

"Oh, let me tell it," my father butts in.  "She holds up this piece of white lined paper and is all, "in this class, we make something out of nothing!?" 

That was pretty much it.  There was no "completed work" to juxtapose the empty lines, hanging unused and generic, in front of the onlooking parents.  No, philosophy of writing or goals for the year.  Just a blank page of off-white, probably not recycled paper, flapping in the breeze of her arm's undulations, daring her students to produce literary excellence.  Mrs. Daily was not a horrible English teacher, but something about her speech to the parents was just too much of an SNL skit of what a horrible teacher-parent English-class orientation session might look like for my parents to keep a straight face.   At home, they gave off the distinct impression that said giggles were not reserved for our amusement, but that they may have crept out during the live performance.  Great.  My parents made fun of my teacher.  I was sure this would somehow negatively affect my grade (of course it didn't).

So here i am.  Out of graduate school, staring at the blank page of my life stretching out before me.  And this blog post is an attempt publicly announce the first two lines of the next stage of my life, so as to make it's completion that much easier.

The first step when you have a problem, is admitting you have a problem.  To that end, i admit to you, my readers, that I have begun to write a book.  To be a writer.  Moreover, i'm not playing towards my strengths and publishing something in the academic realm.  Instead, i'm going non-fiction humor.  Similar to this blog.
I am taking the chance that with all this education and opportunity i have been afforded, that i may have found what makes me feel most content and rewarded moving forward.

I want to write forever.  I want to share knowledge and learning and difficult bowel movements with an interested audience.  I want to make people belly-laugh, and empathize, and relate to my experiences.  While some strive to become the enigmatic figure people wonder about, I want to be known.  Not known like famous, but known like being understood deeply.  Being a mystery has never held much allure for me.  How can you comfort or relate or connect with an unknown?   I prefer the fear and potential energy created by emotionally pogoing myself atop my audience, hoping beyond hope they caught my crowd-surfing metaphor, and hold me up for just a few more paragraphs.

And, if i may be real and inhabit the unhidden person i say i am for a second, i can reveal that i am scared about this.  I am risking myself in an entirely new way, and leaving myself open to criticism, failure, and ridicule (then why did you go to school for all those years???).   I mean, there is a tv commercial making the rounds these days in which a husband makes "completely oddball" suggestions to his wife, who subsequently nixes them.  one of them is, "is it ok if i quit my job and start a blog?"

I don't want to be a punchline.  But i understand that you have to risk being the butt of the joke to create anything truly new.  And the fear and nerves inside me are slowly, with the encouragement of my wife, boss, and friends, feeling more and more like the nervous excitement you get before going onstage to perform.  And as this inhibitive fear morphs to motivating adrenalin, i get brief snapshots of a life doing what i love.  And those images are vivid enough to outshine both the outside and inside doubts regarding my ability to turn this dream into a reality.   And if i, a white upper-middle class american male with a phd, don't capitalize on the privilege of professional freedom i was lucky enough to be born into,  how can i expect anyone else to?  And moreover, what was the point of all that education if i don't even trust my own intuition?

There are still a lot of questions to be answered.  How do you promote yourself?  Do you need a book agent?  Self-publish?  In other words, besides writing the book, i have no idea how one goest about writing a book (if any of you reading this have insight or are personally wealthy and want to 'Great Expectations' my ass, be in touch).  This being said, we only have so many years to be ourselves in this life on this planet -- and it's time for me to create.  It's time for me to create those words to be read, and reread, upon my untimely demise.

me and my groomsmen/boy band

How I Got on a Watch-List Without Even Trying: Night-Vision Goggles Reviewed

Thursday, October 25, 2012 | 2 Comment(s)

So a number of you have asked about the night-vision goggles.  Thus, a brief review of the positives and negatives of my new toy which just arrived yesterday.

Let's get the important stuff out of the way.  These suckers work.  In a completely dark house I can safely walk down the stairs, find the light-switch, and not trip over dog toys on the way to the bathroom.  It is insane to me that these 35 dollar goggles let me see in the dark like the night ops fighters that i never pretended to be as a child (i was more into transformers then GI Joe).  If you've always secretly wanted night vision but were afraid to be ripped off, these are the real deal.

BUT, before you go snatching the remaining inventory of the online shelves, let me quickly go over the negatives.  The major negative here is that there is no head band connected to the goggles.  There is a strap, which allows the unit to hang from your neck for quick use, but it seems strange to me that you have to continually hold these suckers up to your face like binoculars in order to use them.  I mean, if you are in complete darkness, whats the chances that you only want to use your "sight device" for a few seconds here and there.  It's annoying that they don't attach some sort of device for keeping the unit on your head.

Negative number two.  And this one is much much smaller (literally and figuratively).  The window of sight amounts to a small screen you view inside the goggles.  This mini-screen takes some time to adjust to considering there is no peripheral vision and a limited sight range.  This problem is accentuated by the fact that the goggles don't affix to your head.  I believe that with a night of running around in these silly bad boys and your eyes would adjust to its new dimensional limitations, however, that process is elongated by the sporadic up and down of putting the goggles up to your face, and then taking them off again.

And that's really it.  For negatives.  If you are at all a "do-it-yourselfer" (which i am not), I'm sure you could find a way to rig a helmet like system that would make this toy into even more hilarious fun.  And even if you can't, it will help you find your dogs in the complete darkness of the woods at night.  Which is key for me.

Thankfully there are a few unexpected UPSIDES which were both surprising and a bit alarming as i discovered my purchases flexible functionality.

This thing records!!!!!  Annnnnnnnnd, now they're sketchy.   I didn't know this when i bought them, but this sucker has a friggin USB port and comes with a thumb drive!!!  "WHY?," you ask?  Well, how else are you going to document the footage you record when you press PLAY on the night vision goggles.  Yup, they record in the dark.  they are a stalking tool.  I don't know any way around it.  To not say that upfront would make it worse.  But i simply have yet to come up with any reason for night-vision recording that doesn't give me the heeby-jeeby shivers.  I mean, they also come with a USB to USB connector so that you can download the recordings straight to your computer or HD TV.  gulp.
These goggles are simultaneously one of my coolest and creepiest purchases ever.

My most recent cool idea is that once all of my friends read that these suckers work and purchase their own, I will go online again and purchase a whole crap-load of old laser tag gear.  Take said purchases and said friends to a pitch black field (which we have a 2 min drive away), add the reality alterer of your choice, and stir vigorously.  That sounds like a night out that i would like to be a part of.  To they have laser tag sniper rifles?  (Oy, i think i need to take a break from the shooting video games).

Have any amazing night film ideas?  I'm open to suggestions.

Cancer Prank

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

Let's be clear.  Cancer isn't innately funny.  i get that.  But, in that sliver of space between depression and losing faith, there is unrelenting humor.  Growing up with a paternal oncologist, my psyche somehow bunkered down and took root in this dark dark place of cancer comedy.  I'm pretty sure its the same grotesque space where they manufacture all of those October football hats with pink versions of the teams logos.  (Nothing about a pink faced Raider or Viking screams *breast cancer awareness* to me.  And frankly, when you change the color of the already offensive Redskin's logo to pink, it just becomes an even more egregious collage of insensitivity.)

Yesterday, post morning dog walk and pre-leaving the house for the day, as i was folding some laundry, I had this bizarre prank idea.  What worries me a bit about this bit is that the idea for it came to me first thing in the morning.  I hadn't talked to anyone yet and there were no outside influences pressing in on me.  This idea just came to me.  Cause i'm a sicko.  Enjoy

What you'll need:
1  Tiny little baby.  Preferably a boy, but if it's small enough, it doesn't matter.
1  Primarily bright pink baby outfit.
2  Balls of steel.

