Wet Hand Luke

Monday, December 30, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

As global warming opponents are less and less being argued against, and more and more laughed at, the world is getting greener.  Maybe not in the big picture sense, but at least in the superficial short term, it seems Americans are making a token effort to not destroy the planet at quite as rapid a pace as we have previously established.  Kudos, by the way.

But, the implementation of said green initiatives, to me, feels remarkably capitalist.  Shocker.  I will concede that perhaps more than other sector of big business (outside of perhaps lightbulb manufacturers), the car industry seems to be most genuine in the shift of both its paradigm as well as its fuel sources.  Then again, being bailed out and bought by the federal government can have a motivating effect on one's business plan.  

Outside of the automotive arena, however, green initiatives dot the landscape like a beginner hits the dart board: All over the place.  The difference, of course, being that the environmental scores are decidedly less random.  

For example.  It seems to me that the one wholesale green idea that has been implemented in most of today's malls, movie theaters and airports is the suggestion to no longer have paper towels in public bathrooms.  There is one-ply toilet paper in the stalls and then those hand blowing machines.  I agree in reducing the amount of paper goods we utilize in our day to day.  I do.  I rarely use paper cups and I only take as many napkins as I actually plan to use.  But the pre-mature extinction of the public bathroom paper towel has two fundamental flaws.

brilliant! - read more about this product here
The first issue, is that wind hand drying technology has not vastly improved over the past 20 years.  And yes, I have seen those fancy new 'high-powered air squeegee" car-wash style hand dryers.  After swiping my mitts along the instructed sequence three times, my hands still felt . . . damp.  Decidedly un-dry. You shouldn't feel the need to wipe dry hands on your t-shirt, which is what I've ended up doing after any attempts at wind powered desiccation.  

The second overlooked angle when ridding bathrooms of their outbound absorbent materials is that some crazy human beings actually use sinks to wash their hands and face.  I do this regularly.  Especially after a long plane ride.  Now, however, when I turn with a dripping face and paws to dry myself, I am confronted with the bent metal end of a low-powered hair-dryer, attached to an R2D2-like box, attached to the wall.  First, I must take my wet hand and bend the circular opening so it is facing upward.  Then, with a punch of the comically large button, the medium-hot air sludge comes flowing at me like the creature from the black lagoon.  If I somehow manage to suppress the knowledge that the air spitting at me smells like it was filtered through middle-schoolers' gym clothes, I then must wrestle with the wind-machine-like upstream of air.  More often than not, after only a superficial drying of my face, my hair gets blow clear back to the 80's.  Sometimes feathered, sometimes wavy, my hair always would fit in as an extra from the mean streets of Miami Vice.  I am not amused.

So yay to reducing our reliance on paper products.  But, as we eliminate the high cost of materials that get immediately disposed of, the hope is that we replace those materials with what I believe Obama keeps referring to as "our investment in new technologies." And that's pretty broad.  LOTS of wiggle room there to engender success.  To truly reduce our reliance on paper goods, we have to make their use anachronistic, which entails replacing those products with far superior and more globally responsible ones.

May I suggest we start in the bathroom? 

When did Feminism Become all about Women?

Thursday, December 19, 2013 | 1 Comment(s)

I recently discovered that I am not  a feminist.  Imagine my surprise.   I mean, I know that the last time I  checked, probably some time pre-marriage, that I was one.  Now, a few years later, I keep running into the term "feminist ally."  I'm an ally now, but I'm not sure this change is for the better.
I realize this picture only loosely fits this piece, but I just friggin love it.
Let's start here.  I'm a guy.  And as a guy, my voice in just doesn't matter as much when it comes to defining what women need.  I'm actually great with that -- so much less pressure.  I also understand that having women-only spaces is not only ok, it's super important.  Once you realize that male-onlyness is so built into our society, that guys don't even need intentionality to achieve this type of camaraderie, you see the necessity of its creation.  Until you walk past a bar and say to your friend, "nah, man, that bars just full a ladies," and then walk on by uninterested. Intentionally female spaces are an imperative.

But considering that my underlying belief that each gender, including the trans community, is equal in my eyes,  I have to wonder if the additional buffer space created by pushing men outside the category of feminist and into a new classification of "male ally"does much for the cause itself.

I've mentioned before on this blog how critical men are to equality.  And while it may pain some people to give men any additional power when it comes to women's issues, the length of the fight for gender equality can only be truncated be the addition of male voices as well.  That is the safe answer, and one that rings true for the logical part of my brain, but not for my heart brain.

My heart brain says that pushing men outside of feminism illustrates a fundamental misunderstand the battle.  Leaving aside the irony of equality having some innate gendered element which prevents all people from moving towards it in the same way: "Our idea of equality between women and men is more important than your idea of equality between men and women!"  'Male allies' to me sends the message that feminism is by women for women, and that's just plain untrue.

In one blog post I read, defending the male feminist, the female author decried, "But, in spite of that, male feminists do tend to rub some women the wrong way. Which seems odd, because they’re obviously trying! They are making an effort to be friendly about women’s issues!" 

Feminism, to me, is more than just "women's issues." Everyone stands to gain from gender equality.  Men and women.  And while it may be difficult to convince those with the power advantage now that their long term happiness is intertwined with a more equitable division of power, the research bares it out.

For example, in my own dissertation work, we found that wives' perceptions of fairness (not equality mind you) regarding the completion of household chores not only predicted their own happiness, but also that of their husbands.  In other words, when the wife felt the housework was distributed fairly, both partners were more satisfied in the marriage.  And that really is just the tip of the equality iceberg.
I honestly love this as "a look"
I lied to you at the beginning of this piece.  I'm still a feminist.  And I admit that I do it selfishly.  I don't promote gender equality to make my wife my equal -- she already is.  I don't preach the feminist doctrine to ingratiate myself with the women around me, because they both wouldn't be impressed and it isn't really my point of view.  Feminism is an ideal. One of the few ideals we could actual reach as a country in some not-too-nutso (and sadly not-too-soon) of a utopian future.  I'm still a feminist because I won't let anyone negate my struggle towards an ideal. Ally or not, you can't take away the hope that drives me to work for an even slightly better tomorrow.