The set up:
Take your cute little bundle of joy and dress him/her up in the adorably tiny pink duds you have amassed (if you had a boy and your friends all gave you "gendered" colored clothing, just ask a friend who had a girl, i can almost guarantee you they will have extra pink laying around).

The trap:
The beauty of this prank is that it requires so little planning.  Take said pink-wrapped babe into public.  You can roll out using a stroller or a BabyBjörn.  (yah, i know what a BabyBjörn  is.)  Then all you have to do is wait for the inevitable do-gooding passerby.

When said do-gooder comes along he or she will probably say something along this line, "Oh, what a cute little girllllllllll!!!  ('girl' will be said in a tone of voice that is reserved for dog whistles, breaking glass at a distance, and, apparently, babies.)  You reply:

Oh, he's not a girl.  He just has breast cancer.


Autumn's Fall

Sunday, October 21, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

Fall is by far my favorite season.  Today, a bright yellow leaf fell onto my lap iva the sunroof while driving.  If that doesn't signal fall's arrival, i'm not sure what does (all the ass-ish driving of Amherst College parents in for Parent's Weekend)?

And we are in the best possible window of autumn weather.  The sun is still bright and warm, the leaves are still in their orange and yellows, and the New York tourists aren't yet creeping down the streets at 15 mph looking at the exotic flora.  (i apparently am dealing with a good deal of out-of-state animosity).  It is solidly sweatshirt weather, with no real fear that you'll be caught out without more layers.  The colors and crispness of the air draws you out into the world, beckoning you to explore and appreciate the wooded kaleidoscope just beyond our yards and televisions.  Breathe it in once more before it retires, unburdened and unapologetic, cut by the quiet blade of a night's frost.

But Fall is not all imagery, top of the rainbow colors, and free candy.  It does have its faults.  Like fireworks, Fall bursts onto our scene with such an onslaught of color, excitement, and sensory overload.   And then, just as quickly as the sky exploded in fire, white smoke and the burnt smell of spent gunfire wafts over the grassy field turning it into a ghost town in honor of spent fun.  The smoke hanging around you like ancestors come to check on your process.

Fall is like the new Bond films, blowing the majority of its special effect budget on a killer (007 pun) opening sequence, which leaves practically no room for one-upsmanship in later chase sequences.  Fall has one amazing trick. One one-hit wonder that can never be overplayed on the radio.  But, unfortunately for Fall, it leads with the show, not an opening act.  We don't get to hear the B-side of Fall before working our way to the track we all know and love.  And so, 3:53 seconds later, as the hook of the refrain comes round back to the chorus for one the last time, we are left with Fall's dregs for the next two months.  The cider at the bottom of the punch bowl which is mostly over-saturated and over-run with cinnamon sticks.  Tree's gone back inside themselves, freezing out the memory of their former heads of lustrous hair.  Leaving us with a feeling similar being broken up with for a justifiable reason.  Inwardly you have closure, but you still feel shitty overall.

Fall needs a trick up its sleeve.  Something like multicolored sap drippings that cascade down trees' bark in mid-November.  Late-harvst mushrooms that sprout hundreds of other tiny mushrooms off their grandiose caps.  A fauna-fuck fest that takes place deep in the woods and can only be witnessed by those determined to sit and sleep in a tree for the week surrounding the event.

I'm just spit-balling here.  But, it would be nice to having something to pull me from the warmth of the oil-heater and high definition surreality.  I could go skiing . . . but really, that's more winter's thing.

I'll be Watching You: Night Vision Binoculars

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 | 2 Comment(s)

I just bought night vision goggles.  Seriously.  They are fo real.  Check em.  I am now officially a force to be reckoned with.  And while I readily admit that just buying night-vision goggles for shits and giggles does sound very me . . . i do actually have a purpose for them.

"SO CAN I!!!!"
The last two things i do every night is take the dogs out to go to the bathroom, and then try to settle them in the bedroom (on their dog bed(s)) in the dark, without waking up wifey.

Grover, our oldest, is no problem in either of these regards.  He doesn't want to be outside as much as I don't want to be outside.  It's a business transaction and then he is doing the nighttime sprint (which has all the movements of a running dog, but about half the speed) back to the couch to ball up and hunker down.   10 minutes later when i come in with his brother (we'll get to this in a minute), I say bedtime and he hunkers his now seemingly gigantic and unmovable mass up the stairs like an adolescent forced to pick up the mess he just made.  But, all in all, he finds his place on his bed in the bedroom, and he's out for the night.

Falcor, our youngest, is an entirely different bag of marbles.  2 a.m. bathroom time, for Falc, is really no different than any other time in the yard.  This means he feels totally cool about sprinting into the backyard, and then into the woods behind that, to frolic, scavenge, and chase nightlife.  I am very much not cool with this.  Let alone that he knows i'm balancing on my wife's crocs when he deems it capture the flag night, but I also have to wait for my eyes to adjust to the night before I even have a chance at catching him (he's essentially "night" colored).  Even with a lantern their is a few minutes of trying to locate his blur in various favorite areas of the yard.  Bribe in hand, i reel him in.

And Falc isn't much of a "quick settler" when it comes to nightnights.  He waits for his brother to settle in bad and then sits on him, slowly letting his body grow heavy and melt into the little spoon (also forcing grover to accommodate him as big spoon).  But, if you just leave him like that, most likely a few minutes later you'll be greeted by the pitter patter of tiny paws on hardwood.  Maybe, like last night, he'll just be stopping by my trash can to get a dirty tissue to tear apart.  Or perhaps he's angling for a spot on the bed.  In order to deter such chicanery,  we have learned to put a soft comforter over his head (much like you would put a bird to bed by covering its cage with a sheet), and he snuggle digs in for the night.  finally.

I hope you can now see how the above "process" would be difficult to complete in the pitch dark without making any noise (first world problems anyone?).  And so, with the purchase of these 40 dollar spynet night vision binoculars, not only will i be able to provide a more comfortable night's sleep to my wife and puppies, but i also can terrorize my enemies with "water-balloons from space."

Happy Halloweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen

The Tebow Tinkle

Monday, October 15, 2012 | 2 Comment(s)

Unsurprising to everybody, at the end of a bartending shift it is late at night.  Actually it's early in the morning.  And we (we being the people who serve food and drink until late at night or early in the morning) are tired.  Usually it's 'good' tired, but sometimes it's a salty frustrated how-did-those-college-kids-not-tip-on-a-$120-tab tired.  Either way, a small group of us, usually 3-6 people, have a little post-work mini-session together after work.  We relax, people smoke, and just talk about whatever we want to chat or complain about, after an evening of customer driven conversation.

Last friday, after a particularly busy night, three of us huddled up for our late night chat together.
Now, i really look forward to this moment of the evening.  Seeing genuine people for some genuine interaction before going home to a quiet house and a warm bed.  it is an emotional decompression.

But last friday, we had a visitor.  At first i thought it was "stranger danger" -- the worst kind of which is a random undergraduate, usually severely f'd up, staggering up to the group and just talking at us.  ANd not stopping.   And, though there was standing before us a staggeringly drunk young man, he seemed familiar.  One of my compatriots recognized him as a fellow ex-bar worker from one of the uber-college bars down the street.  He bummed a cigarette.  No prob.  He asked if we 'remembered' him.  My friend said he did.  (big mistake.)  Somehow the recognition of the continuity of his existence over time was mistaken as an invite to stay and chat.  He pulls out his iphone and makes a call.  Talks for a bit, presses End, and hands me the phone.