Finally a Jesus I can get Behind

Monday, December 16, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

There has been a spree of love-crimes lately (that's the opposite of a hate-crimes btw), and the generosity just became bi-costal.  I'm talking about Tips for Jesus.  If you haven't heard about the man tipping thousands of dollars for good service, check out some of the news stories here, here, and here.

One of my favorite parts of the Instagram'd photos of servers and bartenders holding up their gargantuan tips, is that the (semi-)mystery man also comments specifically about what aspect of his service experience he enjoyed.  T for J often praises drink recommendations, speedy service, and he ALWAYS knows his server's name.

I'll admit, I have kinda a knee-jerk reaction when I see "for Jesus" attached to stuff.  And not in a good way.  99% of the time my next thought it, "There is no way that Jesus approved of this message."  I mean, I'd wager that Jesus gets name dropped more than anyone else in history (and that includes Genghis and all his hordes of offspring).  One minute it's, "Jesus taught me to love my fellow man."  And the next it's, "Jesus told me to hate fags."  Unless the untold story of Jesus is one about schizophrenia, there is no way that everyone is honestly representing the views of the most favored son in human history.  The Jesus H. Christ brand has become overwhelmingly watered down.

And then along comes Tips for Jesus, and it makes me pause.  Because there are a lot of important messages being conveyed through these outrageous tips.  It is very rare that generosity ever has a solid marketing team behind it, but this is one of those cases.  This is great press for what Fox News would call socialism and what human beings with a heart would call the spirit of giving.  There are very few people bussing tables and slinging drinks simply for the love of the game.  If you look into the surprised and joyful faces of the staff members holding what represents, for most, a sizable amount of assistance towards affording the cost of life, you realize that if you do believe in god -- that this is probably some of her/his/non-gendered work.

When you leave a monster tip for your server, it will make their day.  Every. Single. Time.  No large tip has ever gone unnoticed or unappreciated, I can guarantee it.  If you want the "selfish" pleasure of experiencing a stranger's joy, big tips are the way to go.  You'll get your show every time.

Hopefully this tipping-spree helps empower others to give simply because they can.  Perhaps it will further the internalization of the idea that while some of us were born haves, so many others were born have-nots.  Randomly.  It seems that the  bend toward "paying it forward" (worst marketing campaign for kindness ever btw) may have already begun . . .

I say we keep it going.  This December, if you can afford it, when you get particularly good service . . . overtip.  Just do it.  I assure you it will set in motion a chain of events that include an avalanche of smiles.  And you'll probably even get to see a few of them.  Not all of them.  I mean, unless you follow them home and watch them excitedly retell the story of their own personal holiday mini-miracle to their significant other.  And then watch as that infusion of cash actually does trickle down into the joy of that person's loved ones.

But don't follow them home.  It'd be really creepy and it's quite possibly the only way to sour this otherwise entirely awesomeface-sandwich of a gesture.

But, for the love of god, don't tip for Jesus.  Do it for yourself.

Fast and Furious Kindness

Friday, December 13, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

I am no Paul Walker aficionado.  Let me start there.  I think I saw two of the Fast and Furious movies, and one took place in Tokyo and I can't even recall if he was even in that one, what with all the drifting.  I guess the fact that I am describing my familiarity with Paul Walker in terms of Vin Diesel movies is really a statement in itself.  But I do have something to say about how he has been remembered after his recent and untimely passing.

Again, I'm not sitting here in judgment of how Paul Walker lived his life.  There has been more than one mention of Paul's 7-year relationship with his girlfriend, regarding the moral fortitude of dating a 16-year-old when you are 33.  That's not me.  That's not this.

In death, Paul Walker has been remembered for one day in a jewelry store 9 years ago.

You can follow that link, or google the incident, but here is what happened.  Mr. Walker goes into a jewelry store, meets an Iraq solider back from deployment shopping for an engagement right with his girlfriend.  They start to talking.  The dimpled actor apparently kept egging the girlfriend on, telling her to go bigger and bigger with her ring choice. As often happens, the vet's girlfriend got particularly taken with one ring that just happened to be big enough to be out of the couple's price range.  Shortly thereafter, the couple left the store to continue their search . . .

. . . only to have the women who worked at the store come running out to give them a box and say, "here's your ring."    Apparently, Mr. Walker had called the store and told them to put the couple's ring on his tab (he has a tab?).  Anonymously.  This story only came out after all those involved heard of Mr. Walker's  passing and wanted his kindness to be known.

Solid stuff. Heartwarming stuff.

But the moral of this story is not that Paul Walker transcended winning the genetic jackpot while still remaining humble.  It isn't even a tale on how the rich and famous can make real change with all the means at their disposal.

Paul Walker had a laundry list of public accomplishments. He was on all the 50 Most Beautiful lists. He appeared in such legendary TV shows as Charles in Charge, Who's the Boss, and Touched by an Angel.  Not to mention his iconic starring roles in Varsity Blues, She's All That, & Into the Blue.   But all people can talk about in the wake of his untimely demise was one moment of genuine compassion.  That is the lesson.

The lesson is that moments of true generosity, financial or otherwise, transcend the normal parameters of accomplishment and success. They are on another level.  What this shows is that regardless of your means, those moments when you consciously reach outside of yourself to lessen another person's load, simply because you both share the same planet. Those moments are unforgettable.  They are the real currency we should be worshiping towards a better tomorrow.

When I was 12 years old, the grumpy mean gym teacher at my middle school paid me a compliment on my volleyball skills. Never forgot it.  While hitchhiking from the Sinai Peninsula to northern Israel as an 18-year-old, a trucker picked my friend and I up, let us relax on the bed in the sleeper car, and gave us fresh croissants.  He brought us the lion's share of the way to our northern destination.  Never forgot it.  In elementary school a kid punched me in the face and subsequently broke his hand (my glasses doing the lion's share of the damage).   Never forgot it.  (ok, that doesn't quite fit, but it is super funny.)

When I got my first bartending gig in the business district of New York City, a distressed father came into the bar post-work, lamenting his inability to connect with his child while simultaneously being the family disciplinarian. I suggested that perhaps he should consider how scary might appear to his son when he is angry -- how a father is already larger than life inside his son's mind -- and that when he screams, it has the potential to not only drive home a life lesson, but to also be terrifying.  And something seemed to click. It was like you could see him realize that he had been inadvertently scar(r)ing his son instead of merely teaching him right from wrong.  He had some sort of moment of clarity.  He tipped me an extra $60 on top of the tip he had left with his bill.  Never forgot it.