Me: That's your phone.
Drunky Monkey:  oh, really . . . oh.  Oh cool.  Yah.  Sorry.  I'm sorry.  I'm like, really fucked up.  I I I I'm sorry, I'm just really really drunk.  This isn't your phone?!?
Me: No, it's not.  Though it's getting closer and closer to being mine. 
DM: Oh, ok, cool, Can I bum a cigarette?  (the 2nd time this request is less well received, but egregious generosity wins out in the end, and he's given a second dose of tar)
DM:  I gotta take a piss!!!

Here is where it goes from "i hate this guy" to "this may be a drunken savant."  This totally harmless inebriated fellow goes swaying across the parking lot to the grove of shrubbery adjacent a bank building.   He stands for a second, his body's undulations reminding me of one of those inflatable boxing toys (bobo dolls?) where a heavy-duty person-sized balloon is weighed down at the bottom such that when you smack it, it flies to the floor, then rebounds back upright.  He is said upright toy, waiting in drunken anticipation for the next smack to put him down more permanently.

BUT, then, a moment of brilliance.  The drunky monkey takes a knee.  He balances himself on the one knee, body still tall, the other leg shooting straight out to his right,;forming a lean-to like stability.   3-point balance in place, he goes about his business of urination.   And to his credit, while his top half swayed in the non-existant breeze, his base remained firm (hopefully that was the only thing).  He also was quick to point out, when i told him how ingenious i thought his pee-style was, that it kept his head below the "tree-line" (shrub-line?), in case a patrol cruiser rolled through.

Unfortunately, he killed this brief respect by continuing insist that we all take the stroll to his place to do bong-rips.   Wrong audience.  Shortly after that, our meeting was adjourned.  The four of us crumbling apart into the static darkness, in search of the quiet stillness of our beds.

(turns out, it's ALREADY catching on!!!)

1st Guest Blog: "The Tow"

Sunday, October 14, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

My first guest blogger.  What fun.  What an honor.  Very exciting.

Today I am more than pleased to introduce to you all my friend Charlotte (Char char.  Pictured below with Grover, training for the uber-competitive 'Get in the Box' competition. )

Char is not only one of the people in my neighborhood (the coffee-side manager of the cafe/bar i spend a good percentage of my waking hours), but also an exquisite human being, characterized by her unbridled zest for life and her inability to interact in an inauthentic way towards fellow human being.  A opal in the rough.  A rara avis. [to follow her tubmlr (whatever that is) go to: ]

But, occasionally, even us super-heroes of upbeatedness have bad days.  No, more, accurately, we have days when stepping in road-kill would be an emotional improvement.  This is Char's story of such a day: 

The Tow; (abridged)

It was Wednesday, October 3, 2012. I woke up at 4:55AM, snoozed for 3 cycles of 10 minutes, and then drove down the hill to work, from Shutesbury to Amherst, Mass. Between the hours of 6AM to 1PM it was a pretty regular day. I made coffee, charmed customers, and talked to Lisa, my seasoned co-worker, about relationships. After my shift behind the counter ended, I placed an order, made some calls, and did other officey-things even though I actually don't have an office. For some reason I can't remember eating lunch, which is strange, because I most always eat lunch. Perhaps, in the same way I uncharacteristically parked my car that day, I also uncharacteristically forgot to pack a lunch.

At around 3:15 PM, I walked to Gaylord Street, where I had parked my car, in the dark, back at 6AM. I didn't see my car anywhere. For anyone who has yet to experience the feeling of returning to where you think your car should be, and it not being there, prepare yourself. For me, it was a mixture of joy, confusion, and disgust. At this point in the day, I was pretty tired and pretty spaced out. Working for me means standing for about 9 hours without sitting down. And without lunch in my system at this point, only breakfast, which was probably just 2 pieces of toast, I couldn't even remember if I had parked on Gaylord that morning. Though where else I could have parked, I had no idea.

I called Ben. Ben lived in the house at the north end of Gaylord Street. I figured he would know whose driveway I may or may not have been blocking. Which was the only thing I could think I could have possibly done to warrant a tow. Ben said the driveway I described to him was the property of the house he lived in, so if someone called in the tow, it could have been an owner of one of the vehicles parked there. He suggested calling the police, to see if they had a record of the tow. Or who knows, he said, maybe it was stolen? And if that was the case, I'd probably want to report it.

I didn't know the phone number for the Amherst Police, and I don't have internet on my phone, so I decided to walk to the station. On the short walk over there I joyously fantasized about what I would do if my car had in fact, been stolen. There were a lot of valuable goods in the car. Costumes for a dance performance at Mt. Holyoke College next month, choreographed by a very prominent choreographer. My laptop. An original artwork intended to be a wedding gift for my co-manager, Alex. Despite the preciousness of these items, I felt relief. Nothing but liberation thinking about my car gone missing, and with it, these things. I thought to myself if the car was really gone it would finally be my moment to move to a city where you don't need a car. New York City! San Francisco! I thought if my computer was really gone I'd just move back to the desert in Utah. to the Frontier! where no one uses the internet! I was overjoyed thinking about these New Life Scenarios. The Car Thief was the answer to all my indecision.

When I arrived at the station I went inside and told the sleepy-looking officer that I had gone to the street where I parked my car that morning and it was gone. Were there any records or tows that day? He asked me for the plate number, which I did not have memorized.

Me: I can't get the plate number right now. Can't I just give you the make of the car?

The officer reluctantly went through his computer system, and sure enough, my car had been towed for blocking a driveway.

Me: Really?
Officer: Really.
Me: Well how do I really know that for sure? I mean, what kind of evidence do you have?
Officer: Isn't the fact that there was an officer present evidence enough?
Me: I mean, not really!
Officer: (Silence)
Me: Well, what do I do now?
Officer: The car has been towed to Amherst Towing. Do you know where that is?
Me: No. Can I take a bus there?
Officer: Yes.

He gave me some directions. I thanked him, and walked back to the cafe. I was a little hesitant to go back, as I was pretty worked up, and didn't want to unexpectedly blow up at somebody doing something annoying or wrong. But I really didn't want to have to take the bus to the tow place, and I figured the cafe would be the most likely place to find a ride. There were a few people I knew hanging around, but none of them could help me out. Then, just as I predicted, a customer pulled a totally inappropriate move on me (let's call him the "Old Man Espresso") and after screaming at him "YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH ME. EVER" I left the shop. On my way out, I texted Jeremy, my summertime BFF, who was in possession of his father's silver Prius at the time:

Hey, do you have any interest in driving me to the tow place?

In the meantime, I walked to the depressing bus stop outside the post office. The kiosk is made of dirty plastic, the sidewalk is shaded, and the landscaping in and around it looks like a landfill. I see the "North Amherst" bus arrive, which is the bus the police officer tells me to get on, so I do. I ask the driver if he is going to the "Meadow Street Stop" and he doesn't know what I'm talking about. I tell him I'm trying to get to Amherst Towing and he's never heard of it. Jeremy calls me while I'm talking to the bus driver, and right as the doors are closing I give a yelp to be let off. The doors open again and I step off the bus, while answering the phone.