The point is this: If you want immortality, if you want to be remembered forever, the path is paved in good deeds and selfless acts.  Cause even if you do manage to make millions of dollar, sleep with endless beautiful people, you'll probably still be remembered by those honest moments when you decided to be the best version of yourself for a stranger.

Dear Clark

Monday, December 9, 2013 | 4 Comment(s)

Dear Clark,

I don't have one specific memory of your father.  This is partially because our time spent over Martin Luther King weekends in DC were awash with such torrents of laughter, picking one guffaw from the bunch doesn't do justice to the magic of those weekends.   Yes, I saw your father dressed up as a French maid.  And yes, it was a very confusing moment for me, because when your father put his mind to it, he could be a gorgeous looking woman.  Stunning really.

What I do remember about Scotty, over and above everything else, was his open-mouthed smile.  When you father laughed, it could not be contained inside his body.  Every little chuckle moved him thoroughly enough to cause his head to fly back, allowing safe passage for the musicality of his forthcoming laughter.  And he laughed.  He laughed so much.  With everyone.

Clark, I want you to know that your father was special.  Not only because he is your father who saw you as his moon and stars (your mother is his sun, btw), but because of how he chose to live.  Your father saw the potential for both greatness and great fun inside everyone he met.  And he went after it.   Instead of poking and prodding in the darkness, looking for the soft and broken pieces inside us all, you father cheered and supported whatever nugget of pride he could pan from his soon to be new friend's emotional river.  Before you knew it, the two of you would be upstairs together, sorting through theatrical presentations of second-hand clothes, dreamscapes of ultimate frisbee on bicycles, and laughter-mobiles hung with hugs and cuddling.  Your father was special because in a world filled with darkness and hate, he needed sunglasses to keep all the positivity he perceived from burning his eyes.

Clark, Scotty cut a path through this life armed only with his openness to joy.  Where others find comfort in the cul-de-sac of what they already know, your father raced forward on the idea that there might be something so unbelievably beautiful and new and previously undiscovered just over in the next town; so we better get a move on cause there isnt time to wait.  It was inspiring to watch. His unmistakable lust for life influenced others, myself included.  Watching the ease with which your father negotiated the commonplace anxieties that I so often allow to ruin my otherwise perfectly good days, made me rethink the immense power of positivity.  I worry less because I knew your dad.  I can't think of a higher compliment.

Clark.  A lot of people are going to tell you your dad was goofy.  And he was.  What I want you to know is that goofy is one of those words we use to describe people who have unburdened themselves of unreasonable expectations.  Someone who is not merely content, but ecstatically enthusiastic at the prospect of having today, no matter what that reality may be.  Clark, your father was thankful every day I knew him, just for the opportunity to be there, with you or me or whomever -- for that moment in time.

Clark.  When I heard your father passed away, it was a profoundly sad moment.  There were, and still are, a good deal of tears to be shed.  I'm sure you're seeing this a lot at the moment.  From me, I want you to know that I am not sad for your father.  I am so endlessly proud of him.  He lived a life electric. He projected every atom of that existence outward, and in doing so gained the love of the universe.

Clark, your dad was a superhero.  No cape, no X-ray vision, but an unparalleled ability to love.  And while my tears attempt to form both the flowing river and the raft on which you could spend endless summers floating serenely with your father, I take some measure of solace knowing that he gave you his greatest gift of all.  Cause when I see you in those pictures, smile so wide your mouth just has to  open, I know that Scotty poured all of that ultra-condensed super-powered love into you big guy.  He gave you the smile he knew the world still needs.

Not that Kind of Push Over

Thursday, December 5, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

I have written previously about the bumper sticker on my car that reads BE KIND in all blue capital letters.  Specifically, I focused on creating the addictive internet game of figuring out your Carsona (trademarked).

My awareness of the kind message on my car's rear end has led me to the conclusion that people are regularly confusing kindness with being a pushover.  It's as if other drivers believe that being kind implies some sort of emotional retreat at the first sign of conflict.  'Kind' doesn't mean conflict averse.  Kindness is a baseline from which to start your interactions.  If, after that initial moment of introduction (vehicular or otherwise), you realize that you are interacting with someone who is not looking out for your best interests, kindness does not require you allow them to walk all over you.

There are, of course, many instances when projecting kindness at someone who isn't in a place to reciprocate is the most gratifying.  Offhand I can think of many times when allowing a grumpy mother the benefit of the doubt in a grocery line has been a relatively small concession compared to the significant improvement in the mom's attitude.  Hell, behind the bar, killing people with kindness is almost a way of life.  If you can't downshift customers' vitriol into hugs and slush-puppies you are bound to have a few cacophonous dustups before too long.  "How HORRIBLE that a fly would dare make its way into your beverage!," I exclaim whilst simultaneous rolling the eyes I keep hidden under the brim of my hat so hard that, for a second, I worry they may roll all the way around.  It's still kindness even if you're angry inside.  Come to think of it, it's kindness especially when you're angry inside!

About a week ago I was driving home down the main street that runs through the center of our town.  As I was pulling through the large, 4-way intersection, I heard the not so subtle tune of an ambulance siren turning on somewhere behind me.  Checking my rearview, I saw the flashing vehicle approaching, still about a quarter-mile away.  As the siren grew louder, and the lights became more apparent, I began to pull my car over to the right shoulder.  This is Driving 101.  If an emergency vehicle approaches with lights and horns ablazing, you pull the hell over to let them pass.

Apparently Mrs. Thang (40 yrs. old, White, on her cell phone) never took Driver's Ed.  Because Mrs. Thang decided that my obvious concession to the ambulance made for the perfect opportunity for her to pass me in her black Toyota Highlander.  With only one small hesitation she depressed the gas and pulled up beside me.  As the ambulance came up behind her, she had now placed herself directly in the middle of the lane, necessitating an evasive maneuver.  She swerved right, effectively boxing in my car and giving the passing emergency vehicle the very minimum amount of room to pass.

"That brown car came out of NOWHERE!"
I will readily admit that cool calm Mattitiyahu went ballistic. For whatever reason this brazen lack of rule following and selfish driving behavior simultaneously broke too many social norms for my late day brain to reconcile.  When Mrs. Thang finally scooted her ass forward a smidge, it moved her monstrous car more fully onto the right shoulder.  I used this opportunity to immediately pull out and around to the driver side of her vehicle.  Now, ever so briefly, I came face-to-face with this future vehicular man slaughterer.  I looked right into her cold dead eyes and clearly articulate, "WHAT THE FUCK!," while not actually making any noise.

Clearly panicked by this confrontation regarding both her lack of driving skills and ability to survive as a human being, she gunned her engine, propelling her car back in front of mine.  I am not ashamed to say that I rode her tail all the way home.  Cause sometimes even kindness has to take a backseat to some good old fashion road rage.

Don't You Know How BAD For You That Is?

Monday, December 2, 2013 | 1 Comment(s)

 As I slide the fuzzy ball of Q-tip deftly into my ear canal, I hear my old college friend's voice come booming emphatically from the other end of our hotel room.  "Don't do that! Don't you know how bad that is for you?!?"

And I guess I don't really understand.  I mean, I honestly don't believe there is any chance of me dying of an over-abundance of earwax.  Do you?  Is that your night terror?  Perhaps it might temporarily occlude my hearing, but actual danger?  This is akin to the feeling I get when being reprimanded by a dental assistant. "Don't you know how dangerous tarter build up can be?"

"i've got a tarter buildup."
No.  No I don't.  I mean, if the answer to that question is "false teeth," then yes, I know about the terrors of tarter.  But I have never seen an angry zombie horde whose gingivitis made their mouth fall out of their head before the brains did.  And, all of the elderly people I know complain much more about their reduced mobility, aching joints, and lack of vision, than the nuisance of having to soak their teeth.  While jamming projectiles into your aural orifice or brushing off flossing are certainly not personally beneficial, in my mind the ever-growing list of things that are deemed to be some manner of bad for you has become so infinitely ubiquitous as to render the phrase meaningless.

Bad for you used to mean something.  And I'm not sitting here pining away for days gone by where you got to walk uphill both ways in the snow to work.  I'm just saying that when my mom told me not to stick my fingers in the electric socket because it was bad for me, everyone can see the rational.  "Matt, don't eat the gum off the bottom of the Faneuil Hall public tables!"  THAT is bad for you.  Eating carbs . . . not so much. 

Nowadays it seems that "bad for you" and "good for you" are just life modifiers indicating if you should add or subtract minutes, hours, or days from your mental life-span clock.   But the problem is that we have no control group.  Sure the average life span is elongating, but the average isn't a reliable enough indicator for something so intrinsically personal.  Perhaps the workaround for this particular problem lies in more precise indicators of how "bad for you" various corrosive life choices really are.

They could range from the very mild "not eating asparagus is Level 1 bad for you; meaning that you should only subtract a matter of minutes from your estimated lifespan.  Now, if you continue chewing that cafeteria table gum, you are ranging into Level 11 bad for you (base 10 is for suckers).  At Level 11 you start seeing the days roll off your life-clock; probably even a few important ones.   And then there are the chronic killers, cigarettes and the like.  Hard not to make these the end of the scale, but they aren't. What they are is Level 18 bad.  You can expect your life to be a few years shorter if you smoke.  That's really common sense at this point, and I'm not preaching, I'm just calibrating my new scale.  If how bad something is for you becomes synonymous with shortening your overall lifespan, then chronic killers like nicotine have to climb pretty high up the scale for it to remain accurate.  Of course, having a chronic attraction to jumping from great heights or racing your motorcycle on working automobile thoroughfares remain atop the chart at level 24: you could go at any time.

Forewarned if forearmed, and this relatively simple codification of risk, eliminates the excuse of plausible deniability.  "Oh . . . I had no idea that setting fireworks off on the tennis courts could result in the loss of a limb?!?"  

"Well, you should of.  It says "Level 14 Bad" in big bold letter right on the side of the canister."  

So when my friend action-star dives across the hotel room to knock the Q-tip out from my fingers, while simultaneously screaming a slow-motion, "Noooooooooooo…," I could just turn to him and say,  in my favorite sarcastic tone, "Chill out man, it's only like, Level 2 bad for me. I think I'll live."

The Adventures of the Incredible Elastic Mummy and Captain Compression Sock

Thursday, November 21, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

When you're little kid and you bruise yourself, only a parent's kiss has the magical ability to heal such a serious injury.  As you grow into toddlerhood, the bruises give way to actual cuts and scrapes that require more than a simple touch of the lips.  So, mom or dad goes to the medicine drawer and pulls out the big guns: Band-Aids.  If you're a real lucky son of a bitch, you get a Band-Aid with cartoons or rainbows on them.  Considering that a 5-year old equates this procedure with spinal surgery, Band-Aids go on to fix the vast majority of childhood aches and pains.

This was true for me as well until age 11, when during the final moments of soccer practice, I sprained my ankle.  Oh the humanity.  To me, it felt as if my leg had been stung by a horde of poisonous wasps, hell-bent on recreating Macaulay Culkin's final scene in My Girl. My mom could clearly see the extent of my injury as the subtle limp I entered the house with had now been upgraded to a full on pirate swagger.  I sat there wondering if my mother was having the same sneaking suspicion that I was: They might have to chop off the leg.

Turns out my mother was not at all worried about the perils of having a pre-teen with a prosthetic.  While a charley horse might feel like the furthest extent of the pain index to an 11-year-old, it is one of the very few medical conditions that you actually can "walk off".  Of course to insinuate such a notion to me would be parental suicide.  I mean, what 11-year-old doesn't love his greatest physical pain being minimized by his closest attachment figure.  And so, the end all be all in parental home medical care is taken down from the top shelf of the medicine cabinet and unveiled.  Inside my mother's palm rests a real, professional grade, Ace bandage with two metal butterfly fasteners.  It was just like the basketball players wear!!!

I lay down on the bed as my mother began wrapping the "affected area" in concentric circles of elastic beige. As she weaved around my ankle and up from under my foot, I could already feel the power of the bandage begin soothing my achey-non-breaky ankle.  Doctor mom said that after a few more days of fake limping around the house I should feel as good as new.  And wouldn't you know it, she was right.