Me: Hello.?
Jeremy: Hey. Where are you?
Me: Outside the post office.
J: Okay, I'm at Amherst Coffee getting a coffee, but I can come pick you up. Give me 10 minutes.
Me: Okay.

I waited for Jeremy to arrive, bored out of my mind, and also feeling pretty angry for three main reasons: 1) at the expense before me, 2) about the terrible Old Man Espresso incident (he grabbed one of the straps on my backpack and pulled me over towards him) and 3) that the car wasn't stolen, so I was not going to move out of town anytime soon after all.

Jeremy pulled up in the Prius as promised, and I got in.

Jeremy: Okay. I have to be a meeting at UMass at 4.
Me: It's 4:15.
J: I know, I'm already late.
Me: Ok?
J: So here's what we're going to do. You're going to drop me off at UMass. Then you're going to drive the Prius to the tow place and get your car. Then you're going to drive the Prius back to UMass, pick me up, and then we'll go back to the tow place to get your car. Do you know where the tow place is?
Me: No.
J: Ok. Siri, where is Amherst Towing?
Siri: (silence)
Me: Just give me that thing and I will go on Google maps.
J: Fine.
Me: It's not working. I don't know where it is/how to figure it out.

We arrive at the location of Jeremy's meeting. We park.

Jeremy: Do you know how to drive the Prius?
Me: No.
J: Ok. It's really easy. It's like driving an automatic except...
Me: ...I don't think I can do it. It's too much. I am just going to take a nap in the back seat and when your meeting is over we can go get the car. Ok?
J: Ok. Well, if you feel like trying, the manual's in the glove box. I'll leave you the key.
Me: Ok. Bye.

Jeremy leaves and takes his iPhone 5 with him. I look at the clock. It is 4:25. I realize, at that moment, that the tow place probably closes at 5 if it's not closed already. So, if I don't leave immediately to pick it up, it'll probably be trapped there overnight. So some adrenaline kicks in and I move over to the driver seat. I press the Power button and put the car in reverse. I drive around the parking lot to make sure I pretty much know what I'm doing (remember this isn't even Jeremy's car, it is his DAD's car). Once I'm feeling pretty confident, I turn left out of the driveway. I have no idea where I'm going, but for some reason it seems like I should get on 116 North. And luckily I know how to get there from where I am in the labyrinth of UMass. I drive for about 15 minutes without seeing anything promising, and decide to turn off the main road. I call Amherst Coffee while I'm driving.

Me: Can someone Google the number for Amherst Towing and text me the number?
Amherst Coffee employee: Sure, I'll look that right up for you.

They text me the number, I call it and no one answers, but then I'm really not all that surprised. I'm driving past all kinds of picturesque farmland, which on any other day would make me feel proud to live in this part of the state. At this point though all the pumpkins and corn fields and tobacco barns are only sickening me. Where's a fucking Cumberland Farms when you need one? I see a farm stand to my left and figure with any luck there'll probably be a farmer nearby. I parked the Prius in the mud and ran over to the packing shed. There were several burly men loading heavy-looking bags into a truck. I approached one of them to ask for directions. They told me I was not far away. Phew. Siri zero, cabbage farmer one.

I got back in the Prius and drove successfully to Amherst Towing. I approached the building and all the doors were locked. There was a man driving a large truck around in the yard, so I got his attention and he let me in. I would let me in too if I was about to cough up 150 bucks. The inside of this office looked like a set out of the movie Se7en. The last time I had smelled an interior like that was when I was getting my oil changed in Ely, Nevada back in the summer of 2011. (You can smoke inside buildings in Nevada. Especially those with motor oil and alcohol!)

I paid the Amherst Towing guy and removed my car from the gated-junk-car-community. Everything inside of it appeared to be safe and sound. I got back in the Prius and it wouldn't start. I tried everything. I tried holding down the button for long periods of time, short periods of time. I got the manual out, but had no idea what to look up. Just then Alex, the bar manager, texted me: What's going on? Are you okay?
I called him:

Me: Can you help me troubleshoot? I can't start the Prius.

Immediately after I called him Jeremy called, so I hung up on Alex.

Me: Hi. I can't start the Prius.

Jeremy gives me some ideas but none of them work and my brain is essentially non-functioning at this point.

Me: I am just going to drive my car back to UMass and we will come back for the Prius.
J: Ok.

When I arrived at UMass, this time, instead of turning LEFT out of the driveway we turned RIGHT. It turns out if I had turned RIGHT in the first place I would have been at the tow place in under 3 minutes. Oh well. We arrived at the tow place and Jeremy gets out of my car and starts the Prius.

J: Are you sure you had your foot on the brake when you were starting the car?
Me: No I guess it was on the gas. Oops. (Oops!)

Jeremy and I had made plans for later that day, to watch the first presidential debate, and maybe even eat supper.

Me: Do you still want to hang out later?

At this point Jeremy was basically collapsing onto the roof of my car; I guess he had a terrible day too. My eyes were barely open, I'm not sure I could stand up anymore, and my bladder was speaking to me, loudly. Jeremy takes a long time to answer my question.

J: Yes. Let's not do dinner, but we'll watch the debate."
Me: Ok. I'll see you at 8:45.

Jeremy gets in the Prius and I get into my car. I stop at the farmer's market and buy some tiny potatoes. I drive home, eat supper, and then drive back to Amherst, to watch the debates at Jeremy's apartment, since I have no TV and my internet connection may as well be made of tin foil. Jeremy had math homework to do and eventually decided he couldn't focus while I was listening to the debate on his computer. He kicked me out so I went to the bar across the street, since they were screening the festivities. I sat down (I sat down!) and ordered some chocolate cake. I needed it. Badly. Luckily due to my status as a service industry worker in the Town of Amherst, the cake was free and perhaps more importantly, delicious. I could barely hear the debate but it didn't matter. Exhausted, I finished the cake and drove home.

If this telling were unabridged, it would include further details about the incident, such as:

1) What it was like when I later met the guy who had my car towed (he was super nice, but not very attractive and I am a S/W/F—so this isn’t the story of how I met my future husband).

2) What it was like when I met with Claire McGinnis, the Treasurer/Collector for the town of Amherst to give her a piece of my mind (she wouldn't even let me in her cubicle).

3) What it feels like to pay $200 for an honest mistake when I don't even make $200 in one day.

Stay tuned?

No Accounting for Taste

Thursday, October 11, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

Over two years ago, back when this was a baby blog, i got a few of these "blog awards," which at first i thought were just recognition for being an amazing writer, but then quickly realized were also, in fact, part chain letter.  The chain letter part asked the blogger who received said "award" to respond by replying to subject or question X, and then give the award to someone(s) else.

I never completed any of these blog requests.  Now, one of two things has happened since.  Either A) these blog awards got seen for what they truly are and subsequently stopped being given.  Or B) because i failed to continue said blog chains, people stopped sending me awards and I was subsequently shunned from the greater blogger community.  Honestly, I'm not sure which of these possibilities has come to pass . . . perhaps a combination of both A and B . . . but either way, I ain't seen a blog award since the turn of the decade.  

Recently, I couldn't think of anything particularly compelling to blog about and it dawned on me that these awards were also a subtle way to give fellow bloggers ready-made subjects for future blog fodder.  And so, just short of 3 years tardy, I will respond to one of the blog award questions.  