As you might expect, I used that particular Ace bandage for a number of different maladies that I succumbed to over the years.  I wore it on my elbow, thigh, wrist, forearm, and I believe I once even used it to keep an bag of ice in place atop my head.   Perhaps the reason that I only broke my nose (3 times), and never an extremity, was due to the fact that my schnoz was the only piece of me never to be hugged in the ever-loving protection of an Ace bandage.

If as a child I had created a superhero alter-ego a la Quail Man, it would definitely have been "The Incredible Elastic Mummy".  I would wrap my entire body in as many Ace bandages as I could horde without my parents finding out, and then run around town fighting crime and saving communities with my powers of binding unrelated objects together and virtual invincibility.  Maybe I would even cruise around with a my sidekick "Captain Compression Sock".  He gives great hugs.
This kid knows what I'm talking about
Of course, eventually even the Ace bandage becomes as ineffective as its Band Aid and mother's kiss predecessors. Notably, when my spinal disk slipped out of place and onto my sciatic nerve, my arm convulsed toward the pain killers and muscle relaxants well before I thought to squeeze myself into an elastic girdle (though on second thought, perhaps that may have helped quell some of the miserable pain).  I also went with the eye patch during my corneal troubles over the more obvious fix of wrapping half of my face in beige gauze.  That one was probably a good call.

Frankly, I miss the simpler days when Ace bandages were the chemo to all of my life's cancers.  I miss the days when my ails could all be fixed externally and compressing problems could make them go away.  Hell, I'd settle for one of those modern compression sleeves if it  cured nagging maladies like asthma or eczema.   But seriously, I remember the days of my exaggerated limping as some of the best of my childhood.   I mean, those days really were ace.

I'd Wear My Sunglasses at Night if They Weren't Broken Already

Monday, November 18, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

I'm pissed off at you sunglasses.  I've been pissed at you for years.  But recently, it's gone to another level. 

It used to be, like so many unhealthy relationships, that I was really angry at myself. Specifically, I bemoaned my inability to hold continuous ownership of a pair of sun-blocking spectacles for over 3 weeks.  I lost them everywhere; on the subway, in the car seat, and off to places unknown.  And when I wasn't losing glasses, I was breaking them.  I would sit on them or casually throw them in my backpack until I found them with a lens or temple missing.  I hated how disposable I made them.

But I adapted.  I started only buying sunglasses that cost less than 10 dollars.  Every once and awhile I would splurge at get the really cool neon green shades for $12.99.  I will tell you that the kid's section at CVS is a treasure trove for sunglass pearl seekers such as myself.  And if the new pair didn't sit perfectly straight or rubbed my nose a bit – who cares – they'd been gone in a few weeks.

And that's how things remained until about 3 years ago when we took a family trip to my parents' and cousin's alma mater: Michigan University.  For whatever reason, my father had the impulse to buy me a superb pair of Michigan-themed (aka. yellow framed) sport shades.  While they were a little more "frattish" than my usual fare, I am always inclined to give my parents' presents the benefit of the doubt.  And so I set upon the Sysiphisian task of retaining a pair of sunglasses from their dawn until dusk.

I kept those suckers in their case.  They had a specific place in my car.  And if I brought them into my house, they were put right next to my car keys.  And those glasses lasted.  Despite their somewhat douchey exterior (sorry dad), they were excellent glasses.  At some point their quality outweighed their yellowness on my face, and I had them on pretty consistently.

You'll notice that I'm using the past tense. 

The Michigan glasses are not, in fact, lost.  I can tell you that at the time of this writing, those yellow shades rest atop the cabinet by the front door.  However, they are no longer in the regular rotation.  Recently one of the of temples snapped in the middle, but that particular section is encased in the flexible plastic of the ear pieces.  So, the combined effect makes the glasses wearable, but wonky.  One side doesn't have any grasp or cling to the face, so the front is always a bit tilted.  I still wear them when driving long distances because the lenses are so sweet.

But my new glasses, my regular glasses, are back to being from the CVS Originals collection; Pseudo-aviator goodness that keeps the sun out and the eyeballs in.  I've been rolling strong with them for about a month now.  But yesterday they got their first real test of any sort, a jostle from an unattended arm.  The smack came to the left temple, and at first, I thought all crisis had been averted.  Upon further inspection, however, I realized the nosepiece now felt as if it were burrowing a den inside the bridge of my nose.

Turns out I was completely wrong.  The nosepiece was, in fact, completely missing.  Something about the sudden lateral movement caused the plastic nose-pad to spring free of its wire restraint.  And this is where I get uber livid. 

There is no good reason why you can't find a way to fuse a nosepiece to the glasses they are built to support.  The current "tightly wound wire around a plastic nub" solution is simply not the extent of our architectural technology.  And I shouldn't have to add another casualty to my sunglass graveyard simply because the glasses-making industry relies upon it's products being consistently shoddy to the extent that they fuel more sales.   This one is on you cheap sunglass makers.  Your sunglasses are not only inexpensive, but they reflect that low cost.  And I hate it. And I hate that I still don't have confidence in my ability to not lose or destroy sunglasses enough that I buy 3 pairs of these shitboxes to ever one I would need otherwise.  I hate that I have a enough ex-sunglasses with one lens missing to start my own collection.  

But until they start implanting light correcting corneas, most of all, I hate that can't seem to find any way to stop this desperate sunglass merry-go-round.

A Family Affair

Thursday, November 14, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

Every wedding has its own series of unfortunate events.  Every. Single. Wedding.  If you are getting married today, and many people are because it is 11/12/13 at the time of this writing, more than one thing is about to go haywire. My advice, you just gotta roll with it.  Enjoy the beauty and wonder of not trying to predict the unpredictable.   You have to embrace that whatever minor catastrophe is about to befall you, it is your moment of unplanned mayhem, and you and your significant other will get to laugh about it for many years to come . . . eventually.

The worst thing you can possibly do is to believe that by dotting every "i" and crossing every "t", that you will somehow be the first couple ever to have an entire ceremony and party go off without a hitch.  If you truly get this idea into your head, the chances of you balling your eyes out at some point during the evening increases dramatically.  The only perfect wedding is the wedding where everyone laughs together when something goes awry.

Not even the Prince & Princess were without their wedding disasters!
My wedding was no exception.  I split my pants an unwearable amount early on during the dance portion of the program.  Like a caterpillar emerging from a butterfly-print chrysalis (see wedding suit), my boxers made a brief (pun!) but memorable appearance on stage.  Also, our DJ didn't get to play his full set.  Being that the DJ is a good friend of ours, his limited air-time could have been a tiny catastrophe.  But, cause it's a wedding, and because we were prepared for much much worse (chuppah collapse, missing wedding party participants, or even rain), everyone took the negligible slight caused by time's flight while having fun, and let the good times roll on.

MY boy band is better than your boy band.  And yes, that is my wedding suit.
Maybe your wedding had a best man speech that clocked in at 21 minutes.  Perhaps you attended that wedding where all the toilets got clogged and began overflowing with vomit.  Or was it your friend's wedding where everyone got naked and started taking a myriad of photo booth shots?  Regardless, every wedding has it's crowning glory of horror, and barring real tragedy, it always becomes the most hilarious memory of the day.  

I recently went to Savannah for my friends' wedding.  I had, unequivocally, a kick ass time.  That said, this is the story of that wedding's two moments of glory.  And by glory, I mean hilariousness. Posted with permission of the bride (cause I don't want to get cut).

The ceremonial first dances at a wedding are both a crowd pleaser and a personal favorite.  I know that I'm biased due to my love of dance, but the couple's first dance and the bride's dance with her father have always seemed like particularly important touchstone moments during the course of the wedding.  I have no particular vendetta against the groom dancing with his mother (did it!) of course, but something about the gender roles that were shot-gunned into my consciousness long ago makes me think the father/daughter dance is more emotionally laden with intrinsic meaningfulness. 

At the wedding in question, after the couple's first dance and a touching twirl between the bride and her father, the groom and his mother stepped to the front of the queue.  As Sly and the Family Stone came over the speakers the matriarch and son began spinning together in and sassy and slightly suggestive dance duet.  Now, the song that was play was A Family Affair, and while I have since looked up the origin of the song to realize that it was performed by a brother sister duo, I didn't know that at the time.  So when Oedipus and his mom are getting their groove on, the guests are hearing:

Mom loves the both of them
You see it's in the blood
Both kids are good to mom
Blood's thicker than mud

It's a family affair, it's a family affair
Newlywed a year ago
But you're still checking each other out
Nobody wants to blow, nobody wants to be left out

My friend leaned over to me and remarked perfectly, "this feels exactly like when Michael and Maeby Bluth sang "Afternoon Delight" together."  And she was utterly correct.  The actual benign nature of the event aside, the overall effect created by the pairing of a suggestive song with a well stepped boogie, was a new jam I like to call, "The Rumba Incestuana."

Giggles all around.  Ok, maybe a little laughter.  I snorted once, but respectfully.  By the time food hit the table, this brief vignette of southern family values had completely passed out of our heads. 

Until a few hours later . . . when we transitioned to the Karaoke portion of the late night entertainment.  Then things took a turn for the gut-bustingly real.   Karaoke is always a Russian Roulette of an activity.  Is the microphone a "anything goes" arena for the tonally challenged, or the esteemed property of those already blessed with a sanctioned singing voice.   Amazingly, our karaoke journey began with a dynamic 8-10 year-old girl belting out Firework by Katie Perry.  It was amazing.  Not Star Search amazing, but well above my expectations for a girl that age.  Extroverted would be an understatement. 

And as we are all standing there listening to her untrained voice belt out explosive affirmation, I hear "This song suckkkkksss!!!!" coming from a male voice behind me.  It took a second to register.  Someone was heckling this girl!!!!!  You know that moment when something so unfathomably horrific is going down around you, but is in no way your fault, which makes said instance the funniest thing of all time.  Yah, that was this. We are bent over laughing as the guys around this drunken guest contort into a simultaneous shush and shun.  Ye ol' shush and shun.  (I admit to being on the receiving end of just such a reaction more than once.)  The drunk guy's handlers then informed him of the age of the current vocalist.  Thankfully, he was just sober enough to understand the boundary he had just crossed. (In my mind's eye I watch him exclaim, "I don't care if she's 8!" as he escalates his onslaught.) Unfortunately, his first instinct was to supremely overcompensate by going right up to where this little girl was singing starting to shake dance (which is essentially rattling your body back and forth with utmost force) while clapping off-beat.  It was Farley-esc physical comedy. 

Just as this whole sideshow was being shutdown, the DJ announced a quick break in the instrumentally accompanied singing for a live a cappella treat.  And then, the uncle of the groom took the mic, put his arm around his sister, and began serenading her with Frank Sinatra's I've Got A Crush On You.  And he crooned.  His voice was smooth and low, really giving the words their full measure.  Except that the particular words in question were yet another incestuous insinuation, and with as much alcohol as we all had in our blood streams by hour 9 of partying, this fraternal expression of romantic affection sent our cackling bodies gyrating, gesticulating, and finally genuflecting.  

While on the ground, we caught our breathes.  Wait. Was it only me on the ground?  I'm gonna say we were all down there.  Yah, totally.  We were all down there.  From our prostrate perspective, we watched the party, almost in slow motion, jump the shark for the evening.  Not bad for 1 a.m.  
Shortly thereafter the open bar closed.

A few photo booth snaps and countless big hugs later, and we boarded the bus back to our hotel.  Flights were leaving early the next morning, but the wedding would remain in the record books. 

Let's Get Together and Talk about the Weather

Thursday, November 7, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

I understand that it gets cold in the winter in the Northeast.  Yes, I know. Not just cold, frigid cold.  'Please don't make me get out of bed today' cold.   And yes, I have to shovel all that the snow, not to mention negotiating those icy streets.  With the hours of sunlight decreasing, I don't hold it against anyone who says winters in the Northeast are depressing. I partially disagree, but I get it.

But hear me out on this one.  This past weekend as I took the free and convenient shuttle from the Savannah Georgia airport to the city proper, I looked out of my oversized window and onto the Georgian turnpike.  As the scenery flew past my field of vision, all I could see was green tree after beautiful green tree, and it disgusted me.