The lucky award (which i can't even begin to look up the name of) was received from my  friend Una over at Sassy Curmudgeon.  It asked me to recall what the top 5 albums of my childhood were.   I should begin by stating that i am in no way "defined' by my music.  Hell, "my music" is simply the songs and musicians I either illegally downloaded in college (before it was illegal?  maybe) or was given to me by more musically inclined people.  Before CD's, I got almost all my musical exposure from mix tapes.  It's not that I don't have a musical opinion (i like to understand the words they are saying), its that i have always related to music through movement.  Songs make me want to move a certain way.  I can only imagine that painters see visual art in a more complex fashion than musicians.  Accordingly, while i bop along to a random house band, I watch my musician analyzing the meter, bass, harmony, etc. as they take in the music being played.   It does come full circle.   When i watch a dance concert, not only am i taking in the use of space, repetition, tempo, but more often than not, I'm wiggling around in my seat almost physically empathizing with the dancers.  We all have our things.  

So, in choosing the 5 albums of my youth, this list is shaped considerably by A) what i was (or rather, was not) introduced to and B) of the songs I was exposed to, did i have the ability/motivation to get anentire album.  As you'll see, whenever i did get into an artist, i hoarded.  Thus, there are some "pairings of album" that were the result of buying both albums simultaneously and then listening to them back to back for 6 to 9 months.  

As a final note, you'll notice there is no Grateful Dead, Guns N' Roses, Metallica, etc.  I was an innocent little kid, and these bands all sounded terrifying to me.  My childhood brain conjectured that these "hard rock" bands must all sound like either heavy metal or what "acid jazz" sounds like today.  And no one told me differently, so I have a big hair rock blind spot that somehow only let Jon Bon through undeflected.  

1. Ruth Pelham - Look to the People

This one is a no brainer. Ruth Pelham sang the kid's songs of my childhood.  We sang these songs as a family on car rides, and we substituted in lyrics to her song "My Grandma" so it told the story of my Grandma Francis on her 70th birthday.  Her songs speak to kids about fundamental pieces of development and exploration: Seeing the world with all of your senses (from memory, "there's magic in the morning and a big surprise, all the things you can see without your eyes."), Embracing and appreciating the various parts of your community ("We're all a family under one sky, we're a family under one sky), to the feeling of safety falling asleep in the arms of family knowing they'll be there when you wake up (Go to sleep-y little angel, and momma will wake to you in the morning.  Go to sleep-y little angel, and momma will wake to you in the morning, the sky is bright in the light of the moon, i will come and sing you this tune, singin, 'close your eyes, your sleepy eyes, and momma will wake you in the morning.'").  I still catch myself singing these songs absentmindedly.  In some sense, if the mind begins as a unburnt CD, this album is the foundation on which all other music was built upon.

Incredibly, a few years back my brother was with his wife swimming at a remote watering hole up in the Berkshires.  And, while it was a good 20 years later, he just knew he recognized the face of the older woman, there with a friend.  And eventually, it clicked.  She was the voice of his childhood too.  He introduced himself and shared what an indelible impact she has had on his life.  She was as gracious as you'd want a childhood icon to be.  Giving of her time (they chatted quite awhile) and self (no defensiveness or concerns for privacy around a fan).  Granted, she hasn't sold as many albums as Kanye, but so often we are left reconciling the untainted memory of our childhood heroes with our adult knowledge of those same individuals' transgressions.  But Ruth Pelham cradles her audience lovingly and lives out the mission statement of her life's work: "(through innovative educational programs, learning and training materials, and original songs) to build peaceful communities and empower individuals to be responsible local and global citizens in a world greatly in need of hope and possibility."

Couldn't have said it better myself.  

2. They Might Be Giants - Miscellaneous T / Flood / Apollo 18

My first "double album" selection, is actually a triple album s election.  Which means i got these all simultaneously, and listened to them for a year without substitution.  They Might Be Giant made me believe that there might be a place for me in the modern musical world.  At the time i didn't realize that TMBG were themselves somewhat of a side-stream band (as opposed to main-stream?), which today would be considered "indie-cred."  Back then it just meant I could get fairly last minute tickets to their Albany show.  Their 4:31 long musical mash-up "Fingertips" off of Apollo 18 had 21 completely different sound tracks that made complete sense to my constantly recalibrating mind (i believe they call it "ADHD" now).  They are bizarre and quirky and smart.  In that order.  And boy did they always look like they were having a blast playing music.  At said Albany concert they whipped out a Swiss Alphorn  and jammed out on it for a song or two.  They continue to be my definition of experimental music and they are my earliest recollection of having a personal opinion for a band.   i knew them and i liked them.  case closed.

3. Billy Joel - The Stranger & Storm Front

My best friend growing up was obsessed with the Piano Man.  And who could blame him.  While we were growing up he pumped out hit after hit while simultaneously pumping out supermodel (Elle Macpherson) after supermodel (Christy Brinkley).  Only in my now slightly aged years can i decipher which of these albums came first, and which years later.  They have merged into one "super hits" album in my consciousness.  You could agrue that The Stranger and Downeaster Alexa were the best back to back tracks on any album, and I wouldn't even be able to correct you (they were on separate albums)

More than that, Billy Joel's songs had narrative, they had insight, and they had backstories.  He also was one of the best rock pianists of all time, but i honestly think the other 3 talents garnered him equal amounts of fame.  I pictured myself on that fishing vessel, tearing at the waves off the Massachusetts coast.  I played out my own high school dramas in my head, embodied by Brenda and Eddie and their incomparable Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.  I looked for the Stranger inside myself and my friends, and I lost some religion (REM took the rest) when Only the Good Die(d) Young.

Later in my childhood, Billy would bless us with my most comprehensive high school history lesson (We Didn't Start the Fire) and the best song to wake up to (River of Dreams).  If only he hadn't run his life/car into a bottle/tree, who knows what music of his i'd be loving today (and yes, i did see Movin Out the musical dance collaboration on Broadway).  

4.  Counting Crows -- August and Everything After

Now, don't get me wrong, this is a great album.  Very few weak spots (it is my childhood's version of the Postal Service album Give Up).  But the reason this album is so firmly placed in my top 5 is that somehow, in the process of packing for a 2-month long bus trip across (and then back across) the country, I happen to pack only this one cassette (remember tapes!).  And while I may have borrowed an album from a friend here and there, it was much more 'me' to just listen to the album i brought over and over and over and over and over again (around this time they had mastered the technology in walkmen that enabled "automatically flipping" to side B.   So,  just as the wheels on the bus went round and round, so did the tracks go from A Murder of One, ironically, back to Round Here.  It's amazing I never had white-boy dreads i listened to Adam Duritz so much.  I'm surprised my peers on the bus didn't start calling me Mr. Jones, or at least the Rain King.  

Just as the wheels on the bus went round and round, so did the tracks go from A Murder of One ironically back to Round Here.  It's amazing I never had white-boy dreads i listen to Adam Duritz so much.

5.  Jim Croche -- Photographs & Memories

While Jon Bon's Slippery When Wet was a close 6th, Jim Croche takes the final spot with his Greatest Hits collection.  On some level having a greatest hits album seems like cheating in a list such as this. But, considering he is the artist I'm most proud to have on this list (after Ruth) and that he died at 30, two months before his final album was released, and well before i was born -- i'm giving him a free pass here.

Operator is still one of my favorite songs ever written.  It hits such a solitary and universal chord for all those who have ever looked for love or gone out on a limb for someone. it transcends.

When i moved to NYC post college and found myself utterly miserable traveling hours a day underground, packing myself against strangers like sardines, and spending endless effort trying to meet up with friend, no song expressed my anger and backlash towards the city like New York's Not My Home.  It still is "New York's song" to me, more than anything ol' Blue Eyes or Jay-Z have ever done.

And then there were the pertinent life lessons, from the absurd:  Don't spit into the wind.  Don't tug on superman's cape (ok i knew that one already).  Don't pull the mask of the Lone Ranger (for goodness sake!).  

To the philosophical:  Don't sit there while someone decides whether or not they want to be with you (One Less Set of Footsteps).  The moment you think you're the toughest, or best, or untouchable, you will meet the person tougher, better, and touch-able.  Probably in a bar.  And you will be in trouble (Don't Mess Around With Jim AND Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown).   

And if all this wasn't enough, he also sprinkled in some love songs that make you want to love your lover better.  Or find a lover to love that much.  (I Had to Say I Love You in a Song -- which heartwrenchingly came out post-humously & Time In a Bottle)

This album also went on to inspire TWO WWF wrestlers: The Junkyard Dog & Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

So yah, it's a great friggin album.

Runner's Up:

Boyz II Men: Cooleyhighharmony
New Kids On The Block: Hangin' Tough
Bell Biv DeVoe: Poison
Sheryl Crow: Tuesday Night Music Club

Childhood Trauma > Poetry. So I'm giving you more poems.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

If Steven Colbert is correct (and i believe he would argue that he is always correct) and quality is defined by how much of it is consumed by the masses, then lets just say my childhood trauma would be more lucrative than my first book of poetry.  We'll see.  I'm tempted to just keep bombarding you all with unfortunate scenes from my youth, but therapy is increasingly expensive.  Therefore, I really have no choice but to indoctrinate you with even better poetry.  Suckas.

I truly hope you enjoy:

As a side note, if and when i do publish some of my poems, this first one is the title poem.

Depression for Beginners

I wonder why they put train lines near all the cemeteries?
Perhaps the empty tracks add a nice touch
to stones glowing blue.

Or maybe it accentuates the transitory nature of the transit system?
It could be a coincidence.
It could be that nobody wants to see trains.
Or dead people.
So they're always on the outskirts.

But if I'm on the train,
Does that mean they don't want to see me?
This is depression for beginners.


It is beautiful 
when the world makes you feel both small,
and yet inexorably connected to the very thing
That makes you feel
so small.


Caught between a rock
       and the most beautiful pair of breasts i have ever seen.
I'm searching for completeness inside her aesthetically perfect thighs
       as she glides down my stomach.
Because her tongue searches for the real me.
Prods, twists, longs, licks, manipulates, and bites.
       because she only found my body.
       and i couldn't find her soul.
And we'd make a cute couple,
       of people who were projecting their insecurities onto each other.



On a normal day
with normal thirst
i drink about 178/179th's of a glass of OJ.

And I'm not sure if i stop 
because my mouth gets too cold,
or because i can't breathe.
but usually, i do stop.

I thought maybe I should try drinking warm OJ
in order to cancel out the whole
"too cold" variable.
But then, that wouldn't be a normal day,
now would it?



The tic-tac-toe of my pen flows
through the X's of women, 
without feeling like I've won.

Strategizing, romanticizing, fantasizing

that it is the might be i thought it could be,
have been.  
the perfect 10.
(or at least a 9 with a great personality.)

Perhaps i fail 
not because i don't know in which box to go,
to O.
But that I'm playing 
the wrong game

Two Poems: Ode to Writing a Second Poem.

Monday, October 8, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

Last week was our pup Falcor's 1st birthday.  You wouldn't know it though.  He is the consummate goofball.  He enjoys such hobbies as jumping over his brother as if he were a hurdle, chewing and retrieving the 'orb of life' (aka. a tennis ball), and flipping over on his back and rabbit kicking his brother until he will play with him.  He doesn't act a day over 6 months.

I'm an alien.
"i'm your alien"
I promised myself that i would write him a birthday ode, and here it is:

Ode to Falcor on his 1st Birthday:

Snort, flip-turn, ready position.
HOP. pounce. munch.

those cartoon grey orbs of your stare just beg for more playtime.
"Just one more fetch momma . . . . pleaseeeee."
The breakneck enthusiasm as your grey-blue flashes across the ever-changing seasons.
Undisillusioned to their cycle, you chomp crisp leaves as you wonder what wayward weather will arrive next.
and how high will you be able to jump in it?

And, for a puppy, there is no dusk.
No curtain call.
Just stage time.
Acting out our own memories of carelessness.
Before nuzzling his way back into our hearts

to recharge for tomorrow.


At the bar, upstairs, there appeared a mini-notebook with assorted one line musings.  It was left, for public consumption, in a small space by the register.  I saw it last night and decided to add a poem.  I took a picture, cause it lasts longer:

In the Middle School Sleepover Dog House

Thursday, October 4, 2012 | 3 Comment(s)

Back in middle school, when i was 11 or 12 years old, I got invited to Jimmy O'Malley's sleep over birthday party.  This was incredible news for me.  Jimmy was a part of the group of kids that I desperately wanted to be friends with.  To me, they were the cool kids.  Now, they weren't the smoking and drinking delinquents that movies depict cool kids to be. but let's all take a second to remember that I was coming off a phase that had me looking like this:

Unfortunately, seeing as we are talking about the late 80's, i "updated" my style with JAMS, a variety of colored sweat pants, glasses that darkened in the sun and had strings attached which hung around my neck, Umbros, and the occasional Hypercolor t-shirt.  I refused to wear jeans.  Refused.  They were too restrictive.  So, my bar for being considered cool was considerable lower than John Hughes'.

And this was no regular sleepover party. this party was at Jimmy's dad's house.  Jimmy's parents were the first people i knew who got divorced.  Back in the late eighties divorce was talked about like herpes is today (in a hushed voice and only amongst adults).  Jimmy, therefore, was a "child of divorce" back when that was a thing instead of the ever-increasing majority.  Jimmy's dad was a dentist and he was now living in the apartment above his practice.  This is relevant because as part and parcel of Jimmy's dad's dental practice was a waiting room with a full arcade.  My childhood brain remembers this as a glowing Mecca of fun.  I mean it was a full room, in someones "house" (close enough!!!), with probably 15 to 20 full sized arcade stand-alone consoles.  This is what made Jimmy's party so special.  This unfathomable perk which Jimmy alone held the access key to, made me giddy with excitement when the invitation came.

And if we are being a bit more real, I was also giddy because i didn't necessarily expect an invite.  Sure I was in pretty constant contact with these kids, but while they were all personable and friendly with me one-on-one, as a group they would call me a tag-a-long and keep me on the outside looking in.  And, since I was 11 and still had the beautiful ability to see all people as intrinsically good, I spend days and nights trying to figure out what defect in myself i could fix in order to be more completely accepted by these particular peers.

The party night came, and i remember my mother dropping me off downstairs.  It was a pretty big group of boys, probably 10 to 15 kids.  I remember my survivalist brain saying that the large number was a good thing for me, it would cut down on the chances of unexpectedly sticking out in a negative way, while maximizing opportunities to enjoy the safety of fading into the background.  As the Nintendo power pads were pulled out (Jimmy had all the latest video game equipment), I figured that watching kids run feverish in place next to each other was going to end up amounting to me being 'in-the-know' come Monday.

"Oh did you hear about what happened at Jimmy's party?"
I would casually reply, "Hear about it ?!? I was THERE!"  Cue heroic music.