If you want to poop all over our snow encrusted diamond of a winter season, then allow me to briefly enlighten you as to how putrid I find this Kermit-approved flora factory.  Fall in New England is a celebration of difference. A dance party of diversity.  We begin with the deciduous.  The party trees.  These barkers just cant wait to strip off their green pea-coats in favor of an orange and red mini.  If you are lucky enough to bump into a group of these party people, the cumulative effect is one of nature throwing an open-to-the-public rave.  All you have to do is pay the turn-pike toll.

But we don't only invite the teenaged molly-droppers.  There are always the stalwart evergreens, who refuse to participate in this juvenile display of chromatic immaturity.  Their emerald badge mollifying onlookers with the notion that this party does have a few chaperones.

Not to mention the out of towners.  You know, those trees that show up waaaaaay too early to the party, all decked out in their finest yellows and ambers, only to discover that they're the first one's to arrive by 3 hours.  By the time the preverbal dance floor is jumping with rainbow ravers, these clock-watching parent trees have already burned through their weekend energy and turn a crumpled brown as they try to get home before the babysitter needs to be releaved (sic pun dude!).

Altogether, this inclusive party scene becomes a free menagerie of all those colors I can usually only find hiding inside the black hole of hipster skinny jeans and gloomy grey sport-coats.  And this injection of color in my life is meaningful. Because inside me, all seasons are multi-colored; but autumn is the only time that the rest of the world seems to understand that.  And so when I drive by your monochromic warm-weather Pleasantville, instead of mild temperatures and unendingly sunny skies, I see the whitewashing of nuance and imagination.

From Stockbridge to Boston

So fear the glistening icicles of our winters as they stab at tourists with their ever-growing points.  Take shelter from the inhospitable nature of our nature. But don't expect company.  We'll be dancing in the refracted light emanating from those ice-spike prisms hanging off our houses like a surrey with the fringe on top.  Jumping with our children into the pools of color raked into our yards like unopened watercolor sets.  And while we may miss the obvious glory of sunbeams soaking our skin come January, we refuse to sacrifice any part of our technicolor souls for a few more degrees of comfort.

Green trees in Autumn
Make for a happy South.
To me, they're chilling.

But New York's Not My Home

Monday, November 4, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

As I have said previously on this blog, as unbelievable as it may seem, music does not play an integral role in my life.  I do realize that for many this sentiment is utter sacrilege.  When someone feels the need to express their personal horror to me regarding this statement, I usually follow it up with the additional truth that I also don't really enjoy going to concerts, seeing bands play live.  If I say it with the correct inflection, I can watch as the part of their brain that copes with hardship pops in exasperation.  If they have the right look, I'll add, "And Phish sucks," just to kick them when they're down.

But all rules have their exception.  And I was reminded earlier this week that music has produced at least one moment of clarity across the duration of my opaque life's journey.  That accomplishment falls squarely on the long-deceased shoulders of Jim Croce.  

Living in New York City from 2001-2003 was a minor culture shock.  Coming from the overtly friendly confines of my liberal arts university, New York was a contrast in look, style, and attitude.  It also contained a few extra million people than I was accustomed to cohabiting around.   But I love a challenge, and I worked hard to inject myself and my existential footprint onto my community.   At a few places: the shawarma restaurant, beer garden, and corner store, specifically -- I was unarguably successful. 

But overall, the social ocean always felt too vast for this stalwart sailor.  No matter how hard I rowed my boat towards the bright lights, the destination was always an optical allusion shining from just over the horizon and perpetually out of reach.  I went to some shows.  "Shows," I learned, were what you called hip or indie versions of traditional performances like concerts or theater. 

The words, "Come to my show!" were 2001's version of Facebook in NYC.

Even when autumn came to the city, and the leaves in the park turned the familiar New England flame reds and crumbling oranges, it never felt right.  I couldn't lay in the park and pretend to be alone in a world of colors.  A speck of nature in a landscape whose vast enormity resides smack dab on the boundary of human conceptualization.  

Even meeting up with friends began to feel like an out-of-body experience where we were all simply placed in these various ultra-chic settings until the clock struck midnight and we  all retreated back underground to seek solace in the recesses of our distinctly unglamorous mouse-infested lofts.  Sure I had moments of calm and girlfriends of distinction, but each experience felt more impermanent surrounded by towering concrete and a speed-dating social scene. 

But I couldn't put my finger on what, exactly, was off.  I would tell people that New York just didn't seem like the place for me long term, but when questioned further on the subject, I had no satisfying answer to give.  And then one day, cleaning my room, Jim Croce's voice began:

Well things were spinnin' round me/
And all my thoughts were cloudy/
And I had begun to doubt all the things that were me . . .

And then, over the next 3 minutes, he sung the words that I'd been keeping inside the past 9 months. 

His expression of my sentiment was startling enough to stop me in my tracks.  I put the song on repeat and sat there listening to it on a loop for 40 minutes.  I was touched by the honesty of his music and the clarity with which he expressed a complex emotion that had been eluded me.  I certainly didn't waste any time pondering why music had chosen this moment to exert its sizable force in order to move me.  Cause music doesn't care about me or you or anyone.  But in the best cases, like this one, music can reach through time to tell you that it was there before you, and it went through the very same thing you're going through.  And when you hear your emotions being sung from the speaker across the room,  you can't help but feel a little less alone in the world. 

My Father's Words

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

My wife's phone recently began the short and rapid decline towards shitting-the-bedsville, and so today she went to the Apple Store to "check out her options."  Unsurprising to me, next to her name on the account were the magic words eligible for upgrade.  For those few of you who have been fortunate enough to avoid such ubiquitous entities as the Comcast Triple Play (the only know reason for people still having land lines), the Discount Double Check, and AT&T's upgrade eligibility, let me explain in brief.

Ever two years, with the renewal of your phone plan, you get about $450 off the price of a new iPhone.    That's about it.  If you aren't considering switching phone companies, it's a pretty sweet deal.

So, Erin is now forced to deal with the uncomfortable situation of treating herself to something nice.  This is not her forte.  It's not that she doesn't ever want anything nice, it is that she, like so many worthwhile people out there,  doesn't feel as if she deserves it.  And she does.  More than most people I know.  She stands in there and does the nose to the grindstone reading leg-work with these elementary schoolers, and then her thoughts hang on their every struggle and accomplishment.  I'm not saying she is female Jesus or the good-girl sister of Mother Teresa, but when it comes to spending $100 to get the phone she wants instead of the one that comes free, she's way good enough for that.  Not that goodness has ever been a requisite for consumption.  Nonetheless, I get the following text (edited):

"Phone's only mostly broke. Upgrade Eligible. Gonna get free one."