Unfortunately, I have never misread a situation quite so badly as i did that Saturday night.  It began in the game room.  I noticed, slowly at first, that the other kids were getting on me.  Small shit at first, little pokes and jabs.  But what was peculiar about the situation, and what set off my tiny internal alarm system, was the disproportionate number of insults slung at me and one other kid who held a similar social standing.  I was kept off the best games, generally playing solo matches instead of enjoying the 2 player camaraderie of competition with the others.  I wasn't saying anything stupid . . . I wasn't dropping touch football passes . . . . why were they picking on me now . . . .at a party!?!

The picture became clearer as we returned upstairs to the apartment proper.  Somehow, mysteriously, my shoes had ended up on the 1st floor roof.  As the distance between myself and my shoes became apparent, the panic began it's way up from my stomach, surging into the back of my throat.  The pressure behind my eyes built as my powerlessness was put on display.  I was powerless to be able to retrieve my shoes, and I was powerless to escape.  I mean, how big a loser are you if you call your parents to take you home early from the cool kid sleepover.  It would be social suicide.  So I stayed.

The only time i remember Jimmy's dad being around at all was to help get those shoes off the roof.  I don't believe he was there when they pulled my underwear out of the freezer (In fairness to my lack of memory-- i can't remember if it was the other picked-on-kid's underwear or mine that got frozen at that party.  That said, if it wasn't me during this party, it was me during a subsequent one).  By the end of the personal item vandalism stage of party fun, i couldn't escape the now chest-stabbing reality that my presence at this party was in lieu of a piñata.  I was the entertainment.  Come pick on the skinny defenseless kid.

As we got ready for bed, the final part of the plan was set in motion.

Grover, our older pup, is my first pet.  Previous to that i had sporadic, and often frightening, experiences with dogs.  I was also allergic.  I didn't understand them, and i didn't have enough exposure to get over said fears.  jimmy had two golden retrievers.  and while i am sure that those dogs were huge cuddle-bears who wouldn't hurt a soul --  i was wary and visibly unnerved around the big dogs.

As the boys started getting tired and ready for bed, Jimmy came up to talk to me.  With the rest of the kids looking on, he told me i wasn't good enough to sleep with him and the rest of the party goers.  I was to sleep outside of the "sleeping room", by myself, in the living room.  With the dogs.

If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing an ice pick pierce thorough the layered muscles of the human heart, then you are familiar with the emotional reaction i still, to this day, remember experiencing.  On top of being ostracized like a leper, i additionally spent that night in absolute terror, sleeping alone, in the dark, with two dogs i didn't know.  It was my version of childhood hell.

Why am i telling you this story?  I am not telling it because I want you to feel sorry for me.  But I do want you to realize that the details of this story are still so firmly imbedded in my psyche 20 years later. The scars of this emotional abuse have shaped the person i am today.

There is this cultural fallacy that one day we wake up and, *taadaa*, we are older.  And the time that came before was our 'childhood'.  And just because a whole myriad of experiences happened to us when we were kids, now that we are grown-ups, any negative effects from our childhood are somehow mentally expunged, like our criminal records, at 18.

But that never happens.  We are all our 11-year-old self from time to time.  We are always the product of the ever compounding events of pain, triumph, elation and failure that our younger selves compile.  We are the pride of pushing through fear at a musical recital, as well as the despair of missing the shot as the buzzer goes off.  We are the child who feels incomplete following the death of a parent as well as the budding entrepreneur who made two grand shoveling local driveways.  Childhood is not a dead skin that can be shed as the season changes.  Childhood is the acorn that grows into an oak tree.  You can't remove the nut from the oak because it is inexorably connected to the impenetrable barked trunk of the mature tree. Sure, different people are faced with and react to the trials of grade school differently, but no one has ever gotten through childhood completely unscathed.  No one.

And while this is partially why this story is important, it's still not my point.

I got lucky.  And I know that making a defenseless kid sleep with the dogs and not with other human beings seems decidedly unlucky.  But, had this happened today, you can bet that there would be pictures of me sleeping with those dogs on Facebook, comments abounding.  Twit-pics of my shoes dangling on the tiled rooftop.  Someone would have surreptitiously videoed me crying, and that would find its way to the internet as well.  And on Monday, instead of just walking into school deeply scarred by the very people whom i craved acceptance from, I would walk into that terror being public knowledge across the school.  Momentum would have already begun (teenagers have the ability to feed on the weak like sharks smelling blood in the water) and i can only imagine that open season on little Matti could have commenced well into high school.

And had that happened, I'm not sure i would have come out of the experience a stronger person.  I mean.  There is no guarantee.  As it stands, i am deeply committed to the defense of those who cannot defend themselves.  i will always gravitate toward the uncool.  I never stay silent in the presence of emotional abuse.

But i got lucky.  Had cell phones been around, they might have cracked me.  They might have kept me underwater long enough to lose myself.  I may not have bounced back.   I may not have bounced at all.  Technology and the extinction of personal privacy make it scary to be a kid these days.  How are parents supposed to keep track of Facebook messages, tweets, instant messages, emails, tumblr, and video chats all simultaneously?  It is a daunting prospect.

October is Anti-Bullying month.  Let's not pretend this is an event geared only toward kids.  Let's not pretend that grown-ups don't pull the same power-play, mind-game, exclusivity bullshit.  And let's not pretend that the hate we project at home doesn't pour into our elementary and middle schools.   Tim didn't call me a kike in middle school because he looked the word up in the dictionary.  He called me a kike because his dad probably called my dad a kike at home, and Timmy diligently decided to pass that message along to me.  Thanks Tim.

Let's make an effort to be more empathetic.  Let's try to make each others' days better.  Do some little things.  It is not by accident that I have found myself living in a small, tight knit community where I know the people in my neighborhood.  And, most importantly, let's take a minute to think about the challenges that our children face growing up these days.  The lack of privacy.  The deception.  The ability to make a secret public with the click of a button.  As I've said before, if our politicians haven't been able to master the art of appropriate online behavior, how do we expect adolescents to use those tools responsibly.

We can't go back and defend our younger selves from the slings and arrows of our outrageous misfortune, but we can move forward with an effort to protect our youth from the heart-piercing icepicks of today.

Commenter Hall of Fame

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

When one of you readers leaves a comment on my blog, or +1's, or 'follows,' my heart grows.  It does.  My heart is .85% bigger than it was 3 years ago when i started this thing.  Just think, when i have 10,000 followers, i will be able to donate half my heart to a transplant patient so as to not overwhelm my chest cavity.  So really, by liking and following this blog you are saving lives people.  Saving.  Lives.

Of course, we all have to be careful what we wish for.  Yesterday I got a comment that i came incredibly close to posting live.  Thank goodness back in 5th grade I had a teacher that gave us that test that says to read all the directions first before beginning.   The final instruction of the 30 or so listed was to, 'ignore all previous instructions and simply write your name on the top left of the paper and hand it in.  You can imagine that there was a lot of eraser shavings in the 5th grade trash can that day.

In my gmail account:

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Desperation: A Love Story

Monday, October 1, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

This is my 300th blog post.  Quite an accomplishment.  As a celebration of said benchmark, I planned a effusive, raw, and uncensored post about my dreams, goals for the future, and aspirations in general.  As with anytime I make a plan, life intervened and said personal reflection has been postponed until post 301.  In its place i present to you the comedy/tragedy that was my weekend.  I hope, as you read, you will grasp why writing about any other subject today would simply be impossible.

There are many kinds of love.  You have the love you feel for a significant other; a love characterized by both affection and hopefully the ability to challenge and grow together as people.  You have friend love; love that is enhanced through shared experience and mutual comfort.  And of course you have nurturing love; the love you feel toward a child or pet, characterized by a compulsion to keep them safe, happy, and protected.

This love story, is about the later.  The love that drives us to protect and do no harm, despite the constant and almost dehumanizing situations which taunt us to act rashly.

This love story starts, like so many before them, with a text from my wife while i was at work thursday night:

Wife: OMG! Grover ate all the flour I bought for the muffins! And scattered the rest all over the downstairs.  (see attached picture)
Wife: Grover may have a problem with cocaine, I mean flour   ;)

And everything was well and good all the next day and into Friday night.  When i came home at 3am, both pups woke up diligently, did their business, and went back to bed.

The Saturday morning brunch switch-off happened around noon, shortly after my co-workers and i awoke from lasts nights revelry.  The brunch switch involves wifey returned home from he 10 am brunch with some gal pals, and me taking off for brunch with my brosefolopods.  We have about 30 mins of overlap to plan the day and make nighttime plans.  With offsetting schedules toward the end of the week, we have become efficient communicators.  As our brunch ships passed each other, the sign from the bow was an "all clear".  We made plans for going out that (Saturday) night, and I left.

I can say, with almost absolute certainty, that it takes my dog 42 hours to digest a bag of flour.  The 42 hours ended at 1:45pm EST on Saturday.   When i returned home post Saturday errands, my wife reported that Grover has the runs, bad.  Twice in the last hour.  Adding to the excitement of Grover's now manifesting gastrointestinal distress is that Grover is a nervous poo'er.  This means that on days when Grover doesn't have any stomach issues, he still routinely goes to the side of a field, optimally a private space behind a tree or amidst some tall grass, to do his business.  He doesn't like being watched and really doesn't like being interrupted (who does though, really).  This particular quirk of Grover's is even funnier when you consider that when wife or i try to go to the bathroom, Grover has taken to barking at us at top volume.  We have not yet discovered the origin of this barking.  We have found a place for a water squirt-bottle in our bathroom however.

So, on a good day he poops privately.  When Grover has the runs . . . he runs.  He goes from adolescent's bedroom private to Ted Kaczynski private.  Grover takes off into the back of the woods separating our house and our neighbors house.  This is WELL out of my reach and sight.  Other times he's sprinted for the road, to get easier access to neighboring woods.  I'm trying to get across that Grover can be a shit to take for a shit.

Grover's "brown cycle" of a poop per hour continues throughout the after.  4:15pm, 5:00pm, 6:30pm, 7:15pm.  All poops with pop (they literally made a popping sound that i heard from outside his wooded cave of solitude).   But, we were meeting people for dinner at 8 . . . Decision time.  I am already pretty sleepy.  Thursday and Friday were late nights, and i was woken up early each morning this week by the guys painting our house (someone house painting seems to involve *mostly* just scraping the area around my bedroom).  When we left for dinner i was already, what my wife called, "a little loopy".

We ate from 8-9:30.  no big deal.  A fun dinner with friends. By 9:30 i had lost the "a little" adjective from the front of my loopy.  After saying farewell to our friends, i apparently staggered drunken-like (had only had a beer or two) towards the car.  I did this, not realizing that my wife was not with me (chatty chatty cathy).  It wasn't until our friend remarked, "Um . . . i think Matt is staggering off without you", did my giggle-pus of a wife turn and catch-up.  'Zonked' was the new adjective being used to describe my level of exhaustion.

When we returned home at 10pm, we knew there was the possibility that we were about to clean up poop.  A distinct possibility.  As wifey simultaneously opened the door and said, "oh Grovey" with a mixture of sympathy and disgust --  i knew that Grover has left us some Hershey's goodness in our front room.  As I took the pups outside, i heard my wife muttering to herself "it's only mud . . . it's only mud . . . it's only mud".  I don't think she convinced herself fully.  The thing with cleaning up loose stool is that no matter how clean you make the floor, you can't clean the image out of your mind.

The pooping continued.  10:30, 11:15 (i crashed out on the bed), 12:30 (wife went to bed).

At 4:30am, I turn my head to see Grover (a practiced sleeper) sitting next to the bed and starring at me with begging eyes.  Unmistakable poop-face.   With the leftover pieces of my humanity, i dragged myself out of bed, and assembled vestiges of clothing.  This amounted to a robe (no belt), crocs, and underwear.  Falcor (our puppy), ever the little brother and not wanting to miss out on any potential for fun, awoke and hopped downstairs with us.  Once outside, Falcor pee'd and then started scavenging for crunchy leaves to eat (one of his favorite activities).  Since i could not manage supervising the puppy whilst simultaneously taking Grover on his vision-quest for a poop spot (remember, still in a belt-less robe), I shuffled Falcor inside and returned to my ailing doggy.  15 minutes and a bunch of imbedded thorns later and I am haphazardly discarding my robe as I mount the stairs to go back to bad with Grover.  When I get to the top of the stairs, i smell poop.   My first reaction is that I am just smelling poop everywhere at this point.  Then i realized that since Falcor had a few minutes to burn, he decided to take a crap in our dressing room.  Awesome.

This is where love comes in.  Falcor, I am happy to report, is not dead.  THAT is love.  I bag his poop, back downstairs, throw it on the porch, grab the cleaning supplies, and start back upstairs.  As I am disinfecting our poop floor in my underwear, severely sleep deprived, I realize that one of Falcor's poop logs had actually rolled and hidden itself snuggly on top of my wife's discarded sweatshirt.  Another bag, another trip downstairs, more disinfectant.  Still, I didn't kill either dog.  Love.  Love and almost desperation.  Finally, now 5am, I crawl into bed, Both dogs tucked back into their dog beds.

5:15 Grover is sitting next to the bed with that same original desperation face.  I am not kidding.  Wife got this one.  Took him outside (sans Falcor), and back up.  5:45, same face again.  Me again.  This is where the desperation began.  As I sleepwalked downstairs with Grover, I lost the ability to reason.  He could have done his business on me at that point, and I think i just would have crawled into our bathtub and fallen asleep.  I could not do this anymore.  But, Grover comes first.  And he could  do this some more.  And because i love him, desperately, even at my most stripped down (literally and figuratively) i  persevered. Because this kind of love, this love that yokes us to the well-being of another, less self-reliant, living thing, is egoless.  It is this love that will make us wade through and drown in the worst, to keep our charge's head above water.

And so i pulled some bedding out of the hamper and made us a bed on the couch.  a little circle of comfy material for him to rest his assuredly sore bum, and a decently soft spot for my consciousness to slip away.  We went out again at 6:30.  My wife told me the next morning that she heard Grove walking around downstairs around 7:15 and took him out again.  Honestly, the next thing I remember i was upstairs in my bed with Grover asleep next to me, and it was 10am.  Wifey had left for (wait for it) puppy training classes with Falcor, and Grove and I were left in a mutual heap on the bed upstairs.  I trust this was due to a large effort, not unlike the one described above, by my wife.

I didn't leave the house Sunday.  This was due to: my wife's need to be out of the house, our need not to have Grover poop in the house again, and my need to be able get the amount of sleep necessary to identify loved one's at a glance.  By Sunday night Grover was back to a realistic pooping pace and I was in need of a sizable chunk of time spent not perseverating about my dogs' bowels.

Ironically, I am spending said time (which is now), telling you all this tale of love, desperation, and excrement.

Which can mean only one thing, it MUST be true love.