And as I respond, I realize they are my father's words I am typing, "Get the nicer one. You're worth it."

"You're worth it."

These three words form the cornerstone of my father's relationship toward my mother.  My dad views his entire galaxy in her eyes, and begs her to see just one of her stars reflected back.  And over the past few years, she's totally found her solar system.  In retirement my mom finally has the time she's needed to invest in herself, to see what a cornucopia of talents she can excavate.  Renaissance men come from renaissance women.

"Get the purple one.  You're worth it."

"Get the lobster.  You're worth it."

"Take the day off to visit your sister.  You're worth it"

And these comments pass by my childhood like lamented photo-album pages, their meaning seemingly insignificant as the page quickly folds over the last.  But the truth of understanding your partner's worthiness is a concept so fundamentally important that while the indirect objects have faded from my memory (the earrings, dinners, shoes…) the singular importance of the direct object (my mother) remains.

My dad stood behind me in the bathroom, applied shaving cream, and then taught me step by step how to shave without turning my face into a Freddie Krueger original.  When he taught me how to drive, he generously applied the lessor known air-arm-break, pumping his left arm vigorously as if trying to both stop our car while simultaneously propelling the oncoming traffic backward.  But, my dad never sat me down and told me how to be a good husband.  In truth, he didn't even pay much attention to my romantic partners over the years.  As an explanation for this uncharacteristic apathy, I would say that in my mind, prioritizing one woman maxed out his available resources.

But my wife's inability to understand that the "S" in iPhone 5S stands for 'spectacular', and that that is what she is, causes a visceral knee jerk response in me.  It propels me to remind her that without her, my legs don't reach the ground.  Without her love, I am Sandra Bullock floating away in space well past the event horizon of any Clooney rescue mission (no, I have not, and will not, see that panic attack of a movie). She warms my galaxies with her starlight, and her unsullied integrity is infinitely more valuable than a few extra dollars spent on a phone upgrade.

And as those words 'You're worth it' rush through the air above our heads in a million tiny little pieces, I think to myself, "my dad did teach me how to be a good husband, he just didn't sit me down first to tell me to pay attention." 

The Hard Cap: Part II

Friday, October 25, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

Too catch yourself up, Part I can be found here.  Sometimes I like to wait months or even years before writing the second part to a series.  It's called suspense people, take notes!

When we last left our (anti-) hero, I was at a psychology conference in San Diego visiting my long lost friend Eric, his wife, and their three kids.  All of Eric's kids are beautiful, and I'm not just saying that to avoid an angry email from his wife.  Ages 2, 5, and 7(ish) at the time of my visit, I had an absolute blast alternating between pillow fights, iPhone games, and Cheerio feedings.   But what I'm here to tell you is that having 3 kids is absolute insanity.  It. Is. Insanity.

When you have three kids, even parents who stay together are outnumbered.  There is always an empty set of outstretched arms waiting to be picked up, both literally and metaphorically.  Life becomes a perpetual whack-a-mole of children's needs.  I'm not sold on having kids.  But if I do have kids, I've always entertained the possibility of raising siblings.  Perhaps simply as a function of having a sibling myself (and marrying a women with one sibling), I've never set in my mind that it was either no kids or one kid.  

But here's the thing ladies and gentlemen, and I'm putting it in writing, under no circumstances will I father more than two children (triplets aside).  There is an absolute hard cap at two

One night that I was in San Diego, we all went out to dinner.  One set of grandparents in tow, we rolled up to a Ground Round-like dinner joint around 5 pm.   Maybe 5:30.  As you might imagine, at this early stage in the evening the place was deserted, save for a few elderly couples and one other large family.  We were promptly seated at a long wooden table, and the kids were given crayon and menus to draw on.

Thus began Act One of The Loudest Dinner in Human History.  Once again, it's important for you to understand that these are in no way bad kids.  And, with the additional added arms of Grams and Gramps, the situation was never out of control.  But the simple physics of three children in a foreign dining situation is an extremely cacophonous, not to mention wiggly, event. 

fyi.  friends' kids not pictured

There was only one mini-tantrum.  A mere 15 to 20 seconds of true unbridled shrieking.  No big thing.  One of my favorite parts of this, Act Two, was how utterly nonplussed the serving staff was about the miniature person turning crimson whilst turned her volume up to 11.  It was pretty obvious that this was the kinda thing that literally happened every day round these parts.  It was equally obvious who the new guy working at the restaurant was, identified easily by his characteristic running around with milk glasses and small bags of French fries as if he were headed to defuse a bomb.

"I can fit the whole train in my mouth!"
Adult conversation was never an option.  Two sentences into any substantive story, and you would almost certainly be met by some form of food projectile crossing your field of vision.  And so the eight of us sat there, half the time eating, half the time keeping the peace, until slowly the food disappeared from the table.  As the kids settled into their special Kid's Meal desserts, the credits began to roll on this family night out on the town.  

"But, I can fit an even BIGGER train in MY mouth!"
I know that for many of you the gut reaction here is to believe that I'm lying in regard to how well behaved my friend's kids are.   And that is kind of my point.  These children are 'normal', funny, smart, outgoing, well-adjusted, sweet little kids.  Their 5-year-old son still occasionally steals his father's phone to text me a quick hello.  (And my heart grows 2 sizes when he does.) But there are three of them.  In the same way that the third juggling pin causes the whole equation to become perpetually in flux; having three kids is like juggling 7 pins that are covered in food, and screaming, and need to be changed.  On the really tough days, it feels like someone set all the pins on fire.

Often when I go out of my way to open a door for a mother attempting to grab a coffee whilst wrangling her herd of offspring, I get the response, "Oh, you must be a parent!"  When I tell them I'm not, they are dumbfounded.  They simply can't imagine how someone without kids themselves could appreciate how difficult raising them IS (none of this 'can be' bullshit)!  Well I'm here to tell you that raising one child is practically impossible.  Raising two kids is a life's work.  And having three or more kids is just plain bat-shit crazy.  So recognize and give props.  

For the record, there is also no such thing as "good and bad children."